When 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.
Carrie’s post yesterday alluded to going back to school, and one of those things you always had to tell when you returned to the classroom was “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” Unfortunately, in grown-up land, summer isn’t all vacation time. Still, there’s time for a little sewing, and while I was thinking ahead about National Sewing Month and what I might whip up in September, I also thought about how I spent my summer sewing time.
While I love to quilt, there’s so much to do outside in summer that smaller projects seem best. I also work one day a week in a fabric and yarn shop—Home Ec Workshop in Iowa City—and we’re always on the lookout for projects that make for good classes, so my small projects sometimes translate into classes. Iowa City is a college town and our busy customers enjoy a quick class that can give them the satisfaction of making something without a big time commitment. (At the same time, we find lots who have sewing machines and can’t wait to use them. Our School of Sewing classes, based on the great book by Shea Henderson, always have a waiting list.)
At any rate, my summer sewing consisted of just one baby quilt, along with checkbook covers, bags to carry to the Farmer’s Market, and tops. Yup, I delved into the world of garment sewing.
I started sewing garments again a couple of summers ago. (Like many of us, I really started in junior high, but haven’t done much since high school.) Two years ago I took a class at our shop to make the Sorbetto top from the free pattern available here. The popularity of garment sewing is definitely on the rise and this one, with no zippers and no buttons seemed pretty basic and I thought I could handle it. But my body isn’t so basic, and fit is always a challenge. (I think that’s probably why a lot of us who love sewing turn to quilting—no fitting issues!) My first top just didn’t work, so I spent some time perusing YouTube and came upon a fantastic technique classes on Creativebug. Thanks to the bust adjustment class taught by Liesl Gibson, I figured out how to make a top that fit and went on to make three of them. This summer it was the Sailor Top that struck my fancy—floaty, light, and simple-to-sew. I can’t wait for Moda’s new lawns to be available in January. They’ll be the perfect weight for tops like these. (The fabrics below are from Moda’s previous Regent Street Lawn collection.)
I mentioned my checkbook cover: Check-writing has almost become a thing of the past, but nevertheless I usually write a few each month. I’d hung on to a bit of Janet Clare’s Hearty Good Wishes whale fabric and thought it would be perfect for taking the sting out of paying bills. I lined it with Abi Hall’s On a Wing. It took almost no time at all and makes me happy every time I see it.Finally, the one quilt I stitched was for a Scottish baby. Little Belle’s parents lived in Iowa City for eighteen months and Belle’s mom, Katie, was fascinated by Iowa quilts. So when I got a bit of Bren Riddle’s Amberside, I knew just what to do with it (along with a few other fabrics from my stash, as I didn’t have quite enough Ambleside). And just for kicks, I decided to use gray sashing, as the baby’s last name is Gray.
Belle was born just two weeks before moving back to Scotland with her parents and one morning I offered to watch her so her parents could pack. I actually sewed the label on the quilt while I was holding her—can you imagine anything sweeter? Just last week I got a picture from Katie of Belle on her quilt, which made me a happy woman. The colors aren’t very true, but I thought you’d still like to see this sweet babe.
What did you stitch this summer? Have you tried any clothing, yet? What are looking forward to stitching this month? Let us know!
We’ve been talking about the wonders of Australia on the blog this week, and it’s time to focus on designer Jen Kingwell. Jen’s ability to combine color and pattern is truly unique (and that’s a word my journalism professors told me not to use unless something was truly one-of-a-kind—in this case it is.) The fabrics Jen’s designed for Moda convey that talent perfectly. There will be more to come from Jen, so keep your eyes peeled, but for now let’s catch up with her. You may remember that she spent the past couple of years living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She moved back to Australia in February, and thanks to a second move is still unpacking.
This is Jen’s sewing studio. “As you can see, not much is happening at the moment,” she says. “Those boxes aren’t all fabric, but mostly.”
Thanks for stepping away from the boxes, Jen, and sharing some time with Cutting Table readers!
• How has life changed since you’ve returned to Australia? Are there things you miss about the UAE?
Since my return life has been incredibly busy. Like everyone, with change comes new ideas and you see things from a different perspective. When living overseas we had furnished the villa with just essentials, no clutter, and on return I realised our house was in need of a major overhaul. So big of an overhaul we decided to sell up and move……I am now officially a hoarder no longer.
I enjoyed my time in the UAE but there is nothing like home and family. I missed my girls terribly while I was away. The other thing I really missed was the change of seasons. The desert looks pretty much the same summer and winter. We have moved to the coast and I could sit for hours and watch the changing sky as storm fronts roll in.
This is Jen’s sewing view. She says it’s worth every bit of packing, decluttering, and moving.
But there are things I miss about the UAE. I was time “rich” there. We lived in a very local area. I had few distractions so plenty of time to design and sew. It was great as this was when I was writing my book Quilt Lovely. Back at home I am busy with “things.” Lovely things like friends and family, dining out, coffee with a friend, just all those normal things I missed so much.
Nine-year-old Matilda (Tilda) belongs to Jen’s daughter, Meg. (Jen says this makes her Tilda’s “dogma.”) Matilda’s become an escape artist and is staying with Jen until Meg figures out her escape route.
• Tell us about your new book, Quilt Lovely. What inspired it?
I started writing the book soon after I arrived in the Middle East. It was a great time to do it and I think it helped me to settle and gave me a focus. I started with one idea and just worked my way through. Pat Sloan ask me in her podcast if I had a plan or theme. She giggled when I said I made one quilt, then thought about the next and moved forward, but that’s the way I like to work. I found a project on the weekend that I had started over there and when I was looking at it thought ” Oh I know what would look great,” so it’s changing as it grows.
