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An Interview with Fabric & Pattern Designers Bonnie & Camille

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"A fifth generation quilter." When I first heard this description of Camille Roskelly, I imagined a tiny little lady in a pillbox hat and gloves... like that precious grandma in the Tweety Bird® cartoons. Stereotype, right? Sorry about that. And, I've surely been taken to task, especially after meeting the young (26), lovely (how does she keep her hair so perfect?), and pregnant (baby boy number three) Camille at The Creative Connection conference in Minneapolis this past September. I was lucky enough to take one of her classes to create a sweet set of hot pads in the gorgeous Bliss fabric collection by Bonnie & Camille for Moda. Not a pillbox hat in sight. Then, I learned the 'Bonnie' of Bonnie & Camille was her mother, Bonnie Olaveson. Also youthful and lovely, and the very proud grandma to nine (Camille's new bundle will make it an even ten). So much familial talent and beauty! I just had to find out more about this trendy yet traditional team.

When we started talking with Camille about an article here on Sew4Home, she was busy not only with Fall Quilt Market, she was also getting ready for the birth of her third son. In honor of this, today's article is posting on her actual due date: December 1, 2010. We send our very best Sew4Home wishes for everyone's health and happiness.

Bonnie & Camille have designed three fabric collections together for Moda Fabrics: Cotton Blossoms , Simple Abundance, and their newest, Bliss... a personal favorite of mine. Be watching later this month for a unique arts and crafts mantle cloth I did for my bedroom using Bliss.

Because both these amazing women overflow with creativity, they certainly couldn't stop with just fabric. Bonnie has over 300 patterns to her credit, and this year celebrated the 20th year of her business, Cotton Way. In 2007, Camille branched out, starting Thimble Blossoms to market her own delightful quilt patterns. And (yes, there's another 'and'), this fall, Camille's very first book, Simplify, came out to instant great reviews.

We asked Bonnie & Camille to take turns sharing their inspirations, goals and the love behind their wonderful work togther. With all those generations of quilters, I'm also still wondering if I cut their fingers... would they bleed quilting pins?

S4H: Your motto seems to be: 'simplify'. We see it on your site, your blog, in the title of your new book. What does this really mean to you?

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CAMILLE: I chose the word Simplify as my word of the year a few years back. Ironically, I think it was the year that I started my company, Thimble Blossoms and things got so much crazier! For me, it's a reminder to always focus on the simple things: my family, my faith, and my favorite things. The rest can wait.

S4H: We love the crisp designs and colors of the Bonnie & Camille fabrics you create. They are such a great mix of traditional and trendy. Where (people, places, things) do you get the inspiration for your patterns and tones?

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BONNIE: The inspiration comes in so many ways. As for color, a beautiful bowl in just the perfect color, a throw that has a unique shade of red, maybe even a cute pair of shoes start the creative juices flowing. As far as patterns, sometimes it's an occasion that calls for a celebratory quilt: a new baby, graduation, wedding, 85th birthday. Sometimes it's the new fabric line that says, "I would make a fantastic bag!" You just never know when something will click and a new pattern or fabric line gets its start.

S4H: What's it like to work so closely with your mom?

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CAMILLE: Is she reading this?  ;-) Oh just teasing. I have really enjoyed working with my mom the last few years. It's been a great experience and has brought us closer together. And aside from some hefty phone bills and the one or two times we wanted to kill each other, it has been wonderful! I love my mom!

S4H: You come from a long line of sewing and quilting experts; was there ever a time you weren't drawn to working with needle and thread? Did you ever consider being, say .... a pastry chef or maybe a tax accountant?

CAMILLE: I actually graduated with a degree in Architectural Design, something that isn't exactly close to quilt and fabric. Then again, there are a few similarities between the structure of a building and the structure of a quilt. I would still love to continue in the architectural field in the future, but for now, I'm just enjoying what I do too much!

S4H: Did you study photography? You have beautiful photos and I believe you take many of the shots yourself.

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CAMILLE: No, but thank you! I always say I don't have a clue what I'm doing when it comes to photography, and I stick to that cluelessness. I read my manual when I got the camera and have learned a few things through trial and error, but that is about it. I haven't been picking my camera up nearly as often as I used to, because I've been so busy, and I miss it. In fact, ask my mom a question, I'm going to go find my camera.

