Today’s interview with artist, designer, seamstress and author Alexia Abegg of Green Bee Designs & Patterns marks our final post in the Reflections + Predictions Series. We asked our Facebook and Instagram followers:
Which quilters, sewists, bloggers and authors rocked 2013? Who inspired and instructed, blazed new trails or reached new heights? Who changed the way you think about sewing, quilting or making in general? If you could pick a sewing industry person of the year, who would it be?
Read what our sewists have to say about 2013 and the year ahead: Kelli Ward of True Bias, Anna Graham of Noodlehead, Lisa Sipes of That Crazy Quilty Girl, Pat Sloan, Luke Haynes, Victoria Findlay Wolfe of Bumble Beans Inc., Heather Grant from The Modern Quilt Guild + QuiltCon, Vanessa Wilson from Crafty Gemini.
Why we chose Alexia:
- Her book, Liberty Love, was a huge sensation! For months our Instagram feed was full of beautiful Marcelle Medallions and we’re sure we’re not the only ones with some of the amazing projects from the book on our 2014 to-do list.
- Her patterns in the Green Bee line are stylish and approachable. The Green Bee booth at Quilt Market always leaves us ready to sew a whole new wardrobe for ourselves and our kids.
- Cotton + Steel! We can’t wait to see the new fabric designs Alexia and the other founding members of this new division of RJR produce!
SMS: Looking back on 2013, what trends stand out?
AA: From an industry standpoint, when I think about 2013 I think about a sea change quietly building in our industry, about re-focus and evolution, innovation and about stitchers learning new skills.
So many designers and artists I know are trying to make the leap from part-time/hobby income to making an actual living at this business of creating inspiring products in the sewing and quilting world. I see so many people shaking things up and rethinking the standard practices of small royalties and set boundaries between fabric design/marketing/writing/sewing pattern design/running a business.
I hear about someone taking a step back and re-evaluating or re-focusing their efforts all the time lately. I think allowing yourself the freedom to take a moment, look deep and question your path is one of the bravest things you can do, and hopefully that honesty leads to something that transcends your expectations. Whether sewing is a hobby or a business for you, I am sure your ideas and hopes for your sewing are different now than they were a year or two ago; identifying that and evolving because of it is so important for growth.
As an industry of enthusiasts I think we are all constantly seeking innovation and new skills. Online learning is becoming a crucial part of our industry. Through online classes, sew-alongs and even quick tutorial clips on Instagram, people are using innovative, new technology to share information, learn and step outside of their comfort zone.
Style-wise, I think 2013 was just the beginning of seeing more and more fabrics with an imperfect, hand drawn or painted aesthetic.
Was there a personal or an industry high point?
This year has been really huge for us. My husband, Rob Bancroft, my mom Michelle Abegg and I are lucky enough to be finding our place in the sewing world with our company Green Bee Design & Patterns. Rob’s first fabric line, MicroMod from Cloud9 fabrics, is out in the world and I love seeing bits of it pop up in projects people are sharing online.
Our patterns are stocked by some of my favorite shops around the world, shops I had on my hopeful list when we brought our patterns to market are now re-ordering our patterns and teaching classes with them… I am pinching myself all the time. I think a high point was Fall Quilt Market. We had so much fun creating the painted samples and our whole booth concept.
None of us had a specific, new fabric line of our own to promote just yet and we realized it would probably be one of the only times this would happen, so we took the opportunity to re-think our samples. We decided to really let the style lines of each pattern be the focus. So, we came up with the idea of sewing all of our samples out of white fabric, and then painting the seams and stitching lines onto the garments with black paint.
I still feel really proud of that booth and all of our hard work. People came up to us at market having already heard of our patterns, that was an amazing feeling.
Additionally, as if this year needed any more awesome, my involvement with Cotton + Steel, a new division of RJR fabrics, has been incredible. I can’t wait to share all that we have been building, this Spring, at Quilt Market.
What did you make that you’re most proud of?
I think I am most proud of my book, Liberty Love, which came out at the beginning of the year published by Stash.
I put so much work into it; I shot and styled most of the photos and created the illustrations; I really put my heart into the book. To see people sewing from it is just incredible.
