So maybe I shouldn’t have tapped Sandy Gervais as Moda’s “oldest” designer, because that means I have to refer to Jan Patek as the second “oldest.” What I really mean, of course, is that they are the longest-designing-designers on Moda’s roster. As we celebrate Moda’s 40 years in business, we thought it would be fun to acknowledge Sandy’s and Jan’s designing longevity and hear a bit about what it was like to be a Moda designer in the early days. So I hope they both forgive the “old” moniker!
Jan Patek’s first designs appeared just a few months after Sandy’s. Jan and her designing partner Linda Brannock, were discovered by Moda in 1995, when they had side-by-side booths at Quilt Market. The distinctive look that attracted the attention of Mark Dunn and Cheryl Freydberg was their overdyed fabrics. “We both loved antique quilts, but you can’t use them or you’ll tear them,” says Jan. “So we had been overdying our fabrics to get that antique feel. We both lived in the middle of the prairie and wanted that warm, cozy look.”
After being approached by Moda, Jan and Linda went home and overdyed some more. Their first line of fabric was From the Prairie.
In those pre-scanner days, fabric had to be shipped back and forth and getting just the right color was tricky. “Once Cheryl sent me Pantone color cards, but those colors are all so clear that they didn’t work,” says Jan. Today she can find paint chips that mimic the warmth of the antiqued shades she’s known for.
Not having a scanner made a difference in designing quilts that would show off the newest lines at Market, too. “Sometimes quilts made out of a line wouldn’t get done until two or three Markets later,” says Jan, who admits that making them sooner was tricky not only because fabric didn’t show up until very near Market time, but also because the fabric provides inspiration. “Especially with appliqué, the fabric itself kicks off ideas for the quilts.”
With the advent of the computer age, Jan took lessons InDesign lessons at her local Apple store and is now proficient at creating quilt designs on the computer. She finds a click of the mouse a much easier way to audition fabrics than individually cutting pieces and placing them on her design wall. But she still draws out the images for her fabrics by hand.
Quilt Market has provided lots of memories over the years.
Jan and her husband Pep have become adept at setting up booths at Quilt Market, though Pep says if he’d known at that first Market that they’d look like the Beverley Hillbillies coming down the road, he might have demurred.
Jenny Doan (“before she was all famous” says Jan) helped with a booth one year and asked Jan if she had any red-and-white socks. When Jan told her no, Jenny said “That’s okay, I’ll bring some.” It turned out Jenny had plans for she and Jan to dress as Raggedy Anne and Andy.
And Jan says that she needs a 10-minute nap after lunch, even if it’s in her booth. Here someone caught her getting her 10 winks.
Jan’s 20-year relationship with Moda provides a lot of satisfaction. “They’ve always been very supportive, and I love the way the fabric looks and feels—it’s extremely high quality,” she says. “If there’s a bump, Cheryl and Mark work with you. And besides, I’ve been married for 46 years, so I don’t fritter around!”
Sadly, Linda Brannock stepped back from designing several years ago and passed away in June. While Jan’s been designing fabric lines solo since 2013, she has fond memories of working with Linda. “She was a neat lady and a great designer,” says Jan. “Working together, we would start off with an idea and there was lots of back and forth. Our ideas sparked more ideas in one another, in designing and color. It was so much fun to work with her.”
Though she goes it alone, now, designing fabrics still bring satisfaction. “I’ve done it for 20 years and it’s a big part of my life,” she says of the approximately 50 lines she’s created. And quilting is a daily event. Every morning she feeds the animals on her farm, then gets her coffee, puts on her earphones to listen to devotional tapes, and sews for an hour or more. At the end of the day she does the same thing, listening to TV while her husband watches, and sews. “I developed needleturn appliqué so that I can prep it during the day and then just sit and work on it in the evening and not have to jump up.”
Jan recently finished recording an episode of Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting, which will air in December or January. And she continues to teach occasional workshops and produce her mystery BOM quilts. “I really enjoy them because it’s fun to not just use my fabric—that’s a challenge sometimes—but to use other Moda fabrics—Minick and Simpson, Sandy Gervais, Primitive Gatherings, Lynn Hagemaier, and Blackbird Designs. If I can’t make quilts, truthfully, I get depressed.”
We’re lucky Jan keeps her spirits up by designing quilts and fabrics. Which lines have you used and enjoyed in your quilts?