I have long been a follower of Kirsty Cleverly, owner, pattern designer, blogger at Bonjour Quilts. (And for a quilt pattern designer and maker, isn’t her last name just awesome???) I think I first found Kirsty a while ago when there was a movement called May is for Makers to support indie pattern designers. I remember I bought her Fleur pattern at that time (which I have yet to even use, sigh.) After that, I started to read her blog and eventually signed up for her newsletter. In return for signing up, she gave me a great pattern called When You Wish. I did make this one though! The pattern is now available in larger sizes and is called Color Explosion.
When You Wish baby quilt with my sweet great niece enjoying it!
Since then I purchased the larger version of the pattern and look forward to making it as a queen size.
OK – I am getting off topic. What I really want to talk about is this incredible post Kirsty recently wrote discussing the costs of bringing quilt patterns to print and then selling them – both privately, through quilt shops and through large scale distributors. Kirsty had posed a few questions in a recent newsletter, gathering information from her (13,000+) readers. I thought it was an interesting topic and as such, responded to her and we had a nice exchange about it. The resulting blog post is compelling. I love interacting with and supporting our indie pattern designers in the quilt community but have to say, I didn’t know the extent of the costs of running such a business. I really, really (!) hope you will click over and read Kirsty’s post as it applies to so many designers who provide both free and paid patterns. One aspect of the post that I was surprised by was the discussion around pricing PDF and print patterns at the same price. I suspect you will find it really interesting. Another part of the article I greatly appreciated was her list of suggested ways to support indie designers. There are ideas listed which are easily done.
Fleur, Triangle Twist, Go West, and Diamonds in the Deep, by Bonjour Quilts
As a small business owner, this article was very helpful to me. I carry a couple of Kirsty’s quilt patterns in my shop right now. I buy these patterns via a distributor because of the high shipping expense that I would incur if I bought from Kirsty directly (she lives in Australia). But I had not given thought to how this affects her revenue as a designer. Maybe someday the postage will work out such that I can buy from the designer but for now, it wouldn’t make sense. At this time, you will find Diamonds in the Deep and Triangle Twist available in the shop. In another week, I will also have Fleur (mini quilt version) and Go West. I am proud to carry Kirsty’s work as the aesthetic is wonderful, her quilts are not ones that will take forever to make, and the instructions are easily understood.
I am quite curious to hear your thoughts on her post. If you are a designer, do you have any thoughts to contribute that might not have been covered in this article? Let me know in the comments! Have a good weekend all.
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Today I bring you another fantastic conversation with a talented, giving and very friendly artist, Carrie Bloomston. This is the fifth interview in my series, Meet the Designer. I have had the pleasure of getting to know some really fantastic women in the world of fabric design. Previously I have posted interviews with Sarah Golden of Andover, Maureen Cracknell of Art Gallery Fabric, Kim Schaefer of Andover, and Sharon Holland of Art Gallery Fabric. Each of these women have inspired me with their tales of how they design, what their process is and how they came to work for the company that creates their fabric. Today’s interview will not disappoint. I loved every bit of the conversation I shared with Carrie.
Let’s get started! Carrie Bloomston is currently designing fabric for Windham Fabrics. Her latest line, Dreamer, is a stunning collection of color and pattern with a bit of a southwestern feel. We will touch on that in a bit though. When I was reading about Carrie on various sites, prior to talking to her, I came across this bit she had written for her bio on the Windham Fabric site. Re-reading it, after talking to her, I realized it just describes her perfectly so I want to share it with you.
Life is so beautiful.
We are lucky.
We do cool things,
whether abstract painting,
designing patterns and fabric,
is all about expressing joy and love.
For me, art is a place to figure the world out-
to make sense of it.
After getting to know Carrie a bit, it became clear she treasures life and the ordinary experiences in day to day life. She is always eager to put those experiences into her art and writing, as well as her teaching and parenting. Carrie is a wife, mom to her two children ages seven and eleven years old, artist, author, and teacher. Like any working mom, she strives for balance.
Sweet family picture; Photo credit to Jill McNamara
I love the family picture she shared with me. Take a look at the artwork on the wall behind them. They drew frames directly on the wall and have a place to display the kid’s artwork on an ever rotating basis. What a cool idea!
Painting since she was thirteen years old, Carrie innately likes to ‘work big’. Small canvases feel constricting to her. She explained she wants to be able to use large gestures, painting from her shoulder, not her fingers. Because Carrie is a very tactile artist, I wondered how this translated to creating designs for fabric. She explained to me she does not translate her art to an electronic file on the computer. She hasn’t wanted to learn this part of the process. She sends her paintings and sketches to Windham and they create the files for the manufacturing process. Carrie spoke highly of the process used when designing for Windham. She greatly appreciates their expertise in the conversion process and said they are wonderful to collaborate with. It takes some back and forth between Carrie and the in house designers to get the colors right which are based on a hand painted palette created by Carrie.
We talked about creating a line of fabric and how it comes to fruition. I loved the parallel Carrie used to explain her process. She said it is ‘like true jazz where one instrument starts and the others follow, as though a magnet were pulling them in’. So it is with the story her fabric lines tell. She gets an idea for a theme, creates a focal point, and then begins to design the other fabrics to tell the story. With her most current line, Dreamer, she thought about telling a story containing an earthly or ancestral feel. She wanted it to have a tribal element to it as well as a southwest feel. (Carrie lives in Arizona.) She went off to take a hike and paint inspired her. While out there she tried to capture the spirit of the bees and this became one of the focus fabrics for the line.
She continued working to develop her story. While her son was studying Arizona Native American history, they found pictures of pottery on line. This process then provided inspiration for the broken pottery fabrics in the Dreamer line.
The line continued to develop in this fashion. As they worked together Carrie and Windham agreed to support the Xerces Society with this line. Each of them donate a portion of the earnings from Dreamer to Xerces in an effort to support the research and improvement of the declining bee population.
Within Carrie’s fabric lines, you might notice she often uses newsprint within her patterns. It might be the focus of the entire piece of fabric or just a small element within a complex print. She enjoys incorporating text and encouraging words within her fabrics. Also, illustrating with newsprint, she demonstrates her love of “elevating low materials to higher forms of art”.
