Featured Designer

Featured Designer - iHeartStitchArt March 27 2023

This month's featured designer is Sarah Milligan from iHeartStitchArt

One Sunday, I was looking for modern embroidery designs on Etsy, and my Red Threads led me to Sarah.  I was instantly drawn to her fresh take on embroidery and knew I wanted to carry her kits in my shop.

Now, let's get to know Sarah!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Sarah:  I was born in a tiny town in the heart of British Columbia, Canada surrounded by forests and lakes.

Jen:  How did you learn to hand embroider? Did you stitch as a girl?

Sarah:  My mother taught me hand stitching at an early age and used to do wonderful crafts with me. I still have the felt ornaments she stitched and embellished one Christmas. She always had a cross stitch project on the go. As I grew up, I forgot about hand stitching for a long, long time. Eventually I was blessed to become a mother to three very creative children, and they were really the force that brought handwork back into my days.  One afternoon about a year and a half ago, I was sitting with my young son and showing him how to pass a thick strand of yarn through a piece of burlap I had placed in an old embroidery hoop. As I drew the yarn through, I felt my heart beat a little faster and I thought, “Oh. Right. THIS is what’s been missing from my hand all these years.” Although I was holding the most humble and rustic of materials, the activity felt magical - in a meditative, centering way. And after that I started to stitch again, re-learning from books and online tutorials for the most part - since all I could remember was backstitch.

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not stitching, I am…

Sarah:  Cooking something healthy, sweeping up Lego pieces and/or Cheerios, taking care of my kids… and dreaming up what I want to be stitching next.

Jen:  So, how did I Heart Stitch Art come to be?

Sarah:  That is a long story. I have always wanted to do something artistic and creative but could never decide just what. When I fell back in love with embroidery, I was surprised to find that modern hand embroidery kits and patterns were few and far between - and that good quality supplies were very hard to come by.  Since I couldn’t find what I wanted, I started to dream up all the images I wanted to stitch and the materials I wanted to use. And I thought that it would be really fun to help would-be stitchers learn by providing an easy-to-do kit, with luxuriously rustic fabric and fresh images based on inspiration from vintage, antique and natural sources. And so with the help of my amazing husband, I jumped in and haven’t looked back since.

Jen:  How would you describe your embroidery style?

Sarah:  Hmm… I guess I’d have to say clean, simple, and feminine.

Jen:  Tell us about the process for designing your patterns. What are your inspirations?

Sarah:  I am primarily inspired by the natural world and by antique illustrations. I love old botanical drawings, especially of flowers and insects. When I decide to design a particular pattern, it usually pops into my head how I want it to look - and then I have to figure out how to make it happen. Usually I begin by searching for antique images to get ideas. After looking at dozens of old images, I then combine my favorite elements into my own sketches. From there I work over a light table and draw, re-draw and re-draw the image until I am happy with it. There was definitely a learning curve for me in terms of how much detail is workable, what sizes work best and so on... but it gets easier the more I do it. When I’m happy with my design, I transfer it to linen and do some test-stitching. This is when I decide on colors and stitches to use. In the end, it almost always looks exactly how I pictured it in the first place - but it is always quite a journey to get from vision to finished product.

Jen:  Any plans for the year ahead?

Sarah:  Oh yes! I will be releasing several new patterns, with more to follow throughout the year. I will be offering kits on white and cream fabric this spring, and I think those will appeal to a lot of people. I want to expand into an Etsy Wholesale shop and build on my blog to include more tutorials and tips on working with my patterns. And, I have a stack of patterns (both in my head and on paper) that I would love to get out there! When I think about it all, I get butterflies of excitement - but I do have a young family to take care of and that always comes first… all in good time!

Having talked to Sarah on several occasions and having had the opportunity to interview her, I can't help but feel a connection with her.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying stitching her designs!

You can check out more of the I Heart Stitch Art Collection at Red Thread Studio.

Happy Stitching!

Modern Meets Traditional March 20 2023 2 Comments

Modern Meets TraditionalAbove:  Left Rachaeldaisy and Right Betty Ford-Smith

The recent pandemic was life changing for many and on so many different levels.  For those of you who have been part of the Red Thread Studio world, you'll recall we had to cancel our highly anticipated trunk show with Rachaeldaisy and Betty Ford-Smith in March 2020 where Betty was going to discuss the tradition of Pine Burr quilts and Rachael was going to share her more contemporary versions.

Fast forward to March 2023 when I was honored to witness this dynamic duo finally meeting in person!

Jen, Betty and Rachael

We had a lovely afternoon admiring Betty's various collections and of course her Pinecone Quilts!  

Betty Ford Smith

Rachael gave Betty her very own personal Whizz Bang trunk show!

Rachaeldaisy Trunk Show

And of course, the two posed together with their signature quilts.

Betty and Rachael with their quilts

We also got to have a sneak peek of Betty's new book Pinecone Quilts - Keeping Tradition Alive.

Betty and her new book - Pinecone Quilts - Keeping Tradition Alive

It was such a magical day to be with these two and to see them share their passions with one another.  I was blessed that my red threads led me to both Betty and to Rachael.


Featured Designer: Jody Rice September 29 2020 1 Comment

We were on the lookout to add some fresh, modern cross stitch projects to our shop and found Jody Rice of Satsuma Street. Her work is just what we were looking for—colorful, whimsical, and happy. Read on and get to know Jody! 

Four questions. Four designers. Countless UFOs. March 31 2020 1 Comment

We reached out to some of our past featured designers to learn how they were coping in our current shelter in place / quarantine environment and what UFO projects they might be tackling. Here’s what Sharon Burgess of Lilabelle LaneNichole Vogelsinger of Wild Boho, Veronique Diligent and Rachaeldaisy have in the works.

Featured Designer: Betty Ford-Smith March 10 2020 1 Comment

We are honored to spend some interview time with Ms. Betty Ford-Smith of Pine Cone Quilts.  As you read on, Ms. Ford-Smith gives us a glimpse into her past as well as meeting her mentor when learning her pine cone quilting craft. 

Featured Designers: Pam and Katie of Cottage Garden Threads November 27 2019 1 Comment

One of our favorite collections of boxed threads, Stitcher’s Palette by Cottage Garden Threads, is our focus for today’s post. Each box contains four skeins of thread; three solid skeins and one variegated skein as if blended on an artist’s painting palette to form the ideal, perfectly matched color selection.

Featured Designer: Rachaeldaisy September 06 2019 1 Comment


I first learned about this month's Featured Designer this past Spring Quilt Market in Kansas City.  Typically, there is a special exhibit featuring quilts from around the world.  It was here that I spotted Fair and Square by Rachaeldaisy.  I was intrigued by the use of traditional yo yo's to create dimension, yet the quilt had a very modern aesthetic.  Once I saw it I knew I had to learn more about Rachael and her amazing quilts!

Fair and Square by Rachaeldaisy

And now, I would like for you to get to know Rachael!

Jen:  Is Rachaeldaisy your real name?

Rachael:  No actually.  Daisy was my beloved pet dog. She was the light of my life so somewhere along the line Rachaeldaisy became a nickname. It also ties in with my florist days. I used Rachaeldaisy as my online name when I joined Flickr and then again when I started my blog I was Rachaeldaisy of Blue Mountain Daisy. A few years later when I decided to enter my quilts in shows, it made sense to continue using Rachaeldaisy as that is how people already knew me. I now use it for anything related to my quilting. I like to think it’s fun, happy and slightly quirky name which suits the style of my quilts.


Jen:  Tell us about your stitching journey.  How did you learn to sew? to quilt?

Rachael:  I had a very creative upbringing. My parents were artists, and our house was full of art. Colorful rooms with abstract paintings, big bold Marimekko curtains, Indian textiles, Sri Lankan batik wall hangings, Japanese painted scrolls, tables and shelves of contemporary ceramics. Some of my earliest memories are of being in art galleries. 

I started playing with fabric as a little girl spending time with my grandmother. She would make clothes, and I’d use her scraps to make clothes for my dolls. She later taught me embroidery stitches, English paper piecing and basic dress making. It was always a special treat to go to a fabric shop with her, seeing all those colors, patterns and textures. And then, seeing them turned into a garment that someone could wear was quite magical. 

My creativity as a child was always encouraged, and I always had various projects on the go from drawing and painting, pressing flowers, collage, cross stitch, tapestry and sewing experiments, clothes, toys etc.

I became a florist in my early twenties which gave me the chance to play with color, texture and design not only with flower arrangements of all types but also eye catching window displays, installations for large events, fashion and magazine shoots. I see my quilting very much as a continuation of a creative life journey. I apply so many of the creative processes and design elements I learned through my work with flowers to quilting.

I discovered patchwork and quilting in my mid thirties when I arrived in a new city and decided I needed a hobby. I looked around for dressmaking classes but couldn’t find any that fit in with my busy work schedule. Around that time the Sydney Quilt Show was on, and on the spur of the moment, Mr. Daisy and I thought we’d go and have a look. It was as though we’d wandered into a wonderland with so many beautiful quilts and endless aisles of fabric. The spark was lit, and I went home that evening with a bag of quilting tools.

I ignored some friendly advice to start with a potholder or cushion and jumped in and made a queen size quilt of squares. I didn’t have a pattern because I thought “How hard can it be to sew squares together?”. I wasn’t brave enough to machine quilt it so I entirely hand quilted it with stitches that would make the quilt police laugh. Looking back, I realize I pretty much did everything wrong, but the quilt has lasted all these years and is still one of my very favorite quilts.


Jen:  Your quilts are so whimsical, creative and happy!  Can you tell us about your creative design process?  What inspires you?  How did 3D elements and fabric folding make their way into your designs?

Rachael:  I live in the Blue Mountains, an hour west of Sydney Australia.  It’s a beautiful place with National Parks with amazing bush walks to explore and impressive views to admire. Mountains and valleys full of trees, waterfalls, rocks to climb, birds and all sorts of wildlife.

If I need to clear my head, I like to get outside for a walk and stretch my legs. Seeing colors and shapes in flowers, trees and rock formations is always inspiring. Walking is wonderful for thinking through creative blocks too.


I am lucky to have a sewing room where I can make mountains of fabric mess as I concoct my creative experiments. It’s very basic but functional in its set up with furniture that I can move around to suit different projects. I chose to have white walls to reflect light and white tiles so pins and needles don’t get lost in the carpet. It’s my happy place, and I love spending time with my fabric, listening to music or podcasts as I sew.

Inspiration is Everywhere! Sometimes it'll be the fabrics that inspire me, or sometimes color I see in nature or in an outfit someone is wearing. Even song lyrics or a phrase can catch my attention. Art from all eras. Books of antique quilts are always inspiring and I love how “modern” some old quilts look. A challenge theme is great for making me think outside the square. If I get an idea, I like to let it simmer and see where I can take it. I’m always scribbling down ideas on bits of paper which I then try to transfer to a notebook.

I tend to take inspiration from traditional techniques and see how I can use them in contemporary ways. A friend once told me that I walk the line between traditional and modern which I think is an apt description of my quilts. Some other words that have used to describe my quilts are whimsical, swellegant, happy-go-lucky, and often having an added twist.

I like to play with color, preferring bright mixed patterned fabrics and including texture where I can through different fabrics or with quilting. I seem to be working more and more with 3 dimensional elements such as blocks with folded points, yo-yos, appliquéd doilies etc.



I love scrappy quilts, the more fabrics or colors the better. I like the idea of seeing new things each time someone sees my quilts. I also try for big impact to draw you in but then little details to charm those who look closely. For example,  Blooming Doilies quilt which a I made for the Sydney Quilt Show 2015 Red and White challenge was quilted with 5 different shades of red perle 8 thread, So even though it’s a 2 color quilt, I was able to sneak in some variety of color.


Jen: What is your favorite quilt you have made and why?

Rachael:  At the moment the different folded fabric blocks from my Whizz Bang book are my favorite thing to make. I’ve made about 20 of these quilts and I still have ideas for more quilts using them. Seeing the kaleidoscopic patterns emerge as the blocks grow is quite magical and entices you to try them in different layouts and colors.

