Congratulations on the launch of your first fabric line, Coquette! Tell us a little bit about the line and what inspired its name & design.
Carina Gardner: I wanted to work on a set of modern florals in happy, bright colors. I liked how flirty all the fabrics were and I loved the idea of a “coquettish” line. It isn’t a typical pink girly line although it is definitely feminine. I loved the idea of a “grown-up” floral.
You're new to the fabric world, but certainly not to the world of design. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
CG: I have a M.A. and Ph.D. In Design and taught graphic design at the University of Minnesota for five years. I was doing a lot of research on color theory and logos (not as boring as it sounds!). I loved it but when I was done with school decided it was time to get back to designing. I love the craft industry and started doing paper lines for My Mind’s Eye and digital scrapbooking for Two Peas in a Bucket. With all the pattern-building I was doing for paper, it just made sense to transition into fabric.
What inspires you? What is your creative process like?
CG: I am a total magazine junkie (especially home décor magazines) and will get obsessed with a color scheme, the arch of a line, or a shape. The thing that inspires me the most is my two daughters. I’m always thinking about what I would dress them in or how I would decorate their room. Or I doodle. I’m a total doodler. And once in a while, a doodle will come to life. It’s amazing when that happens. The paisley in Coquette was a doodle once...
As for my creative process, it depends on my mood. Usually, I do a quick sketch and scan it in. Then I rework the idea in Illustrator. I try really hard not to think about the design too hard the first time around because I find that gut instinct is best. Then I’ll do a second take on a design or collection and work through the details to balance it.
You have a strong background in the scrapbooking field. It seems that a lot more designers are spanning the sewing and scrapbooking worlds. What do you think about this? How are the two fields similar? Different? What do you think this trend holds for the future of both industries?
CG: Oh yes, this trend will only get stronger. I mean, it makes sense. We are all pattern builders. Sometimes I’ll see a paper at CHA (Craft and Hobby Association-the scrapbooking equivalent of Quilt Market), and I’ll say, “Why isn’t this in fabric? I want it in fabric!” You’ll see designers and scrapbooking companies aligning with fabric companies more and more. If you want to see what will be coming out in fabric from these paper companies, take a look at this season’s paper lines. Paper has a two to five month turn-around and fabric has a year. For example, my collection Love Nest came out as a Glitter Pad in Winter 2009 and will be coming out in fabric Winter 2010.
What got you interested in designing fabrics, a new medium for you?
CG: I’ve always been interested in fabric—I’ve sewn all my life. Lots and lots of Barbie clothing in my past. The idea of designing fabric just sounded fun (and it is!). In some ways, it is a more compelling medium for me because I’ve always built my own patterns and slip-covered my own chairs (especially during the many years of graduate school).
What has the process of putting together your first line taught you about the uniqueness of designing for fabrics and quilts? Is it different than you would compose a paper line?
CG: A little different, but a lot of the same. It just took me a while to realize it. In a small paper line, every single paper needs to be strong. And there isn’t a lot of tone-on-tone patterns. Ironically, I’m also sort of known for my asymmetrical designs in paper. Ya, that wasn’t going to work in fabric. With quilting fabric, I realized that I needed to build these more “solid” patterns and to make sure and build small, medium, and large patterns. We do the same thing in paper, but many times those simplier designs are put on the back-side of a paper. I was almost afraid to add those simplier or smaller designs to a line because I didn’t know if it was acceptable. Now I know that they are absolutely necessary. Making my first quilt taught me that.
Are you a sewer or quilter? Has the process of designing fabrics made you more interested in sewing or quilting?
CG: My mom is a hand quilter. So I grew up with her quilting, but barely ever did any quilts with her (remember, I was too enthralled with making my Barbie’s fashionable). So last spring I took a quilting class and it completely changed my thought process about quilting. It was hard! But SO rewarding. I was a changed woman. I made my first quilt with Coquette, and I am trying to appeal to those out there like me—the adventurous, beginner quilter!
Does seeing things that crafters make out of your designs excite you? Are you excited to see quilts made from your lines?
CG: I can’t really explain the feeling of elation when I look at the quilt I made form the Coquette line. It is probably the most precious object I have at this point because not only did I design the fabrics, but I made the quilt. It feels amazing. And when other people make things out of my fabric, well, can warm, fuzzy, and elated all happen at one time? Because it does for me.
Your blog is already showing a sneak peek of your next line, "Lovenest". What can you tell us about this line?
CG: It’s girly. Completely inspired by my little girls. There is a serious obsession with pink in my house. I adore the little modern birdies and the paisleys. They are so fresh and feminine.
CG: As always, I’m doing a lot of projects and tutorials on my blog (carinagardner.com). I also recently started a newsletter featuring more of the crafting projects we’ve been doing in the studio. My first one just came out (read it here).
Next spring I’ll be coming out with a line of sewing patterns for little girls (See, the obsession is real. You can feel sorry for the one-lone man in the house now). You’ll also see three more lines from me next summer—Pinfeathers, Dress Up, and Baby Safari.
I also will be teaching a new Intermediate Illustrator online class in January that will focus on building patterns (all of my classes are at JessicaSprague.com). I’m pretty excited about this class because I think it will open people’s eyes on how to set up simple designs to be tiled into a full pattern.