Sometimes her projects might involve brown paper grocery bags and even styrofoam meat trays. She loves to create vision boards with collages of newsprint and magazine clippings as well. Another reason to incorporate newsprint in her work is to memorialize the print media. As we all know, print media is in rapid decline with the rise of technology. It makes her happy to know that people will look at quilts made with her fabric years from now and read bits of print media.
Carrie learned to sew when she was pregnant with her daughter. She joined a Sunday Sewing group and the women in the group taught her about sewing technique. She in turn enjoyed explaining her feelings about creating. Describing herself as a creative enabler, she strives to teach others to listen to their creative voice. In 2014 Carrie wrote her book, The Little Spark, 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity. The book was published by Stash books, a division of C&T Publishing. You might want to watch this short video about her book.
When I first purchased the Dreamer line for my shop, I did a bit of research on Carrie as the designer of the line and discovered her book. I quickly ordered it and read it cover to cover. It is written as a workbook with each chapter providing a little exercise to help the reader discover the creative side of herself. As I read the book, I felt it not only reinforced the creative part of me, but the exercises emboldened me. They help you to feel confident in your knowing, your experiences, your creativity.
Carrie talked to me about being a seeker. She defines it as trying to live with a ‘beginner’s mind.’ This frame of mind means to remain curious and continually look for ways to expand one’s skills and be challenged, If you keep seeking new ideas, ways of doing and knowing, you will be able to experience the almost euphoric joy of discovery. Children have this. Remember the joy of watching a child figure something out? They live with beginner’s mind. Carrie loves to “not be the expert” and would rather always be learning and stretching beyond her skill level. In her book she illustrates how to find the confidence to stretch ourselves and grow in our creativity. She hopes her book encourages the reader to live life in a fuller way and to remain open to experiences which will increase the richness of day to day life. When I read the book, I kept thinking that many of the little lessons she describes in each of the thirty chapters would be applicable to my home life, my personal life, and my work life. These projects she describes are beneficial on many levels, both creative and emotional. It is sort of a ‘self-help’ book published in the crafting and artistry genre. I mean this as a positive – It is a very cool book.
Carrie in her studio; photo credit to Jill McNamara
As we talked we touched on social media quite a bit. While Carrie has a strong social media presence, she touched on one point that struck me. (This is also covered in her book.) She mentioned that to share one’s work constantly causes the artist to lose the intimacy of creating. When she is painting or drawing and then stops to take a picture and post it, she has removed herself from that creative zone. It is precious to stay with your project, or artwork, and let it happen organically. Keep it to yourself and see where it takes you. Additionally, constant sharing on social media causes a person to rely on external validation from others. How many likes do I get? How many followers responded to this piece of work. This can be damaging – if a post doesn’t receive enough ‘likes’ it isn’t necessarily due to negative reaction to the work. Rather it is likely because of the algorithms used by the software. Your post probably didn’t pop up in the feed of every follower. Social media requires a creative person to have such a thick skin! Isn’t it better to validate from within? To know that your quilt, painting, recipe or photo is your creation, to enjoy both making it as well as the finished project is very satisfying.
Lest you think this is easy, let me assure you it is not. Carrie knows how difficult it can be to pursue a creative path. She spoke of her own personal issues with control and how difficult it has been for her to relinquish control of her work. She continues to work on this and is becoming more comfortable with it. For example, when she sends her artwork off to Windham for them to convert it into files and print it on fabric, she has to let go of it and trust them to use what she has made in the way they see appropriate. Never easy to do, but it is very gratifying when she sees her work being sewn into quilts and so many other projects by quilters and sewists everywhere.
Another theme that runs through her book and our conversations is to live with gratitude. I commented on this thread that I kept reading and hearing in our discussion. About nine years ago, Carrie and her husband had a terrible scare when their son was diagnosed with a serious blood disorder at the age of two years. He had a tumor in his hip bone. The bone scan happened on Christmas Eve and they spent the next two days anxiously waiting to find out the severity of his illness. He was treated aggressively for the next year and they are deeply grateful for the good health he enjoys today. Carrie feels this experience dissolved some barriers between herself and others. It taught her to appreciate receiving help from others and to give of herself to others. She said where she was ‘almost maniacally controlling’, she learned she is not in charge of these things. Gratitude became “the bedrock of her life”. I love that sentence. ‘The bedrock of her life’… gratitude should be the basis from which people react, create, and interact with others.
At the risk of making this post too long, I want to touch on one last part of our discussion. When I read her book, I kept questioning the value of certain parts of the book in relation to me and the things I make. I usually make things after being inspired by something I have seen, or using a pattern I have found or purchased. When I made the THREAD and FABRIC mini quilts (where I practiced relief quilting and surrounded the thematic words with improv pieced fabric), I felt more joy in making those than most of the items I make. It was hard for me to articulate this but the more we talked about it, it began to make sense. Carrie talked to me about arts and crafts and how the two co-exist. In her opinion, crafting is done using a skill(s) one possesses and creating something.
Then my notes say this:
Art = Personal = Free
When I wrote this, she was teaching me that to create an art form is to trust yourself and use those skills you have in a way personal to you, somehow meaningful to oneself. Not following directions but allowing yourself to create independent of direction and instruction. This is a vulnerable place to be. What if it comes out terribly? If I fail miserably? I cannot ‘blame’ the pattern or the instructor for the less than awesome project if I am creating it independently and in my own fashion. But creating or making something personally meaningful is so satisfying. It is worth the risk of disappointment in the project. I remember when I made those two mini quilts, there was no plan other than to practice relief quilting. It sort of just evolved. I love those two little quilts and I remember feeling really satisfied and focused when I worked on them. It was so interesting to talk through this with Carrie.
OK – Let’s wrap this up, though I could go on and on. Suffice it to say, I loved this interview and feel like I learned a great deal. Oh, wait – one more thing…. When we talked it was late afternoon and both of her children had play dates going on in the house. I loved how often she had to stop, talk to the kids, take care of the dog and be a mom. We are all just regular people, doing regular stuff and these designers we so admire are too. Carrie kept apologizing for the interruptions but it was fine. She is a mom. That’s how life is.
