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Jen Kingwell ~ Designing

Jen Kingwell ~ Designing

Written by: 
Carrie Nelson

Have you ever wanted to get inside the head of a quilter whose work you love to ask "why"?

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Green Tea

Green Tea & Sweet Beans - JKD 5002

Not "why did you get that haircut".  But why that color?  Why those fabrics together?  Is there a thought process, or is this instinct?  Or simply... I like how this looks?

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Dear Jen Crop

Dear Jen - JKD 8625

Let’s start with fabric. 

How would you describe your fabric?   

The idea behind each of my fabrics is that by using the entire range you can create that scrappy look that I love so much.  So they're not as co-ordinated as most other fabric ranges, but that's the only way I know how.

When you start working on a range, what comes first?  Color.  Mood.  Or does it start with a single print idea and build from there? 

Usually I start with a single print, then build the range. Once I'm happy with the print balance, I then choose the colour palette.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Looking Forward

Looking Forward - released in 2018.

Many designers use vintage fabrics, making changes to scale, composition, etc.  Some of your prints have the look of vintage feed sacks.  Has that inspired any prints? 

Absolutely. I love vintage quilts and fabrics so yes have been very inspired by them. For my latest range "The Lookout" I took a different approach and started with the focal print which has Australian native flora, with a far more modern feel.

How did the “lollies” prints come about? 

I couldn't get my head around using one range of fabric - it's something I've never done. So, I spoke to Cheryl about increasing the number of prints I could use, and came up with that idea to add 8 extra prints to one range.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Remix Lollies

Remix Lollies - released in 2019.

Have there been any surprises for you when it comes to designing fabric? 

I've been pleasantly surprised actually. Moda have made the process quite enjoyable, and pretty stress free.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - BH3 Bachelor Buttons Winkipop

Bachelor Buttons - Block 41 of Block Heads 3.  Made with fabrics from Jen's Winkipop collection - released in 2020.

Do you use many solids in your quilts?   

Not a lot no.. But increasingly more.. They show every hair of my dog Tilly so best to avoid where possible.

You use a lot of wovens in your quilts, and you’ve done three ranges.  What do you love about them? 

As I love to mix many prints and colours together in my projects, I also love the textural element that a woven gives. I particularly love my wovens that Moda produce because they're soft, silky and beautiful to stitch with.

Why do you think they’re not more popular with quilters?   

I have no idea.. But to the quilters out there I say: Give them a go! You will be pleasantly surprised.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Behind The Scenes Wovens

Behind the Scenes Wovens - released in 2017.

Describe your “perfect range.”  (Would it have two hundred prints and colors?) 

You know me well, Carrie. 200 at a minimum ;)

Stripes or polka dots? 

Don't make me choose...

Checks or florals? 

Look wonderful together... haha

Do you have a favorite print from your ranges?   

That's like making me choose a favourite child. Of course I have one, but I can't say because the other prints will get jealous.  (Just kidding.)

A favorite range?   

I think Beach Road is probably my favourite. I love the colours in that one... but The Lookout is a close second! I'm very excited for it's release as it's so different from my previous ranges.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Beach Road

Beach Road - released in 2018.

Are there fabric designers whose fabrics you always love?   

Carolyn Friedlander.  Her fabrics are so distinctive. You see one of her designs and you instantly know it's her. The thing i love the most about her designs is that even though her fabrics are so modern and architectural, they work with so many other prints. Now that I think about it. I don't think I've ever made a quilt that doesn't have one of her fabrics in it. 

Now let’s talk about quilts.   

Fabric, block or an idea?  Where do most of your quilt start? 

Usually an idea comes first, but not always confined to that. Sometimes it is the block too... But rarely do i start with fabric.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Halo

Halo - from the book Jen From One Block - JKD 5262.  Halo Template - JKD 5477.

Have you ever made a quilt where the inspiration was a mood, or a feeling, that you wanted to evoke? 

There are some quilts when I start them, that lead me down a path. Like Wensleydale from Quilt Recipes I wanted it to be moody and sultry, so I chose a palette to evoke this. So, it's usually the palette that starts it off, and the mood & feeling follows.

Do you have a favorite quilt?     

I think it's Steam Punk... but I couldn't tell you why. Sometimes I wonder if it's something about the period of my life while I was stitching it, that has made me subconsciously love it.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Steam Punk

Steam Punk - JKD 5095

A sentimental favorite?

Green Tea and Sweet Beans.  It's the quilt that started it all.  (See above.)

