Moda Designers: How Do Their Gardens Grow?

It’s that season of the year when, if we’re not at our sewing machines, then many of us can be found on our hands and knees in the dirt. Lots of quilters enjoy gardening—there’s something about combining colors, shapes, and textures to create a landscape that is so similar to creating a quilt.

While some of Moda’s designers don’t garden (and one, who shall remain nameless, claims that when she buys plants it’s like giving them a death sentence), others relish the chance to putter around the yard and draw inspiration for their fabric and quilt designs from what’s right outside their window.

Jan’s iris

First up is Jan Patek. The Audra’s Iris Garden line she designed with Linda Brannock is directly inspired by the flowers Jan’s grandmother Audra Laird brought from her house to plant in Jan’s mother’s garden. When Jan’s mother sold the house, Jan and her sister made sure to put in the contract that they could return and dig some of the iris in the fall. Now the iris lives on in the gardens of Jan, her sister, and Jan’s two sons. “My daughter lives in an apartment, but if she ever gets a house, she’ll get some, too,” says Jan.

Jan created this Audra’s Iris Garden quilt

Avid gardener Kate Spain managed to include a bit of greenery amongst the mittens and hot chocolate in her latest fabric line—In From the Cold. Kate says many of the skills she uses in gardening are the same ones she employs to design fabric.

The garden behind Kate’s previous home, which she says inspired many fabric patterns

“I love to garden,” she says.  “And I love to design fabric. In the garden, I like to compose flowers and foliage in a way that complements how their colors, textures, shapes, proportion, and scale interact with one another. I try to have enough variety of each of these things to make it visually interesting and sometimes that involves digging plants up and moving them around to find the right place for them (kind of like ‘auditioning’ fabric for a quilt). When I’m designing a fabric collection, it’s very much like creating a garden…I try to include a balance of large/small scale patterns, some geometric prints and some more free-flowing, and of course a bouquet of beautiful colors!”

A recent move meant that Kate and her husband left a beloved garden, but also had a chance to create a garden from scratch. After they roto-tilled the entire yard, they brought in 7,000 pounds of flagstone and lots of plants to make the garden their own. “We’re not quite finished, but happy with our progress,” says Kate. “And we won’t have to go the gym for quite awhile!” 

Kate’s new garden after roto-tilling
Kate’s new garden with 7,000 lbs. of stone and new plants in place

Deb Strain, whose most recent fabric lines are Christmas Countdown and Pumpkin Party, says that mixing the colors and textures of plants and flowers, both the focal points and the ones she calls the “all-overs,” is very similar to designing fabric. “I love gardening, and I’m able to enjoy my work every time I walk out the door!” Here are some favorite flowers from Deb’s garden.

Edyta Sitar derives lots of inspiration from her landscape. “My newest book, Seasonal Silhouettes, reflects my love for flowers and gardens—with every month I enjoy a new bouquet of Mother Nature’s abundance,” she says. “Right now in my garden, the day lilies are in full bloom. I’ve tried to capture some of their beauty and incorporate it into my quilts.”

Finally, Mary Jane Butters, whose Glamping line features cheerful floral accents, is a big time gardener. First it was 100 peony plants, then another 100 or more in six different colors,” she says. “Over time, my peony patch grew into a design that grew into a quilt that grew into a peony patch bed.”

How about you? Is there a connection between your garden and your quilts?

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4 thoughts on “Moda Designers: How Do Their Gardens Grow?

  1. I can appreciate how the two go together, and then featured designers certainly make beautiful gardens and fabrics, for which I am grateful. I tend to gravitate towards colorful florally fabrics, probably because I can turn a perrinial into an annual in five minutes!

  2. I love my rose garden and seem to collect fat quarters with roses. The only problem this year is the rain! I can’t even work in the garden as it is either raining or too wet.

  3. I might have to say the opposite is the case…my garden is kind of like a patchwork quilt. I made a design with the beds of my vegetable garden that form an octagon around the center bed which is a circle and it the herb garden. The outer beds are seasonal and always changing, but I always have some kind of colorful flowers mixed in with the veggies.

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