Spotlight: Jason Yenter, Fabric Designer

Enchanted Garden Block of the Month featuring Floragraphix Batiks IV

Spotlight: Jason Yenter, Fabric Designer

Jason Yenter grew up in the fabric business when his mother owned In The Beginning, a quilt shop in Seattle. He is now an amazing textile designer and President of In The Beginning Fabrics. Jason has always been an early adopter of new techniques, including digital design and printing. It was great catching up with him at Quilt Market, and we are so pleased to share his story!

Jason Yenter

Photo Credit: Patricia Belyea

How old were you when you made your first quilt? Tell us about that masterpiece. 

I made my first quilt when I was a senior in high school. It was the final project for a 4-year humanities program that I was in. The quilt design was very influenced by famous quilt artist Nancy Crow. I think the guys in my class were most impressed – I had many comments on the engineering of it. Since then I have made 10 or 12 quilts. These days I do not have much time for sewing, so I often rely on my staff to actually sew my designs.

You grew up in the textile business and that business began with an iconic Seattle quilt shop. What was that like and how did it influence the fabric design and production side of your business?

While working in the store I was surrounded by creative people and beautiful fabrics. I think those early years (I started working weekends in the 8th grade) really gave me a deep understanding of quilting and what quiltmakers need to make their quilts. I was exposed to a broad range of styles, from traditional quilts to very contemporary ones, so I have great respect for both.

What do you look for in fabric designs and designers for In the Beginning Fabrics?

I have a couple designers I currently work with, but I will not be adding others. I now prefer to do the bulk of the designing myself.

Enchanted Garden Block of the Month featuring Floragraphix Batiks IV

Enchanted Garden Block of the Month featuring Floragraphix Batiks IV

How do you keep up with/get ahead of trends, and what is the timeline from the spark of design inspiration to fabric being available in quilt shops?

Trends in quilting and quilt fabrics tend to run much slower than those in home dec and fashion. Certain colors and specific motifs may come along, but in general, the bulk of the quilt fabric sold is well coordinated groups that are colored nicely and often pretty or eye-catching – but not necessarily “trendy.” I think certain parts of our industry have tried to become too trendy and “modern,” which does not really fit with the core demographic of quilters that actually purchase the most fabric (ladies in their 50s and 60s).

Autumn Abstract Quilt from new Mystical Quilts book featuring Diaphanous Collection - Sept 2018

Autumn Abstract Quilt from new Mystical Quilts book featuring Diaphanous Collection – Sept 2018

Jason designing in 2005You were an early adopter of the computer as a design tool for quilt fabric collections. How did you decide to go in that direction?

For me the computer was easy to start with because I did not know any other way. I saw immediately how easy it was to create repeats, change colors, scale, repeats – all with a few clicks. I cannot imagine having to actually repaint a whole design when changes were needed.

{Here is a peek at Jason’s office wall — I’d love an office wall with all of that inspiration!}

A new line on Jasons design wall.

A new fabric line on Jason’s design wall.

Are there other indispensable tools in your studio? How do they improve your work?

The other tool I cannot design without is my color printer. As I design, I print things out and pin them to my wall until I have a whole collection hanging. Our mills also use these printouts for matching colors because you often cannot rely on the color showing on the computer screen.

What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work?

Color combinations definitely inspire me – often ones found in nature. In fact, I have found that nature rarely creates combinations that are not beautiful. Individual motifs also often catch my attention, and my brain immediately starts putting them in some sort of pattern or repeat.

What sets your work apart from others?

I think the main things that make me a little different are the projects I create to go with my collections. Often I will first think of a quilt I want to design, and then design the fabric I need to make that quilt. Each piece in my collections usually has a use so I rarely include extra fabrics in a collection that are not used in whatever projects I am designing.

How do you deal with creativity blocks? Do you have any special creative rituals?

A good red wine often loosens the creative juices – or puts me to sleep.

What was the biggest obstacle on your creative journey, and what did you learn from it?

The biggest obstacle in my journey, I think, is having to create so much. I don’t like to create mediocre collections just so the company has something to sell that month. I want each collection to be special and have a “wow” factor, but that gets hard to do 13 – 14 times per year. There is so much fabric on the market, and I don’t want to add more unless it is well thought out.

Calypso Quilt from Calypso - October 2018

Calypso Quilt from Calypso – October 2018

What is your advice for someone starting out in fabric design?

Fabric design is a very competitive field and consequently hard to break into. So those designers wanting to design for the quilt industry need to make sure their designs are well coordinated, well colored, have a variety of scales, and work for quilting. I think it is important that designers mock up some quilts using their designs, to make sure they all work well together and, finally, will make an exciting project.

So, what’s next for you?

I truly love designing fabric for the quilting market. With the advent of digital printing I am now able to explore endless combinations of color and scales of print – there are very few limitations to what I can now create and then actually print. I have so many ideas for more collections, patterns, and books (this summer I will design my 100th fabric collection and work on my 26th book!). See Jason’s books here – or browse through them on Amazon.

Browse through all of our Spotlight interviews on Create Whimsy.


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