If you were at QuiltCon, the work of Kathryn Simel might look familiar to you. She and her booth were there promoting her quilt pattern company, Midcoast Cottage Design! Kathryn lives in Maine, and her designs are inspired by the nautical motifs of New England. I loved their graphic whimsicality and sense of humor (she has a breast cancer quilt pattern called “Tatas” — AWESOME), and their geometric arrangement on the fabric made them very modern and very traditional all at once.
Since Kathryn lives in a part of the country that is just about the opposite of mine in every way, I thought it would be fun to interview her and see what makes her tick. Here’s what she had to say:
What is your sewing story?
I took my first quilting class in 1989 when I was home with my son on maternity leave. Quilting was always something that I wanted to do, but since failing my Home Ec class in 8th grade sewing I wasn’t sure it was the craft for me. My mom agreed to go with me and we were both immediately hooked. The class was a basic nine-patch baby quilt; I completed the class and my son had his first quilt.
Armed with a rotary cutter, mat, ruler, and armload of books, my quilting took off. I started doing a Block of the Month and reading and studying quilting methods, patterns, history, and construction of blocks. A lot of what I did was self-taught; once I went back to work, there was no time for classes. The books Quilts, Quilts Quilts by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes and Color and Cloth by Mary Coyne Penders were my mainstays, as well as It’s Okay If You Sit on My Quilt by Mary Ellen Hopkins. I loved her philosophy: quilts needed to be used!
Life got in the way for a while but after relocating to Maine in 2011, quilting once again came to the forefront. I had made a couple of quilt tops for family members and brought them in to be longarmed to Mainely Sewing in Nobleboro, Maine. The owner Marge Hallowell would ask me where I got the pattern and I would say I just made it up. She encouraged me to write and publish the patterns. After some research and attending Fall Festival in Houston last year, I got the confidence to plunge ahead. My first pattern, Spout, was published in March 2014.
What is your quilting style?
When I got back into quilting, everything had changed! The fabrics were so different and more to my liking. Never afraid of color (I’ve always thought that orange is the new black), I gravitated toward graphic bright prints. Piecing is my quilt technique of choice, and I love designing original blocks.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I find inspiration in many different places. My designs are heavily influenced by the sights of coastal Maine and I love spending time outdoors. I have found inspiration in catalogs, TV commercials and fabric collections. I think it is a matter of paying attention.
I am drawn to many new designers, but the first that come to mind are Carolyn Friedlander for her design in quilts and fabric, Alissa Haight Carlton for her graphic and minimal design, Denyse Schmidt for her improv and quilt design, and Rashida Coleman-Hale for her work with linen.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new quilter, what would it be?
Have fun! Try not to get caught up in what other people think is the “right way” to do things. Work with fabrics and methods of quilting that get you excited.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of?
When I started quilting again, I had a bunch of 1 1/2″ x 3″ flying geese units made from scraps from the 80’s and 90’s that had been sewed in rows and abandoned. They looked terrible. I ripped the rows apart and bordered them in bright solid pink. I then set these blocks into rows with two other modern pink fabrics. This quilt shows my evolution into modern quilting, but I had no idea at the time the transition was taking place. I call this quilt “Fly.” I’m developing it into a pattern!