Sherri McConnell and Chelsi Stratton: A Quilting Life

Is design talent genetic? If you take a look at Moda’s fabric designers, you might think so…there’s the mother-and-daughter team Bonnie (Olavesen) and Camille (Roskelley); sisters (Polly) Minick and (Laurie) Simpson, Deb Strain and her daughers Arrin Turnmire and Katie Strain; The Jungs (Lauren, Jessie, and Carrie); and Me and My Sister (Mary Jacobson and Barb Groves).

View More: http://korindiphotography.pass.us/quiltgirls

Well, it’s time to welcome another family unit to the fold: Mom Sherri McConnell and daughter Chelsi Stratton.

2014-06-13 11.03.33

Sherri’s sewing room

Sherri’s no stranger to Moda. Her patterns have appeared in the Moda Bake Shop and she’s sewn sample quilts for Joanna Figureroa and Camillle Roskelley. She was a contributor to the Cutting Table blog and writes her own, popular blog A Quilting Life. But designing fabric was only a dream until she had an epiphany while returning from teaching at a retreat in Utah. “I was driving by myself and suddenly it clicked that I might be able to do fabric if Chelsi helped me,” says Sherri. “I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before!”

View More: http://korindiphotography.pass.us/quiltgirls

Chelsi Stratton

While the idea was good, the timing was less so—Chelsi was expecting her second daughter in a month. Despite the impending “distraction,” she was excited by the prospect. “I always loved sorting through fabrics in my mom’s sewing room, but I didn’t realize there was such a thing as being a fabric designer until I was about 20,” says Chelsi. “When I found out, that’s what I wanted to do.”

View More: http://korindiphotography.pass.us/quiltgirls

Sherri McConnell

The pair didn’t get serious until after Chelsi’s baby girl was born (Harper is now a year old and her sister, Ashton is three-and-a half), they put their heads together and, as Sherri describes it, “we went into overdrive.” Chelsi drew, while Sherri helped with scale and provided “chicken-scratch” renderings that Chelsi recreated in Illustrator. “I really wasn’t sure it could happen,” says Sherri. “I wasn’t being negative. I felt we had to try, but a lot of people try.”

DSCN1873

To their delight, the outcome was positive. Sherri and Chelsi’s first line, Bright Sun, draws inspiration from the desert, mountains, and sunsets of southern Nevada, where they both live. It also pays homage to a great-great-great-great grandfather who was a chief of the Omaha tribe and had a daughter named Bright Sun. “We didn’t have it in mind when we created the line, but the name couldn’t be more perfect,” says Chelsi. Sherri’s designed several quilt patterns to go with the fabrics, including one called Omaha. “My dad is buried in Decatur, Nebraska, not too far from the Missouri River and all his ancestors came from there,” says Sherri, who is the author of two books, including Fresh Family Traditions: 18 Heirloom Quilts for a New Generation, which pays homage to the quilts her grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother stitched.il_570xN.769867449_lvt6

This is a family where connections run deep, and designing a line of fabric together seems to be strengthening the ties between Sherri and Chelsi. “I have gotten much closer to my mom, while working with my her,” says Chelsi. “She shares my love of creativity and I appreciate the bond we have.” And Sherri, who says she’s always known that all of her four children are hard workers, has enjoyed the opportunity to watch Chelsi in action. “It’s refreshing to see that she wasn’t going to take anything for granted,” says Sherri. “Her hard work inspired me to do more. I don’t know how people do it themselves. It’s wonderful to share the experience.”

Meet Corey Yoder, a new Moda designer

Though she grew up with quilters on both her mother’s and father’s side of the family, Corey Yoder really wasn’t interested in quilting. Then she visited stores near her home in Ohio’s Amish country and fell in love with fabric.Corey Yoder Headshot

“I’d buy it without knowing what I’d do with it,” she says “This went on for awhile until I thought ‘This is ridiculous!’” Corey’s mom suggested she make a quilt. “I found a maple leaf pattern and chose the fabrics and cut them out using templates and scissors—no rotary cutter—then sent it over to my mom to sew. We did this for a while and eventually it became apparent I needed to learn to sew myself. So I did!”

Spools and Stitches

The colors of this cross stitch BOM Corey was sharing on her blog inspired the palette for her new Moda line, Prairie.

This love of textiles is why Corey is especially excited to be one of Moda’s newest designers. “Fabric is what sucks me in,” she says. “I enjoy all kinds, modern and traditional, and love designing fabrics and quilts.” Her first fabric line, Prairie, will be making its debut this month at Quilt Market. “It uses some of my favorite warm, sherbert-y colors with small scale patterns, because I like smaller piecing,” she says.

Book Projects

Projects from Corey’s Playful Petals book

Around that same time she’ll be debuting patterns to accompany her fabric. Designing quilts isn’t new to Corey—her patterns appear in magazines from American Patchwork and Quilting and McCall’s to Fat Quarterly and Stitch, as well as in the Moda Bake Shop and Moda’s Sweet Celebrations book. Last year she published her patterns in, Playful Petals, which focuses on raw-edge, fusible applique, a technique she used extensively in the kid’s clothing she made under the name Little Miss Shabby.

lilli picture

The Yoder family’s Yorkie, Lilli, sleeps soundly amongst Corey’s pillows.