I work in a very “organic” way. I start with one idea but things change and evolve along the way. Sometimes one idea become two projects or two can meld together into one. I did try to include in the book some different techniques and looks so there was a good variety of projects to stitch. As I’m sure everyone is aware I’ve been a lover of hand stitching for a very long time and in the perfect world would hand stitch everything, but I know not everyone has my passion for this.
Detail of Jen’s Hip to Be Square quilt
I’m so pleased to see hand stitching becoming more popular. I love that it encourages us to slow down a little and enjoy the process. It’s portable: I stitch on planes, trains, and in automobiles! And I love that it is so sociable. Just last week I was teaching a class in New Zealand and the noise level in the room was incredible as everyone chatted and laughed. Most of these women were dedicated machine stitchers but seemed to really enjoy the “therapy” of needle, thread and a good old chat. I just love sitting and stitching. I never tire of it. I can feel my blood pressure lower as I pick up my stitching. It’s like a giant exhale.
•We’ve been thinking this week about the similarities and differences between quilters from Australia and other places. Any thoughts?
Jen’s Hip to Be Square quilt on the cover of QUILTmania.
I get asked this question quite often and am not sure of the answer. We are a great melting pot of cultures, and we are a long way from the rest of the world, but we are also great travellers so we experience different countries and what they have to offer. I think our style is a lovely mixture of a lot of wonderful ideas and things from all corners of the world. We have some great designers.
Our quilt stores are much smaller than in the U.S. Our population is smaller so each store seems to develop a niche style.
Hand stitching is definitely popular here and has been for decades. It’s not a new thing. I don’t think we see it as “fashionable or not,” it’s more about enjoyment and passion. I smile inwardly sometimes when things become “new” again. Big stitch quilting, for example, has been around forever. I guess that’s the one good thing about being geriatric…..I’m just pleased I can still remember!!!
But I can also remember coming to the U.S. many years ago and I feel that hand stitching was popular back then also. I guess things just change all the time, clever designers come up with new ways and techniques. Like fashion, quilting is cyclic.
Well, we’re so glad that Jen is part of that cycle and look forward to her future creations!
You likely know QuiltJane: you may read her blog, follow her on Instagram, or know her patterns. QuiltJane really gets around (after attending Spring 2015 Market in Minneapolis she taught in Iowa and would love to do more international teaching), but she’s rooted firmly in Australia. It’s there that QuiltJane—aka Jane Davidson—runs her long-arm quilting and online businesses (Need It Want It Quilt), and recently self-published Desert to Sea, 10 designs from Australian Quilters, a collection of ten colorful quilts from bloggers and quilting friends. You’ll be able to enjoy QuiltJane’s designs stateside, soon. She’s started Quilt Jane Patterns, and they’ll be printed and distributed by United Notions.
QuiltJane’s Hometown Nights pattern, made with Pat Sloan’s new Hometown Girl line, is one of the five QuiltJane designs included in Moda’s soon-to-be-released September catalog.
Jane is a big fan of Moda fabrics (she claims to have a “Moda shrine” in her house) and Moda’s a fan of Jane—some of her designs will be featured in the September pre-market catalog. We asked Jane a bit about herself and the way her quilting reflects her Aussie roots. Read on!
Jane’s “Moda shrine”
• Your mum taught you to sew, but how did you learn to quilt?
My friend Rosie and I booked into a beginners quilting class at our local quilt shop in 1984. One self-designed, complex block (13 templates), hand-pieced, hand-quilted project later I had made my first official quilt. I was hooked. What keeps me interested is that quilting is a dynamic art, continually changing, moving in a forward direction to reflect the contemporary ideas and styles of community. I never liked the phrase, ‘there is nothing new in quilting’. There is always something new to design, re-invent, create.
Grey Matter pattern
• You started your business in 2010. What did you do previously? Does that work influence your designs?
I was working very long hours at jobs in bioscience and IT and wanted to be around my small children. My core training as a scientist has had a great impact on how I design. I like the challenge, the outcomes, and the mathematics behind quilt assembly. While it does affect my ability to overthink certain aspects of design, it has never stunted my ability to mix colours and patterns together. I never overthink what fabrics I am going to use in a quilt. Nature is a chaotic mixture of colour, texture, and design elements, and thrown altogether it looks aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Rock Pools quilt block
• How do you think living in Australia affects your designs and color choices?
Living in Australia, I want to make a design as bright as the coral in the Great Barrier Reef or as neutral as the red sands of the Simpson desert.
Desert Sands quilt
• Tell us a big about your home life. What do you do when you’re not quilting?
If I am not running my small quilting business then I am being a mother to my two lovely boys, who have no interest whatsoever in quilting. I love my garden and the native animals that visit. I have the cutest mini apricot poodle, called Jasper Carrot, who sits at my feet all day in the quilting room and keeps me company. I love to sing and write the occasional music composition. When I was younger learned piano, oboe, and cello. My weakness is chocolate and I love crime shows. It’s all about the mystery.
Jane’s quilting companion, Jasper Carrot
• It seems that Australians have a different attitude toward quilting than Americans. What do you think, and what differences do you see between the two quilting cultures?
Australians love colour as it reflects the landscapes and oceans of our beautiful country, but we also love the traditional country styles. I think that we embrace the use of vibrant colours and bold prints more than our U.S. counterparts, which makes our quilts a little more eclectic in style. Similar to the American culture, we also have communities of quilters that favour one style over another but not exclusively. Being part of two modern quilting guilds, I see such a diversity in style from all age groups. The Internet has not only opened up accessibility to products, it has inspired Aussies with images of quilts from all around the globe.
Nested Churn Dash pattern
Check out more of QuiltJane’s patterns in Moda’s September catalog!