Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Coffee Talk Tuesday: Leslie Lamb

I think that the ladies in the OKC MQG would agree that if any one of us was to write a book about modern quilting, full of gorgeous patterns, it would be Leslie Lamb.  This gal is bursting with fabulous ideas in quilt design, graphic design, t-shirt design....  You name it this girl can do it.  And to top it off she's a sweetheart.  It almost makes you sick to your stomach doesn't it?!  ;)  Seriously though...we love her and I know you will too!

Leslie Lamb

Hi, Leslie!  Thanks for being our July CTT interview.  Just to start off I want you to share your blog and shop address with everyone.

My blog is LeslieUnfinished, and my shop is Tangerine Bloom.

Your blog is full of great tutorials and "quilty" eye candy.   You have an eye for color that is either raw talent or comes from experience.   So, I'm curious...how long have you been sewing?

I think I learned how to sew a straight line at about 9 years old. My mom made a lot of our clothes, so I just grew up around sewing. My sister and I used to make pillows for our Barbie dolls. My mom's machine was a heavy, metal Singer that was really loud. I always felt like it was sewing out of control, so I didn't like sewing very much. I tried again as a teenager, but didn't have the patience. If one thing went wrong, that was it. Project over! I had a little more patience after I got married and sewed a lot of my own clothes since we were still poor college students.

I hear ya.  I think many young people find themselves lacking in patience with sewing.  But, quilting...that certainly takes a lot of patience.  So how long have you been quilting?

I've been serious about quilting for about 3 years. Until then, I'd only made two quilts. One of which, was the king-sized quilt that is still on my bed. My piecing isn't that great, and my mom and I hand-quilted it. We calculated about 100 hours just in hand-quilting! I then made a couple of quilts for friends and it was just so time consuming that it kind of took the fun out of it. But, at that time, I was a real quilt snob. Quilts could only be hand-quilted, otherwise, it wasn't a "real" quilt. I quickly got over that the first time I tried free motion quilting. I absolutely loved it and the quilt was completed in a fraction of the time!

HA!!!  "Quilt Snob."  I love it!  But, if you weren't super into sewing in general at first, and quilting was a bit of a chore in the beginning, what or who inspired you to learn quilting?

The women in my family always quilted and I have several memories of my sister and I playing under the quilts as they were stretched on the quilt frame. My great-grandmother was the piecer in the family. I still have a wonderful quilt she made with small hand-pieced hexagons. My grandmother's quilts always won the blue ribbon at the county fair each year. She had wonderfully, perfect stitches! She liked to do the hand-quilting more than the piecing, so most of the quilts my family has from her are whole cloth quilts. She couldn't see the point in cutting up perfectly good fabric just to sew it back together again! When my mother would quilt with grandma, grandma would unpick my mom's stitches because they weren't up to par. So, my mom tied quilts when I was a child. When I got into quilting a few years ago, she did too. It's great to share this hobby her and we probably go to some sort of fabric store together every week and enable each other's fabric addiction.

One of the things that we love about your quilts is that they are quite often very bold and graphic in nature, which is often a reflection of the modern quilting "movement".  So what drew you towards the modern side of things, since you grew up surrounded by the more "traditional"?

I consider myself a border-line modern quilter. I think traditional quilting says; I need so many light, medium and dark fabrics with so many small, medium and large designs. Modern quilting seems to be less about that. I do a lot of baby quilts and they tend to use classic patterns with bold, modern fabrics. For me, it's all about the fabrics and less about the pattern. I have a Fashion Merchandising degree and I've always loved the mix of patterns in clothing...a stripe with a polka-dot, a plaid with a floral...combining fabrics into a quilt seemed a natural extension of that thought process. I also have the idea that you can't have too many prints (which, yes, in reality you really can have too many) but, quilting feeds that desire to add one more polka-dot to the mix. I'm really drawn to the boldness of modern quilting, just like I'm drawn to the modern art section at an art museum.

Pinwheel baby quilt made from a collection of various fabrics. I can make this quilt in my sleep, I've done so many!

I love doing these interviews because I had no idea your degree was in Fashion Merchandising!  How neat!  

So who do you find inspirational in the world of modern quilting?