It is surreal to focus so intensely on a project like a book, and then a year after most of your work is finished to see people’s reaction to the work when it is released. I’ve been floored by the response to the Marcelle Medallion quilt from the book. I can’t believe there are over 1200 posts tagged #marcellemedallion on Instagram!
I am also really thankful to have spent a lot of time in airports this year! I am proud of the classes I had the opportunity to teach around the US this year.
Connecting with stitchers and shops from all over and traveling a bunch has been amazing.
Whose work inspired or awed you?
I feel so lucky to be working with people that inspire me. Not only do I get to see and be inspired by my husband’s new designs constantly, but I also get to see my mom’s latest pattern sketches, and the incredible work of Melody Miller, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Sarah Watts and Kim Kight. Being surrounded by such talented people constantly pushes me to learn and strive for improvement in my work and that camaraderie also helps lighten the load of a life of art and design… Which is often a difficult path full of blood, sweat, and tears and working harder than you thought you ever could.
What was your favorite fabric collection or print?
Oh gosh, so many good collections in 2013… Okay, can I pick three prints? Scalloped Edge in the Ivory colorway by Rashida Coleman-Hale as it is so versatile and the colors are just beautiful. Arches in Grey by my husband, Rob Bancroft; this is all over our house and I love looking at it every day. The Fun on a Scooter print in Grey by Marisa of Creative Thursday is the cutest fabric for kids’ clothing!
What are your thoughts about social media? How is it going for you? What do you love or hate?
Instagram, how do I love thee, let me count the ways… Seriously though, I love Instagram. I’m a visual person, so for me Instagram is basically the perfect form of social media. Facebook is nice and simple, our Green Bee Design & Patterns and Cotton + Steel pages have been a really great way to connect with people. This is an area I hope to grow in the coming year, I really want to connect with my customers and the community and to offer more blog content. Our blog is a bit dusty and we’re working on that, along with some improvements to our website.
What do you predict for 2014?
I think both introducing new substrates, and providing greater availability of a variety of the current substrates on the market, are going to continue to be important. As a stitcher who loves apparel, I want more fabrics to be available specifically for garment sewing.
It feels like we’re going to see more denim, indigo and chambray-inspired fabric and projects. Lately chambray just feels like the perfect neutral.
In patterns I think we’re going to see a lot more garment patterns, especially those with a more intermediate level of detail.
I think we will see more detailed, complex patterns emerge in quilting and a greater prevalence of using traditional inspiration in a fresh way. I’d love to see more medallion quilts!
Who do you think will be a rising star of 2014?
My friend Christine Haynes has it going on. Her new Emery Dress pattern is gorgeous, timeless and adaptable. Her style is playful and classic. She is an amazing teacher. Her patterns are not only beautifully designed but technically well designed too. She is sharing awesome sewing insights on her blog. I loved her series recently with the Emery Dress testers’ garments!
It’s really refreshing to see a garment look amazing on so many body types but still have a more classic fit and nice details. Her creativity and work ethic are rock solid, she constantly inspires me and I know exciting things will come from her next year.
Can you tell us anything about what to expect from you in 2014? Any projects or life-changing goals you can share?
I can’t wait to share my first fabric collection, Hatbox, from Cotton + Steel, a new division of RJR fabrics. My work with Cotton + Steel has definitely been life changing. I have gained friendships through the process for which I am supremely thankful. I have learned more about my hopes and dreams as a designer.
I wake up every day thankful that I have been given the opportunity to be involved in every last detail of the formation of a fabric company. I feel lucky that some of my creative pursuits have really solidified into work that I love.
Is there anything else about the sewing industry or community that you’d like to talk about?
I have seen so many of my students bask in the glorious afterglow of finishing a project that pushed their skills to the next level, and I want that experience for our sewing community as a whole. Your time and efforts honing your skills and craft are in direct ratio to the outcome and quality of your sewing projects. The sense of accomplishment from learning a new technique is magical. With that in mind, I hope to see a slightly slower, more deliberate pace in sewing projects. Don’t get me wrong, I love a quick finish! I am all for simplicity. I strive to make our Green Bee patterns accessible for every level of stitcher. But I also want to encourage people to push their limits a bit and enjoy the process. We all take pride in our work and our time is precious and limited. Our lives are busy and time to sew is scarce. Let’s make the most of it and create quality pieces, have fun and, best of all, learn new things!