Designer Tidbits: Oliver + S - The Jolly Jabber Quilting Blog

Designer Tidbits: Oliver + S

The Fat Quarter Shop is excited to welcome Liesl Gibson of Oliver + S to the Jolly Jabber. Liesl’s latest fabric collection is Cape Ann from Moda Fabrics.

Q: What was the first seed that grew into the Cape Ann collection?
A:I don’t think of myself as an illustrator, so it took a leap of faith to release a collection based on my own drawings. But I was inspired by the work of Virginia Lee Burton, who is best known as the author and illustrator of much-loved children’s books like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House. She also founded the Folly Cove Design Collective, which grew out of a renewed interest in the Arts and Crafts movement that began in the mid-1800’s England. The Folly Cove designers believed that their art should be both useful and creative, and they found inspiration in the environment of Cape Ann and its flora and fauna. I just visited the area and can definitely understand why they found the area to be so inspiring!

Cape Ann was inspired from my own surroundings here in New York and by the charming illustrative work of Virginia Lee Burton. The toile print (“Indian Summer”) features my drawings of children at play in nature. “Virginia’s Closet” takes ideas for children’s clothing directly from my sketchbooks. And the supporting prints include some of the flora and fauna in our neighborhood (“Ginkgo Toss, ”Chrysanthemum Swirl,” and “Starburst Mums”) as well as vintage-inspired classic prints and patterns (“Folly Cove Dots” and “Ticking stripe”).

Q: If your collection had a soundtrack what would be on the list?
A:I like all sorts of eclectic music styles, but I listened to a lot of Madeleine Peyroux and Norah Jones while I was working on this collection. So I guess the soundtrack theme is strong female vocalists?

Q: What single print/SKU in the collection is your favorite (can only pick one!)?
A: My choice might surprise you! I really like the polka dots because I’m a huge polka dot fan and because along the selvedge I’ve included some cute little labels that you can attach to your sewing projects. The polka dots are extremely versatile, and the labels are lots of fun.

Q:What is your favorite project you have made using this collection?
A: It’s always hard to choose a single favorite. The collection has really pretty quilt patterns, but of course I’m always especially attached to the Oliver + S clothing we make with the fabric. I think my favorite might be this 2+2 blouse and skirt because I like how the different prints work together. It’s such a cute little outfit!

Q:What is your favorite part of working in the fabric industry?
A:I’ve always loved textiles and sewing, and that’s probably my very favorite part. But the people in this industry are so nice, too! I love working with Moda to develop each collection, and our customers are just a dream. They’re so enthusiastic and inspiring! I love to see how they use the fabrics and our sewing patterns.

Q:Can you give us a sneak-peek of your next fabric collection?
A: The next collection is a bit of a departure from Cape Ann (I like to keep people guessing with each collection—you never know what it will be!) and is called the Ladies’ Stitching Club. It’s all about garden parties and tea and sewing and things, but with a little bit of quirkiness to it. I haven’t received the strike-offs yet, so I probably shouldn’t show it until it’s a little further along. But it will be available in the spring, so that’s not too far away.

Q:What is your absolute favorite thing in your house?
A:Well, that would probably be my daughter and husband, but maybe that’s not what you mean? We have a vintage Knoll credenza that I adore. I’m afraid we won’t be able to get it out if we move someday, because it barely fit into our elevator when it arrived and the elevators have since been renovated and made a bit smaller. Since I love it so much, we may have to stay in our little apartment forever!

Q:Which project stands out in your memory as your all-time favorite?
A:I can’t really say that I have a favorite. I’m very proud of a few things I’ve made, but for me it’s often more about the process than the finished object. I love the experience of designing and sewing and generally focus less on the end product than on the project itself. So I usually like whatever I just finished, which means that right now it’s the spring Oliver + S patterns. I’m hard at work on them and they’re turning out really cute!

Q:Where do you do your best thinking?
A:I love to show off my studio. We just finished a renovation this summer, and the giant bulletin boards are actually doors that cover industrial shelving where I store fabric, books, and supplies for our business. But I do my best thinking when I’m with my daughter at the playground or walking around the city. New York really inspires me. When I’m in the studio I’m focused on what I need to do or what I’m working on at present. It’s when I get out into the city that I get a larger picture and find my inspiration.

Q:What is your favorite snack food?
A:We have a tiny kitchen area at the studio, but I don’t keep much there in the way of snacks. Usually I keep a bag of Trader Joe’s dried cranberries and some raw (unsalted) almonds. I like to mix them together for a snack. And I love tea, but I’m notorious for starting to heat the water and getting distracted with something else so I forget to actually make the tea. Remembering to actually drink it is another thing altogether!

Q:What is your one guilty pleasure in life?
A:Oh, having creative time often feels like a guilty pleasure to me. Sometimes what I do doesn’t feel like work at all, and I feel guilty for spending the entire day doing it! I’m very lucky to love my work.


  1. Wonderful interview….I walk away from my boiling water, too! LOL I love, love the polka dots, and the labels along the selvage? Inspired! Gotta get some!

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