Spotlight: Jen Kingwell, Quilt and Fabric Designer & Shop Owner
Jen Kingwell started quilting with EPP (English Paper Piecing) when she was in nursing school, and hasn’t stopped. She got into designing quilt patterns to show her customers what to do with the fabric in her shop, and is now designing gorgeous fabrics. She continues to piece all of her quilts by hand – because it’s what she prefers.
What inspires you?
Everything and everyone! I especially love nature and the colours that surround me daily.
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What different creative mediums do you play around with?
I’m very fabric driven but love texture. So I could fill my store and studio with thread and yarn, too!
How long have you been sewing & quilting?
Sewing since I was a child, making dolls clothes etc. Very basic and self taught. At 17, I started my nursing training and everyone in the nurses’ hostel were sewing EPP hexies, so I joined in and was immediately hooked!
How did you get into fabric and pattern design?
Pattern design came first because I own a store and need to constantly be making things to give our customers ideas and encourage them to purchase more fabric😂. Sue Spargo encouraged me to take a booth at Quilt Market and from there I was invited to design fabric and write a book. I’m eternally grateful to her.
What is your creative process like?
Organic!! That’s the nicest word I can think of to describe it. I start with an idea but where it ends up is almost always quite a long way from that initial idea. Things then grow and evolve as the project develops on my design wall.
How do you stay organized when working with multiple design ideas and processes?
Bad question for me!! “Stay organised” are not words in my vocabulary – maybe Organised Chaos would be better.
Do you create your works for yourself or to share with others?
I always create what I love but I’m in the market to sell patterns so that is always in the back of my mind. A design has to be commercial to a point….but I don’t make something I don’t like.
Which current trends are you following?
I don’t follow trends really, never have. When I first owned a quilt store in the late 1990’s it was hard to buy contemporary fabrics, and of course that was all I wanted. I’d be rich if I’d developed all the good ideas I’ve come up with. (I’m sure there of lots of us out there who are the same.)
I’m a hand piecer – not trendy and people don’t mind telling me. But it’s my passion and what I enjoy doing. I think we all just need to follow our hearts.
When you begin to create, do you have a finished product in mind?
Rarely. Ideas change and evolve.
What does your studio look like?
It’s one big hot mess! I am always embarrassed when people enter it. Being a scrap quilter I always have heaps and heaps of fabric around and piles of “ stuff” everywhere. I’m one or those people who can’t find anything after I’ve tidied up.
Where does the magic happen?
Ummmmm, depends who you ask?
How do you make time for creating? Do you try to create daily?
Create daily. I feel cheated if I don’t stitch at least for a few minutes.
Are there indispensable tools in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I love my acrylic templates because they are 100% accurate and easy. Great for hand piecing or rotary cutting and machine piecing.
What (or who) has been your biggest inspiration in keeping your creative energy going?
My family. Without their support and practical help I couldn’t do what I do!
How has your style changed over the years?
I don’t know it has so much. I’ve always been a scrap quilter. Early 2000 I was all about large blocks, now I’m loving small blocks, but I’m sure at some stage I’ll have another big block idea. I think I go through phases more than permanent changes.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
Cliché I know, but definitely my 3 girls. Amazing young women and I’m so proud to be their Mumma.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
“10 fabrics don’t work but 110 do” is a quote from the amazing Freddy Moran. She gave me “permission” to keep doing what I love to do. It was so nice to hear someone I respect put it in words.
That’s a really good question! Maybe a holiday!!! It’s been a hugely busy year because we relocated my store, renovated the new premises, opened the most amazing café in the store, moved house – I’m tired just remembering. My first grand baby is due in November, so I will take some time to enjoy that wonderful event.
I have lots of plans for the store, so I think this next year will be about that. I’m always trying to think of new exciting things and I guess that will continue.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us today?
My thanks and gratitude for all the support I get for my designs. Couldn’t do it without everyone!
Learn more about Jen Kingwell on her website.
Interview with Jen Kingwell published July 2018
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