Carol Culey’s
Quilting Journey

Sharon Thomson

Here is a other installment in our series of stories about how our staff and teachers came to be the quilters. This story is about Berry Quilt & Co. staff member Carol Culey’s quilting journey.  Its a bit of long one because there were so many threads to follow up once we got talking. 

Each of these articles are tagged in our blog as: Meet the Team. Over time, using this tag will pull up all the posts with our staff and teacher’s stories. Yes there are plenty of pics! Scroll on down to the bottom of the article for the image gallery. 

Carol’s Quilting Journey

Many of you have come in and been looked after in our store by Carol. She is excellent at helping you measure up your project for backing, borders or binding and she enjoys helping you work out your colours or choose fabric for a pattern. Carol always goes the extra mile to make sure you’re really well looked after when you visit our store, she’s super efficient at getting things done and she always has a happy smile and cheery greeting for everyone. This year, Carol has also started teaching some classes in the shop. Her cushion making workshops have been received well as her teaching style is friendly and relaxed but well organised and cleverly designed to get everyone holding a finished object at the end of the class! We are very lucky to have Carol working with us. 

For this chat I asked Carol to bring in some of the first things she ever made. When we began, she laughingly produced two 14 inch scrappy log cabin blocks. After joking and saying “What was I thinking putting black and solid red right in the middle of each block..??” she flipped them over to show me the seams and asked how I liked I like the big fat irregular seam allowances which she had made? Carol confessed that she didn’t own a rotary cutter at the time and that she had just jumped in and had a go without any equipment! Measuring and marking using a standard 30cm ruler and pencil, then cutting her strips with scissors. Some of the fabric pieces which were given to her even had pinked edges which stayed on.  

Carol says to see your early blocks or projects is humbling. It sure is once we’ve gained more skills! But I still love these types of naive projects. I think they have so much soul. It shows the hand of the maker in the way some perfectly pieced ‘pattern made’ things do not. Who says you need loads of fancy equipment? Sometimes it makes it easier but people have been making gorgeous complicated quilts and other sewn items for centuries with nothing but fabric, scissors, needle thread and pencil or piece of chalk if they were lucky!

Carol was lucky! These little experiments with gifted fabric and scraps from clothes her children had made have led to her to making some really special quilts for her family, gifts for plenty of others around her and an outlet for her creativity! Carol says even though those first blocks are humbling you just have to start somewhere and follow your interest. 

Carol knows her main interest is colour! She loves colour and fabric, the brighter the better! At university she was given an assignment where each person had to introduce themselves using an adjective. Carol chose Colourful Carol. It’s been a defining description. Carol realised how much she loved colour and muses that a lot of her quilting journey has been about wanting to play with colour and express herself through using colour. She tells me that fabric seemed more accessible than drawing or other art forms and so a love affair with colourful fabric has grown. 

Carol’s children were home schooled and as part of that process they each made a quilt. It was a journey of discovery for all of them. Carol needed to stay a step ahead of the kids. Her first full quilt, made during thsoe times, more than 10yrs ago was a pattern from Elizabeth Hartman’s Practical Guide to Patchwork (a great book for beginners) and used two jelly rolls. Precuts were a step up from cutting with scissors!  Carol credits a few books as instrumental to her quilt makinmg journey. The Elizabeth Hartman book mentioned above and Growing up Modern by Allison Harris. Both books have loads of sensible instructions and practical projects that are great to look at but not too complicated to make, perfect to set aspiring quilters on a path to discover what they enjoy making. 

A sewing machine was gifted by a family member and Carol and her children sewed so much with it during that time, making quilts and clothes, that one day smoke started to pour out of it while they were sewing! They’d become hooked by that time so they had they had to go out and get another machine. 

Colourful Carol is one description of Carol but I see Courageous Carol! Carol has a go at everything and with a calm confidence she learns by doing. Carol’s early quilts were quilted by a long arm quilter because that’s how she thought it was done. But she is not afraid to experiment or take clases and learn. She’s did a class with Deb Louie in the Berry Patchwork days and built up skills to walking foot and freemotion quilt her own quilts. She now dives in and does them herself her free motion skill and experience is growing! A class with Helen Draper (at Berry Quilt & Co) started her off hand quilting and now she does quite a bit of handwork to add details to projects. 

