Sandy Gervais: Moda’s “Oldest” Designer

dp_sandy-gervaisWhen Mark Dunn started Moda in 1975, the company sold fabrics designed and produced by other companies. Most of these were fashion fabrics and their fiber content, weave, and patterns weren’t always suitable for the kind of stitching Mr. Dunn had in mind—quilting. In the mid-1980s the company started producing its own fabrics, which were largely designed in-house. By the mid-1990s, Mr. Dunn and Cheryl Freydberg, who today is Moda’s vice president of design and development, started walking the aisles of Quilt Market, looking for designers. One of the very first they found was Sandy Gervais.

Sandy at her first Quilt Market booth in 1994

Sandy was a greeting card designer who’d expanded into the quilting world, creating patterns for “little quilts.” Because St. Louis wasn’t far from her Iowa home, Sandy and her husband Bruce decided to set up a Pieces of My Heart booth at the 1994 Market. Sandy still remembers when Cheryl and Mark stopped by. “I was totally taken aback—I wasn’t even really sure what they were talking about,” she says. “And I was so enamored of Mark’s clothing. He had on a linen sport coat with a black Aztec print shirt and black linen pants. It was rare to notice what a man had on in those days.” (You’ll note that Sandy is no slouch herself when it comes to fashion.)

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Sandy’s first line of fabrics

Sandy’s first line incorporated images from her little quilt patterns, in borders and “tossed on” the fabrics. Sandy also designed small prints to accompany them and her first line had 99 pieces (18 to 40 is typical today). “We were all pretty new at this, it was a miracle it worked out,” she says with a laugh. It obviously did, as Sandy has gone on to create more than 115 lines for Moda.

Sandy and her husband Bruce in her 1996 Quilt Market booth.

Over her designing years, Sandy’s seen numerous changes. “To begin with, we didn’t email, we faxed,” says Sandy, who remembers WATTS lines as “a really big deal.” “We got our strike-offs [the early samples of fabric] just before Market and figured out we could hand wash them and cobble together a quilt—there was no scanning fabrics or designing patterns on a computer,” she says. Changes to fabrics at the mills in Korea and Japan had to be sent by next-day air.

Sandy’s 1998 booth featuring Housewarmings
Bruce and Sandy in the new millennium—the 2002 booth.

Today’s faster turnaround time means that Moda now gets its fabrics on shops’ shelves in a more timely manner. Sandy remembers that Christmas fabrics didn’t used to arrive until September or October. “By the time the shop owners got samples made up there was hardly time for customers to get things done by Christmas,” she says. “Now fabric ships in May and is available in summer—that’s a big change for the better.”

In 2007, Sandy’s daughter Abby joined her in her booth featuring her lively Merry and Bright holiday line.

Other changes Sandy’s seen include the fabrics’ selvedges, which now include designer’s names, the fabric line name, and the SKU, and individual portfolios of designer’s lines. “They used to be just a blue school folder, not even with a Moda logo. The branding has really changed,” says Sandy.

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Sandy’s first (slightly sad) Moda design portfolio
Things have definitely brightened up since 1994!

And the fabric design has changed significantly, too. “I’m really embarrassed by my first quilt, but that’s what was ‘in’ then,” says Sandy. “Images were outlined, but not in register, and now they’re more refined. Quilts have gone from primitive to ultra modern.” But everything old is new again, too. “We were making little quilts and now minis are so popular. What goes around comes around.”

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The 2008 booth featured Objects of Desire. Sandy may be Moda’s “oldest” designer, but somehow she keeps looking younger and younger!

Sandy’s career was never planned, but she greatly enjoys her work. “I hand paint my designs, which I love to do,” she says. And as for sticking with Moda for 21 years? “They give me design freedom, they’re great.”

Sandy loves to hand paint her Moda fabric designs (even when she accidentally puts her brush in her drink, instead of the rinse water).

She tells the story of an early Quilt Market, when the Moda crew dined at Josephine’s one evening. When they returned to their hotel she realized she’d left her purse—“I’m notorious for that,” she admits—and the restaurant was closed the next day. “The owner of the company surely has so much more to do than look for my purse, but somehow he got them to open up and got my purse for me,” she says. That personal touch is part of what she’s loved over the years. “Designing fabric has changed my life a lot,” she says. “Moda is a great company to work for—I’ve never had any reason to leave.”