C&T Publishing has generously offered two copies of The Little Spark, 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity for two lucky readers. Let’s get a good discussion going in the comments. To enter the giveaway, tell me please:
If you could be assured success in something, anything, what would you try to do? It has been mandated, you will succeed! You will not fail. What would you want to do? I would love to hear. There are so many things that I would like to do but the risk of bombing out creates these inhibitions. Actually that fear of failure limits me in what I try to do. How about you? Here is one for me. If I knew it would work, I would make a quilt for my king size bed. I feel like that is such a huge canvas to make a quilt that large. In my mind’s eye, the quilt is somehow made with very large pieces, lots of negative space and straight line quilting in some sort of geometric pattern. But I don’t want to use a pattern and I don’t know “how” to start. Making a king size quilt will take a lot of fabric and batting and time. It frightens me on some level to invest time and money into this when I am not confident of the result.
The giveaway will remain open until Tuesday night, July 11th. I will pull two names. If you live in the US, you will receive a hard copy of Carrie’s book. If you live internationally, you will receive an E-book.
As always when I post these interviews, Carrie’s fabric is on sale in my shop. I have marked it down by 15% so no coupon code is necessary. Her work is gorgeous and inspiring. If you haven’t seen this line yet, come take a look. I bet you will love it. Sale ends on Sunday night, July 9th.
Welcome to the fourth installment of Meet the Designer. I began writing this series of posts in February. So far, we have gotten to know Sarah Golden, Maureen Cracknell and Kim Schaefer. I feel incredibly fortunate to have gotten to know these talented designers.
This month I chatted with Sharon Holland. Sharon is a designer with Art Gallery Fabrics whose fabrics are a mix of muted florals, leaf and vine motifs, and nautical themed prints among others. While each of Sharon’s five fabric lines are different and unique, there is a definite common thread of personality connecting each to the other.
When Sharon and I spoke, we talked about how we each began quilting, way back when. Sharon grew up as one of three children. Both of her parents were quite creative. Her father was an electrical engineer who had some very artistic hobbies. He was a woodworker, loved drawing and drafting, and also enjoyed gardening. Her mother was a stay at home mom who was often knitting, sewing, and crocheting. She was able to draft patterns (which is something I very much admire) and made her clothes as well as clothes for the children. Clearly, Sharon grew up in a household where making things was a favorite past time.
However, neither her mom or her grandmother quilted. Sharon was in high school when she decided to try quilting. Going through her mother’s fabric scrap box and looking at the various prints was intriguing to Sharon. She decided she would make a patchwork pillow. She selected her fabrics and hand stitched the squares into a patchwork, often using stripes to create patterns. She made the patchwork into a pillow cover. Not long after, while in college, Sharon was married. At around 20 years old, or so, she decided to make a quilt. Checking books out of the library and reading up on the process, she made a queen size quilt with a rather complicated block. She couldn’t remember the name of the block but definitely remembered the pesky Y seams that were involved. When she described finishing her quilt with an envelope style backing (no binding required!) and yarn tying the blocks, I had to laugh. That is exactly how I finished my first quilt back in 1979. I had no idea about binding and the idea of actually quilting it was daunting so I yarn tied it. Sharon has been quilting ever since.
I think one of the things I enjoy about Sharon is the scope of her talents. She writes, paints, draws, designs fabric, quilts, sews clothing, and drafts patterns. She seems to approach new ideas and experiences with gusto. After graduating from college with a BA in Art and Design she found herself raising her family in Coal City, Illinois. Around this time she began upcycling retro or vintage objects and selling them at an antique mall. Some years later the family moved to Ohio when her husband’s job took them there. She continued to pursue creative outlets which lead her to take some classes at the local community college to learn to use software for desktop publishing and printing. Her love of fabric and her newly learned computer software skills enabled her to start playing with surface designs and block printing. She designed four lines of fabric for Fabri-Quilt as well as several quilts for various quilting magazines. Following this she was hired by Valu-Publishing to bring two magazines to print. As the Assistant Editor, Graphic Designer and Photographer, she was instrumental in developing Quilt It…Today and Sew It…Today to the customer. This experience developed her skills in fabric design as well as graphic design. The perfect combo! Leaving the magazines, Sharon decided she really wanted to design for Art Gallery Fabric. She developed a portfolio and made an appointment with AGF owner and designer, Pat Bravo, to meet at the 2014 Spring Quilt Market. (How scary and exciting that must have been to put herself out there like that!!) Pat was very pleased with Sharon’s work and hired her on the spot!
Quilt market booth, celebrating the release of Bountiful.
This brings us to Sharon’s current work! She has completed five lines of fabric for Art Gallery Fabrics over the past several years. Her fabric collection is a beautiful compilations, each incorporating gorgeous color schemes with nature, coming together to tell a story. Her newest line is Bountiful.
I enjoyed hearing about the process Sharon goes through when working on a new line. She explained deciding on the theme, or the story, the fabrics will tell is the first step in her design process. For example, her latest line, Bountiful, tells the story of living in the mid-west. I remember when I was looking at this line when it released a few months ago I had not yet read about Sharon’s intent. However I knew right away the collection was a depiction of rural life in America. When I ordered the selection I offer in my shop, I loved the nostalgic mood of these fabrics. Perennial Optimism, a main focus fabric, is a gorgeous floral that is reminiscent of the vintage sheets I enjoy collecting. Tartan Field Midnight reminded me of looking down over the Sacramento Valley whenever I am flying home from a trip. The organized squares of farmland are perfectly represented in this print. Hearing her explanation of the inspiration for this line confirmed my thoughts. What a lovely way to tell the story of life in the mid-west.
Creating the design for Haymow.
Each fabric from a collection is treated as an art project of its own . When she was drawing the pattern for Tartan Field, it took her about five iterations before she got to a version she loved. She came up with the idea for this print while flying home from a Quilt Market show. Creating Perennial Optimism, Sharon said she was channeling her love of artist, Vera Neumann. This makes total sense when I look at Vera’s work and Sharon’s Perennial Optimism print as they are quite similar in style and mood. To created Haymow, she cut a wood block to the shape she liked, printed the pattern and uploaded it to the computer for further manipulations.
Creating the leaf prints for Aborescent.
Finally the Aborescent piece, a combination of leaves and flowers, was made with some leaves she picked up while walking her dog. She took the leaves and painted them to make prints. These were uploaded and manipulated on the computer to the finished version we see. It was really interesting to learn that Sharon first works on the inspiration or story behind her line. As she creates the designs for the fabrics to tell her story, she is working in black and white at first. Color is not important when she is developing the initial designs. The process of determining the scale and the repeats in the print are treated as a puzzle. She enjoys working out these details in the design process.