RachaeldaisyI’ve described myself as A Kangaroo on a Pogo Stick when it comes to a quilting style. I say this because I jump around using different colors, styles and techniques. One minute I'll make a quick colorful scrappy liberated quilt, and the next quilt will be a slow project of hand sewing clamshells.  Again, bringing it back to my floral experience, in the flower shop one minute I would make a delicate posy of pretty spring flowers, and then, the next arrangement would be a big modern tropical arrangement. In that same way, I enjoy the variety of styles and techniques quilting has to offer.


Sometimes it’s fun to just sit at the sewing machine and simply piece fabrics together improvisationally to see what emerges. Liberated, wonky or crazy piecing is always a joy for the freedom it allows and the surprises that can occur.

Other times I like hand-stitching, whether it be piecing or appliqué because it's portable and can be done anywhere.

Hand quilting is one of my favorite things to do. I use perle 8 thread and love how the big stitches add another layer of texture and color. Quilting is that part of the process where the quilt is on its way to being finished, a chance to spend quality time adding final touches.

Jen: What sewing machine do you use?

Rachael: I mostly use a Bernina 720, that’s my everyday dream machine. I love the wide throat, and it might sound silly, but I love the giant bobbins. 70% more thread on a bobbin means they run out a lot less.

For workshops and back up machine, I have a Bernina 215 which for a small machine is very solid. When I first got it, I sewed a denim quilt on it to see if it could handle heavy sewing. It worked like a treat!

If I had more room, I’d get a Bernina Q20.  It would be wonderful to explore the possibilities of quilting and thread sketching with a sit down free motion machine.

Jen: What is your worst sewing habit?

Rachael:  Pulling all of my fabric out of my cupboards like a tornado in search of just the right piece! Recently a friend helped me fold all of my fabrics neatly in my cupboards so I’m being extra careful to keep them neat and tidy. 

Jen:  What is one sewing notion that you can’t live without?

Rachael:  My Karen Kay Buckley Perfect Scissors. They are extra sharp, comfortable and light to hold. I also love my little craft iron, once again it’s lighter than a large iron when pressing lots of small pieces. My unpicker gets a good workout too. I never hesitate to unpick, it’s all part of the process of getting something just right. 

Jen:  Are you slow sewing or instant gratification?

Rachael:  I wish a was a fast sewer, but no, I’m a slooowwww sewer. People think I produce a lot, but really, I’m quite slow in my processes. I like to take the time to find the right fabrics. Designing and trying different options takes time; I do a lot of hand sewing which is never fast. Having said that, I don’t think about time when I create. Somehow I block out the world, and time doesn’t matter. I just immerse myself in fabric and stitches, and off I go. I do try to use time well though. I’m pretty focused on my creative endeavors and work to get things done by deadlines. I guess I’m like the tortoise, plodding along slow and steady, but at least I make it across the finish line. 

Jen: Now with your first book Whizz Bang out, do you have any big plans on the horizon?

Rachael: My biggest achievement has been writing my book Whizz Bang - Adventures with Folded Fabric Quilts. I spent every spare second of my life working on it in between traveling and teaching so it became my life for quite a few months. I put everything into this book, all my tips and tricks and have included lots and lots of inspiration photos. My hard work has been rewarded by so much great feedback from people who are loving the book, not just for the fact it has so much detail about technique, the fun projects, but also for the way I use color and mix fabrics.

Whizz Bang

The best part of the journey though has been meeting so many lovely people through my teaching. Seeing sparks lit as people see how fun it is to sew a Folded Star, or learn how my quilts are made. The best compliment for me is to hear that my quilts made someone smile.


So, my creative goals are simply to continue making beautiful, whimsical quilts that add color to the world and make people smile. I have so many ideas, it’s just a matter of finding more time.  Plus there’s always the goal to cull my UFO pile. I think pretty much every quilter says that!

I am plotting and planning some other fun things but I don’t like to say too much until I am certain they are happening.  To keep up with my adventures you can find me on Instagram as @bluemountaindaisy.

Featured Designer: Mathew Boudreaux (a.k.a Mister Domestic) June 11 2019

 Mister Domestic

I have long been an Instagram follower of this month's Featured Designer - Mathew Boudreaux (@MisterDomestic) and was pleasantly reminded of his authenticity and ability to inspire when I grabbed photos from his Instagram page to include in this post.  Mathew is always looking to learn a new skill or a new technique and enthusiastically shares his new skills from fabric weaving to English paper piecing to apparel to 3-dimensional and beyond through project tutorials and blog parties on his website.  His personality and passion is contagious, and I can't help but smile when watching him create.  I hope you do too!

Now let's get to know Mathew!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Mathew: I was born in Lafayette, LA and raised in Houston, TX.  (Mathew now resides in Washington state)

Jen:  Tell us about your stitching journey.  How did you learn to sew?  To quilt?

Mathew:  I began sewing hardcore when my daughter Helena was born. I knew my way around a sewing machine prior, but my quality was dreadful. Once Helena was born, I took a couple apparel classes and was inspired to really pay attention to detail because I was trying to fill my projects with as much love as possible. With her as my inspiration, the quality from the get-go blew my mind and inspired me to push myself even further. Quilting was the same beginning with my taking a couple of classes to unblock my barrier to jumping in and then the sky was the limit.

Fabric weaving

Jen:  How did you end up designing for Art Gallery Fabrics?

Mathew:  Early on in the journey of Mister Domestic, I was asked by Art Gallery Fabrics if I’d be interested in being their ambassador. I jumped at the opportunity because I loved their stuff. After a couple years, I decided to see if designing was something I’d find joy in doing and even be good at. Once again with my daughter as inspiration, what I was able to create blew my mind and the journey began. 

Loved To Pieces

Jen:  You have a fearless sense of color and print.  Did it just come to you naturally or has it evolved over time?

Mathew:  As soon as Helena was born, I began taking her to fabric stores, which became her playground. Even before she could speak, I’d let her pick out fabrics, no matter whether I thought they’d go together and it would be a challenge for me to make the combo cute. After awhile, her purely intuitive choices became a practice I did on my own and continues even to this day. Kids have this awesome intuition that we all push to the side as we become grown ups, and Helena taught me how to bring my own back to life. 


Jen:  Can you tell us about your process for designing fabric?  What are your inspirations?

Mathew:  To date, the four collections I’ve designed have deeply personal inspiration points. My first was inspired by my love of EPP and my daughter’s love of flowers (Loved To Pieces). My second was inspired by a daddy-daughter trip to Hawaii (Aura). My third was inspired by my husband’s love of fishing and our family fishing spot (Catch & Release). And my fourth I can’t say but it’s awesome. As I’m designing, I’m absolutely thinking about all the potential applications. Can it be fussy cut? Is there variety of scale and volume? Can I use this in clothes and bags? Will these combine well into a quilt? Since I’m a maker that does all of this, I use my maker brain to make sure all bases are covered before I submit a collection.

Catch and Release

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not sewing, I am...

Mathew:  Working at my day job in HIV pharmaceuticals, working out, hanging out with my family and crocheting. 



Jen: What sewing machine do you use?

Mathew:  Felicia is a Brother DreamWeaver and Alphonso is a Brother SE-1900.

Jen: What is your worst sewing habit?

Mathew:  I don’t know if it’s my worst, but I’m definitely hurricane Mathew as I’m sewing and my room turns into a hot mess. 

Hot Mess Sewing Room

Jen:  What is one sewing notion that you can’t live without?

Mathew:  Wonder tape.

Jen:  Are you slow sewing or instant gratification?

Mathew:   I’m neither. I’m a process sewer. I want my process to be filled with joy and that’s how I measure whether my project is a success or not.

Mister Domestic

Jen:  With four fabric collections already under your belt, can you give us any hints on up and coming collections or share sneak peaks?

Mathew:   All I can say is that it will be both unexpected and absolutely a part of me.

Jen:  Any big plans for the rest of 2019?

Mathew:   I plan to take some R&R for a spell so that I can continue spreading joy and positivity through sewing and fabric play.

Featured Designer: Veronique Diligent of Wattlebird Designs April 23 2019 8 Comments

 Veronique Diligent

Please welcome our latest Featured Designer - Veronique Diligent of Wattlebird Designs.  Ever since I found Veronique (@wattlebirdvero) on Instagram, I've been intrigued by her style.  She takes traditional designs and incorporates various techniques such as embroidery, English paper piecing, appliqué and even broderie perse.  

Veronique has even had several of her patterns published in Quiltmania and teaches regularly at her local quilt shop Sewn and Quilted near Melbourne, Australia.

Now let's get to know Veronique!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Veronique: I was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland. Coming from a small country,  I've always liked traveling. During one of my travels, I came to Australia, and it felt like home. I moved to Melbourne in 1990 and then met my husband who is French there.  Having no family in Australia, and as we just had a daughter, we moved back to France in 1998. By 2005, we were missing Australia too much and moved husband, daughter, son and I...and a few bolts of fabric.

Jen:  Tell us about your stitching journey.  How did you learn to embroider? and to quilt?

Veronique:  Unlike a lot of quilters that I know, I had no idea what a quilt was until I lived in Melbourne as quilting is not a Swiss tradition.  My mum was very good at mending and knitting, and she is an amazing china painter. I did learn to cross stitch at school, but it didn’t interest me.

While living in Lilydale, Australia, my neighbor invited me to her sewing group and showed me the art of teddy bear making and appliqué. I was hooked and have been sewing for the past 21 years.

Veronique Diligent - Little Blue Wren from Le Jardin

When we went back to France in 1998, I wanted to start the same kind of sewing group, but ladies wanted to learn instead.  Because there weren't any classes available in the village, I started teaching once a week to two groups of twekve women. I am thankful to them as they pushed me to learn new techniques and use colors I wouldn’t have otherwise. Embroidery came later after a class with a well known embroiderer in France...after that it was just a matter of playing with stitches.

Veronique Diligent - Charlotte

Jen:  How did Wattlebird Designs come to be?

Veronique:  About 7 years ago, it seems that everybody around me was making a quilt about French icons ( especially the Eiffel Tower). Having lived in France and being married to a Frenchman, I thought it would be fun. So I made “ Oh la la, la France” and it was a success. I was also inspired working in a patchwork shop.

Veronique Diligent - Ooh La La La

As for the name Wattlebird Designs, nobody could remember or even pronounce my name properly, so I choose the name of a common bird in Australian gardens. The funny thing is now that I am teaching more and more, quilters do know my name but don’t associate it with Wattlebird Designs, so soon I will be changing to Veronique’s Quilt Designs.

Jen:  Tell us the process for designing your quilts.  What are your inspirations?

Veronique:  A fertile imagination is a good start, and the ability to draw ( we are good at drawing in my family) helps.

I am fascinated by Boutis, a French technique of wholecloth. The simplicity of design is always an inspiration. But also looking at antiques quilts, architecture, or shops inspires me...inspiration is everywhere.

Veronique Diligent - Palais Royal

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not sewing, I am...

Veronique:  Definitely gardening...We have a beehive so spring is a "beesy" time of the year.  Then, I always have chores like housework, cooking and baking.

Veronique Diligent - Ch0ok Quilt

Jen: What is your favorite thread?

Veronique:  No doubt Aurifil.  I used to have YLI silk, but it became harder to come by and also to thread at night!

Jen: What is your worst sewing habit?

Veronique:  That’s a tough one.  I think rushing into starting a new project, but then I decide it is too small. And maybe too not being able to make small quilts, they seems to get out of hand and have a mind of their own.

Jen:  What is one sewing notion that you can’t live without?

Veronique:  A good, sharp pair of scissors.

Jen:  Any big plans for the rest of the year?

Veronique:   It looks like 2019 is going to be busy.  The clamshell quilt (Pele Mele) has generated lots of enthusiasm from quilters.

I will teach two classes at the Quiltmania salon “ Pour l’Amour du Fil” in Nantes, France in April.  But the BIG thing for me is going to Houston in first trip to the States. I am looking forward to Quilt Market and Festival although a bit scary as I have heard it is huge.

And, we are looking forward to having Veronique come and teach her clamshell quilt on October 29th, 2019 in Stuart, Florida so SAVE THE DATE!  Details and registration can be found HERE.