S4H: How do you take a quilt from idea to finished pattern?

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BONNIE: First I design the quilt in my head, usually late at night when I can't sleep. The next morning, I sketch the ideas with all the details I've figured out and do the math. Then it's time to start the measuring and cutting. That part is my favorite. Sometimes, midway through, I change a thing here and there, but most of the time it ends up pretty close to the design I started with in my head. Computer generated quilts aren't really my thing; I like the hands-on approach.

S4H: We love that, as a young mom, you are so actively involved in getting more young people to sew and quilt. How do you do it? How do you convince someone who's not sure how to turn on a sewing machine that she... or he could complete a quilt?

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CAMILLE: It's always easier to do the convincing in person, that's for sure! In fact, I lost track of how many friends and family members I've talked into picking up quilting. Once we get talking about it, and they start to get excited, they're hooked. I always remind them to take it one step at a time. Just sew a few squares together... just secure the layers with some safety pins... just give stippling a try... and then they're set. Just one step at a time.

S4H: Do you remember your first project? Was it a horror or a hero?

BONNIE: When I was 16 I made a quilt for a Home Economics class as part of a project to re-decorate my bedroom. I was really happy with the way it all turned out so I guess it was a hero. It was made with pink and white gingham check and I hand quilted it. Wish I still had it, but sad to say I don't.

S4H: What is the one sewing/quilting tool that you absolutely couldn't live without?

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BONNIE: My steam iron. It has changed how I feel about pressing. It's actually fun to iron now!

S4H: Your quilts and other projects are so beautifully done; I know you must have dozens of little secrets that allow you to create such wonderful finished products. In fact, your new book, Simplify with Camille Roskelley: Quilts for the Modern Home , has a page of your favorite tricks of the trade. Could you slip us one technique that will make us feel like pros?

CAMILLE: (blushing) Oh, you are so sweet... One of my favorite things to do is to cut and prepare my binding when I'm cutting out my quilt. Then I roll it up and stick a pin in it. That way, after I finish quilting my project, I don't have to stop and get the binding ready; it's just sitting there waiting for me.

S4H: Because we're a home décor website, what is your favorite thing to sew for your home... besides quilts?

BONNIE: This summer I made some drapes for my living room and dining room from red and white damask. They had a lot of piping and detail, but it was so much fun!

S4H: You have a lot to manage with your family, your fabric design and pattern businesses, your new book... not to mention that when we met you in person at The Creative Connection in Minneapolis, you were in the last trimester with baby boy number three! Yet, you still sew. How do you manage your time?

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CAMILLE:  Yep, I certainly have my hands full at the moment. And I love it! Juggling all of the things that I love is a balancing act, one I certainly haven't mastered, but am constantly working at.  My wonderful family is so supportive and helpful, I certainly couldn't do it without them. As far as the sewing goes, I'll let you know once this baby is born! Not sure how much I'll be able to fit in for a while, but hopefully this little boy will let me squeeze in a quilt or two.

S4H:  Anything new in the works (besides snuggling with that new baby)... can we get a hint?

CAMILLE:  Baby! Other than that, we just submitted our Spring fabric line to Moda, and have new patterns in the making for Spring Market in Salt Lake City. It's always a mad house over here, but that's the way we like it.

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BONNIE: Snuggling my new grandson-to-be is definitely on the top of my list as well. But in the meantime, I've been busy designing fresh new projects for Spring. The new patterns will be available the first part of January 2011. These projects are great to work on during the long cold winter, and will be finished in time to display when those flowers start to peek out of the ground. There's even one for Valentines Day. Of course, I am also designing patterns to be made from the new Bonnie & Camille fabric line we'll be introducing at Spring Market.

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Comments (2)

Amber Polk said:
Amber Polk's picture
I am a daily reader of Camille's blog and I love her patterns. I have been making a quilt from the Cotton Blossoms for over a year. I love the fabric so much I have a hard time figuring out everything I want to do with it!! What I need to do is order more of the fabric!
Mahsistersqt said:
Mahsistersqt's picture
I love this artical. I love it when family gets to not only play together but work together and create beauty. Congrats on captivating real people in real life. Much success to all involved. I just love their work!

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