Geraldine Wilkins: Living Water Quilter

0.75x 1x 1.25x 1.5x 2x 0:0000:37:49 Geraldine Wilkins: Living Water Quilter


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Geraldine Wilkins

Geraldine lectures and teaches at international quilt shows, like Quilt Con, and at quilt shops, regional retreats, and guilds.  As a former Westalee Design Accredited Teacher and Juki America Educator, she crisscrossed the United States, teaching at guilds and large quilt shows.

Her quilts have been exhibited in local and regional quilt shows, national touring events and shows with Hoffman Fabrics, American Quilt Society Quilt Week at Paducah, Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, curated exhibits at the Virginia Quilt Museum and juried Sacred Threads 2019 exhibit.

Geraldine was featured in “Designer Spotlight, “an article published in the July/August 2019 issue of Quiltmaker magazine. She is a regular contributing quilt designer in Fons & Porter’s Quick + Easy Quilts and Quiltmaker magazines. She contributes to the following quilt books: 1000 Quilt Inspirations 2015, The Quilter’s Planner 2017, 2020/1, and Free Motion Framework.

Lisa Woolfork

Lisa Woolfork is an associate professor of English, specializing in African American literature and culture. Her teaching and research explore Black women writers, Black identity, trauma theory, and American slavery. She is the founder of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. She is also the host/producer of Stitch Please, a weekly audio podcast that centers Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. In the summer of 2017, she actively resisted the white supremacist marches in her community, Charlottesville Virginia. The city became a symbol of lethal resurging white supremacist violence. She remains active in a variety of university and community initiatives, including the Community Engaged Scholars program. She believes in the power of creative liberation.

Insights from this episode:

  • Geraldine’s days as a photojournalist
  • Her transition from photography to quilting
  • How she learned how to maintain machines
  • Lessons she has carried from her photography classes
  • Ruler classes with Geraldine
  • Her quilting project (Beautiful Sister Quilt Lock)
  • Her teaching process
  • What a successful quilt con means to Geraldine
  • Building a quilting studio

Quotes from the show:

  • “I love that the skills that I developed as a photojournalist play well into my overall purpose with sewing and quilting”  —Geraldine Wilkins in “Stitch Please”
  • “I knew that it was critical to building confidence just not only in myself but to teach others how to do it (dissembling sewing machines) so that they can have the confidence as well” —Geraldine Wilkins in “Stitch Please”
  • “That’s what I share in my class: education through thread and needles and the machine. If you learn those three, your confidence will increase” —Geraldine Wilkins in “Stitch Please”
  • “I’ve learned over the years that if you make it too complicated, ladies shut down. And I wanted to simplify it” —Geraldine Wilkins in “Stitch Please”
  • “I think we all have these in our lives that are important to helping us develop and mature in different areas of our lives (…) we have women who we call sisters because they are that close to us” —Geraldine Wilkins in “Stitch Please”
  • “My photography career has helped me accelerate my ability to create this studio. I’m always refining it. But I know I have a bit of an advantage, but I wanna share those tips so people do not have to spend weeks and months trying to figure it out” —Geraldine Wilkins in “Stitch Please”

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Geraldine Wilkins

Website: Geraldine Wilkins

Instagram: @livingwaterquilter

This episode was produced and managed by Podcast Laundry.

Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork 0:00

Y'all, QuiltCon is tomorrow, and we are very excited about it. We are on the road to QuiltCon. We are on the Amtrak heading south on the crescent to arrive in Atlanta around eight-30 this morning, which is Wednesday, February 22nd. We'll head to Melanated Fabrics, and we'll be there from 10 a.m. to noon, then we'll head back to the convention center to drop off the projects and on and on and on. There is a lot to be done. And if you want to get in on this excitement, here's a few ways you can do that. First, we have some Sew Black merch, you can go to the Black Women Stitch dot org website, and on the very front page, you can see a button. It'll say "Merch," and it'll take you to the Black Women Stitch dot Big Cartel site. Next, you can follow Black Women Stitch on Instagram and on TikTok. We are going to try to go live as much as we can, and that is where we will do it. TikTok primarily. So follow Black Women Stitch on TikTok so you can keep up with The Road to QuiltCon and just some fun time. And finally, join the Black Women Stitch Patreon at the 15-dollar level or higher to get video messages between me and you at QuiltCon. And if you're going to QuiltCon, download the app. It's a great way to navigate the conference and to find people. The Sew Black giveaway is on. You know how much I love my little Bernette 33, my favorite travel sewing machine? Well, now is your chance to win one yourself. Go to Black Women Stitch dot org and click on the cover image that says "Sew Black Giveaway," and it'll take you to the giveaway page that has lots of options for ways that you can enter to win this little machine. And you know how giveaways work sometimes? People hear about a giveaway, they say, "Oh, you got this prize. We'll give you this prize." And that's exactly what's happened with this giveaway. We've got new prizes from Geraldine Wilkins, Sarah Bond, and more. You never know what you're gonna win in this giveaway, but you know for sure you could absolutely win a Bernette 33. Go on over to Black Women Stitch dot org, and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hello Stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together.

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I am your host, Lisa Woolfork, and as I say every week, this is a very special episode because we are speaking today with none other than the Living Water Quilter, Geraldine Wilkins, who is joining us fresh, getting ready to start QuiltCon this very week. And if you are coming to QuiltCon, we hope very much to see you, and you will have opportunities to take a variety of things with Geraldine, because, as I said, they need to call that QuiltCon Geraldine Wilkins' QuiltCon because our good friend here is teaching throughout this amazing, amazing event. Geraldine, welcome and thank you so much for joining us today.

Geraldine Wilkins 2:40

Thank you, Lisa. It's a pleasure to be here. I'm really excited about having an opportunity to spend time with the ladies at QuiltCon. It's gonna be fun.

Lisa Woolfork 3:37

I think it's gonna be a blast. And I just want y'all to be clear that when I say that this is like Geraldine Wilkins' QuiltCons or QuiltCon by Geraldine Wilkins, I want us to think about Geraldine and all that she does. Like have you ever met somebody that's like really good at everything? I mean, besides me. Besides me. I think that another person is Geraldine, because, listen, I'm going to show you all an image here of what her specialties are, okay? Now my specialties are, I don't know, I'm good at making cakes. I can sew very well. I'm really funny. And I think I'm a smart, nice person. So those my specialties. Geraldine specialties, however, are live-streaming host, inspirational and informative speaker, free motion and ruler quilting educator. I think that's important because free motion and ruler quilting seem to me so diametrically opposite. Those are two separate skills with two different outcomes, and she can teach both. That's amazing. She's a course creator. She's a YouTuber. She's Amazon live streamer and a brand ambassador, not just for one brand, not just for two brands, but for quite a few, including Bernina, which, as y'all know, are supporting the Sew Black space at QuiltCon with Black Women Stitch this year. And Bernina also a supporter of The Road to QuiltCon: Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, where we are taking the train from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta overnight. So Bernina is in the house. And I'm really glad to have a Bernina ambassador to close out our episodes on The Road to QuiltCon today. So thank you so much. Now, how did you get here? Because all the things you've listed in your specialties don't actually include the fact that you have a Pulitzer Prize. I think that's something that's worth talking about, because that's a really big deal. So you were a photo journalist?

Geraldine Wilkins 5:33

Yes, that's right. I had an amazing career at the Los Angeles Times. Eleven years, and part of that journey included a collaborative Pulitzer Prize win. Our team won for the earthquake, the Northridge earthquake, the news coverage.

I was part of the team that covered that tragic event.

Lisa Woolfork 5:53

And is there anything that you might recall from your days as a photo journalist of what it meant to kind of look at an image and tell a story? Do you ever see that in some ways making sense for quilts? Are there any ways that you might try to tell a story because photojournalism is really telling a story with pictures. And similarly, quilts might be seen the same way. Do you find any interesting connections or overlaps between those two things?