Pele Mele

Pele Mele by Veronique Diligent

 Veronique Diligent - Pele Mele Close Ups

Pele Mele Original

Pele Mele Original

Featured Designer - Jason Yenter of In The Beginning Fabrics March 15 2018 5 Comments

Jason Yenter

Carolyn and I combed through hundreds of fabrics for the Celestial Star Stitch-Along, and then, we came across Treasures of Nature by Jason Yenter for In The Beginning Fabrics, this month's featured designer.  At that moment, we knew it was the perfect fabric for this special project.  The design elements in the fabric and the repeats really lent themselves to fussy cutting and our love affair began!

Now let's get to know Jason!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Jason: Seattle, Washington

Jen:  For how long have you been designing fabric, and how did you get started? Did you study art in college?

Jason:  I designed my first collection of fabric in 1998 - it was called Atlantis - The Lost Fabrics.  I have always been interested in creating art - though I actually have my degree in business from the University of Washington.  I have been around fabric my whole life and was very inspired by watching my mother Sharon design fabric.  She was Nothcott Fabric's first quilt-fabric "name" designer back in the early 90s.

Jen:  How did In The Beginning Fabrics come to be?

Jason:  My mother started In The Beginning Fabrics back in 1977 as a fabric store in Seattle.  I started working in the store when I was 13 and continued part-time through high school and college.  I became a full-time employee after graduating college in 1992.  In 1996, we decided to take my mom's fabric designing talent and create our own fabric company.  Both sides of the business continued to grow, but in 2006, we made the extremely hard decision to close the retail store and concentrate on the fabric manufacturing side of the business.

Jen:  You have a beautiful, distinct style and color sense.   Did it just come to you naturally or has it evolved over time? 

Jason:  I have a definite sense of what I like to design and the colors I like to use, but over the years, I have greatly expanded my design range.  I design/style/direct all of the company's collections - so they cannot all look the same - look like "Jason."  We sell fabric to stores across the U.S. and in many other countries, so I have to continually work hard to create fabrics that a wide range of people will hopefully like.  I also look at many things outside of the "quilting world." I look at many gift catalogs and walk the isles of Target and other stores to get ideas on colors and design trends that people are using in their homes.

Jen:  Can you tell us about your creative design process and how that works through the fabric that you create?  What was your inspiration for the Treasures of Nature line?  Why the mix of exotic birds and sea life?

Jason:  For Treasures of Nature, I did not have one distinct inspiration.  I love incorporating elements from nature into my fabric - whether is is plants or animals. For this collection I needed a range of images for the design layout to work, and both sea life and birds have a wide range that work together nicely.  Some other parts of the animal kingdom are harder to put together and harder to keep pretty.  I wanted the collection to be fun and unique, but pretty is important - as opposed to being too bold and crazy.

Treasures of Nature

Jen: What was your thought process for creating the designs in Treasures of Nature?  Did you intend for these designs to be fussy cut?

Jason:  I think fussy cutting fabrics is awesome, and I often think about it when I design my collections.  Designs that look cool in kaleidoscope blocks are some of my favorite to create.  I like lots of little details that may hide when you look at the whole design, but that can really pop out if you fussy cut a bunch of them.

Treasures of Nature

Jen: Of the fabric that you have designed, which is your favorite collection and why?

Jason:  Wow - this is a really hard question. I guess I would say my Floragraphix series of collections. The start of that series marked a definite change in my design style to a more sophisticated looked. 

Floragraphix by Jason Yenter

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not designing fabric, I am…

Jason:  ...usually driving my teenage son somewhere!  LOL. That actually is pretty true, but I also travel, work in the yard, think about designing fabric.

Jen:  Can you give us any hints on up and coming fussy cutting fabric collections or share sneak peaks?

Jason:   The next collection I have that would be good for fussy cutting is another sea life based group called Calypso.  It will not be out until Fall.  It has a border print and an all-over print that would both work really well for fussy cutting.

Calypso by Jason Yenter

Above:  Kaleidoscope quilt made with border print from Calypso and tonals

We can't wait to see Calypso in person and what else Jason creates.  Maybe I can convince Carolyn to lead another Stitch-Along!  :)

Featured Designer - Louise Papas January 01 2018

Louise Papas

I first remember hearing about this month's Featured Designer at Quilt Market and being intrigued by her quilt The Avenue hanging in Jen Kingwell's booth.  Louise Papas is one of several new designers for the Jen Kingwell Designs Collective.

She peaked my interest again with Girl Next Door.  I knew immediately that we had to create a shop sample for this sweet quilt, and soon thereafter, we started on plans to host a Quilt-Along!

Now let's get to know Louise!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Louise: I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia where I still reside to this day other than a brief two year stint in London, UK in the early 90’s.

Jen:  Tell us about your quilting journey.  How did you learn to sew/quilt?

Louise:  I watched my Mother sewing on her little Elna sewing machine all of my childhood and can remember visiting fabric shops with my siblings, hiding amongst the long bolts of fabric and flicking through the pattern books.  We had overflowing fabric cupboards and pins everywhere but lots of fabulous clothes, and my Mum was always very fashionable.  Around the age of 15, I decided I wanted to make my own clothes and after success with a simple elastic waisted skirt, I moved on to more complex sewing patterns.  I remember I made a fabulous electric blue moire taffeta jumpsuit when I was about 17 – I wish I still had it!

During the 90’s, my Mum and a few of her friends took up quilting and started to meet weekly to stitch together.  One of the first big quilts Mum attempted was a beautiful 1930’s style quilt for me, and it was during the process of buying fabric together that I discovered the world of patchwork.  It wasn’t, however, until 2006 after my third daughter was born that I made my first quilt – a simple squares quilt in pretty lemons and pinks.

Jen:  What led you to design your own quilt patterns?

Louise:  Not long after making that first quilt, I also discovered a lovely online sewing community, and in 2007, I started my blog “lululollylegs”. It was so exciting finding a whole lot of likeminded people, and I soon began participating in sewing swaps.  My favourite one was the doll quilt swap because I had a huge amount of fun trying to design something based on my partners likes but reflecting my style. These were always a great creative challenge and a size that I could finish quickly.

Lucky for me, my local quilt store was Amitié Textiles , the home of Jen Kingwell, which had the most fabulous range of fabrics.  It was always great to have a lovely chat with Jen about my latest project.  Eventually, I was offered a job and spent nearly ten happy years there until they relocated to the seaside earlier this year.  In 2008, I started up the pattern label Audrey and Maude with a friend and eventually went out on my own with Three Dolls sewing patterns.  I currently design for the Jen Kingwell Collective and have just released another three patterns at the recent Houston Quilt Market. 

Louise Papas Fall 2017 JKD Collective pattern release

From Left to Right:  Turtle Tower, Vintage Vegas, Pincushion Party

Over the years, I have also had several projects published in various magazines and books both in Australia, the US and the UK.

So, I would have to say much of my motivation to design my own patterns came from the mini quilts I made, including The Avenue, and from great encouragement from Jen, my Amitié Textiles colleagues and customers and the online sewing community.  

 The Avenue by Louise Papas

Jen:  What was your inspiration for Girl Next Door?

Louise:  Girl Next Door took several years to come to life. I was inspired by a friend’s collection of paper dolls and wanted to create a quilt where they all went around in a circle holding hands.  I drew it up several times before finally just making up lots of the doll blocks to see where it would head.  Then one day at a Melbourne quilt show, I spied a beautiful school house quilt and commented to a friend that I would love to make a quilt using that block.  It suddenly occurred to me that it would be the perfect centre for Girl Next Door, and the rest of the design came together very quickly.  The quilt took about a year to make as it is all constructed by hand.

Girl Next Door by Louise Papas

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not sewing, I am...

Louise:  Enjoying my family. I am married and have three busy daughters who are 17, 15 and nearly 12. I also love to read, knit, crochet and keep fit.

Jen: What sewing machine do you use?

Louise:  I have a Janome DC3018 which is a very basic and easy to use machine.  I mostly sew bindings on with it and make the odd adjustment to my girls’ clothing.  I want to make more time to make clothing again.  I find sewing quilt blocks on my machine a little tedious as I enjoy the portability of hand sewing, and I am way more accurate!

Jen: What is your worst sewing habit?

Louise:  My girls would probably say dropping pins on the floor, but I think it is starting too many quilts at once and not getting any of them finished.  So many designs and so little time!

Jen:  What is one sewing notion that you can’t live without?

Louise:  Good fine needles and thread plus a decent pair of scissors.  That’s pretty much all I carry in my sewing pouch these days.  I love to piece with Sue Daley milliners needles and Aurifil 50wt thread.  I hand quilt with perle thread – either DMC Perle 8 or Aurifil 12wt.  I also love my Sewline ceramic lead mechanical pencil for using with templates or marking in sewing lines – the leads are super tough.

Jen:  Are you slow sewing or instant gratification?

Louise:   I much prefer hand piecing and hand quilting so definitely slow sewing.  I do hurry to start making something if a new design has popped into my head, but I get no joy out of churning through piecing on the sewing machine.

Jen:  Any big plans for 2018?

Louise:   More patterns with the Jen Kingwell Collective.  I have three I’m currently making and designing but many more I want to get started on.  I will continue to teach every two months at Amitié Textiles focusing on hand piecing, applique and hand quilting.

I owe my patient, nearly 12 year old, a new quilt so that should be up the top of the list!  We are also planning on building me a dedicated sewing space/studio in our garden so I can store all my fabrics and set up a design wall instead of the floor – I think we’re all excited about that!

I look forward to seeing what Louise has in store for us with her new patterns.  In the meantime, I hope you can join us in the Girl Next Door QAL

Featured Designer - Wild Boho May 01 2017 1 Comment

Nichole Vogelsinger - Wild Boho

What do you get when you cross embroidery and textile art?  This month's featured designer, of course!  Please welcome Nichole Vogelsinger of Wild Boho whose self-described style is a free-spirited blend of chaos and control!  

Nichole's style and creations have inspired me to look at fabric in a completely different light.  When I am thinking of bringing a line of fabric into the studio, I now not only consider what fussy cutting potential it may have, but also, how would it lend itself to surface embroidery.

Now, let's get to know Nichole!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Nichole: I was born, raised and live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, not too far from Philadelphia.

Jen:  Tell us about your stitching journey.  How did you learn to embroider?

Nichole:  My very first hand stitching project was a cross stitch bookmark that I started stitching when I was about 10 and finished when I was about 13!  That project took me FOREVER, and today I couldn’t even tell you where it is (although, I wish I could find it!)  It was about then that I decided cross stitch wasn’t really for me!  I loved the idea of stitching something by hand, I loved organizing my little bin of threads, but to actually sit and concentrate on a counted cross stitch pattern, well, it just wasn’t enjoyable to me. From then on, I half-heartedly stitched things from patterns but it wasn’t until about 2012 that I picked it up again. I had a toddler and a baby and the need to create!  I also was drawn to some of the beautiful fabrics that were being designed, and I wanted to do something with them.  Looking for smaller projects that could be portable, I began combining fabrics and then embroidering them, learning stitches as I went along.

Wild Boho Lotus Flower

Jen:  So, how did Wild Boho come to be?

Nichole:   Wild Boho began as a way to share my creative process on social media, connect with other artists and designers and not flood the feeds of my personal friends with the things that I was creating!

Jen:  Tell us about the process for designing your hoop art.  What are your inspirations?

Nichole:  I never really know where my next inspiration will come could be from a visit to an art museum, a run-through my local craft store, a fabric that has caught my eye, a quick stop at a garden interests and what I stitch really are all over the place.  I’m constantly inspired by what surrounds me, and I try to translate some of those interests into stitchable pieces!

Wild Boho Stitching Girl and Floral

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not sewing, I am...

Nichole: Counting down the time until I can pick up whatever piece i’m currently stitching!  And in the meantime, I’m probably cleaning up from my kid’s art projects and procrastinating on making dinner!

Jen: What is your favorite thread?

Nichole:  Hands down, Eleganza Perle Cotton from Sue Spargo.  The color palette is perfect for the colors that I am drawn to working with, and I love how Perle cotton looks in my work.  I also love her new Ellana Wool Threads as a way to add in different weights and textures.

I’ve also recently been working with other fibers such as mohair, silk, etc.  I’m always looking for a new element to work into my embroidery!

Wild Boho Studio

Jen: What is your worst sewing habit?

