Sandy Gervais: Moda’s “Oldest” Designer

dp_sandy-gervaisWhen Mark Dunn started Moda in 1975, the company sold fabrics designed and produced by other companies. Most of these were fashion fabrics and their fiber content, weave, and patterns weren’t always suitable for the kind of stitching Mr. Dunn had in mind—quilting. In the mid-1980s the company started producing its own fabrics, which were largely designed in-house. By the mid-1990s, Mr. Dunn and Cheryl Freydberg, who today is Moda’s vice president of design and development, started walking the aisles of Quilt Market, looking for designers. One of the very first they found was Sandy Gervais.

booth_1994

Sandy at her first Quilt Market booth in 1994

Sandy was a greeting card designer who’d expanded into the quilting world, creating patterns for “little quilts.” Because St. Louis wasn’t far from her Iowa home, Sandy and her husband Bruce decided to set up a Pieces of My Heart booth at the 1994 Market. Sandy still remembers when Cheryl and Mark stopped by. “I was totally taken aback—I wasn’t even really sure what they were talking about,” she says. “And I was so enamored of Mark’s clothing. He had on a linen sport coat with a black Aztec print shirt and black linen pants. It was rare to notice what a man had on in those days.” (You’ll note that Sandy is no slouch herself when it comes to fashion.)

first line

Sandy’s first line of fabrics

Sandy’s first line incorporated images from her little quilt patterns, in borders and “tossed on” the fabrics. Sandy also designed small prints to accompany them and her first line had 99 pieces (18 to 40 is typical today). “We were all pretty new at this, it was a miracle it worked out,” she says with a laugh. It obviously did, as Sandy has gone on to create more than 115 lines for Moda.

booth_1996

Sandy and her husband Bruce in her 1996 Quilt Market booth.

Over her designing years, Sandy’s seen numerous changes. “To begin with, we didn’t email, we faxed,” says Sandy, who remembers WATTS lines as “a really big deal.” “We got our strike-offs [the early samples of fabric] just before Market and figured out we could hand wash them and cobble together a quilt—there was no scanning fabrics or designing patterns on a computer,” she says. Changes to fabrics at the mills in Korea and Japan had to be sent by next-day air.

booth_1998_housewarmings

Sandy’s 1998 booth featuring Housewarmings

booth_2002_dearsanta

Bruce and Sandy in the new millennium—the 2002 booth.

Today’s faster turnaround time means that Moda now gets its fabrics on shops’ shelves in a more timely manner. Sandy remembers that Christmas fabrics didn’t used to arrive until September or October. “By the time the shop owners got samples made up there was hardly time for customers to get things done by Christmas,” she says. “Now fabric ships in May and is available in summer—that’s a big change for the better.”

booth_2007_merryandbright

In 2007, Sandy’s daughter Abby joined her in her booth featuring her lively Merry and Bright holiday line.

Other changes Sandy’s seen include the fabrics’ selvedges, which now include designer’s names, the fabric line name, and the SKU, and individual portfolios of designer’s lines. “They used to be just a blue school folder, not even with a Moda logo. The branding has really changed,” says Sandy.

portfolio_first one

Sandy’s first (slightly sad) Moda design portfolio

portfolio_current

Things have definitely brightened up since 1994!

And the fabric design has changed significantly, too. “I’m really embarrassed by my first quilt, but that’s what was ‘in’ then,” says Sandy. “Images were outlined, but not in register, and now they’re more refined. Quilts have gone from primitive to ultra modern.” But everything old is new again, too. “We were making little quilts and now minis are so popular. What goes around comes around.”

booth_2008_objects of desire

The 2008 booth featured Objects of Desire. Sandy may be Moda’s “oldest” designer, but somehow she keeps looking younger and younger!

Sandy’s career was never planned, but she greatly enjoys her work. “I hand paint my designs, which I love to do,” she says. And as for sticking with Moda for 21 years? “They give me design freedom, they’re great.”

wrongrinsebucket

Sandy loves to hand paint her Moda fabric designs (even when she accidentally puts her brush in her drink, instead of the rinse water).

She tells the story of an early Quilt Market, when the Moda crew dined at Josephine’s one evening. When they returned to their hotel she realized she’d left her purse—“I’m notorious for that,” she admits—and the restaurant was closed the next day. “The owner of the company surely has so much more to do than look for my purse, but somehow he got them to open up and got my purse for me,” she says. That personal touch is part of what she’s loved over the years. “Designing fabric has changed my life a lot,” she says. “Moda is a great company to work for—I’ve never had any reason to leave.”

booth_2015_printscharming

Sandy’s 2015 booth featured Prints Charming.

Do you have a favorite Sandy Gervais line? (She admits that she does—it was Tranquility.) Let us know!

JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedIn

34 comments on “Sandy Gervais: Moda’s “Oldest” Designer

  1. Marsha says:

    I know Sandy personally and I pretty much love everything that Sandy has done. She has such great vision. She is one of the best in my opinion. Whenever I ask my kids what fabrics they would like me to make their quilts from, almost every time they choose something from Sandy. Chance of Showers is probably my ‘new’ favorite. It is hard or me to say as I love all work! Great article and I LOVED the photos.

  2. Karen says:

    While I love them all, I have to admit Objects of Desire was my favorite. I have a bag, and curtains! made of that collection!

  3. Kim says:

    I started quilting in 2008 and Sandy designed one of the first fabric lines I ever bought. Her lines are still my favorites! My all time favorite line of hers is “Gobble Gobble”. I still have bits and pieces of it that I can’t bear to part with.

