British Quilt Industry Interview Series: Karen Lewis

This is the fourth in a series of my interviews with people behind the British Quilting Industry. These are the people coming up with fun ideas, patterns and products for you to use in your quilting endeavours! I think we should celebrate and support the quilting talent we have here in Britain, don’t you? If you know someone who I should interview, or you would like to be interviewed yourself, either pop a comment in the comment box at the end of this post or drop me an email.

British Quilt Industry Interview Series The Crafty Nomad


Meet Karen from Karen Lewis Textiles.

Karen is sponsoring a prize on my Tumbling Spools Quiltalong. Karen is a fabric designer, pattern writer, screen printer, teacher and author!  I met Karen last year at The Thread House retreat and had a great time in her class learning how to screen print!  I positively drool over all her beautiful fabrics!! And have many of them residing in my stash.

Now she tells us a little bit more about herself.

Q. Tell us a bit about your business

My business is many faceted, from being a screen printer, fabric and quilt designer and teacher of all of that and everything in between!

Q. What prompted you to set up your business within the quilting industry?  What's the biggest challenge you have in the industry right now?

I was always a sewer but not necessarily a quilter and it was really when I started printing my own fabrics and selling to the quilting community that I took the leap into that. It is such a wonderful community and I have never looked back from those early days. Thankfully it has worked otherwise my husband would have packed me off to get a proper job! I think my personal biggest challenge in the industry right now is keeping it fresh and constantly offering something new.

Q. What's new with you? What does 2019 have in store for your business?

2019 sees me head to Quiltcon in Nashville in February, followed quickly by Sewtopia in Salt Lake City in April. I love that my job takes me to all places in the world. Travelling is a passion of mine so it is amazing that I can do it with work. Later in the year I am heading to Denmark and Vancouver with work. Jo Avery, my The Thread House partner, and I are running our first Summer retreat in July in the Yorkshire Dales. I am excited to bring everyone to my wonderful neck of the woods! In between all that travelling 2019 sees my new fabric collection, Wayside, ship in May. All this is in and amongst all my usual quilting and printing projects!

Q. Where in the world do you live and what do you love about it?

I  live in West Yorkshire, just on the edge of Leeds. I used to be a city girl and especially when we lived in London wanting to be in walking distance of cafes and restaurants, but since moving a bit further out there’s nothing I love more than being a step away from the fields  and countryside that Yorkshire has to offer. It is is so inspiring.

Q. Tell us about the first patchwork or quilted item you made

I am very much a suck it and see learner! So my first quilt was constructed by just giving it a go. I didn’t own a rotary cutter or a cutting mat in those days. I didn’t even know I needed them! I didn’t know about binding a quilt so I used the no binding method of sewing around 3 sides and turning it inside out. I actually love the handmade feel of no binding. I used all my favourite fabrics, which were mainly linens and handprinted fabrics sourced from around the world. My hand printed fabric love runs deep. The quilt was a simple patchwork squares constructions and then I hand quilted throughout, another long time love that I don’t always have time for.

Q. How did you get into quilting?

I discovered quilting and quilters in the good old days of Flickr! I initially followed a lot of Australian printers and from the labyrinth of moving from one blog to another I discovered quilters and before I knew it I was completely embroiled in this world and rapidly became a quilter myself. 

Q. Tell us about where you sew? Are you a neat freak or a messy maker?

I  have my own studio just off the kitchen at home. It is in the hub of the house and evenings and weekends I am rarely in there on my own. It has become a family hang out zone, which on the one hand is great but not when i am pattern writing and trying to concentrate. Then everyone is shooed away! I work in organised chaos! My  husband would say it was just chaos but I know where everything is so I dispute that.

Q. What is your best accomplishment so far with patchwork & quilting?

I  would have to say the most tangible accomplishment is my work with Robert Kaufman or my books. I would however say the reputation and achievements I have built up within our community would personally be the best accomplishment. to be a recognised thought of name in our industry makes me very proud.

Q. Tell us about your funniest, scariest or oddest quilting memory?

I  had a very funny experience entering the US for Quiltcon one time. Normally border control entering the US is a rather intimidating and stern affair so I was ill prepared for the reaction of the officer waving me through. The usual questioning of where was I going? where was I staying? what was I doing? was met with so much hilarity that the guard almost fell of his chair with a “well I bet y’all going to have a wild time aren’t you?” and as he waved me through he called after me “make sure y’all have some fun here!” It may get lost in translation here but it was very funny and so unexpected that I still can’t quite believe the personal touch I got coming through!

Q. Apart from your own, of course, what other fabric ranges do you love?

I am a big fan of Carolyn Friedlander’s and always look forward to her next collections. I am currently loving hand dyed fabrics and work a lot with those rather than regular quilting cotton collections these days.

Q. What do you listen to/watch whilst sewing?

I  love a Netflix drama. The last one I absolutely loved was How to Get Away with Murder. I listen to a lot of podcasts too and my favourite at the moment is Fortunately with Fi Glover and Jane Garvey. They are very funny and very erudite. They have me in stitches but they are really interesting at the same time.

Thanks for that Karen! I can highly recommend taking one of Karen’s classes! You won’t regret it! Even better if you manage to get booked into the highly popular Thread House Retreat. Not only will you get to be taught by great teachers but you’ll also meet some wonderful quilters and make lifelong friends! Be sure to check out Karen’s Instagram feed as it’s always beautiful and inspiring.