Nichole:  Piles!  Piles which stem from taking on too many projects at the same time!  I have a minimum of 3-4 hoops that I work on at a time and usually about 5-6 sitting in piles with my thread choices waiting for me to be stitched up.  When inspiration hits and I actually have the time to work, I can churn out several hoop ideas...but then those hoops get added to the piles of the hoops that I put together previously, and it’s just a vicious cycle!  I’m sure every crafter out there can identify with this cycle, though! Right?!  I can’t be the only one!

Jen:  What is one sewing notion that you can’t live without?

Nichole:  Scissors!

My two favorites are my Tula Pink Micro-Tips and my Fiskars Micro-Tip Spring Scissors.

Wild Boho - Fall Market 2016

Wild Boho - Fall Market 2016

Jen:  With Boho Embroidery now on the shelves, any new big plans for the rest of the year?

Nichole:  I've been working on creating patterns that can be created using the embroidery skills that readers have picked up from Boho Embroidery.  My most recent pattern (available in my Etsy shop), the Fractured Color Wheel, is based on the color wheel from the front cover of my book, which wasn’t an included pattern.  I want to continue creating patterns that each person can tailor to the fabrics and colors that they love and that allow them to add embroidery and create personal works of art that they can proudly display in their space!

Boho Embroidery          Wild Boho Color Wheels

In the meantime, be sure to follow Nichole on Instagram for more inspiration in your hoop!

Featured Designer - Lilabelle Lane Creations March 01 2017 2 Comments

Sharon Burgess

I first got to know our next Featured Designer, Sharon Burgess of Lilabelle Lane Creations through her Instagram feed.  Her creations are stunning and so very inspiring.  After having spent some time (albeit by email) interviewing Sharon, I was even more amazed by her talent and touched by her stories.  I look forward to meeting her in person one day!

But for now, let's get to know Sharon!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Sharon: I am an English Born Aussie Girl.  I was born to English parents in Aldershot in the UK and moved to Australia at a young age with my Mum, Dad and little Brother. Most of my life I lived in the beautiful historic town of Echuca, along the Mighty Murray River, and I now live 1-1/2 hours down the road in stunning Bendigo which is steeped in history from its Gold Rush heritage.  We are surrounded by beautiful architecture and a vibrant café life which combines the history of the town beautifully with our modern lifestyle.

Jen:  Tell us about your stitching journey.  How did you learn to sew? To quilt?  What drew you to English Paper Piecing?

Sharon:  Growing up I was witness to my Mum spending many hours at her sewing machine sewing clothing and even a wedding dress. My Dad used to drag our dinning room table into the lounge room to paint so the creative gene was always there for me, but it was not until after the birth of my 4th child that I borrowed my Mum's sewing machine in a need for another craft.  Whilst I had her machine, I visited one of my local quilt shops, signed up to a beginners quilting class and was hooked.  That was about 7 years ago, and now, not a day passes without my needle or thread meeting in some way.

Early in my quilting journey, I was introduced to another Aussie Designer, Leanne Beasley.  In one of her magazine publications, she had a pattern for a simple EPP Hexagon Quilt.  This technique was new to me at the time so I decided to give it a go.  I fell in love with the portability of English Paper Piecing and having a young family at the time, I found it perfect for the little snippets of sewing time I had available to me.  My true love for English Paper Piecing developed when I first saw the cover quilt on the Willyne Hammerstein book “Millefiori Quilts”.  I was looking at this muted tone quilt on the cover, but in my mind I was seeing brights and the chance to explore fussy cutting.  When I started my La Passacagalia, it was not as known or as popular as it is today; it was relatively unheard of so I was not able to search a hashtag like you can today and be so inspired.  Also, before I started this quilt I was not even aware of who Tula Pink was and there for did not own a single piece of her fabric.  It was an exciting journey to begin upon.

For me now English Paper Piecing is a true love, maybe even bordering on an addiction. I love the chance to take a designer's fabrics, play and fussy cut it in a way that makes that fabric mine.

La Passacaglia by Sharon Burgess of Lilabelle Lane Creations

Jen:  So, how did Lillabelle Lane Creations come to be?

Sharon:   In a previous life, I was a “reborn artist”.  When my youngest child was born, I changed my nursery name to “Lilabelle Lane Reborns".  The Lilabelle is derived from my youngest child's name ‘Lily Isabelle’.  For those not familiar reborn, this art form is where you take a vinyl sculpt of a baby and paint it, layer upon delicate layer and bring it to life. The aim is to make the sculpt as realistic as possible.  Even every tiny hair upon a sculpt's head is inserted one at a time and the babies, when assembled, are weighted to that of a real newborn.  So essentially they are lifelike dolls, and I am very fortunate to have my creations all over the world.  I even had some ‘babies’ working as therapy dolls in nursing home with dementia patients.  It was through this craft that I borrowed my Mum's sewing machine.  As my focus changed away from reborn and into other crafts, I changed my Blog name to “Lilabelle Lane Creations” a name which has grown with me during my journey with fabric and thread.

Reborn Libby

Jen:  Tell us about the process for designing your patterns.  What are your inspirations?

Sharon:  My inspirations are drawn from my surroundings, and in the case of my “Tenderness Pattern,” from experiences (the story of this Quilt can be found on my blog).  Inspiration is everywhere, we just have to be open to seeing it, and I believe sometimes it will speak to us when it is ready to become more than just an idea.  I never know when inspiration will hit, but when it does, I stop everything and just start sketching and writing down the ideas and see if it eventuates.


Lilabelle Lane Creations

Lilabelle Lane Creations

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not sewing, I am...

Sharon:  Spending quality time with my growing family and our Pug Puppy Elly.

Jen: What sewing machine do you use?

Sharon:  I use a Bernina 570QE and I love it. It is like my 3rd arm.

Jen: What is your worst sewing habit?

Sharon:  Placing small fabric offcuts and thread trimmings into a coffee cup that is not quite empty!

Jen:  What is one sewing notion that you can’t live without?

Sharon:  My thimble (for hand sewing) and my sewing machine, sorry that’s two!

Jen:  Any big plans for the year ahead?

Sharon:  Oh Yes, my first book, “Quilting on the Go:  English Paper Piecing” is set for release in April.  This has been a labour of love for most of 2016 and a dream come true.  I will be forever grateful for the wonderful team at Tuva Publications for this opportunity.  My book has 16 projects within it, ranging from smaller makes like Pincushions, a Pouch, a Dilly Bag through to a baby quilt, a larger quilt and then a “Millefiori” inspired piece.  I am so excited to be able to share this fussy cut creation with everyone.  It is the major piece for my book, and currently there are four very talented ladies playing with this pattern and each is creating an artwork so different to mine yet amazingly perfect and such an amazing credit to each of them.  I feel very blessed.

For those of you that love English Paper Piecing, be on the lookout.  I expect Sharon will have more eye candy to share!

Featured Designer - Natalie Lymer January 01 2017 1 Comment

Natalie Lymer

A customer actually brought my attention to this month's Featured Designer, and I am so glad that she did!  Please welcome Natalie Lymer of Cinderberry Stitches from Australia.  Natalie is not only a textile and fabric designer but also an illustrator.  Fortunately for us, she has translated some of these adorable drawings into embroidery designs.

Now let's get to know Natalie!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Natalie: I was born and live in a town called Geelong, located in Victoria, Australia.  We now raise our children just down the road from where I grew up as a child.

Jen:  Tell us about your stitching journey.  How did you learn to sew/quilt/embroider?

Natalie:  My Nan, Ella was a beautiful dress maker, although she never got the chance to see me designing and sewing, I often watched her sew.  I often wonder what creations she would have made with my fabrics and still remember tip toeing my way through her sewing room dodging stray pins in the carpet.  I learnt sewing basics, both machine and hand stitching at school, but most I of what I have learnt today has been self-taught.

Jen:  So, how did Cinderberry Stitches come to be?

Natalie:  I have always loved drawing even well before I picked up the needle and thread.  I think once I found the art of stitchery and embroidery, I loved that I could combine the two together and so the first Cinderberry designs were born.

Natalie Lymer Studio

Jen:  Tell us about the process for designing your patterns and embroideries.  What are your inspirations?

Natalie:  The process for designing begins with a theme or story line.  I sketch as many things as I can telling the story through pictures. Once I am happy with the design work I ink the images and begin tracing to fabric to start the embroidery process.

For me inspiration is everywhere, but here is a little look inside my mind when thinking of new designs to sketch.  Watch the kids playing.  Listen to words, write them down.  Be a part of nature, look closely at plants, leaves, seeds, draw them.  What makes you smile? Use your imagination, believe anything is possible and look around. Think of something from your childhood. Sit in a café and watch the people go by, smell the air.  Look up, look down.  Read children’s picture books and imagine illustrating them. Inspiration is everywhere when you stop and look. 

Mermaid Waters    Mermaid Dreamer

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not sewing, I am...

Natalie:  When I am not sewing I am either reading or having fun with our children.

Jen: What sewing machine do you use?

Natalie:  I love using my Bernina Aurora 440 but my favorite type of sewing is off the machine and hand stitching instead.

Jen: What is your worst sewing habit?

Natalie:  Running out of bobbin thread, always!

Jen:  What is one sewing notion that you can’t live without?

Natalie:  I can't live with out a good pair of embroidery scissors, my favorite needle and a good cup of black tea.

I love Natalie's approach to inspiration and how that has translated to her creations.  I don't know about you, but her drawings and designs certainly bring a sense of innocence and the sweetness of a young child.

Be sure to check out the Cinderberry Stitches website to see more of Natalie's work and download her lovely free pattern Butterfly Twist.  

We are also about to launch the Mermaiden Tales Block of the Month.  Click HERE to register while supplies last!  In the meantime, you can shop our Cinderberry Stitches collection at Red Thread Studio.

Butterfly Twist

Featured Designer - Wendy Williams November 01 2016 6 Comments

Wendy Williams 

As we look to bring in wool and more wool appliqué patterns and projects, I was delighted to discover this month's Featured Designer, Wendy Williams of Flying Fish Kits.   Wendy works closely with Kathy Doughty of Material Obsession in Sydney, Australia and has a distinct style of her own with a bright, fresh take on wool appliqué.

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Wendy: I was born and raised in a town called Wollongong which is approximately 1-1/2 hours south of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Jen:  Tell us about your quilting journey.  How did you learn to sew?  To quilt?  Have you always worked with wool felt?

Wendy:  I was taught to sew as a small child, being the youngest of four children.  Everyone in my family stitched, mum, nana, aunts, sisters; it was what we used to do in our spare time.  I have always loved embroidery and hand stitching, and I guess it all came together when I tried wool appliqué.  I have always done appliqué, so I guess it was inevitable that I would try using wool and eventually wool felt as my medium of choice.

Jen:  So, how did Flying Fish Kits come to be?

Wendy:  This came about as I already had a business called Flying Fish.  I used to have it as a children's clothing label so when I turned to patchwork and quilting, I decided to keep the name.  And, I have always thought flying fish were pretty cool. 

Jen:  Tell us about the process for designing your patterns.  What are your inspirations?

Wendy:  My inspiration comes from my life.  I love nature, trees, animals, flowers etc which are featured often in my designs.  I love colour, and I think this is the motivator for me...working with a new background and playing with colour combinations.  I am never bored with how colours interact and play together.  I enjoy designing with specific topics in mind, it narrows down my realm of possibilities and helps me to focus.  I always use a design wall and spend a crazy amount of time 'looking' at my work in progress.  I drive myself (and my family) mad sometimes rearranging and trying something different on the wall.  Mostly I love the creative process, but sometimes it is hard, and it can make me want to throw the piece away and start on something else.  I have learnt that if I work through this, the outcome is so much more worthwhile.  I always learn something new about colour and design with each new quilt or piece I make.

Round the Garden by Wendy Williams

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not sewing, I am...

Wendy:  When I am not sewing I usually wish that I was.  The down side of making new quilts etc., is that soon I will need to write up the pattern.  This is the hard part where I have to be diligent and sit quietly at my computer for quite a considerable amount of time.  Making them is definitely more fun than writing them.  

