In the movie “Terms of Endearment”, Garrett - Jack Nicholson - says he wished the astronauts could get together in a room and talk about what it was like to be in space, how amazing it all was.
While quilting isn't the same thing as riding a rocket into space, I still sort of know what he meant.
It's one of the most frustrating things about going to Market. I meet all these talented, creative, really cool people and we rarely have the time to really talk about fabric, stitching, quilting, making stuff and being in the quilting business. We see each other at Markets and sometimes in between, and even though we might get along well, I know I'm not the only one who would love to ask questions, pick each other's ideas, get opinions and so on. There’s not enough time and sometimes other things get in the way.
So one of the very best things about this new gig of mine is that I get to do that - all the things I'm curious about but haven't had the chance to ask these folks I like and respect, whose work I love.
Like Anne Sutton. Bunny Hill Designs.
When you heard the name, I’m betting the first thing that came to mind is a beautiful appliqué quilt, probably a block of the month that includes lots of embroidery and probably some piecing. A bucket-list kind of quilt - one where the finished quilt is worth every lovely stitch.
Have you seen Mistletoe Lane? It's Anne's newest collection for Moda and we've been waiting for it a really long time.
The colors are beautiful - traditional Christmas mixed with a dash of sophisticated shabby chic. Doesn't this lovely bundle have you craving a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows and a peppermint stirrer?
Maybe that's just me. I think it's the ice skates.
You can't see it in the picture but don't miss the tag panel. I think I'm going to need some of this fabric. The tags are designed to fit in the little pockets Anne has designed for the main quilt - it's an Advent quilt. But the tags are also perfect for a garland, as ornaments on a tree, or even tied onto packages. (Rumor has it that Anne is planning to stash some of this.)
Anne also started a Snowman Heart of the Month Club called Snow Happy Hearts Club. It uses Mistletoe Lane fabric and Primitive Gatherings Primitive Muslin Flannel in Daisy. The pattern is posted the 5th of each month and it’s free. And it’s adorable. (Yes, shops are welcome to use the patterns for a club.)
So this is what I asked Anne…
Coming up with new ideas is always a challenge and after doing so many beautiful, original block-of-the-month quilts, do you ever worry that you'll run out of ideas?
Designing an appliqué quilt is like telling a story and there are lots of stories to be told. First I’ll think up some fun characters and then I’m off and running. Mistletoe Lane featured Cinnamon Goose and once I had her character in mind, the rest just followed.
What is the most challenging part about designing – and then writing – a quilt for a block-of-the-month?
I have to say the most challenging part for me is waiting for the fabric to arrive It’s the nature of the business that the fabric usually doesn’t arrive until right before market. Appliqué quilts take time to make so I need to be ready to go the minute the fabric arrives. Obviously I have help because I could never do it all by myself so it’s a stressful time and everything else has to wait. And because I’m moving so fast there’s always a chance I’ll make a mistake.
I love that your appliqué quilts also feature so much embroidery. While embroidery has always been popular, there are so many newcomers wanting to learn how. Aside from your outstanding tutorials, if you could recommend one book or website as a starting point, what would it be?
My go-to book is called the Embroidery Stitch Tool by DMC & Emma Broidery. It’s spiral bound and the perfect size to carry with you. You’ll find lots of tips in the book, plus wonderful diagrams for most of the basic stitches. I recommend starting with a book like this and then moving on to larger books once you’re sure you’ll keep going.
If I wanted to learn how to embroider, what three "things" do I absolutely need to have?
- A good embroidery needle, either Jeana Kimball’s Foxglove Cottage Embroidery/Redwork needles in Size 10 or 11 or the Tulip Embroidery needles in Size 8. And yes, I do recommend the Size 8 in the Tulip needles as the smaller eye makes it difficult to get the floss threaded.
- Small Sharp scissors - 4” scissors are perfect for embroidery.
- A fabric pencil or Clover water erasable marker for tracing designs.
- A selection of beautiful embroidery floss in fun colors - and start with 6-strand floss. Oops that was four things!
Aside from “practice, practice, practice” – stitch, stitch, stitch – what advice would you give to beginners?
Most beginners make their stitches too large. If you start with trying to keep your stitches small, you’ll be much happier with your embroidery. Smaller stitches will also make a huge difference when you’re going around curves and dips so aim for stitches that are about 1/8” in length.
Use a backing behind your embroidery when you can, either Moda Cuddle Cloth Flannel or Pellon Designer’s Lite Fusible Interfacing. You can get away without a hoop for most stitches if you back your embroidery. Having said that, I don’t back the embroidery on an appliqué quilt because the background acts as the backing.
So enquiring minds want to know… do you have a fabric "stash"?
Of course! I’m always finding fabric I love. Who can resist fabric? Now my stash is by fabric collection so I buy fat quarter bundles and if I love the line, I’ll also buy extra yardage for backgrounds and borders.
You're known for your beautiful appliqué. Is there a difference between you stash for appliqué and what you would stash for piecing?
Not really. I need light, medium and dark fabrics along with different size prints. I may have more background prints in my stash than quilters who prefer piecing. I’m always sure to add that one larger print for appliqué that will bring together all the colors in my quilt. It’s the focus print, the same as you’d add to a pieced quit.
There are several awesome background fabrics in Mistletoe Lane... if this weren't your fabric and you were stashing it, how much would you get? Why that amount?
When you find a background fabric you love, buy 2 yards. You just never know what you’ll use it for and 2 yards seems to be the magic number. It gives you enough for large backgrounds and if you don’t use it all in one quilt, you’ll pull from it again and again. I’d be sure and add the snowflake and trees from Mistletoe Lane - Number 2885 16 and Number 2882 16 - to your stash.
What do you look for in a great background fabric?
I look for small-scale prints with a neutral background. Take a Look at my Mistletoe Lane quilt, and you’ll see how I’ve used a combination of small-scale, light tonal prints, with a few dark ones added for interest.
Last question... You've been given the ability to do a Vulcan mind-meld with anybody in the quilt industry. Who would you pick? Por quoi? What is it that this person does that you want to know and understand?
I stand in awe of Amy Butler. I love everything she stands for in the industry and of course everything she designs. She’s not only talented, she’s also a great business woman. I admire how gracious and kind she is, and when I see her booth at Market, I’m always enthralled with how creative it is.
I could say the same thing about Anne.
After all, she let me
swipe use all these beautiful pictures.
Thank you Anne!