Designer Tidbits: Kate Spain - The Jolly Jabber Quilting Blog

Designer Tidbits: Kate Spain

Wake up and smell the flowers! Kate Spain‘s newest collection for Moda Fabrics, Honey Honey, is packed full of those ocean side blossoms that are too sweet to resist. Grab a fabric bouquet and get started on your next project!

Q: Where did you find your original inspiration for this collection?
A:At the end of the summer of 2011, Pete and I snuck away for a few days to Block Island (off the coast of Rhode Island) for a little break. We biked around the island and passed by so many beautiful ocean side coastal gardens that were overflowing with masses of bright, happy flowers in a spectrum of colors. It was hard not to be inspired by them, and I pretty much knew then that I could design a whole collection around this idea. When we stopped to look more carefully at a few of the gardens, it didn’t take long to notice all the honey bees that were at work buzzing from flower to flower so I also knew they needed a place in the line as well.

Q: What was your “aha” moment in designing this collection?
A:It seems that no matter what it is that I’m designing, the more time I’m able to spend on it, the more “aha” moments I have. The ideas keep flowing and sometimes it’s hard to stop and edit! With Honey Honey, I designed the main pattern called Wayside Garden first and then the overarching “theme” grew from there. I could more or less finalize the direction once the main print was completed. It’s funny though, because even as I’m writing this, I realize it’s really hard for me to use the word “finalize” because even when something is considered “finished” i always feel like there is so much more i could continue to explore!

Q: What movie does your collection fit best in?
A:Definitely Mama Mia. I *may* have been listening to it over and over while designing this collection, and the name from from a certain Abba song (wink)!

Q:Tell me about your sewing machines. What kinds do you have and how many?
A:I actually have two. The first is this old Singer that was left behind by the owner of the previous house we lived in. It was so weird in a Twilight Zone kind of way to have this sewing machine come into my life — especially because when we moved into that house, I wasn’t even designing fabric yet!

As for my other sewing machine, I really didn’t know what to buy when I started looking for a good machine. I “test drove” a bunch at a local store and then smartened up and turned to Twitter and all the people I’ve gotten to know in the quilting community. You know, people who use their beloved sewing machines every day. I took a survey to find out which machines people liked and why. There were so many options that it only confused me more! But then one day, I got an email from Sherri over at A Quilting Life. I have been an admirer of hers for quite some time and am always so impressed by her prolific talents. She told me what kind of machine she uses, and I figured, “if it’s good enough for Sherri, it’s good enough for me!” So my other machine is a Janome Memory Craft 6600. I love it.

Q:What is your favorite part of the fabric industry?
A:By far, it’s the people. I love the creative spirit of the community and the enthusiasm people bring to whatever it is they’re making. It gets me excited too, and makes me better at what I do.

Q:From what aspect of your life do you draw creativity?
A:Just about everything, really; drawing, cooking, gardening, decorating, looking at architecture, paintings, modern furniture design, South American textiles…you name it! I think you can train yourself to see creatively so that even when you’re walking down the street you can look at colors, shapes, proportions and can develop a visual library to pull from. Instagram has made this process even easier and can definitely be used as a tool for filtering your field of vision — or for me, taking too many pictures of my cats.

Q:What is your design process?
A:I generally start with my sketchbook and a pen/pencil and then scan the drawing in to my computer and use it as a starting point for a pattern. I use Adobe Illustrator to continue adding to the design and to work it into a repeat pattern. I do this organically rather than relying on the computer program to realize the repeat because I think it adds a wonderful hand-drawn and somewhat less static feeling to the pattern. Here is an example that grew from a doodle in my sketchbook…to the Lace pattern in Honey Honey. I had so much fun designing this one and enjoyed the challenge of fitting it together to work in repeat.

Q:What is your favorite print in the collection?
A:There are a few, but I love Wayside Garden…in every colorway, but mostly the Ocean version. The colors pop off the dark background and it really captures the happy feeling I had hoped to convey in this collection.

Q:What is the most challenging part of the design process?
A:It’s a pretty technical thing, but getting the colors from my computer screen to match the colors of my printouts is very time-consuming and difficult. Though my workflow is color-calibrated, it’s always a challenge to get the colors “just right”. My desk usually looks like this as i’m working through this part!

Q:What are your favorite and least favorite colors and why?
A:I adore cool hues like blues, greens and purples. Shades of these colors work so beautifully and harmoniously in almost any combination. On the other hand, I also love orange. A whole lot. In fact for a couple collections like Terrain and Cuzco I started out intending to use red in those lines. But for me, in the end, red always gradually turns to orange! I guess that says something with regard to how i feel about red, but I’ll keep trying to use it and hope one of these times it will work!

I also just wanted to add that if anyone is looking for some quilt inspiration (quiltspiration?), Moda is offering a free pattern project sheet that i designed using Honey Honey. It’s called Apiary and is available to download from the *newly designed* United Notions website, or if you’d prefer a printed hard-copy, you can buy one at Fat Quarter Shop.

To see Honey Honey in action at Fall Quilt Market, watch our little interview with Kate!


  1. I love everything I have ever seen by Kate Spain! Thankfully, I've been able to own a few pieces too.

    Thanks for sharing more about her with us today!

  2. Kate Spain did it again. I love Honey Honey. It's hard to choose a favorite but this is a favorite.