Who is Karlee Porter?
I was first exposed to the quilting industry in 2009, as a sprite young newlywed. Since I discovered my first crayon, I had always considered myself an artist. I excelled in the clay pencil holders of elementary school; I dominated the 10 minute drawing warm ups of my inner city middle school art class; and, against my mother’s most polite wishes, I skipped most of my high school core classes to escape to the art studio on the 3rd floor of my art-deco-from-the-great-depression high school. Mr. Palmer, although knowing I wasn’t in the classroom I was assigned to, never could send me away. He always encouraged me to spend my time doing what I did best. And that was art. At that time, my work mostly consisted of drawing and painting. Throughout the 4 years of high school, I filled many journals and sketchbooks from cover to cover. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t have my book and literally 30-40 pens in my bag. I fed my addiction of painting and when paper wasn’t enough, I moved to walls. I was commissioned to paint a mural for the high school’s choir room, and that was after every square inch of the art room was covered by the school’s top art students, myself included.
Exactly one month after my wedding anniversary, I beheld with my eyes a quilting machine for the very first time. Sure, I grew up with a mother who quilted as well as a grandmother who quilted. But in my eyes, quilting was when I would lay on the living room floor underneath a quilt top stretched across a makeshift frame of 2×4’s. I would wait for my mother to push the giant needle through the quilt, and I would pull it the rest of the way, yarn following along the path of the needle. I would then zealously pull the yarn through, oftentimes too fast. My mom would angelically call out to me from the heavens above, “Wait! Wait! Slow down! There’s a knot in the yarn!” I would wait for her instruction, pull the yarn through, send the needle up again and graciously wait for its next visit through the ceiling of my quilt fort. This is what quilting was to me; hours on the floor helping my mom with her hard-to-reach quilting. When my eyes beheld an actual quilting machine for the first time, I thought my head would explode from the sheer amazingness of this technology before me. A few years have passed since I have helped my mom with a quilt, but the excitement I feel every time I witness these machines in action never ceases to take my breathe away. It fills me with nostalgia, which then leads to awe when thinking about how much technology has advanced in such a short amount of time. A quilt that used to take weeks can now be finished in the time it takes to watch a season of Breaking Bad. Trust me, I know. As I continue to grasp the ins and outs of the industry, I also find that some things are done a certain way not because they were the best way, but because that is the way someone’s mother and grandmother and great-grandmother did it. The same pattern may adorn thousands of quilts. The problem was, I simply could not follow them. The ‘instant gratification’ gene hardcoded into myself and anyone else born after 1985 would kick in. Time after time I found myself looking for shortcuts. And yes, sometimes this choice led me to learn “the hard way”. But, many more times I found a simpler way that worked for me. And at the end of the day, that is what matters. I have been lucky enough to work in many different avenues of the quilting industry. I have been on both sides of the machine. I have been able to work in a quilting machine manufacturing company learning to build all the parts of a machine, from the electrical components to the mechanical assemblies to the computerized quilting systems. I have also gotten to work on the “other side” of the quilting machine. I create and sell my art through fabric, computerized quilting designs, and even completely finished quilts. There are so many avenues I hope to explore, and I am positive I will never be able to pick a favorite. Through this site, I hope to be able to share some of the short cuts I have learned, and illustrate how the vast and powerful technology of the 21st century can be applied to an industry that is hundreds of years old. I want to show the artists of this wonderful and beautiful industry that there are more right ways to do something than just one. I want every artist to remember that it is okay to make mistakes. It is okay to do things differently. It is okay to be different. It is okay to stick with what works for you, regardless of whether or not it works for someone else. I simply want to give you an idea of how I interpreted the art of quilting with my own techniques and ideas. You may not find a single traditional quilting technique anywhere on this site, but you will find useful ways to bridge the gap between traditional quilts and quilt styles of the “younger” generation. Finally, I want to express my gratitude for the industry that so graciously accepted me, even at my young and naïve-to-quilting-know-how attitude. I hope to one day be able to quilt with my own daughter, even though I will never get to ask her to lay under the quilt frame on the living room floor. Be great to each other.