  4. Betty says:

    Sandy is so talented, I honestly have not seen anything she designed that I have not liked. I especially like her use of pastel colors. 20 years, Congratulations Sandy, you deserve the recognition and accolades!!

  5. Christa says:

    What a fun story – thanks for sharing! I love Sandy’s fabrics – the newer brights are so great! BTW I started quilting in 1994 so it’s been fun to see the quilting industry evolve over time 🙂

  6. Jacque says:

    too hard to pick just one. I enjoyed learning more about her years with Moda

  7. I love everything she does. Don’t ever retire Sandy!!

  8. Mary ann says:

    Loved this story. One of my family’s favorite quilts use d a panel of Fall motifs, think pumpkins and turkey in warm cuddly colors. Even though it’s in triple digits right now in So Cal, it’s after Labor Day and the quilt is out!

  9. Todays post was a wonderful read! Sandy has designed some of the most beautiful fabrics. Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful creative day!

  10. Alicia says:

    Block Party , Merry and Bright, Gobble, Gobble, her Halloween ones, the Owl ones, oooh my gosh, all the whimsical fabrics which are too many to mention. The first name I go to when I shop MODA is to the Gervais line out..

  11. Helen White says:

    It is too hard to pick a favorite, as Sandys designs have been favorites for so long. I still have pieces if the first Moda I bought, mottled fabrics in red blue and gold, printed with gold swirls.

  12. Jeanne says:

    That was a fun read! And like many others, Sandy’s fabrics were some of the first I ever purchased.

  13. Marianne says:

    I have a favorite fabric from a Christmas line of hers: It’s a small plaid with wavy lines and it came in a few color ways but the red was was just perfect for so many projects. If you used it in a Christmas project it looked great but it also worked in non-seasonal things. Sadly I only have a small scrap left. I cannot remember the line it’s from. I also love another one, neutral background with small red circles called Bubbles. Don’t know the line either, but it’s great fabric!

  14. Penny says:

    Before you even asked I was scrolling down & was so happy to see Merry & Bright & thinking my favorite line by Sandy Gervais!! Just so timeless & very merry & very bright! Such a fun read this am!

  15. audrey says:

    I have enjoyed so many of Sandy’s fabrics! Her fabric often has an almost vintage flair which I love.

  16. Mary Andra says:

    I love that you featured Sandy today. I am working on a new pattern and using some of her fabrics. Bittersweet Boo and Happy Hallow just to name a few. I have others but they only say her name. I have had these fabrics for years and never used any of them. It’s about time I did. LOL Thank you Linzee for a great “getting to know you” posting.

  17. Block Party – Love It! Thanks for sharing this walk down memory lane. We love Moda and Sandy!

  18. Nora Bryan says:

    Nora says: Fall Interlude and Merry and Bright

  19. SarahZ says:

    AWESOME!! That fabric was my very first online fabric purchase..two charm packs that led to quite a bit more yardage, which I also bought online from a variety of shops…oh yeah, she really got me goin’!….and my whole family LOVES the quilt I made out of it! I love her whimsical florals!

    • lepowell says:

      Merry and Bright has always been a favorite Christmas line, and I am also hoarding a fat quarter bundle of a fall line – just cause it’s so darn cute. Oh and 76 Trombones, I liked that one a lot also! I admit to still having a few of Sandy’s first patterns. Yes, she gets younger and younger!

  20. Karen Weidler says:

    Merry & Bright is my fav. Best color combo for Christmas that I have ever seen.

  21. Gretchen says:

    Bittersweet & Boo is my favorite fabric line. I got out the Halloween quilt I made from it just this week.

  22. Debra - Outback Crafter says:

    Congratulations Sandy. What an awesome story & career. I love how diverse Sandy’s designs are, diverse yet identifiable. Crazy I know.

  23. Colleen says:

    Tranquility was the first line of hers I bought. And I have to confess I just sewed it up last year. I love all of her fall lines but my all time favourite, hands down, is Rambling Rose.

  24. Carla says:

    I fell hard foe objects of desire ; ) The orange prints were a favourite

  25. Carol Eberhardt says:

    Gobble gobble! Yummy!

  26. Anita says:

    Wow she definitely looks like she’s getting younger! Love her fall lines and I think a valentine one she did. Great interview 🙂

  27. I’m currently working on a quilt, for a customer, using Sandy’s Christmas X-citement line. I’m not sure what year it was manufactured, but my customer bought it as a kit several years ago. She decided she was never going to get around to making it so she hired me. It’s been a joy to make it for her because the fabrics are so beautiful! I’m hand stitching the binding this weekend. My customer will finally get to enjoy her beautiful, Sandy Gervais Christmas quilt!

  28. pbee says:

    Everlastings and Late Bloomers are the lines that I am using for my Snapshots quilts–full size and mini.. Love all of Sandy’s lines!

  29. […] 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 […]

  30. Margaret says:

    Soho Chic! I just The fabrics and patterns in this line.

  31. […] – An interesting look at Moda Fabric’s “oldest” designer and some of her photographs from before the digital age!  Take a walk down memory lane here. […]

  32. […] may remember that when I asked Sandy Gervais what she remembered about being asked to design fabric at her first Quil…, it was Mark’s wardrobe that stuck in her memory: ““…I was so enamored of […]

  33. […] I’m looking forward to the eye candy, I also can’t wait to see old friends (I hope Sandy Gervais and Jan Patek will still speak to me after I called them Moda’s “oldest” […]

Comments are closed.