Minki Kim's signature style is unmistakable, with her charming thread drawings and beautiful illustrated fabrics. We caught up with her to chat about keeping a diary, serendipity and family
Minki Kim’s signature style is unmistakable, with her charming thread drawings and beautiful illustrated fabrics. We sat down with the multitalented sewist to chat about keeping a diary, serendipity and family
How did you get started on your sewing journey?
When I moved to the US from Korea, I turned to needle art to fill the days. My husband got me my first sewing machine and I started to make simple projects like coasters and place mats… I wondered if I could draw with the machine and it really worked! Ever since then, I have kept designing and sewing every day, and that creating became a habit that has got me to where I am now. How did you discover and develop your unique style?
I spent my entire childhood and college life drawing and painting, although my major is in sculpture. I always wanted to go back to drawing, and I ended up finding a whole new paintbrush through my sewing machine.
What is your top tip for illustrating with thread?
I often read people saying “I need to practice” about their attempts at thread drawing. The key is to be confident, and practice will always help with confidence. What do you prefer: illustrating with pencil or thread?
It’s funny, drawing with pencil should be easier, but these days I often draw with thread first and then trace it onto paper to make a pattern. I think I prefer thread now!
What’s your all-time favourite thing to make?
Bags and pouches! I call myself a bag girl. I love to design 3D structures and see the finished project before the day comes to an end. For a quick gift, I like to make coasters or pincushions. Making Zakka-style projects is always fun. You have two books out: Sew
Illustrated and Diary in Stitches.
How do you choose projects for each publication?
Sew Illustrated was designed to teach people who are not familiar with thread drawing. I tried to explain sewing illustration from A to Z, by including simple projects like a coaster to more artful work like a family portrait.
Diary in Stitches is like a follow up for Sew Illustrated readers. I drew one design a day for almost half a year and finished a whole sketch book. That then became 65 motifs
I spent my entire childhood and college life drawing and painting. I wanted to go back to drawing, and ended up finding a new paintbrush through my sewing machine
and six projects that show variety of projects the reader can adopt. And, of course, Diary in Stitches has detailed instructions with step by step pictures as well.
How did you start producing fabrics for Riley Blake Designs?
I have always wanted to design fabrics ever since I started sewing. One day I showed my illustrations to the team at Riley Blake, they loved them and I signed the contract next day! The only downside of that experience was that I was all alone in my home with nobody to shout out and dance with when I found out!
Can you tell us a little bit about your process when you design a fabric collection?
I’d love to know how other designers work on their collections, because mine is a very long journey. It often takes more time to decide what to draw than the drawing itself… I then change illustrations and colours over and over again until I have 21 prints that I’m happy with and that work together. It’s always hard to say it’s done though, because the next day I want to change it again! That’s why it takes so long for me.
What’s it like to be part of the Riley Blake family?
It’s like the way you feel about your mom – you don’t know what other moms are like but you think your own mom is the best. It’s the first fabric company I’ve been a part of and I really don’t think there’s a better place to be.
Your first fabric collection was called Dear Diary. Is keeping a diary something you do yourself? I kept a daily diary between elementary school and middle school, but then I started using it a little less. Once I started my blog, I posted a weekly photo diary for
three years, though this stopped as I became busier writing books and designing fabrics!
Describe a day in the life of Minki Kim.
I try to take a walk for about 30 minutes every morning. I cook a Korean breakfast for my husband and myself, and an American breakfast for my three girls. It’s the busiest hour… I cook like an iron chef! When they are off to school and work, I try to finish all the housework as quickly as I can. Then I finally sit down and start to decide what to make or draw that day.
I hate a day spent without achieving any visual results – it can be just one drawing or a clean kitchen or a simple stitch on some linen. Doing what I love to do every day for over ten years has brought me to where I am today.
What inspired your Serendipity fabric collection – both the name and the designs themselves?
My girls are the inspiration for my Serendipity collection. The main design is based around the idea of a day at the park. From that I’ve added pretty little things I see on my morning walk or during a sunset walk with my little girls. I loved the movie Serendipity and I also love the meaning of the word itself. I kept the word aside for good use and it really happened with this collection. What can we expect from you in the future?
My next fabric collection for Riley Blake Designs, Someday, will be out in February 2019. I think it’s my favourite collection so far! I am working on a fall 2019 collection and writing my third book, all about Zakka projects. It should be out in November 2019. In between that, I’ll be continuing to design for magazines, as well as adding new patterns to my pattern shop, sewingillustration.com. Of course, I’ll keep baking and cleaning and making more mess along the way!
I hate a day spent without achieving any visual results - it can be j ust one drawing or a clean kitchen or a simple stitch on some linen
Above: Minki's patchwork designs let the fabrics sing Right: Quick gifts are top of Minki's to-make list
Above: Minki's favourite style of Zakka project Above right: A simple quilt with fresh floral fabrics Right: Minki calls herself a 'bag girl' due to her love of 3D structures Below: A collection of thread illustrated hexies
Below: A boxy hexagon pouch Right: A quilt with Minki's signature aesthetic
Above: Minki's fabric collections for Riley Blake used in a sweet array of projects Right: The brand new followon book from Sew Illustrated, Diary in StitchesBelow: Minki's workspace is full of inspiration