An interview with MaryJo Tuttle about Jubilee Garden!

We are really excited about our new collection, Jubilee Garden

This collection was designed in-house by our very own MaryJo Tuttle and is the perfect representation of all things Americana.  MaryJo is the Product Development Manager for Connecting Threads’ sister company, Artist’s Club and I recently got to interview her about this collection.  I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much I enjoyed conducting it!

As the Product Development Manager for Artist’s Club, you have significant painting experience and background, and many of your painted designs for Artist’s Club featured quilting motifs.  Which came first?  Painting or sewing?

Actually, sewing came first.  I sewed garments for my husband (sport coats, slacks, etc.), our son (from baby clothes to school clothes), and myself.  Then, a friend of my mom’s was tole painting and talked me into trying it.  We went to class in the back room of a local hardware store, and at that time, painted with oils and varnish and all sorts of other goopy things.  When our son, Josef, came along, I put my painting on hold, but by the time he went to school, I was ready to dust off the brushes and get back to it.  I was so pleasantly surprised when I signed up for a class where everything was done in acrylics!  It opened up a whole new world to me and I loved it immediately!  So, quilting and sewing took a bit of a back seat for a while.  But, I still do both and find it fun to switch back and forth.  I haven’t sewn a garment for years though!

What are some similarities and differences between designing for decorative surface painting versus designing for fabric?

I did my fabric designs a little differently than the other designers.  I painted the designs and then they were scanned and adapted to the programs used for fabric design.  When I am designing for fabric or for decorative surface painting, the processes are very similar.  It is important for me to take a step back and imagine the finished product.  Once I know what I want it to look like, I simply put my brushes and paints to work and get going. 

What are your biggest challenges when switching between the two?

I think the biggest challenge was getting the color correct and getting the correct depth of the painted designs translated into the fabric. 

How do you get inspiration for your paintings?  Do you just start doodling and go from there, or do you have a firm plan before you start? Where did the inspiration for Jubilee Garden come from?

The inspiration comes from all kinds of places.  I keep several spiral notebooks with things I clip from magazines, I collect quilt books (especially ones with different blocks), and watch the current color trends, etc.  I’m not much of a doodler, and when I’m designing painting patterns, I usually start with the surface, get a general idea of what I want to do, and then just kind of wing it from there. 

Jubilee Garden came from a painted design that I did for a summer clock in my second published decorative painting book, Tuttles Touches, Vol.2.  I have a special place in my heart for anything Americana, so stars, stripes and red, white and blue are some of my favorite things.  I have an entire room in my house that is dedicated strictly to Americana decor. 

When you designed the collection, did you already have projects in mind that you wanted to see sewn up?

No, nothing really specific in mind, but I thought the collection would lend itself to picnic quilts, table runners and wall hangings for summer.

You designed the Bloomin’ Patches Wall Hanging in Jubilee Garden with one of Connecting Threads’ quilt designers, Sharla Mansius.  What was that collaboration process like?  Had you ever designed a quilt before?

Once again, this pattern began a little differently than most.  I drew the design on graph paper and colored it with colored pencils.  Sharla took my drawing and made the pattern.  Jenni (another one of our in-house designers) helped me with “drawing” the applique design in the computer program (much harder than with a pencil or a brush), and Teri tested the pattern.  Then I got to sew the wall hanging out of Jubilee Garden for the catalog.  It was a fun process to see the whole thing come together. 

I did design a Christmas quilt a number of years ago, but it was for my own use.  Bloomin’ Patches was my first pattern design.

Do you think you will be designing any more quilt patterns in the future?

I would like to do more quilt designs – possibly to go along with some painted designs, and I’d love to learn the process so I wouldn’t be so dependent on having someone else do the “real” part of making the design into a pattern.

All of us really love the Jubilee Garden collection and MaryJo’s Bloomin’ Patches wall hanging.  What projects are you planning to make with this wonderful collection?


  1. Judy - April 14, 2011

    Thank you for your designs-alot can be use for the kids-
    plaids, stripes and love the stars.

  2. Janette Weaver - November 20, 2012

    I am trying to find the red material fot the patriotic country fair. got it out of connecting thread catalog. Patter alternant was in July 2011 Quilts for Kids.
    Janette Weaver