Right-O. Let’s get the reminiscy-bit out of the way. I love and have a great affinity with the Ulladulla-Milton area. My DH grew up there; his parents have lived there for 45 years and we got married in the little Anglican church on the main street, which is the church he grew up in. So, I am there quite often. MIL is very active in one of the quilt groups there and shares my love of all things quilting.
So, MIL and I were very excited when a new quilt shop called My Patch opened (three years ago today in fact!) at the top of Milton. It was there that I first met Paula Storm, firstly via her uber-successful pattern, the Sit Me Up Donut. MIL made one for Curious Miss and 2½ years later it still gets dragged around by her and Little Boy. Since then she has designed a number of other beautiful patterns and quilting tools and has recently released her first book, Sew A Little Fabric.
Paula’s gorgeous quilt, Summer Rain, recently won first and second place in the Viewers’ Choice category on each day of the first Australian Modern Quilt Show.
Last weekend, My Patch held their first weekend retreat which I attended. There were three workshops to choose from, run by Paula, Monica Poole and Wendy Williams. Paula taught from Summer Rain and I was part of her class. There were only four students so we received lots of individual attention. I loved being challenged to think about using colour in different ways and to use much more random techniques than I am used to.
I took the opportunity to have a chat with Paula about quilting, publishing a book and where she draws her inspiration from.
Tell us a bit about you?
I am a busy Mum of four. My babies were all born two years apart so this year they are 10, 8, 6 and 4. I have tried every single hobby, craft, art you can think of, but sewing and Quilting in particular is the only one that has really stuck.
What’s your earliest memory of sewing/craft?
I remember asking my mum to whip me up a pair of shorts once when I was quite young. She said it wasn’t that easy and that we would have to go to Spotlight and buy a pattern. I didn’t understand what was so hard because all you needed was a rectangle with a ‘bit’ cut out for the crutch. Mum still wasn’t sure, but told me to go for it, so I think that’s where my whole ‘just give it a go’ attitude to sewing came from.
When did you start quilting?
I started quilting after I had a fall and ended up in a wheelchair. I tried knitting and crochet, but after every man, woman and child that I knew had a beanie, I was ready for a change. I loved quilting immediately! I found it so much quicker. Being a fairly impulsive person, I loved the speed that I could complete a project.
Who taught you to sew/quilt?
My mum was the one that originally suggested I try sewing. She is an amazing seamstress and had recently taken up quilting when she came to help after my fall. She taught me a huge amount, but soon had to return home and that’s when I turned to the internet. Back then there wasn’t many blogs, but I learned a huge amount from the few that were around and I fairly quickly started my own blog. Being so immobile I couldn’t get out to any guild meetings, so the online community was like one big guild for me.
Why did you decide to go into business?
I don’t really remember it being a conscious decision. I guess it was just after I had my baby girl Emma. She had really bad silent reflux and so every time we laid her down she would just scream in pain, so we had to carry her night and day. I designed and made the Sit Me Up Donut for her, so she could sit up on her own and the reaction to it was incredible! Everyone I showed wanted to make one, so I think that’s where it all began.
How long have you been in business?
My Baby is nearly four, so I have been publishing patterns since then, but I started sewing about 8 years ago.
What’s your favourite part of the design process?
There are three parts I absolutely LOVE! I love the whole brainstorming part. I love it when inspiration strikes and I just have to get started to see if my idea will look as cool in person as it does in my mind. The second is – I love getting started, picking out fabrics and making a start is so much fun. Third, I love that very last stitch when I finish a project. Sewing down the binding is my absolute favourite part of making a quilt.
What’s one tip you would give to quilters wanting to take the leap into designing?
I can’t choose just one thing, but I say definitely give it a go! I have found that the thing most people like about my patterns is that they are different and the instructions are very thorough. I have found that I need to (or rather I should) take a huge amount of notes! It’s always harder to try and remember what you did and keeping notes makes life so much easier! Also, don’t be afraid to shamelessly promote yourself. Make phone calls, start a blog and contact the magazines to offer them your designs. Also make sure you answer your emails and make yourself accessible to those that buy your patterns!!
The most important thing though I guess is to make sure that YOU love what your making! You can sell your products better than anyone if you really believe in your product, so make sure you love what you do and others will be drawn to you too.
Do you have a favourite quilt/design?
Well I guess at the moment it’s the Dresden Plate. I never thought I would make a Dresden quilt because I thought they all looked the same and were a bit boring, but the day I picked up a Dresden ruler and started playing, I was hooked!
Tell me about your book – “Sew A Little fabric” – how did that come about?
After I made my quilt ‘Summer Rain’ I blogged about it and was then contacted by the International Quilt Festival of Ireland Committee. They asked me to send the quilt over to Ireland to be featured in their festival. The local paper heard about that and did a story on me. Garry and Michelle from Harbour Publishing House, saw the article and approached me to see if I was interested in writing a book. Of course I jumped at the chance. Garry is the grandson of Amy Emms MBE who was awarded her MBE for her service to quilting and so I think Garry has a soft spot for quilting.
The book is really for everyone from absolute beginners, right through to advanced quilters. I have included a huge amount of pictures because being dyslexic I find I’m a visual learner. I think that’s the thing I have received the most comments about, the amount of pictures and the different techniques. I have included instructions on how I bind my quilts (the almost maths-free way) and also how I baste a big quilt on a small table. I wanted to show people the techniques that I have found that work best for me, so they’re not your normal ‘cookie cutter’ instructions.
When can we expect to see the next book? 😉 What’s next for you?
I have enjoyed the break from writing, it was a very full on 9 months, which is how long it took to get the book together, but I’m ready to get started again now. The next book is really more about the Quilting process. My Publisher Garry Evans from Harbour Publishing House has trusted me with his Grandmothers (Amy Emms) hand drawn and hand cut quilting templates. The next book will be a progression from the traditional hand quilting techniques, right through to the modern styles and techniques. I have also teamed up with Handi Quilter and will be doing a fair bit of work with the Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen, Quilting machine. I’m so excited about this and can’t wait to get started!
What project of your own are you currently working on?
That’s a hard one, because I don’t tend to do much for myself anymore. I feel though that making quilts is my hobby and writing patterns is my job. So the making part is kind of what I do for me now. If I really need a break I will pull out a knitting or crochet project.
Who is your quilting inspiration/who inspires you as a quilter/designer?
This is a hard question as I’m inspired by so many people. But I guess Sarah Fielke and the Material Obsession girls would be right up there. I love the ‘Aussie’ style of quilting. The use of big bold bright fabrics just makes me happy. Then there is the fabric designers, I am so inspired by Tula Pink, Amy Butler and Kaffe Fassett. They make quilting so much fun for me!
Where can we find you?
I’ve only just joined Instagram, but I’m on there as @paulastorm and my Facebook page is an awesome community of fabulous quilters https://www.facebook.com/sewlittlefabricbyPaulaStormDesigns and I have just started my website at www.paulastormdesigns.com.