Interview with Alissa Haight Carlton

Saturday 12th July 2014, 9.55



Handmade by Alissa is the blog of modern and minimalist Alissa Haight Carlton a quilter, author and mother. Alissa’s distinct contemporary style of blocks of colour was one of the reasons she started the Modern Quilt Guild which she co-founded in 2009. Creating a community to share projects online and in person. Along with her day job of casting stars for television shows she has a passion for sewing and making quilts. There is never a wasted minute and luckily Alissa had some spare time to answer a few interview questions for us.


Tell us about yourself?

I live in Los Angeles with my husband and two year old son. I am a modern quilter and designer, author and blogger. I’m also the Executive Director of the Modern Quilt Guild. I have written two modern quilting books, Block Party and Modern Minimal. I work part of the year at the career I’ve had since pre-quilting, casting Project Runway. I blog very sporadically and I enjoy posting on Instagram as so much is said with an image.

Have you always been a quilter and who or what inspired you to make your first quilt?

I have not always been a quilter at all – I have been quilting for six years now. But it’s been a very intense six years! When I starting quilting, I took to it like a fish to water and have made a lot of quilts since. I was first inspired to make a quilt in early 2008 when I came across the flickr group “Fresh Modern Quilts”.  For the first time I saw quilts that would fit into the design and taste of my home. The craft of sewing quilts appealed to me enormously and so seeing modern quilts made me want to dive in and try it myself. I bought Denyse Schmidt’s first book and from there I am self taught. I cringe when I look at that first quilt, but I have learned by doing!

You often work with blocks of colour and have a contemporary style, where do you get your ideas to make your quilts from?

Well, unlike a lot of quilt designers, I’m not someone who says “I have a million ideas in my head all the time!” I have to work to come up with my ideas and designs, they don’t just show up all the time… My tried and true policy is to always just “make the next quilt.” I don’t worry about it being hugely different from the quilt before it. I never make the same quilt twice, and I always design my own quilts, but I wallow in a colour story and design ideas for a long time. I find that I end up making a series of quilts and while they are all very different from each other, I don’t stress about reinventing my entire design wheel with every single quilt. I allow myself to explore the same ideas over and over and this helps me a lot.

In terms of the nuts and bolts of coming up with designs, I use Illustrator and find that just sitting in front of my computer and dragging around this rectangle or that and mixing and matching colours… just playing around… leads me to new and interesting ideas.

Your quilts are always finished with diverse quilting techniques, what sewing machine do you use? Are you lucky enough to own a long arm quilting machine?

These days, I tend to only straight-line quilt my quilts. It’s a texture and look that I’ve fallen in love with and I don’t think that I’ll be back to the free motion for a time to come. We’ll see… I am very lucky to be a part of Janome’s on-loan program and I sew with their Horizon 8900. I love it. It’s very big and it’s fantastic for all of the (admittedly very time consuming) straight line quilting that I do.  I don’t have a long arm (we have a tiny house in LA, so it’s not realistic any time soon) but I don’t mind so much as straight lines are possible on my home machine.

How do you think your work has developed over the years?

My work has change enormously over the years.  If you look at my first quilts and my most recent quilts it’s a bit hard to see a through line.  But if you look at the work along the way, it’s there!  I have always worked with lots of solids and bold colours, but as my work has grown I’ve developed a more minimalist graphic aesthetic.

What do you do with all your finish projects?

I have recently slowed down a lot with the projects that I get completed (I’m so busy with so many other things in life right now that the time to sew has dried up a lot!) but when I do sew I tend to always be sewing a project with it’s purpose in mind.  It’s either for a baby shower I’m headed to the next day, or I might be on a deadline for a project for a publication. It varies!

Can you tell us if you have some exciting projects coming up?

Well the Modern Quilt Guild has QuiltCon coming up in February in Austin, Texas and that has me very busy these days. I also have a quilt in the recently released book, Lucky Spool’s Essential Guide to Modern Quiltmaking. From there, I’m just working at keeping up with the things I have going on right now!

Follow Alissa on Instagram @alissahaightcarlton

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The Liberty Design Studio Inspires Crowds at Hampton Court Flower Show

Wednesday 9th July 2014, 18.07




The lovely Liberty Design Studio creatives have designed a giant Liberty print-covered letter sculpture for the Hampton Court Flower show.

Last week three members from our lovely wholesale design studio spent a busy few days at the Hampton Court Flower Show, creating a beautiful and inspiring Liberty print patchwork letter ‘I’ to greet the thousands of visitors who will enter over the coming week.

Head of Design Emma Mawston said, “The interior and rear side of the letter represent over thirty years of Liberty history, and the classic designs Liberty is so famous for. The fabrics were arranged in a beautifully random way as we don’t work to specific colour stories when colouring the classics.

