Today I have the pleasure of introducing Blair Stocker of Wise Craft to the blog! I love her style, her mission and her fearless use of unexpected materials in her work. I think that her refreshing take on quilting will be just what you need this week.
Blair is the author of two books, a designer, blogger, and inventor of the brand-new Ruby Ruler. All of those exciting things fall under her business known as Wise Craft, not to mention the fact that she is a mother of two and a nationally known teacher! She sounds like my kinda girl, so let’s get the story straight from Blair herself;
How did you get started with sewing?
“I have sewn a little bit my whole life. In college I studied Apparel merchandising and design and finally got a machine of my own. These days my sewing machine is an extension of my arms, I love it!”
I noticed that Blair does a lot with incorporating unconventional materials into her quilts. As one who must understand how everything works, I wondered what kinds of things was she actually using.
Blair says, “I love the challenges of trying to sew with things like Tyvek racing numbers or ski jackets. The challenge fascinates me, and keeps quilting constantly inspiring.” So, really…she means anything!
This energetic answer perked my curiosity, so I wondered what inspired her to start doing this.
Blair recalls, “When my husband and I were young parents, I left my career in the apparel design industry to stay home with my daughter, who is now 19. The combination of losing my creative design outlet, and wanting to spruce up and decorate our new home got me thinking about out of the box ways to get creative. It made sense to start with either what we already had, or what I could buy at the thrift store. I discovered blogging a few years later, started posting, and my projects seemed to be interesting to readers. I have quite an archive of fun DIY projects from over the years. From there, I was hired by a thrift store chain to produce DIY projects for their website using items from their shops. A REAL job doing this sort of thing? Yes, please! This was really where I started to stretch my creative ideas with all kinds of projects, including patchwork. It was through all this reusing, repurposing, and thrifting that I realized I missed fabric. It occurred to me that so many memories and emotions can be tied to certain textiles. They can remind you of someone, a place, a moment. That was something I wanted to explore. From there, my focus over the years has come to settle entirely on patchwork and quilting. But still incorporating the whole idea of special textiles and memory-invoking cloth in them.”
But What If…
You might have red flags flying and sirens screaming as soon as we mentioned using anything but quilt shop fabric in a quilt. So I asked Blair to convince us that it’s all going to be OK…
“I talk quite a bit about in my newest book, Wise Craft Quilts: A Guide To Turning Beloved Fabrics into Personal Patchwork. The number one thing I tell my students is that if you have a special fabric you want to use- a curtain that hung in your grandmother’s house, prayer banners brought home from a family trip, etc- you should start by washing these fabrics before you use them in a quilt as you would plan to wash the quilt. You’ll need to wash your quilt, so make sure your fabrics are able to withstand an occasional wash and will play nicely with other fabrics you use. A gentle wash to test colorfastness and durability is totally fine. If the fabrics survive that, you are good to go. (I’m actually working on an online class, coming soon!). My role as a teacher is to convince my students and build their confidence about using these fabrics. They will have so much joy and satisfaction when they sew these special fabrics into a beautiful patchwork quilt that is out in their home and used daily. Those fabrics will be a constant reminder of a some very special memories.”…Ok, you convinced me!
What inspired you to start your own company and take on becoming an author?
Alright, back to business! I love to hear the story of how each business began—everyone has such a differnt reason or approach to a new venture! Blair connected with her photographer back in 2012, and decided to pitch a book to the company that she was doing DIY projects for, They actually passed on the idea. Blair remembers, “We still felt we had a strong concept, and had so much useable content for a book at that point, so we created a proposal and, lucky us, it got picked up by a publisher.” That was her first book, Wise Craft: Turning Thrift Store Finds, Fabric Scraps, and Natural Objects into Stuff You Love. It just goes to show that you’ve got to keep trying, even if the first time doesn’t go how you’d like!
As the book was in process, Blair started shifting gears with Wise Craft Handmade and formed a company. “That was all a direct result of me growing much more intentional with what I was creating.” This opened the doors for teaching and other exciting opportunities, and suddenly, it wasn’t just a hobby anymore.
I just can’t help myself, at this point, I’ve held off as long as I could. You see, I’m a big fan Blair’s Echo Star pattern (I swear, it’s following me on Pinterest and Instagram!) I apologize for the bunny trail, but I had to put my fan girl hat on for one second and ask how that pattern came about!It turns out that the Echo Star pattern was based on a tile pattern Blair saw once & couldn’t get out of her mind. I did the same thing with my Crossroads pattern, so I was glad to hear that this was a common occurrence among us designers! Blair goes on, “I really liked the way the stars were shaped. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to use it until I pulled fabrics for the first version (which is the cover quilt on the pattern). All were variations of blue and grays, mostly from men’s dress shirts (a few from my husband). I wanted those colors to create a tonal effect.”
…OK, now that I know, I can go back to being a professional…I promise!
What is your favorite pattern?
Since we all know what my favorite pattern is, I figured I’d let Blair share hers!
“I am partial to my Complete Quilt Design Planner Pattern mainly because its so versatile. I’ve tested that pattern several times myself, and had pattern testers and students try it out. Because it is a basic pattern system, allowing you to sort of ‘choose your own adventure’ and create your own design, no two patterns are every alike!” Again, I’m convinced! Make sure you check out the hashtag #
Tell us about your blog, what sorts of thing do you like to post about?
“These days I really enjoy posting visual collage images of where I imagine my quilts would live. I started this a few years ago and its a very fun creative exercise to satisfy my need to play with color and decor and quilting- all my favorite things,” Blair explains. You can see her latest one for her Pheasant quilt here and all of them on Instagram #myquiltwouldlivehere
What’s your favorite thing right now?
We’ve got the details on the bog, but let’s talk notions! Right now, Blair is all about her new Ruby Ruler™! “I worked on and designed this project in 2017 and launched it in March of this year. I’m so happy with how it turned out.” Blair is talking about a little 2-in-1 acrylic cutting and quilt design tool that she designed! You can use it to cut and square up fabric or block units 5″ or smaller, and look through the red-hued color of the ruler to see the value differences in all the fabrics you use in a quilt design.
“Using scraps divided by value is my favorite way to design quilts these days. I have a scrappy, value based quilt-a-long launching this fall that will have lots of fun tips and techniques of quilting and using value (and of course, using special fabrics in your quilts).”
Make sure that you keep up with Blair and be the first to know when this launches! You can join her email list to stay up to date!
I’d like to thank Blair for taking the time to join us on the blog today and inspiring us to take a new look at our fabric selections! I hope that we’ve perked your interest and that you’ll check out Blair on your favorite Social Media platform and follow her to see what she’s going to think up next!