Are you a crafter and wondering if there’s space for your creativity when it comes to full-time RVing? Can, let’s say, quilting and RVing co-exist? I’m happy to report they can and author/former full-time RVer Laura Preston is proof.
Crafting and RVing
As we were packing up our travel trailer and deciding what could and couldn’t come with us, I took one look at my overabundance of crocheting supplies and let out a big sigh. Crocheting is my creative outlet. It’s how I decompress. It’s how I spend time with my husband while he’s watching football. 😉 It’s how I show people I love them, by gifting them one of my blankets.
But how in the world was I supposed to mix my love of crocheting with our full-time RVing lifestyle? Needless to say, a couple of bags of my crafts went into storage and whatever could fit in one tub and under our RV bed is what came with me.
I quickly found out that my love of crocheting could definitely continue while we zigzagged across the U.S. and Canada, as long as I kept the yarn and hook purchases to a minimum.
But what about a craft that requires a bit more…supplies? Like quilting? Could they co-exist in such a tiny space?
An Interview with Former full-time RVer & Quilter Extraordinaire Laura Preston
Former full-time RVer, quilter extraordinaire and now author Laura Preston has designed gorgeous modern quilts inspired by her travels. She recently published a beautiful book titled Simple Geometric Quilting, which features pages of minimalistic designs for throws, pillows, wall decor and more.
I haven’t quilted since my kids were toddlers, which was a really long time ago, but flipping through the pages of her book made me want to break out my sewing machine again and dust off my quilting skills. I instantly fell in love with the designs and connected on an emotional level to the places they were photographed in.
Here’s a snippet from the book’s introduction:
All of my work is inspired by my travels and favorite places I’ve visted – the patterns in this book are no exception. I spent months looking through photos from my years of traveling, recalling some of the most memorable experiences, and distilling those experiences down into thoughful, cohesive designs. At the end of each pattern, I share those stories with you to give you a sense of “why” behind the quilt and some insight into my design process.
I interviewed Laura asking her to share a bit of her story, tips for quilting and RVing and about her new book.
What is the story behind the reason why you started full-time RVing?
My now-husband and I were living in Brooklyn and had been dating for only a few months when he decided he wanted to borrow his mom’s Airstream trailer and spend a year traveling around the United States.
After a long pause…he asked if I wanted to come with him. I’ve always loved to travel and a cross country road trip was high on my bucket list, so I said absolutely yes!
We spent about 8 months planning and tying up loose ends in New York City and in January 2013 we packed everything up into a rental minivan and drove down to John’s mother’s house in Florida. It took about 2 weeks to find a storage unit, buy a truck, pick up the Airstream, and get a crash course in driving and living in a house on wheels, but we finally hit the road on February 1st.
We totally fell in love with the lifestyle and freedom of the road – our year-long Airstream adventure turned into 6 years of living, working and traveling full time.
What are some of the most memorable places on your travels?
It’s such a hard question to answer – like picking your favorite child!
I love the whole western half of the country: the deserts, mountains, coast and forests. But the most memorable place that we’ve gone back to over and over again is Big Sur on the central California coast.
We drove all the way up Highway 1 during our first year of traveling and that place just blew me away. I had never seen such an untouched, dramatic landscape. The succulent covered hills that drop straight into the Pacific, the fog, the redwoods, the beaches…it’s really the most incredible place.
Why did you decide to stop full-time RVing?
We started to feel like we weren’t taking as much advantage of the lifestyle as we should have been. Our careers were picking up and becoming more of a priority, so getting outside and really exploring where we were staying for the week felt like more of an obligation that our primary motivation.
Planning our route, finding a campground, figuring out what we needed to go see any do on the weekends, not to mention managing the logistics of running a mobile product-based business was getting exhausting. We were just road-weary and ready to be in one place for a while.
What made you decide to start quilting while traveling? Or have you always been a quilter?
I’ve always been an artist and my medium used to be oil paints. I brought all my painting supplies with me when we started traveling but quickly realized that large-scale oil painting in 200 square feet doesn’t really make sense.
I began searching for a new creative outlet and came across a few modern quilters – I had no idea that quilts could be art! I decided to give quilting a try (even though I hadn’t sewn in years) so I bought some fabric, read a couple online tutorials and hand pieced my first quilt.
It didn’t turn out great, but I was totally hooked. I’ve been designing and making quilts ever since!
What type of RV did you travel in and why did you decide on that particular brand/unit?
Our first trailer was a 34 foot 1986 Airstream Excella that belonged to John’s mother. It had been sitting in storage for years and she had no plans to use it, so we asked to borrow it for a year.
One year turned into four (with lots of repairs along the way), so she eventually gifted it to John.
After finding out that we had some serious structural issues in 2017, we ended up buying another gutted Airstream (almost exactly the same as our first one!) and built a new home on wheels from scratch.
While we kind of stumbled into the Airstream community, I’m so glad we did! It’s such a supportive community and every fellow Airstreamer we’ve met feels like an instant friend.
Did you have to make any changes to your RV to be set up to quilt in such a small space?
In our first Airstream, there wasn’t a whole lot I changed to accommodate my quilting and it definitely was not an idea studio.
My workspace was our small dinette tabletop which doubled as our dining table, so I had to clear whatever I was working on at the end of the day in order to eat dinner. The storage wasn’t set up for bolts of fabric and batting, so everything was made in very small batches.
When designing our new Airstream, we made sure I had an extra-large workspace and lots of storage – my husband and I share a 9 foot long desk with oversized drawers and the entire space under our queen size bed holds all my fabric, a giant roll of batting, assembled quilts, and an extra sewing machine.
Do you have any storage hacks that were invaluable you could share with other crafters who RV?
I wrote a whole blog post with tips for working in a small space, but these are some of my favorites:
- Have a place for everything – small spaces get messy and disorganized really quickly, so having a designated space for everything makes it quick and easy to clean up.
- Organize and purge often – I like to refold fabric and reorganize notions every couple months (once they start to get out of hand), donate fabric scraps or have a fabric destash sale if I have fabric that’s been sitting around for too long.
- Buy what you need and use what you have – it’s tempting to buy all the things, but to keep my stash in check, I try and make use of what I have on hand first before buying more.
Do you have any favorite storage products you used in the RV?
I love a good catch-all for things like thread and bobbins and soft rope baskets for fabric. I’m pretty low-tech when it comes to storage 😉
Tell me about your new book! What will readers find in the pages and who is this book perfect for?
Simple Geometric Quilting is my first book of 20 modern quilt patterns that will not only teach readers how to make each project, but shows how to make a quilt from start to finish, instructs on foundational techniques, and encourages readers to design and create unique quilts of their own.
The projects range from wall hangings to queen size quilts and the designs are large-scale and non-traditional, making them quick to put together and great for beginners.
There are some advanced techniques like curves and inset circles for the seasoned quilter who wants to try their hand at a more contemporary style of quilting.
I hope it’ll be an inspirational and essential resource for anyone interested in quilting!
Thank you so much, Laura! Your story, your designs and the way you combine your love of travel and creativity is so inspirational.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Laura’s beautiful book, Simple Geometric Quilting, here.
Images: Laura Preston, Founder of Vacilando Quilting Co.
Julie Bonner is one-half of the TREKKN team. She specializes in helping you whip up delicious meals in your tiny RV kitchen, as well as RV organization tips and helping fellow RVers make their RV feel like home. Her favorite RVing spot is in Banff National Park in Canada where yes, the water really is that blue and the people really are that nice.