These rolls of the Bountiful collection sing. Think of the potential in this bundle of fabric!
We talked a bit about all five of her lines. She, like many designers, could not name a favorite. She said she usually favors the line she is currently working on and considers each line to be it’s own unique experience. I mentioned how easy it was to mix her fabric lines together because many of the colors are shared between lines. She said she usually tries to pull a few colors from the previous line forward into the new line so people can mix them. I really appreciate this as we so often purchase a number of pieces (if not all of them) from a line. After using them we have leftovers, right? It is great to continue to use them with the next line. Curiously, Sharon also mentioned that she is working on a new line (hopefully it will release at the end of the year or the first of 2018) where she is pushing herself to work with colors that are outside her norm. If you are familiar with her fabrics, you will remember she often uses muted tones with lots of blues, greens, and pinks. I cannot wait to see what comes with the next line.
Each time I interview a prolific artist I am impressed by the amount of work produced. So much effort goes into developing a fabric line, from the first ideas, to creating each design, working with the colors, telling the story.
Once the fabric is created, there is the promotion of the line – samples to be made, social media to interact with, trade shows to attend. Asking Sharon how she manages all of this, she told me she has to focus on one thing at a time. She doesn’t multi-task when she is creating something. This makes sense and it clearly leads to a lovely result for her. She only maintains a presence on her blog and Instagram. There just isn’t enough time for too many social media platforms.
A peaceful place to work and to write.
We talked at length about the effects of increased usage of social media. It is difficult to have this barrage of images of all of these wonderful creations without feeling somewhat disillusioned by it all. Does that ring true for you? There are times I come away from Instagram thinking my work is sub-par after looking at so many amazing quilts; such gorgeous artistic work made by others. Sharon’s take on this is to use social media less often. In order to stay focused on your project, leave the phone or tablet alone while you are making. It is all to easy to derail the creative process with the abundance of imagery out there. Each of us is in our own place creatively and to compare our work with that of others can defeating. She (wisely) suggests each of us “own and experience our individual creativity”. She admits to sometimes overusing social media and refers to it as “feeding the monster”. All things in moderation, right?
I am one of many people who claim ‘I am not an artist because I cannot draw’. When I said this to Sharon she was very kind and encouraging. She has a degree in art but said as a young girl she was not one who could draw beautifully. However her sister was a wonderful artist. She envied this a bit and was determined to learn to draw. In Sharon’s opinion, people can learn to draw. It requires we learn from the right teacher or book. Then practice, practice, practice. She suggested a book titled Drawing With the Right Side of Your Brain, by Betty Edwards. Originally published over 40 years ago, this book is readily available on Amazon and there are tons of used copies to be bought inexpensively. Just after we talked about this book I read some reviews of it. I am going to give it a try. I have reserved it at our local library. Hopefully it will help me get past the idea that I can’t draw so I am not artistic. (Why are those two so heavily linked in my mind?)
As you might remember, I have been sewing along with the Sewcial Bee Sampler quilt along, hosted by Sharon and her dear friend Maureen Cracknell. This has been a great event which was created by Sharon and Maureen’s desire to further build community amongst quilters on-line. I am incredibly impressed by the organization and quality of this event. Sharon and Maureen decided to do this last fall. They spent several weeks working on nothing else until they had blocks designed, instructions written, sponsors signed up (I am one!! Look for a giveaway by Needle & Foot once in June and again in July!). There are many people sewing together and it has been a blast. If you haven’t checked it out, please do. My quilt is coming along so well and really, it isn’t too late to join in.
Finally, I asked Sharon how she spends her time other than designing fabric and hosting sew alongs (is there even any time left over at this point!?) She surprised me by saying she has a book in process. Titled, Utility Style Quilts for Every Day Living, it is being published by Landauer Books. The quilts she designed for this book are based on traditional blocks with a scrappy look. She encourages the reader to use up their stash with these fun projects that were in part influenced by Gees Bend quilts. I am looking forward to seeing the book when it comes out in the early fall. With the modern slant Sharon gave to the blocks we are making in the Sewcial Bee quilt, I know this book will have some great ideas and patterns in it.
I hope you have enjoyed getting to know more about Sharon. She was just a joy to chat with and I feel fortunate for having had this opportunity to learn about her and share it with you! In celebration of Sharon’s work, I have a sale going this week on her Bountiful fabrics as well as her Gossamer line. Both of them are lovely and if you desire, they play together nicely. No coupon code needed as the prices have already been reduced 15%. The sale runs through the end of the day on Friday! Click here to see what I have in the shop.
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Welcome to the third post in my Meet the Designer series at Needle & Foot. If you missed the first two interviews you are welcome to check them out. In February I had the pleasure of getting to know Sarah Golden, a designer for Andover Fabric. In March I wrote two posts about my experience getting to know Maureen Cracknell. This month I have the honor of introducing you to Kim Schaefer, also a designer for Andover Fabric. Kim has a style that could be described as whimsical. I very much enjoy her designs. Her most recent line of fabric is called Sweet Tweets and I have a selection of it available in my shop. Let’s get to know Kim!
Kim started designing fabric with Andover in 2006 with her first collection, Fat Cats. Prior to working for Andover, Kim was a designer for Erlanger (which is no longer in business.) It was fortunate that Kim had impressed one of the sales reps who worked for both Erlanger and Andover. He was able to introduce Kim to Andover and thus began her relationship with them. It is always something to look back at one’s path and see how each decision or choice made has lead us to the next opportunity, right? Anyway, Kim speaks very highly of Andover, and especially of their design director, Kathy Hall. She is grateful to work with a company who has such a strong commitment to quality.
Growing up as the middle daughter in a family of three girls, Kim was taught to sew early on, maybe around the age of eight or nine years. Her mom and grandma both worked with her. She has fond memories of this and says her mom was so patient and was often called upon to untangle bobbin disasters when Kim was sewing. Kim went to college at a university in Wisconsin, majoring in Fine Arts with an emphasis on Fibers. Kim’s father lamented never having a son and was very happy when Kim had four sons for him to do “boy things” with. They worked on cars and motorcycles together and went on camping trips, things she and her sisters had little interest in as kids.
