We’ve been working with Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill of Whole Circle Studio for four fabulous years and we grow more in awe of her work every day. Our very first collaboration is one of our favorites, and resulted in a quilt that now hangs in our Chicago HQ. Sheri’s 270 Colors Quilt, commissioned in 2017 in celebration of Aurifil USA’s 10th year, features 270 foundation paper pieced Large Spools of Aurifil 50wt, each quilted with the coordinating color of thread. It was (and is) a show-stopper and we’ll be forever grateful for Sheri’s vision and flawless execution.
Our second favorite collaboration came early on in the Covid-19 pandemic. News circulated of a ray of hope sweeping through towns and cities across Italy. Children were creating works of art featuring a rainbow accompanied by the words, Andrá Tutto Bene (Everything Will be Okay) as a show of hope and resilience. Inspired by this story, we contacted Sheri to work with us in creating a pattern that could be offered to makers worldwide, so that they might create their own hope, to share or to savor in tough times. Sheri knocked it out of the park and we like to think that there are Andrá Tutto Bene mini quilts adorning countless windows in countless communities all over the world.
Suffice to say, we love working with Sheri! It doesn’t hurt that she is a fearless thread warrior and one of our treasured Aurifilosophers. While we didn’t officially partner on her latest project, the Around the World BOM, we were immediately struck by the concept and fell completely in love with the blocks. It’s been a wild year and Sheri’s BOM has given us all an opportunity to daydream about travel to new places, exploring unknown cities, and finding that joy that can only come with a true sense of adventure. We’re delighted that she’s here today to share a bit about herself and her inspiration behind this stunner of a project. We hope you’ll feel inspired and can’t wait to see your versions of these blocks!
ps– June’s block is Rome, which is near and dear to our hearts! We love Sheri’s alternate version of this block and may just have to make a pair… one for our Chicago office and one for Milan!
Sheri! We’re so thrilled that you could join us today. Thank you for taking the time! We know that we have some important news to dive into, but before we get started, we’d love to re-introduce you to our readers… Can you tell us a bit more about how you got started in this amazingly creative industry?
I collected quilting books for many years before I ever made a quilt (or knew how to sew for that matter). About nine years ago, I needed a distraction. I dusted off one of those books that I bought many years earlier, bought some fabric, and taught myself how to sew on a small $100 Sears Kenmore machine I had bought years ago to sew paper on for another project. I started making wedding quilts and baby quilts for friends and family using other designer’s patterns. One day it just clicked—many quilts are just grids and I knew how to design for grids being a trained and professional graphic designer.
When did you first know that quilting was the path for you?
I was completely obsessed with quilts after making that first one. At that time, I certainly wasn’t thinking that I would build a quilt business. I just really enjoyed the process of working with fabrics and making. The first year and a half I made quilts from other people’s patterns. It was a great way to focus on technique and learn how quilts come together. Once I realized I could design and make my own quilts, there was no looking back. I really enjoy making but I love designing. I still consider myself a graphic designer, but instead of conveying messages through conventional ways like logos, brochures, websites, etc. my new medium is fabric, thread, and quilts.
What was it like to officially make the transition from your old career to this one?
The transition was exciting, a little bit scary, and took some time. Prior to making Whole Circle Studio my only full-time job, I led the exhibit design department at an interactive children’s museum. While working at the museum full-time, I used evenings, weekends, and sometimes holidays/vacations to start my business. During my “free” time I was designing quilt patterns, building collaborations, teaching, giving presentations, and of course making quilts. It was a lot of fun, but also took a lot of committment. It took years before I felt comfortable making the leap, leaving my previous career at the museum to focus on Whole Circle Studio exclusively.
Looking back on my work at the museum (and before that at small design studios and a dot com), those experiences prepared me for both the creative and business aspects of Whole Circle Studio. Aspects of previous jobs, including designing, branding, installing exhibits, business planning, overseeing budgets, managing projects, writing proposals, negotiating contracts and managing client and content advisor relationships are totally applicable to running a successful creative business.
Is there a particular technique that really makes you smile? Your go-to for happy making?
I really try to stretch myself during the quilt design. I avoid having pre-conceived thoughts of how I’m going to construct a quilt during the preliminary exploratory design phase. For this reason, I love ALL types of piecing techniques. Most of my quilts are pieced on a machine (everything from strips to half square triangles to Foundation Paper Piecing) but I also really enjoy hand sewing, in particular English Paper Piecing and needle turn applique.
That said, most of my patterns are Foundation Paper Pieced (FPP), I tend to use this technique a lot because I’m able design and construct shapes that wouldn’t be possible to piece using traditional piecing and tend to be too small for hand piecing. FPP really allows me more options with very precise results.
I also LOVE to finish up my quilts with my walking foot. There’s a lot you can do beyond straight lines with walking foot quilting. Also, the process of walking foot quilting is super meditative for me.
Do you have an all-time favorite project that you’ve made?
This is an impossible question! Usually my latest design or finish is my favorite since that’s what I’ve been really focused on most recently. But… I will say that the 270 Colors quilt I collaborated on with Aurifil holds a special place in my heart. It was so much fun to design, make, and quilt. I also am super proud that I can say I might be the only (or one of the very few) that have quilted with all 270 colors of Aurifil thread in a single quilt.