The front of the letter is created with blue, pink and purple swatches to blend with the colour the other letters were painted. We started with blues, moving into pinks and then purples. The designs were mainly from the fashion fabric collection with a few classics included. The purple  front of the letter being very apt as it represents the colour of Liberty.

The side on show has more of a graded colour distribution as our seasonal fashion fabric collections are created with specific palettes. The designs are placed to represent from the bottom upwards: earth, grass and flowers with the sky, clouds and sunshine at the top. Prints used were a selection of styles by the Liberty Art Fabrics design studio, The Liberty Archive and 25 artist and group collaborations including Grayson Perry, Rachel de Thame, John Malkovich, Florence Welch and Deborah Landis.”

Visit Hampton Court Flower Show this week to see the design studio’s printed masterpiece and tweet us your pictures @LibertyLondon.


How to make a Liberty print deck chair headrest

Saturday 5th July 2014, 10.26

Deck chair headrest Apartment Apothecary

Katy Orme from Apartment Apothecary returns again for another one of her ‘how to make’ sewing tutorials – this time it’s a summertime project. While the sun is high in the sky, why no bask in its rays with your new Liberty print deck chair headrest cushion for comfort.

Katy explains more about how she came up with this project:

‘I have had a bare deck chair frame lying around for three years and done nothing with it. Every summer I tell myself that I am going to bring it back to life and I have finally got round to it this year! I started by oiling the frame to give it protection and bring a bit of colour back to the wood. I made a sling from blue canvas – I wanted to keep it plain as I knew I wanted a feature head rest cushion in a pretty print (P.s. If you want to replace your deck chair’s sling, just copy the pattern of the old one – it is really easy).

I have never found deck chairs that comfortable; they always look so appealing, but when I sit in them it doesn’t feel quite right. Resting your head on taut canvas is actually quite uncomfortable. However, if you make yourself one of these headrest cushions you’ll never want to leave your deck chair again…’


How to make a deck chair headrest

You will need:

Cushion inner 50 x 30 m (You can chop a square cushion to this size and just stitch it up again)

Front piece in Thorpe – 52 x 32 cm

Two back pieces in Glenjade – 35 x 32 cm

Two tab pieces in Thorpe – 4.5 x 22 cm

Two tab pieces in Glenjade – 4.5 x 22 cm

Four tab pieces of light iron-on interfacing – 4.5 x 22cm

Two 15mm diameter self cover buttons and two 35mm diameter circles of Glenjade fabric

Needle and thread


Button hole foot for sewing machine

Stitch picker





Making the fabric covered buttons

Step 1 & 2 Liberty print deck chair headrest

Step 1:

Place the top of the button, which comes in two parts, on the wrong side of the 35mm diameter circle of Glenjade. Thread your needle and sew round the edge of the circle so you will be able to gather the fabric in around the button – pull as tight as possible to avoid wrinkles.

Step 2:

Press the bottom of the button over the gathered fabric, securing it in place.


Making the tabs

Step 3 Liberty print deck chair headrest

Step 3:

Iron the interfacing onto each of your four tabs (follow the instructions on the pack).

Step 4 Liberty print deck chair headrest

Step 4:

Place one Glenjade and one Thorpe tab right sides together and pin. Sew around three sides of the tabs (1cm seam allowance), leaving the bottom open. Repeat with the second tab.

Step 5 & 6 Liberty print deck chair headrest

Step 5:

Cut off the corners and excess seam allowance and turn the tabs inside out using a pencil to help you poke out the corners.

Step 6:

Attach the button hole foot to your sewing machine. Sew a button hole 3cm from the bottom (the open end) of both the tabs.

Step 7 & 8 Liberty print deck chair headrest

Step 7:

Rip open the button hole using a stitch picker – pin through the top of the hole so you don’t rip too far.

Step 8:

Sew the button 1cm from the top on the back of both the tabs (the Glenjade print side).

Put your tabs to one side.

N.B. If you want to make this project in a rush, you can use ribbon instead of making your own buttons and tabs.


Making the cushion

Step 9 & 10 Liberty print deck chair headrest

Step 9:

Press a 1cm hem on the right hand side of one of the back pieces and the left hand side of the other back piece.

Step 10:

Then turn over a further 2cm of the same hems and press again. Sew these hems.

Step 11 Liberty print deck chair headrest

Step 11:

Lay the two back pieces down, right side up, with the hems facing each other in the middle. Pin a tab on the opposite end to the hems on each back piece. The open bottom end of the tab should line up with the top edge of the back piece, Thorpe print facing up. The tab should be 1.5cm from the side of the back piece.

Step 12 & 13 Liberty print deck chair headrest

Step 12:

Sew both tabs on to their respective back pieces with a crossed square so that they are secure.

Step 13:

Lay the front piece down, right side up. Place the two back pieces on top, right sides together (they should overlap as this will form the envelope opening). The tabs should be sandwiched between the back and front pieces. Sew all the way round, cut off the corners and turn inside out and press.

