Mattie Rhoades has a passion for making the complex simple. With a background in Special Education and a love of quilts and garment construction she has developed patterns and instructions using printed interfacing which makes the projects easier. Finding inspiration all around her, Quiltsmart patterns provide step by step instruction so even a novice seamstress can find success with ease!
How did you find yourself on the quilter’s path?
I was a garment sewer and smitten by the double wedding ring quilt, and other traditional quilts. I wanted to make them as easy as garment sewing. This was the mid 70’s. Quilters were experimenting with quick methods like strip piecing and fusible web patterns. That intrigued me.
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Tell us more about Quiltsmart. How did the idea come about?
I was a Special Education teacher and was teaching quilting on weekends, as well as making bridal gowns and costumes.
One day I was staring at the vintage Double Wedding Ring quilt on my wall, and I thought about making it as an appliqué quilt rather than a pieced quilt. I had been intrigued by a very old (1800s) appliqué technique using muslin, stitching, trimming and turning the quilt shape patterns. I thought that was pretty Smart!
Fusible interfacing was being used for this same method, but the patterns needed to be traced. I began researching the printing of interfacing and was delighted to find a printer who would work with me on this project.
Long story short, Quiltsmart now prints not only Double Wedding Ring but about 100 other patterns, and we print for numerous industry professionals.
In your collection of fusible patterns you have quilting designs as well as patterns for garment making, home dec projects and more. How do you decide which to launch next?
Printed fusible interfacing has been used for quilting designs, but sparingly as it does remain in the project, the pattern is inside the quilt, and the thread showing would be the bobbin thread – so there are issues with finishing the quilt.
I personally have a huge interest in garment making, and in coats – therefore the quilt coat and its recent surge in popularity is exciting to me! Quiltsmart patterns are used to make the fabric for the coats.
I just completed a book, “The Quiltsmart Coat” which is a guideline book for making a quilt coat start to finish.
We have many “practical art” projects including a gadget cushion, techy rest, placemats, and bags including our extremely popular Mondo Bag. Our quilt patterns are designed for the walls, the table, and beds.
What to launch next? There are always more ideas than time! We launch what customers are asking for, as well as what our staff is excited about.
Of course, trends influence our decisions as well. Often, it is a feeling in the gut!
What kinds of creative projects are your favorites?
I like a challenge. I’m all over any project that is difficult to make the traditional way. I love figuring out how to make it easier.
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
Anywhere! Floors are especially interesting! I see quilt designs everywhere.
Garment ideas come from a practical perspective. How to incorporate a pocket by using a fold…. again….solving issues. For example – the welt pocket should not be hard! And, it is not with Quiltsmart printed fusible interfacing.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
Absolutely! I write or draw a lot! I have journals all over my house.
The other day, I was roughly drawing each step of a small case. I got done, and topstitched around it. Then I opened it and the pockets were upside down! There were a lot of X’s in the journal, and I learned that one should not get excited about finishing without making sure that the project actually works!
When you have time to create for yourself, what kinds of projects do you make?
Last night, I made a pair of pants with snaps at the waist. They can be made smaller or larger – they are really cool.
I also like to make clothes for my pup, Bennie. He loves wearing t-shirts.
Last week, I made an orange peel pattern table topper with a layer cake pack I got at a show. Love it! Looking forward to making a teeny tiny stripped rail fence with our grid.
What is your typical day like?
I start with social media, even though I fought that for a long time! I have come full circle and see how much it helps the business as well as our customers. We all love Show & Tell, and social media is a great format for that.
After that, I go to the warehouse (on my bike weather permitting) and work with the team to fill orders or do whatever is necessary. It might be to fix a cabinet or reorganize an area.
I work with our Customer Service Manager on any issues we have or requests. I usually have a few events that we are planning and we update those.
Today, I am answering interview questions! Afternoons are spent on new products, videos, or large orders.
I try to have a good balance between work and play, but I do love my work, so they often overlap. I sew a lot in the evenings and weekends, and love to get outdoors, too!
If we asked a good friend of yours to describe your work, what would they say?
They’d say I sew quilts all day, and teach quilting.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I do! I have a loft upstairs in my home. I had my studio at the warehouse until this past year. I love having it at home.
What inspires you?
Anything. I just laid out a quilt that is inspired from the print on toilet paper. I get inspiration from traveling, teaching at retreats, giving lectures, and in general being out and about!
When beginning a project, do you pre-plan your entire endeavor or do you simply follow where your inspiration takes you?
All over the map!
Can you share a bit of your process of bringing a new idea from glimmer to reality?
I usually start with drawings in journals. I draw the design on interfacing. At some point, I draft real life sizes on my computer program. I do this, because it is much faster than grabbing fabric, sewing it, and then finding out it does not fit.
After that, I grab fabric. I make one or two and always learn! If I like how the project is turning out, I write basic instructions. Then, I ask someone else to make it, still tracing the interfacing. I find that if several of us love the project, then our customers will too.
I draw the file for the interfacing artwork. Instructions then get edited and finalized while more samples are being created. The samples are photographed, one is chosen for the cover. Then the file is sent to the printer for a proof, and the interfacing files are prepared.
The interfacing is then printed. We do this at the warehouse. After that, several people proof the instructions with the interfacing. We fix anything needed, and then back to the printer. Meanwhile, we are adding the new product to the website. That involves photos and descriptions, and we try to add a video! Once we have instructions and interfacing, we go live online. Then it is a reality!
What does your studio look like? Where does the magic happen?
I have a space with a large window that looks out over rooftops. It is brightly lit and open.
I have all my machines out (almost!) – my sewing machine, embroidery machine, sashiko machine, serger, & die cutter. I find that if the machines are out, I use them!
I have a board that I bought at ReStore for a design wall – it is a section of a cubicle…works great!
What is your favorite storage tip in your studio?
I really love these containers for fabric. They have a window, and I divide them by color! Love them! I also love the whiteboard I put up using 3M command strips…. It was super easy and has stayed up great- it’s on the outside of the sliding closet doors.
How has your work changed over time?
The most noticeable change is that I used to hire for photography and graphic design, and now I am the photographer and graphic designer. I do have a graphic designer to help out if we get too busy, or if what I want to do is a bit beyond my skill level.
We are doing much more on the website than when Quiltsmart started…. we did not have a website back then! We are doing video classes as well as in-person classes.
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
I feel it is definitely innate, but needs nurturing. I believe that everyone can learn something from someone else, so taking classes is always a win-win for the teacher and students!
What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have as compared to people who are not creative?
I have seen that creative people tend to be a little more impulsive and willing to adjust and go with the flow than others. I do think that anyone can be creative – as creativity can manifest itself in many different ways! I also see that creative people are very “ept” at thinking outside the box – and using words as they wish.
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website is quiltsmart.com I do have a blog… probably need to add updating that to my “typical day”.
I hope people will be able to find that our products help them create their projects (and bucket list quilts) easily. I hope they will be excited to sew, and inspired to create! Sewing should be fun. I hope everyone sees that when visiting Quiltsmart, whether on a video, at a trade show, through our patterns, and on our website.
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Interview posted August 2023