We asked sewing industry leaders to give us their reflections on 2015 and predictions for the year ahead. These professionals made a big impression on us this year, so we want to know what made a big impression on them! We hope you enjoy the series this week and next…

Here’s Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness, and now we have Mandy Leins of Mandalei Quilts. Mandy is the author of Wanderlust Quilts: 10 Modern Projects Inspired by Classic Art & Architecture. A professional longarm quilter and pattern designer, Mandy is also a Craftsy Instructor. We were able to mix Mandy’s thoughts with lots of great looks at projects from her new book…

Join the fun! Answer any or all of our questions on your site. Tag us or add the URL in the comments of any Reflections/Predictions post and we’ll check it out! #sewingpredictions


Sew Mama Sew: Looking back on the sewing scene in 2015, what trends stand out?
Mandy: I see two main categories: handwork and machine work. People are beginning to explore handwork more, and embrace it almost as a meditative practice. They’re also beginning to explore more techniques and materials. I see this as part of the second category, the machine part, where people are really deepening in their knowledge of a particular technique, and looking to know every aspect of it. I think we see that especially in the quilts that have been released as patterns, that have more complicated designs and require more than basic skills.

Wanderlust Quilts: 10 Modern Projects Inspired by Classic Art & Architecture by Mandy Leins.

SMS: Who knocked your socks off and why?
Mandy: I have quite a few!– I get really excited about Alison Glass’s work, not only because her collections are beautiful but because they show a real interest in broadening the scope of sewists and makers, and teaching new skills. (Plus she’s simply a good person.) Also, Sandi Hazlewood of Crafty Planner: Dang, that lady does some great interviews and really asks us to think about stuff. Kristin Link and Abby Glassenberg for seeing the need for a space where small businesses and indie crafters can come together and support each other with the Craft Industry Alliance. Bari J., for setting goals for her business– still making the beautiful art that she does and staying true to that vision– while also being profitable. The truth is, if we’re in this as a business, we need to be able to combine the art and the profitability, and there is no shame in doing that. It irks me that sometimes people think that being in business is something that somehow makes your art “dirty” or less worthy somehow.

Eggs and Darts Quilt, Winner of a First Place ribbon at NQA; find a tutorial for the quilting design here.

SMS: Favorite things? (Fabric collections, patterns, books, thread, tools, podcasts, classes, websites, events, etc.)
Mandy: This year I’ve set myself the goal of really understanding where I fit in the scheme of the larger history of quilting, so I’ve been spending a lot of time reading about that. Robert Shaw’s American Quilts: The Democratic Art and Roderick Kiracoffe’s Unconventional & Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar 1950-2000 are great places to start, and I’ve really been learning a lot from my friend Bill Volckening. His book New York Beauty: Quilts from the Volckening Collection is really great.

I also cannot get enough of the Crafty Planner podcast. I am obsessed with wool applique and non-cotton natural fibers. Print making of all varieties really interests me, and I’ve been following Valori Wells, Lizzy House and Celina Mancurti. In other words, I want to make all the aspects of my own work.

Pantheon Quilt from Wanderlust Quilts: Image courtesy of Stash Books. Photo by Nissa Brehmer.

What do you think 2016 has in store?
Mandy: I, personally, didn’t see all that earth-shatteringly new at Market, from a “physical object” standpoint. In 2016, I think we are going to be seeing more of the same from the designers (that’s not a bad thing!): prints in their styles, expanding their lines to include garment fabrics, etc. We’ll see a broadening of scope, rather than new-new stuff, which will be great because we all like options, right? I think we’ll continue to see people producing work with greater depth and attention to more elaborate designs. And I think the handwork and slow stitching will continue to be a thing. With the Craft Industry Alliance, I hope we see some growth in terms of how people approach the business side of the craft world.

Mosaic Pillows from Wanderlust Quilts: Image courtesy of Stash Books. Photo by Nissa Brehmer.

SMS: Who do you think are rising stars in the industry?
Mandy: Right now, I really admire two women that I’m fellow moderators with on our Facebook group Late Night Quilter’s Club: Stephanie Palmer and Kitty Wilkin. They are such positive forces for building people up, and when they decide to do something or pursue something, they just do it, and do it well. I know we’ll be seeing more from them. I’m going to be keeping an eye on Casey York. I think we will be seeing more business-y type offerings, too, as people realize that they’ll need to up their game if they want to be consistently profitable, like the CIA and Page + Pixel.

Aqueducts Quilt from Wanderlust Quilts: Image courtesy of Stash Books. Photo by Nissa Brehmer.

SMS: What did you do this year that you’re most proud of?
Mandy: I released my first book Wanderlust Quilts: 10 Modern Projects Inspired by Classic Art & Architecture, and I am so thrilled that people really seem to get it. The quilts in it may be about my story, but people are really seeing how to use the skills and techniques I teach to apply to quilting their own stories. That makes me ridiculously happy, to help people learn new skills to make the quilts of their hearts– and that doing it in my own life is not going to be the kiss of death from a professional standpoint!

Strawberry Moon pattern by Mandy Leins, EPP kit available at paperpieces.com.

What can we expect from you in 2016? Any big projects, life changes or goals you can share?
Mandy: I’ll be doing some quilting for authors, so you’ll see that in 2017. (Ha!) But I will be getting some of my patterns out there under my own business name, both quilts, wool appliqué and traditional appliqué. I will be teaching and writing much more, and am looking to really get serious about my presence on social media. I have a love-hate with social media because I worry it is a homogenizing force, even though I love how it brings us all together in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise… I think I am going to be exploring working in series, and in smaller formats. My youngest is still home, so the time I have to work is in stolen moments, and those formats lend themselves nicely to working within that constraint. My goal is to continue to support and encourage all quilters, and help them any way I can. A rising tide lifts all ships!