Laurie Simpson says she and her sister and co-designer Polly Minick were “blown away” by Infinite Variety, the exhibition of 650 red-and-white quilts that hung in New York City’s Park Avenue Armory in March, 2011.
“It was so artfully hung it took your breath away,” says Laurie. “It was like a piece of performance art, with people milling around and talking about the quilts. Polly has always collected two-color quilts, mostly blue and white, and they're strikingly graphic and seem both old and modern at the same time. After seeing Infinite Variety we wanted to see what we could do with just two colors."
The result is Midwinter Reds, in stores just in time for creating cozy holiday quilts and home décor items. The line also includes woven ikat fabrics that work perfectly for making lush scarves. “I’d seen patchwork scarves made by a fiber artist from shibori and ikat indigo fabrics that I thought were beautiful,” says Laurie. “So I unraveled an edge of our fabric and it worked perfectly. Serge one end and you have a high-end scarf. I also use these wovens interchangeably with quilting cottons in my quilts.”
Laurie and Polly have been designing fabric for Moda for more than 14 years (Midwinter Reds is their 36th line) and are inspired first by old quilts, but also by folk art, color trends, and anything graphic. “We go to New York once a year, even for a weekend,” says Laurie, who lives in Michigan, while Polly lives in Florida. “We get a lot of inspiration just window shopping—Anthropologie windows are a great for that.”
While Polly is best known for her hooked rug designs, Laurie is the quilter. She pieces all her quilts on her Singer Featherweight and prefers to hand quilt them whenever possible. Lately she’s been especially drawn to big stitch quilting, using 12-weight Aurifil thread.
“I started playing around with it off and on in the last couple of years and am blown away by how fast it is,” says Laurie. “Some people don’t want to take on hand work, they think it takes too long, but every evening I’m stitching on something and get a lot done and really enjoy it.” She notes that big stiches won’t work on every quilt, however. “With some traditional or very accomplished quilts you might want the details of small quilting. I’m working on a tiny English paper-pieced quilt and big stitch quilting would overwhelm that. Sometimes it can have a whimsical look—it lends itself well to contemporary and modern quilts.”
Laurie and Polly's next line, Grant Park, will debut at Quilt Market later this month and should be in stores in early 2014. In the meantime, snuggle up to the warmth of Winter Reds.