A Conversation with House of Quinn
How do you go about starting a new quilt?
Starting a new quilt is always a little daunting, like staring at a blank page of a sketchbook or making the first mark on a new canvas.
My approach to a new quilt is quite organic and I tend to start with the fabrics. I work with textiles that I have found and gathered over time, from markets or car boot sales, second-hand donations as well as remnants or ‘seconds’ from designers, stores and mills. This process then sets the scene for what I can make as it is dictated by what I can source at the time. Sometimes I might overdye fabrics with natural dyes or paint on them to create new patterns and textures.
Once I have a pallet to play with I start thinking about bringing in other inspiration to inform the shapes and overall direction of the quilt. I like to play around with colour and composition, collaging small swatches and shapes together to make an initial sketch. Then I will start to make.
It is a very informal process and the design will always evolve as it comes together. Usually, I will end up with more than one quilt or series of work as I decipher how all the textiles, colours and shapes will play off of one another.
What are your favourite colours to work with?
I like working with natural colours and tones. I have been quite obsessed with browns, soil tones, chalky whites, deep chocolatey colours. There is something quite comforting and grounding in a brown colour pallet, it has been hard to work with different colour stories recently.
When I was designing the projects for the book, my focus was to introduce more colour and create projects that could easily be personalised by the reader. Still working with natural colours, but bringing in warm yellows and ochre, washed-out pinks and deep blues. Colours that sit well in different spaces within the home, either as colour accents or comforting neutrals.
I struggle with green, I like green but I find it hard to work into designs, so I have challenged myself to use more green when I find the right fabrics.
What are your favourite fabrics to work with?
For quilting, it has to be good old cotton and linen. Linen is so great to work with and just gets better over time. It is very hard-wearing and versatile and also really good at managing curves. I also use a lot of cotton and I love very natural weaves, anything with a slub in it is great, anything quite raw and unlaboured. I love calico, we all use it for toiles and templates, but it is such a great fabric. Dyed and then washed the creases create great texture and life to the fabric, there is something very humble about calico that I enjoy. I like using worn cotton from old clothes or overwashed old sheets and table cloths, when they are soft and aged they create a great texture when quilted.
Are you self taught?
I have a background in design, studying 3D Design at college and Fashion Design at university. Sewing and making have always felt natural to me and a big part of my childhood and teenage years. I worked in a huge fabric shop when I was a teenager which was heaven! Much like Merchant & Mills is heaven to so many people. Something about a fabric shop that is so exciting, probably for all the fabrics to look at and knowing that a wealth of knowledge and possibility is all under one roof. It’s a very comforting feeling for me.
Quilting came at a moment when I was struggling to find a path for myself. I had been working full time in a horrible job while also trying to run a fashion start-up and I got burnt out. I took a year of doing anything creative and then took up quilting because I had so much waste fabric from old fashion projects and toiles. It was a weird moment, piecing together textiles that ultimately came from an unhappy place and putting them back together in a different way that informed a new creative direction for me and bought back joy in making that I had lost for a while.
Quilting is an exploration and I am learning every day. There are so many amazing quilters and an expansive quilting history to dive into, learning new things and exploring different ways to make something is all part of the process. There are so many viewpoints and interesting things to learn that it never fails to amaze me.
How do you work out how to price your quilts, I’m sure they are very time-consuming?
It is an ongoing struggle and I am sure many makers of hand made products will feel the same way. Time is the main factor in making anything by hand, and what the price reflects is the training, learning, development, resources, materials and energy gone into making an item that will last a lifetime. Sometimes I work with another local sewist to finish pieces ready for their new home, and so the price also reflects paying that person a fair fee for their work, they spent years training and working and their skills are invaluable.
Each of the quilts I make are one of a kind which I think is nice, knowing that each item is unique and something special. A quilt is an object to last, possibly pass down and stand the test of time. It can be mended and added to with patches and repairs and take on a new appearance. So the value carries on.
Where do you find inspiration?
So many places. A lot of the time it starts with a word or phrase. The recent series of work I created is entitled ‘The Caster’ and is inspired by lines, net-like structures and forms, as well as the processes of ‘casting’. Casting out nets, casting objects from other materials, casting an eye over the landscape. It has so many paths and interesting routes to go down and inspire a series of work which I keep coming back to explore different angles. In the same way, I collage fabrics, I like to collage inspiration and references into my work.
Tell us a bit about the fabric range you are developing for us, and how you see people using it?
The range will play with traditional checks, stripes and shapes but experimenting with the quality of line and applying a more freehand, painterly, drawn approach. There is something quite satisfying about repeat patterns rendered in hand-drawn lines, removing the symmetry somehow makes them more appealing and draws the eye in. It’s the same process when I am making a quilt, if there is symmetry, I throw something into the design to offset it or unbalance it somehow.
I love mark making and hand-painting papers, which I use in my collage work. Playing around with the way that the lines and shapes change as you cut up the paper and piece it back together, or layer shapes on top of one another to create patterns and compositions with a lot of life and texture. I have been playing around with that process with fabric, hand painting lengths of cloth and integrating it into quilts or wall hangings for a little while now and I hope to bring this idea to the range of fabrics we are working on.
The prospect of being able to work on a larger scale is really exciting for me and the collaboration with Merchant & Mills is an incredible opportunity to do exactly that. I think the act of making your clothes creates a deeper connection with them and the House of Quinn prints will add a new take and way to experiment with the wonderful selection of garment patterns the Merchant & Mills team have curated.
You can see all of Julius’ work here.
And his new book Modern Quilting is available here.
We are giving away 3 copies of Modern Quilting. To enter the competition you need to head over to this Instagram post and comment with which 4 fabrics you would choose to make your quilt. Our 3 favourite responses will win a book!