Geraldine Wilkins 6:19

Well, for my personal journey, the overlap certainly is the creative aspect of the color that tells a story, the story of making a quilt specifically for someone or an organization, how that impacts them. The two of them kind of go together. A major part of my time at the Los Angeles Times is that I spent time with families, with individuals to tell bigger, deeper, and broader stories that related, not just on a local level, but related on a national level. And my experience as an international photographer, all that kind of comes together with the sewing. I see it kind of as a culmination, ultimately, of my creative process.

Lisa Woolfork 7:04

That's wonderful. And I love that phrase, "the culmination of a creative process" because they do share the fact that they're in visual arts, right? That they're both something that you have to look at and see. But to make a photograph is kind of completely different than making a quilt. And I wonder, do you still photograph? Are you still interested in photography? Do you do that still as part of your sewing or quilting practice? Or are there other ways beyond picking up a camera that you tend to bring in some of those elements from your former work?

Geraldine Wilkins 7:34

Well, I love that the skills that I developed as a photojournalist play well into my overall purpose with sewing and quilting. That happened as a result of transitioning from the Los Angeles Times to an international publication where I traveled to many countries and while at those countries, I began to see the plight of women, and I learned at many of those countries, if they learned how to sew, it would make a difference in their life, a significant difference. At the time, I was not sewing. I did a little bit of home decor. But then I realized, you know what, I think my next step in my creative journey is not just to quilt for myself, but to help women in another country, in another place learn how to sew. So that's how my journey began--that transition from photography to quilting. And so I quickly started to learn how to sew, how to maintain sewing machines, everything that had to do with sewing.

Lisa Woolfork 8:32

Wow, wow, that's wonderful. And so how did you learn to maintain machines? I've always worried that that's like a lost art. I always feel like every time I go to take my machine to the repair person or the repair man. I've never taken my machine to a woman to fix. I've just never met a repair woman before. It's always repair man. And it's like, these guys are not gonna live forever. What happens when the last, you know, 97-year-old sewing machine repairman is like, "You know what? I'm tired of working. And I would like to retire now." Did you take a training program or did you do a lot of self-study or a little of both?

Geraldine Wilkins 9:04

I did a little bit of both in the beginning, but when I was serious about transitioning from photography to sewing and specifically helping women, I noticed that when I was in these different countries that the resources that we have in the U.S. are just phenomenal. Many places don't have access to the resources. So I knew it was critical that when they had a machine, they would not have to know how to maintain it, how to repair it, because that could stop them right in their tracks. So I took a multiday course with a professional sewing machine repair person named Ray White. He had an extensive course about six hours from where I live. I traveled down there, spent two days, learned how to dismantle not only a sewing machine, but even a serger and put it back together.

Lisa Woolfork 9:53

Oh, my word. Wow.

Geraldine Wilkins 9:55


Lisa Woolfork 9:56

How was that feeling when you had to sit there and take that machine apart with a screwdriver or whatever magic wrench they use. And you looked at it and you were like, oh my goodness. What was that like when you looked around at what you had done with your own hands? You had taken apart this thing and now it was time to put it back together. I would feel incredibly confident after I had finished it. But beforehand, I would probably be terrified. How did you approach that situation?

Geraldine Wilkins 10:21

Well, I was terrified mostly of the serger than the sewing machine. I mean, I had practiced a little bit with the sewing machine, but the serger a lot of us get a little intimidated by that. But I knew that it was critical, critical to building confidence just not only in myself, but to teach others how to do it so that they can have the confidence as well.

Lisa Woolfork 10:43

Yes, yes. And I think that that's one of the great gifts I've learned about Geraldine, y'all. If you go to her site--and please do. Go to her site and do yourself a favor, sign up for some classes. And, if you know you're going to be at QuiltCon, look to see if there's any spots left in her classes because what she is offering looks incredible. She's got ruler classes, which is one of my favorites, but also terrifying. It's so funny, Geraldine, I'm always teasing folks who are like, "Oh, I'm too afraid to sew buttons" or "I'm too afraid to sew a zipper." I'm like, "Girl, why are you afraid of a zipper? I mean, you drive a car. A car is really way more dangerous than any sewing machine."