That business got its start in 2006, when Corey dressed her first daughter, Chloe, in clothes she made for her. Friends asked if she’d make some for them and Little Miss Shabby was born. Corey’s second daughter, Elonie, was born in 2008 and that was when Corey returned to quiltmaking. “I’d made a lot of applique jeans and while I enjoyed the design aspect, I didn’t so much like making the same things over and over,” says Corey. The online quilting community called to Corey and she participated in sew-a-longs and bees. “One year I did eight or nine bees,” she says. “I tend to jump into things with excitement and vigor. If one is fun, nine will be nine times as fun!”

Market Quilts

Quilts for Market are stacking up at Corey’s house, including the second one from the top that was hand quilted by her mom.

While this attitude sometimes gets Corey in over her head, she says that if quilting weren’t fun she wouldn’t do it anymore. She likes to remind others it’s okay not to make every part of a quilt yourself. “If you don’t enjoy quilting, it’s okay to send your quilts to a quilter,” she says. “Traditional piecing not your thing? Go improv! If you’re not enjoying some part of it then change it up, try something different, or farm out the part you don’t like. Get rid of the rules and have fun with what you’re doing, because it opens up a world of possibilities.”

Sewing Room

Piano or stash storage? Corey likes to move her sewing machine and fabric to wherever her family is so she can work with them nearby.

Part of what’s fun for Corey is sharing stitching with her Mom, who is helping sew samples for Market, and her daughters. In recent weeks Corey and her mom have set up sewing machines at Corey’s house and Chloe and Elonie have joined them, cutting, gluing, ironing, and jumping on the sewing machines when Corey and her mom are taking a break. “Chloe is making funny little stuffed animals out of the Prairie scraps,” says Corey with a laugh. “There are stuffed animals all over the place!” Chloe’s also helping her mom stay focused in the frantic pre-Market days. “She’s only nine but she said ‘Mom, you just need to make a list and check it off every day and you’ll be fine.’” Chloe is obviously wise beyond her years.

Girls Sewing during market prep

Whenever Corey and her mom take a break from sewing, Corey’s daughters Elonie and Chloe step in, eager to help with Market prep.

For more about Corey, including some free patterns and tutorials, visit her blog Little Miss Shabby.

1canoe2: Vibrant Design Grows in the American Midwest

1canoe2 farmstead1canoe2 operates out of an old barn in rural Missouri, on the farm where Carrie Shyrock grew up. Though she’s lived and traveled elsewhere, it’s the landscape she grew up in that provides inspiration for the designs she creates for the company she started with friend Beth Snyder.

“I’ve traveled and lived a lot of different places and now I realize there’s something so beautiful about this place,” she says. “I’m obsessed with the sky—seeing the clouds change and the storms roll in—and with the wildflowers that grow on the roadsides in summertime.”

1canoe2 group photo_2014

The happy crew of 1canoe2. At left are business partners Karen Shyrock and Carrie Shyrock. Partner Beth Snyder is fourth from the left.

That love of nature right outside her window will be shared with fabric lovers in October, when 1canoe2’s first line of Moda fabrics, Tucker Prairie, hits the stores. Beth is especially excited by the opportunity to create fabric. “I majored in graphic design and fiber in college, so fabric design is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she says.

IMG_1819

Beth and Carrie went to high school together and college too—at the University of Missouri in Columbia—and both studied and enjoyed art. After college, Beth was working as a graphic designer and living in Nashville when her husband-to-be bought her a small letterpress on Ebay so she could print her wedding invitations. “I just love touching ink, changing colors, and getting dirty,” says Beth. Carrie contributed some drawings to the process and after they wedding they continued to work together long distance.

Beth moved back to Missouri in 2008 and she and Carrie opened an Etsy shop, selling wooden recipe boxes made by Beth’s father, filled with the recipe cards they’d designed. Since they’d enjoyed canoe trips together on Missouri’s clear, spring-fed rivers, they decided to name their shop 1canoe2, which Beth says is shorthand for one canoe, two girls. “But I didn’t really think it through, because I’m always having to tell people ‘It’s the number one, the word canoe, and the number two,’” she says with a laugh.

IMG_1823

In the loft of the renovated barn, where Carrie’s dad used to store lumber, 1canoe2 staffers prep samples for Quilt Market.

 

Today, 1canoe2 employs between 11 and 15 people. Carrie’s sister-in-law Karen Shyrock has joined as a partner. “It’s a talented, hard-working team and I’m so proud of how they treat one another and how they help 1canoe2 do our best,” says Beth. The company works with manufacturers to produce greeting cards, calendars, art prints, notebooks, glassware, tea towels and more, which they ship themselves to shops large and small. (They still print some of their designs via letterpress, although a much bigger press than the one they started with.)