Sandy’s 2015 booth featured Prints Charming.

Do you have a favorite Sandy Gervais line? (She admits that she does—it was Tranquility.) Let us know!

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34 thoughts on “Sandy Gervais: Moda’s “Oldest” Designer

  1. I know Sandy personally and I pretty much love everything that Sandy has done. She has such great vision. She is one of the best in my opinion. Whenever I ask my kids what fabrics they would like me to make their quilts from, almost every time they choose something from Sandy. Chance of Showers is probably my ‘new’ favorite. It is hard or me to say as I love all work! Great article and I LOVED the photos.

  2. While I love them all, I have to admit Objects of Desire was my favorite. I have a bag, and curtains! made of that collection!

  3. I started quilting in 2008 and Sandy designed one of the first fabric lines I ever bought. Her lines are still my favorites! My all time favorite line of hers is “Gobble Gobble”. I still have bits and pieces of it that I can’t bear to part with.

  4. Sandy is so talented, I honestly have not seen anything she designed that I have not liked. I especially like her use of pastel colors. 20 years, Congratulations Sandy, you deserve the recognition and accolades!!

  5. What a fun story – thanks for sharing! I love Sandy’s fabrics – the newer brights are so great! BTW I started quilting in 1994 so it’s been fun to see the quilting industry evolve over time 🙂

  6. Loved this story. One of my family’s favorite quilts use d a panel of Fall motifs, think pumpkins and turkey in warm cuddly colors. Even though it’s in triple digits right now in So Cal, it’s after Labor Day and the quilt is out!

  7. Block Party , Merry and Bright, Gobble, Gobble, her Halloween ones, the Owl ones, oooh my gosh, all the whimsical fabrics which are too many to mention. The first name I go to when I shop MODA is to the Gervais line out..

  8. It is too hard to pick a favorite, as Sandys designs have been favorites for so long. I still have pieces if the first Moda I bought, mottled fabrics in red blue and gold, printed with gold swirls.

  9. I have a favorite fabric from a Christmas line of hers: It’s a small plaid with wavy lines and it came in a few color ways but the red was was just perfect for so many projects. If you used it in a Christmas project it looked great but it also worked in non-seasonal things. Sadly I only have a small scrap left. I cannot remember the line it’s from. I also love another one, neutral background with small red circles called Bubbles. Don’t know the line either, but it’s great fabric!

  10. Before you even asked I was scrolling down & was so happy to see Merry & Bright & thinking my favorite line by Sandy Gervais!! Just so timeless & very merry & very bright! Such a fun read this am!

  11. I love that you featured Sandy today. I am working on a new pattern and using some of her fabrics. Bittersweet Boo and Happy Hallow just to name a few. I have others but they only say her name. I have had these fabrics for years and never used any of them. It’s about time I did. LOL Thank you Linzee for a great “getting to know you” posting.

  12. AWESOME!! That fabric was my very first online fabric purchase..two charm packs that led to quite a bit more yardage, which I also bought online from a variety of shops…oh yeah, she really got me goin’!….and my whole family LOVES the quilt I made out of it! I love her whimsical florals!

    1. Merry and Bright has always been a favorite Christmas line, and I am also hoarding a fat quarter bundle of a fall line – just cause it’s so darn cute. Oh and 76 Trombones, I liked that one a lot also! I admit to still having a few of Sandy’s first patterns. Yes, she gets younger and younger!

  13. Congratulations Sandy. What an awesome story & career. I love how diverse Sandy’s designs are, diverse yet identifiable. Crazy I know.

  14. Tranquility was the first line of hers I bought. And I have to confess I just sewed it up last year. I love all of her fall lines but my all time favourite, hands down, is Rambling Rose.

  15. Wow she definitely looks like she’s getting younger! Love her fall lines and I think a valentine one she did. Great interview 🙂

  16. I’m currently working on a quilt, for a customer, using Sandy’s Christmas X-citement line. I’m not sure what year it was manufactured, but my customer bought it as a kit several years ago. She decided she was never going to get around to making it so she hired me. It’s been a joy to make it for her because the fabrics are so beautiful! I’m hand stitching the binding this weekend. My customer will finally get to enjoy her beautiful, Sandy Gervais Christmas quilt!

  17. Everlastings and Late Bloomers are the lines that I am using for my Snapshots quilts–full size and mini.. Love all of Sandy’s lines!

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