Geraldine Wilkins 11:18


Lisa Woolfork 11:19

So don't trip. It's okay. But now when it comes to like let's disassemble a sewing machine. I'm like oh no, no, I think that's where my fear goes. And I can tell you that I am a bit intimidated, though I have tried it and I do own rulers, by ruler quilting it just seems like so risky. But I love the results. Paper piecing, foundation paper piecing is my favorite way to piece a quilt block. Those designs from the ruler, I think, really lend themselves well to paper piece quilts.

The Sew Black sew and show closes the gap between apparel sewing and quilting fabric. We are focusing on the fabrics of Black surface pattern designers E Bond, Jen Hewitt, Rashida Coleman-Hale and Janine Lacour. So stay tuned for quilty fabric looks from your favorite sewing influencers Aaronica Cole, Terrance Williams, Nefertiti Griggs, Sierra Burrell, Nikki Griffin, and Julian Collins. Follow the hashtag Sew Black QC, and we'll help you get your stitch together. We're on the road to QuiltCon, but we are not the only ones. Folks from the Black Women Stitch community left us messages about how they are doing The Road to QuiltCon. Here's what Bonita Nance is looking forward to.

Bonita Nance 12:39

Hey, Lisa. This is Bonita Nance. Yes, I will be at QuiltCon, and yes, girl, I will find you and give you a shout-out hello, and all my peeps that are gonna be there, I'm gonna tell them to come visit you too. So I can't wait to see you. Bye.

Lisa Woolfork 12:56

Sarah Bond reached out to let us know that she happens to have room in the car for something amazing.

Sarah Bond 13:03

I was getting ready for QuiltCon, and I was making my list for packing. And I realized that since I'm driving, I can bring along a few extra things. Now I know that Lisa Woolfork is going to be there. And she and I have been talking about quilts that were made by my great-grandmother and my great-great-grandmother, and I thought, hey, I can bring some of these quilts, and I can share them with Lisa. Of course, I love talking about all of these quilts and about my four mothers and about everything that came before. But talking about it with Lisa with the actual quilts in hand was too tempting to resist.

Lisa Woolfork 13:46

And Geraldine had some tough decisions to make before she boards her flight to Atlanta.

Geraldine Wilkins 13:53

Hey, Lisa, it's your girl Geraldine Wilkins, the Living Water Quilter. I am almost ready--ready to board the plane the QuiltCon. I'm in pre-pack mode. I need to assemble all the things I think I need to bring, and then I realized, girl, you can't fit all this in the suitcase. And so I have to leave some things behind. Really, who needs five pairs of shoes for a four-day quilt show. I'm just saying maybe you can relate, but I know there are a few things that must get in that suitcase, and one is the beautiful Sister Quilt. She will be on display in booth 15-17. That's right, it's the only quilt that I will have on display at QuiltCon. So I hope to see a lot of ladies at booth 15-17. Now you're wondering: How did she know the booth number? It's through the QuiltCon app. If you haven't down loaded the app, you must download the app. That's a way to connect with other quilters and know what is going on at the quilt show hour by hour. And what else is going in the suitcase? A special jacket. I have this special jacket that a designer is making for me. And I can't wait to share it and show it and wear it. That's going in the suitcase. And, of course, all my quilting supplies. I'm teaching six classes. Ruler quilting on a sit-down long arm. I can't wait to share some tips and techniques for designing modern quilt designs for our quilts. I look forward to meeting with all my quilting besties at QuiltCon.

Lisa Woolfork 15:43

So do you have any good tips for kind of first-timers who are like maybe perhaps made nervous by working with a ruler or being afraid that my fear is that the needle is gonna break. Which I don't know why I think that's the worst thing in the world. I've broken a ton of needles in my life. But how do you guide students who might be a little overwhelmed, if not intimidated, by the ruler quilting process?

