“Start simple,” advises Amber Corcoran. “Allow yourself to enjoy the process without focusing entirely on the finished project. Experiment and just see what happens. In the end, your quilt will be a warm and beautiful thing that you’ve made.”
It’s sound advice, coming from years of experience developing as a shop owner, teacher, and designer. As partner-owners of Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Colorado, Amber and Jaime Jennings have grown with their customers. Both were experienced knitters, knowledgeable about textiles and most crafts, but were beginning quilters.
“We’ve learned as much from our customers as they have learned from us, and that joy found in the sharing of knowledge is one of the magical things about the community we’ve created here,” says Amber.
With her background in photography and graphic design, Amber took to quilting right away, and began designing most of the quilt patterns for Fancy Tiger Crafts. “I quickly became interested in using design concepts of composition and color in quilts, making beautiful, useful, and comforting objects.”
As a craft store, Fancy Tiger Crafts attracts more than just quilters. “In our shop we carry supplies for knitting, sewing, quilting, embroidery, hand-spinning, and macrame, so we often have ‘crossover’ crafters. Many a knitter has been tempted to try their hand at quilting with our patterns. It makes me happy that people find them so approachable.”
One of those approachable, ‘crossover’ patterns is the 12 Constellations quilt.
Sometimes inspired by technique or scale, or the play between negative space and the design, Amber’s design for the Constellation quilt series was initially inspired by color.
“We have a beautiful Japanese linen canvas in the store, [and] I fell in love with the way the indigo and mustard colors looked next to each other. I kept sketching designs, wanting something with lots of negative space and little pops of mustard,” she says.
“After a few sketches, I realized the mustard looked like stars on the deep indigo, and it hit me that I should make a constellation patchwork.”
She chose to create her astrological sign of Taurus, mapping out the stars and charting them into patchwork segments for a pillow. The pieces came together quickly, and Amber found the process to be both methodical and fun.
When she brought it into the shop, of course, everyone wanted their own astrological signs charted out in patchwork.
“The patterns were first self-published as individual quilt block pattern cards,” says Amber, “And then Lucky Spool Media approached Jaime and I about doing a book of the blocks and projects with them.” Fancy Tiger Crafts Constellations: 12 Pieced Astrological Blocks and 8 Personalized Sewing Projects, published in Autumn 2017, features many different projects, quilts, bags, pillows, and even a jacket.
The design for Double Star was inspired by multiple factors. The color and texture of a particular fabric collection—large-scale soft prints, mostly pale with just a few pieces in charcoal and indigo—created striking color contrast that appealed to Amber. Scale played a part, too. Amber enlarged a typical eight-pointed star, creating a large indigo-hued focal point in the center of the quilt. “In designing it, I thought about how the quilt would be viewed when on a bed,” says Amber. “The star is scaled to fill the center of a bed, with the negative space surrounding the star falling over the edges of the bed.” A smaller star graces the center of the large star, adding a bit more detail to an otherwise simple quilt.
The simplicity of the Double Star design is intentional. “One of my goals in designing patterns is to make interesting quilts that are simple enough for beginners” she says. “I want new quilters to achieve a finished project while enjoying the process, and fall in love with the craft. As a bonus, experienced quilters are able to finish these simple quilts relatively quickly!”
The third pattern inspired by the stars, Supernova is made from simple half-square triangles. “The half-square triangles are paired up to read as parallelograms, radiating out of the center of the quilt,” says Amber. “The fun in designing this quilt came in puzzling out the assembly, so that each half-square triangle has a partner to become a parallelogram with. That part of pattern design is really fun for me, solving the little design riddles that come up with each idea.”
The simple and dramatic Supernova is a classic Fancy Tiger Crafts pattern. It’s simple and achievable enough for a beginner to confidently tackle, appealing enough for a garment sewer or knitter to cross over to try this new craft, and inspiring enough that an experienced quilter will see an appealing opportunity to play with different fabrics and scale.
Amber has one more piece of advice: “When you make your first quilt, it’s easy to get caught up in the little details. Maybe your patchwork has points that aren’t ‘perfect,’ or you might have little tucks in the layers of your quilting,” she says. “My advice in those moments is to finish your quilt, wash it—that’s when it gets really cozy and soft—then take a step back.”
All those little issues will disappear. Trust her.
“And, like with any craft,” she adds, “going through the process itself and what you learn from it is invaluable as you make your next quilt!”
That’s advice as good as a Fancy Tiger Crafts quilt pattern: achievable for the beginner, appealing for a crossover crafter, and inspiring to an experienced quilter.