Kim’s Quilt for QVC Channel
In 1983 she took her first quilting class – it doesn’t take too much imagination to guess what happened next! She was hooked on quilting and by 1989 was actively selling her quilts. In fact at one point, she had an order for 400 of the same cute birdhouse themed quilt for QVC (tv shopping channel) Kim says it took forever to make these and then they sold in three minutes!! Can you imagine? I am sure she never wants to make that particular quilt again!!
Just a few of the books Kim has authored.
I am in awe of Kim’s productivity as her talents are quite diverse. She designs fabric for Andover, as I mentioned above. Currently she is working on a line with a Halloween theme called Fright Night which releases in June, 2017. Additionally, she is a very prolific author and has published thirteen books already. She currently works with C & T Publishing and her range is wonderful. She has written books on baby and toddler projects, modern quilting, seasonal projects as well as scrappy quilting. Any of these would be a great addition to a quilter’s library. Click through here for more information or if you would like to purchase a book. (Affiliate Link) Upon hearing about all of these books and the numerous fabric lines, I asked her about balancing her work and her home life, and she replied she has been asked that question often and “all I can say is it somehow just works out. I feel so blessed to be able to do what I love, and I truly enjoy each aspect of my job. I work hard and am fortunate enough to work for two great companies who have never pressured me. I am the happiest at home in my studio creating, it hardly feels like work when you’re living your dream. I am a lucky lady.” She clearly appreciates the blessings of working for such great companies and being able to utilize her passion in these artistic ways, designing fabric and quilts as well as writing books.
Asking Kim about her design process, she explained that once she has an idea in mind it’s hard to stop thinking about it. (Does that sound familiar!?) First she draws rough sketches on graph paper, then moves to pencil drawings of actual size and scale on water color paper. Her work is hand painted using water color dyes or gouache. (I wasn’t familiar with the term gouache but it seems it is a water color paint which has been thickened with a gum, or glue-like, substance.) The painting time depends, of course, on the complexity of the design, but Kim often stays at it until it’s finished, even though, as she says, “at the end of the day sometimes I think my hand might fall off my arm.” 🙂 To begin the design of a fabric line, she usually begins with the feature or main fabric. Then she designs the coordinating pieces.
With Sweet Tweets, she created the adorable panel first and then worked on the rainbow themed prints as well as the black and white pieces.
I have to say when I selected Sweet Tweets as a juvenile line to carry in my shop, it was because of the bright, cheerful pieces which are accented with black and white prints. I love brights with black and white – it makes for a really striking combination. Kim also enjoys this mix and explained that much of her work is influenced by the wonderful, colorful, folk art carved wooden animals from the Oaxaca area. When she was in college, she had the opportunity to spend a semester in Mexico and her work is still influenced by the folk art from this region.
I asked Kim about other places she has traveled and she told me about her all-time favorite trip. Forever wanting to see Paris in the spring, she was finally able to make the trip a few years ago. She and her husband visited Paris and took in the art, architecture, the cheese, and chocolate croissants! She loved every bit of it. After Paris, they went to London where her son was finishing up a semester abroad. After a few days playing tourist, they all returned home together.
Kim enjoys reading and gardening when she gets a minute away from her studio. Asked whether she enjoys sewing clothing, Kim said she hasn’t really pursued it. She did make Halloween costumes for the boys when they were small but there just isn’t enough time in the day to try everything. Again, sounds so familiar, doesn’t it?
It was great to get to know Kim better. I really enjoy her fabric and her whimsical style. I am looking forward to taking a peek at the next two lines she has coming out. Aside from the whimsical pieces, she also has a great line of black and whites as well as a line of textured solids called Brushline, which is just gorgeous.
This week in conjunction with this Meet the Designer post, I have marked the Sweet Tweet line down 15% in my shop. Hop on over and take a look. I have yardage as well as a cute fat quarter bundle of the three black and white prints that I am carrying. No need for a coupon code as the prices have been adjusted. The sale on the Sweet Tweets fabric will run through the weekend with prices back to normal Monday, April 24th.
Tomorrow I want to share some cute projects I have been working on with these fabrics. Hope you will come back and check them out! See you then. 🙂
Welcome back! Today I want to share a bit more about Maureen Cracknell and her gorgeous work. If you haven’t yet read it, part one of this interview was posted here yesterday.
When I spoke with Maureen last week I became intrigued by her stories and her developmental process as an artist. What most impressed me though, was her humility. She spoke with such a genuine tone and it was incredibly easy to have a great conversation with her. I asked her to talk about what inspires her when she is working on a line of fabric and she told me some wonderful stories.
It seems that sometimes, drawing, painting and then designing a line of fabric is very therapeutic for Maureen; it is a way to process and work through a life experience. She shared two of these stories with me.
The first one was when she designed her very first collection, Wild and Free. This was the first line Maureen designed for Art Gallery Fabrics. Her mentor, Pat, had been encouraging her to take the step and design a line of her own. However, Maureen held herself back by worrying it ‘wouldn’t be perfect’, that maybe her work would be only ‘mediocre’. She was afraid to put herself out there and kept saying she wasn’t ready yet.
In June of 2013, Maureen’s father passed away. This was a time of intense grief, as one would expect. Out at a restaurant, sharing a meal with her family, Maureen ran into a friend of her father’s. He was expressing his condolences to her and he asked her if she was designing fabric. Maureen was somewhat taken aback and replied no, she was not. This friend told her that her father had mentioned Maureen would be using her artistic skill to design fabric. Her father told this friend that he was so very proud of her and knew she would do well as a designer, that he was proud she was going to be ‘making fabric’. This conversation between her father and his friend stuck with Maureen and she took it as a message from her dad that she could indeed do this.
At about the same time, Maureen received a call from her mentor, Pat Bravo. They talked and Pat mentioned that the whole Art Gallery booth was ready for the upcoming Fall Quilt Market show. She said they were only missing one thing. Maureen, of course, asked “what is that”? Pat’s reply was, “you, we are missing your fabric”. Maureen was blown away and this was just the gentle push she needed to jump in and begin.
