Most of us seem to be either right brain people (spontaneous, fluid, free with our feelings, solving problems via hunches or by looking for patterns) or left brain people (structured, controlling our feelings, solving problems via logic and sequential observations). But Lydia Nelson seems to fall smack-dab in the middle.
Lydia, one of Moda’s newest designers, introduced her first line of fabric, Darling Little Dickens, at Quilt Market and is the author of the 2015 book Dreamy Quilts and designs patterns under the same name—that sounds pretty right brain, doesn’t it? But she’s also got a business degree and worked at a major retailer’s home office doing logistics work, and planned to go to law school. How did these two sides of her personality come to work in sync?
“I always doodled in class and wanted to be a music major,” says Lydia, a flute player for many years. “But my parents encouraged their children to study business or engineering, and as it’s turned out that business side has enabled me to explore my artistic side. Being successful in a creative capacity is challenging, and having a solid business foundation has helped immensely.
Lydia’s mom was a definite role model for using both sides of her brain—she has an MBA and worked for Ford Motor Co. for years. But Lydia says she was also always doing something with her hands, including making Halloween costumes and handmade Christmas cards, baking, and playing the piano. Today she owns a yarn shop in Rogers, Arkansas, and Lydia sometimes knits samples for her shop. “She’s very artistic and very creative,” says Lydia.
Lydia’s even-keel perspective has come in handy in her home life.
She has three sons, ages two, four, and six, and a husband who works full time and attends graduate school on the side. Previously, he served in the U.S. Army and his career included deployments to Iraq, training to be a Black Hawk, and numerous moves. It was during one of those moves that Lydia, who had started quilting in 2007, took classes in Apparel Design at Kansas State, furthering her interest in sewing and fabric design. Another move—this time to Fort Rucker, Alabama, meant that she wasn’t able to continue her classes. But she still loved sewing and read magazines, followed blogs, and continued taking classes, including some in photography and graphic design. Eventually she settled on a career in quilting and fabric design. “I decided to go for it because I felt like I had nothing to lose,” she says. “It’s hard to get your footing when you’re always moving—you can’t work your way up in a company and this seemed like a good fit for my life.” She credits her husband with buoying her efforts. “He bought me my first sewing machine and my first copy of EQ. He was so supportive because he was pursuing his dream and he wanted me to be able to pursue mine.”
Lydia first went to Quilt Market with her patterns in 2015 and submitted fabric designs around the same time. Her relationship with Moda started not long after. “It’s been a whirlwind, but I love working with them,” says Lydia, who’s thrilled to create the kind of fabric she was looking for but couldn’t find when she first decorated her son’s nursery—soft colors, whimsical designs, but not flowery or frilly. “It works well in a modern nursery,” she says.
Keeping her business going while raising a family keeps both sides of Lydia’s brain working overtime. She rises at 4:30 and works before everyone else is up and she does a lot of multitasking during the rest of the day. “I’ll have dinner on the stove and Illustrator on my computer on the counter,” she says. But all that organization and planning allows her to create her sweet and spirited designs, inspired by nature and by the life she leads. “I’ve always loved children’s books,” she says, citing the stories she reads to her children as influential. “With children’s artwork you can go anywhere. There are no limits.”