I had a chance to ask Janet Clare about her new self-published quilt project book – Freya and Fred: a week full of quilts for a girl and her dog. This beautifully presented book full of imaginative and fun quilts and other projects is a joy to hold and view and I know many of the techniques and images will be inspiring us for a long time.
Hi Janet, I love the concept behind this book – a little girl and her dog doing a week of activities – can you tell us a little about what inspired this idea?
Janet: I was inspired by the paper dolls and their clothes that I used to play with when I was little. Making an appliqué girl and getting to design a wardrobe of clothes for her was great fun! And then I felt she looked a little lonely so I got her a dog! Freya is my favourite girls’ name, but I had two boys- luckily I have two lovely nieces called Freya now!
You self published this book – is that correct? … the photography and design of the book is simply wonderful – I love the quality of the paper too – can you talk about the process of going from idea to self publication?
Janet: Yes, I did self publish and made all the projects and took all the photos too. My friend Hayley is a graphic designer and she laid out all the pages for me and my lovely husband helped do all the technical bits that I am clueless about! My friend‘s little girl modelled for me. So, in no way did I do the book all by myself, I had a lot of help.
I’m so glad you liked the style of the book and the paper etc because I was very fussy indeed about all that and got the printer to order in the paper especially. The best part about self publishing was never having to compromise! So, I made my book my way and am very, very fortunate that others like it too!
In terms of the process I decided in January 2010 to write and self publish a book which would be launched at ‘The Festival of Quilts’ (the biggest quilt show in Europe, August at the NEC Birmingham), started a sketchbook (new project, new sketchbook!) and asked Hayley if she could help me and then worked round the clock for a few months to get everything made. Hayley, Tony and I worked ‘til the wee hours of the morning every night for three weeks. The files were taken to the printers and I waited and waited and then just the morning before I had to leave for Birmingham I picked my books up- there wasn’t a second to spare!
A couple of things about the illustrations and designs that really stood out for me were the jointed applique templates for Freya and her dog Fred, can you talk about how these came about, and what quilters can use these for?
Janet: The jointed appliqué templates were a brainwave of mine a few years ago. I was cooking dinner for the boys and trying to draw six horses all the same size but in different positions for my Horse blanket pattern.
It wasn’t going well, the dinner was spoiling and the boys were bickering when all of a sudden I just knew I only needed to make one horse that moved. The rest is history! I now have jointed movable patterns for a horse, rabbit, dinosaur, cat and dog and in my book there is a dancing ballerina and a moving Fred.
Using a jointed template for your appliqué makes them very versatile and makes every quilt truly unique. Just position the ballerina as you wish and then trace her onto some fusible web (Bondaweb) or onto your fabric and appliqué as normal. Re-position the template and start again! The templates can be turned over too so Fred can look left and right.
I have suggested photocopying the templates onto card before you use them and you could also enlarge or reduce them too. I have also used my templates for paper crafts and the boys have coloured them in and made little puppets to play with. My appliqué templates are very versatile!
I love that each quilt project is accompanied by a little story, recipe or additional craft project accessory – you obviously had a huge amount of fun creating the projects and concepts for this book – can you talk about your decision making process for each quilt?
Janet: I had the best time writing my book! I had so many ideas that I couldn’t fit them all in. In the beginning I decided to make ‘Freya and Fred’ a lovely object in its own right- the kind of book that you just loved to curl up with and take inspiration from. I was really determined not to make just a project book (although there are many projects to make in the book!) I also decided not to make the book for complete beginners- this meant I didn’t have to include very detailed step by step instructions but could assume some prior quilt making experience.
However I did want to explain my favourite techniques in great detail, so I took a lot of care over describing and illustrating how I use my appliqué templates and how I use free motion stitching to draw with my sewing machine. I hope I achieved this.
Once I knew the book was going to be about a week in Freya’s life the projects and ideas came very easily. I actually made the front cover of the book first and worked through it day by day until it was all done. I drew and painted in my sketchbook and looked at a lot of vintage toys and fabrics from the 1940’s and tried to capture that childish innocence. Writing ‘Freya and Fred’ was a pleasure from beginning to end, and I really feel it shows.
One lesson I have learnt though is to leave more time for the next book- so I’ve started it already! Hayley and I have a ‘book design’ meeting in our favourite bar planned- we’ve discovered that these meetings go better with a margarita!
Thanks so much Janet, I know a lot of people are going to love this book – can you tell us how we can get one for our friends?