The Free Motion Quilting Project: Meet Christa Watson!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Meet Christa Watson!
Today I'm super excited to share an interview with the awesome Christa Watson, from Christa Quilts. Christa and I met through this blog and then met up recently in person at spring quilt market!

Christa is an amazing quilter and extremely sweet person and she's just published a new book on quilting called Machine Quilting With Style: From Walking-foot Wonders to Free-motion Favorites.

Let's start with a bit about you! When did you get into quilting and how did you get bit by the bug?

I made my first quilt back in 1994 and it was love at first stitch! However, I felt like I floundered around until I found the modern quilting movement in 2012, stumbled upon your blog around the same time, and realized there were other like-minded souls out there that I could really relate to!

So at what point did quilting become a business for you? Was it an immediate "I've gotta do this!" moment, or was it more of a gradual shift?

It started off as a “hobby-business” soon after I started quilting. I sold finished quilts at craft shows and started teaching right away as a means to support the hobby.

But it wasn’t until 2003 that I got serious and opened up my first online store. Now it’s a full-time business for my family. A couple of years ago we switched from being a full-service stand alone website to selling precuts through Amazon so that I could spend more time designing, teaching and writing.

Now let's talk about your first book - what made you want to write a book about machine quilting? I follow your awesome instagram feed and also see beautiful quilt patterns as well! consider myself more of a “start-to-finish” quilter. I enjoy each step of the process, from design to binding. I have always machine quilted my own quilts and thought it was just another step in the process to completion.

However, when I pitched the book to the publisher they were really excited about the machine quilting aspect of it, since most people don’t include that in their pattern instructions. I sometimes take it for granted that not everyone likes to machine quilt their own quilts like I do, so I’m happy to share what I know and help others overcome their fear of machine quilting. My book Machine Quilting With Style includes 12 complete patterns with step-by-step instructions on how to quilt them.

So is machine quilting your main focus - what you mostly teach?

Haha, see the response above! I love to teach in-depth start to finish classes over a series of weeks. However, it’s hard to take that type of class on the road so I’ve recently tried to break down my classes into shorter piecing classes and quilting classes. However, every now and then I get to teach a week-long class where we can make a whole quilt. I love that!

I understand this book more than just a book about free motion quilting, you also cover a lot of walking foot quilting as well. Which style of quilting is your favorite? What did you focus on more in this book?

I actually prefer to incorporate both types of quilting in the same quilt. I think that’s just how my mind works. I like to use walking foot techniques to “anchor the quilt” and then fill in smaller areas with free-motion quilting.

In my super beginner classes, I teach them how to finish quilting entirely with a walking foot because that’s easier to master in a shorter period of time. I have found that once quilters have success with the walking foot, they are more willing to give free-motion quilting a try.

Out of 12 quilts in my book, 5 are quilted completely with the walking foot, 1 is all free-motion quilted, and the other 6 use both techniques.

What is your goal for this book? What do you most hope it will help quilters learn about the quilting process?

My main goal is to convince people that quilts don’t have to be computer-perfect to be both functional and beautiful. I hope quilters will realize how fun machine quilting can be and that you don’t have to have super fancy equipment to get the job done. The most important tool in your toolbox is a can-do attitude!

I remember us talking about your book at market and how you didn't feel like you could write it for awhile - like you weren't old enough. How did you overcome those limiting thoughts during the writing process?

For many years, my quilting mentors were always older than me since I started quilting so young, just like you, Leah! However, I’ve always been comfortable in the classroom, no matter the age range.

So I approached the book-writing process as if I were talking one-on-one to students in class. I love to share what I know in an encouraging way and try to break down big tasks into smaller, manageable steps. I also compared the book writing process to making a quilt – just one step at a time and before you know it – the whole thing is done!

I recently heard a great analogy within an old Creative Insurgents podcast that described writing a book as being "soul work." I always think of writing a book like having a baby (it takes about as much time!) What was the most unexpected part of writing this book? Was it easier or harder than you expected?

That’s a great analogy! Creating this book was very fulfilling. The time I got to quietly spend on each quilt was very therapeutic for me. Honestly, the hardest part for me was writing the proposal - the document I submitted to the publisher outlining in detail what I would cover in the book, including sketches of all the projects.

Because I planned out all of the designs and fabrics ahead of time (including the quilting), the actual time to create was really fun. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the pattern writing process, too. There’s nothing like getting an idea out of my head and onto paper. I’m also one of those geeky types that really enjoys quilty math - figuring out how many squares you can cut from of a yard of fabric makes me giddy!

The only thing that was harder than expected was not being able to share my work-in-progress. I am a very process oriented person so it was killing me keep it all quiet for so long. That said, if you go back to my instagram feed from last summer, there are plenty of sneak peaks and stealthy in-process pics!

Now that this project is complete, what's coming next?

I’ve already started on my next book, and I have a line of Kona Solid precuts that launch in October. I’ll be teaching at QuiltCon in February, EQ Academy in April and the John Campbell Folkschool in August. Like you, I don’t want to travel too much while my kids are still home - so that’s a full year of teaching for me already. I’m mostly just excited to make more quilts!
 I hear ya Christa! It's so exciting to make new quilts, play with new techniques, and then share them with the quilting world. If you're interested in following Christa more closely, check her out here on her blog Christa Quilts or her Facebook group Quilt with Christa.

And make sure to check out Christa's new book Machine Quilting with Style if you're looking for several awesome start-to-finish projects this fall!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. Awesome interview! I have met Christa a couple times...and she is super sweet and full of ideas!

  2. Christa is great! I met her at Quilt Market this spring, too, after she'd participated in a blog hop for the book Mom and I published!

  3. The hardest part for me as a quilter that loves piecing is quilting that pieced quilt and crossing over those lines of my designs. I see she does it in that circle quilt and it looks awesome. I have a delectable mountain quilt to quilt and I am thinking I will go for it within the row of mountains. You both are wonderful teachers and great inspiration! Thank you for documenting your process and taking the fear out!


Help us create more quilting tutorials! Check out our quilt shop at