We recently interviewed Jeanne Large and Shelley Wicks, coauthors of ’Tis the Season and Urban Country Quilts, from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. As best-selling authors, quilt designers, teachers, co-owners of the Quilt Patch shop, and great friends, these two have a lot to share!
When did you first begin sewing, and who taught you?
Jeanne: My mom made all the clothing for my sisters and me, so she was always sewing. She would give us girls a needle and thread and scraps of fabric to make doll clothes. I continued to sew. My sisters, not so much!
Shelley: I grew up around sewing. My mom sewed many of our clothes, and my sister sewed beautifully, but I couldn’t sew my way out of a paper bag! However, quilting always intrigued me. Both of my grandmas quilted, and I eventually took the leap and learned different techniques from both of them.
How did you two meet?
Jeanne: I was working part-time at a retail business in downtown Moose Jaw. We sold some quilting fabrics along with other gift items. Shelley would come in there to shop for fabric, and that started a friendship that has grown over the years.
So, what are winters really like in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan?
Shelley: Cold! Very cold! Having said that, we’ve had an unusually mild winter this year, with very little snow, which means easy driving conditions and not a lot of shoveling. And lucky for me, I was in Mexico when the temperature in Moose Jaw reached our lowest point this past winter: -40ºC (which also happens to be -40ºF).
Jeanne: Yes, winter is very cold here. And for that reason, people look for projects to do indoors at that time of year, so making a quilt is always a popular pastime. And quilts are certainly usable in our climate!
Projects from Tis the Season
Your best-selling book ’Tis the Season is packed with fabulous appliqué and patchwork quilts and other comforts. Which of these projects do you most enjoy having in your own homes during the holidays?
Jeanne: I love to bring out some wintry and/or Christmas quilts when I decorate for Christmas. The cover quilt from ’Tis the Season, “High Strung,” is an easy one to display, but I also use “Vintage Cherries” on my dining-room table for a good portion of the year.
Shelley: Well, I love stacks of folded quilts with any red or green theme for Christmas. And I also love lap-sized quilts. They’re so easy to use. You can hang them on a wall, throw them over a couch or the end of a bed, or stack them for a great color display. So I decorate with most of what’s in ’Tis the Season!
What can you tell us about the home tours hosted by your shop?
Jeanne and Shelley: In the past, our store has hosted both Christmas Home Tours and Spring Home Tours. Our customers absolutely love these tours! Who doesn’t want to sneak a peek in someone else’s home?
We typically find three or four people who are willing to open their homes so that visitors can see how quilts are used throughout. Quilts can be seen in the kitchen as table dressings, stacked in a basket beside a cozy chair, or displayed in a colourful cascade on the rungs of a ladder in the family room—but always within easy reach for snuggling under! Quilts are layered on the ends of beds, rolled up in large baskets, and shown in many other creative ways on these tours.
The homes are open for four hours on these self-guided tours, giving everyone time to linger, enjoy, and talk with the homeowner. The tour ends back at the store with coffee and goodies!
Projects in Urban Country Quilts
Your recent book Urban Country Quilts has a wide variety of projects for decorating all year. Are there some easy quilt patterns you’d specifically recommend for beginners?
Both: “Dancing Daisies” (right) is a great beginner project. A new quilter could learn the basics of cutting and piecing (the quilt is just squares!). It also provides an opportunity to learn fusible appliqué.
Can you tell us a little about how you two collaborate on a quilt project?
Jeanne: Sometimes by the time something is done we would be hard pressed to say whose idea it was originally. We spend quite a bit of time traveling to quilt shows, as vendors, so lots of our driving time is spent brainstorming.
Shelley: I scribble a lot on scrap paper and hand the scribbles over to Jeanne to file! I have a feeling not all my papers make it to the file.
How would you describe the building where the Quilt Patch is located?
Jeanne: Our shop is in a 100-year-old building right downtown. Moose Jaw has maintained a heritage feeling in our downtown core. We are not all about a mall or big-box shopping area. Our shopping is downtown.
The Quilt Patch is located in a two-story building. The main floor is full of character, with 12-foot ceilings that have the original tin on the ceiling. We have wood floors and brick walls! The second floor is a beautiful, modern classroom space with lots of windows, a kitchen area, and a separate workroom where Shelley and I often sew.
How long have you owned the Quilt Patch, and on a typical day, what would we see if we were to drop in?
Shelley: The Quilt Patch has been open for nine years! On a typical day you would see the smiling faces of our two full-time staff members, Jo and Yvonne. These girls would likely be cutting kits, folding patterns, or some other job that involved playing with fabrics. You would definitely see quilts! Tons and tons of quilts line our walls. And every quilt has a pattern, book, kit, and/or fabric to support it.
What can you tell us about the classes you teach?
Jeanne: When we teach out of town, we like to teach together. This offers the host shop or guild a chance to sign up more students for the class without us being “spread too thin.” “Market Fresh,” the cover quilt from Urban Country Quilts, has been a popular class request. We like to start a class with coffee in hand and finish with a glass of wine!
Shelley: I think our students can expect the unexpected! We are both pretty laid back. We tease each other a fair amount, play off each other, and generally enjoy what we do. We also like to make sure our students all leave our classes with a feeling of accomplishment after having a very fun day, because quilting is what we do for fun. No one should be frustrated by it.
How can our readers find out more about your classes and events?
Shelley: Definitely check out our website! Visit www.thequiltpatch.ca to sign up for our online newsletter and to find out what’s coming up and some of the programs we offer. We’re also on Facebook, so look for the Quilt Patch. But if you really want a good behind-the-scenes look at what goes on here at our shop, check out the blog I’ve started at www.quiltpatch.blogspot.com. I’m having a lot of fun with it, and you’ll enjoy the sneak peeks I’m offering!
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Jeanne: Clarify spare time?! We both have grandchildren and grown children close by, so we spend time with our families. That’s always a priority. Other than that, we sew! Sewing has always been a hobby for both of us, so—we sew!
If you had not been quiltmakers, what career would you each like to have had instead?
Jeanne: I have never thought of what I do as a career, nor do I think of quiltmaking as a job. It’s just what I do. I loved being a stay-at-home mom, so I would likely have been an at-home grandma, spending my time sewing and woodworking. But then my husband would never have taken over the cooking and housework, so I’m glad things worked out this way!
Shelley: Before I started doing this, I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I can’t even imagine what I would do if I weren’t doing what I’m doing! I’m very glad my love of quilting has been able to grow into what it is today. I love what I do. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to do this alone. Jeanne and I work well together. We have a unique partnership that allows us to keep all the balls in the air while balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
What’s next? Any new projects or books in the works?
Both: There’s always lots in the works. Right now we’re working on our spring collection of quilts, and also working on our third book for Martingale! Our first fabric collection from Clothworks shipped to stores in February 2012, and we’re currently working on our next collection.