Geraldine Wilkins 16:05

Well, the first thing I let students know is that I understand. I have been where they are no matter what stage it is, I was afraid of free-motion quilting. And when I mentioned it when I was learning, many quilters would say oh, don't even try. They discouraged me from even trying, and I thought: Well, why would they discourage me? That made me realize how afraid so many quilters have been of free-motion quilting and ruler quilting, I determined to figure out what would make it work. And that's what I share in my classes, education through thread and needles and the machine. If you learn those three, your confidence will increase. Many quilters think it's them that's the problem. It's not. It's let's learn about thread. Let's learn about needles, because frankly, the sewing machine manufacturers, they love us they want us to succeed. And they give us a good start. But often we don't take advantage of those sewing machine manuals or to learn. We don't open the book and figure out how to use the machine. That's my first encouragement is to do that.

Lisa Woolfork 17:17

What a gentle teacher. Did you all see how perfectly and how diplomatically she laid that out? She said, "Many of us do not take advantage of our manuals." Another person might have said, "People don't read, and that's why y'all don't know nothing." But, no, Geraldine said, "I invite everyone to enjoy their manual." I mean, like, I'm actually interested in reading mine now. Because I feel like that was such a kind and generous invitation like, well, maybe there is some good stuff in there in that book I put up on the shelf as soon as I opened the box of the sewing machine. We have what we need to succeed. Is that what you're telling us--we have what we need to succeed?

Geraldine Wilkins 17:57

Yes. You know, when I was a young photographer at the L.A. Times, I started as an intern, and one of the experienced photographers said, "You need to learn the camera like the back of your hand that you don't even think about how to use the camera. If you're at the event, trying to figure out how to use the camera, you're gonna miss all the great photos.

Lisa Woolfork 18:19


Geraldine Wilkins 18:20

So just like with the sewing machine, the more we know about our machine--how it works, what it can do what it can't do--the more we will succeed. That's the first step.

Lisa Woolfork 18:30

What I really appreciate is I see a great connection between how you are empowering people to access and use the machines they already know and have and how you were empowering women in the many countries that you visited to sustain themselves and empower themselves through having a sewing machine. Like I remember this initiative. I think the name of the company is called Heifer International. And they raise, I think, sometimes goats, sometimes cows, but essentially, you can contribute money to buy a cow for someone in some part of the world where having a cow like is the difference between abject poverty and being able to live reasonably well. And it's like, I will absolutely have 50 dollars to get somebody half a cow or a quarter of it--whatever, it however much it costs. And like you're doing that with the sewing machine. And I think that it's just so wonderful because it makes me feel as though sewing machines and sewing sometimes gets thought a very much only in the context of labor. And sometimes not even the best types of labor. You think about sweatshops--many of those are sewing machine factories, and that there are parts of the world where it is deeply exploitative, the way that sewing machines are weaponized. You know, like folks in Haiti sewing underwear for 50 cents a day, and then the U.S. blocking that to say, "No, no, no, you can't get 65 cents a day. Don't be greedy". So I have a very romanticized and empowered view of sewing because that's what it's done for me, but I'm also aware that around the world, that is not the case. But you have made some shifts to do just that. To say let's put these not in the hands of a factory owner, but in the hands of a girl, in the hands of a woman, in the hands of a new mother, and we can change the trajectory, you can radically improve the trajectory of her life of her own hands, right that she is going to do these things. So it's not like a type of admission project where you have to constantly give and give and someone's always in the position of just only receiving they get to give as well. And I think that's just so beautiful. Geraldine, that's so wise, that's really wonderful. Listen, I just want to just make a note, everybody. This is going to be our first episode with Geraldine Wilkins. Because my hope is that after today's conversation, she would be willing to come back and talk with us again because there's so much that I want to discuss with her, and I know y'all don't want to hear a three-hour and 72-minute episode, like it doesn't need to be a Marvel movie, which is what I think it actually deserves. But fine. I've been advised not to make two-hour episodes, so I'm keeping my eye on the time. But I do hope we get to come back to Geraldine's YouTube channel, where she is a professional YouTuber and so great at it and her setup is so wonderful, and I would love for her to walk us through it if we can get there. But I want to turn now to Geraldine's QuiltCon. Y'all QuiltCon is a four-day event. It starts on Thursday. It goes all day Thursday, all day Friday, all day Saturday, and a half day on Sunday. I think the last class or lecture might be either noon or two. And then the show itself closes at four. When I tell you that our friend Geraldine is occupied for those days, I am not kidding. I want you to look here at this lovely image. On Thursday, we have Geraldine teaching Power Curves: One Ruler, Many Designs, and then later on in the evening, she's teaching Diamond Facets: Ruler Work That Sparkles. Can you tell us what unites these two classes? What unites Power Curves and Diamond Facets? They seem so different, right? A curve being kind of round and bendy. And then a diamond facet, I'm guessing, being like, you know, shaped like a diamond or a parallelogram or something. What's the story with these two classes?

