Meet Aneela Hoey, blogger, fabric designer and quilter. She tell us all about her gorgeous new fabric line for Cloud9 – Vignette.
School was where I learned to sew, but it wasn’t until around 2008 when my youngest daughter started nursery that I got into making quilts. I was instantly hooked. I have a design background, studying printed textiles at Winchester School of Art in the 1990s. I've also worked at several studios designing textiles for the Japanese and American markets. So when I got heavily into sewing and quilting I naturally started having ideas for fabric collections. I started keeping sketches of all my ideas and worked on them from time to time, then one day I decided to approach a quilting fabric company – and to my delight they took me on!
Today I work as a fabric designer, quilter, embroiderer and pattern designer – but usually only one of these at a time! Fabric design is my favourite though, and I couldn’t live without it. When I’m designing fabric, I’m absolutely hooked on the
work at hand and don’t want to interrupt that time with anything else. Once the designs are done, I start thinking about ways in which the fabric could be used, and this leads very naturally to my quilt and pattern ideas. Eventually the fabric arrives and I drop everything to sew all the things I wanted to make. Then the whole cycle starts all over again!
My work is influenced by designers I love, such as Lizzy House, Carolyn Freidlander, Anna Maria Horner, Melody Miller and Anna Graham. I like them for having their own individual aesthetic and embodying their personal style in everything they do.
I always enjoy the process of having a number of ideas and working out how to combine them. I love seeing how things develop and then reaching a ‘conclusion’ in the form of a new design or pattern.
For my newest collection Vignette, with Cloud 9 fabrics, I started with a few sketchbooks filled with floral drawings and paintings. I scanned the artwork and opened it in Illustrator, using it as a basis from which to trace elements I liked, working with them until ideas started to emerge. Once I was happy with a basic idea, I started playing around with colour, layout and so on. After I had several design ideas ready, I started looking at them together, which helped me see what was working and what needed changing. When I had a design group I was happy with, I sent them to Michelle, the creative director at Cloud 9. She gave me feedback on the designs and we worked together to tighten up the colours, theme and so on until we had a finished group.
I’ve also recently started focusing on designing patterns for sewingthemed accessories, which started with my Project Book Pouch. When my book Little Stitches first came out, I had an idea to make a pouch where I could keep both the book and the detachable transfer patterns, as well as the embroidery I was working on. To make sure I could make more than one, I wrote down notes as I went. People started asking me if I had a pattern
I USUALLY HAVE A PARTICULAR COMBINATION OF IDEAS I WANT TO TRY TOGETHER IN A PATTERN AND IT’S NORMALLY DRIVEN BY SOMETHING I NEED.
for the pouch, so I went back to my notes and wrote one. I really enjoyed the whole process, so I wrote more patterns.
I usually have a particular combination of ideas I want to try together in a pattern and it’s normally driven by something I need, such as somewhere to put all the thread spools I seem to accumulate! Working out the best way to make the item from scratch allows me to problem-solve, which I find equally intriguing and frustrating! There are always several prototypes involved before I settle on the final design. Then I draw up all the patterns in Illustrator and write the pattern. I normally make at least one more to check the instructions, then I send the pattern out to several testers. I find their feedback invaluable – firstly to flag up any errors I might have missed, but equally to smooth out any areas of concern or confusion.
When I’m making a quilt, usually it begins with a stack of fabrics I want an excuse to use. I then edit them down to those that work well or are interesting together. I think of ideas I want to try and start doodling in a notebook, then I select my favourite ideas and make some test blocks. Once I’m happy with the block size and construction, I make more blocks and then start laying them out to decide on the final layout.
Having an organised sewing space is very important for me, as I find myself able to be more productive. It also helps me think more clearly. I don't work well surrounded by clutter as I constantly get distracted! I have a large work table where I do all my sewing and work on pattern ideas, and a smaller desk for my computer. I keep fabric and other supplies in bookcases, and there’s a pinboard above the computer, but other than that I don’t put anything on the walls as I like the feeling of space.
It’s much easier for me to think creatively than to think about business, so I have to ensure what I’m doing can be incorporated into more of a career, rather than a leisurely pastime. When it does come to leisure time, I enjoy sketching, painting and gardening – I just wish there was more time for me to do them!
FABRIC DESIGN IS MY FAVOURITE ACTIVITY, AND I COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT.
From fabric design to quilts, clever storage ideas and more, Aneela is the whole package! The clutch (above) was made to show off her new Vignette collection from Cloud 9, while the foldover sewing pouch (left) and nesting boxes (top right) use Sew Stitchy from Moda.
The All-in-One Box Pouch is Aneela's take on a portable sewing room – the work in progress tucks into the spacious interior, while the threads and tools fit into the zipped pockets! Just one of the inspiring patterns on her blog at comfortstitching.typepad.co.uk