Before the holidays I took a break from all the pre-Christmas bustle and went on a visit to a relatively new, and very talented, designer here in Phoenix. Vanessa Fromm started her company only in the last couple of years but already she has some gorgeous patterns out.
Vanessa was all friendly hospitality when I arrived at her home in Scottsdale. Within minutes of arriving I had a lovely mug of hot tea stuck I my hands and we journeyed up to her sewing studio. Am I jealous? Just a little….Vanessa has a beautiful light soaked sewing space filled with all the colors of the rainbow. Half finished and finished projects are layed out, or tucked in shelves and containers. She is very organized, in a way that I could only aspire to be.
For the next couple of hours I got to tour all her lovely quilts and half finished projects. Vanessa is diverse. Sure, she has a growing design business but that doesn’t prevent her from dabbling with patterns and projects from other designers as well. She clearly loves brilliant hues and jewel tones and like me Vanessa works with fabrics from Island Batik and she used their fall 2013 collection of fabrics in her new patterns.
Vanessa is a pretty technical quilter. She loves working on her computer and with her fancy Bernina 830 embroidery machine. To make her pretty patterns available to everybody, not just quilters with the Rolls Royce of embroidery machines, Vanessa makes two versions of her patterns – one for embroidery machines and one to be stitched out with traditional machine applique (or hand applique if you should so prefer).
Vanessa was kind enough to answer some questions about her business and her background and passions as a quilter.
When and why did you start making quilts?
I began my fascination with sewing at about the age of eight when I took sewing lessons at my local Singer store in Pascagoula, Mississippi. My grandmother lived with us at the time and she was an avid seamstress. She helped me and encouraged me.
I continued to sew throughout junior high and high school. I was the girl making bound buttonholes and matching plaids in home economics class, while others where making elastic-waisted skirts. In college, where I majored in medical illustration, I continued sewing, often incorporating “soft sculpture” in my projects for art classes. The only quilts I made during this time were blue jean quilts for “boyfriends.” I’d ask my boyfriends’ moms for their old jeans and then sew the squares together. The “quilting” was accomplished by tying the layers together with yarn.
After college, my friend and I took an Eleanor Burns’ Quilt-in-a-Day class. This was in the days before rotary cutters when you had to tear your strips of fabric. What a mess that made! Still, that is when I became hooked on quilting. Over the following years, I made baby quilts and did a little bit of hand quilting.
In 2000 we moved to Arizona. I set up my sewing studio in our dining room and met one of my current quilting buddies when she stopped by to pick her daughter up from a playdate and saw me sewing. She is an unbelievable quilter and has been a true inspiration. She introduced me to another woman and now the three of us meet as often as is possible for coffee to give advice and show and tell. They are my support group!
In the summer of 2012, I decided to try to start my own company designing for machine embroidery. I am very tech savy and I love illustrating using the computer. After playing around on the computer with different ideas, I came up Fabric Confetti. These whimsical designs incorporate fabric “confetti” to add texture to machine and fusible embroidery. My first two patterns were Urban Garden and Beauteous Bulbs. My next patterns were Confetti Cupcakes and Confetti Veggies.
Later in 2012, I questioned my husband about his grandfather’s factory in Berlin during the 1920s and 30s. I knew that his factory had stamped linens with hand embroidery designs, and I asked my husband if he had anything left over from his grandfather’s factory. He said that his family had donated everything to the Jewish Museum in Berlin. He then contacted the people at the museum and asked them to make photocopies of a 1932 catalog from the company. The people at the museum were wonderful and took digital pictures of every page in the catalog and sent them to us on a CD. I have used these pictures to digitize the floral patterns in a division of Fabric Confetti called HappNstance. “Happ” comes from my husband’s mother’s maiden name, and “stance” comes from coincidence because I think it is a coincidence that my new venture is the result of my having asked my husband to look into the designs.
I have adapted some of the designs from the catalog for the applique flowers in these designs. The first pattern is called Marianne. It is the first quilt in the HappNstance series. Marianne, my husband’s mother, is the person who made this division possible.
There are a lot of small pieces in your quilts. What do you tell a less experienced quilter who wants to try to make one of your beautiful designs?