This past year has been a challenge in so many ways… How did the changes in the world affect your day-to-day? What have you missed the most? What are you most looking forward to once the world starts to open up a bit more?
First and foremost I am incredibly grateful that I and those who are closest to me were able to stay healthy over the past year. With so much suffering happening in the world, I am also fortunate to be able to say that the biggest way the pandemic has affected my day-to-day life is that I haven’t been able to travel and I’ve had to look into new ways to connect with quilters. I was scheduled to teach and present at many quilt guilds, shops, and conferences in 2020. Of course, all of those plans were put on pause in March 2020. While figuring out how to keep the business running during this disruption, the pandemic also brought some opportunities. I adapted to teaching online — not only through guilds and conferences but to the general quilting community as well. I started experimenting with online teaching very early in the pandemic, primarily as a way to stay connected to others and to offer a much needed distraction to quilters throughout the world. While I have really enjoyed teaching live, online and there are a lot of benefits to it, I do miss being in the same room as other quilters and am looking forward to in-person workshops, presentations and trunk shows.
The pause in traveling has also allowed me to work on projects I didn’t previously have time for like developing additional quilt patterns and a Block of the Month for 2021.
You launched the Around the World BOM back in January. What inspired this QAL and what research did you do to develop each location block?
Last summer, with all of the travel restrictions because of the pandemic, I started to develop a case of wanderlust. I was thinking about some of the wonderful places I visited and memories of those trips. I also started to think about locations I wanted to travel to in the future. I decided to take these ideas and turn them into a quilt that also celebrated architecture from around the world. I’ve always loved the design of buildings and structures, especially all of the details. In one of the design studios I worked at, I designed monographs for architectural studios. These book projects gave me an even greater appreciation of the details that go into architectural design. I couldn’t think of a better time to make a quilt that celebrates architecture as well as inspires us to dream about travel, exploration, and the opportunity to see new places in the future.
Can you tell us a bit more about the quilt and what participants can expect?
Each month participants receive, via email, a detailed PDF pattern for a foundation paper piecing (FPP) block in the Around the World quilt. Quilters at all skill levels are welcome (including adventurous beginners), but it does help to have a bit of previous foundation paper piecing (FPP) experience. To assist with this, I have a free FPP video tutorial/mini-class HERE on my website.
The finished block sizes are generous in size (10” x 21”) so if quilters don’t want to turn them into the throw size quilt like I did, they can make mini-quilts, pillows, bags, and more. In addition to receiving all 13 block patterns (one each month, plus a bonus block) quilters have access to planning materials and coloring sheets. For each block, instructions are included to piece the letters (the most recognizable abbreviation for the city or country) or quilters can leave that area blank. Each month, I also provide tutorials, tips, tricks, and other ideas for the block that is being released.
For those who were available, we had a Zoom meet up for quilters from around the world to share with one another their blocks. It was so much fun to chat with other quilters face to face. We’ve also exchanged creative ideas for other things to make with our blocks. There are literally quilters from around the world making quilts that represent architecture from around the world! I’m planning to host another live Zoom meet up this summer and fall. In the meantime, anyone can check out what people are making with the Around the World blocks on Instagram using #atwbom.
Wherever quilters are with their FPP skills, by the end of the quilt sew along, they’ll have lots of new skills and confidence. We all go at our own pace so there’s no pressure to finish the block on any specific timeframe.
If someone were to sign up now, would they still have access to all of the patterns?
Absolutely! Makers can sign up at any time. Immediately after registration, a Welcome Packet along with any patterns that have been released to date are emailed. All of the monthly tutorials, tips, and tricks will be available on my blog indefinitely. All of the details, including a list of the cities/countries, along with the link to register can be found HERE.
Have you traveled to any of the locations and do you have a wish-list for future travel?
I’ve visited five of the twelve locations and structures featured in the quilt. New York City is super special to me as I live fairly close to the City, my family is originally from there, and I was married there. The other seven locations are definitely on my bucket list to visit and explore!
HUGE thanks to Sheri for sharing Around the World with us!
AROUND THE WORLD
To join in on the fun, click HERE. To learn more about each block and find even more reasons to subscribe, click on the links below!
Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill is a designer, maker and self-taught modern quilter. Sheri graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BFA in Graphic Design. She has twenty years of experience leading creative teams to create award winning identities, products and environments. She has worked in small design studios, a dot com and the exhibit department at a children’s museum.
Sheri’s quilts have gained national recognition including awards from QuiltCon, Quilt Week/Paducah and the Quilt Alliance. They have been featured at art centers and galleries across the country. In addition to publishing her patterns, her quilts have been featured in national publications such as Modern Patchwork. She also teaches quilting techniques.
Sheri was awarded the first annual Craftsy Quilt Designer Fellowship in 2016. This fellowship enabled her to debut Whole Circle Studio’s first booth at International Quilt Market in Houston, Texas in October 2016.
Sheri works from her home studio in the suburbs of New Haven, Connecticut—a hop, skip and jump away from New York City. She loves to chat about design and quilts. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Images & biography courtesy of Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill]