Quilt blogger Cheryl Arkison is known for her fun projects and passion for crafting. She has written numerous books on the art of quilting and continues to create wonderful pieces all while raising her three young kids. Cheryl’s career has now been taken to new heights by collaborating with us to design her first fabric line. Featuring 20 black, white, and grey prints inspired by the marks we make in life, Tag is one of the newest collections featured on the site, and can be found here.
To learn more about Cheryl and her collection, you can head over to her Dining Room Empire or keep reading on for an exclusive Q&A with this noted blogger.
In the past, you wrote as a foodie. Now you write as a crafter and quilter. What made you switch directions? Did you ever expect to be sitting in that position now?
It is kind of a full circle story. I started with a quilting blog, Naptime Quilter, over ten years ago! Early on, I started including recipes and discussions about feeding my kids on it. Through the blog I met a number of writers, many of whom were food writers. They totally encouraged me in that direction. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am! The thing is, I really liked writing about food and eating but I didn’t like recipe development as much. A lot of the food writing I was doing was recipe development. When I had my son in 2012, I took leave from the family magazine I was writing for as food editor and never went back to it. Some days I miss it, but to be truly successful at it I need a different sort of lifestyle. Now I can write, make, and design in the time I have and concentrate on simply feeding my family without worrying about the best light for photographing the dish and the right combination of ingredients to be truly special. I wouldn’t mind going back into that world, but now armed with the type of writing I do now – telling stories of people and inspiring action.
You have said that you start your mornings by working on a current project. Where do you think the motivation behind that “create before I consume” attitude comes from?
Well, I’ve always been a morning person! Years of competitive swimming and rowing will do that to you. And I learned pretty quickly as a parent that if I am up before the kids, as opposed to them waking me up, I am calmer and we all have a better day. As our lives get busier I find it harder to make any time during the day and by the time 9pm rolls around I am often too tired to even look at my sewing. Then I heard Marie Forleo in an interview and she used the term ‘create before you consume’ and it all changed. You see, I was getting up early, but I wasted my time on all the things we usually waste our time on – social media, puttering, clickbait. So yes, I had my alone time, but then I would miss the opportunity to actually create. Now I leave the phone on the nightstand and don’t open the computer until I’ve had at least 15 minutes of sewing or writing. It is life changing. I’m getting so much done, I have more energy and clarity, and yes, I am calmer.
In what ways do your children influence your designs/career?
Sometimes it is quite literal. I have taken random sketches of theirs and turned them into quilts, I’ve used a pile of crayons placed in my hands as a color story for a quilt, and I’ve even sewn with them on mutual designs. More than that though, I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for them. When I was pregnant with my first I was watched an Oprah at some point in my nine weeks of bed rest. The show was about mothers and daughters. The mothers were in shock about their daughters’ insecurities, but the truth was they were modelling the behavior and didn’t know it. I had my A Ha! moment. I swore right then and there that my kids would only see me in a honest light. To do that, however, I had to be honest myself. That meant acknowledging that my heart wanted to be far more creative than I was letting myself be. Now I get to totally be myself, model (mostly) good behavior for my kids, and have an income based on something I love to do.
Many of your quilts have been very colorful and bold. What prompted you to design a fully neutral modern collection like Tag?
As much as I love bold color, I adore low volume prints (prints with a white or light background and graphic elements to the print). Sticking with black and white allowed me to bring that love to life, with strong contrast in the mix. And with the story behind the collection being about the marks we make in life, and the words and action of writing, it made sense to have it in the colors of basic black ink and white paper.
Do you have a favorite print (from Tag)? Which do you think is the most versatile?
Isn’t that like asking if I have a favorite kid? Okay, if pressed, I would probably pick Killing Time (9760) as favorite. I like the contrast between the hand lettering and the grid. Plus, the scale is great for so many different applications – whether it is a background or feature print. As for most versatile, I think Nicks (9769) is your best bet. An amazing background print that can work like a solid or basic texture. It also has multiple combinations of the black, grey, and white.
What types of projects do you visualize Tag being sewn into?
Anything really! I love using prints where someone else might expect a solid and so many of these can be used that way. I’ve already sewn them into improv projects, precise work, large scale designs, and added them into projects with other stashed fabrics. I also think that they will lend themselves well to bags and such for school supplies, tech cases, and kids’ decor. And, as soon as I can find the evening I have my eye on making a Gallery tunic or two from Tag.
What was your favorite part about designing your own fabric line?
It was a huge learning process for me. While that presented a challenge, it was a good one. Trying to figure out how to make the ideas in my head translate to paper first, then getting those to work on the computer nearly killed me some days! That moment when it all worked was magic for me. A total thrill. I think one of the best moments, though, was getting the kids in my daughters’ school to write their names out to include on the Top Right Corners print (9774). I had them write their names, then I scanned each one in, copied and sized it to place. I think it will be special for them to see their name in fabric!
What is the best advice you could give to someone entering the quilting world in 2017?
To remember that everyone was a beginner once. It is so easy to get down and frustrated when Instagram is your entrance to quilting. There is amazing work out there and comparing ourselves to that when we are just starting is a lesson in futility. And a good way to make yourself feel bad. Each person you see started somewhere too. That was likely with a simple nine patch or wonky log cabin, and it was probably far from perfect. Concentrate on your own work and know that with every stitch you sew you get better.
Oh, and keep one of your first quilts! We tend to give away our first quilts, but it is great to keep one a reminder of where we started. Perspective is everything.
You’ve accomplished so much in past years, what do you hope to get out of 2017?
This year I hope to write a lot more. A lot more. I’ve got a novel in the works and would like to get going on another quilting book. After all, it’s been almost two years since my last one, You Inspire Me To Quilt, came out! I also want to play around with video too. While I’ve taught online classes on other websites, I want to see what I can do on my own. Like designing fabric for the first time, it’s quite a steep learning curve. The results, however, can be a lot of fun. Hopefully I can manage to do all of this while staying mostly sane and being a good parent. Time will tell.