Today I’m sitting down and chatting with Debby, the feisty and creative lady behind Debby Brown Quilts. Debby wears many many hats, but you may know her best as a national and international teacher, Craftsy instructor, and pattern designer. I really enjoyed getting to know her better and am so excited to share Debby’s passion for quilting with you today! She’s described herself as a quilt enabler, which I absolutely love and think fits her personality perfectly. Lets sit down and strap in for this fun-filled interview!
When and how did you start Debby Brown Quilts?
Debby started a craft business about 25 years ago, selling on consignment to retail stores. This evolved into longarm quilting for customers then teaching machine quilting and eventually into what she does today. Debby explains, “I’ve changed during that time and so has the quilt world. I’m sure that my business will continue to evolve and change in the years to come.”
What is your favorite part of your business?
Tough question! I love teaching and designing and writing… basically the favorite part of my business is the part that involves quilting.
Tell me about your first time teaching a sewing class!
“The first time I taught a quilt class, I was so nervous! I was awake the entire night before and couldn’t eat anything at all. I’m much less nervous now because I know that when I have fun teaching, students have fun learning. favorite part of teaching is when a student leaves a class giddy, saying “I can’t wait to go home and quilt!” because they know that they can. My job is to give a few pointers and a lot of confidence to students. Quilting can be fun and it doesn’t have to be complicated.”
What is it like teaching in real-time with people & on Craftsy?
Debby is an avid teacher in many different forms. So, I was curious about some of the differences between these very different type of classes, Debby explains, “I have taught online/ on DVD for Craftsy, Annie’s, Handi Quilter, and for self-published classes. Filming at home is odd; I like that I am at home and can sleep in my own bed, but I run all of the cameras and lights and spend hours upon hours talking to myself. Filming in a studio is pretty fun. The crews are always high-energy people who do a great job making me feel comfortable on camera. There’s a lot of laughing and joking around and it’s a lot of fun. Teaching in person is absolutely thrilling. I love interacting with the students and watching them gain confidence. Spending time with quilters is the best thing ever! Sadly, it requires a lot of travel and after more than a decade on the road, it takes a toll. I still teach in person, but only a few times a month now.”
What about Quilters on the Fence?
I’ve noticed Debby’s classes and videos about machine quilting and wanted some advice to those of us who might be nervous about taking the plunge. Debby excitedly responded, “Just do it! When you give a quilt away, the recipient thinks you are amazing because you can sew fabric together. They don’t look at the quilt and ask “Why did you meander using white thread instead of stitching feathers in sage green?” They just love the quilt. The only person hung up over the machine quilting is the maker!”
Did you say several thousand?!
In Debby’s interview, I got in a tizzy and pick my jaw up off the floor as I asked, “Is it true that you’ve made *several thousand* quilts…do you keep count? What’s the number!? I’m in awe!” I always learn a ton about people when I sit down and research before their interviews, but Debby’s claim to having finished several thousand quilts this year won the jaw-dropper award for the year!
Debby reports that she has indeed quilted THOUSANDS of quilts! “I have quilted about 5,000 quilts. In 2000, I began longarm quilting and completed several thousand quilts for customers. I kept track of the invoices. The rest of the quilts are my personal quilts, quilts for my guild, pattern samples, and class samples. I have estimated those but I’m guessing the number is pretty close. I started a blog in 2006 called Hired Hands that shows many of my quilts from then until present day.”
Look, Don’t Touch?
I’m a big proponent of the “quilts are meant to be used” team, but for someone like Debby, who has gotten so many awards, publications, and exhibitions, I have to wonder if she looks at her quilts a little differently. So, I asked, “Do you live by the rule of ‘quilts are meant to be used’ or ‘quilts are meant to be art’ when it comes to your work?”
“Quilts are meant to be USED!” Debby exclaimed, “I tell folks to use my quilts and that I’ll replace them when they wear out. So far, I’ve only had to replace three quilts, but I am sure more will wear out in the future. My daughter and her fiancé are great at phone calls like ‘My co-worker is having a baby and I thought you might have a spare quilt?’ because they KNOW I keep a stack of quilts ready for gifting at all times.” I just love asking this question—I always get a heartfelt response!
Lets Talk Patterns
I noticed that Debby’s patterns are separated into two different categories: “By the Numbers” and “Cutie Patterns.” So, I asked if she could tell me a little bit more about this and about these two different types of patterns. I didn’t imagine that I’d elicit a secret with this question, but I did!
“I have a secret — I HATE PAPERWORK! I love quilting and teaching and designing, but I despise the paperwork involved in printing and distributing patterns. I have designed patterns for two different companies: By The Numbers and Cutie Patterns. By The Numbers is a pattern company in Sturbridge, MA that sells patterns to shops who cut fabrics into one yard packages (one yard, two half-yards, three third-yards, four fat quarters, eight fat eighths, etc.). The patterns have material requirements for straight yardage as well as “two Threes (three third-yard packages), one One (one yard cut), and one Eight (eight fat eighths).” This is an easy way for shops and quilters to display and buy fabric. Most of my patterns are published by Cutie Quilts. Cutie Quilts use 16 fat 1/8ths of fabric and background, border, or whatever else is needed to finish the quilt. I love Cutie Patterns because they are economical ($4), printed in gray scale so our color choices don’t get in the way of your preferences, and look great in any type of fabric. I’ve made Cutie Quilts out of novelty fabrics, kids fabrics, modern fabrics, reproductions, scraps… oh, my love of Cutie Patterns is ENDLESS!”
Do you feel that working with cuties is a challenge? What do you like/dislike about this size of precut?
I love Debby’s ‘bring it on” attitude, she says, “I love the challenge of designing with fat 1/8ths. When we finally get the math right, we excitedly run to the other designers in a “Eureka!” moment. The limited amount of fabric forces us to get creative and make choices that we might not have made if we had an unlimited amount of fabric; often those forced choices are surprisingly wonderful. We like to make sure we use all of the fabric so that the quilter isn’t left with a lot of leftover fabric.”
You have a super fun blog—what sorts of thing do you like to post about?
“I post a bit about my life, a bit about my cooking, and a lot about my quilting. I post a few tutorials and contests, notices of new products, and, since I live in the woods, sometimes about chopping firewood. My favorite posts are when I get to write about crazy travel stories. I tend to have to oddest travel experiences and they are fun to share.”
I’d just like to thank Debby for joining us today and giving us a really fun and encouraging time! If you’re interested in learning more about Debby and her designs, classes, or awesome blog make sure to visit her website at www.debbybrownquilts.com
As we get close to the end of the summer, make sure to join us next week for one of our last inspiring interviews!
Images used with permission