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

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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.

British Quilt Industry Interview Series: Nicola Frost from Sew Busy, Hampshire

This is the third in a series of interviews that I hope to bring you. I want to cast a light on the wonderful 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

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Meet Nicola from Sew Busy.

Sew Busy is sponsoring a prize on my Tumbling Spools Quiltalong. Nicola and I first met almost 6 years ago! Nicola was setting up her shop in my local town and contacted me about teaching my sewing classes there! So I know her really well, but some of you might not, so thought it would be fun to pose some of my interview questions to her for you all!

Nicola-Sew busy Fleet Hampshire

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Q. Tell us a bit about yourself and your business

I'm Nicola, the owner of Sew Busy in Fleet, Hampshire, UK, a fabric store selling quilting cottons as well as some dressmaking fabric, ribbons, haberdashery and sewing gifts. I try to source items that aren't available locally and anything quirky is always popular. I love the vintage look and am always drawn to retro, kitsch prints as well as vintage florals. I have to remember sometimes to order for a range of tastes, not just mine!


Q. What prompted you to set up your business within the quilting industry?

I set up Sew Busy as there was nothing available in the local area providing prints to my taste and I felt that customers wanted to feel the fabrics and see the true colours rather than shop online. I also wanted to encourage beginners to start sewing, running workshops which is where Jo and I met. Jo ran lots of workshops from beginner sewing classes to more advanced quilting classes for us in our early years. I think a simple project can look stunning in a modern print without any other work needed.


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

We have some lovely ranges on order for the coming months from various fabric houses. At the moment, I'm really loving the designs by Flamingo Toes who designs for Riley Blake, Bev's vintage caravan pixel quilt is high on my to do list.


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

My first quilt was for my eldest child (now 19!) to lie on as a baby and that was when Laura Ashley was selling what is now known as charm squares. I still have that much loved quilt, a little worse for wear but I wouldn't change it.


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

I often hand sew, crochet or knit when I'm watching the tv (can't do nothing!) but when I'm at my sewing machine, I don't listen to or watch anything, I like the silence and just concentrate on my project. I still seem to make mistakes so maybe I should tune in to something!


Q. So what was your biggest sewing mistake!? Did you fix it or chuck it?

My worst mistake was a small lap quilt for my youngest (now 14) where I didn't know how to quilt with a machine. I ruined the quilt and stuffed it away in a cupboard. I recently found it and unpicked it. It's now been quilted again and my cats seem to appreciate it the most!


Q. How about tools, do you have a favourite?

My favourite tool at the moment has to be my Thread Heaven conditioner wax. It makes such a difference to hand sewing, I currently have a hexie EPP on the go from an older Tilda collection which is probably the latest project I'm working on; I don't think I'm alone in admitting I have several projects on the go...…..


Q. Where can we find you online?

Our website is www.sew-busy.co.uk. We are on Facebook and Instagram as @sewbusyfleet. Really honoured to be a sponsor for The Tumbling Spools Quiltalong and it's lovely to see all the different designs popping up on my Instagram feed.


Thanks for that Nicola! Sew Busy is full of wonderful products so if you get the chance do make a trip to Fleet to check it out for yourself. It’s inside a shopping centre with covered parking so it doesn’t even matter what the weather is doing! Lots of coffee shops and cafes to stop and recharge too!

I couldn’t help myself have a little browse on the Sew Busy website. Here are some of my favourite fabrics!

British Quilt Industry Interview Series: The Fabric Fox

This is the second in a series of interviews that I hope to bring you. I want to cast a light on the wonderful 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

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Meet Kirsty and Lee from The Fabric Fox.

The Fabric Fox is sponsoring a prize on my Tumbling Spools Quiltalong. And I finally got to meet them both at the Farnham Maltings Quilter’s Sale at the weekend. It’s always good to meet people in real life!

We thought it would be fun for you guys to get to know them a bit better too. So I posed a few questions to Kirsty and here is what she said.

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Q. Tell us a bit about your business

A. The Fabric Fox is an online fabric shop and I (Kirsty) run it with my husband Lee from our home in Essex. We focus on stocking the most colourful, exciting and modern fabrics we can find. We also sell sewing patterns and colourful haberdashery as well as lots of fun sewing accessories.

Q. How did you get into quilting?

A. My mum has always sewn while I was growing up and she started getting into patchwork so she showed me how to make a patchwork cushion and I picked it up from there. I love how creative you can be with patchwork and how the different combinations of colours and patterns can completely transform the way a quilt looks.

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

A. I made a quilt for my GCSE textiles project and it had an autumn theme. I used lots of browns and oranges so the colours were completely different to anything I would make now! I did get an A for it though so I was really pleased with it.  

