We asked sewing industry leaders to give us their reflections on 2016 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…

Yesterday, we heard from Nydia Kehnle of Nydia Kehnle Design + Photography, and now we have Samarra Khaja from Samarra Khaja. Samarra is the author of Sew Adorkable and Off the Bookshelf. A graphic designer, illustrator, and photographer, Samarra has also designed whimsical fabric collections and unique wallpaper.

Want to 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 2016, what trends stand out?
Samarra: I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot more smaller piecing and use of brighter color palettes (yay!). I feel like the year ended with less constrained projects and more improvisational work. Of course, no thanks to Instagram with their algorithm-switching nonsense to alter perspectives on what’s what.

SMS: Who knocked your socks off and why?
Samarra: I’m all about what’s different because I inevitably get bored otherwise. I love mindsets that beat to their own proverbial drums and thrive off exploration and experimentation; a unique creative voyage seen clearly in their work – and that’s what makes things fresh and interesting. The brains of people like Chawne Kimber, Jessee Maloney, and Rhya Tamašauskas make my brain dance around and fire off sky-writing pyrotechnics that spell out “YES, THIS!”

SMS: Favorite things? (Fabric collections, patterns, books, thread, tools, podcasts, classes, websites, events, etc.)
Samarra: I’m a big proponent of going to outside sources to inform your own work. It can be as far as a great podcast about astronomy or closer with looking at creations by people who work in clay, paper, wood, you name it. If you feel like you need something new to recharge your creative soul, change up your usual process of making; do something totally different, like challenging yourself to make a small quilt based solely on a complex emotion, or a seemingly unrelated field of study and then see where that takes you. Regardless of the finished piece, you’ll learn a lot along the way. You can always find new tools, gadgets, books and fabrics but it’s the journey of making that will feed creative hunger the most, so bask in that whenever possible.

SMS: What do you think the sewing and quilting industry has in store this year?
Samarra: I don’t know what they have up their sleeves, but here’s the reality of things: you can have only so much thread, new machines, notions and fabric before you drown in your own surroundings. I think there really needs to be a shift to using what you have and focusing less on the material consumption and accrual of what’s popular and more time and focus put on the savoring of your personal time spent creating something. After making a huge home move in 2016 and realizing I could easily open up my own art supply store, I decided that the only way to justify buying anything new is to use what I have. And then to be really thoughtful about what I do buy and why. It’s actually been a fun, challenging process because I have to work within constraints, and that dilemma and subsequent problem-solving is a great source of creativity. I’m going to try to continue that focus into the new year.

SMS: Do you have any thoughts about the role of art in the years ahead?
Samarra: Art is therapy. Whether it’s the making of it or the viewing of it, art provides a place to put aspects of the human condition that can’t be translated into words or relayed by any other mode of communication. Given the tumultuous times we’re living in, I see a huge uptick in the role of art, both personally and publicly.

SMS: What did you do this year that you’re most proud of?
Samarra: My new fabric collection, “Geogram” debuted at Fall Market (it arrives in stores at the end of January/early February).

I feel great satisfaction about my visual presentation of the collection in the Lecien booth at Houston. There’s a great deal that goes into why and how I create a fabric collection and to tie in additional thematic layers as supporting story dialogue for that was really fun, from the mannequin clothing choices to my animal wall portraits to the metallic paper masks that each animal family member wore. There’s math, animals, geometry, puzzles, things to be discovered within other things, moments of surprise and happiness all tied together with bright celebratory colors.

I’m also really proud of the pickle costume I made for my youngest for Halloween.

SMS: What can we expect from you in 2017? Any big projects, life changes or goals you can share?
Samarra: I’m very excited to give my Sunday lecture, “Concept Quilts & How to Up Your Quilting Game the Funny-Haha Way” at QuiltCon 2017 in Savannah. I can’t wait to have a trapped audience to lovingly badger into releasing more of their inner creativity, mwhahaha. It’s gonna be fun!