In Wild and Free, Maureen used drawings she already had as well as new pieces of art to create the line. There is even a design based on drawings she made with her children. The star fabric, Midnight Roof, is one of these. This simple blender is based on a game Maureen often played with her children where she would draw a line and then the child would add a line. They continued this back and forth sharing and together, they would create stars. She and her children also played this game to create hearts (with each person drawing half of the heart) as well as portraits where they each add to the portrait, turn by turn.
When Maureen agreed to jump in and start designing her own line, Pat generously made herself available to Maureen, teaching her how to use Illustrator for design purposes. They had many Skype sessions with Pat guiding Maureen through the design process as well as teaching her to use the software. Not long after they began, Maureen’s first line, Fleet and Flourish, was displayed in the Art Gallery Fabric booth at Quilt Market. Maureen won Best New Exhibitor that year! What an amazing start to her career as a designer.
The next story is as heartwarming as the first! The current Maureen Cracknell line that is flooding quilter’s stash everywhere is Garden Dreamer. It is just a fantastic collection of florals, both large scale and small, with shades of greens, blues, corals and purples. Truly a gorgeous line of fabric, she told me the story of how it came about.
When her children were little the Cracknell family lived in a house which happened to have a very small yard. Her neighbor, Leslie, kindly asked if Maureen would like to bring her children to play in her yard so they would have a little more space to run around. As any sane mother of three young children would, Maureen happily accepted the offer. She and her neighbor became very close and their children grew to be friends. While the children played, Leslie taught Maureen to garden. They spent many playdates together in the yard, weeding and tending the garden. This was Maureen’s introduction to gardening and she enjoyed being in the yard with her friend and both of their children. Her neighbor had a very green thumb and grew gorgeous perennials in her yard. She took the time to teach Maureen how to garden, what the names of the plants were and what sort of environment they would grow in. Sometime later the Cracknell family moved to a larger house. When they moved, her neighbor dug up plants, dividing them from her perennials so that Maureen could plant them in her new yard. Unfortunately, not too much later, her neighbor was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. Maureen was very supportive of Leslie during the treatment phases but ultimately she passed away. Grieving this loss in her life, Maureen created Garden Dreamer in tribute to her neighbor. She says that “Leslie passed away just before I began sewing but I know she would be thrilled about all of this.”
I think the emotion Maureen pours into her work translates to beautiful color and composition. Her fabrics are full of joy. I asked Maureen whether she had any input into the adorable selvages that Art Gallery puts on her fabrics. She explained it was actually up to the in house designers at Art Gallery. They design her promotional materials as well as the beautiful selvages. I don’t believe I have bought a piece of fabric just to get the cute selvage, but it is a fun bonus to see a pretty selvage trimming the fabric I bring home. Art Gallery for the win here!
Fleet & Flourish Booth at Quilt Market
We had a nice time reminiscing about her experiences at Quilt Market as a part of the Art Gallery team. It was heartwarming to hear the love Maureen has for her partners at Art Gallery. She is both indebted to them for all she has learned from them as well as invested in the company as a loyal member of their team of designers. She spoke about the way that Art Gallery fosters an environment of collaborative teamwork.
From left: Sharon Holland, Pat Bravo, Katarina Roccella, BariJ, and Maureen Cracknell
I want to interject here. My experience thus far with Art Gallery as a new shop owner has been superb. I have called numerous times with questions on process, delivery dates, shipping cost, etc. Each time I have been greeted with warmth and a kind hello. Sometimes I find myself talking with a knowledgeable customer support person and other times my call is taken by none other than the owner, Walter Bravo. He treats me with as much attention as he would a large operation; I am never made to feel less important because my orders are usually five bolts at a time. This impresses me deeply. Prior to retirement, I managed a Human Resources group for quite a few years. I know first hand the benefits of fostering an atmosphere of teamwork and collaberation within a group of employees. The team becomes like a family and the positive effect of this trickles down and is felt by customers, thereby increasing their loyalty to the company. I am an example of this. I am proud to carry Art Gallery Fabrics in my shop.
Being the curious sort and not wanting the conversation to end, I also asked who makes the decision to make her fabric into the usual gorgeous cottons that Art Gallery produces as well as knits, canvases, voiles and, soon, rayon fabrics. This is a collaborative decision made by the designer and the team at Art Gallery but the head designers have the final say. I am happy to see the other types of fabric offered as it allows for so many different sorts of projects. Art Gallery does an awesome job with their lookbooks. If you haven’t taken a peek, it is worth your time. There are samples of everything from home decor, quilts, dresses, skirts, totes, bags, pillows and more. Free patterns are offered on many of the examples. If you want to see the book for Garden Dreamer, click here.
I hope my posts have given you a peek into Maureen’s work and creative process. I feel like I made a new friend after chatting with her and I am grateful for that.
As I mentioned yesterday, Maureen’s Garden Dreamer fabric is on sale through Sunday, March 19th. Save 15% this week only. No coupon code needed, prices are already adjusted.
Welcome to the second installment of “Meet the Designer” at Needle and Foot. Just in case you missed the earlier posts, I have been interviewing some of my favorite fabric designers and then sharing the interviews here on the blog. In February I highlighted my talk with Sarah Golden, designer and artist here in Northern California. Her first fabric line, Maker Maker, was recently released by Andover Fabric. If you would like to get to know a bit about Sarah, you can find that post here.
Last week I had the good fortune to spend a wonderful hour chatting with Maureen Cracknell by phone. Coordinating this hour was not easy. Maureen is a wife, mom to three children, a fabric designer for Art Gallery Fabric, a talented quilter, and an Etsy shop owner. Suffice it to say she doesn’t have a great deal of free time. I was honored, however, that she made time for this interview.
It was quite the surprise to find out how recently Maureen began both sewing and quilting as well as designing fabric. She has such a huge following, it somehow led me to believe she had been sewing forever. This is not the case. Maureen has always spent a great deal of her time as a maker and artist. She draws and paints, and also enjoys knitting and embroidering. When she first started her blog, Maureen Cracknell Handmade, back in 2010 these crafts were the focus of her blog. It wasn’t until 2011 that Maureen learned to quilt. As her blog picked up she began to focus more on quilting and quilt fabric. She had blog sponsors and hosted giveaways, often blogging about her favorite collections.
