Designer Spotlight: Denyse Schmidt
We are thrilled to be co-hosting a book signing with the talented quilt and fabric designer, and book author, Denyse Schmidt. She is one of the finest designers bridging traditional quilting with the current modern quilting movement. She was raised in Massachusetts, learned to create at an early age and never stopped. You can read more on her site and get a glimpse of some other details through her responses below. We are very grateful to Denyse for taking the time to answer our questions and look forward to welcoming her to Portland, Friday, July 27th!
BN: We’d love to know a bit about your history as a sewist. Are you a life-long sewist or did you discover it as an adult?
DS: I’ve been sewing for as long as I can remember. My mother was an accomplished seamstress, and made a lot of her own clothes as well as clothes for us four kids. I had a toy sewing machine at a very young age, but I remember it always jammed. At some point I made it clear that I needed a real machine, and my mother let me use hers (under supervision of course). I made doll clothes, softies, and all kinds of tiny things for the dollhouse my grandfather built for me. As I got older, I designed and made costumes for Halloween and dance recitals. In high school I made a lot of clothes for myself including a double-breasted suit out of linen, with bound buttonholes and welt pockets!
What was your path to pursuing this as a career?
DS: Very circuitous! I pursued many different jobs and directions before starting my business. Looking back, it’s easier to see how the variety of my experiences contributed to who and where I am now, even the ones that seem so far afield. In both high school and college, I had summer and school-year jobs working in costume shops, so I started sewing “professionally” early on. Right after college I lived in NYC and did modern dance and performance art/film. Then I moved back to Massachusetts and had a series of sewing jobs before going to art school to study graphic design. I sewed tutus at the Boston Ballet, made ecclesiastical vesture at a monastery, and worked for a clothing designer at a small atelier. After art school, I worked as a graphic designer and eventually launched my business. Even the waitressing jobs I had along the way contributed to my understanding of how to run a small business as most were chef-owned. DSQ has made sense of – and put to good use – my varied experiences and interests.
What are some of your favorite fabrics/patterns/materials to work with?
DS: I love using solids in my quilts of course, and also vintage fabrics though it’s hard not to feel precious about some of them. I’ve always been comfortable mixing materials, and have long incorporated woolens, knits, cotton-poly, and silk in my work. Maybe because I’ve had so much experience sewing all kinds of fabrics –fine silk tulle, gold-threaded brocades, and stretchy velvets – I’m not intimidated about mixing it up.
What trends in fabric or pattern design have you excited?
DS: I love that the fabric manufacturers are making it easy to design for different substrates. Some of my colleagues are real pioneers and pave the way for the rest of us (like Anna Maria and Amy). A few years ago I did a cheater print on cotton canvas. The repeat itself was huge and had the maximum number of colors. It was a lot of work to create, and unfortunately it didn’t sell well as I think many shops weren’t that prepared for wider goods. Anyway, I have always loved cheater prints, and would love to do more.
What’s on your sewing machine right now?
DS: Projects in the possibly permanent pile that may never be completed include a super-minimal shoulder bag out of gorgeous heavy leather, some Anna Maria voile for a dress or skirt, some heavy raw linen for a simple dress in the style of Tina Givens, some vintage dresses waiting to have patterns drafted from them.
We currently have some of Denyse’s previous line, Hope Valley and are looking forward to receiving her latest line, Chicopee later this year. Thanks Denyse! We also carry both of Denyse’s quilting books, and her quilt patterns.