It’s that time again – time to sneak a peek inside a new maker’s sewing kit! This time I’m thrilled to have Kathleen from Cowden Quilt School as the latest special guest in the What’s in Your Sewing Bag Series!
This will come as no surprise to you when I say Kathleen and I met on Instagram. Shocking, I know! That seems to be where I meet most of my quilty friends. What can I say, we have a vibrant and talented community there and I love that it gives us the chance to meet other quilters from around the world.
Case in point – Kathleen lives in the UK so there is little chance we would have bumped into one another at the local fabric shop. This is why I’m so thrilled our creative paths crossed on IG and we’ve been following one another’s quilty journeys ever since.
You’re in for a treat today as Kathleen’s kind, witty and friendly personality shines through in her responses, and I just love that car boots and wheelbarrows made their way into the WIYSB series – ha!
Read on for the context!
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Introduction – tell us a little about yourself! How did you get started on your quilting journey?
Hi, I’m Kathleen Anderson and I’m a quilter from England. I live right in the middle of the country with my husband, two little girls, a one-eyed cat named Honey, and two baby guinea pigs.
For the past six years, I’ve taught beginners how to make patchwork quilts. During the pandemic, I started designing quilts and have released three patterns so far plus a project in issue 111 of Love Patchwork & Quilting, alongside the one and only Shannon Fraser!
My quilting journey started on New Year’s Eve about 12 years ago. After a few drinks with friends (I actually don’t remember this at all!), we made resolutions to learn traditional crafts. The boys decided on butchery and my best friend and I chose quilting. We found a beginner’s course and that was it – I’ve been quilting ever since. Needless to say, our husbands never did take a butchery course!
For the first two years, I did everything by hand: piecing and quilting. Then my friend bought me a basic sewing machine for my birthday after my first daughter was born and that changed everything. I’ve barely caught up with myself since!
When my second daughter was two years old, I quit my job as a health service manager and a friend asked me to teach her to quilt. From there I started offering workshops and courses for friends and neighbours and my business – Cowden Quilt School – was established.
Hahaha – I love that the husbands bailed on their New Years’ resolutions, but you and your BFF stuck with yours! I say you came out a winner on that one given the gorgeous quilts you create! Love how your business grew organically, Kathleen. I always find it so fascinating to hear how small businesses came to be and what prompted their creation. I also love that teaching is at the center of yours.
What kind of sewing bag do you have? (e.g. did you make it? Buy it?)
I’m a WIYSB imposter because I’m one of those lucky quilters with a whole sewing room so I rarely use a sewing bag. When I travel it’s most often to teach a workshop, in which case everything is piled into the boot of my car: sewing machines, cutting mats, rulers, sample quilts, thread, pins, needles, rotary cutters, scissors, hand sanitizer – you name it. I live in fear of forgetting something that might help someone in a class, so I take it all with me!
This weekend, I was asked to display some of my quilts in a neighbour’s garden for a special charity event. Instead of using the car, we piled everything into our garden wheelbarrow and pushed it all to the right spot. So maybe we need a new feature called “what’s in your wheelbarrow?”…!
But back to my sewing room: it’s where I host workshops, design quilt patterns, and make all my quilts. It’s a great space with windows on three sides, views south over the garden and fields beyond, and views north to the 13th century village church opposite our house. It’s a very special spot.
The only sewing bag I use is for hand-quilting and hand-binding on the sofa. It’s a very boring, black cosmetics bag and I keep thread, scissors, quilting needles, and binding clips in it.
Lol – no such thing as a WIYSB imposter, my friend! Car boots (that’s trunks for us over here in the US and Canada) and wheelbarrows count too 😉 Yet another example of what quilters do best = we just make it work!
What are your all-star essentials? Your tried-and-true must-haves that you can never run out of?
The teeniest, tiniest, sharpest hand-quilting needles. I absolutely love them and use them whenever I hand-sew. There’s something about them that feels traditional, and I enjoy that connection to the history of quilting, even though I think of myself as a “modern” quilter.
Well now I need to know, what kind of itty-bitty needles are you using? I have some John James* on hand that seem to fit the bill of traditional hand quilting needles (not the big stitch hand quilting kind), is that what you’re using? Inquiring minds need to know 😉
What is your favourite item in your kit? Why?
I couldn’t live without binding clips: they’re so simple and versatile. I use them for binding (obviously!) but also for organising patchwork pieces as I sew.
What’s one thing we’d be surprised to find in your bag?
Maybe just that there’s very little in it – ha! It’s a small bag and I’m a minimalist at heart so I try to stick to the essentials.
Essentials are where it’s at! I have a few more than could probably be considered minimalist, but I’m with you on stocking just what is needed.
QUILT KITS WILL TRAVEL
When do you find yourself using your kit the most? (Travelling, on the sofa, attending sew-ins?)
My sewing bag is only ever used in the evenings on the sofa. If I have hand-sewing to do, I save it for later in the day, when the children are asleep, and I’ll watch something on TV as I sew. I find hand-sewing very relaxing, so it always feels like a treat to spend an evening slow-stitching.
I couldn’t agree more, my friend! Slow stitching is so soothing and relaxing and a great way to wind down from the day!
What’s your favourite travel memory with your sewing bag?
When my first daughter was three months old, we spent a month in Maine where my mother-in-law lived at the time. We also took a road trip to Toronto and back to visit other relatives. My sewing bag and a tiny hand-pieced quilt came with us (this was in the days before I had a sewing machine). It was a scorching summer but I’d still slowly hand-quilt beside all the lakes we stopped at. Now I think of it, that’s partly why I’ve never upgraded my terrible sewing bag to something prettier because it’s connected to the memories of that special time in our lives.
Aw, that is such a sweet memory. I’d be hesitant to switch up my bag too. I love how our tools and notions can spark memories of our creative journey. I say hang on to that little pouch for as long as you can! Also, I know we didn’t know one another when you were in Toronto visiting, but it saddens me to know you were in Canada and I didn’t get to see you! Next time for sure!
WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU?
Tell people where we can find you?
I’m @cowdenquiltschool on Instagram and Facebook so come and visit me there – I’d love to meet you. My website is www.cowdenquiltschool.com where you can find my patterns, workshops, and subscribe for a free pattern and regular news from the sewing room!
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thank you so much for inviting me and my underwhelming sewing bag! The best thing about social media is connecting with people and I just love the friends I’ve made with quilters all over the world. Thank you, Shannon, for being part of that for me!
Oh, it’s me who thanks you, Kathleen! This series wouldn’t be possible without fellow makers like you being open to sharing your sewing bags 😊 For me it’s the stories that go along with the bag that I love the most. Getting to know you better and getting a peek at what brings you quilty joy, in turn, sparks joy in me. From the comments I’ve received on this series, I believe that’s what others love the most too!
For more What’s in Your Sewing Bag fun, check out these guests:
- Lisa from Sew Curated
- Tiffany from Village Bound Quilts
- Saija from Saija Elina
- Claire from Made Just Sew
- Chery from Cheryl Arkison