In 2012 Maureen wrote a blog post about her favorite collection at that time. It was Poetica, designed by Pat Bravo (designer for and owner of Art Gallery Fabric). When Pat learned of this post, she contacted Maureen and asked if she would make a quilt with her newest fabric line, Rock & Romance, for the upcoming Quilt Market show. Maureen was stunned as she had not done this sort of project for anyone before. She was not given very much time to create the quilt top. Based on the theme of the fabric, Maureen wanted to make something that was both feminine and appealing to the younger crowd. She designed her Skull Quilt pattern and created the top. (Her pattern is for sale here.) To Maureen’s huge surprise, the quilt top was then passed off to Angela Walters to be quilted. Can you imagine? Being very new to quilting, then being asked by a well-known designer to create something and finally, having it quilted by Angela??
Skull Quilt; Designed and Pieced by Maureen Cracknell and quilted by Angela Walters
What a heady experience. This quilt has so much meaning to Maureen and is still a treasured piece.
Quilting Detail, Skull Quilt
Let’s jump forward five years. Currently, Maureen has four very successful lines of fabric on the market, Wild & Free, Fleet & Flourish, Nightfall and Garden Dreamer. She also has two more that will be released within this year. I find this to be incredibly prolific designing. She describes her work as both, romantic and bohemian, often with florals and/or woodland creatures featured in the fabrics. Purple is one of her favorite colors and is usually found to play a major part in her design.
Her current line, Garden Dreamer, is so pretty. Florals, bumblebees, and trailing vines are featured. Maureen describes it as “Happy, colorful and dreamy.” I love it, so much so that I am stocking it in my shop! I asked Maureen which line was her favorite and she replied, “my favorite is usually the line I am currently working on.” 🙂 Right now she is getting ready for the release of Soulful, which will be introduced at this year’s Spring Market. Her next line is still hush-hush but will be featured at the Fall Market.
Maureen sees potential design in many places. Be it a carving, a stamped design, floor patterns, or intricate tile work – all of these have been incorporated with her blender pieces. Pat Bravo mentored Maureen as a new designer and taught her to include calmer prints, or blenders, to her lines so they wouldn’t feel chaotic with only large scale, bold designs.
When designing a line of fabric, Maureen will usually come up with about thirty designs. She works to reduce it to about 10 or 12, some of them repeated in different colorways. Pat was very helpful in culling the designs for the first couple of lines. As Maureen gains confidence, she is beginning to do this with a bit more independence. She remarked that she is happy now because her designs are now manifesting much more closely to the design she sees in her head. For a designer, I would think that is the ultimate goal; to be able to produce work that is just as it was envisioned. Any designs that she decides not to include in a collection are tucked away as inspiration for another line.
In addition to her design work, Maureen provides endless inspiration to the quilters who follow her. She designs patterns, blogs about her work, and is currently hosting the Sewcial Bee Sampler with her friend and fellow Art Gallery Designer, Sharon Holland. (Look for a Meet the Designer interview with Sharon coming up in just a few months!) You have probably read posts from many bloggers about how the blogging community isn’t as tightly knit as it was a few years ago. With Instagram’s incredible increase in popularity, the blogging world has slowed down a bit. In an attempt to strengthen the quilting community, Maureen and Sharon created this event. It is a quilt along with a weekly block design published each Wednesday on both of their blogs. This event has become wildly popular with each maker creating blocks and sharing them on Instagram, using the hashtag #sewcialbeesampler. As I write this, there are over 2,300 photos shared and this is only the sixth block! There are twenty five blocks to create so I bet there will be a billion photos by the time this wraps up. (OK, maybe a slight exaggeration but it is going to be a large number!) It isn’t too late to join in, if you are interested. Click here for more information on Maureen’s blog. It has more been more than Maureen and Sharon expected, and I can say as a participant, it has really become a fun community project.
Birthday Crown, created by Maureen Cracknell
At home Maureen’s business continues to explode. She still has her Etsy shop where she primarily makes custom birthday crowns which are embellished uniquely for the child. These gorgeous crowns have become a tradition for many families and Maureen feels like she needs to continue making them for the children who saw their siblings wear one in the past. It is time consuming with each crown taking about an hour to construct but gives her great satisfaction to be contributing to these family traditions.
Now that she has four lines of fabric released, her house is overflowing with her work. She has decided to move her studio to a building in town. Currently they are working on the studio space and she has plans to move into it soon. (Check her blog for updates on this.) We talked about being a mom, working from home and how difficult it is to actually stop working when everything is right there and available. She is hoping that by moving her studio out of the house, she will be more present for her children when she is at home and more focused on her work when she is at the studio. Her children are involved with the transition to the studio and love the idea. Maureen plans to offer classes there as well as a place for local kids to hang out and experience art after school. She lives is a small rural town in Pennsylvania and really wants to provide this experience for the local teens.
In their off time, during summers and such, Maureen and her family enjoy traveling to various cities. She and the kids are all quite artistic and they love to get away and experience urban life and visit museums. As a mom, Maureen loves raising her children in a safe, tightly knit community but also feels compelled to make sure she provides exposure to all this is available in this world of ours. I totally get what she is saying. My children have also been raised in a small rural community and it is absolutely necessary to provide experiences that allow them to see how much of society lives and what is available to them outside of our little town.
I am going to stop the story here! I will be back tomorrow with Part Two of this interview. I want to share a bit about what has inspired some of Maureen’s work. I know you will enjoy it so be sure to check back in the morning! As with my first Meet the Designer post, I have marked down the Maureen Cracknell fabric in my shop. For this week only, save 15% on the Garden Dreamer line through Sunday, March 19th. I have several lovely bolts to choose from as well as a gorgeous fat quarter bundle for you. Come take a look. No coupon code needed, prices have been adjusted already. See you tomorrow!
Yesterday I received a package in the mail. It was completely unexpected and absolutely made my day. I looked at the return address on the package, trying to figure out what it was and saw it was from Janine. Janine blogs at Quilts From the Little House and we became friends a couple of years back, when both of us were quite new to the quilt blogger community. When I saw her name I smiled to myself, wondering what the heck she had sent to me!
Take a look at this sweet gift – all wrapped up in a pretty floral fabric.
As if the fabric wasn’t enough of a surprise, the gift inside was even more so. I got a bit choked up when I opened this. She made this adorable frame for me and tucked a picture of my new grandbaby inside.
