Summer Giveaway Series- Interview with Denyse Schmidt

The book.
Denyse Schmidt is revered for her amazing take on modern quilt-making. Although her designs are inspired by traditional quilting techniques, she puts her own unique spin on them that results in true quilted masterpieces. With many gorgeous patterns under her belt (including the now famous "Single Girl Quilt"), several of her own fabulous fabric lines, and a line of ready-made quilts, Denyse has certainly made a name for herself in the quilting world. Here is what Denyse had to say about her most recent book "Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration", as well as her upcoming plans, and what inspires her everyday:

"My Compass"
JBW- Can you give us a super quick description of "Modern Quilts Traditional Inspiration" for our readers who might be new to you and your work?

Denyse- Though I am known, as a modern quilter, my style – a blend of pared-down simplicity and vibrant colors – draws heavily on quilts of the past. My new book is an homage to quilting’s rich heritage – in it I reinterpret 20 of my favorite traditional patterns as fresh designs. Each pattern is accompanied by an overview of its history and evolution. The book is hardcover and the full-page photographs are exquisitely beautiful, so it doubles as a coffee table book!

JBW- What was the inspiration for the book?

Denyse- After more than 15 years in business, it felt like the right time to share the quilts that inspired my life’s work. Most people know my work in the context of the modern quilt movement that has grown over the last few years, but I started by looking at historic quilts. I was drawn to quilts that had a simple, quirky charm, and though many of them are over a hundred years old they seem really modern to me. I also love the stories that are an integral part of quilting’s history, and something about the combination of this folksiness with quilts that were often very sophisticated resonates very strongly with me.

JBW- Do you have a favorite design (or designs) from the book that you’d like to highlight for us?  What makes this design(s) your favorite?

"Hawaiian Style Applique"
Denyse- It was hard to narrow my favorites down to the 20 patterns in the book, never mind choosing just a few! The book has a range of patterns that will appeal to all levels of experience, and I’m happy about that. A pattern like Basketweave is perfect for a beginner crafter and it’s stunning and graphic. My Compass will satisfy a quilter who is more expert, and I am partial to my austere version of the pattern. I’m excited about presenting quilt forms that are perhaps not as well-known to many newer quilters such as the Hawaiian-Style Appliqué, Broderie Perse and the Stamped Quilt

The making of the Hawaiian
Applique pattern starts by
creating a stencil.
One reason I fell in love with many historic quilts is that they are not about perfectly matched seams or block corners that align. The beautiful imperfections that are inherent in a handmade object are reassuring evidence that we are human. I hope that novice quilters will embrace this truth and feel confident about attempting patterns that might initially seem daunting. Even experienced quilters may think that curved piecing is tricky or time consuming, but with just a little patience it is easily mastered, and the large scale of the Wagon Wheel templates means a quilt can be sewn together relatively quickly. The Tobacco Leaf pattern, while definitely not for the faint of heart, has built-in fudge room because the finished leaves are appliquéd onto the background blocks – so if your leaves are larger, smaller, or irregularly shaped it’s okay.
"My Compass"

JBW- What made you want to start designing quilting patterns?

Denyse- Quilting has such a strong tradition of sharing patterns, and being a part of this community seemed like a natural extension of what I was doing. One of the things I love about the craft is the opportunity for variation inherent within the structure. One simple block pattern can yield an infinite number of designs depending on the fabrics used, the colors, or the way the blocks are put together. Every person will bring his or her own point of view to a pattern and create a unique expression of the quilt. In the book I talk about this – how the patterns are like a living, breathing entity that evolve from person to person, generation to generation. It’s a truly remarkable thing, and I never get tired of it.
"Tobacco Leaf"

JBW- As a quilt designer, do you have any advice for those folks out there who are just starting to design on how to make a living doing what they love? 

Denyse- Be true to yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in what others are doing, and this can lead to comparing yourself or your accomplishments, or attempting to do more than you may have the resources to do initially. Try to be clear about the lifestyle you want to create for yourself, and use that as a guide to the decisions you will need to make every day. Do you prefer to work alone in your studio making things, or do you want to rule a craft empire and manage a team of employees? When I am on the fence about taking on new projects, I sometimes think about whether the results will be something I am proud of 30 years from now. It’s surprising how many things don’t measure up to that.
"Wagon Wheel"

JBW- What is next for you? Are there any fun projects that you are currently working on or future projects that you’d like to share with us?

Denyse- I’ll continue to create lots more fabric for the foreseeable future, which is great because I really enjoy it.  I’m hoping to make space to re-focus on our studio-produced quilts. It’s been a while since I’ve had the time or energy to devote to this.

JBW- Where did you grow up?  

Denyse- West Boylston, a small town in the middle of Massachusetts.

Most days while working on the
writing portion of the book
Denyse would work from home.
JBW- What time do you start work? 

Denyse- I get to work between 9 and 10, but usually the minute I wake up my brain gets going.

