I absolutely love helping to tell other parents’ stories through the Kind Kiddo blog. There are so many great families out there with great stories, cool jobs, unique situations and interesting things to say. My latest subject has all of those amazing qualities and more. Julie Benson is an Army wife, a mother of two – Graham is 3, and June is 9 months – and a business owner. She owns Julie G. Benson Handmade and makes beautiful quilts, spending anywhere from 4-8 hours on each piece, y’all. Her job and her family life are both so interesting and inspiring. Ch-ch-check it out…
KK Hi Julie! Thank you so much for chatting with Kind Kiddo! We love stories about parents that have a unique situation, job or hobby. I’d say making and selling quilts while simultaneously raising two little ones and being an Army wife is not only unique, but super cool. How did you get started?
JGB Hi Britney! Thank you very much for hosting me on your blog! Well, my path to quilting was pretty short. My mom gave me a machine to play around on a couple of years ago and as she did not live near me, I taught myself to sew watching YouTube videos and following many of the great handmade blogs out there. At first I just enjoyed small sewing projects, but then began making quilts as unique gifts. This past spring, when I started feeling the need to challenge myself creatively, a friend suggested that I form a small business to sell my quilts.
KK Your quilts are beautiful! Did it take time to master the art of quilting? Did you have a couple of funky-looking ones at the beginning?
JGB Oh gosh, thank you! I don’t think it is ever possible to master quilting. There are so many techniques and patterns…I will be a student forever! I most certainly have some huge goofs in my past and present. My very first quilt is just pitiful. I made it for my mom on Mother’s Day 2014 and it looks more like I made it for her when I was 7, not 34! The seams are all wonky and I can’t even tell what I did with the binding. I beg my mom to let me take it apart and fix it but she won’t let me. I don’t like to follow patterns so most of what I do comes off the top of my head (much to the disdain of fabric store ladies!) and that comes with pretty big potential for error. I have a couple of quilt tops in my stack that will probably never see the light of day because I just goofed!
KK So, let’s talk quilting. About how long does it take to create one quilt? Do you make different types and sizes? I know nothing about quilts. Teach me!
JGB So, here’s a quick crash course… I make two types of quilts: wholecloth and pieced. Wholecloth is when I take two equal sized pieces of fabric (a top and backing), sandwich them with a piece of batting in between, and then quilt (verb) them together by stitching through all 3 layers with the sewing machine. Pieced is when I create a pattern, sew together small pieces of fabric to make that pattern, which will be called the quilt top, sandwich the top, batting, and backing, and then stitch them all together with the sewing machine. For both styles, I finish with binding along the edges. The end product is then called a quilt (noun). My standard sizes at this point in time are tummy time quilts (approx 32×40”), throw quilts (approx 40×54”), and park quilts (approx 43×65”). The very final step is washing and drying, and that’s when the true texture and crinkle is revealed. I always have a few butterflies in my stomach when I am pulling a quilt out of the dryer.
KK Wow! Sounds like a lot of work and love go into your quilts! So, how do you manage to get work done while caring for your little ones? Speaking from experience, I know it can be quite difficult.
JGB It is very difficult at times but fortunately my husband is extremely supportive and understanding. I am always looking for pockets of time but I mainly operate during nap times and bed time. It is always a personal struggle for me on the weekends when my husband is home. On one hand I want to be out enjoying family time but on the other, I need to get work done. With all things it is just a constant balancing act that needs regular revising to fit our changing needs.
KK Your husband, Bix, is active duty Army. First, thank you both so much for what you do as a family for our country. My family and I truly appreciate it. Tell us about life as an Army wife.
JGB Bix has been in the Army for 12 years now, and we have been married for 7. We have moved 3 times together, and he moved a few times before we were married. In general, we can plan on moving every 2 to 3 years. One of my husband’s favorite past times is browsing the Zillow app for our future stations. I am more of a here and now kind of a girl. The moving aspect of our military life provides us with new experiences and new friends, but it also moves us far away from family and stability. We have grown to be very resilient and grateful for what we have now and have had in the past.