One of many classic quilting questions is ; Do I choose the design/ pattern, and then the fabric? Or the other way around? However, Joanne Kerton makes a compelling case for creating the design first.
“When I design, my mind is working with color. I come up with the design first, then go browse the fabric aisles for the fabric colors and print textures that will fit my version, rather than falling in love with a fabric collection and designing to fit the collection. I think that may be a bit of a handicap as far as partnering with fabric companies to help publicize my designs and brand, but it’s how my mind works! I’ve tried picking a fabric first, then designing, but it hasn’t worked for me yet. I won’t say it never will. Working in the shop I see lots of gorgeous collections as they arrive, and maybe one of these days, one of them will speak to me and tell me what to make with it!”
Joanne intentionally designs with color and value at the forefront of her mind so they will work in various color schemes and fabric styles. The intent is for the end product to be versatile. Her Sparkling Trail pattern was originally made with red and green scraps. Most thought; “Christmas pattern,” but not necessarily so. She cleverly made this pattern using other fabric themes and colorways. One features 1930’s reproduction prints, another uses vibrant batiks, with purples, blues and lime greens. Another elegant version she created uses black and white with a pop of red. “They are all very different, but all equally effective.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Joanne Kerton, (pronounced curtain), at Sew Pro, in September 2016. A native Canadian, she grew up in Nova Scotia, and now hails from Iowa. Along the way, Joanne has lived in Hawaii, Toronto, Ottawa, British Columbia, Northern Quebec, and Halifax. She earned her BS in physics, from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She then earned a certification in Museum Studies from the Ontario Museum Association. Joanne often thinks a degree in business might have been more useful, but she does not regret her path, because then she wouldn’t be who she is today, and “never would have stumbled across quilting.”
She’s held some interesting jobs in education and public outreach, including one at the Ontario Science Center. After some training in museum education, she worked at a 1850’s historic house museum. While dressed in historic costume, she spun wool and cooked over an open hearth for visitors. After that, Joanne made the move to become a stay-at-home mom.
Eventually quilting became her hobby, and then a business. She’s had some family influences. ” Both my grandmothers were knitters and taught me to knit and crochet. One of them also sewed but passed away before the bug hit me. I didn’t start sewing until after my first child was born, and that was a rocky start. The ladies at the fabric store told me sewing with knit fabric was a breeze and neglected to share any useful tips when they sold me a pattern for a toddler outfit! This motivated her to begin creating her own patterns.
My husband’s great-aunt was a quilter, and though I met her only once, the quilts she gave us for our wedding and for our children, inspired me. When I needed a wedding present for my brother, I decided to spend the gift budget on quilting tools and supplies to make him a quilt. A friend who dabbled in many crafts showed me the basics of paper piecing, pointed me to a book on the subject (I think it was one of Carol Doak’s Books) and I plunged in. The wedding gift was delivered very late, but I loved the process.”
The online quilting community became a meaningful and necessary pathway for her. At that time, Joanne was not comfortable putting her name on the internet, and thought about using a name that was self-explanatory. Her blog was, and still is, a platform that focuses on “quilting, projects in progress, tutorials and finished projects.” That said, the name Canuck Quilter came to her, and describes who she is and what she does. The friendships she has made through blogging and commenting on other blogs are quite meaningful to her; “Some of those quilters have since left the blogging community, but I still cherish the quilt I made with signed blocks from a block exchange we had.”
Canuck Quilter began selling patterns five years ago as PDF pattern downloads, under her own brand; Canuck Quilter Designs . Joanne aims to release 2-3 patterns per year, by spreading the word. Her patterns are distributed by Checkers and Brewers to LQS.
Her museum education training helped her recognize many different styles of learning and to be cognizant of that while writing and editing patterns. Joanne noticed that visual learning and understanding works better for some, and of course others prefer text for the directions. So her patterns are written with both “text and illustrations made equally clear. I want newer quilters to feel confident trying something new, and I strive to make my instructions accessible to quilters of any level experience. Generous quilters of varying abilities who have tested patterns for me have given me very positive feedback about the flow and clarity of my patterns so I feel I’m on the right track.”
Currently, Joanne takes care of her husband and two teenage children. She also works at her LQS, Quilting Connection in Ames, Iowa. Her responsibilities include; helping customers choose fabrics and patterns, lots of quilt math, answering quilt-related questions, demonstrating tools and techniques, (would love to do more of this), cutting fabrics, re-shelving and shuffling fabric bolts. Her favorite influences are those with “crisp designs. I am drawn to the geometry and symmetry of traditional quilt blocks and units, but also likes the asymmetrical settings and negative space more commonly found in modern quilts.” Color-wise she favors bright hues, but doesn’t have a favorite color.
While working at her LQS, she has observed that many quilters shy away from more complicated patterns, which she finds disheartening. As she points out, “Yes, some are complex, but many just look complex and really are not. It’s all about building a skills toolbox and I’d love to help other quilters do that. I have plenty of room left in my own toolbox to learn new things, but I can certainly share the tools I do have. I also think that the internet is a great source of information, but sometimes hands-on learning with live feedback is better. By mastering the basics of calculating yardage for your borders, backing or binding, a quilter can save money on fabric purchases. When I figure quilt math for a customer, I always try to write out my thought process and explain as I go, and it seems to dispel some of the mystique.”
Canuck Quilter will be launching a series of bi-weekly quilt math tutorials, via her blog sometime this summer, addressing common quilt math tasks, broken down in step-by-step fashion, which she hopes will quell quilt math fears. Her background and experiences are very strong in this area. “The scientific side of me likes order and logic, and I think this influences my pattern writing. My patterns are divided into clear sections, with as many step by step instructions and diagrams as needed to illustrate a step. I try to keep each step short to make the pattern easier to read and follow. If it starts to look like a paragraph with multiple steps, I break them down into short and easy ones.”
Additionally, Joanne is hoping for her readers, to suggest related topics, to create engagement and meet her readers needs. I love this idea, and am looking forward to participating.
I asked her what project she is most proud of, and this was her response. “I would say I am particularly proud of my Focal Point table runners that were featured in the June, 2016 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting. It was very encouraging to know that the editors liked that design enough to publish it. I also stretched my free motion quilting skills for those, quilting much more densely and intricately than I usually do to fulfill the magazine’s request for denser quilting.”
This journey has been full of fulfilling experiences. When I asked her about the most valuable thing she learned so far, this was her answer. “Of course doing things a certain way can make things easier, but I can try things and decide what works for me and what doesn’t. A very popular quilting teacher once wrote a very strong post about how a certain presser foot led to awful seam allowances. Well, that may be true for her, but that foot is my favorite tool to help me achieve that 1/4” seam! I can do what works for me and there is no “Quilt Police” to rap my knuckles about it!”
I am offering a give-a-way. The winner will receive a downloadable pattern from Canuck Quilter. All you have to do is leave a comment in my comment box below, telling me which pattern on Joanne’s blog is your favorite. Click here to go to Joanne’s blog and tell us which is your favorite pattern. PLEASE if you are a no-reply blogger, leave me an e-mail address, so I can get in touch with you if you are the winner. I will announce the winner on Friday, March 31, at 5:00 PM, EST.
Joanne has generously agreed to offer a 15% discount on her patterns in her Payhip shop. Click on this link www.payhip.com/
In the meantime, Happy Quilting!!