Featured Designer: Rachaeldaisy September 06 2019
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!
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.
I’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.
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.
We are beyond excited to have Rachael come and teach at Red Thread Studio March 31 - April 6th, 2020. You can register for her workshops in Stuart, Florida HERE.