Q. What prompted you to set up your business within the quilting industry?

A. The main thing that drew me to quilting was the fabrics, I was always hunting for modern fabrics and I came up with the idea of setting up a shop that would be the go-to place for the most colourful and unusual fabrics. I knew there were lots of people out there who, like me, wanted to create bright and modern projects, and I love finding fabrics for our customers.

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Q. What's the favourite item you ever made?

A. I designed a cushion that featured clouds, rain and a rainbow and I used to make it to sell at craft fairs. I have always loved the design and fabrics I chose, but funnily enough I don’t own one myself as I sold them all! I think I have some of the fabrics left in my stash, I shall have to make one for myself one day!


Q. Tell us what your favourite tool is?

A. My rotary cutter is definitely my best friend, I cut a lot of fat quarters so it really comes in handy day-to-day.

Q. Tell us your favourite fabric range?

A. I have always been a huge fan of Cotton+Steel, I love how they create lots of modern designs but also incorporate retro and vintage artwork into their fabrics. Now that the original designers are moving on to become Ruby Star Society, I am very excited to see their upcoming designs.  


Thanks for that Kirsty! I’m excited to be see what’s next for The Fabric Fox! I love how with patchwork and quilting so many people were taught by their mothers, grandmothers or friends. It’s such a community event. I’m also excited to see what’s coming next from the newly formed Ruby Star Society.

I couldn’t help myself have a little browse on the Fabric Fox website. Here are some of my favourite things!

British Quilt Industry Interview Series: Sarah Ashford

This is the first in a series of interviews that I hope to bring you. I want to cast a light on the wonderful 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

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Meet Sarah Ashford.

Sarah is sponsoring a prize on my Tumbling Spools Quiltalong.

Sarah is a quilter, designer and writer. You may have seen some of her fabulous work in your favourite quilting magazines.

I recently got to interview her and thought I’d share that here with you guys!


Q: So Sarah, how did you get into quilting?

I always used to see my friend’s mum making beautiful quilts and I knew that one day I wanted to make them too.  That was long before social media existed!  Fast forward a few years and I started reading blogs, getting inspired by quilts online and when a quilt shop opened locally, that was me sold.  I bought a fat quarter bundle and haven’t looked back since.  

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

A: I have been sewing in one form or another since I was about 6 years old, but my first quilt was about 10 years ago; a baby quilt for my daughter.  I had no idea what I was doing! I used scissors to cut the squares and completely fudged the binding, but it was made with love and she still has it today.  

Q: What prompted you to set up a business within the quilting industry?

I’m a primary school teacher by profession.  But I found that with the long working hours and a young family there was very little time to be creative.  I had so many ideas and no time to put any of them into action.  So I left full time teaching and started making quilts for magazines and samples for fabric companies.  I then started making and selling the project pouches and writing more articles.  I still get to teach; I run a sewing group locally and I go into my children’s school and run a sewing club once a week.  I also teach at various retreats and Guilds, so I still get to be a teacher, just in a different form! 

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

I’m  very proud to be the founder of the #GreatBritishQuilter .  We have an Instagram photo challenge every September and it’s been so galvanising for the British quilting community.  The hashtag has been used over 11,000 times, which is just incredible and blows my mind because once it was just a seed of an idea in my head! We also had our very own Aurifil Thread box collection, which was definitely  a career highlight.   

Q: What's the favourite item you ever made?

One of my favourite quilts is the Airborne quilt that I designed for Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine.  It’s also featured on the Sewing Quarter TV Shopping Channel a couple of times, and it’s such a thrill to see other people’s versions of it.  It was my first published foundation paper pieced design and I was delighted that so many people have made it.  

Airborne Quilt by Sarah Ashford (Photography credit to Love Patchwork & Quilting Issue 56)

Airborne Quilt by Sarah Ashford (Photography credit to Love Patchwork & Quilting Issue 56)

Q: Tell us what your favourite tool is

Apart from my beloved Bernina sewing machine it would have to be a Hera marker.  I just love that you can use it to ‘score’ the fabric and not have to worry about using a marker pen, with the risk of markings not disappearing or suddenly reappearing.  It’s such a simple tool but I wouldn’t be without it.  Binding clips are up there with my favourites too.  

Q: Tell us your favourite fabric range

Ah, so many!  I do love anything by Cotton and Steel, and the Rifle Paper Company fabrics are particularly beautiful.  

Q: What are your plans for 2019? 

I’m bursting with excitement at the prospect of going to Quilt Con for the second year running.  I can’t wait to meet up with all the friends I made last year!  And I shall of course be at Festival of Quilts again too.  I also hope to do more teaching, more writing and one of my personal goals is to join in with the Coming Home BOM with Sarah Fielke.  I want to make a quilt for myself and I just hope I can find the time to do it!  

A big thank you to Sarah! I wish I was going to Quilt Con this year. I’ve decided to go in 2020, anyone else going then? I’m hoping to have some suitable quilts to enter by then! Plus a bit more time to save up!