I'm so happy to bring you the second instalment in this series of conversations with our favourite designers. I remember my excitement the first time I saw Carolyn Friedlander's fabric. Everything about it appealed to me. It was finely detailed, looked like it had been drawn at a drafting table, it was uniquely cartographic, (and being a former geographer, maps are my favourite language) and it reflected her architecture roots, without looking like a blueprint.
Carolyn's style has grown and evolved but these elements remain. She's a master at blending deep intense colour with stark and pale prints. She also has a singular style for mixing hues.
There is something else that I really appreciate about Carolyn. Like many designers she demonstrates her amazing attention to detail, but in her case, this has extended to an appreciation for "slow sewing" and her influence has been spreading. Her book, Savour Each Stitch, and Slow Sewing Studio projects reflect this.
Here are Carolyn's engaging answers to my questions. And, a lovely surprise...
1. What was your first creative job?
If you want me to go waaaay back, I’d say that my very first creative job was making bows (for wrapping presents) at my parents’ store when I was a kid. I always liked working in the store, and this was the first job that I can ever remember doing. We had several colors of ribbon that I’d curl up and then bundle into a bow. My dad paid me 5 cents a bow!
Other than that, my first official “creative” job probably wasn’t until college when I was a teaching assistant. I also started interning at architecture firms during that time, but how “creative” those endeavors were is debatable. Ha!
2. How long have you been designing fabric?
My first collection came out in the fall of 2012 with Robert Kaufman, and I’ve been designing fabric for them ever since.
3. Who do you think has been your greatest design influence?
Tough question! I guess that a professor from college comes to mind. I had some really big breakthroughs in her studio, that I know continue to impact me today. She had an amazing way of working with each student individually that propelled each of us on our own paths.
4. Do you create on paper or on a screen?
Both. I’m hands on with some things and use the computer for other things. They go hand in hand for me. It’s great to have options.
5. Do you have a favourite colour? Is there a colour you tend to avoid?
I am often drawn toward orangey-red, citron-y yellow/green and bright blues. I hesitate to mention colors that I "don’t like,” because I feel like interests can cycle back around and surprise you—especially if you say no. Never say never! Pink is one of my lessor-faves, but I do love orangey-peach versions, which just proves a point that even if there’s a color you don’t like, I’ll bet there’s a shade of it that you do.
6. Is there someone in the fabric design world who is a favourite or who you like to keep your eye on?
I’m pretty excited about Erin Dollar’s new like, Arroyo for Robert Kaufman. I think it’ll be really fun to work with!
7. What’s your favourite thing to sew or make? Do you like sewing alone or with other makers?
Is yes to all an acceptable answer? Ha! But really, that’s the great thing about sewing, there are many different types of projects and ways to work solo or with friends depending on your mood. This is probably why I like making quilts, bags, and garments, and also why I can sit in front of a machine or slow down and hand sew. It all depends on the mood.
8. If you weren’t a designer, what other career do you think you might have been good at or enjoyed?
I don’t know. Back to the creative-job question, I think that “creativity” can be utilized in many jobs, and so I think that even in a different field, I’d be looking for ways to keep myself creatively engaged.
9. What's your favourite source for info on the sewing world (a magazine, website, or other resource)?
Instagram is always a lot of fun. It’s such an easy way to see all the awesome things people are making. Getting together with friends or participating in workshops can also be a great way to get some good insights.
10. Where are your travels taking you next?
Quilt Market in St Louis, Missouri! St Louis is actually where I went to college, so I’m eager to return.
I'm eager to go to Quilt Market too. Last year, Carolyn extended her designs into linen blends with Euclid (a big favourite of mine). This little chat was good timing for us because Carolyn is coming out with a new collection of KNITS! It's called Blake. It has all of her hallmarks - striking colours, simple beautiful graphics, contrast and clean design. The scale is perfect for garment sewing and there are also a couple amazing knit quilts...
It could be a perfect capsule wardrobe, and look at these beautiful quilts, you can just imagine how soft they are...
These are some of my past favourites of Carolyn's previous collections. You can see what I mean about detail, colour, the influence of the drafting table (I know I'm dating myself) and her fine sense of scale.
Most recent faves from "Friedlander"
I loved all of Euclid, but I couldn't sell the last few yards of this one, I just had to have it for myself. (My sister also made a fantastic Esme dress in this)
And further back
I made a Camber Dress out of this classic (and we've had it in I think a dozen colours). My dress is a summer staple, kind of like this fabric. The appearance of bias but it's not...so clever and perfect for garment sewing.
I saw this sample in Carolyn's booth a few markets ago... it stopped me in my tracks. If you're ever looking for an argument for slow sewing, you can't do better than her patterns.
It's fun to watch Carolyn Friedlander. To see what her unique design voice and clever imagination will get up to next. I know many of you feel the same, so I'll be sharing pics from Market on Instagram and Facebook.