If you were lucky enough to attend Houston’s International Quilt Festival last fall, you may have been fortunate to see one of Claudia Pfeil’s elaborate award-winning quilts on display. Perhaps you were even able to take a class with her. Claudia’s quilts ooze with techniques. “Garden of the Gods” featured in the March/April 2019 issue of Quiltmaker is a perfect example—pieced diamonds, appliquéd organza, couching, beautiful quilting. It is a feast for the eyes! We wanted to get to know this talented quilt artist a little better and learn about how she became versed in so many techniques.
A little about Claudia
I grew up in a small town in the woods, called Hemer, Germany with 30,000 inhabitants, in a family of bankers (my mother, father, and brother). I was NOT involved or educated in handcrafts at all! My teachers sounded a little bit desperate about my future after school as I was not really a genius in mathematics, physics, or Latin—normal classes in our German school system. Handcrafting and arts were not on the teaching schedule. But I loved to draw and paint and tried everything like pottery, silk painting, watercolor painting, and knotted carpet making.
After school I moved to Dortmund and started my apprenticeship as a display designer in a warehouse. I got in tune with patchwork quilting in 1985 at a Creativa Show. I was a student of textile design in the 80’s, an independent textile designer in the early 90’s, patchwork quilting teacher through the 90’s, and quilt shop owner since 1997.
A quilter’s journey
My first quilt came into being without the now common rotary cutter and rulers. My basic sewing machine could only secure the layers for hand quilting. There was much trial and error as I taught myself the tricks of making templates and seams to complete my first quilt.
This first quilt would hold its place as my only large sewing project. My move from Dortmund to Krefeld where I began studies at the University of Applied Sciences Niederrhein, and my work as a textile designer drew my interests into different directions—I had the quilting fever—just not yet discovered.
In 1992 my life changed with the birth of my first son, Julian. I decided that the work I had done in the textile arena would now change into getting my hoarded treasures that I had been collecting all those years out from the drawers and bins. I found hand-woven fabric pieces, done while at university on a 16 shaft loom, and I thought patchwork would give those fabrics a new right to exist in a quilt!
These 12″ unique blocks offered themselves immediately to be made into a quilt. Not having the proper “yarn” for sewing, I went to the local sewing shop where I was introduced to my first rotary cutter, mat, and quilting ruler. Again I set about to learn by doing and these experimental times gave me the courage to improvise!
And … I got hooked!
I showed this quilt in the sewing shop and the owners asked immediately, “Can you teach patchwork for us?” And I said, “Of course!”
Looking back today I have to smile about my self-confidence while I had no clue what I was doing!
How Claudia has evolved over the years
I believe my technical skills have gotten better over the years. Several things have helped me grow, such as:
- Learning by doing—trial and error
- Entering quilt shows, and learning from the judges comments
- Trying new things without fear—techniques, fabric combinations, embellishments, etc.
- An open mind helps to see inspiration everywhere—architecture, nature, daily life, and of course, quilt shows, magazines, books, and the Internet.
Quilting advice from Claudia
- Take one step after another
- Think before quilting, quilt without thinking
- Work with design elements and contrasts
- Have patience and believe in the power of endurance
- Never give up!
Fun facts about Claudia
I love spending time with my family. My sons are the best critics and reviewers of my work. They even help at the international shows!
Claudia has certainly had a fascinating quilting career so far, we can’t wait to dive into her designs and get quilting! For more inspirational spotlights on designers subscribe to Quiltmaker!