I have a lot of blogs on my reader. If I had to pick a couple that really inspire and speak to me I'd say first, Elizabeth Hartman of Oh, Fransson!  She has some fabulous original patterns and I love the way she often uses multiple prints in the same color to create blocks. There's just something very refreshing about her work. Second, would be Cynthia at Ahhh...Quilting.  Her bold patterns and contrasting colors just speak to me.

Do you have any certain fabric designers or manufacturers that speak to you the most?

I don't pay that much attention to who designs or manufacturers the fabric I buy. Again, it's just about how the fabric hits me. If you are choosey, you can find good fabric almost anywhere. But, you have to be very selective. Fabric needs to have a certain "feel" for me to buy it.

Do you find that there is a time of day when you are the most productive or when the best ideas strike you?

I tend to be most productive in the afternoon. Maybe that's because my ideas seem to strike at night when I'm going to bed and I can't get to sleep because I'm thinking about them. Since my son graduated high school a year ago, it seems to take me a little longer to get dressed in the morning. In fact, it's 12:30 right now and I haven't even showered!

HA!  I think many of us can relate.  I know I'm not a morning person, although my kids are desperately trying to make me one.  So, what quilts or techniques are you looking forward to tackling in the future?

I'd like to get a little more variety in my free motion quilting. I actually don't like a lot of fancy quilt stitches. For me, the quilting just holds it all together. I use the meandering stitch a lot because it's fun to do and because I love the look of the quilt when it's completed and washed. The randomness of the stitch really facilitates that old-fashioned crinkly look that I love. I'd also like to work with more solids and become a little more abstract and random. I can do planned random, but I have a hard time being truly random. I'd like to break out of that.

Now out of the quilts you have completed which one is your favorite?

I'm most proud of my Plaid Houndstooth quilt. The pattern was just a basic houndstooth, but I had some crazy inspiration during an episode of Top Chef to make it plaid. I couldn't be happier with the results and I've had a lot of great responses to it, which I really appreciate.

Plaid Houndstooth using Michael Miller solids

Of course, now that we know what your favorite is we need to know if you've ever had a project go terribly wrong.  It will help to boost our self esteem after seeing that Plaid Houndstooth of yours.  

Boy have I! I always seem to do things the hard way first and I hadn't really figured out the best way to piece the blocks in my Seaside Avocados quilt. The piecing of each block was painful at times and I unpicked a lot. Then, when all 40 blocks were sewn together, I realized I hadn't flipped every other row like I wanted. So, I unpicked it all and sewed it back together again. This was also my first time doing straight line quilting, which isn't as easy as everyone makes you believe. Or maybe it was just me? There were several rows of quilting I had to unpick as well. With a little patience, though, it all turned out in the end.

Seaside Avocados using Kona Cotton solids.

Phew!  That makes me feel better.  

While your blog is super inspiring in it's own right, do you have a blog or book that you recommend for the modern quilter?

I'm not sure there's just one site I'd suggest, but Oh, Fransson! would be at the top of my list. She has a section with tips on the basics and that's where I learned the essentials of free motion quilting. I don't buy many quilt books for some reason.

And, one last question.  What words of advice do you have for someone just diving into the world of modern quilting?

I have two pieces of advice. First, you can only learn by jumping in and doing it. There are a lot of great tutorials online and they can give you the basics of what you need to know. Find a free tutorial of a pattern you like and just do it. When it comes to free motion quilting, practice a lot on samples about the size of a placemat so you get the rhythm and the feel for the motion and speed. It'll feel completely different when you get to the actual quilt, but you need to practice. Just put on your favorite music and take your time. 

Second, it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. There's that moment at a baby shower when the quilt gets passed around and everyone starts inspecting it and all I think is, "Don't look too close, it isn't perfect!" My quilts will never be perfect. But, I've discovered that when that quilt is on a bed or on the floor with a baby and spit up all over it, it doesn't need to be. It's beautiful just the way it is.

AMEN!!!  Thanks for your time, Leslie!  Your approach to quilting from beginning to end is refreshing, and we look forward to seeing you tackle some of those items on your "to do" list.  

Sew long for now,


  1. Great post!

    Leslie (and anyone else), if your quilts are loved and keeps people warm, they are perfect.

  2. I love Leslie Lamb. Her quilts always inspire me. I truly admire what she has come to make her own in an art form with such far reaching roots.


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