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Interview with MJ Kinman

Photography Credit: Tony Bennet Photography

I recently had the pleasure of seeing MJ Kinman present her Gems & Joy lecture and trunk show at my local quilt guild in Las Vegas. She was amazing! Her gemstone quilts sparkled on stage and on a big screen! Not only is she a talented quilter who has honed her craft to perfection, she knows how to keep an audience listening and engaged. It's an understatement to say that I really enjoyed her presentation and what a treat it was to see some of her quilts in real life. Today I bring a little bit of her to you by asking her some questions. (She has done a series of stunning bourbon colored gem quilts and responded to me in that color!)

What do you love about quilting?

MJ’s Comment: Hi, Jen! Thanks for letting me talk about quilts with you on your blog. What do I love about quilting? Everything! When it comes to making my gem quilts, I enjoy each step. From looking at gems for inspiration, to painting my own fabric, to putting the final gallery facing on a finished piece, I really do love the entire process. However, if I were to have to choose my favorite step, it would be selecting the fabric (if I’m using commercially available fabrics) or painting my own fabric to get the flow of light and color across the surface of the gem just right. Speaking about the process, I like to emphasize that my quilts and patterns are made with a technique that I describe as “traditional piecing using freezer paper as your template.” This is NOT foundation paper piecing! I don’t sew to paper or claw paper out of the back of my quilt tops when completed. Instead, this is traditional piecing. If you can sew two pieces of fabric right sides together, you can make my patterns.

You can learn MJ's technique by making this fast, fun, free project called “En Pointe". The pattern is step by step with pictures which make this technique quick to learn and do!

"En Pointe" Free quilt block pattern by MJ Kinman
Quilt book about Gem Quilts by MJ Kinman. Quilting technique, freezer paper technique
Mj's Book “Gemstone Quilts” C&T Publishing; 2020

Why gemstone quilts?

MJ’s Comment: I think the idea truly found ME, rather than the other way around. When a piece of direct mail arrived in my mailbox a few years ago featuring a lovely crystal, I took one look at it and wondered how it might be made into a quilt. I was a new quiltmaker and had no idea what materials or technique I’d use, but I was determined to find out. After a few years of taking classes, reading, and experimenting, I made my first gem quilt. I’ve been hooked ever since. I love the infinite variety of colors and the design challenges gems present. Some people have asked me if I’ll ever get tired of making gems. I don’t think that’s possible.

Where has been your favorite place to visit on your Gems & Joy lecture and trunk show tour?

MJ’s Comment: Vegas, of course! And this visit was particularly fun, because I had the pleasure of meeting such amazing people at both trunk shows and both classes. However, I think the most challenging and unusual place I’ve been is up in Alberta, Canada during February. It was unbelievably cold (31 degrees below zero), plus my quilts didn’t make it across the border in time for the first trunk show. That was indeed a learning experience for me.

Where did you get that giant glass gemstone? It was so pretty on stage!

MJ’s Comment: I love that little glass gem! A friend gave it to me years ago. It comes in very handy when talking about the anatomy of a gemstone as a series of windows and mirrors.

victoria's song gem quilt, Smithsonian G
“Victoria’s Song” , the first quilt in MJ's “National Treasures” series, featuring the gems of the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection. This quilt is inspired by the Victoria-Transvaal diamond. Photography Credit: Tony Bennet Photography

You talked about painting fabric to get the colors you want. What paints and fabrics do you use and why?

MJ’s Comment: I decided to learn to paint fabric when I wanted more control over the flow of light and color across my gem designs. I use Jacquard Products’ 100% cotton sateen, as well as their Dye-Na-Flow fabric paint. You can find both online at Dharma Trading Company. The cotton sateen has a lovely shimmer and a tight weave that allows me to push the paint around to get the effects I want. And the Dye-Na-Flow is so easy to use to create washes and blends of color. The saturation is marvelous so that I can get my fabric to really glow. (And remember what makes quilts glow? Wrap a highly saturated color with lower saturated color.)

What's next in your quilting adventure?

MJ’s Comment: I’m excited to continue with “National Treasures”, the series inspired by the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection. I’m especially looking forward to finalizing designs for the Hope Diamond. Once I have enough work completed in that series, I’m looking forward to setting up venues where I can exhibit the quilts and talk about the amazing gems that inspired them.

12 Birthstone Series Gems, Photography credit and layout design by Julia Graves

Where can people find out more about your lectures and classes, your patterns, and your quilts?

MJ’s Comment: You can find all that good info on my website, Starting in January 2023, I’m launching a new series of patterns – one will drop each month – that I created during the pandemic. I launched a couple of block-of-the-month programs during COVID when all my teaching gigs were cancelled. I had fun designing unique patterns and telling stories about the gems and people I learned about while researching the designs. Now it’s time for all those designs to find a wider audience.

MJ thank you for coming to Vegas and letting me interview you!

MJ’s Comment: Thanks so much for the opportunity. Be well and shine on!

Photography credit: Tony Bennet Photography

Read about other featured quilters here!




Hi! I'm Jen, a quilt pattern designer and teacher. I founded Snapdragon Quilting in the spring of 2022 in memory of my beloved Grandma Louise, a skilled seamstress and crafter who grew beautiful snapdragons in her garden. I've been sewing for as long as I can remember and began passionately crafting quilts of my own creation in 2006. My quilt patterns bring bold and vibrant designs that blend traditional piecing methods with contemporary techniques. I love to play with color and contrast so you'll find lots of layout and color options in my patterns. Whether you're new to quilting or making your 100th quilt, you're in the right place, because here at Snapdragon Quilting, quilt patterns make sense. 

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