Is design talent genetic? If you take a look at Moda’s fabric designers, you might think so…there’s the mother-and-daughter team Bonnie (Olavesen) and Camille (Roskelley); sisters (Polly) Minick and (Laurie) Simpson, Deb Strain and her daughers Arrin Turnmire and Katie Strain; The Jungs (Lauren, Jessie, and Carrie); and Me and My Sister (Mary Jacobson and Barb Groves).
Well, it’s time to welcome another family unit to the fold: Mom Sherri McConnell and daughter Chelsi Stratton.
Sherri’s no stranger to Moda. Her patterns have appeared in the Moda Bake Shop and she’s sewn sample quilts for Joanna Figureroa and Camillle Roskelley. She was a contributor to the Cutting Table blog and writes her own, popular blog A Quilting Life. But designing fabric was only a dream until she had an epiphany while returning from teaching at a retreat in Utah. “I was driving by myself and suddenly it clicked that I might be able to do fabric if Chelsi helped me,” says Sherri. “I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before!”
While the idea was good, the timing was less so—Chelsi was expecting her second daughter in a month. Despite the impending “distraction,” she was excited by the prospect. “I always loved sorting through fabrics in my mom’s sewing room, but I didn’t realize there was such a thing as being a fabric designer until I was about 20,” says Chelsi. “When I found out, that’s what I wanted to do.”
The pair didn’t get serious until after Chelsi’s baby girl was born (Harper is now a year old and her sister, Ashton is three-and-a half), they put their heads together and, as Sherri describes it, “we went into overdrive.” Chelsi drew, while Sherri helped with scale and provided “chicken-scratch” renderings that Chelsi recreated in Illustrator. “I really wasn’t sure it could happen,” says Sherri. “I wasn’t being negative. I felt we had to try, but a lot of people try.”
To their delight, the outcome was positive. Sherri and Chelsi’s first line, Bright Sun, draws inspiration from the desert, mountains, and sunsets of southern Nevada, where they both live. It also pays homage to a great-great-great-great grandfather who was a chief of the Omaha tribe and had a daughter named Bright Sun. “We didn’t have it in mind when we created the line, but the name couldn’t be more perfect,” says Chelsi. Sherri’s designed several quilt patterns to go with the fabrics, including one called Omaha. “My dad is buried in Decatur, Nebraska, not too far from the Missouri River and all his ancestors came from there,” says Sherri, who is the author of two books, including Fresh Family Traditions: 18 Heirloom Quilts for a New Generation, which pays homage to the quilts her grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother stitched.
This is a family where connections run deep, and designing a line of fabric together seems to be strengthening the ties between Sherri and Chelsi. “I have gotten much closer to my mom, while working with my her,” says Chelsi. “She shares my love of creativity and I appreciate the bond we have.” And Sherri, who says she’s always known that all of her four children are hard workers, has enjoyed the opportunity to watch Chelsi in action. “It’s refreshing to see that she wasn’t going to take anything for granted,” says Sherri. “Her hard work inspired me to do more. I don’t know how people do it themselves. It’s wonderful to share the experience.”