I love it when we get to the machine quilting part of a Quilt Along! I’ve just finished my fourth book on machine quilting so I feel like that is one of my specialties. I’m excited for you to try free motion stipple quilting like I did on my Modern Logs, or another quilting design of your choice.
I made a video with all my best tips and tricks for quilting Modern Logs. Just nine minutes but it’s packed full of help and guidance! Click play below to watch.
If you’ve never tried free motion quilting or a stipple (also called a meander), layer up a couple of fat quarters with batting and practice there before you start on your real quilt. You can quilt on this practice sandwich many times over, using it as a warm-up if you like.
I can’t wait to see how you decide to quilt your Modern Logs!
In one of my early Ask Me Anything episodes in the Christa Quilts Group on Facebook, lots of folks were interested in my fabric design process. So I’ve put together some images and files to share a peek into how the process works for me, and my experience in designing fabrics for Benartex.
About five years ago, I decided to get serious about designing fabric. As part of that goal, in 2016 I went to an industry event sponsored by Sara Lawson @sewsweetness and Brenda Ratliff @pinkcastlefabrics. It was called Sew Pro and it was only held that one time.
It was geared to helping people understand the different ways you could get involved behind the scenes of the industry. After that event, I decided to give myself five years to figure it all out, find a fabric company, pitch my ideas, learn the technical aspects and so on.
Two days later, the most unusual thing happened. (Really and truly, this almost never happens.) Benartex called and said they wanted to produce some modern-type fabrics under their Contempo label, and would I be interested in designing for them.
But in the same breath I said, “I don’t really know how to do that.”
Now before I tell you the rest of the story, I should explain that I had already established myself as a Martingale author and a Bernina ambassador. I’d spent years developing a network in the industry, so while it was completely out of the blue for them to call me, it also wasn’t completely out of the blue for them to call me.
Bernina actually owns Benartex as well as a distributor called Brewer Sewing, so my connections in other parts of the industry helped me break in to the fabric design arena.
Now Back to the rest of the Story:
As it turns out, there are at least three different ways to design fabric.
100% of the work is done by the designer
Designer collaborates with a team at the fabric company
Design work done by a team at the fabric company, designer’s name is attached to the fabric
My work with Benartex falls under #2 above: It’s a design collaboration.
When I told them I didn’t know how to design fabric, their response was, “No problem!” They assured me they had people skilled in the technical aspects and that we could work together.
So I jumped in, and Good Vibes (out in July) is my sixth collection for Benartex! (Cannot wait to show you all the fun things we’ve made with it!)
The Design Process
Before anything else can happen, I come up with ideas for prints and make rough sketches with notes. (Side note: Ideas are everywhere! One print in Gridwork was inspired by a bath mat in a hotel.)
The first thing we did with Modern Marks was to establish a “look.” (And by the way, that look is something I have continued through all of my lines.) When the first samples (below) came back to me, I thought they were beautiful, but they were not the look I was after. They were blendy and batiky and I wanted a flat, geometric, modern feel.
The first paper swatches that came back from Benartex
I got more descriptive about what I wanted, and we worked our way closer. This is how it happens.
A more evolved concept for Modern Marks on paper—we were getting closer!
We go back and forth as I share my ideas and vision, and they continually refine it and bring it closer and closer to what’s in my mind.
They create the repeats and together we work on getting the colors just right. The stylist and the graphic designers have the technical expertise and they help me bring my ideas to life!
Then comes The hard part…
Quirky Triangles made the cut, but Donuts did not.
Eventually we have prints and colors I’m happy with and then comes a really difficult part: narrowing it down. My collections are usually from 20 to 25 prints, which means I always have to weed out a few.
Heartbeat was cut from Modern Marks, but Herringbone stayed in.
It is so much fun when the final swatches are done! I usually only see the line on paper until I get the actual fabric months later. But this is the culmination of much hard work, many twists and turns and a few tricky decisions! It’s all worth it when you see the collection together!
Final swatches for Modern Marks
The Good News
Fortunately, just because an idea doesn’t work for one collection doesn’t mean it won’t ever work. I tuck all of the rejects away, literally (in a drawer) and figuratively (in my head) because they make great starting points down the road. More on that a little later.