Geraldine Wilkins 22:18

Well, the commonality with the classes has to do that I'm using one ruler per class. I've learned over the years that if you make it too complicated, ladies shut down. And I want to simplify it. And the other component is that often we purchase something, and we don't know what quite to do is it. We don't know how to maximize its use. So I love to take one ruler and show them how much they can do with it. It helps to expand the design possibilities. And then once they experienced that with one ruler, they can start looking at what they already have, or when they are ready to invest in more, they know that I'm not just going to get one design from this rule, I'm going to get many designs. And so part of it is not just learning specific designs for power curves, which is a serpentine ruler...

Lisa Woolfork 23:14


Geraldine Wilkins 23:15

...or the ruler for the diamond facets, which makes diamonds and squares and other shapes based on that shape. You can make so many designs based on the things that you love. If you love to make quilt blocks and central designs, if you'd like to quilt in negative space, I show you how to make patterns, modern patterns based on using those different rulers so that you can fill what you want--borders, sashing, negative space, everything.

Lisa Woolfork 23:44

That is incredible. And, y'all, that's just day one, okay? So that's our day one. And again, this is all kicking off this week. And when I tell y'all I am so doggone excited. It's my first QuiltCon. I've signed up for quite a few classes, but the Stitch Please podcast will be there interviewing people as part of the affinity space, and so I'm also working. I'm also working. I keep telling myself I am also working. So I cannot take as many classes as I would like because I am working, but I also like to have fun, which is an important part. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, that would be so great!" But I think I have an interview setup at that time, so I am also sad.

Happy Black History Month. You know that Black Women Stitch is going to be at QuiltCon, and we have a space called Sew Black. But even if you're not coming to QuiltCon--and seriously, why are you not coming to QuiltCon? I think it's gonna be really fun. But if you're not coming to QuiltCon, you can still participate in Sew Black right from home. We are having a sew and show designed to amplify and elevate Black surface pattern designers who have created quilting fabrics. So in partnership with some folks in the Black Women Stitch community, we will be bringing you amazing garments and projects from fabrics by E Bond from Free Spirit Fabrics; Jen Hewitt and Rashida Coleman-Hale from Ruby Star Society; and Nefertiti Griggs and Janine Lecour from Spoonflower. You can participate in Sew Black by buying their fabrics and making garments from them. And, in partnership with Bernina, you can be entered to win a Burnett 33 when you use the hashtag Sew Black QC. Sew Black QC is also a discount code giving you 20 percent off at Spoonflower and 10 percent off at Crimson Tate. We look forward to seeing the way you Sew Black.

And then Friday, you've got Connect the Dots. Connect the Dots: Ruler Work with Dashes and Dots. What does that mean? What is ruler work with dashes and dots?

Geraldine Wilkins 26:19

That's another specific ruler that is a straight line and a circle. And I show you how to take straight lines and circles to create dynamic edge-to-edge designs, border designs, negative-space designs, block-based designs. Like one example is I show you how to use that to make a flower, or I show you how to make, what I call, "inchworm." Amazing designs. It's going to be fun.

Lisa Woolfork 26:47

Oh my gosh, this is so exciting! It's like you open up a box and another present's inside. Every class has another really great offering. That's really wonderful, wonderful. And then the hex knot--now this sounds a little bit more advanced because it says it's intermediate ruler quilting. So how do you know when someone has crossed the boundary between from the very beginning to being ready for the hex ruler, which is more intermediate? What other skills get called upon when you're doing something at the intermediate level rather than the starter?