I find hand stitching is especially relaxing. I can get lost in my thoughts when my hands are busy.  When I am not hand stitching, I am working on either of my Bernina sewing machines.  I have the 440 Quilter's Edition, and this year, I have added the 215 model with a stunning skin designed for a retreat I was teaching at Uluru (the big rock in the centre of Australia).

Jen: What is your worst sewing habit?

Wendy:  My worst sewing habit would have to be starting a quilt and then not liking it and wanting to start something else new. I have learnt to keep working through my doubts until I am happy with it. Sometimes the quilts come together really quickly and other times I have to work a little harder to perfect it. 

Jen:  What is one sewing notion that you can’t live without?

Wendy:  I can't live without my thimble.  In fact, I feel naked even threading a needle without having it on my finger.  I recently purchased an antique thimble holder that you wear on a chain around your neck.  It works wonderfully with my antique silver thimble.  With this new toy, I don't have to search for my thimble anymore.  Hopefully, this will mean more time actually stitching. 

Jen:  Any new big plans for the rest of the year?  

Wendy:  After I return from Houston, I have a few more teaching gigs in Australia and New Zealand.  After that I am looking forward to my Christmas vacation at my holiday beach house on the south coast of New South Wales and then a whole month off to relax and work on new designs. 

Fruits of a Wendy Williams workshop

Be sure to check out Wendy's Instagram feed for some wonderful eye candy or shop our collection of Flying Fish Kit patterns at Red Thread Studio.

Featured Designer - Sylvia Pippen October 01 2016

 Sylvia Pippen

What do you get when you combine sashiko with hand appliqué ?  For me, it is my zen time.  Living in South Florida, I was immediately attracted to the work of this month's Featured Designer with her tropical designs and use of vibrant colors.  Please welcome Sylvia Pippen of Sylvia Pippen Designs!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised? And where are you now?

Sylvia:  I was born in the San Francisco Bay Area into a family of artists and musicians who influenced me at an early age.  I am a classical flutist, and my other enduring passion is gardening.  I was a landscape designer and perennial grower for many years in a small rural town in New England where we raised our two children.

I have loved cloth and sewn from a very early age alongside my mother, Kitty Pippen, a well known quilter who works with Japanese fabrics and sashiko.  Always involved in needle arts, Kitty started her quilting career at age 70, wrote a bestselling book at 80, and is still going strong quilting up a storm at 96.

When the children left home, we swapped the forty acres for a 40 foot sailboat and had a series of sailing adventures, including sewing on an old Pfaff machine powered by a wind generator.  I learned to make good quilts in cramped quarters, bad light as well as sewing canvas and sails.  Instead of sailing to Hawaii, we flew over to visit a friend and fell in love with the islands.  We sold the sailboat and moved to Kauai where I worked as a gardener in the National Tropical Botanical Garden.

My husband Peter, myself and our two dogs lived seven years on the Big island of Hawaii close to the ocean and lava flows.  We had enough land to grow lots of tropical fruits, veggies and of course loads of flowers.  In 2014, we made the move across the pond to the small town of La Conner in the Skagit Valley of Western Washington, two blocks from the wonderful La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum.

Jen:  Tell us about your stitching journey.  How did you learn to embroider?  To quilt?  Have you always enjoyed sashiko?

Sylvia:  I am a hand quilter, and my niche is appliqué combined with sashiko.  I was drawn to sashiko because my mother uses it in her Japanese quilts.  I decided to try using it to outline non-traditional designs, especially foliage that is hard to capture in appliqué and was captivated by the effect.  My latest venture is cyanotype and surface design to create unique fabric.  Cyanotype, an old photographic process produces blue and white images on cloth when exposed to the sun, combining beautifully with sashiko and appliqué.  Silk paints that act like dyes can also be sun printed, creating complementary fabric.

Jen:  So, how did Sylvia Pippen Designs come to be?

Sylvia:  I started my quilting career on Kauai, inspired by the flamboyant colors of the tropics and all the terrific Hawaiian quilters who encouraged me to design, along with my mother Kitty.  My mother and I co-authored a book, Asian Elegance and did a lot of co-teaching.  I distinctly remember the moment when I decided to retire my tools and quit my job as a gardener in the Botanical Garden and put all of my energy into building a quilt business.  It felt like jumping off a cliff, either to sink or swim.  I had to learn computer skills, design a website, learn about marketing, printing, in addition to designing quilts and kits, teaching and lecturing. I am a left handed right brain person so organization and business skills are not my forte. I have had lots of help along the way from my CPA daughter and graphic artist son as well as encouragement and support from my husband Peter.  I also have extraordinary employees who package kits, run the office, and mange the website.

Jen:  Tell us about the process for designing your patterns.  What are your inspirations?

Sylvia:  My design process is very mysterious, it is called trial and error. 1% inspiration and 99% struggle to get it down on paper.  I study photos of the images I want to work with and do many drawings on real paper, not on the computer. I often start with the appliqué elements, flowers, fish, etc. and then design the complementary sashiko design around them. Everywhere I go I find inspiration, especially when traveling, experiencing new flora, fauna and indigenous art. I just taught on a cruise to Alaska and was so inspired by the Tlingit and Haida art. I am very affected by the natural environment around me and my future quilts will reflect images from the Pacific Northwest.

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not sewing, I am...

Sylvia:  ...tending our 1 acre garden of veggies, flowers and fruit, or hiking with our doggies. We have a new granddaughter in Hawaii, so trek often across the pond to visit and catch up with all my quilting friends there too. I also help take care of my 96 year old parents who live 1/2 mile away in assisted living. We try to escape on our little 20 foot sailboat and sail the San Juan islands.

Jen: What is your worst sewing habit?

Sylvia:  I never was good at math so I have to measure once, twice, three times or more. It is probably why I like appliqué instead of piecing!

Jen:  What is one sewing notion that you can’t live without?

Sylvia:  Sewline's starch based fabric glue pen. I use it for 2 of my appliqué methods, and it is indispensable for glue basting.

Jen:  Any new big plans for the rest of the year?  

Sylvia:  I travel and teach but my favorite teaching venue is my own studio. Nothing is better than staying local in our beautiful historic town and meeting quilters from far flung places. We have fabulous light, views, and room for 14 quilters at a time. All the supplies and resources are on hand, no need to bring anything besides basic supplies. We have big gardens where students can forage for flowers and foliage that can be used for printing or translated into sashiko and appliqué designs. The rest of 2016 will be spent traveling to teach and holding two workshops in my studio, Cyanotype and Sashiko and Sashiko and Appliqué. Both workshops are very popular with waiting lists, so I will be scheduling more for 2017.  Check my website for dates. I am also working on a book about my appliqué methods.

I am excited to announce the release of our fourth Block of the Month, Coral Reef (31-1/2 inches by 50-1/2 inches) in October 2016.  For the first time, I am using different sashiko thread colors for the coral, shells, and waves, combined with appliquéd fish. It will be an 8 month BOM program, and participants have the option of receiving the Coral Reef BOM monthly or saving on postage with a one-time purchase. The co-coordinating fabrics are two beautiful digital prints from Hoffman Fabrics. I have sourced just the right fabrics for the tropical fish, especially from Marjorie Lee Bevis custom Marbled Cotton for the fins and tails. We will include detailed instructions on my favorite methods to pre-form appliquéd fish: heat resistant press-over Mylar, Apliquick, and using a postage label and Sewline Glue.

Coral Reef Block of the Month by Sylvia Pippen 

I am super excited for Sylvia's new Block of the Month.  In particular, I love the jellyfish and her use of fabric to illuminate the body of the jellyfish.  I just returned from a trip to Central California where I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and was mezmerized by the jellyfish exhibit.

Initially, Coral Reef will only be available directly from Sylvia but we plan to stock it at Red Thread Studio as soon as we can!  In the meantime, check out the Sylvia Pippen Designs collection at Red Thread Studio.

National Sewing Month - Let's Celebrate! September 01 2016 11 Comments

National Sewing Month

It's time to celebrate!

Did you know that National Sewing Month was first observed in 1992 when Ronald Reagan declared September as National Sewing Month "in recognition of the importance of home sewing to our Nation"?

September is a great time to start new projects, finish old pieces, learn new techniques, and share your love of sewing with family and friends.  But we all know that we can enjoy sewing's creative, therapeutic and calming effects all throughout the year!

At Red Thread Studio, we are also celebrating our Featured Designers.  To kick things off, we've rounded up posts from the blog's archives that highlight these talented ladies.  Click through the links below to learn about each Designer and to locate the special coupon code for 25% off their respective collections at Red Thread Studio (through September 30th or while supplies last; excludes Block of the Month programs).

We're also giving away an adorable embroidery kit by Sara Milligan of iHeartStitchArt - scroll down to the bottom for more details!

Jessica VanDenburgh Sew Many Creations Logo   Julie Herman Jaybird Quilts Logo


Sara Milligan I Heart Stitch Art Logo                 Deb Fisher Bo Twal Logo


Heather Gray Modern Needleworks Logo                Alison Glass Alison Glass Logo


Janeene Scott Passionately Sewn Logo              Katja Marek Katja Marek Logo


Jen Kingwell Jen Kingwell Logo                 Sue Spargo Sue Spargo Logo


Liz Stiglets CozyBlue Logo                    Fionna Jannsen  Happinesst Logo


Lynn Krawczyk Smudged Textile Studios             Kathy Doughty Material Obsession Logo


Pauline McArthur Funky Friends Logo         Shannon BrinkleyShannon Brinkley Logo


Rosalie Dekker Rosalie Dekker Logo             Helen Stubbings Hugs N Kisses Logo


Lee Chappell Monroe May Chappell Logo


GIVEAWAY:  Sewing Machine Embroidery Kit by I Heart Stitch Art

Sewing Machine Embroidery Kit

You can enter the giveaway by simply:

  • Leaving a comment below telling us who is your favorite quilt, embroidery or needlecraft designer and why (and it doesn't have to be a Red Thread Studio Featured Designer but would love to hear if it is!)
CONGRATULATIONS THERESA, you've won the Sewing Machine Embroidery Kit! Check your email.

The Giveaway is open worldwide and ends September 30th at midnight EST, and the winner will be chosen using and announced on this very post.

Good Luck and Happy Sewing!

Featured Designer - Helen Stubbings of Hugs'n Kisses August 01 2016 2 Comments

Helen Stubbings of Hugs'n Kisses 

This month's Featured Designer aims to bring simple techniques to every stitcher and believes that every project is achievable by anyone.  Her motto in life is just one stitch at a time. 

This belief has led Helen Stubbings of Hugs'n Kisses to create lovely, yet achievable embroidery, appliqué and English paper piecing designs using her easy methods.

Please welcome Helen, another wonder from down under, who lives in Hobart, Tasmania!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised? 

Helen:  I was born in the tiny country town (population ~1800) of Penola, South Australia – at the centre bottom of Australia.  I grew up on a small sheep farm about 20 miles from town.  We caught a bus to school for about an hour each way every day and went to town for shopping and sport on weekends.

Jen:  How did you learn to embroider?  To quilt?  Did you stitch as a young girl?

Helen:  My grandmother taught me to embroider – she had a fancywork box full of printed panels and a mix of threads.  We started on gingham and progressed to her precious doily panels.  She also taught us (my sister and brother also) to crochet, knit and sew – she was a dressmaker and did alterations for most of her life.  Growing up, I learnt and tried all manner of crafts from macramé, Hobbytex, painted pots, tissue box covers and more.  I was a Hobbytex ‘master artist’ at age 11 and won the country show aggregate craft award that year also. 

Quilting came much later in life.  As a full-time musician in the Australian Army, I took two years maternity leave with my first child and began a certificate course in textile skills.  Our last major elective was patchwork and quilting – so I got a great 6 month basics course in everything quilting.  My grandmother (in her 70's) actually started to quilt while my sister and I were also learning.

Jen:  Complete this sentence.  When I am not stitching I am...

Helen:  ...thinking about stitching! – well designing in my head always… I do also like to spend time with my girls, enjoy an occasional wine and love good food – who doesn’t! 

Razz A Dazzle Close Up

Jen:  So, how did Hugs'n Kisses come to be?

Helen:  As mentioned before I was in the regular army as was my husband, and we moved around a lot.  With two small children and no family support, I chose to discharge and needed something to fill my day and provide a little more income, so a home based business doing something I loved was the next step.  It has since supported a third unexpected child and is now a full time multi-faceted business taking up most of my every day.