Carol was gifted a bunch of fabric in the early days and despite the many quilts made using patterns in her books, with this fabric she bravely stepped off the path of following others’ designs and began being lead by the fabric to make what worked with the materials she had to hand. This ‘Carol designed’ project became a much used and loved playmat. Carol experimented with blanket stitching and machine quilting with variegated thread adding highlights that echoed the theme of the fabric and it worked! The quilt has been much loved. It’s stayed in use and survived with many washes.  Over the years Carol has realised that she likes to incorportate scraps into the backs of her quilts too. This has become quite an obsession and she now enjoys making the backs almost as interesting as the fronts! Backs of quilts are another opportunity to play with even bigger blocks of colour and add interest when they’re folded flipped back. 

Books continued to be an influence in Carol’s quilting journey. Many came from the public library. Carol thinks that this is where she discovered Kaffe Fasset and his amazing COLOURFUL fabric. She found Kaffe’s fabrics in our shop and fell in love. She has built up a bit of a collection by buying just a little at a time. Then came the discovery that Tula Pink’s Pom Pom spots and Tent Stripes go so well with Kaffes fabrics and quite a few quilts were born. It’s an exciting day for Carol when we get a delivery of FreeSpirtit fabrics to unpack!

Like many of us, Carol finds sewing is a great distraction and allows time to process things that are happening in her life. Listening to an audio book while working on a project is so soothing and therapeutic! The Happy Quilt that Carol exhibited at The Gerringong Quilt Show is an example of a quilt making being therapeutic.  Fabric has a lot of meaning for Carol and she finds it has the possibility for holding meaning and storing memories. She says she often buys fabric on family trips and when these fabrcs are used they release lovely memories. Carol has made quite a few memory quilts. Sometimes its the fabric that triggers the memory like the travel purchases or scrapd from clothes and sometimes quilts themselves become a reminder of the time of life and what was happening when the the quilt was made. 

Sometimes quilts are made to to mark important rites of passage. These quilts are intended to be significant. For her daughter’s 14th birthday, Carol, helped by her sister-in-law Jillian made a special quilt that was designed to have memories, thoughts feelings and messages for the future all built in. It was a kitchen window quilt. The kind where fabrics are highlighted with a shadow type border. Carol invited friends and family all to contribute a scrap of fabric that meant something. The quilt holds so many memories as Tara embroidered on each block the person’s name and what the fabric represented. What a special project!

Carol is a generous quilter. She makes a lot of quilts as gifts. The healing postage stamp quilt for a friend is a good example and she recently made a quilt for a new baby and so that the older sister didn’t feel left out, Carol made a cushion from the off cuts so they both a had a special gift to celebrate the new baby’s arrival. Isn’t that thoughtful! 

Making cushions from off cuts of a particular quilt have become an interest. So much so that Carol has developed classes around making cushions. Carol finds that you can learn a new technique, experiment and turn it into a useful object by making a cushion. These cushions have meaning and hold memories and again make perfect gifts on their own or with a quilt.  A cushion made from off-cuts of specific quilt projects are companions for the quilts and reminders for Carol of the significance of the quilts that were made. For example the 21st Birthday Quilt for Carol’s niece (inspired by a pattern in Quilting With a Modern Slant By Rachel May)  had a matching cushion made from off-cuts. Recently Carol found scraps from the the quilt that her son Cameron made when home schooling (Tick Tock from Growing up Modern)  so Carol made a memory cushion that goes with the quilt. 

All of Carols cushions are self made designs. She’s letting the size and quantity of the scraps lead her. It’s fun to work this way you end up with very unique and personalised projects. It also helps you become a great trouble shooter because you’ve had to sort out your own measurements and solve your own problems. Having a quilter on deck who works in this way is a huge asset for our shop. Carol is able to help people with their projects with quite an understanding of where to go next to get the best result. 

Whats next for Carol in her quilting Journey?  She says she will keep learning new things and keep incorporating them in projects for herself and others. She’ll keep collecting gorgeous fabrics and seeing where they lead and she will be sharing her enthuisiasm and skills with anyone who needs it when she’s in the shop. Thanks Carol!!


Don’t forget that we’d love to hear your story too! Your first sewing project, a memory of someone who inspired you,  a hilarious fail or mistake, your first sewing machine or early lessons. These are often experiences that draw us together and are sometimes the reasons why we keep doing what we’re doing. Maybe it’s the memories we have of our lives and the happy memories we hope to create for others that in part drive us to make quilts! So send in your stories and memories. We’d love to hear about how you  got started and how you’ve got where you are on your sewing journey. You can email us through our contact page.

Click on an image below to open them up full size and generate a gallery to scroll through.  


A generous maker, Carol’s quilts are filled with colour, memories and meaning. 

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