Nothing goes out of my studio that I’m not proud of...every single quilt I do is gonna be the very best I have.
— Karen McTavish

Karen McTavish brought her machine-quilting skills to a new audience when she opened her studio to the public. Since then she's built a community of modern quilters who learn at her shop. Step into an average Tuesday at McTavish Quilting Studio with Making It Up North.


When most people see Karen McTavish walking down the street with her hair in dreadlocks and tattoos covering her arms, I doubt they assume she is an award-winning long arm quilter. Admittedly, she thinks of herself as an eighty year old Amish woman! And if you were to judge her based on her quilting knowledge and experience, she would be an eighty year old Amish woman. 

Based in Duluth, Minnesota, Karen started her long arm quilting career based on the advice of her mother, Jan McTavish, an art quilter, as a way to support herself as a single parent. Little did she know then that she would develop her own quilting design called McTavishing, write five books on quilting (Mastering the Art of McTavishingWhitework QuiltingQuilting for ShowThe Secrets of Elemental Quilting, and Custom Curves, be awarded MQX Teacher of the Year in 2007 and own and operate an APQS studio.

Throughout her journey, she has stayed true to her values and herself. Her compassion and desire to help others is inspiring and reminds me of all the reasons I want to be in this industry.  During our conversation, we talk about her first and only art class, why she bought her long arm machine, the reason her designs are copyright free, the reception she has received in the quilting community and why she feels long arm quilters should charge what they are worth.

As a warning, this episode has been labeled explicit due to language. 

Listen to this and other podcasts at Crafty Planner.

"That's So McTavish" was the first place winner in the feature category at the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association awards in May. Reporter Kristen Vake and photographer Reece Lindquist were among 1,700 entries from small market television stations across Wisconsin. The winning story, “That’s So McTavish,” is a feature on world-renowned quilter Karen McTavish, a Duluth resident. Inventor of the quilting style known as “McTavishing,” her untraditional personal style, including dreadlocks and tattoos, heavily juxtapose her traditional quilting style. The Wisconsin Broadcasters Awards were held on May 6, 2017.