Jen:  Can you describe your style?  How has it evolved? 

Helen:  I started as a true embroiderer (did I mention that when we had to vote for that last major elective – I voted for Elizabethan blackwork!), but when I made the decision to turn my hobby into a business, I knew that I had to evolve into styles and techniques that were suitable to a larger audience.  I began with just simple backstitch stitchery designs – which are still very popular now.  Not being satisfied or challenged, soon after I began to develop techniques that I both liked and could share beginning with colourque© - coloring with pencils on fabric to get an appliqué effect.  Then I moved onto perfecting a new needle turn appliqué method, a technique I loved doing but people were terrified of.  That then evolved into my latest passion – using the same product and principles – to develop the easiest and most addictive method of English paper piecing.  Now I like to combine everything into one project!

Temora Traveller Close Up

So, that wasn’t really about style though was it?   I'm not good at defining my style – I might leave that up to you...But anything I make has to be enjoyable, pleasing to the eye, and easy to get a great finish – it’s all about the therapy.  People need to enjoy doing it and enjoy getting great results that people heap praise on them for – that’s what’s makes you feel good – take the praise- you made it, you deserve it!

Jen:  Tell us about the process for designing your stitcheries and quilt patterns.  What are your inspirations?

Helen:  I am never short on ideas and inspiration – just the time to make them all or so many ideas I can’t settle on just one and make a start.  I get a lot of design ideas from architecture, design in the environment and other cultures.  When I travel, I always take photos of buildings, doors, entrances, carpets, old wallpapers, anything with design ideas and elements within them that I can pick apart and use or be inspired by.  I collect books and ideas from old or traditional cultures such as Hungarian or Scandinavian embroidery and modernize them to suit my style.  Then there’s flowers – I love my garden and anything floral… color palettes are perfect from nature..  

Hugs N Kisses Collage

Jen:  With a new fabric line already out (Basically Hugs/Low) and a new Block of the Month (Razz A Dazzle), any new big plans for the rest of the year?  

Helen:  Well, lots actually, too many… a café to open, a learning centre to complete building and to start classes, a new book to release at Houston along with a new fabric range – just to keep me busy… and in there somewhere, I have another quilt along to design and get organized.. and somewhere in there, I need to get in a couple of those occasional wines and smell the roses.

Jen and Helen Stubbings with Razz A Dazzle

I look forward to catching up again with Helen in October in Houston.  In the meantime, I am pleased to announce that Red Thread Studio is offering Razz A Dazzle as a Block of the Month program!

You can also learn even more about Helen including her worst sewing habit in a video interview with Helen and seven other Featured Designers at Spring Quilt Market in Salt Lake City this past May or check out the Hugs'n Kisses collection at Red Thread Studio.

Featured Designer - Shannon Brinkley July 01 2016

 Featured Designer - Shannon Brinkley

Our featured designer for July is Quilter, Designer, Author and Teacher - Shannon Brinkley.  Shannon is known for turning scraps of fabric into gorgeous, modern art quilts by collaging a variety of fabrics, vintage and new, with different colors, tones, and patterns to create really interesting and unique textures.

Now let's get to know Shannon!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Shannon:  I was born in Houston, TX and raised mostly in Katy, which is just outside of Houston.  Though when I was 6 years old, my father was transferred to Amsterdam where we lived for several years. 

Jen:  Tell us about your quilting journey.  How did you learn to sew and quilt? Have you always worked with collage fiber art?

Shannon:  I have always been a maker: cross stitching, weaving, collaging (paper), to name a small few of my childhood hobbies.  In 5th grade, I made probably 50+ dream catchers (the evidence of this is still scattered between various family members' homes).  My grandmother taught me to sew when I was around 12, but I didn't begin quilting until college.  I studied education, and in my Children's Literature class, we were assigned to create a timeline of children's literature.  For some reason, lost to time, I decided to create a quilted timeline.  It was a simple patchwork grid quilt with images of the sequential influential book covers, and was way above and beyond what I needed to do for the assignment-- but I received a 100% and was hooked.  Shortly after that, I visited the International Quilt Festival in Houston where I fell in love with the craft, and with raw edge appliqué in particular.  It was then that I began playing with fabric.

Jen:  How did your book Scrappy Bits Appliqué come to be?

Shannon:  I approached the craft of quilting in an unusual way.  Unlike most sane people (who, to learn a new skill, buy books, take classes, etc), I jumped right in and just began to play and experiment.  I knew raw-edge appliqué had something to do with fusible web, and I went from there.  I later did seek out books and classes to improve my skills, but that was after I developed my own style and technique.  After years of perfecting this process and after more exposure to the quilting arena, I noticed that I did not see anyone creating quilts in a similar manner.  It was here that the notion of writing a book to teach the process was born.  I did a little research on quilt publishers, discovered and swooned over Stash Books' style, called and chatted with the acquisitions editor, submitted a book proposal, and boom.  I think it was that playful, exploratory approach to quilting that made my style so unique, and ultimately secured the book deal. 

Mosaic Tree from Scrappy Bits Applique by Shannon Brinkley

Jen:  Tell us about the process for designing your patterns.  What are your inspirations?

Shannon:  That's a great question.  Initially, my inspiration was simply, "What kind of images would be interesting on a quilt?  What images would kids want to cuddle with?  What images would I like to hang on my wall?" I still ask these questions but have a lot of other sources for inspiration as well. 

I think it is important as a designer not to seek inspiration solely in your field. This is not a new idea, but it is a crucial one if you want to be unique.  So I don't pay too close attention to what other quilters are making (just enough so I can stay aware of what's going on in the industry), rather, I find shape and color inspiration in nature, literature, sculptures and other fine art, old books, maps, architecture, fashion-- really everywhere. My eyes are always open to interesting color palettes, shapes, and concepts. I always carry a notebook around where I scribble all my random ideas and inspiration, and the camera roll on my phone is full of pictures and screen shots of inspiring images, most of which are completely unrelated to textiles. 

Quilts by Shannon Brinkley

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not sewing, I am…

Shannon:  Listening to audiobooks (though I do that when sewing too), writing, cooking, practicing yoga, and spending as much time outside as possible.  Not doing anything tremendously active, mind you, I just love a good walk, and my soul required a daily allotment of trees. My husband and I also love craft beer and travel.

Jen:  What sewing machine do you use?

Shannon:  I have a Janome Horizon 8900. It's stellar. 

Jen:  What is your worst sewing habit?

Shannon:  Hmmm.. I don't know that I believe in a worst sewing habit. I am an unrepentant rule breaker.  Hence, the diving into quilting without first reading a book. I take craftsmanship very seriously and strive to constantly improve, but I am also completely okay with breaking any rule I feel so inclined as to break.  I sometimes don't hide my threads between the quilt layers, and just lockstitch and snip.  I measure as seldom as humanly possible. I haven't serviced my machine in forever (that might be one I should fix). Otherwise, I make the quilts I want to make in the way I want to make them and worry not of rules.  

Jen:  What is one sewing notion that you can't live without?

Shannon:  Probably my "grip gloves."  They are almost always on my hands when I'm sewing.  It makes me feel like I'm dealing with important artifacts or performing surgery! That aside, I like having more control over the fabric, so I will wear them not only when free-motion quilting, but satin stitching, binding, often even piecing. 

Jen:  Any big plans for the rest of the year?

Shannon:  Always. I have several new quilt patterns that I am dancing-around-the-room-excited about.  A few are very different from those in my current collection.  I will be traveling to teach and speak a ton, which I love doing. I'm designing another fabric collection, and I have another super secret project that I have been dreaming about for years, and am now working on everyday! Stay tuned. 

I am curious to know more about this secret project!  Maybe I can squeeze more out of Shannon when I see her at Fall Market in Houston later this year.

In the meantime, you can learn more about Shannon's technique in her book Scrappy Bits Appliqué or take a her Scrappy Appliqué  Workshop online.

Also, we will be adding a selection of Shannon's PDF patterns to the Red Thread Studio website.  Which skylines are you interested in making?

Featured Designer - Red Thread Studio Squares June 01 2016

Red Thread Studio Squares

Since we are on the heels of Spring Market, I decided to share recent interviews with some of our past and future Featured Designers - a mash up, of sorts, instead of introducing a new Featured Designer for the month of June.

These lovely ladies were good sports and agreed to be videoed while answering a short series of questions:

  • What sewing machine do they use?
  • What is their worst sewing habit?
  • How many quilts/softies have they made?
  • What is their all time favorite quilt block/EPP Shape/Softie?
  • What is a notion that they can't live without?
  • And, are they slow sewing or instant gratification?

You can see their candid responses here in the following Vimeo video:

Red Thread Studio Squares from Jennifer Lee on Vimeo.

I hope you enjoy watching the video as much as I enjoyed making it!  

A heartfelt thanks to the following Red Thread Studio Featured Designers:

 So tell me, how would you answer these questions????

Featured Designer - Kathy Doughty of Material Obsession May 01 2016 3 Comments

Kathy Doughty of Material Obsession

Our featured designer for May is known for her eclectic style and innovative techniques.  She is also the founder of Material Obsession - Sydney, Australia's most popular quilt shop, author of five books, and currently a fabric designer for Free Spirit Fabrics.

Please welcome Kathy Doughty!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?  What took you to Australia?

Kathy:  I was born in Illinois, but grew up in lots of different places in Ohio, Rochester, New York and New York City.  I worked for Swatch Watch in the 1980’s and met my husband at one of our World Cup Snowboarding events.  We got married and moved to Sydney to raise our family.

Jen:  How did Material Obsession come to be?

Kathy:  As a self taught quilter I was looking for styles of fabrics for my quilts and not finding them in the local shops.  Stripes, spots, and at that time, retro prints were my main focus.  Remember that in 2003, the internet was a newish entity.  We could see what was available in the USA but couldn’t find it here so opening a shop seemed like the right thing to do!  The goal was to buy fabrics for the shop that were what we wanted for ourselves.  From the day we opened the shop, things moved very quickly.  For the first few years I had a business partner, but since 2008, I have run the shop with my husband and a team of talented quilters which has been fun.

Jen:  You have a beautiful, distinct sense of style and color.   Did it just come to you naturally or has it evolved over time?  

Kathy:  Thank you!  My sense of color is just a personal interest in the way fabrics work together.  I like one fabric to appeal to another but not necessarily to match…a word that isn’t really in my vocabulary.   Over time I am sure it has changed and evolved to what it is now and will continue to evolve as time goes by.

Jen:  If you could offer one piece of advice to new and seasoned quilters alike for finding their own sense of style, what would it be?

Kathy:  To the new quilter as well as to the experienced quilter looking to grow, I would say consider the environment around you with an open eye.  The way to interesting work is to be the individual that you are…be true to your own instincts.  You can break any rule you want to break if you are aware of the consequences.  Take the time to look and see what you are doing.  Assess as you go, be open to change and enjoy the process.

Jen:  Can you tell us about your creative design process and how that works through the quilts and the books as well as the fabric lines that you have done?  What inspires you?  

Kathy:  I am inspired by so many things.  I like to visit art galleries for color combinations or design directions.  I love antique quilt books for layout and structure ideas.  In truth though, most of my designs actually happen on the design wall in my studio.  I start a quilt with a stack of inspiring fabrics and a shape, and then I lay out the pieces on the way until I like how they work together.

For my fabric ranges, I like to find a fun motif that I can turn into a story in my mind.  The first range, A Wandering Mind, was inspired by my collection of Kantha quilts from India and the second, Trail Blazing, was inspired by the environment I grew up in.  Since joining  Free Spirit Fabrics I have done Flock Together, again with a theme inspired by the chatting parrots outside my studio window, and my next range explores a playful look at Folk Art called Folk Art Revolution.  I think of my customers and the quilts they make when deciding how to structure the designs.  I want the fabrics to be usable by quilters so I think about medallions, borders and shapes within quilt blocks with large or small designs.

I write my books based on my experiences in the shop.  I like to consider where my customers have issues with tools or with different styles and fabrics and create a path to exploring shapes and designs.  The books chronicle my own experiences as I am sure that it reflects the experiences of others!

