Kate Spain - Why Quilts Matter - Question and Answer

Why Quilts Matter – Question and Answer with Kate Spain

Kate Spain

Kate Spain,
Moda fabric designer

More and more of the 20,000,000 quilters that make up Quilt Nation (Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics – Episode 8) are finding themselves taking a digital approach to quilting. While quilt-designing software is not new, the abundance of resources found on the Internet has multiplied exponentially. Online communities enable far-flung quilters to connect with each other, share their projects and create electronic libraries of patterns, blocks and techniques. Fabric shopping is no longer limited to shops within driving distance. Quilters have their choice of fabrics from all over the world and designers are able to reach a broader audience than was previously possible.

To learn other ways technology has changed quilting, we spoke with Moda fabric designer Kate Spain to explore how her embrace of online communities has influenced her fabric, rug and decorative pillow designs.

Many quilters use online resources for inspiration. How have blogs, Pinterest, and other online resources helped you to learn more about quilting and meet other quilters?

Funny you should ask. I learned about Why Quilts Matter during one of the Talkin’ Tuesday (#talknt) live chats on Twitter!

Online resources have been invaluable to my path as a new quilter. About four years ago I began designing fabrics for Moda and only started to make quilts at that same time. I really didn’t know much about piecing, free motion quilting or binding. Online tutorials and YouTube videos were incredibly instructive and helpful for learning about these things. It was like having a personal teacher for each step along the way! In fact, though I didn’t know her at the time, it was actually Pat Sloan who taught me “how to sew a 1/4″ seam allowance” via her YouTube video. When I finally got to meet her at Quilt Market, I was able to thank her in person.


Cuzco by Kate Spain

As far as twitter, blogs and other social media, I find the immediacy of shared interaction makes the online quilting community a dynamic resource. With a few clicks, you can see what people are working on, what kinds of trends inspire them, even how to make what they’re making. I love that, especially for people who don’t have local quilter friends or guilds nearby. It extends the sense of community and brings quilting into our daily lives in an easy and accessible way. Sometimes I get stuck on a project and need help. It’s nice to know I can reach out with a quick tweet to ask people for their thoughts and suggestions. So really, the online community can also be a 24/7 quilting hotline!
Another really wonderful part of being connected online is that occasionally someone will send me pictures of something they’re working on using fabrics I designed or I’ll stumble across a beautiful quilt or craft project on someone’s blog. It’s always a humbling surprise and one I never, ever tire of. I enjoy extending the connection by leaving comments on their blogs and sometimes that sparks an e-mail dialogue, even evolving into friendships.

What is the future of quilting?

This is a good question and while I am still fairly new in the quilting world, I’ve been so fortunate — largely due to the Internet — to hear from lots of people of all generations who have come to quilting by various paths. Whether novice or expert, a recurring theme has been about how they’ve discovered something new. That’s remarkable. To me, it says that this industry continues to evolve. I think there will always be people who quilt as a hobby and for the pure happiness it brings them to make something by hand, and that is wonderful and essential.

HoneyHoney - Kate Spain

HoneyHoney – by Kate Spain

There are also many people who have built and are building careers around quilting through teaching, lecturing, writing books, making quilts, free-motion quilting, selling patterns and designing fabric. No matter what compels someone to this art form, it is impossible to separate the “maker” from all the artistic choices of color and composition choices they incorporated into a finished quilt. Perhaps they were looking to an historical quilt and spinning their contemporary vision of it, or making a social commentary as many artists throughout history have done, or making a quilt for a dear friend, or didn’t have a plan at all and followed their instincts.

These are real and meaningful connections that each person brings to their creative process. I think these connections can be made even more concrete — for the casual or expert sewist — by learning and talking more about the rich and broad history of quilting as well as the overarching history of art. It is that idea of needing to know about the past in order to have a stronger foundation to build on in the future. Without being too analytical, I think that when a quilt shifts in orientation from being displayed horizontally on a bed to vertically on a wall in a show, we are invited to look at it in a much different and perhaps more critical way, just as we would paintings in a museum. By hanging a quilt for others to look at, in effect we are saying “this is significant” but understanding why takes more effort and conversation.

As with any movement in art, understanding a broader historical context is key to having a constructive dialogue. Educating ourselves in this way could help give more shape to this particular pinpoint on the larger timeline of quilting. I hope the future holds more of this kind of discourse and that more and more quilters reflect on why they make quilts. What is your purpose for making a quilt? Is there anything you would change, improve or try the next time? Asking questions like these doesn’t take the fun out of it but makes the creative process even more meaningful. Who knows what could happen if we all dig a little deeper.

What is next for you?

Kate Spain - LogoI can hardly believe it, but my 12th line for Moda, “Sunnyside”, will be coming out in May at the International Quilt Market in Portland. I have recently partnered with Surya and am so excited to be débuting my first collection of hand-tufted and woven area rugs at the High Point Market in April. Following soon after will be a launch of a new pillow collection, also with Surya. Then it’s full-steam ahead as I prepare to exhibit for my 6th year at Surtex, a surface design trade show, in NYC in May.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog and for encouraging everyone to join this lively conversation.

More About Kate

Everything Kate Spain can be found on her blog Kate Spain Designs. Kate’s projects can be viewed on her Instagram and Pinterest pages. Find her on Twitter @katespaindesign or visit her website.


Images on this page are courtesy Kate Spain.


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