Geraldine Wilkins 27:18

Well, the intermediate level involves some of the techniques that I teach in terms of ruler quilting. I like to teach what I call in multiple steps, I call them passes. So there's a design that requires four different passes before the design is complete. So there has to be some accuracy in the stitching and the placement of the ruler in order for the full design to be revealed. So that's part of the complexity.

Lisa Woolfork 27:45

Yes, yes. So you have to be someone who knows where to put the ruler, how to keep it there, how to do it in such a wa,y and also you can't be nervous, I suppose. This is not for the nervous. The nervous get to take one-oh-one. I'll let you sit next to me. I'm in the nervous section. I think that's so delightful. You kindly shared with us a really beautiful image of your quilt. I love this piece, and I remember seeing it when you shared it on Instagram. Can you tell us the story of this piece? It features the things--one of the things you're so great at. It features your free-motion designs. We can see that the way that you have set each one of those images, it looks like, with the kind of a textured base that you've created with free motion, but it also looks like some photography skills might be involved here as well. It's a really beautiful image. Can you tell us about it?

Geraldine Wilkins 28:34

Yes, I'm really excited about this project. It's called the Beautiful Sister Quilt Block. And then I've also designed a Beautiful Sister Quilt using the block design the block is 15 inches square, the one on the right or left, depending upon how you're looking at it with the multiple colors. So I wanted to create something using this silhouette. And you're correct--it was a photograph that I turned to a silhouette that had it printed on fabric. And then I created this block design and then ultimately the quilt design. And the idea was that I have a sister, she's beautiful. And sometimes my beautiful sister is not necessarily someone who is my blood relation. She is someone that is a part of my life, and I see her as part of my family. I think we all have these sisters in our life that are important to helping us develop and mature in different areas of our life, whether it's education, whether it's sewing or quilting, whether it's nurturing you and your family life. We have women who we call sisters because they're that close to us.

Lisa Woolfork 29:42

Yes. And it's one of those examples of how there's lots of ways to build a family, right? That you had the family that you were born into, but then you also have family of choice, and that's when you can find sisters that become available to you if you are fortunate and are able to develop kind of good relationships. And I think that everybody would appreciate, and those of us who have them definitely appreciate, those friends, those friends of the heart.

Geraldine Wilkins 30:08

Exactly. Another important part of it is the Afro. I did that specifically to point out my sisters of color, my Black sisters, my African American sisters. That I see you, and you're not invisible. I see you.

Lisa Woolfork 30:27

That's right. And it's so valuable. And I was speaking out on this same point a few weeks ago, it seems like there are not enough, in my mind, of forward-facing, Black-women-affirming projects that just say "Hi, I see you" or even Black folks more generally. Doesn't have to be women. It could be women, men, nonbinary trans, queer folks--there's just not enough, "Hey, here we are." And that's one of the reasons that Black Women Stitch is bringing Sew Black to the MQG as an affinity space, and we're really excited about that, because I think it's just going to be a really super fun time. I was also wondering about your YouTube channel, because I think you have collected a variety of skills over at least two careers--the photo journalism career and now your career as a sewing, quilting, teacher, designer, pattern maker, et cetera. I've just recently started to do video. This is one of the first handfuls of direct video using this platform. And I took a training class, I took another training class, I bought lights, I have more lights, and then I got the other lights that are supposed to go with these lights. And then my sister will say, "Oh my gosh, you look so washed out in your video. Why--were you sick?" And it's like, no, I just can't get the light right. Like, it's so challenging. You, however, look glorious. Your channel is amazing. And I wondered if you wouldn't mind sharing a little bit about what we have in this photo here. And again, y'all, y'all should join the Patreon. If you join the Black Women Stitch Patreon, you get to see these really amazing videos. And I'm not just saying there are videos here and there's nothing here. There's really, really videos here. But I love this so much. Can you talk a bit about your setup and how you arrived at this place? Did you start with everything that you needed to because you already had the knowledge and experience of how photography works, so it was a bit easier for you, or did you build as you grew?

