Today we are featuring Janet Clare. Janet is an ultra creative lady who creates patterns for wonderfully whimsical quilts and stitcheries, and teaches classes on her fun and simple free motion applique and machine drawing techniques.
We came across her lovely booth at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham and she has very generously offered a free pattern for all our readers so that they can make their own cute penguin mini quilt (details at the bottom of this post!) but first we wanted to find out a little more about what makes Janet tick.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your artistic background.
I studied Textiles and Fashion at ‘Winchester School of Art’ and specialised in children’s knitwear design. I worked as a freelance knitwear designer for many years. Now, I look after our two small-ish boys first and design and create every chance I get. I try to be creative every day. Luckily, I don’t like having ‘my two arms the same length’ (which is my Irish Mum’s way of saying ‘doing nothing’), so I can always find at least a little time for my sewing. I make do and mend. I don’t believe in keeping things ‘for best’. And I love being at home with my thrifted and hand-me down treasures.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Anywhere and everywhere! I am always looking for inspiring images and colour combinations and keep a scrapbook and sketchbooks to record them in. I love magazines, blogs and the Internet and always come away from the ‘Victoria and Albert Museum’ full of ideas. I am also inspired by children and their purity of thought, innocence and the joy they find in the mundane.
Describe you creative process to us.
If I am designing a collection I like to make a mood board first. From that I create a colour story and then I start sketching ideas. After a while, an image of a finished quilt will just pop into my head (often when I’m not even thinking about work, just washing up or something equally mundane) and then I know exactly what to do. I don’t make many test samples, as I prefer to make things only once. So, each of my pictures and quilts are completely unique. I write my patterns at the same time as I make the quilts, so when the quilt is finished the pattern is finished too. And then I never want to make another quilt the same again!
What kind of sewing machine do you own.
I use Pfaff sewing machines- I have a Pfaff 2044 and a Quilt Expression 4.0
What are you favourite materials to use in your work?
I try to re-use and recycle as much as possible. I love to work with vintage wool blankets and I do a lot of fusible applique too.
When you are not designing what sort of things do you like to make for yourself?
As I am lucky enough to call sewing ‘work’ I tend to knit in my free time. I also like baking cakes.
Do you involve your children in your work?
They involve themselves! The boys spend a lot of their time drawing, sewing and making next to me in my little studio. They are also very keen to tell me what they think about my work- and are often brutally honest!
Tell us about the classes you teach.
I love teaching. I teach people how to draw with their sewing machines and I am also developing a design based course called ‘Journey’ which I’m very excited about.
You work has a very vintage feel to it. Do you use vintage materials or do you have any top tips for creating that look?
I do use recycled and vintage materials where possible, but I buy patchwork and quilting fabrics and very often use the reverse side of the print for a faded and subtle effect. I also tea dye a lot. Otherwise my favourite fabric to use is plain calico (muslin). I also hand sew and quilt and often cut fabric with scissors, not rotary cutters which I think all adds to the homespun, vintage feel.
You like to thrift. Do you have any good tips? Where to look? What to look out for?
I love thrifting! I treat a thrift shop as a fabric and haberdashery shop- looking for fabrics, such as wool, tweed and velvets, as well as buttons and beads etc. My tip would be to keep an open mind and really look at everything carefully trying to imagine what it would look like in your home all clean and surrounded by nice things. Look out for wool blankets.
What’s next for Janet Clare
I’m currently daydreaming about writing a book and designing a quilting fabric collection- I always have more ideas than I know what to do with and there are never enough hours in the day. But, I’m not one of life’s great planners and just take opportunities as they are given to me, so who knows what’s next!
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You can see more of Janet's work, and information on how to buy her patterns at: http://www.janetclare.co.uk/