Jen:  Which is your favorite quilt that you have made and why?

Kathy:  I think I like Gypsy Kisses from Material Obsession 2 the best.  It looks old and authentic which is something that I love.  Although I generally work with bright colors, I love reproduction fabrics and old style color combinations.  I believe if the quilting sisters of the past had our fabrics they would have loved using them in what are now the antique quilts we love!

Gypsy Kisses

Gypsy Kisses by Kathy Doughty

Jen: Complete this sentence. When I am not stitching, I am…

Kathy:  ...thinking about stitching, doing yoga or sleeping.

Jen:  With a new fabric line already out (Flock Together) and a new book (Mixing Quilt Elements) and fabric line (Folk Art Revolution) to be released, any new big plans for the rest of the year?  

Kathy:  I am doing a lot of teaching and working in my shop which I love!  I really enjoy working with customers and helping them work, but no matter what, it will involve quitting, designing and well, yoga!  

Recent workshop in Asilomar, CA

Asilomar Workshop - Kathy Doughty

A block combining Kathy's fabrics with other fabric lines.

Kathy Doughty Fabric Block

Kathy's latest book - Mixing Quilt Elements

Mixing Quilt Elements by Kathy Doughty of Material Obsession

Up until now, I've enjoyed following Kathy on Instagram and drooling over her books.  Now, I look forward to meeting Kathy in person later this month at Spring Market in Salt Lake City, UT and to getting a more intimate view of her new fabric line -  Folk Art Revolution!  So stay tuned!


You can also watch Kathy's video interview!

Featured Designer - Happinesst April 01 2016

Fiona Janssen

In my quest for new and modern cross stitch designs, I stumbled upon Happinesst, a delightful Etsy shop with a very talented owner and designer, Fiona Janssen.  Fiona was open to the idea of selling PDF versions of her designs on our website, and the rest is history!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Fiona:  I was born and raised in the south of the Netherlands.  I lived my whole childhood in a town with my parents and younger sister.  I studied civil engineering and traffic engineering.  Now I live with my husband, 10 year old son and 2 bunnies in a small town in the state Noord-Brabant.  I’m not a city girl; I love the tranquility of nature and especially the mountains...unfortunately,  we don't have mountains in the Netherlands!

Jen:  How did you learn to cross stitch? Did you stitch as a girl? Any photos of your first cross stitch projects?

Fiona:  When I was a little girl I wanted to cross stitch just like my mother.  I remember I started a very cute sampler with little gnomes, but I never finished it.  I was constantly making counting mistakes, and I had to start over and over again.  I got frustrated and never touched a needle and thread again until some years ago.

Jen:  So then, how and when did you passion for cross stitching begin?

Fiona:  Since I was a little girl, I was surrounded by fabrics, needle and thread.  My mother and her two sisters were all fervent embroiders, and the oldest sister of my mom was a professional sewer.

I was never very interested in needlework or stitching, but four years ago I got knitting wool for my birthday.  Slowly I started knitting…. crocheting… sewing and stitching!

I discovered I like it very much, and it makes me forget the daily concerns.  Unfortunately my mother and her oldest sister can’t teach me anymore since they have both passed away.  It makes me more than happy that the only sister left, my godmother, teaches me everything she knows about embroidery and needlework.  And believe me, that’s a lot!  She is a great needle artist and a real professional.  My first projects were a little needle book and a pincushion.

First Cross Stitch Project - Happinesst

Jen:  So, how did Happinesst come to be? Why did you decide to start creating cross stitch designs?

Fiona:  I started Happinesst after a pretty tough period in my life.  My mother died after a long illness, and in my personal life, a few things happened whereby I got to thinking about what really matters in life.  I decided to quit my job as a traffic engineer at the government and took some time to heal and feel...feel what really makes me happy.  I discovered that I’m at my best when I create things.  The feeling of making and creating brings me a lot of satisfaction and inner peace.

During this time, I was visiting my godmother a lot, and she told me stories about my mother's childhood.  Meanwhile, she taught me how to cross stitch. When she suggested that I should design cross stitch patterns, I thought it was a crazy idea.  But, after some thinking, I decided to give it a try.  I bought software, started making designs and opened my Etsy shop.  I get great response on my patterns, and my business is still growing.  And the best of all, designing patterns doesn’t feel like work as it gives me joy every day.

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I’m not stitching, I am….

Fiona:  Taking care of my 10 year old son or redecorating our house.  Interior design is my other passion.  I especially love Scandinavian style and like to match it with vintage and industrial items or, of course, self-made items...I’m always creating things.  Further, I like (and have :) to work out at the gym and like to try to learn to play the guitar with my son.  As much as possible, we take a break and travel around the world to discover new beautiful places.

Jen: How would you describe your cross stitch style?

Fiona:  My cross stitch style is mostly the same as my interior style and fashion style.  People always tell me that I have a special, clearly identifiable style, but it's hard for me to describe because it’s not is who I am.  I would describe it as modern, robust, beautiful matching colors and not too many frills.

Jen: Tell us about the process for designing you patterns. What are your inspirations?

Fiona:  My inspiration is everywhere. It can be not only a beautiful flower or a leaf in nature, but also a pattern in a fabric or the trends that come and go.  At the moment, for example, you see cactuses and succulents everywhere, so I decided to make some cross stitch patterns with cactuses.  Traveling also gives me a lot of inspiration.  I made a geometric bear pattern and a mountain pattern when we were traveling through the Canadian Rockies as well as a beautiful geometric ornament inspired by the tile which was in our bathroom when we were in Portugal.  I’m already looking forward to our trips to Italy and Greece later this year, which should give a lot inspiration for beautiful new patterns.  Typically, I take a picture of something that inspires me and use that as a basis to work out a pattern on my computer.  I prefer this approach instead of designing something out of the blue.

Custom orders from my customers also inspire me to develop new patterns as this keeps me in touch with what people like and want to stitch.  I have a complete set of birth samplers in my Etsy shop now only because someone asked me to design one for her.  I realized that people want to stitch for that special occasion, so I started making birth sampler patterns.

Jen:  Which of you designs is your favorite and why?

Fiona:  The geometric heart pattern in different shades of teal is my favorite. It’s designed in my favorite colors and reflects the best of what I want to be: powerful, well-balanced and a little bit romantic.

 Fiona's favorite pattern - Geometric Heart in Teal

Jen:  What is under your hoop now? Do you have any photos that you can share?

Fiona:  I’m experimenting with stitching on wood...making some small ornaments as a gift or to decorate the house.

 Stitching on Wood

Jen:  Any big plans for the rest of the year?

Fiona:  First of all, enjoying life as much as possible...spending quality time with my husband and son...taking some great trips.  For Happinesst, it means making a lot of new patterns; I have so many great ideas in my mind and not enough time to let them come out!  And there are plans to expand Happinesst with another Etsy shop.  What it is, well, that’s still secret...but it’s in needlecraft as well.

I can't wait to see what Fiona has planned!  In the meantime, you can also check out our collection of Happinesst PDF patterns at Red Thread Studio.

Featured Designer - Sue Spargo March 01 2016 9 Comments

Sue Spargo

While I am personally new to stitching with wool, I have admired the work of this month's Featured Designer for years.  Sue Spargo is a self taught textile folk artist and designer whose lush and rich work with wool, a needle and thread inspires so many.

Her work has been shown in art museums and exhibitions around the world.  Sue also teaches her techniques and creative process at workshops and retreats and has authored several books including Creative Stitching and Creative Texturing.

Now, let's get to know Sue and learn about her stitching journey!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?  How has this influenced your designs and use of color?

Sue:  I was born in Zambia, and at five, I moved to South Africa where I grew up and received my education.  In my early twenties, I moved to England, returned to South Africa three years later and finally moved to the US in my early thirties.  Southern Africa has had a considerate influence on my life and creativity.  I am influenced especially by the energy and color of traditional African designs.  All of these experiences combined to stir my love of primitive arts and crafts and drew into my focus on contemporary folk-art. 

Bird Dance

Jen:  How did you learn to quilt and embroider? Did you stitch as a girl? 

Sue:  Growing up my mom sewed, and I loved to sew with her from a very young age.  I was fortunate enough to be exposed to home economics throughout my elementary and high school education.  Making barbie doll clothes in the early years and then sewing clothing for myself and making my first hand pieced hexagon quilt in high school.  I was never exposed to embroidery growing up, and it didn't become part of my designing until about six years ago. 

Jen:  How and when did your passion for stitching begin?

Sue:  I spend a lot of time on the road teaching and am always looking for new techniques to teach my students.  My stitching began as two stitches on a pincushion and has evolved from there.  I was so taken by the response I received from the students in the class; they were so excited to learn the embroidery.  I also found a love for the dimension and texture that stitching added to my pieces that I became fascinated with the transformation of wool work. 

Jen:  How have you evolved over time?

Sue:  Gradually over time, I taught myself more stitches and played with more threads and fibers.  I became fascinated with trying different fibers such as silk, rayon, cotton, linen, chenille and wool threads and how each thread gave a different texture on hand dyed wool.  I also discovered that doing the same stitch in all these different fibers changed the appearance of the stitch.  By familiarizing myself with the different stitches, I began to realize which stitches to use to give my appliquéd images character.

Jen:  Tell us about your creative process for your patterns/designs.

Sue:  I have always started a project with an open mind allowing it to evolve as I work layer by layer.  I start out by doing an ink drawing of the basic layout and appliqué design.  I then enlarge my design to the appropriate size.  I take each block one at a time, starting by layering my background.  I then cut out the first layer of appliqué and appliqué it in place.  Once appliquéd I revisit the block to begin my layering.  I continue in this manor until the color and placement of images is pleasing to my eye.  I use a combination of hand dyed wool, cotton, linen, silk and velvet in my appliqué.  The very last part of my hand process is bringing my images alive by adding stitching using a multitude of textural fibers in different weights.   

Imperial Blooms Flower Play

Jen:  I've had the pleasure of meeting and working with Kelly and Jason.  Do the rest of your children also work with you on your business?

Sue:  I have four wonderful children - three who work in my business and a son who lives in New York City.  I am very lucky to have creative children who each have an interest in different sections of the business.  Kelly maintains the website and works with our wholesale customers, as well as, hand dyes one of our popular threads called ‘Dala’.  Jason hand dyes all our wools and velvets in our in-studio dye room and is in the process of taking over publishing of my books and patterns.  And Aimee keeps us all on track as she is in charge of our finances and social media.

Jen:  Complete this sentence, when I am not stitching, I am...

Sue:  Sleeping… or giving my children lots of jobs.

Jen:  Having taught thousands of students, what is the one piece of advice you would offer to both seasoned and budding stitchers alike?

Sue:  There are no rules in my classes.  My advice is to allow yourself to be creative and to not follow any rules.  The best pieces of art come when you allow yourself to take chances, try new techniques and become confident in your choices.  Planning inhibits your creativity so I encourage all of my students to let their pieces evolve from the beginning. 

Jen:  If you could only pick one stitch to use from now on, what would it be and why?

Sue:  The bullion knot.  It was one of the first stitches I taught myself.  It really enhances wool appliqué as it is more of a dimensional stitch.  I also love the variations I have come up with that totally change the appearance of the stitch.  Over the years I have realized it is not about learning many stitches it is about mastering one and the way you can manipulate that stitch to have many different appearances.  This is achieved by playing around with a stitch and using different types of fibers to make the stitch.

Jen:  I quite like the name Bossy Boots!  What inspired the thread color names for your Eleganza Perle Cotton lines?

Sue:  Kelly named each of the colors in my line of Eleganza.  She’s our word girl! We spent a long time formulating the colors for the line, and we wanted the names of threads to show our excitement for this new venture.

Eleganza Close Up 

Jen:  Late last year, we learned that you were diagnosed with breast cancer.  Like so many other fans, I follow your progress through your stitching journal that you’ve shared since receiving treatment.  I can imagine that this is a great outlet for you as you navigate through a difficult journey.  Did you also keep a stitch journal or a sketch journal prior to being diagnosed?