This next question has two parts – quilts for ranges, and quilts for your “other” patterns and books.  It’s mostly a “what is the thought process” question.  And the answer can be “it’s the same for both.” 

What is the biggest challenge of designing a quilt for a range?  

These are the hardest quilts of all for me, to be honest and it was one of the reasons it took me some time to say yes to designing fabric for Moda. The limitation that a range confines me to is hard, because my design process is organic - I start somewhere and build upon this as I progress.  It's why my fabric ranges are designed the way they are - to try and create a scrap quilt look from a single range of fabric. But, it doesn't matter how many prints and colours are in my range, it's never enough!

What about the challenge of designing a quilt that will be a Block of the Month?  E.g., Dear Jen. 

It's probably working to a formula that can be broken down into monthly sections. My latest BOM Bowie Stars took a looong time to divide evenly to accommodate this. Much like when designing range quilts, being confined can sometimes delay my creativity.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Dear Jen Full

Dear Jen - JKD 8625 (Yes, I love this quilt.)

Do you ever look at your quilts, your body of work, with a critical eye to similarity, variety, etc.? 

I am no different to every other quilter out there - I think we would have to be the most critical people of our own bodies of work. We love to point out our mistakes and what we could have done better.  I recently discarded my whole stash because I felt the same fabrics were popping up in several projects.. Lucky I have a large replacement stash called Amitié Textiles.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Cotter

Cotter - JKD 8458

Quilters whose work you always like.  

I think the first quilter that I ever truly fell in love with was Freddie Moran.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Freddy Moran

Freddy Moran in front of one of her many house quilts.

Freddy rocks.  I love that she didn't start quilting until she was sixty years old, and that she is known for saying "red is a neutral."  There are so many things that I learned from her books and classes.  I can see her inflence in the vibrancy of your quilts.  Maybe energy would be a better word.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Freddy Moran Quilt

Freddy Moran's Little House In Big Woods.

Are there other quilters that have inspired you?

I have great respect for Gwen Marston and Jean Wells - to name just a few - who were ahead of their time. If you look today at what is considered a "Modern Quilt", and then look at what these ladies were creating twenty and thirty years ago, you can really see their influence.

The quilts in Quilt Recipes are so varied in style, color and complexity.  Was that a conscious choice?  Or did that just happen?   

I started at quilt number one, and didn't have a clear idea but my plan was to include a variety of quilts that hopefully would appeal to a broad audience while still keeping them true to what I love.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Diamond Exchange

Diamond Exchange from Quilt Recipes - JKD 8717

What I love about your quilts is that you have a style that isn’t just one thing.  But it’s still identifiable.  Your quilts feel both modern and old-fashioned; some are light and floral, while others are bold and vibrant.  Yet they all fit into the same space, have a common aesthetic.  Meaning, you could photograph any one of your quilts in the houses from Quilt Recipes, and they would look right at home.  They would fit.  How do you do that?  Lol

This is the hardest question for me to answer. I don't know how or why I do what I do... but I always do what I love. I never made a quilt that I think "I don't like this, but others might".  If I'm really not feeling it at the beginning of the project, I will alter it until the end product is something that I love. I think that's why I am a scrap quilter because I can just keep adding and editing until I end up with exactly what I like.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Double Date 


Double Date - JKD 8472  (Comes with the templates.)

Jen... how far ahead do you cut fabric for a quilt?

If it's a repeat block quilt, I probably cut a good half of the blocks to begin, then I start stitching. When I get to the second half, I'll add more fabrics, and audition, and edit as I go.  If it's a sampler style quilt, I audition the fabrics for the block, and cut one at a time. So I have a different process depending on the style of quilt.

CT Jen Kingwell Designing - Midnight At The Oasis

Midnight at The Oasis - JKD 5088

Do you organize your cut pieces into a block?  Or just pull pieces from a pile as you need them?  

Although I am a scrap quilter, I always audition every fabric that sits next to each other in a block. I want each block to be balanced and cohesive.  Then when it comes to stitching the blocks together, I will move and shuffle them around until I'm happy with what is beside each other so that I have an even balance, and a good distribution of print and colour.

Wensleydale and Daylesford.  They’re so different.  And yet they both look like your quilts.  So give me a word – or a couple – to describe your quilt style.

Vintage with a modern twist.


To read more about Jen, Amitie Textiles and her new book - Jen Kingwell and Quilt Recipes.

And don't miss the videos with Jen chatting about Choosing Color, The Lookout, and Quilt Recipes.

The Lookout.

Choosing Colours & Fabrics.