Designer Tidbits: Hadley by Denyse Schmidt - The Jolly Jabber Quilting Blog

Designer Tidbits: Hadley by Denyse Schmidt

Welcome back to another edition of Designer Tidbits. Our special guest of the day is Denyse Schmidt, talking about her Hadley collection for Free Spirit Fabrics. As a former graphic designer, Denyse reinterprets tradition to create modern designs that are vintage-inspired and fresh, and Hadley is no exception. Read on to learn more about her new collection and her inspirations. 
Hydrangea Hadley

Q: Tell us a little about the Hadley collection. What were you inspired by?
A: Like almost all my fabric collections for FreeSpirit, Hadley is inspired by the special towns and places of my native New England. Hadley is a town along the Connecticut River that has roots dating back to the Puritans. It was, and still is to some degree, pastoral and unspoiled. The campus of Mount Holyoke College is nearby. My mother spent some of her undergraduate education there (cut short by illness), so it has some resonance with me personally, besides the area in general being near where I grew up. Mount Holyoke is part of the “Seven Sisters” roster of what were historically women’s colleges, all founded in the mid- to late- 1800’s (including Radcliffe, Smith, Bryn Mawr, Vassar, Barnard and Wellesley). They attracted brainy, beautiful, independent, and assured women (like my mom). I starting finding AWESOME vintage photos of “Seven Sisters” college life, and these helped the idea and designs gel. I also found some fun contemporary fashion images that resonated with the vintage styles – that parallel is so much what my style is about – both vintage and new side-by-side, and timeless as a result.

Q: What is your design process when beginning a new collection?
A: I always start with the patterns: pulling scraps and bits from my extensive vintage collection, finding new relationships and overlap, creating a new collection from random and miscellaneous patterns and ideas that draws on vintage prints but that feels new and now. Once I have an assemblage of print fragments, I draw the patterns in Adobe Illustrator. In this stage, things will morph in scale, design elements, or complexity. The goal is to create a cohesive group of prints that aren’t necessarily matchy-matchy. I do tend to rely on certain themes in my designs – a plaid, small calico-type prints, all-over florals or geometrics, and directional designs. I feel this creates a solid group without too much overlap but which can be mixed and matched to create anything from quilts to apparel to home accessories. The color comes last, and though I usually have some idea of where I want it to go, it’s essentially a trial and error process. I’m very visual so I need to see the various combinations and look at everything together. The direction and “right” colorways emerge through the process of seeing and looking, and sooner or later it all comes together!

Chinese Lantern Hadley 

Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Vintage-inspired, but with a contemporary mindset.

Sunflower Hadley

Q: What projects do you hope to see made with Hadley?
A: Smart, ladylike dresses for afternoon tea (for women and girls of all ages) would be so fun, or the vintage collegiate look of peter pan collar blouses and an a-line skirt. Hats! Back-to-school projects including fabric book covers and totes would be lovely.

Of course, being a quilt designer, I think Hadley is perfect for all types of quilts – especially scrap-type quilts. There are more low-volume prints in Hadley than I typically include, which lends that all-over, softer look in a quilt. The pre-cut bundles come with several coordinating solids from my Modern SolidsCollection, which makes it a snap to add some contrast or pop to any project you are making.
I designed a quilt pattern called In This Corner that uses all the Hadley prints and solids included in the fat quarter bundle (one bundle will make up to a king-size quilt)! You can see some really clever and fun quilts that members of the Southern CT Modern Quilt Guild are creating with Hadley as part of our HadleyChallenge, on their blog or on my Facebook page.


  1. We visited Hadley when we were college hunting for my daughter. I really like the prints, they capture the spirit of the area. Although my daughter liked Mt. Holyoke, she loved Wellesley and is a proud alumna. Maybe one of your future lines can capture the beauty of the Wellesley campus and the determined women who call it their Alma Mater.

  2. This collection of Hadley is beautiful. Knew I loved the Hydrangea colors, until I scrolled to the rest and love all three. This does make me think of New England and the Seven Sisters. I would love to have some of this fabric.