With bold color choices and an eye for geometry, Brigit Gail Dermott is making her mark in the Modern Quilting universe. Many of her designs begin with colorful paper collages which she then translates into steps that make all the pieces fit when she builds the larger design in fabric. She does it all by finding the right balance of family, day job and quilting to get the most peace and satisfaction from each aspect of her life.
How did you get started designing quilts? Always an artist, or was there a “moment”?
Pretty soon after I made my first quilt, I wanted to make my own designs. Quilting is a really approachable craft. If you can sew pieces of fabric together, you can make a quilt of your own design. My first designs were really simple, but I loved the process and I picked up new techniques along the way and started making more complex designs.
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Did you have a “gateway craft” as a kid? Which creative projects led you to the work you do today?
I learned to sew in school–I grew up in England in the 1970s, and girls learned various needlecrafts. I was super into my dolls’ house, so I used to hand sew tiny clothes and bedding in elementary school.
Who or what are your main influences and inspirations?
The quilting community is really inspiring and I engage through social media and in real life through my chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild. I feel like I’m always discovering new quilters who inspire me, but two of my main influences have been Denyse Schmidt and Carolyn Friedlander. I’m also inspired by graphic design and modern artists.
Is there an overarching theme that connects all of your work?
I’m not sure it’s a theme but color is often my starting point for a quilt design. I’m drawn to certain palettes and I’m sometimes surprised how consistent my color choices are.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I’ve become more of a planner since I started developing and selling quilt patterns. When I start a project, I think through how it will work as a pattern and I try to plan out my projects so I always have something to work on – but also so that I don’t overschedule myself.
What do you do to develop your skills? How do you get better at what you do?
When I started out quilting, I used books to learn the basics and then trial and error to improve my craft. Since getting more involved with my local guild and the Modern Quilt Guild, I’ve taken classes and gotten more formal training in techniques. I think my favorite thing about classes is learning little tips that make things much easier – those little aha moments that you may never have figured out just winging it. I also learn a lot from blogs and video tutorials.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I do! I’m really lucky to have a room that over time I’ve converted to a sewing room. I just bought a dedicated cutting table so now I can do all my sewing tasks in one space, which is really great. I try to keep everything pretty neat and organized so the space feels calm and easy to work in.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do you keep them organized? How do they improve your work?
I like to keep my tools fairly minimal. I’m not a big gadget person and I only have two sewing machines–a Juki 2010Q that I use for almost all of my projects and a Janome Gem that has some stitch options that aren’t available on my Juki. I absolutely love my Juki. It doesn’t have any fancy stitches, and I love its simplicity and reliability.
I have a few quilting rulers and these are indispensable, but I don’t have a huge array of shapes and sizes. Rotary cutters with fresh blades are also a must-have. Good quality thread is another must. In the last few years, I’ve switched over to Aurifil and I really love the quality, the different weights and available colors.
All my tools and materials have a dedicated space in my sewing room and I do my best to put everything away at the end of the day, so I can start my next sewing session in a nice organized space.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I have a few notebooks that I use. One for keeping notes as I am working on a test quilt for a pattern. I keep track of fabric quantities, any lessons learned, and tips that I think makers will find helpful.
Another notebook contains origami paper collages that I create and often use as the starting point for a new design. I find it really helpful to start a design in a tactile way instead of diving right into creating on the computer. And then I have another that I use to draw quilt ideas.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
Except for when I’m handbinding my quilts, I don’t play anything. I feel like I get oversaturated with content and I really find it pleasant to just sew and not have any distractions. When I am handbinding, I usually watch a movie or show with my husband.
Tell us about a challenging piece. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
My most recent pattern, Gold Medal, started as a paper collage and I loved the idea. It was pretty challenging to translate the design into workable measurements and it involved a lot of math. Thankfully there are lots of mathematical formula calculators online because my geometry skills are definitely rusty. Getting each round in the medallion quilt to fit took quite a bit of figuring and planning, but I’m really proud of the end result!
Do you enter juried shows? Do you approach your work differently for these venues?
I have only entered quilts in QuiltCon but I have entered quilts regularly since 2018. When I first entered a quilt, I hadn’t ever attended a quilt show so I didn’t know about the different approach for show quilts. My quilt was accepted but it was definitely fairly humble compared to the other quilts in the show.
Attending QuiltCon was a real game changer for me. I gained an appreciation for denser quilting – particularly straight-line dense quilting. Since my first QuiltCon, I spend a lot more time on the quilting and I think about how I can enhance the design with the quilting pattern. I also block any quilts that I plan to enter in a show. I still like any quilt I make to be first and foremost something that is a useful object, so I don’t make quilts that are only for show.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I think it’s definitely a learnable skill and there are things you can do to tap into your creativity. For me, the biggest creative block is self-doubt. The more you can do to free yourself from ideas of excellence and productivity and just enjoy the process the more creative you can be.
How do you balance your personal life, work and creative endeavors?
I work full-time, so it’s a bit of a balancing act. I’m really fortunate that my husband and daughter are super supportive of my quilting and encourage me to follow my passions. I try to make sure that I’m not just alternating between my job and then working at my craft. I make time for exercise, family time and just downtime. If I need to scale back my quilting plans, I don’t feel bad about it. It has to stay something that is fun for me and not an obligation.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
I am working on building the tutorial content so that my website will become a place where people can grow their skills and enjoy the craft of quilting. I want to make sure it is not just a storefront but an engaging place for makers.
What do you hope the next year will bring?
I am really excited for the coming year. I will be teaching at QuiltCon for the first time in Phoenix (February 2022) and I have some new patterns that I will be launching. And I’m looking forward to connecting with quilters through different outlets for teaching, whether my website, videos, patterns or workshops. I really love seeing people grow in their craft and find joy in quilting.
Interview posted July 2021
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