I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Laurie Baker at Spring Quilt Market shortly after she was named Editor for Modern Quilts Unlimited. I would love to share my Q&A with her where she answers questions about her quilting, what her thoughts are about the magazine, and other interesting tidbits. Enjoy!
You’ve been part of the publishing world for a while now. How did you come to MQU?
I was at Quilt Market in 2012 to launch my book with co-author Kim Diehl and ran into Vicki Anderson, MQU’s publisher. We had worked for the same publisher years earlier so we did some catching up in the middle of the aisle. She’d just started the magazine and was looking for a technical editor and I was freelancing as a technical editor so we teamed up. I’ve been on board since the third issue.
How long have you been quilting or crafting?
I seriously can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making something. I grew up surrounded by creative women. My mom sewed a lot of clothes for me and my siblings and I would take the scraps and design and make doll clothes and sell them to my friends at school. Mom also did a lot of other needle arts and crafting. What she didn’t teach me, the two neighbor ladies I lived between did. They taught me to knit, crochet, wood burn, and just about anything else that had to do with crafting.
Tell me about your quilting journey. When and how did you learn to quilt?
My great-aunt Kathryn introduced me to quilting. I’d spend a couple of weeks every summer with her. She was the queen of crafting and DIY projects and we spent the entire time I was with her making things (and going to Ben Franklin for supplies–I could spend hours in that store). She taught me hand piecing when I was about nine. It didn’t take though. I was much more interested in sewing clothes back then. After I was married I took a quilting class at my local quilt shop with my mom. It didn’t take then either. Finally, in about 1990 when I was working for Sew News magazine and quilting was becoming popular, Liz Porter came to the magazine to teach us how to draft blocks. And then it clicked. I took another basic quilting class from a different local quilt shop, and that was all she wrote. A couple of years after I’d caught the bug, the publisher I was working for purchased McCall’s Quilting magazine and made me the senior editor.
What draws you to modern quilting, both aesthetically and personally?
I’m one of those people who hates doing the same thing twice, so I enjoy it mostly because it’s something different. The thought of restricting any type of fabric from my collection is just crazy, so I like to keep an open mind when it comes to that as well. However, my house is almost 100 years old and I’ve tried to maintain the period of the house, so traditional quilts fit in nicely. But whenever I’m making something that isn’t going to live in my house, I tend to gravitate toward brighter fabrics and cleaner lines. Designing modern quilts is also much more freeing and it’s easier to think outside the box.
What is your vision for Modern Quilts Unlimited?
My goal is to bring the best modern designs to our readers, while also offering skill-building articles and information about what’s new and happening in the industry. I’d like to present it all in a package that quilters of all types enjoy looking at and can learn from. And I’d like MQU to be the #1 quilting publication in the world, not that I’m competitive or anything.
I’ve always admired the space Modern Quilts Unlimited holds in publishing as an independent magazine.
Honestly, you don’t have to be big to do something right, and as the David in this world of giants, I think we do that better than the big guys. We all have to be concerned about the bottom line or else we’d be out of business (a situation many once large publishers have found themselves in), but I think it’s easier for us as an independent to listen to our readers and provide what they want. Who isn’t happy when they get what they want? We’re a small staff and we take care of things ourselves. Look at the masthead in your magazine. That’s the staff. Your requests don’t have to go through a foreign country and the supreme court to be heard. We answer our phones ourselves, and I’d like to think we’re very approachable. We want to hear what you have to say, and once you say it, we don’t have to send out a mass email to schedule a meeting so that we can schedule another meeting to talk about what we said in the first meeting.
What is your relationship with authors and designers?
I, as well as the publisher, Vicki, and our illustrator, MIssy, have all been designers and authors at some point in our careers, so we have a unique relationship with them. We treat them how we’d like to be treated. They don’t have to give up all the rights to their designs, and we try and promote them as much as we promote the magazine. We promote them, they promote us, and everyone lives happily ever after. No, it’s not a fairy tale, it’s just the way MQU chooses to do business.
What types of projects are you looking for moving forward?
I like to offer projects for all skill levels in each issue, as well as a variety of sizes of quilts, along with a sprinkling of non-quilt items (bags, purses, pincushions, etc.) that appeal to quilters. But, they all need to fit the modern aesthetic. I’m also always looking for what might be the newest trend in the industry.
What is the most exciting thing about your work, to you?
I’ll reiterate what I said in the editor’s letter in the summer issue: “I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be surrounded with all the products you’d ever want to make something, as well as the people that make them.” It’s hard not to love your job when you get to work with some of the best people in the industry, see and try all the new stuff before it hits the stores, and have boxes of fabric dropped on your doorstep. I’ve got no complaints.
Many thanks to Laurie Baker for taking the time to answer my questions! If you’re interested in subscribing to the magazine, it is available on both digital and print subscriptions. If you’ve got a design or article idea, check out the submission guidelines to see about next steps. Happy quilting!