Designer Tidbits: Melissa Mortenson of Polka Dot Chair - The Jolly Jabber Quilting Blog

Designer Tidbits: Melissa Mortenson of Polka Dot Chair

Hello everyone! Please welcome Melissa Mortenson of the Polka Dot Chair to the Jolly Jabber! We’re so excited to show you her first fabric collection for Riley Blake Designs, Derby Style! Want to learn more about her inspiration? Then keep on reading! 

Q: Tell us about the Derby Style collection. What was your inspiration? 
Melissa:  Even though I grew up in Salt Lake City, I consider Louisville, Kentucky, to be my home. I’ve lived here for over 20 years now and have come to love the city. When I moved to Kentucky, I left all of my immediate family behind and decided that if I was going to live here, I was going to enjoy it. The whole “bloom” where you’re planted thing… Over the years, I’ve truly embraced the many special things that Kentucky has to offer, especially the Kentucky Derby

Oliver & S Roller Skate Dress

The Derby is a BIG deal here. The kids even get out of school the day before it. The city celebrates for a solid month with outdoor activities, balloon races, steamboat races, parades and a multitude of other things. I have a confession to make, I still haven’t been to the ACTUAL Kentucky Derby. My husband and I go to the Kentucky Oaks, which is the day before and considered the Derby for the “locals” (The Derby is on my bucket list though!). 

Over the years, I started to notice all of the colors and patterns associated with Derby. Bow ties, seersucker suits, big colorful hats, smartly dressed men, and beautiful dresses. Attending the Derby (or the Oaks) is like stepping into a beautifully styled magazine shoot. As much as I love to watch the horses race, watching the people is even more fun. After I attended the Oaks this year, I had a major burst of inspiration and sat down in one weekend and made the bow tie print from the Derby Style collection. After that, the rest of the line came together quickly. If you look at my dress from that day I think you can see where the inspiration came from. 

Q: What is the best part about being a designer?
Melissa: I’m pretty new to it, but I’d have to say that being able to design a project to look JUST how you want it. I designed the Derby Style collection because I want to sew with those fabrics. 

Q: What is your favorite project you made with the Derby Style collection?
Melissa: I’d have to say the Prize Ribbons Quilt. It’s a “coming soon” pattern that was inspired by some prize ribbons I made out of paper a few years ago. I love how the Dresden block mimics the look of a horse prize ribbon.

Prize Ribbon Quilt

Q: Any future plans for Melissa Mortenson and the Polka Dot Chair blog?
Melissa: That’s a big question. I’ve never been great at planning ahead. I just seem to take things as they come. I do know that #1 on my list is to get my PDF patterns printed! Then #2 would be to complete more quilts this year. 

Patchwork Pillow

Last year, I published my first book, “Project Teen: Handmade Gifts Your Teens Will Actually Love,” and I am working to promote it this year. My blog grew so much last year so I hope to be able to keep up with that momentum. I really enjoy designing projects and connecting with my readers. I’ve got a “spark” of an idea for another fabric line, so I guess I’d have to say in 2015, I’d like to “pitch” the next fabric line and come up with an idea for another book. Fingers Crossed! 


  1. Love, love this fabric line and those projects, just look at that dress! My daughter is 17 now, but oh, if she was still that much younger … The Prize Ribbons pattern is a gem! My daughter used to ride horses daily and was always taking part in dressage competitions, I can so relate to that quilt! The patterns on the fabric are such fun and the colors so cheerful!

  2. I love ribbons quilt and the bow fabric pillows, I've had my eye on this fabric for awhile but I've bought alot of fabric in this last month so I can't afford to buy it just now, I wish this were a giveaway–I get to cutting up that ribbons quilt and sew it up in a jiffy as my nephiew's birthday is in April,