My first computer drawings for Fandangle were reminiscent of Spirograph as a kid.
For Fandangle, I had the childhood concept of Spirograph in my mind and wanted to do a little more of the computer work myself. Above are the early images I created in Illustrator.
The design starts to evolve for the main Fandangle print.
Just above are some of the paper swatches that came back to me as we collaborated.
The final design of the main or “hero” print for Fandangle
And these are the final look for the main print in Fandangle. There are many steps that happen between these images, but you’re getting the idea of how it works.
Let’s circle back to the idea of rejects being useful down the road. On the right in the photo above is my upcoming line called Good Vibes. On the left are some low-volumes I wanted for Modern Marks that didn’t work out.
The main idea for Good Vibes was soft and loud: low-volume prints and bold, saturated prints together. The low volume idea was something I had to scrap from Modern Marks, but I held on to it and half a dozen collections later, it’s going to be one of my very favorites! Good Vibes will ship to stores in July; ask for it at your local quilt shop!
Mockup of the promotional folder for Modern Marks
One of the last things that happens is the creation of the promotional materials. The Benartex people send me a mockup (above) and later the final folder, which is used to show the fabric to potential buyers during quilt market, and by sales reps visiting quilt shops around the country.
It’s still amazing to me that from my simple drawings such a beautiful thing can appear! If you’ve read this far, I want to offer you a deal.
I’m excited to be a part of Virtual Quilt Market June 2–4, a brand new event from Quilts Inc. Traditional quilt market has been reimagined in light of current events and it’s going to be so interesting to see everyone’s creativity come shining through!
I’ll debuting my 6th fabric line for Benartex called Good Vibes which is a nod to good vibes and happy times of my childhood as a kid growing up in the 80s!
There are 10 low volume prints and 10 saturated colors, all featuring my signature, colorful geometrics. Here’s a sneak peek for now – I can’t wait to tell you more about them!
Here’s a short, seven-minute video I put together for Benartex to introduce the line. I’m still working on quilts and patterns, and everything will begin shipping to stores in July of 2020.
I will be sharing more about this collection during my virtual Quilt Market Schoolhouse at 10:40 AM Central on Wednesday, June 3. This event is for registered, paid attendees. To view the Schoolhouse sessions during Virtual Quilt Market, register for General Access or All Access. Find complete details at VirtualQuiltMarket.com. There are also business webinars and of course, tons of new quilty products of all kinds.
If you can’t catch the live presentations, all registered attendees will have access to the content for one month after the event. There will be so much to see! I hope you’ll take advantage of this great chance to get the latest scoop on what’s happening in the quilting industry.
You can’t imagine how much fun it was to name the prints in Good Vibes. My memories of Gumballs, Slippin’ Slide, Bedazzled, Good Vibrations, Interconnected and Circuit Board are all immortalized in fabric. They bring a smile to my face!
Benartex has put together this handy guide for shops. Feel free to download and save the Good Vibes Lookbook and tell your favorite shop owners to contact their Benartex sales rep to order. The best part of designing any collection is seeing what others make with it – and I can’t wait!!
I’m a little reluctant to admit that it’s weird seeing myself on camera, but I’m trying to get used to performing on video. I’m really comfortable teaching and speaking in front of a live audience, but when the camera rolls, there’s that fraction of a second of “deer-in-the-headlights feeling”. However, I’m glad that I’m getting a wee bit of practice because I would like to do some video tutorials/classes in the future. 🙂
While I was at QuiltCon I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by the legendary Alex Anderson of The Quilt Show. We recently met last year at the BERNINA ambassador reunion, and it was so fun to catch up with her again. The interview is only about 5 minutes long but if you’ve never heard me speak before – here’s your chance to see how fast I talk! 🙂
The second video I’m sharing is a 50 minute episode of Quilt It The Longarm Show that is available for purchase from QNNtv. Last summer, I was invited to share tips and tricks on how I machine quilt on a sit-down long arm. (Thanks goodness – otherwise, this could have turned into a comedy show for sure. Nobody wants to see me flounder around on a stand-up long-arm machine, LOL!!)