Designing a Quilt for Natural Born Quilter
When Brett from Natural Born Quilter initially showed me the designs for the new Prairie Meadow Collection it really hit home for me. I was honoured to be part of the team of designers that would get to play with this fabric before it would be released in fall 2021 to showcase the beauty of these new designs.
When creating the design for Praire Wildflower Quilt Kit I was really inspired by the Pronghorn Antelope and the Red-tailed Hawk in the fabric as these are key animals in southern Alberta, where I was working several years ago. The Prairie Meadow fabric lent itself wonderfully to fussy-cut the center of the NYB blocks which gave rise to secondary design elements.
The Blanket Flowers are one of my favourite flowers in the Native Prairie, I would often see them on my wildlife surveys when I worked as a wildlife biologist in Alberta. This fabric collection definitely has a homey feel that also reminds me of my upbringing in rural Saskatchewan. It came at a time in my life that I was feeling a yearning to be back in the country, with the flowers and wildlife, where life is a bit slower and quieter.
Where it all began
Long before starting Kingfisher Craft Company, I grew up on the Saskatchewan prairies just outside Saskatoon. I have fond childhood memories of running through fields and playing on relatives' acreages out in the country, attentively listening to my grandparents tell me stories about their lives on the prairies. My grandparents grew up on farms on each side of the South Saskatchewan River just north of Saskatoon with a ferry connecting the two and would get together to pick Saskatoon berries along the river.
I first learned to sew from my Grandma, she would sew anything for anyone. When I was young, I loved to sit and watch my grandma create things on her sewing machine. She taught me how to use the sewing machine and would always let me get creative. One of my fondest gifts was a coat with a Navajo print fleece that she made for Christmas one year and I wore very proudly.
I fell away from sewing as I grew older and explored other interests. Later as an adult in my first career job as a wildlife biologist I was conducting wildlife and other species-at-risk surveys for the flora and fauna. My interest in local birds, wildlife and native plants was cemented and would become a part of my style as a quilt designer. It was around this time that I started to sew again, and quickly started quilting too after being so inspired by quilts that I saw in a Hawaiian quilt shop. I came home from Hawaii with fabric for my first quilt, and I was hooked.
Inspiration for the pattern and design
The design for the Praire Wildflower Quilt Kit is a collection of inspiration from my own life and experiences. I was once on the plane ride home to Saskatchewan from BC, and I found an article that really spoke to me about the Wanuskewin Heritage Park. The park was just a little further down the river from where my family lived, and for thousands of years, indigenous peoples of the Great Plains had been using it as a "gathering place" for hunting and gathering, for story-telling, spirituality and healing at the Medicine Wheel. I found peace and refuge at this place during a difficult time in my life.
When I was thinking about a quilt and what I would want to incorporate into the design I was recalling all of these past memories and stories. I had also recalled a brief article I had once read about a style of quilting that was born out of the prairies that I would like to use as a basis for my own design. In much of the Canadian prairies, the land is broken up into sections and quarter sections with roads crisscrossing in north-south and east-west directions. This quilting design would often emulate that by having four quadrants divided by these N-S and E-W borders. I wanted to incorporate this Canadian prairies style with some sort of central feature like the "gathering place" I had found refuge at.
Technical details of the design
I created this design using foundation paper-pieced New York beauty blocks forming a central flower that radiates outwards and then back inwards in all four directions with the plants and animals found in our Great Plains. The fabric lent itself wonderfully to fussy-cut the centre of the NYB blocks which gave rise to secondary design elements.
I designed this quilt in EQ8, and while I am a beginner at using this software program, I was able to design a few blocks and had a general structure of what I wanted. After rotating and switching out fabrics I happened upon my current layout and it was just right! It worked out great and the design emotes the personal and powerful story I wanted to tell in this quilt.