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Meet the Designer – Maureen Cracknell, Part Two

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.

Meet the Designer – Maureen Cracknell, Part One

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!

The Kindness of Friends

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.

 

Fleet & Flourish- A finish

Fleet and Flourish is a gorgeous line of Art Gallery Fabrics designed by Maureen Cracknell. I was lucky enough to receive a set of fat eighths of this line from my kids for my 2015 birthday. It was one of the monthly shipments of the fat eighth club at Pink Castle Fabrics. (Pink Castle never disappoints!!) I love this set and really had a tough time cutting into it. But that is so silly. What good does gorgeous fabric do for me if it is sitting up on a shelf in the closet?

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I decided to use it to create a mid-size quilt; either to be used as a baby quilt or a wall quilt. It has been a long while that I have looked at the large star quilts that float around Pinterest. I have several pinned and decided to pick one and make it. (If ever you are in need of ideas, you are welcome to check out the bazillion pins I have collected over time.) This was not the first star quilt I have made. Back in the early 1980’s I made a large star quilt for a queen size bed for my parents. unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of it but I remember it was navy, maroon, and cream colors. (It also faded terribly because of the large windows they had in their bedroom at the time.) I decided it was time for another one – though on the smaller side.

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I used the tutorial at Diary of a Quilter to look at dimensions. Her blocks were a bit bigger than mine. Having the bundle of fat eighths (which measure 9″x18″ each) set a limit to what size I could use. I cut 9 inch blocks and then sub-cut them into triangles. The four corner blocks were made with 8 1/2″ squares. After playing with the colors, I stitched the triangles together and squared them into 8 1/2″ squares.

This very simple project is a perfect use of this fabric as many of the prints have a bold scale such that leaving the pieces rather large shows it off well. Aren’t the colors just gorgeous? I am a huge fan of Maureen Cracknell and there isn’t a line of hers that I don’t love! As an added bonus, I still have a number of pieces left from the bundle. More Fleet and Flourish to play with!

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Once the star was built, I put a simple 2 1/2 inch border around it to make it just a bit bigger. I used my walking foot to quilt the star with soft, wavy lines. Then I stitched a couple of straight lines through the border. I think I may add one more line on the inside of the border.

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The border worked to enclose the star and to show off this scrappy binding.

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Doesn’t the binding just tie everything together?  For the backing, I used the same neutral fabric as the border. It is actually a batik fabric but doesn’t really look like one to me.

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At 36″ x 36″, this is a lovely baby quilt or would be pretty hanging on a wall. I have listed it in my Etsy shop and hope someone will snap it up soon.

 

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