One of the perks of writing the QuiltWoman.com Blog is being able to talk to a lot of terrific quilters, designers, business people, etc. Just recently, I had the great pleasure of talking with one of QuiltWoman.com’s designers, Anne Wiens (pronounced Weens). Her design business is called Sweetgrass Creative Designs. Before relating our conversation, let me just say, take any mental image you have of a quilt designer and toss it away. Anne simply doesn’t fit the mold.
On the air with Anne
Let’s start with what Anne does for a living, her background is in radio. She is the program director and on air announcer for radio stations KSEN-AM and KZIN-FM in Shelby, Montana. Anne started out in the days of vinyl and has seen radio technology progress to the point where everything, especially the music, is all on computers. I asked her if her stations stream over the Internet. The answer was “Yes!” I’m going to tune in one day so I can say to my friends “That DJ and I are on a first name basis!”
Montana loves Quilters!
Shelby, the town where Anne lives, is located on the Montana plains. It has a population of 2500 people, but somehow manages to support two fabric stores. I hoping Anne doesn’t support them single-handedly. I think not, after talking to her it sounds like there are quite a number of quilters out on the Montana plains. In fact, Anne told me there are 10 fabric stores within a 100 mile radius of Shelby. If only all of us could be so lucky. All I can figure is the entire populace quilts all winter long. Anne confirmed this, and told me they quilt in the other seasons too!
In the beginning…
Like many of us, Anne started sewing in high school. She comes from a long line of needle-women and grew up knitting, crocheting, doing cross stitch, needle point, etc. She was making all her clothes by the time she was in High school and remarked that “they looked like it.” Anne distinctly recalls learning how to make a bound buttonhole for a wool coat (it took a whole week), a skill she has yet to use. But she still remembers how. And during these high-school-attending-buttonhole-making years, she taught herself, yes taught herself, how to quilt. Anne readily admits she would have avoided a lot of mistakes if she had asked one of her older, more experienced relatives for help.
Not only has Anne been quilting from an early age, she has also been designing from the beginning. The first quilting book she owned was “101 Patchwork Patterns” by Ruby S. McKim. It was and still is printed in black and white. That meant she had to pick out fabric colors herself. Those of us used to living in the today’s color-filled world (glossy publications, EQ6, the Internet) would be hard pressed to have to pick out EVERY single color in a quilt ourselves. Anne remembers the first block she designed was actually a mistake. She was trying to draft a block she had seen, and instead of the intended block, ended up with something that looked like a tulip. Yes, she has been discovering “design opportunities” from the beginning.
Where do designs come from?
Let’s jump to the present. I asked Anne what inspires her. She remembers reading a book about copy writing. It stated “think of a lot of ideas and throw out the bad ones”. That’s a concept she’s embraced. She carries a book around with her everywhere to jot ideas down as they come to her. She’ll pick up color choices from the world around her. For example, she was driving past a car sales lot, spotted a row of cars and thought “That would be a good color scheme for a quilt.”
Anne says as a designer it is fun to see what others do with her patterns. In fact, if you have made one of her patterns, she’d love to have a picture of it to put in her on-line quilt gallery at www.sweetgrassdesigns.com.
Besides designing, Anne also loves to teach (she’s available!!!). The third Saturday in May is International Quilters Day (formerly National Quilters Day) and Anne has been hosting a celebratory class annually since 1999. Every year she has designed a twin size quilt top that can be assembled in a day. The class participants show up early with their pieces already cut out (hopefully!), eat a catered breakfast, sew, get a catered lunch, sew, sew, and sew, and by the end of the day have a finished quilt top. In fact Connections was the project at the 2009 class. Mahjongg and Prairie Window were also Quilters Day quilts. Patterns for all are available at QuiltWoman.com. Anne is also proud of the fact that after having taught in quilt shops for 19 years, her classes are more than just classes. She shares tools and techniques that can help any and all quilters.
Do Radio and Quilting mix?
Finally, coming back around to her background in radio, I couldn’t resist asking if she had ever been tempted to start a podcast or broadcast a quilting radio show. Anne remarked that she hasn’t, seeing that quilting is such a visual hobby. But she has been interviewed on radio shows, and had to keep in mind that her audience was the general public and not a group of quilters. Not everyone knows what a half-square triangle is. And isn’t that a shame.
UPDATE: In the process of fact checking this blog posting, I e-mailed Anne a question. In her reply she mentioned that she was currently on the air. I tuned in via the magic of the Internet and sure enough, there she was. Anne then asked via e-mail if I wanted to make a request! This was way too cool. So from Western New York, I e-mailed a request for a Bob Seger song (am I dating myself here?) to Shelby, Montana. And sure enough, I got it. So yes, I can now say “That DJ and I are on a first name basis AND she played my song request.” I love this job!