IMG_1824

Another view of sample-making in the loft. The open, light-filled spaces work well for the 1canoe2 team.

 

Each 1canoe2 piece is adorned with the fresh designs that are typically based on Carrie’s paintings. “Carrie comes up with brilliant ideas and color palettes no one else would ever think of,” says Beth, who then imports them into her computer. The two sit side-by-side to make design choices. “My role is to do design and to run the business and I’m really enjoying that. We have total artistic control and we think having our hands on every product is what makes them special.” She mentions that working with Moda has been a perfect fit in that way. “They’ve let us do exactly what we wanted and have been great to work with.”

Friends and relatives gathered this week to prep samples for spring Quilt Market. Beth's mom is on the step stool. Her aunts also helped out.

Friends and relatives gathered this week to prep samples for spring Quilt Market. Beth’s mom is on the step stool. Her aunts also helped out.

Carrie and Beth are preparing for Quilt Market: Beth’s mom, aunts, and family friends pitched in to make samples this week, and 1canoe2 employees did the same. In the photo of staff in the loft, it’s easy to see the barn has changed significantly since the days when Carrie’s great-grandfather raised mules and when her dad stored lumber here. Concrete’s replaced dirt floors and insulation keeps it warm in winter. “It’s a bright, open space that’s perfect for what we’re doing now,” says Carrie.

Outside the barn Carrie’s family still grows corn and soybeans in the wide open fields that inspire 1canoe2. Inside, 1canoe2 raises an appreciation for color and fresh, vibrant design. “We feel so lucky we get to do this work,” says Beth.

IMG_1836

More Quilt Market prep. About the sample sewing day Beth said, “We made a big mess and had a lot of fun.”

 

Meet new Moda designer Betsy Chutchian

Moda Betsy Signing Books

Betsy Chutchian may be one of Moda’s new designers, but she’s certainly not new to the quilting world. Author of four books with Kansas City Star, co-founder of the 19th-century Patchwork Divas, former owner and a current employee of Lone Star House of Quilts in Arlington, Texas, Betsy’s been combining her love of history and quilting for more than 30 years.

Moda Betsy Sewing Room

Betsy’s sewing days started in childhood, when both grandmothers taught her to sew on their treadle machines. In 1969 her aunt gave her the 1940s-era Singer machine that Betsy used for nearly 20 years. Betsy’s mom didn’t sew. “I think it reminded her too much of the Depression and she wanted no part of it,” says Betsy.

IMG_3031

Betsy loves antiques: Here her quilts mingle with an old church pew, coverlet, dishes, and painted cabinet.

When Betsy graduated from college in 1980 she inherited a family quilt top. Using books from the library, she taught herself to quilt, starting with baby quilts for her son and daughter. Despite having two small children, she managed to eke out time to hone her quilting skills. “They were wonderful nappers and would sleep three to five hours at a time,” says Betsy, who hand-pieced and hand-quilted her early work. (Today, her time is limited and she laughs as she quotes a friend who says, “Instead of by hand, I quilt by check.”)

Over the years, Betsy worked in several quilt shops and then bought Lone Star House of Quilts. But just a month later she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. “The shop kept me busy at a bad time, but I was so exhausted I could hardly put one foot in front of the other,” she says. Nine months later, she sold the business. “And here I am, 13 years later!”

Betsy Chutchian's granddaughter Madison

Betsy’s granddaughter Madison

The end of shop ownership was far from the end of her career in the quilting industry. Writing books opened doors for her and she continues to teach Jo Morton’s Little Women’s Club and to travel to share her 19th-century reproduction quilts and wool program. “I love getting people interested in history,” she says.

madison's room

Madison’s modern decor works perfectly with the traditional quilts Betsy made for her granddaughter

Betsy’s new line for Moda, Eliza’s Indigo, is a perfect example. The fabrics are named for Eliza Lucas Pickney, the daughter of a South Carolina plantation owner from the 1700s. When her father had to return to his Antigua home, Eliza took over the family business and turned the plantation into a major producer of indigo, eventually growing enough for export to Britain. “It took her three years to develop it and get a good crop,” says Betsy. “She was only 16 when she took over. Can you imagine your 16-year-old daughter doing something like that? It’s a fascinating story.”

FullSizeRender-3

Betsy’s cat Molly appreciates quilts, as do her other two cats Winston and Hudson.

Betsy’s home reflects this love of history and of stitching. “I have quilts everywhere in my house,” she says. “They’re stacked to the ceiling in one bedroom. There’s just enough room for a cat to go on the top, though he’s scared to climb up because they might fall.” Her collection includes about 60 antique quilts and tops, along with blocks and fabrics, and that doesn’t include the quilts she’s stitched. “I haven’t counted them, because I don’t want my husband to know,” she says with a laugh.

A collection of brown transferware dishes complements this Courthouse Steps quilt

A collection of brown transferware dishes complements this Courthouse Steps quilt