Featured Designer - May Chappell October 01 2015

Our Featured Designer for October is Lee Monroe Chappell of May Chappell.  Lee is a designer, blogger and teacher that not only has deep roots in quilting but also the most infectious smile around!  

You can check out her blog here, but in the meantime, let's learn more about Lee!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Lee:  I was actually born in Winston Salem where I live now, but we moved when I was two.  I grew up in Dallas Texas and didn’t leave until college.  Since we rarely moved when I was a kid, I decided to make up for it by living in Austin Texas, New Orleans Louisiana, Reading Pennsylvania, Greenville South Carolina, Atlanta Georgia, Washington DC and Wilmington North Carolina before moving back to Winston Salem.  I am here to stay!

Jen:  I understand you came from a long line of quilters.  Can you tell us about your quilting heritage and how May Chappell came to be?

Lee:  There are a lot of sewists in my family.  My mother can make anything! She’s made wedding dresses and suits.  My business is named May Chappell for her Grandmother (my Great Grandmother) as a nod to how sewing and quilting skills were passed through the generations.  My Hattie’s Dresden pattern is named for May’s sister, Hattie.

Hattie's Dresden

My Dad’s family is also full of quilters.  Their quilts are works of art; I have a stunning dresden quilt made by my Great Grandmother.  I named Georgia’s Dresden in her honor.

It’s interesting to have quits from the same era in South Carolina, but from two different sides of the family (and parts of the state).  May Chappell’s quilts are utilitarian, feed sack, scrappy quilts, while my Great Grandmother Monroe made Lonestars and Dresdens.  I think my quilting is a blend of both worlds.

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

Lee:  Reading or traveling!  Or ideally both!  I’ve never met a trip that I didn’t want to go on!  I love off the beaten path trips where you get to actually meet the people and see the culture!  I’m not an all inclusive resort kind of gal.  I rarely go to the same place twice, but favorite past destinations include New Zealand, Ecuador and Alaska.  As far as books, I love Ken Follett and Doris Kearns Goodwin. 

Jen:  How would you describe your style?  

Lee:  It’s a blend of modern and traditional.  I like clean graphic lines, bold shapes and contrast. 

Jen:  How has it evolved?

Lee:  It’s interesting because I have an undergraduate degree in art and then I went to school for graphic design.  I think even my older work reflects a clean graphic aesthetic.  Obviously, it’s changed through the years, but precision and bold graphic shapes are a constant.  I know that I drove my art professors a little crazy with how neurotic I can be about things lining up and being precise.  Quilting is great venue for that!

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

Lee:  I do a lot of doodling and never leave home without a sketchbook.  I definitely draw on old quilt designs for inspiration.  I find it interesting to take a super traditional design and make it modern with a twist.  I also think that looking to old patterns and finding a new easier way to make a traditional technique is interesting.  I was inspired to make Hattie’s dresden by a stain glass window in a church.  Most people probably saw rays of light, but I saw dresden wedges.  I love to create interesting secondary patterns in the negative space. 

Jen:  Any big plans for the near future?

Lee:  I’ve got a really cool new pattern coming out in Houston called Charleston Carriage.  It draws on appliqué, patchwork and foundation piecing.  It puts the piecer in the driver’s seat to create their own layout using the many options in the pattern.

I am beyond excited to see her new pattern later this month at Fall Market in Houston.  Maybe I can convince her to give us a sneak peek!  Wink, wink!

In the meantime, you can check out the May Chappell collection at Red Thread Studio.


You can also check out Lee's video interview!