Quilter and artist Megan Knobeloch is in a happy place.
You can tell by the bright, cheerful, artsy quilts she creates.
“Want to go to my studio?” she asked, stepping onto the driveway of her Belleville home. “It used to be my garage. We just put the breezeway up. It’s still in progress. During the winter, we would get ice or rain, and the lock would freeze.”
The breezeway makes life easier. So does having a studio with all her needs, from irons sitting on a windowsill to a flannel display wall where she tries out designs. An L-shaped desk is the place for computer and printer. Shelving holds baskets of fabric, books and other supplies.
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“It’s very peaceful out here. There’s a bird feeder outside the window. You can hear birds. I’m very fortunate to have this room.”
Megan sits at a sewing table in the midst of it all, behind her Bernina sewing machine, finishing projects for Hearts ’n’ Hands Quilt Show the first weekend in June.
“My boyfriend (Irwin Reeb) is a very handy fellow,” she said. “I designed the sewing table. He built it. We are a good team.”
Megan made the many quilts on top of it, from 5-inch squares to some 8 by 9 feet.
“To be honest, I like a bigger quilt. My favorite size is 6-foot square. It’s big enough to draw your attention, and fairly easy to handle. All the quilts I have made over the years will be on display. I guess I will be talking about them, which will be a chore.”
Then a big laugh. She will be delighted to talk about her creative outlet.
“I am somebody who takes a more traditional quilt type and gives it a twist,” she said, “to make it a little more unique and interesting.”
Her unique and interesting ways caught the attention of her guild.
“Megan's quilts reflect her attitude toward life,” said Nancy Eisenhauer, a fellow guild member and quilt artist. “Just like life, the layered colors and motifs add richness and complexity. They are joyful expressions of her creative mind.”
Megan started sewing in junior high.
“It’s been a good 45 years,” said the lifelong Belleville resident. “In ’92, I made my first quilt. It was a Jacob’s Ladder out of scraps, back before I knew what I was doing. The fabric wasn’t as high quality as it should have been. I was proud of it. It was completely handmade. No machine stitches.
“I started off very traditional. I’m also a tole painter. I love to paint.”
She had to choose one medium in 1990 when she divorced and moved into an apartment with her daughter, Jessica.
“Sew or paint,” said Megan. “There was not room for both. I started sewing and quilting, but I always missed the painting. In 2007, I ran across a wonderful book that talked about painting fabric. I started painting fabric and have never looked back.”
A happy quilt of variegated pastels with flowers, both appliqued or painted on, hangs on her design wall. She incorporates all sorts of artsy processes into the mix. Everything from spray paint and paint sticks (oil paint mixed with wax) to stencils, foam letters and shapes.
“You are only limited by your imagination and what you are willing to try.”
“It’s hard for me to decide what (part of quilt-making) I like best. I love designing. Most don’t come out as you first envision. They evolve. I really love the whole process.”
Her intricate machine quilting adds texture that completes each piece. It’s a skill she taught herself.
“March 2006 was a pivotal moment for me. These two little ladies that spoke at the guild, their machine quilitng was phenomenal. They said they went to a workshop put on by Diane Gaudynski. I thought, ‘Well, I have her book at home.’ I came home from quilt guild and started reading. If they can do it, I can do it. That’s where I started.”
A piece in progress has a sky blue background, swirls of triangles — some red, some green — and letters and numbers full of meaning. It will be called “Taking Flight.”
“There’s a story to it,” she said. “My boyfriend is a retired airline pilot. It’s dedicated to him, a quilted scrapbook. The 30 appliqued triangles represent 20 years with Ozark and 10 with TWA, 20 green, 10 red. He has two planes. The numbers and letters stamped on the quilt identify the style of plane he flies. There will be some pictures of him. He won a master pilot award. That will also go on.”
Looking at the quilt in progress, she reflected on his rough times that affected her.
“The last two years were kind of tumultuous. Irwin had health problems, but I’ve grown more as a quilt artist.”
He appreciates her work.
“There’s a quilt at home on his guest bed. It won best of show two years ago. It went to Paducah last year. (Paducah is the site of an annual international quilt show put on by American’s Quilter Society.) I spent two years on it. It was a labor of love. He has a Southwest-style house. I called it ‘Sedona Sunset.’ A lot of fabric in there is painted. It’s very large, 93 by 105. I quilted it on this machine, a Bernina.”
So does daughter Jessica, who lives in Belleville, appreciates her work, too.
“She’s very supportive,” said Megan. “She does something similar. What I do with fabric, she does on custom wedding invitations. We are similar, but not the same. We get each other.”
Megan’s day job is working in the billing department at Amsted Rail Co. in Granite City. You likely will find her in her studio weeknights and Saturdays, 20 to 25 hours on a good week. Or with quilter friends “flinging paint onto fabric.”
Megan teaches classes through her guild and at Jackman’s Fabrics. She sells some of her work. Price depends on size. An 11-by-14 is $60; larger wall quilts are about $200.
“What I am trying to do is build enough of a job that when I retire I can continue to teach and supplement my income.”
Her favorite quilt is the one she is working on now. Recently, it was “Bodacious Blooms No. 4 (Sweet Dreams)” and includes her signature flower, a stylized daisy.
“I called it a bodacious bloom,” said Megan. “It’s the logo for my quilt company. It’s happy. That’s what I like. I think a quilt should bring joy, not to just the person doing it, but the people who view and enjoy the quilts.”
Hearts ’n’ Hands “Quilts from the Heart” Show
What: Large quilt guild displays its quilts.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Whiteside Middle School, 111 Warrior Way, Belleville
What’s to do: Look at beautiful quilts, take a chance on a raffle quilt, get appraisals, check out vendors and demos, talk to Megan. “I will be up there all the time, both days,” she said.
Tips from a quilt artist
Interested in quilting? “There are so many different types — machine applique, hand applique, paper piecing. I say try them all and decide which one you want to do.”
What inspires Megan: “Nature, patterns on a gate. I take the backroads to work in Granite City. I see things that are inspirational. I may come up with an idea in the shower. (Boyfriend) Irwin has two planes. We will go up in the air. Something will hit me.”
Advice: Don’t be intimidated by another person’s talent. God gave us all talent. If you enjoy doing it, do it.”
When she’s stumped: “Sometimes, it’s better to walk away. Look through Pinterest. Take a walk. I am not in that big of a hurry. Creativity takes its own time.”