Designer Tidbits: Denyse Schmidt - The Jolly Jabber Quilting Blog

Designer Tidbits: Denyse Schmidt

Another vintage-inspired gem from Denyse Schmidt has arrived to spark your creativity. Florence is reminiscent of old feedsacks and vintage textiles, and has a nostalgic vibe that is sure to warm your home. Denyse is here on the Jolly Jabber to tell you more about Florence, so keep reading for a blast from the past!

Q: Where did you find your original inspiration for this collection?
A:Like most of my collections, Florence’s roots are in vintage and feedsack prints of the 30’s and 40’s. I have a huge collection of reference and pair up different looks, then transforming the mismatched prints into a cohesive group through color and scale. I generally name the collection after I’ve colored it all. At that point its personality and story present themselves to me, and everything seems to fall into place. Florence is a town in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. I’ve used town names in New England a lot for my collections. I grew up in central Massachusetts, and there is so much textile history there it’s a natural. Florence also felt like a character in a 40’s black and white film. Not a movie star, but a character who’s hard-working, stylish, smart and sassy, an everyday heroine with a sense of humor.

Q: What would be your collection’s theme song?
A:Maybe something by Hank Williams, The Andrew Sisters, or Glenn Miller.

Q: Tell us about your background. How did you get into the fabric and quilting industry?
A:I started out making quilts to sell to the high-end, contemporary home furnishings industry. I loved quilts, but at the time didn’t feel like my aesthetic was a fit for the quilt industry, and I was more interested in making quilts the way I wanted to, and not trying to fit in. One thing leads to another – first a publishing license, and little by little (and with a lot of mainstream press coverage over the years) I found my way into designing fabric and quilt patterns.

Q:Tell me about your sewing machines. What kinds do you have and how many?
A:I have a Brother industrial straight-stitch machine I have used for decades. Very heavy duty, very simple, built like a tank. I also have a beautiful old Singer that my parents used, but I have rarely used it myself (yet). There is a treadle machine that belonged to my great grandmother that has my name on it, too. It will be interesting to try that out.

Q:What is your favorite part of the fabric industry?
A:I love seeing bolts of my fabric. I still get a thrill when the sample yardage arrives, and designing on paper is nothing like seeing it on fabric. But my favorite thing is seeing what people do with it. It takes on a whole new life beyond my imagining, and it’s amazing and inspiring.

Q:From what aspect of your life do you draw creativity?
A:Pretty much everywhere. Vintage fabrics and ephemera, fashion, music, art, and design. But being in nature is the one thing I probably can’t do without. It filters out all the noise, calms me down, and helps me to get to the heart of what I love.

Q:What is your design process?
A:It depends on what I’m creating. Quilts always start in my head, then begin their 2-D life as pen or pencil sketches, drawn freehand (I can’t write or draw on lined or gridded paper). Once I have a clear idea of what I want to try, I either go to full-scale fiddling around with fabrics on the wall, or draw it in Illustrator to scale. Fabrics are drawn in Illustrator. I’d love to paint fabric designs, but I don’t think it would be cost effective so it might have to be a retirement project!

Q:What is your favorite print in the collection?
A:The “favorites” question is always so hard! I love them all, and part of the design process for me is putting together a group of things that all play off one another. That said, I love the Lincoln Log Plaid, the Boxer Medallion, the Disc Medallion, and the Texture Stripe.

Q:What is the most challenging part of the design process?
A:Sometimes just getting started is hard, sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as you’d like, and there are always the days when it feels like things will never fall into place and you think you are out of ideas, done, kaput. I’ve been around long enough to know that these feelings are pretty universal for creative types, and that they pass. You have to find ways around it – sometimes playing hooky even for a morning makes me feel like I’m not on deadline and reminds me to have fun. And somehow, I always manage to pull a rabbit out of my hat, one way or another.

Q:What are your favorite and least favorite colors and why?
A:Hmmm. This is tricky because over time my preferences can shift a bit. I had an all-purple room when I was in 6th grade, and I still have problems embracing purple, though I’ve been know to dip into pinkish lavender hues from time to time. In general, I tend to like warmer hues overall.


  1. Every two years my guild does a Linus challenge. They pick a theme and then everyone makes a quilt and after show they all get donated to Linus. This year it's dots. So I am doing a quilt that is all Denyse Schmidt fabrics except for a red solid and a black and white polka dot. Can't wait to see it finished!