Quil­ter, screen printer and fab­ric de­signer Karen Lewis is a woman of many tal­ents. Fol­low­ing the re­lease of her lat­est book, Wabi-Sabi Sewing, we caught her be­tween tasks to talk shar­ing skills, sim­ple plea­sures and the strength in be­ing im­per­fect

Love Patchwork & Quilting - - CONTENTS -

Quil­ter, screen printer and fab­ric de­signer Karen Lewis is a woman of many tal­ents. Fol­low­ing the re­lease of her lat­est book, we caught up with her to talk about shar­ing skills, sim­ple plea­sures and em­brac­ing im­per­fec­tion

Tell us about how you first started Karen Lewis Tex­tiles.

I was pre­vi­ously run­ning an on­line busi­ness called Blue­berry Park, where I was cu­rat­ing items for sale from artists all over the UK. Dur­ing this time, I was do­ing more and more of my own work and it came to a point where I de­cided to stop rep­re­sent­ing other artists.

It was a scary de­ci­sion but one I haven’t re­gret­ted. When I went solo I changed the name to be more recog­nis­able as my­self.

What in­spired the name of your busi­ness and Robert Kauf­man fab­ric ranges, Blue­berry Park?

It came from my ob­ses­sion and love for blue­ber­ries and liv­ing op­po­site a park… noth­ing com­pli­cated!

Where does your love for print­ing and tex­tiles come from? I have al­ways loved tex­tiles and fab­rics that had that ex­tra tac­tile qual­ity about them, like linens, hand dyed and hand printed fab­rics. When I started work­ing with fab­ric it was nat­u­ral for me to want to in­cor­po­rate those in my work. What are your top three screen print­ing tips?

Be pre­pared and make sure you have ev­ery­thing that you need around you. You don’t have time mid print­ing to go off and iron more fab­ric or mix more paint. Al­ways trial a de­sign out first on pa­per. What is in your head may not trans­late well when it’s printed, and pa­per is cheaper than fab­ric… we don’t want to spoil our stash! Sim­plic­ity is the key. If you aren’t sure what de­signs will work, and par­tic­u­larly while you are learn­ing new skills, go sim­ple. You can’t beat a ba­sic re­peated shape.

Be­tween print­ing pat­terns by hand and de­sign­ing fab­rics for Robert Kauf­man, do you ever run dry of ideas? How do you stay in­spired?

I can’t even be­gin to tell you how many de­signs are in the sketch book that haven’t yet made it ei­ther to a screen or to Robert Kauf­man! I am al­ways doo­dling and al­ways in­spired by ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing around me.

My mind doesn’t ever switch off, whether it’s on my daily dog walk or be­ing some­where new and in­spir­ing. That’s not to say all the jot­ted down ideas are ever print-wor­thy, but

I am al­ways doo­dling and in­spired by ev­ery­thing around me. My mind doesn't ever switch off, whether it ' s on my daily dog walk or be­ing some­where new

I cer­tainly don’t have a prob­lem with run­ning out of de­sign ideas… more like the op­po­site!

What’s your stu­dio like?

An or­gan­ised mess! My stu­dio is right off the kitchen which has its ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages. I can never close my­self off and hide away as I am al­ways part of the fam­ily when they are around. I have a fu­ton in there which is al­ways oc­cu­pied by who­ever is in the house. Ev­ery­one gets shooed out and the doors shut when it’s pat­tern writ­ing time – they know not to ut­ter a sound when I’m con­cen­trat­ing on that!

I’m lucky in that the room faces out over the trees and the edge of the field, so it feels very peace­ful. I have a stack of shelv­ing all across one wall which is full to the brim with fab­ric, books and sup­plies and then there are two work ta­bles – one for my com­puter and ad­min stuff and the other with my sewing ma­chine and what­ever projects are cur­rently on the go at that time.

How did the idea for your book,

Wabi-Sabi Sewing, come to you? My sewing style has al­ways been fairly wabi-sabi – per­fectly im­per­fect! I have al­ways been drawn to the un­planned, us­ing tac­tile, hand pro­duced fab­rics, the sim­plic­ity of de­sign, the slow­ing down of time and hand stitch­ing, so I worked with my pub­lisher at FW Me­dia to cre­ate a book set around this con­cept to em­brace the ethos.