I know that my HappNstance patterns contain many small pieces, but I give quilters printed templates and instructions as to how to use these printed templates and copy them directly onto fusible paper using an inkjet printer. My father and I are also doing demos at local stores on how to use these templates to cut the pieces out using a Silhouette Cameo cutter. Once the pieces are cut out, all a beginning quilter without an embroidery machine has to do is place all the pieces down in order using my full-sized layout and a light table. My 83 year-old uncle tests all my patterns and he has done a fabulous job with all my designs!
As for the embroidery module versions of my patterns, I think my method of placement stitching and lining the fabric up is very easy to do. I do, however, think you need to know your embroidery machine well before you embark on one of these designs.
Do you have to have an embroidery machine to make your designs?
You don’t have to have an embroidery machine to create my patterns. All my patterns come in two versions – one for embroidery modules AND one for fusible applique.
What are your current favorite quilting tools or gadgets that you would hate to be without?
I have several “must haves” in my studio.
- I love KAI scissors, especially the double curve for embroidery.
- My Famore 6″ Large Ring Comfort Handle Razor Edge Scissors are wonderful for cutting out applique pieces.
- I use my Sewline marking pens every day. I use the pencils and the air-erase pens.
- I suggest using Roxanne’s Glue-Baste-It to place my confetti. I particularly like their EZ Squeezie. It is refillable!
- Floriani thread is wonderful because of its sheen. I try to use it for my embroidery whenever possible.
- I am currently working on a pieced quilt and I have found the fast2sew Ultimate Seam Guide invaluable.
- Lastly, my dad and I have been using the Silhouette Cameo since October for cutting out my applique pieces. Because I create my designs using Adobe Illustrator, it is easy to save the files off in an .svg format for the cutter. I cannot say enough good things about using this cutter.
Are there other designers and quilt artists that you admire?
I have been so lucky to have so many wonderful local designers that I admire help me during my journey.
First of all, I have to thank Sarah Vedeler of Sarah Vedeler Designs. I met Sarah before she had her second daughter when she gave me a private quilting lesson. I ran into her a few years later in Sew from the Heart in Scottsdale, Arizona. We reconnnected and she introduced me to Brewer, my distributor, and to Island Batik, the fabric company for whom I designed my HappNstance wall hangings. Sarah’s work is fabulous!
I have to thank Claudia Dinnell of Claudia Designs for teaching me how to digitize. Her work is also fabulous and she is a great teacher! I took several digitizing classes from Claudia at Bernina Connection in Phoenix, Arizona. Digitizing was a natural extension of my illustration skills.
I’d love to thank Carrie Bloomston of SUCH Designs and Nancy Shamy of Kensie Mac. Both spent several hours with me explaining how to set up my company, where to get UPC codes, where to buy the little bags for my patterns, how to order from a printer, and answering my many questions. Both have successful businesses and are wonderful people.
There are dozens of other designers outside of my 20 mile radius that have inspired me – Jane Sassaman, Melinda Bula, Freddy Moran, Valori and Jean Wells, Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins of Piece O’Cake Designs, are just a few.
If you would have to pick a color scheme to stick with for the next couple of years, what would it be?
I love bright colors. If I’d have to pick a color scheme, it would include all vibrant colors. I loved using Island Batik’s Fall 2013 collection for my HappNstance wall hangings – Olivia, Emilie, and Frances. The colors were fabulous and fun to work with.
Is there a quilting related skill that you would like to learn or improve on?
I am currently trying to work on my long arm quilting. I love my Innova long arm. The skills necessary for quilting are similar to illustration skills. It is fun to practice illustrating using thread. I would love to take some long arm classes but for now I rely on Craftsy and books. I have all of Angela Walters’ books and my new favorite is “Quilting Wide Open Spaces” by Judi Madsen.
What is brewing in your studio right now?
I am currently working on some new Fabric Confetti patterns for the AQS show here in Phoenix in February. Once those are finished, I can get back to working on a new HappNstance quilt pattern for May’s Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh.
My patterns are available from quilt stores around the country and internationally. If you do not find them locally, please check out my website: www.fabricconfetti.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org