An Interview Prairie Sky Quilting’s Susan Nelson, Part 2

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In this part of the interview Susan tells us about her daily life as a quilt designer.

What is your favorite part of the quilting process?

I’ve come to enjoy so many parts of the quilting process as I’ve expanded into designing.  Today’s software technology has made designing quilts so much fun, and easier than the colored pencils and graph paper that I started with!  I use EQ7 for my patterns, and CorelDraw for my show quilts.  But, I love to sew, and need to do it regularly.  Sewing is how I relax and recharge, but there are never enough hours in the day to sew as much as I would like.

I so agree about there not being enough time each day to sew and I’ll bet our readers feel the same way!  Susan, can you tell us what a typical work day is like?

I began this career when my youngest child started school.  I was still a full-time mom, and I started teaching quilting on a limited basis.  My business grew gradually as I had more time to devote to designing, teaching, and eventually the pattern business.  Now I have 2 daughters in high school and a son away at college, so I’m glad to be home and available to them as needed.  I spend a lot of time on things that aren’t very creative or quilt-related, like packing orders, bookkeeping, and keeping up with emails.  My design and sewing times vary based on the demands of my current deadlines.  No two days are alike, and most days don’t go as planned.  It’s always a challenge to juggle the many responsibilities of work and home life, but I appreciate the flexibility that I have to keep the balance that works best for me.

Can you describe your studio?

I am fortunate to have a room in our basement to use as a studio.  It’s small, but it’s wonderful to have a dedicated sewing space. In my studio, I have many features that I consider to be essential for me.  My favorite sewing maching is set into a large sewing cabinet.  I have a separate cutting table and an HQ16 in a sit-down table for machine quilting.  I hung felt from a rod to make a design wall, which is an essential part of any studio.  My stash is overflowing, so I either need to stop buying fabric or get a larger sewing room.  I think I’d prefer that larger sewing room!  (Yep, that sounds like a plan!)

As my business has grown, so have the demands of maintaining inventory levels on multiple items.  Prairie Sky Quilting has taken over other parts of our house and garage.  As my kids have grown, I’ve moved toys out of the closets, and taken over that space for patterns.  But I do dream of having more room, so maybe when the kids move out, I’ll take over the whole basement!

When you are starting a new project, what comes first for you – the design or the fabrics?

I usually start with the design, then look for the fabrics that work best for that design.  Finding the right fabrics can be very challenging, especially finding the right combination that will photograph well for a pattern cover.  My stash is evidence that my original plan doesn’t always work, and I need to revise the plan and buy more fabric.  When choosing fabrics, I often start with a focus fabric, and pick colors to coordinate with that.

Do you have favorite types of fabrics?

I tend to like more contemporary fabrics and vibrant colors.  As a pattern designer, I try to use a variety of styles that might appeal to a wider audience of quilters, so that challenges me to stretch my comfort zone.  But it always has to be something that I like, because I can’t do my best work if I’m not enjoying the project.

Thanks for sharing with us Susan! 


  • Thanks for the interview.

  • I so enjoyed the interview and just wish I had more hours to each day.

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