Kate Nelligan and Her Ocean-inspired Style

Moda is pleased to welcome designer Kate Nelligan, whose first line of fabric, Beach House, will debut at Quilt Market in October.


An accomplished artist and designer, Kate’s crisp color palette and graphic imagery evoke her coastal hometown of Kennebunkport, Maine. Kate’s family shares her love of the sea: her son is a surfer and her husband works in the marine industry. “When we met, he was a fisherman,” says Kate. “And when I fell in love with him, I fell in love with fish!”

1005253_397581953696340_1552087121_nKate’s inspiration comes not only from her close connections with the ocean, but from her family of origin. “I grew up in a rich, creative environment where we were making things all the time,” says Kate. “You know how some families always play sports? In my family we were always painting, drawing, writing, and sewing.” Another influence on Kate’s visual style was the beach hotel her parents managed. Each evening she and her siblings would dress up and eat in the large dining room with the “fancy” guests. Kate remembers walking through a sea of summer dresses and being particularly drawn to those stitched from Marimekko fabrics, with their organic shapes and bold color schemes. “I’ve been wondering lately if that’s been rolling around in my brain and is where my love of bold pattern comes from,” she says.

KN19Kate’s bright, graphic designs starts with a hands-on approach. She sketches an image, say of mussel shells, then traces it with pencil and rubs it onto a rubber block where it leaves an impression that she then carves out. Other designs come from tearing and layering bits of colored paper. She loves the serendipity of these design methods. “It never looks like you think it will—it turns into its own thing, and then you go with it,” she says. “I like drippy paint because I can’t control it and it sets up a back-and-forth between the medium and me: ‘Oh, you’re going to do that? Okay, then I’ll do this.’ Everyone talks about being mindful, and there’s nothing more mindful, more in-the-minute, than creating art.” Once Kate is satisfied with her imagery, she converts it to digital files.

KN17Before designing fabric, Kate worked with companies on home décor items including ceramics, wall art, sculptures, and stationary, but longed to focus on her own designs. She created fabric through Spoonflower (like those in this post) and eventually opened a small store in her hometown, selling pillows, table runners, and other items stitched by local women. Running a small business left her strapped for time to make art, however. She closed her shop and made the leap to partnering with companies interested in reproducing her artwork: rugs and pillows with her designs will be available through Peking Handicraft beginning in January. And of course, her fabric for Moda is coming soon, too.

IMG_9230Kate is thrilled to be working with Moda. “It’s the best fabric company I know,” she says. While she sews, Kate isn’t a quilter (yet) and was blown away when she went to Market in Pittsburgh in May, to learn more about the industry. “I’d walk around and there were all these companies and then there was Moda. They’re so brilliant with their booth and their marketing, and everyone has been so sincere and genuine. I feel pretty lucky to work with them!”


IMG_1933And we’re lucky, too. Though summer’s coming to an end, knowing that bright beachy scenes will be at available for stitching in just a few months relieves some of winter’s sting. Soon we’ll be able to bring Kate’s colorful, graphic sense of style to our own homes, when Beach House will ship to stores next spring.

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2 thoughts on “Kate Nelligan and Her Ocean-inspired Style

    1. So glad you like it, Cynthia! Beach House fabrics should be available in stores beginning in March, 2015.

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