Saturday, 29 May 2010

An Interview with Kate Conklin…..

We are so excited to now have quilt patterns by Kate Conklin Designs in the Seamstar shop!

The patterns are both fresh and modern and you can check them out here. As if that wasn't enough Kate has very kindly taken the time to give us an interview which includes some great tips so read on. Perfect timing for me as I'm about to start my first quilting bee (scary!).

What is your design process when creating your quilt patterns?

Kate: Sometimes it starts with a sketch and sometimes the fabric inspires the design. I usually have a few different designs stored away in the back of my mind, just waiting for the perfect fabric. With "Dandelion Windows" it started with Saffron Craig's Field's fabric. It was just so beautiful I couldn't cut up those large prints, but I didn't want to leave the fabric in large squares either. The idea of seeing the fabrics though a window meant I could cut it up, but still show off the large prints.

I always sketch a number of designs on graph paper first (and play with the design in my mind for a few weeks), then I import pictures of the fabric into my Electric Quilt 6 program so I can see what the finished quilt will look like. Sometimes I change my mind half way through, but I usually plan the whole quilt out before I start. As I'm designing my quilts I think of the easiest and quickest way of doing something. I love 'stack and slash' for that reason. I've used it in many of my designs because its a way of making an improvisational style quilt quickly and without fabric wastage.

You can check out the Stack and Slash method in these quilt patterns: 'There's a Square in There' and 'Pine for You'

Where do you get your inspiration from for your quilt designs?

Kate: It comes from lots of different places, anywhere really, for example "Charm Bracelets" was inspired by all the beautiful charm bracelets my friends were wearing and the fact that fabrics are my 'jewels'. I'm fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world right next to the beach and national parks, so I'm surrounded by nature's inspiration. I find hiking a great time to dream up new quilt designs.

Fabric is a primary source of inspiration for me. I feel like I've entered the quilting world at an exciting time. The fabrics coming out are so interesting and beautiful and modern. Often the fabric will dictate to me how it should be cut and the general direction of the quilt design. Quilting blogs have been another wonderful source of design ideas - I particularly love improvisationally pieced quilts. We're so spoilt to be able to share ideas and help each other push the boundaries of quilt design even if we live half way across the world.

In terms of design, what do you think makes a great quilt?

Kate: I love quilts in which the fabric is allowed to shine. I learned a great tip from Denyse Schmidt in her book, Denyse Schmidt Quilts, to only use patterned fabric for 30% of your quilt, and solid fabric for the rest. Although I use more than 30% patterned fabric in my quilts, I try to remember to let the fabric be the star.

Another thing that makes a great quilt is something that creates interest and movement in the quilt. In "There's a Square in There" I added little solid strips of fabric randomly to create interest, and in "Charm Bracelets" I varied the size of the squares slightly to give it some movement. I think quilting can add so much to the design of a quilt. If you take a look at many of Denyse Schmidt's quilts - they look deceptively simple, but the quilting is exquisite. I enjoy a mixture of machine and hand quilting on my quilts.

Who is your favourite fabric designer or favourite fabric collection?

Kate - There are so many gorgeous fabrics (many of which can be found at your shop) but its no secret I love Saffron Craig's fabrics. I keep gravitating towards them because the designs are so beautiful and interesting, the fabric's very soft and the colour's rich. The mixture of small and large designs create exciting possibilities for using them in quilts.

For example, the animals in the elk landscape could be fussy cut for the centre of blocks, with multiple borders using the coordinating fabric, or it could be used as a landscape as I did in "Sierra's Forest". I've met Saffron, and she's absolutely lovely and has such passion for her work.

For non-quilters like me fussy cutting is when you want to center a particular part of the fabric to fit within the size of your quilting block. So in Kate's example you would fussy cut the size of square needed around the elk so that the elk would be the center of the block.

You can check out Saffron Craig's fabric in our shop here.

Do you have any more quilt patterns in the pipeline?

Kate: I always have a number of quilts in the pipeline! I've almost finished a quilt using Laurie Wisbrun's Donkeys and Boots fabric. It's another 'stack and slash' quilt similar to "There's a Square in There" but this time its wonky and fun and very bright. Another design I'm very excited about uses free form curved cutting (stack and slash style again) and then piecing the curves without pins (something I've just discovered).

At Seamstar we totally love Laurie Wisbrun and are really looking forward to the entire Tufted Tweets collection arriving next month!

Who is Kate Conklin and what is your design background?

Kate: I live an hour north of Sydney Australia with my husband Todd and 2 young children aged 2 and 3. I work as a speech pathologist during the day and quilt designer at night after the kids are in bed. I never thought of myself as creatively minded before I discovered quilting two years ago. I was more mathematically inclined, but I have since discovered that maths comes in handy when designing quilts. As I dream up quilts in my mind, I can often calculate the different measurements for various block configurations before I even put it on paper. Discovering my love for quilts and design has been such an exciting journey, almost like falling in love. My father is a graphic designer, my grandmother a professional seamstress and I have always been surrounded by art and music so maybe it's in the blood.

Thank you so much to Kate for giving her valuable time to talk to us!

We hope you enjoyed our first venture into interviewing. Next month we have another interview (this time with a lovely American fabric designer – watch this space!).


  1. What a great interview and the most beautiful quilts..

  2. Cool interview Courtney and great quilts on show! Justine xx

  3. Great answers Kate. Love your work.

  4. I loved the interview - Kate is incredibly talented - her quilt with the deer in the forest is just incredible. Good move to stock her patterns - I love the hearts one as well.

  5. @Lynne
    thank you to everyone for you comments and thank you again to Kate for the lovely patterns and interview!

  6. Hi, Courtney. Great interview. I'm a HUGE Kate Conklin fan!! Looking forward to Laurie's interview as well.

  7. I'm so honoured to have my patterns in your shop. Thanks for the opportunity to give my first interview Courtney!