Sue:  I have always had a sketch journal that I use when designing.  I have never done a stitch journal but started my stitch journal because I felt as though it would give me a positive focus each day.  My stitch journal is done on a two yard piece of hand dyed wool that Jason specially dyed for me.  Each image is stitched from my heart and representing a moment from each day, it is my own therapy through this journey.  As a designer everything I create, others want to make which makes it hard to have the time to create personal pieces of art.  Some days this journal is enjoyable, and other days, I find it hard to stitch but the most important thing is that I keep a positive focus in my life.

Stitch Journal Collage - Sue Spargo

Jen:  With this new life experience, do you have a message you would like to share with other stitchers and quilters out there?

Sue:  I’ve always felt as though you should live life to the fullest whether that is spending time with family, traveling, being spontaneous, following your passion, be ever evolving or sharing your talents.  It is important to follow your heart and to do what you love.  This diagnosis has made me more aware of what is important to me.  I would remind my fellow stitchers that you have one life to live and it is important to reach for the stars! 

Sue Spargo

I am grateful to Sue for sharing her story with us.  Coincidentally, the fortune in my fortune cookie today said, "Big journeys begin with a single step."  Perhaps it should read, "Big journeys begin with a single stitch"!  I look forward to beginning my wool appliqué journey and to experimenting with new threads and textural fabrics.

You can find more inspiration and resources by Sue Spargo at Red Thread Studio and on Sue's website.

Sue Spargo Collection


Featured Designer - Katja Marek February 01 2016 6 Comments

 Katja Merak

As a busy mom on the go, I was delighted when I first learned about our Featured Designer for this month, Katja Marek, and her book The New Hexagon: 52 Blocks to English Paper Piece.  She introduced modern techniques and tools along with projects, both big and small, that have helped make EPP popular again.  I am personally enjoying rekindling my love affair with handwork and look forward to the possibilities that Katja continues to bring to the table.

Now, let's get to know Katja!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Katja:  I was born in Moers ( in the Northern Rhine region of Germany.  We lived there until two months before my 8th birthday.  I had just finished grade two.

From Moers we moved to St. Catharines Ontario Canada (  When we moved to Canada, we didn’t speak any English, so back into grade two I went.  They did, however, make some concessions by putting me into a grade one English class and a grade five Math class for a while.  By the end of grade three, I had caught up and went directly into grade five.

At 14, my family moved again to Parry Sound Ontario Canada, where my family bought a camp/resort, complete with housekeeping cottages and campground. This is where I completed high school and for the most part considered ‘home’.

Jen:  How did you learn to quilt? Did you stitch as a girl?  Any photos of your first quilt?

Katja:  I have sewn as long as I can remember.  I do not, however, remember ever being taught or learning to sew.  My Mom was a tailor, and as I was growing up, she took in alterations in order to stay home with my sister and me.  We visited daily in the sewing room, and I think that sewing came to me by osmosis...sewing and other handcrafts that is.  I also crochet, cross-stitch and do some knitting.  I always tell people that I grew up under my mother’s sewing machine.  At 12, a neighbor asked me to sew doll clothing for dolls to be sold at a church rummage sale and, in exchange, I was able to keep one doll.  I’ve also drawn much of my life, winning the Art Award in high school.

When we moved to that camp in Parry Sound, the cabin beds all had homemade coverlets on them.  I fell in love with a traditionally set Grandmother’s Fan.  I immediately set about making templates (read that as, very thick cardboard from the back of a sketchbook).  I rifled through the scrap bins and cut up old clothing and leftovers from sewing my mom had done for others.  The background fabric is a piece, probably poly/cotton that my Grandmother had sent from Germany.

I had sewn a lot but didn’t know much about seam allowances in quilting, and this quilt has everything from 1/8” to 1/2” seam allowance.  I was aware enough to know that I had to trace around my templates and sew on the line.  The quilt is an odd size at 53ish” x 87.5ish”, but fit my European twin very well.

Katja's First Quilt

I call this quilt “My Seven Year Quilt”.  Now this may lead you to believe that I made it in seven years, not so.  I actually worked on it every seven years until I finished it at 35.  I started it at 14 having just moved to the camp, worked on it again at 21 and newly married, again at 28 with young toddlers in the house, and finished at 35 when I was Guild President.  I had a friend take it to the only long-arm quilter in the area at the time, and she was quite embarrassed to tell the woman that the president of the guild made this quilt.

I am very proud of this quilt that started my journey, and it is a true memory quilt. My only sibling, my sister, passed away in 1978, and this quilt is a journey through our childhood with the fabrics it contains.

The original coverlet that inspired me to make this quilt came back to me in the summer of 2014, 40 years later.  My aunt and uncle who had stayed on at the camp after my family left, had kept many treasures from those day.  As they prepared to move during 2014, they called to say they had a quilt from the camp days, and would I like it.  I did not know until they arrived at my shop, that it was THE coverlet that started me on my journey so many years before.


Jen:  How and when did your passion for English Paper Piecing begin?

Katja:  I actually balked at the idea of English Paper Piecing at the beginning.  The year I was guild president (1995-96), we had a workshop in English Paper Piecing, and my thought was, why, when we have sewing machines and rotary cutters.  After I opened my store, I hired Carla in May 2002, and Carla English Paper Pieced daily.  Watching her became infectious, but it wasn’t until newer techniques (glue) made the process so much more doable that I really fell in over my head.  I had a few projects on the go, like a 1” hexagon charm quilt, rose star blocks, Christmas ornaments which were all traditionally thread basted, but glue revolutionized my life.

Then the hexagon obsession hit me somewhere around 2009/2010, and I started dreaming of what I could do with hexagons, by breaking them down and designing inside them.

Jen:  Complete this sentence, when I am not quilting or working in my quilt shop, I am...

Katja:  …in my garden.  I feel the need to have my hands in soil, to watch the flowers and bees, to eat something that I’ve grown.  I currently live on the smallest property than I have my entire life, but it is still mine.

If I were able, I’d live by the water, and then you would find me at or near the waters edge.

 ‘I am at home in the garden, and my soul is soothed by the sea.’ – Katja Marek

Jen:  How did your book, The New Hexagon, come to be?  What inspired you to write it?

Katja:  I started dreaming of the hexagon, specifically fractured hexagons where the possibility lay inside the hexagon, treating it as a block, not a unit in a quilt around 2010.  I drew by hand, but decided I needed a more professional presentation.  I set myself a task to use EQ to draw my blocks, and by 2011, I was ready to plan a program to run through my shop.

I started a Block-a-Week Hex-a-thon in January 2012, which turned out to be extremely popular.  This was a pattern only Block-a-Week program.  Our customers paid a commitment fee to sign up, and if they came in during the week the pattern was available, then they never paid again.  They could not send in a proxy and had to pick up the pattern during the week that it was available or pay a small penalty of 50¢.  Over the course of the year and all those 50¢ penalties, we raised $1,350.00 to donate to our local Hospice House.

A friend gave me the push I needed and encouraged me to write a book, to which I replied. 'No, I couldn’t do that'.  The idea was firmly planted though, and I worked very hard to put a proposal together.  I sent that proposal to Martingale at the end of July because I had a great working relationship with them for years, as their customer.  In September, I had my contract in place.

The New Hexagon

Jen:  You have named each of the 52 blocks in your book. Did you name them after women you know or did they take on personalities of their own?

Katja:  When I first ran the 52 blocks as a Block-a-Week program through my shop in 2012, the blocks had no names.  This program ended up being very successful and travelled far.

My business is largely a female based business, and I feel very blessed to be able to do what I love, day in and day out.  When I received my contract from Martingale in September 2012, I was already 3/4 through the program and thought without the women that had participated and made it so successful, I wouldn’t have this book deal.  I wanted to acknowledge some of those women by naming the blocks after them.  I couldn’t use every name because there were too many, so I chose those women that had been the most faithful to the program.

Jen:  How and when did you conceive the idea for The New Hexagon – Millefiore Quilt Along?

Katja:  In the summer of 2012, I received a line of Kaffe Fassett fabric, which included a piece called 'Millefiore', which I fell in love with.  I looked up the definition and thought perfect!

Millefiore is a glasswork technique, which produces distinctive decorative patterns on glassware.  It is made by fusing multicolored glass canes together, cutting them crosswise, joining them into new groups and creating new, often kaleidoscopic designs.  The term millefiore is a combination of the Italian words "mille" (thousand) and “fiore” (flower), plural "fiori" (flowers).

I loved the kaleidoscopic nature of this fabric, and knew I wanted to translate this into a quilt.  Not just any quilt, but one based on the blocks in my book, to allow quilters another way to use these blocks.  I loved the idea that this was much like the ancient glass caning technique of old, that by cutting and re-piecing the fabrics, I was creating new designs from identical units.  These identical units are the fractured hexagons from my book, radiating outward from the center to form a rosette.

Rosettes are round, stylized flower designs and have been used in architecture and design for centuries.  It derives its name from the natural circular shape formed by leaves radiating out from the stem of a plant, suggesting the petals of a rose and was often carved in stone, wood, or made of metal to create decorative elements.

I wanted a design of overlapping rosettes reminiscent of throwing pebbles into a pond.  So I drafted a basic hexagon grid and overlaid concentric circles that would form the rosettes. It was important to me that each rosette be distinct and different from the others and this would be achieved by using the blocks from The New Hexagon, each already different and distinct, by nature of the shapes contained within.

Jen:  Can you share with us your approach for choosing fabric for the Rosettes, both individually and how they play together within the quilt top?

Katja:  I wanted my Millefiore quilt to be like an English country garden containing a riot of colors, with each of the large rosettes being a different color combination.  I also look for lines within a fabric that will create flow within the blocks, and therefore the rosettes.  Curves within a leaf or a paisley can create a soft rounded edge with my blocks and rosettes drawing the eye in, out or around the rosette as in Rosette 5.  Contrast of color and value can give a sharp edge or division where desired.  This is especially visible in Rosette 6 in the defined star.  Around the edges of the quilt, the small partial rosettes, I tried to balance color within the quilt, by repeating colors I had used elsewhere in the quilt previously.

Rosette 5 \

Jen:  What inspired your latest quilt along, Blocks on the Go, for Quilts on the Grow?

Katja:  With the end of The New Hexagon – Millefiore Quilt-Along approaching and its overwhelming success, I was asked by Martingale about what I had planned next.  I had seen in the past several years how handwork had once again risen within the quilting community and decided to create a quilt-along that was truly 100% about handwork.  A quilt-along where each block is also a finished ‘quilt-let’ and the project is ‘always done’!   Once you have made one block, created its quilt-let and finished the quilting on it, you are finished!  Completely!  If you go on to make another block, turn it into a quilt-let and complete the quilting; you are again done.  Sew it to the first completed block/quilt-let and again you are done.  However far you go, you will always be done when the block is done.  NO UFO’s!  Throughout the program I give ideas for what combinations of different blocks can be if you go no further; however this is unlikely to happen, because these little quilt-lets are addicting.

Jen:  With an international best seller, two quilt-alongs and a new perpetual calendar on the way, any other big plans for the year ahead?

Katja:  When my book was released, I hoped for success having put my heart and soul into this project.  But did I ever expect to have the number 1 book with Martingale for the entire 2015, absolutely not.  Completing the book and running the first and starting the second quilt-along has not stopped me from coming up with more and more designs.  To date, I have 806 fractured hexagon blocks in my database. I have gone from being unknown to being a recognized name by many in this wonderful industry.  It has been a blessed journey through serendipity.

The New Hexagon Perpetual Calendar releases in July 2016 with a year full of new fractured hexagon blocks.  I already have a 2017 quilt-along planned that will use blocks from the calendar.  I will continue to release ideas for using the blocks from the book and calendar on my website.

I have been included as one of the designers for Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson’s The Splendid Sampler starting on February 14th and running as a 1 year long FREE online quilt-along that will culminate in a book through Martingale.

I have a full-time storefront shop in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada and am trying to fit in more and more new teaching commitments so I am grateful for fabulous staff to pick up the slack when I am away.  I have many, many ideas floating around in my head, and I continue to work with Martingale, so you may well see more ideas from me in the future.

In the meantime I am still ‘Discovering the ‘Hex’-abilities’ and invite you to join me. 

I love Katja's story and look forward to seeing her new ideas!  Have you started your EPP journey?  Shop The New Hexagon collection at Red Thread Studio and start yours today.