Friday 27 March 2015

Interview with Jen Kingwell, author of 'Quilt Lovely'

I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to interview Jen Kingswell, author of ‘Quilt Lovely’ as part of the book's release and promotion. As regular readers here know, I have been a fan of Jen’s since her Amitié shop block of the month patterns, ‘Green Tea and Sweet Beans’ and ‘Gypsy Wife’, started to pop up on quilting blogs a few years back so you can imagine how quickly I replied to the request and started drafting my interview questions. 

I met Jen at her hand piecing and appliqué master class during last years Fat Quarterly Retreat and she was a generous and inspirational teacher so to review her book is an utter pleasure.  From her previous work I just knew it would be jam packed full of scrappy goodness and inspiring creations and of course, it absolutely is!   There are 15 projects: 9 quilts and 6 pillows, and a huge variety of designs and techniques I cannot wait to try, but first let’s find out a little more about Jen and her quilting style.

Congratulations on your ‘Quilt Lovely’ book Jen!  I love the mix of designs and techniques from repeated block quilts like ‘Flea Market Dash’ to the medallion style ‘Simply Red Centre’ quilt and the hand pieced ‘Daisy Do’ quilt.  Where do you find your ideas and inspiration and how you go about designing a project?

"Most of my quilts are made using traditional block. I love vintage quilts. I'm an "organic" designer. Not sure how else to describe it. I rarely start with a complete or set idea. I quite often change my mind as I progress. Sometimes things I start take a little vacation in the bottom of the wardrobe, then I'll get an idea, dig it out and it will head off in a different direction. A design wall is a great tool. Projects take on a different perspective when you can stand."

It’s hard to pick a favourite out of 15 stunning projects but, in the face of fierce competition, I would pick the Glitter Quilt.  It’s beautifully photographed and I know it would make the perfect long-term project, as although it’s made of 152 blocks I would only ever have to think about cutting out, preparing and sewing one block at a time!  What are your favourite projects in the book?

"Glitter is my favourite as well. I think you have hit the nail right smack on the head Kerry. It's a great way for anyone to start if they are not confident with scrappy quilts and mixing fabric genres or colour. As you said, you only need to think of one block at a time and three fabrics. Easy!  Once you've made all those blocks, and you will be happy with each individually, play with the placement of them. You will find they all play together beautifully.  Daisy do is probably my second fav."

Hand sewing is an integral part of your work from the piecing through to the appliqué and even the quilting.  What are your top tips or gadgets for hand sewing?

"The beaut thing about hand sewing is you don't need a lot, which makes it quite affordable for beginners. It's all about personal preference for me. Most of the girls who work at my store all like slightly different things eg the thread and needles they stitch with etc. My advice is listen to what different people like, try some and see what works for you. I love a fine long needle to stitch with, both piecing and appliqué so I use a straw needle no 11.  I stitch with a 50wt thread which is finer. The best tip is slow down and enjoy the process.  Or at least give it a go!"

Your projects have an amazing sense of colour combined with traditional quilting blocks and an eclectic and unexpected mix of prints that always gel together.  I love the contrast between the vibrant ‘Clam Bake’ pillow and the calm taupe tones of the ‘Home Run’ pillow.  Lots of quilters panic over colours and combining fabric.  What advice would you give to those who want to add more colours and a scrappier look to their projects but don’t know where to start?

"This is a really interesting question as I don't use any formula or templates such as colour wheels. I know what I like and that's what I run with.  Start one block at a time. Use some favourite fabrics then add an unexpected print or colour and stretch the boundaries. I think if you like all the fabrics and colours you should like the blocks and therefore the quilt. Take a risk, be brave and you never know where this may lead you. I guess the only rule I follow is it's my quilt so I make it the way I like it and you should do the same."

After many years in Australia working and developing your Amitié shop and quilt design business, you’ve been living in the United Arab Emirates for the last few years.  Has this experience of living in a different country and culture brought new influences into your work?

"Everywhere feeds my interest and influences my being. I think living in a completely different culture has opened my eyes and mind to many things. The one thing I noticed often was the different light. Colours were different. I found it fascinating."

You travel extensively with your teaching work as well as promoting ‘Quilt Lovely’, your new fabric line ‘Gardendale’ for Moda and your patterns.  How does quilting fit into your life when you are you travelling?  What sort of projects do you pack to sew on the move?

"The beauty of hand piecing! I prep work to travel and on long haul flights I stitch and stitch. I've never been stopped with a needle and 3-4 pins. I just declare them in a zip lock bag. I can get quite a few blocks sewn between Abu Dhabi and Melbourne or Australia to the US. It's also a very welcome distraction when flights are delayed or cancelled. A small portable light is handy in hotel rooms if you can fit it in your luggage - hotel lighting is never quilter friendly!"

Thankyou Jen.  Such helpful  advice and I love the idea of taking a portable light, what a top tip!  I couldn't resist starting a Glitter quilt of my own, just one hand pieced block but this is going to be a long term project.

In the interests of disclosure, I was kindly sent a free copy of the Quilt Lovely for the purposes of this interview.  I only chose to review books that I think I will like and are relevant to my sewing style.  I like this one so much that I don't think anyone can prise it out of my hot little hands, but if you are really lucky and live locally, I might let you have a look inside ;)

sib blog


  1. Thank you Kerry and Jen, that was fascinating. Jen is a true quilting style-maker in the quilting world so it's great to hear more about her process and hearing her travel tips - yes I will be taking a portable light on my next trip away! ;-) xo

  2. I love the look of those 2 cushions, they are gorgeous!

  3. What a great interview (and book review!!) I am definitely going to look out for this one. Thank you both, ladies!

  4. I purchased her book two weekends ago.Fascinating. A friend and I are each making our own Steam Punk quilts. What a fun quilt.

  5. Jen is such a star! It was awesome to meet you both at FQR :)

  6. HI, book looks so Neat !
    Thanks for sharing!

  7. Looks lovely Kerry, I especially like the clam bake cushion ... I've a GTSB to finish first though!

  8. I adore this book too. So much I want to make also. Great interview. I'm very fortunate to have Amitie as my LQS. some of these quilts and pillows are in store to view!

  9. I buy few quilting books and usually wait until they're on special offer but am tempted to go for this one now, Jen Kingwell is my favourite quilt designer, her work is beautiful.

  10. I love everything that Jen does and need to get that book! I like that she promotes long term projects and that things don't need to be made in a day (watched a little video on a Fat Quarter shop). I'm always in such a hurry to get things done and it would be nice to slow down with something as lovely as Glitter.
    Thanks for the lovely question and answer post.

  11. Love, love love Jen Kingwells designs & her book is fabulous! I've started the Glitter quilt, however I'm sewing it on the machine. The y-seams in this quilt are very easy to do on the machine. The most fun is picking out fabrics for each block. I'm using modern, batiks, reproduction & Japanese tapes in my blocks. Love it! I'm also working on the pattern Smitten that was designed by Jen's daughter. Another fabulous quilt. Wish Jen's shop was here in the states as no one carries her templates here! Steam Punk is my next one!

  12. I use a headlamp for my "small portable light." It directs the light to your handwork as you are looking at it and it is very bright.


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