Sit back and enjoy your new rejuvenated deck chair, just in time for the sun!

Finished Liberty print deck chair headrest

Follow Katy on Twitter @AptApothecary

You can share your Liberty print projects with us on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest by using #SewLiberty.

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Classic Liberty Print Fabric: Strawberry Thief by William Morris

Wednesday 2nd July 2014, 16.10



Strawberry Thief William Morris

This week we look at one of our most famous Classic Liberty prints and the creative genius behind it. William Morris designed the Strawberry Thief print in 1883, featuring a pair of birds stealing strawberries in a repeat. The inspiration for this print came after he found thrushes stealing fruit in his kitchen garden at his home in Oxfordshire. Liberty first produced the Strawberry Thief design as a furnishing fabric in 1979, and it has since been scaled down to be printed on Tana lawn in an ideal size for dressmaking. The Strawberry Thief design has been a classic fabric in the Tana lawn collection since 1995.

Born in 1834 in Walthamstow and named after his father, he was born into a wealthy middle-class family. William Morris was a designer of printed and woven textiles, carpets, tapestries and embroideries, as well as wallpapers, printed books, furniture, stained glass and tiles. His textile designs date from the early 1870s onwards, and include designs such as African Marigold and Windrush. He was a leading member of the Arts and Crafts movement and opened his own store Morris & Co just down the road from Liberty & Co on Oxford Street in 1877, two years after Liberty was founded.

William Morris was not only a textile designer he was also a poet, novelist, translator and revolutionary socialist; he also trained as an architect. One of his most famous quotes sums up his design vision ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’.

Strawberry Thief

Have you made something from Strawberry Thief? Share your Liberty print projects with us on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest by using #SewLiberty.


Amy Smart’s Diary of a Quilter

Friday 20th June 2014, 16.51

Amy Smart Diary of a quilter

Sewing and quilting were once kept as a secret hobby by blogger Amy Smart; she thought it was too dorky to share with the outside world but now it is a major part of her life. Amy, an avid sewer, has gone full circle and now documents her life as a quilter in her online diary. We caught up with Amy to find out how she juggles quilting, blogging and what she’d call her own Liberty print.


Tell us about yourself and the drive behind all your sewing projects?

I think I just itch to create. It’s my happy place. Part of it comes from wanting to do something that just stays done. There are a lot of daily tasks that need to be redone each day (i.e. make the bed, unload the dishwasher, feed the children – for some reason they want to eat everyday!) so it’s nice to work on something that you can look back and say, “I did that today and look at this progress!” I also love fabric. I mean LOVE. I think it’s my biggest inspiration – I see fabric I adore and I immediately want to create something with it.


Diary of a Quilter is a great name for a blog, how often do you post?

Usually around three times a week, but during the summer holidays I drop back to only two or so. It’s a tricky balance writing a creative blog. The point of writing a blog is to share what I’ve created and to teach others how to create. But the computer can be so time consuming – even just doing the minutia like answering emails or writing a blog post. There needs to be a balance of staying caught-up on the computer (which starts to really drain my creative mojo) and sewing and creating projects worth sharing.


How did sewing turn into something which is more than a hobby?

When my two oldest children were little I found the perfect job on Saturday afternoons at a new, little local quilt shop. I ended up working there for 7 years (during which time I had two more babies) and loved every minute of it. While I was there I started designing quilts and projects to help sell the fabric in stock. That’s where I really fell in love with designing quilts – and got lots of practice at doing it. When I started writing a blog in 2008 I began selling some of my patterns from my site. It has been such a blessing to have something that I really love to do turn into a business I enjoy as well.


You work with a varied palette, are they any particular colours and techniques you like to use when making your projects?

I am definitely a sucker for traditional, primary colours. I think I like them because they never go out of style. I used them in my Union Jack quilt because I wanted it to be timeless.  But I also love bright, contemporary palettes too and I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’m working on a block of the month series this year using mustard, grey, and red and really liking the combination.


You have worked with lots of big names, is there someone that you would like to work together with or design a quilt for?

I would love to attend one of Denyse Schmidt’s workshops at her studio one day. She is such an inspiration to me and I think the experience, especially the improvisation part, would push me outside my style-box and broaden my improv skills.


If you were able to name a Liberty print, what would your chosen name be and why?

Oh, wouldn’t that be fun? I think I would name a print Bayswater. When I was a university student I lived in London for a semester and fell in love with the city. (Who wouldn’t?!) We lived right off Bayswater road so I think that would be a fun, sentimental name. A funny side note – my friends at I used to love to go to Liberty and look at the fabulous couture wedding gowns. I didn’t even know Liberty carried fabric back then! I’m going to London this summer and you can bet I’ll be heading to the fabric first when I visit Liberty this time!

Follow Amy on Twitter @amyusmart

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