Coffee, cork boards and Sylvanian Families.. Beth Studley talks to us about her inspirations
When did you first discover/ fall in love with sewing?
I can't quite remember, so I guess it was when I was quite young! I didn't have a machine until I was around 15, so before that I would just hand sew. I made dolls clothes and carpets for my Sylvanian families. I used to tie-dye fabric and make cushions and bags. I once made lots of beanbag clowns and friendship bands that I sold in school. Another thing I used to do a lot of was cross stitch, even designing my own. I started a south park one once, though I never finished it! I had only made one hand sewn quilt before I properly discovered patchwork as a teenager and that’s when I started making quilts on my machine.
Most people would consider quilting/sewing a hobby, but you have turned it into a business. What was the motivation behind turning your passion for fabric design and sewing into a business?
Two things really. A desire to spend my time doing what I love. ( I have had a lot of jobs I have hated with rubbish hours and no real enjoyment! ) and also realising I was quite good at doing what I love! It was when I had my first child that I started trying to earn money from sewing and did this by selling patterns to magazines. I had made so many things over the years that were my own ideas, so I started writing instructions for them. After selling a couple I began to approach new projects with the view 'will other people want or be able to make this?'
How did you come to design for Makower?
It was kind of 'right place, right time' really. They were looking for new fabric designers who were also quilters. I was a quilter who also knew a bit about fabric design. We had a mutual friend who introduced us through the London Modern Quilt Guild and it worked out well!
Can you tell us a little about your inspiration for each of your fabric ranges you have produced through Makower?
Well.. Henna came mainly from a lot of sketches I already had that I didn't know would one day end up on fabric! I always loved henna/mehndi style designs and have a tattoo in that style to prove it. They were originally black and white sketches when I first showed them to Makower, I then added colour and built aspects for the main design into accompanying prints. Meadow, my second collection, was spring, a complete change from Henna. Walkabout, similarly to Henna was just a love of aboriginal style of art that I wanted to put down on to fabric.
I get inspiration simply from things I like! I often see a ceramic, a bunch of flowers or colour palette that I think would be great built into a print or collection. Most importantly though, I very much design as a sewer. If I look back over my past collections and the collection I am in the process of designing now, this is very much the driver in what I decide will work. I do it with a knowledge of what I want from a fabric. A design can look beautiful but it needs to work on fabric.
How do you go about creating a new range from start to finish?
I build a main print that incorporates the idea or inspiration I have and then work from there. I work by looking at what prints I need to create to go with the main design. I do always have in mind, 'this one will work well as a binding', 'this one as a backing', 'this one will be the one I make a bag with' or 'these 3 together will make a simple quilt' and that’s the fun in it for me!
Is there a designer or artist that inspires you?
There isn't really anyone in particular. I could name lots of designers I can think of that do work that is right up my street, but I guess the inspiration comes from wanting to do that yourself. I only have to spend 5 minutes on pinterest or browsing hawthorne threads and see all the pretty things out there to want to start creating stuff! Which is handy seeing as 5 minutes is generally all I have, as my main job will of course always be being a mum!
You have produced a number of sewing patterns that are available to buy on your website, do you have a favourite?
The project baskets have always been a favourite and the most popular. However, I have made so many now that I would have to say my favourite is the Hexa-scrappy quilt. It is fun to make as it's one of those 'decide as you go' projects, as well as a genuinely satisfying scrap reducer!
Are they easy to make, aimed at beginners?
They range from beginner to advanced. I have to be completely honest and say that they are not all beginner projects, simply because I have been sewing for so long it's hard for me to design very simple projects. Having said that I am working on some children's projects at the moment that are very much beginner projects, using hand sewing and felt, which is like going back in time for me!
You have stopped selling patterns for your Hive quilt as you sold the copyright for it to Dorling Kindersley, to be featured in 'The Quilting Book'… do you have any aspirations to have your own book published? Or do you think you will continue to sell patterns individually?
Not yet. I would like to eventually but I will carry on with the fabric and individual patterns for now.
What are your top three must haves that you couldn't live without in your creative itinerary?
In terms of designing patterns, brown parcel paper, I use it to make my initial patterns and templates. I waste loads of it experimenting with shapes and folds until I get what I envisage! In terms of fabric design work, then it would be cork boards for pondering design inspiration and seeing a collection building. I use lots of small portable ones so I can move them around the house and ponder when I pass them! And coffee, a simple must!
You attended evening sewing classes with your mum when you were younger, do you think you will eventually share your passion with your own children?
Definitely. My son is six now and is interested in general creating. He mainly likes cutting paper and shapes, so that’s what I let him do. My daughter it still at the trashing my workroom stage but does enjoy buttons, zips and my scraps bin.
Have either of them shown any interest in sewing?
My son watches me sew a lot and presses the cut button when I finish and passes me the next block when I am sewing a quilt. He still wants to help me at this stage but I hope that will lead to asking me to help him with his creations at some stage.
What's next for Beth Studley? Are there any new ranges in the pipeline? Patterns?
Kids patterns and kits. Another fabric collection very soon and I need to finish and write up the patterns to quilt and another fabric basket idea when I have the time! Its all coming!
A big thank you to Beth for answering all of our questions!
We hoped you enjoyed finding out more about Beth as much as we did.
For more information on Beth please visit her lovely website: www.lovefrombeth.com