Geraldine Wilkins 32:21

Well, it's a little bit of both. I had some gear, but I didn't know if it would work for live streaming. I knew I needed to create a space once the pandemic hit. Everyone was working from home, and I have a small space. And so I had to figure out what was going to work in my sewing space. You can see my sewing machine there in the photo, in the back there, behind my teleprompter and the two lights. I knew I had to get them on the wall, off the floor because I didn't have a lot of space. I wanted to create a no-excuses space where I could record video, where I can go on Zoom calls, where I can teach virtually, where I can record YouTube videos and courses. And so by having this as a permanent setup, all I have to do is comment, turn the lights on, turn on the camera, and I am ready to go. Everything is all ready. And I can still sew and quilt in this space at the same time.

Lisa Woolfork 33:17

Now, I'm looking at your equipment and I know that you do Amazon live videos. Did you purchase some of your materials from Amazon?

Geraldine Wilkins 33:26

Yes, I did purchase a majority of the equipment you see here in the photo--between the monitor the computer, a stream deck, the overhead phone even. I got a refurbished cell phone to use as my overhead camera. So yes, Amazon. And I share the studio. If anyone wants to see what it looks like, what I'm using, they can get a close-up view and a studio tour if they want.

Lisa Woolfork 33:52

And does the studio tour include links to your Amazon store?

Geraldine Wilkins 33:56

Yes, it does. It has everything that you need. Everything that I have in this photo that you see is available in a separate curated list, because technically, yes, my photography career has helped me, I think, accelerate my ability to create the studio. The studio has happened over the last year. I'm always refining it. But I know that I have a little bit of an advantage. But I want to share those tips so people don't have to spend weeks and months trying to figure it out. So I wanted to create that.

Lisa Woolfork 34:28

You're very generous and humble to say that you have a little bit of an advantage. I would say you have a massive advantage because you have amassed a really great career before you even started doing this. I would like to ask you: What do you have coming up after QuiltCon is done? All right, so here it is. We're at Wednesday now. You have gone through the week. You've had a very successful QuiltCon, and I guess I could ask: What does a successful QuiltCon look like for you? And then what are you going to be doing afterwards?

Geraldine Wilkins 34:56

Well, a successful QuiltCon for me is that the students not only enjoy the class, but they feel empowered to now go home and use the skills that they've learned in the class, that would be a big win for me. Because that's always my goal is that you don't come to a class just to have fun and maybe make something but you're not bringing any skills with you. I always want ladies to bring skills with them home so they can continue to create and love quilting as a result. I'm just really excited about this opportunity to spend time with women.

Lisa Woolfork 35:30

I'm absolutely looking forward to it as well. I think it is going to be a very fun time. I will ask you the last question that we usually ask folks for this podcast and it is this: The slogan of the Stitch Please podcast is that we will help you get your stitch together. What advice would you, Geraldine Wilkins, offer our listeners today to help them get their stitch together?

Geraldine Wilkins 35:57

My advice is to get started. If you are ready to learn free-motion quilting, get started. If you want to learn bullet quilting, get started. If you want to live stream, but you need help with getting your studio set up, get started. Time goes by. Tomorrow never comes in the sense. You know what I mean? You always think tomorrow, tomorrow, and it never comes. Get started. And if you need help, just reach out to me. That's why I'm here. I would love for people to reach out to me if they need help in any of those areas.

Lisa Woolfork 36:29

Thank you so much. And thank you for saying that on camera because I'm absolutely going to be reaching back to you to ask about the teleprompter ecause I was like, "Oh my gosh, what?" So I will absolutely. And the second camera idea--what...that? Yes. All the helps, all the helps. Geraldine Wilkins, thank you so much for being with us today. Thank you for sharing all that you have. And again, not even all--thank you for sharing a small part of your story and that which you do, and I look forward to meeting you at QuiltCon this week.

Geraldine Wilkins 37:00

Yes, I look forward to it as well. Thank you so much, Lisa. It's been a pleasure.

Lisa Woolfork 37:07

You've been listening to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you joining us this week and every week for stories that center Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. We invite you to join the Black Women Stitch Patreon community with giving levels beginning at five dollars a month. Your contributions help us bring the Stitch Please podcast to you every week. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support, and come back next week, and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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