JBW- Do you prefer coffee or tea? 

Denyse- Coffee.

JBW- Tell us about your previous life—you know, before fabric and quilting…

Denyse- I have had more than my share of careers and jobs – I was a modern dancer and actress, worked as a seamstress for the Boston Ballet and a clothing designer, made ecclesiastical vesture, and was a graphic designer before starting my business.

John Gruen photographing
the "Crazy Star" Quilt at
the photo shoot.
JBW- What is your favorite hobby? 

Denyse- In my free time, I like to troll flea markets or yard sales, hike, and take road trips to forgotten little towns.

JBW- A little known fact about you…

Denyse- I was photographed (for the most part as nature intended) by Andy Warhol.

JBW- What was the last crafty project (knitting or other) that you created? 
A lot of staging and planning
went into the photography
for the book.

Denyse- I knitted sweaters for my great nephews, and I’m working on an embroidery piece for Come What May Projects.

JBW- What inspires you? 

Denyse- Nature, optimism.

Thanks so much to Denyse for being a part of this blog interview and for sharing all of her photos with us! The quilt photos are all by John Gruen and the rest are from Denyse's personal collection on Facebook. Be sure to check out Denyse's website:, and her Facebook page: Also, Denyse teaches classes and workshops in her studio and at other shops and locations all over the country! Be sure to check out her site for more information. Planning to attend QuiltCon next February? Well, Denyse is the Keynote Speaker there as well, so you won't want to miss it!

Lastly, we have a copy of Denyse's lovely book: "Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration" to giveaway! Please leave us a comment letting us know what your favorite Denyse Schmidt quilt is (either from this book or her website) and you will be entered to win! The deadline to enter is next Tuesday, June 26th at 11pm (PST). I'll choose a random winner and announce it in next Wednesday's blog post!

Now for last week's winner of the "Alabama Studio Sewing + Design" by Natalie Chanin  giveaway!  Thanks to the random number generator at, our winner is Commenter #3- Amanda Tucker who wrote:

"These designs and garments have been inspiring me to start sewing again! Currently, I embroider and knit! I've got a group that meets weekly to work on different types of fibre arts. We get to learn from eachother! I'd love to share this with them!"

Amanda- please e-mail me at: to claim your book! Thanks again to everyone who commented, and for reading all of our guest blogs! Stay tuned for more summer giveaway goodness in the coming weeks!


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Summer giveaway series


  1. I love the "My Compass" quilt. I've always been attracted to compass quilts, but as yet have never made one because they seem difficult. Maybe now is the time to give it a try.

  2. I love the "Basketweave" quilt. The colors remind me of the ocean. Have never made a large quilt but would be tempted to try this one.

  3. Despite all of the amazing and creative quilts she's done, I still love the original Drunk Love in a Log Cabin the best. I love squares and the "crazy quilt meets traditional symmetry" is perfect to me. ♥

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  5. "My Compass" makes me want to start quilting. I've been thinking about it anyway as I recently started sewing again. Nina

  6. I think my favorite quilt of hers would be the single girls quilt. I'd still like to make a mini one. I am saving up my money for Quiltcon! Thanks for the giveaway :)

  7. Mmmmm, the Simple Quilt in orange is my favorite, but so hard to choose! Looking at her designs makes me want to quit my job and sew all day.

  8. Drawn to "Basketweave". Does not seem overly intricate for someone returning to quilting.

  9. I love the compass quilt-as a traveler,it appeals. I have a sister who is an accomplished quilter and she is sure to make me one if I give her the book.

  10. I love the Hawaiian-Style Appliqué quilt. My mother-in-law made us a Hawaiian appliqué table runner using fabrics from her trip to hawaii and I've always wanted to do one myself. I've been knitting more than quilting lately, and this book makes me want to go fire up the sewing machine! Thanks!

  11. My favorite Denyse quilt is Tobacco Leaf. I appreciate the colors and geometry of the piece. Thanks, Mary

  12. I really like the Hills 'n Hollers pattern. I've just purchased a sewing machine and I'm looking forward to someday being proficient enough to make a DS quilt! Thank you for the wonderful giveaway.

  13. I love the My Compass Quilt! I can't wait to go to the outdoor quilt festival in Sisters, Oregon in about 3 weeks. I am always amazed at the all the talent and work that goes in to making a quilt. What a wonderful giveaway!

  14. I really like the Roots quilt. It gave me pause.

  15. I love "Wendy's Quilt". I hope to make a quilt with my childrens outgrown clothes someday :)

  16. The basketweave. I wish I had this one in my dorm room
    way back in the day. I had a Log Cabin in dreary colors.
    Great Work.

  17. Love the basketweave combo of industrial, modern and cozy farmhouse.

  18. I love the Tobacco Leaf quilt, but "Basketweave" makes me want to start quilting again, something I haven't done for 2 or 3 years.

  19. I love My Compass

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