I love the little saying in the bottom right corner, Life is Grand. Isn’t that perfect for a first time grandmother? She did a fantastic job with the frame. I think she decoupaged the plaid background on to a wooden frame and trimmed it out with a deep burgundy braid around the outer edge. It is lovely and I smile at Janine and Baby Girl each time I walk by it!
I want to talk about several more very kind quilt bloggers! I have been supported by this community so much during the new year as I expanded my Etsy shop to include quilter’s cotton fabrics. People within this community have cheered me on, shopped my little shop, and shared what I have been doing. I am so appreciative of each act of kindness.
There are six bloggers who are, as I write this, making some really great projects using fabrics from Needle and Foot. They are participating in a Grand Opening Blog Hop to celebrate my shop and all of the gorgeousness it now offers. This event begins on Monday, March 20th and you won’t want to miss it! There will be projects and fabric shared as well as giveaways at each stop along the hop. Mark your calendars and join in on the fun! I think I will leave it a surprise as to which bloggers are involved. A little anticipation is a good thing. Just know I am truly grateful to each of the six for helping to celebrate my expansion!
Finally, I had the good fortune to meet and talk with fabric designer, Maureen Cracknell, by phone this week. We had such a great conversation and I will share this with you on Tuesday next week as the second installment of my “Meet the Designer” series. Maureen is a talented and incredibly kind individual and I feel grateful to have had this opportunity. I hope you will come back and check out the interview and get to know her better too. As with the first Meet the Designer post, all of the fabric in my shop, designed by the featured designer (Maureen Cracknell this time!) will be on sale for the week. This will be a great opportunity to pick up some gorgeous Garden Dreamer cuts at a reduced prices.
So much is going on right now! I am loving every bit of it. I will leave you with this sweet photo of Baby Girl. I love these tiny hands and feet and suspect this picture will make you smile.
Today I am sharing my first interview in my new Meet the Designer series of blogposts. I was lucky enough to be able to talk with Sarah Golden last week. Sarah is an artist who lives just an hour west of me, in the Sacramento area. Her first line of fabric, Maker Maker, was released earlier this month by Andover Fabric and I am thrilled to have a selection of Maker Maker available in my shop.
When asked to tell me about the history of her artistic career, Sarah explained she wasn’t particularly artistic as a child. She grew up in a tiny town near Yuba City, CA with a population of 100. (Yep, that is very tiny!) She is a musician and plays with a band called The Battle of Land and Sea. When working with the band, Sarah plays guitar, sings and writes some of the songs. But her art? This came later. As for being an artist, Sarah actually described herself as a late bloomer. In fact, she didn’t really think of art or creating as a viable career. As she said, “it never really occurred to me that art was a ‘thing’; that it could even be my career.” It is absolutely her calling now though!
It was back 2008 that Sarah began to draw, creating illustrations. She used those illustrations to create items to sell in her Etsy shop. From there, both her artistry and business slowly grew. Sarah was in her mid-30’s when she became pregnant with her twin daughters. She wanted to be a stay at home mom for her girls. It was at this time she taught herself to sew clothing. Sarah explains this was a time where she experienced a huge burst of creativity and felt she developed her true sense of self as she sewed. Sarah shared it was then when she really ‘came to life’ and developed her calling.
When her twin daughters were about 18 months old Sarah discovered surface design, painting, stamping or printing designs on fabric. She began to read voraciously about surface design and started practicing. Actively sharing her projects on Instagram, Sarah became part of a community of makers. She began to make block print fabric (using a cotton and linen blend) and used it to create beautiful items such clothing, zip pouches and fabric collage art. (Sarah still creates these beautiful items and sells them in her shop. Click here to take a look. Her creative spark truly shines in her selection of artwork and handmade goods.)
As Sarah continued to actively share on Instagram, her pool of followers grew. Included within those followers was Andover Fabric. In October of 2015, she received an email from Andover asking if she would consider partnering up with them and having her fabric produced on a larger scale. Sarah was thrilled to accept and Maker Maker became her first line of commercially produced fabric.
Fortunately, Sarah had most of the design work for the pieces in Maker Maker complete as that is what she had been printing on her own fabric. She tweaked some of the colors and refined a few things before Andover began the long process of developing the line.
I asked Sarah to explain (in basic terms) how she creates her work. She first designs and cuts the blocks for printing. When she creates her designs, she stamps the block prints to paper and scans the design to create a digital file on the computer. The design is then tweaked with Photoshop. Colors and layers are added until she feels it is finished. Sarah is working on a second line now. Naturally, she was unable to share very much about it but I know I am excited for the release. She is hoping the release will happen very late this year, or in early 2018.
When queried about how she tries to balance her work with her family life, I heard a slight sigh. Being a mom to twin girls who are not yet in school and being a very prolific artist, that balance is very hard to achieve. She is grateful to have her studio at home. She and her husband had converted their garage into a studio. This means she can work at different times each day without leaving to go to a studio. She does work in the evenings when the girls have gone to bed. Sarah’s mom lives somewhat nearby and is available to help with the girls. Also, Sarah and her husband have a bit of a tag team routine they do on the weekends. One will take the girls for a few hours while the other works or creates and then they switch off. As with many of us, Sarah finds it difficult to balance selfish sewing (or sewing just for the fun of creating something for oneself) with the sewing and creating she must do for work (that which is tied to deadlines). Currently she is really trying to work a bit less. Being self-employed and having a studio at home is a blessing but it also makes it all too easy to work All. The. Time! In closing, Sarah took a minute to explain how very grateful she is to have this career doing what she loves. She gains such satisfaction from her work and is very aware of how fortunate this is.
In closing, I just want to say how much I have enjoyed getting to know Sarah over the past several weeks. She has so much talent and is a very kind soul. Along with the rest of her community, I am very much looking forward to watching as her career develops and new fabric lines are designed! If, like me, you would enjoy keeping up with Sarah’s projects, you might sign up to receive her newsletter.
In conjunction with this, my first post in the Meet the Designer series, I have reduced the price by 15% on Maker Maker fabric in my shop. Take advantage and shop between now and Friday for this rich cotton and linen blend. No coupon code needed as the prices have been adjusted in my shop!
I hope you have enjoyed getting to know Sarah! I will be linking up in several places, check out the Link Ups tab at the top of the page. Sarah, many thanks to you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me. I very much appreciate it. 🙂