Friday, April 17, 2015

Quilt Lovely - An Interview with Jen Kingwell

You all know Jen Kingwell's patterns: The Circle Game, Steampunk, Chain Reaction, Gypsy Wife and more. Her work is very recognizable for her inspired use of multitude prints and detailed piecing. Although I own several patterns, having won them at the Fat Quarterly Retreat in 2013, I have yet to tackle any. The closest I've come is borrowing a set of templates for Steam Punk!

When given the opportunity to take a peek at Jen's first ever book, I jumped at the chance. She's a quilter I greatly admire.  Imagine my delight when I found out I could interview Jen for this blogpost - yay! I did a little research online and learned a bit more about Jen's style and technique by watching these great videos filmed recently by the Fat Quarter Shop at QuiltCon. I follow Jen on Instagram so I knew that she'd recently returned home to Australia, and her quilt shop Amitie Textiles, after living in the Middle East for a couple of years.  The Nosy Parker in me really just wanted to know how she managed to stay creative while isolated from her shop, her people and her home!

Mrs. Bannister's Stars, from Quilt Lovely by Jen Kingwell

Krista: Congratulations on your gorgeous fabric line Gardenvale and inspiring book Quilt Lovely, Jen! Both are firsts for you and seemed to have happened around the same time. Did your design work require a lot of discipline and planning to keep on schedule? Did you start out knowing you'd spend your time in the Middle East working on the book?

Jen: Thank you Krista. I'm really happy with both. I had no idea the path I was going down. Sometimes ignorance is bliss! I had to be very disciplined( not my greatest strength). After I had decided what I was doing I did set a schedule and I worked to that. I think for me that was the hardest thing. I'm an organic designer and quite often things start with a very loose idea and just grow. I frequently fall out of love with things as I go along and they have a rest in a drawer or the bottom of the cupboard but with the book I didn't have time to change my mind. Maybe that was a good thing but it hadn't stuck as I've just sidelined something I'm not happy with this week!

Krista: You've owned Amitie quilt shop for 15 years and been immersed in quilting through teaching, selling fabric, designing patterns and running the business. How did the past 2 years living in the UAE affect your quilting?

Jen: I would never have embarked on the book and fabric range if I was in Australia. Always so busy with "things". I had the luxury of time in Al Ain. The first year we were there we lived in a hotel. I didn't even make the bed! So spoilt. I stitched from day light to dark. It's always inspiring to be surrounded by new things. I think the colours of the desert will be popping up in a few projects in the future.

Flea Market Dash from Quilt Lovely by Jen Kingwell

Krista: Much of my own quilting experience and joy is shared with others through participation in my guilds and retreats. I've seen stunning examples of hand work shared online by Middle Eastern women. Did you work alone while in the UAE, or were you able to connect at all with other like-minded expats or local women?

Jen: I worked alone. We lived in an area where there were not a lot of expat women. Most who were there worked. It was a very "local" city and ladies in the UAE to my knowledge are not so interested in handcraft as in other parts of the Middle East. I did join the Abu Dhabi quilt guild and there were a few local ladies in the guild. The highlight of my week was to drive to Abu Dhabi to stitch with my little group, a mixed bunch! All from the UK and Scotland. These women were my lifesavers. They had all lived there for quite a while and advised me on all things UAE! More laughing and eating was done than stitching. It was so worth the 3 hour round trip.

Krista: I really enjoyed listening to you and learning from your experience while watching the Fat Quarter Shop videos you filmed recently at QuiltCon. Now that you are home in Australia, will you be teaching regularly? Is teaching a passion of yours?

Jen: I had such a great day with the Fat Quarter shop team. I will be teaching quite a bit this year both here in Australia and overseas. I really enjoy meeting so many great people as I travel and I always seem to learn as much from them as them from me I think.

For the Boys from Quilt Lovely by Jen Kingwell

Krista: There is a certain vibrant, scrappy aesthetic in the work of many Aussie quiltmakers that I recognize and have always admired. What do you think is the main influence for this common approach in Australian quilt design?

Jen: Our quilting community is small here in Australia. Our quilting stores are smaller also and many years ago before online stores you could only purchase what your quilt stores carried. Store owners didn't have the luxury of space to stock whole ranges so you "chose" your collection. A mixed bag of fabrics and I think many of us have grown up and developed this as our style.

Krista: The online quilting world moves quickly and there is often a feeling of urgency to make quilts and move on to the next thing. The beautiful quilts in your book are a wonderful reminder that patience pays off in the form of heirloom quilts - you even hand quilted your work instead of having everything longarmed in a hurry. What advice can you give to people in the 'just get it done' mindset about the value of slowing down?

Jen: I love this question. When I sit down to hand stitch it's like an enormous exhale for me. I swear I can feel my blood pressure lowering. I started to hand stitch many years ago when my girls were small. I'm a midwife by trade and worked, so in the evenings I wanted to sit with the family and share the days news.....the sewing machine was never appreciated! So hand stitching it was and I just loved it. It's easy, very cost effective as you need little equipment and it's very sociable.

I also love the " quiet" of hand stitching. A comfy chair, your favourite music and a window, needle, thread and fabric. That's all you need. It's hard to put into words the joy I get from hand stitching in particular hand quilting. It's like " meditation".

Thank you for kindly answering all of my questions, Jen!

Jen's fabric line Gardenvale is available now as precuts and I think shops are receiving yardage as soon as next week.  It is truly a scrap quilter's dream fabric range and I look forward to adding some to my stash as a way to expand into more floral and blender fabrics. I love that the line is named for the location of Jen's shop in Melbourne - how perfect!

Hocus Pocus Fat Quarter Bundle Deb Grogan for RJR Fabrics

When I receive a new book, I immediately skip all the pre-amble and head straight to the project photos. I love the matte finish paper in Quilt Lovely and the gorgeous photos of the quilts out in the real world.  I did take the time to read Jen's Appendices to learn more about her thoughts on value, colour and scale. She's got great advice at the back of this book.  There are several pillow and quilt patterns that are immediately do-able for the intermediate (or confident beginner) quilter. However, with rather a lot of travelling in my future, I am contemplating a slow hand-piecing project instead. I don't do "quiet sitting" very well (my elementary school report cards will back me up here), but if I'm trapped on an airplane I might as well be productive. Sometimes it is a good idea to bust out and try a challenge. I will keep you posted!


What Comes Next? said...

Jen always has such beautiful projects - this book will be a delight! Wonderful interview Krista!

Kirsty @ Bonjour Quilts said...

I've always admired Jen's Steampunk quilt pattern but it wasn't until recently that I put together who she was and who wrote that pattern and realised they were one in the same. What can I say, I'm a bit slow! I'm rather proud that I hail from the same country as Jen....maybe a bit of that Aussie magic will show up around here too!

paulette said...

LOVE that cover quilt! Reminds me of a lovely vintage quilt but yet it looks modern and fresh!! I will be looking for this book in the bookstores! Great interview!

SarahZ said...

What a fun and insightful interview! Thank you!!! I won a mini charm pack of Gardenvale from FQS on really is wonderful!!

Elsa said...

I just got my book yesterday in the mail and love all the designs! Really looking forward to doing a 'slow' project!

Dianne said...

That was a great interview Krista! I'm loving this book - yes I did buy another book ;0) Steam Punk keeps speaking to me!