How to Create a Galaxy, One Stunning Star at a Time, Thanks to Judy Niemeyer!

The quest to create something amazing

We sew for fun. We get a thrill from watching the stitches create shape and meaning from a plain, flat piece of fabric. We get the itch to stitch because ideas of gorgeous projects circulate in our heads, and we KNOW we can bring that beauty to life using just needles and threads.

Isn’t that amazing?

But sometimes, you see a project and you think to yourself, “there’s no way I could create something so intricate, dancing with different shapes and overflowing with hundreds of points and curves and undulating waves of color. It’s just too hard!”

Think again!

You can create an entire gorgeous galaxy, one stunning star at a time, thanks to Judy Niemeyer and her three-decade-long crusade for foundation paper piecing!

Who is Judy Niemeyer?

Judy Niemeyer has been a recognized leader in the quilting industry since the 1990s, coming to international celebrity from the tiny town of Kalispell, Montana with a population of less than 13,000 people in 1992.

Wait!

Some of you may be thinking,

“Well, I’ve been quilting for even longer than that! I’ve created hundreds of projects. I, too, have a passion and a vision. I’m from a much bigger town than Kalispell, Montana. What did Judy Niemeyer do that I didn’t?”

Here’s the answer.

From a very young age, Judy Niemeyer had been quilting. She was a professional hand quilter, as well as the go-to person for repairing damaged old quilts, but she was often frustrated because there wasn’t an easy method for fixing quilts or a prescribed method for finishing the incomplete quilt projects of others.  Then, in 1992, she was exposed to foundation paper piecing.

Judy Niemeyer fell in love with foundation paper piecing because it was a way that inexperienced quilters could make fabulous, intricate quilts by learning a simple, repeatable process.  Judy Niemeyer found her calling.

Niemeyer made it her mission to teach foundation paper piecing to others. By 1996, she had formed a company called Quiltworx that created patterns to teach her chosen art form, and by 1999, she was traveling throughout the United States to teach at workshops and quilt stores.

What exactly is foundation paper piecing?

Foundation paper piecing (FPP) is where a quilter uses a foundation of paper to stabilize each element of the block. The pieces are then sewn together with the paper on them, and then after the block is created, the paper is removed.

The advantage of using foundation paper piecing is that points are preserved, coming out crisp and sharp-edged as they were intended. Unusual shapes, curves, and all sizes of pieces can be incorporated into the design and newbie quilters can create an incredibly beautiful quilt, even without years of experience.

Judy Niemeyer saw this and worked to develop patterns through Quiltworx so that she could teach the technique to everyone who wanted to learn it, no matter where they were located.

Certified experts

Because Niemeyer wanted to teach thousands of people, she instituted a training system to create a network of certified instructors.

Prospective teachers attend at least two 4–5-day workshops at Quiltworx in Kalispell, Montana, along with another workshop at the location of their choosing. Other requirements include a resume of your prior quilt-industry teaching experience, references from your local quilt shop, and a sampling of Quiltworx quilts you’ve made using various patterns.

Quilt shops, too, can be certified. Those shops have staff that have been trained by Judy, have a full knowledge of her patterns and the principle of foundation paper piecing, and keep a complete line of patterns and Quiltworx kits on hand.

Family business, for sure

Quiltworx was established in 1996. Now, more than a quarter of a century later, the company is family run, and has expanded to include the company called Quiltster.

Quiltster was created by Judy and her youngest son, Billy, who is the owner of Giantsource, Inc., a software development company. Together, mother and son developed a software that allows you to take your quilt pattern and audition fabric, so you can experiment with color and know exactly what your finished quilt will look like before you purchase the fabric.

Judy’s other son, Brad, is also an integral member of the software part of Quiltster. He implemented an AUTOCAD (Automated Computer-Aided Design) program that turns line art into interactive design that lets a customer take a shape and fill it with a color.

Judel, Judy’s daughter, is the business manager of Quiltworx, but she’s also the very experienced person in charge of figuring and testing all the measurements in the Quiltster software.

Judy Niemeyer and Threads of Time

Threads of Time, since its opening in 2006, has partnered with some of the greatest quilt gurus in the industry, including Judy Martin, Carol Doak, Karen Kay Buckley, Joan Clemons and Gee’s Bend Quilters. Art quilters like Lenore Crawford and Brian Haggard, as well as a show titled “Joe the Quilter,” have delighted our patrons. Events and competitions like our “Fabric Forest” banner contest, "Mystery Fabric Challenge" and our support for breast cancer research with our “Bras for a Cause” exhibit years ago brought quilting in the region to a whole new level. We bring embroidery workshops by the dozens, cool clubs like Kimberbell Club on an ongoing basis, and test-drive events for Baby Lock , Brother, and Janome throughout the year. AccuQuilt events, DIME Embroidery Workshops as well as numerous virtual events have been offered.

Judy Niemeyer workshops have been some of our most popular events, and we’ll continue to offer them in the future. If you’d like to sign-up for one of our Judy Niemeyer Quiltworx Workshops, we have several dates available to choose from in 2023.

 

Know that you can accomplish the most complex, most intricate quilt you’ve ever done by learning foundation paper piecing from Judy Niemeyer and Quiltworx. Threads of Time is thrilled to have certified Quiltworx instructor May Black joining us in 2023! We hope to have you join us in a workshop.

Create your own glorious galaxy, one stunning star at a time!


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