Do you think there are ad­van­tages to not al­ways try­ing to be per­fect? Ab­so­lutely! I am aware from teach­ing that peo­ple are afraid to get things wrong. A lot of the jour­ney of what we do is about learn­ing, try­ing and see­ing where we get and what we pro­duce. I try to en­cour­age the

I have al­ways been drawn to the un­planned, us­ing tac­tile, hand pro­duced fab­rics, the sim­plic­ity of de­sign and the slow­ing down of time

jour­ney. I also like to see that some­thing is hand­made and has the artist’s hand in it.

How did you go about pulling colours for your Au­ri­fil thread box? The Au­ri­fil thread col­lec­tion was de­signed in tan­dem with my book, Wabi-Sabi Sewing. The colour palette of the book has a sub­dued nat­u­ral vibe and I wanted to cre­ate a thread col­lec­tion that echoed that. I love that Au­ri­fil al­lowed me to in­cor­po­rate dif­fer­ent weights of thread, from ma­chine piec­ing to hand quilt­ing, just as I used in the book.

What do you en­joy about pass­ing your skills on through work­shops? I am a teacher by pro­fes­sion (maths and PE!) and have al­ways loved see­ing peo­ple get en­thused about some­thing. I love that with print­ing and sewing work­shops, es­pe­cially if peo­ple are hes­i­tant to be­gin with. I en­joy see­ing them come alive and de­light in learn­ing some­thing new. If you weren't a fab­ric/quilt de­signer, what would you be? That’s a re­ally tough one! Aca­dem­i­cally-wise, I would have loved to have been an ar­chi­tect. I wasn’t aware of it at the time of study­ing, and by the time I was it was too late to go back to ed­u­ca­tion for all those years. Along­side that I have al­ways wanted a cof­fee shop with a book­shop at­tached – one of those places with squishy so­fas and low ta­bles dot­ted about and book­shelves all around the walls.

De­scribe your per­fect day. Be­sides the above, my per­fect day would in­clude go­ing for a walk with whichever of the fam­ily mem­bers were around and our gor­geous cock­apoo Scout, fol­lowed by a stop at a pub or cof­fee shop on the way back. Once re­turned I would sneak off to my stu­dio for a bit of sewing and fab­ric stroking ther­apy, and fin­ish the day all snug­gled in the liv­ing room watch­ing the lat­est

box set, ac­com­pa­nied by a bot­tle of red… sim­ple plea­sures!

What in­spired your Court­house Steps Block of the Month?

I am a big fan of Court­house Steps and over­sized blocks. These two things in­spired me to in­cor­po­rate dif­fer­ent blocks into an en­larged Court­house Steps de­sign. I like the fact that there is va­ri­ety amongst the rows of uni­fy­ing colours and I can’t wait to see all the dif­fer­ent ver­sions that the read­ers will make! What do you love about be­ing a part of the quilt com­mu­nity?

The fact that even if in re­al­ity we aren’t sur­rounded by lots of peo­ple, we know the wider com­mu­nity is al­ways there. It is so gen­er­ous and sup­port­ive, and I love the con­nec­tions and friends I have made close to home and all over the world.

Above: Karen's screen print­ing style of sim­ple re­peated shapes Right: Wabi-sabi style sewing

Above: A quilt us­ing Karen's Blue­berry Park fab­ric range Right: HST chevrons from is­sue 61 of LP&Q Be­low: Su­per speedy chain piec­ing blocks

Above: Karen's screen print­ing set-up in her cosy home stu­dio

Above: Karen loves an over­sized quilt block! Right and be­low: Sim­ple patch­work projects us­ing Karen's Blue­berry Park fab­ric lines for Robert Kauf­man

Above: Peach and Um­ber from is­sue 45 of LP&Q Right: Low vol­ume Blue­berry Park prints Far right: Colour Study from is­sue 47 of LP&Q Be­low: More up­scaled quilt blocks in bold, con­trast­ing fab­rics

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