Jen Kingwell ~ Quilt Recipes
Jen Kingwell ~ Quilt Recipes
Jen Kingwell’s Quilt Recipes.
The quilts, and the book, are instantly recognizable, and distinctively original. Eclectic, personal, and comfortable, the quilts and recipes in the book reflect Jen’s love of home and homemade, for community support and a generous spirit.
If you're not familiar with Jen Kingwell and her quilts, this is what you need to know. After many years as a midwife, her first love, Jen discovered quilting almost thirty years ago, and that led to teaching and designing, and eventually owning a quilt shop. She's a traditional quilter, preferring hand-piecing and hand-quilting, and working with traditional blocks. She's a scrap quilter for whom "more fabrics are always better." Mixing linens with cottons, plaids with toiles, and a glorious use of color gives her quilts an undeniably modern feel. Jen's shop - Amitie Textiles - is located in Torquay, a seaside town in Victoria, Australia, southwest of Melbourne.
She is the designer-author of many iconic quilt patterns and booklets - Long Time Gone, Steam Punk, Green Tea and Sweet Beans, My Small World, Delilah and Baker's Dozen, to name just a few - and Quilt Recipes is Jen's first self-published book.
From the first few images shared of the book, I knew it would be something special. I pre-ordered a copy of the book, and got in a bit of trouble with Jen’s business manager.
To be fair, you should know that I am a devoted fan of Jen’s work. While it’s unlikely that I will ever love handwork as much as she does, I remain open to the possibility that I might. After all, I still love stitching my bindings by hand.
Even before Quilt Recipes arrived, I wanted to know how the book had come about… questions. I had so many questions! So grab a cuppa, settle in, and let Jen tell you about the book.
When did the planning for Quilt Recipes begin? Was there one “let’s do this…” moment, or was it a process?
I made the decision to start my next book in 2019, and began working on making the quilts with the concept of Quilt Recipes in mind. By early 2020, I started hunting for the right people to help me execute my vision, and it all came together from there. It took almost exactly two years to get from starting the quilts to having a finished book.
Did you have a concept in mind from the start?
Yes! I have dreamed of making this book for over a decade so I had an incredibly clear concept of what I wanted this to be, how I wanted it to look. And it’s exactly what I envisioned – maybe better. I was quite lucky that my Artistic Director and printer understood my vision from the outset.
Love Letters Cushion
What was the hardest part of the book process?
While we have published my patterns and booklets for many years, taking on a self-published book was a huge challenge. But rewarding, and satisfying. I wanted to honor my mum, and using her recipes was incredibly important to me. I needed the finished product to be exactly right, so while it was a lot of hard work to take on all the different tasks involved with the book, I’m so happy I did.
Though I could have done without the proofreading. If I’m totally honest, I don’t like doing that. And it’s terrifying to press “Send to Print” when you are the writer, editor and proofreader!
But it had to be done, right?
What was the easiest part? Was there an easy part?
This was a joy to work on, and I enjoyed the entire process. (Except the proofreading…) The days we had our photoshoots were probably the most fun! I had the best time, though I’m sure my incredibly small team – Flip, Abby and the models – may not agree with that. I will add that they are amazing, and they worked themselves into the ground while I supervised.
Even Tilly knew what was required - there wasn't any need to prompt her for this photo of her with her new bed. (The pattern is in the book.)
In 2019, as the book was coming together, did you think much about the collection of quilts and recipes that would be included?
The quilt collection grew organically, which is how I usually like to work. The recipes were much harder to narrow down as we have so many family favourites. There are probably enough for several books, but I can’t get ahead of myself. Not yet. I’m still recovering from this one, we all are!
Do you have a favorite quilt or pillow in the book?
My favorite quilt in the book is probably Wensleydale. I knew before I finished the quilt that I wanted it to be on the cover. I’m having a love affair with single-block quilts at the moment so that’s closely followed by Diamond Exchange.
What about a favorite recipe?
Powder Puffs. While it is not one I make every day, this recipe has so much special meaning to me as I’ve never encountered it outside of my family. I don’t know where the recipe came from, but they evoke so many happy memories of special times. They’re known in my family as Nan’s Powder Puffs – little pillows of delight.
If you have a copy of Quilt Recipes, you should give these a go! They are heavenly, and the most highly-requested thing I bake. They never last long in my house.
Nan's Powder Puffs
Tell me about the photography.
The photography style was a key part of my concept for the book. I had started to narrow down a list of photographers in Torquay when the universe intervened. I’d been advertising for a Social Media Manager to join the team at Amitie Textiles when Flip Crilley applied. As part of the interview process, I asked her to photograph my latest quilt without any direction to get a sense of her eye, and to see if she understood my aesthetic.
She sent through a small selection of photos, and I actually got a bit emotional. They were stunning, and were perfectly on-brand. Not only did she get the job, but those photos were used for my Dear Jen pattern booklet.
When it came to Quilt Recipes, it was quickly evident that Flip’s graphic design background meant that we could do the book entirely in-house. I shared my concept for the book with her, and she executed it beautifully. She’s amazing, and so are her photos.
The styling of the lifestyle photos, and the use of the models, is spectacular. Was that a collaboration of great minds understanding the vision?
Absolutely. We had put together mood boards for each shot, and we were able to make it happen at the photoshoot. Again, my amazing team executed my vision perfectly.
As for the models, being from a small community, everyone seems to know everyone. Much like Flip, the girls fell into our laps through word-of-mouth. They were delightful, understood what we wanted, and they made the days of the photoshoot so easy and fun.
This Way Not That
Tell me about your printer – why you chose to use a local printer.
I live in a small rural community, and it’s super important to me that we support it. We were thrilled to team with Adams Print, a family-owned business that is environmentally conscious with their printing. That played a crucial role in our choice as every little bit counts. The added bonus of their being local is that I got to check every page for colour correction, and benefit from their help and guidance. (And patience!)
And it was absolutely amazing to be there to see my book roll off the presses – seeing the entire process added to the excitement!
And did you really want to save the “test pages” that the printer was going to throw away?
Yes! The initial runs of each page were over-printed, and that looked so cool. I considered submitting them for my next fabric range!
Team. You’ve used that word several times. Tell me about Team Amitie. And is there a Team Quilt Recipes?I have the most amazing teams. Team Amitie. My shop staff at Amitie is exceptional – they’re so good that our customers often bring them gifts and flowers as a “thank you” for their great service. The team that handles the wholesale side of the business is filled with superstars – nothing is ever too much trouble as they madly work away in the background. Then there is the café staff that makes the best coffee and food – and my waistline can attest to that!
Three of us worked on putting the book together – Flip, my daughter Abby, and me. Once it was completed, my husband Richard took over the post-production, and everything that went with it.
Finally, if you could go back, is there anything you’d do differently?
I don't think so. Of course there are always things you learn along the way, that you think you can improve on. But I'm so happy with the outcome. And I have to credit my amazing team for that - for their support, their hard work, and for their dedication to creating the book I had envisioned two years ago. This could have been such a stressful process for me, but it all came together in a way that I'm very proud of.
We'd also like to share this video introduction of Quilt Recipes from Jen.
We'll have more to share in the coming weeks with Jen - about Amitie, her templates, how she mixes fabrics, and about her next collection for Moda.
As for Quilt Recipes, it's not a question of which quilt I want to make.
I have to decide which quilt I want to make first.
For more with Jen Kingwell:
For the curious, the photography for Quilt Recipes was done at The Wensley in Wensleydale, and at Room + Board in Daylesford. Both properties are in Victoria, Australia.