Stitch Craft Create Blog

Designer Q&A: Tula Pink

One of the perks of being editor of Stitch Craft Create is getting the opportunity to meet, and sometimes work with, my favorite designers. I met one such favorite – fabric designer and author Tula Pink – at Quilt Market last year, and I recently caught up with Tula again to chat about her new book, Tula Pink’s City Sampler: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks.

Tula has an amazing eye for design and color combinations, and her work is distinctively vibrant, modern, imaginative, innovative and – at times – downright funky. She designs for Free Spirit Fabrics and has a slew of other products including threads, ribbons and embroideries. Her first book, Quilts from the House of Tula Pink, debuted last year.

In Tula Pink’s City Sampler, Tula demonstrates how to make 100 modern, city-inspired quilt blocks. At the end, readers can use the blocks to make one of three quilts designed by Tula – or they can let their creative juices flow by making up their very own setting. 

I hope you enjoy learning more about Tula, and be sure to pre-order Tula Pink’s City Sampler if you’re interested in creating your own modern, city-inspired quilt!

Stitch Craft Create: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today, Tula. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got your start in the fabric and quilting industry?

Tula Pink: I was actually quite happy working in the music industry as a designer and art director with a nice little weekend sewing habit. I loved the fabric and the colors and did a lot of overdoing and screen printing, but I needed more. I needed something that I wasn’t finding enough of at my local quilt shops. I needed fabrics that reflected my own lifestyle. So, like any good control freak, I decided to make them myself. I designed my first fabric collection and sent it off to a manufacturer for advice and, in two days time, I was a fabric designer. With my own fabrics, my quilts were truly my own; they also belonged to everyone else who chose to use them for their own projects. This collaboration between myself and everyone who used my fabrics became the ultimate inspiration for future quilts and fabric collections. 

SCC: Tula Pink fabrics and patterns bear distinctive designs and gorgeously vibrant color palettes. From where do you draw inspiration for your unique work?

TP:  I am, first and foremost, a fabric junkie. My quilt designs and patterns are always inspired by the fabrics first. I spend most of my time choosing and combining prints and colors, and I let the quilt grow from those choices. I like all kinds of piecing, but I prefer to use simple shapes that really allow the fabrics to shine. I adore color and make little color palettes out of swatches and things that are lying around all of the time. Color is paramount in this industry. Color is the first thing a person responds to before they even have time to see the print or the piecing. It is what draws you in, the first impression. If the color is wrong then no one will ever look any closer, and my work is all about looking closer.

SCC: Your first book, Quilts from the House of Tula Pink, came out last year to rave reviews, and your second is almost ready to hit stores. What can you tell us about this new release, Tula Pink’s City Sampler: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks?

TP: I have always loved sampler quilts, and I have always wanted to make one. Writing a quilting book is about filling a void. It’s about seeing a hole in the market and filling it. I went in search of a sampler quilt to make and found a ton of gorgeous patterns that were either too time-consuming to make or just plain didn’t relate to me. I decided to create my own blocks that didn’t involve any templates or appliqué – 100 blocks that are simply pieced and don’t require any extra tools to make, but leave room to explore shapes and color. The other motivating factor for writing the book was that I wanted a quilt that told my own story. I love the look of Civil War quilts, but I don’t have any connection to that time or place. So many of the patterns I found seemed to be telling stories of the past, and I wanted the opportunity to tell my own story. This philosophy seeped into the design of the book as well. I left all of the blocks unnamed so the maker of the quilt could tell their story, and I left space on the back flap for the maker’s bio and photo. I believe a quilt is more about the person making the quilt than it is about the person who designed it.

SCC: Tell us a little about the creative process you go through when designing a new fabric line.

TP: Designing fabric is all about the narrative for me. I like to tell a story, even if it’s an abstract one. I spend a lot of time thinking and making little notes everywhere before I ever sit down and start drawing. The drawing is the most important part of the process for me. I work out all of the problems in the drawing. By the time I get the design to the computer to re-draft, everything is done and every question is answered. Color is the second most important part of the process. I keep color collections on file. I like to collect little bits of interesting color combinations. I am always trying to do something new and fresh with color. But in the end, I am who I am, and I see color in a really personal way. Even when I think I am traveling way outside of my box with color, it always ends up working really well with my other fabric collections in the end.

SCC: Is your process the same or different when designing quilting/sewing patterns?

TP: My process for designing quilts is a lot different from my process for designing fabrics. Quilts are bolder, more graphic statements than fabrics for me. Fabric can be delicate and detailed  – but for me, a quilt should be bold and strong. The quilt’s job is to frame the fabrics and create new combinations of color and print – and to do that, the piecing needs to be simpler. It’s the backup dancer to the fabric’s shining star for me. Designing a quilt is all about the far-away impact. I want that punch of shape and color that you can see from across the room and then the second, up-close impact when you get to see what the fabrics are doing and how they are relating to each other.

SCC: What are some of your must-have notions or resources for the sewing room or drawing table?

TP: There are a few things in my sewing studio that I can’t live without. A quarter-inch foot with a guide combined with the dual feed feature on my Bernina are essential to keeping my seams accurate, the large spools of Aurifil thread keep me sewing for days and a full bottle of Best Press all keep my sewing projects moving along well into the evening. When I have to sew without these things, I get a little cranky.

SCC: Do you have any tips or advice you can give to a beginning quilter?

TP: The biggest thing that I see new quilters forgetting is that this is supposed to be fun. Quilting is a hobby, not a trip to the dentist. Allow yourself to make mistakes, laugh it off and be willing to explore imperfections. Quilting is a big community – there are a lot of resources for new quilters to get help when they get stuck, or even just for inspiration. Embrace your local quilt shop, quilt guild and online communities.

SCC: What’s coming up next for you in 2013?

TP: 2013 is going to be a really fun year for me and hopefully for the people who like my style as well. I have a bunch of new products hitting the market this year beside my new book. My thread collection for Aurifil is brand new and really fun! I, of course, have a bunch of new fabrics coming out this year for Free Spirit Fabrics in both the spring and the fall. I am still working with Bernina and all of their amazing sewing machines and accessories. This spring I am launching a new collection of machine embroidery designs for Urban Threads. I am really excited to be attending the Festival of Quilts again this year in Birmingham, UK. Other than that, I will spend most of the year holed up in my studio making quilts and designing fabric.

Happy Crafting, 
Shannon Miller 
Editor, Stitch Craft Create

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