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Once Upon A Time with Franny and Jane

Once Upon A Time with Franny and Jane

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

frannyjane_qmbooth For Franny and Jane, the story’s the thing.

Franny (Frances Newcombe) studied children’s book illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and believes that creating a fabric collection is a form of storytelling. And you may remember that Jane (aka QuiltJane) is a sucker for stories of crime and mystery (you can read our earlier interview with her here. So when the two of them got together to design a fabric collection for Moda, they wanted to tell a tale. The result is Manderley, a unique collection of ocean-and-mansion inspired fabrics.

IMG_4234 Jane's Enchanted Garden pattern sewn in the seaside shades of Manderley

(A journalism professor told me never to use the word “unique,” claiming that nothing truly is, but in this case I think he’s wrong. While Manderley has all the elements of great collection of quilting fabric, it does double-duty, as it was designed specifically with English paper piecing—aka EPP—in mind. Elements within the fabric—flowers, turtles, bunnies, and birds—were scaled to fit perfectly within one-and two-inch EPP templates.)

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So how do two people, who live on two separate continents—Fran in Los Angeles, and Jane near Brisbane, Australia—go about designing such a collection? Well, technology plays a big part in making it possible.

“We spend a lot of time on Skype and we text, too, so we communicate almost every day,” says Fran. “We share files on Dropbox and share screens. But we do get distracted and laugh a lot.”

IMG_4227 Manderley's motifs fit perfectly in the EPP templates used to create these pillows.

That’s probably because the two share more than computer skills. Fran remembers that when she and Jane met at Quilt Market in 2014, Jane called her a “soul sister.”

“I somehow knew intuitively that we were meant to work together,” says Fran.

IMG_4239 Jane's Lotus pattern is on the right. Manderley's fresh colors really pop against the dark background.

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While Fran’s and Jane’s creativity evidenced itself when they were young—both remember making doll clothes and Fran loved decorating her dollhouse—their lives took very different paths in adulthood. Jane trained as a scientist and worked in IT and bioscience, while Fran did television graphics for NBC, The Discovery Channel, and other stations. Both eventually left their full-time careers to freelance and spend more time with their sons—Jane has two and Fran has one—and both had fallen under the spell of quilting.

Their combined efforts bring the best of both their worlds—Jane mathematical and pattern design skills and Fran’s drawing and graphic design skills have crossed over to enhance their line of fabrics. “Together we’re a great match and hope to bring a wonderful product that people love,” says Fran.

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Their collection is named after the mansion in Rebecca, the 1938 novel by Daphne DuMaurier that was adapted into a thriller/mystery film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940. Though the story’s themes align with Jane’s love of mystery—a young woman marries an older man and moves to his slightly sinister seaside manor—the fabrics are anything but gloomy and focus on secret gardens, Asian-inspired decorative elements, seashells, and flowers, all done in fresh hues. For Quilt Market, they took their story and worked it into an incredible range pillows, bags, coasters and quilts, including those Jane designed just for Manderley.

IMG_4226 Jane's Baltimore by the Sea pattern

But that’s their story. And now it’s your turn. As Fran says, “With each choice a fabric designer makes, they are telling a unique story. In turn, the quilter will rearrange those fabrics to tell their own story.”

Have you ever thought of quilting as storytelling? What's your story?

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