Q + A with Denyse Schmidt


Denyse at work in her studio in Bridgeport, CT

One of the best parts of my job is meeting fabolously creative people and then having the opportunity to work with them (pretty much a dream come true!). I was thrilled to meet quilter Denyse Schmidt a few years ago (introduced by our mutual friend and another STC Craft author Heather Ross). I am even more thrilled and proud today to announce that we have just published Denyse's new book, Denyse Schmidt Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration: 20 New Designs with Historic Roots. Denyse is one of the hardest-working and most passionate people I know. When I think back on the year and a half she spent working on this book, the phrase blood, sweat, and tears comes to mind, though I'm not sure she literally put blood into it (she never mentioned any slips with the scissors). However, I can say with full confidence that she put love (for the quilts of the past and the new ones she created), sweat (over the hard work), and tears (because she wanted it to be perfect) into it. And the result is, well, as perfect as a book can be. Recently, both of us feeling a little more relaxed than we were a few months ago, sat down for this Q&A:

 Describe your book in 3 or so adjectives.

Beautiful, inspiring, a tribute to the quilters whose creations sparked my career.

What do you want people to take from your book?

I want them to feel inspired and to learn something. I want them to feel confident that they can take on something a bit more challenging than they have taken on before.

What was your favorite part of the bookmaking process?

I loved doing the research, going back through my files and old books and revisiting the quilts that were made a century ago, the ones that made me want to start my business in the first place. I feel driven to help people think about quilting in different ways, to see how quilts can be really modern, and to wipe away any musty, dusty stereotypes.

What was your favorite part of designing the quilts for the book?

I loved the early part of design phase when I felt like I had time to think a lot about what each quilt could look like, when I considered different fabrics, weighed all of the possibilities, and then narrowed down the choices and started making decisions.

I've been to your studio and know that you don't usually display finished quilts; I've only seen works in progress on your design wall. Why is that?

We don’t have a lot of room in the studio and I like to keep the walls clean except for the task at hand so I can really see what I’m working on. I usually don’t have the luxury of time to celebrate each accomplishment, and this is compounded by my tendency to always be focused on what’s next. So, finished work doesn’t have much of a chance to linger!

Do you display or use any of your quilts at home?

Right now I have two special-edition quilts on my beds at home: Tangerine Poppy in my room and Bone Snow in the guest room. I’ve been pretty attached to these for a while, but I’d like to start rotating in some new quilts.

I remember you telling me that you hand-stitched the Postage Stamp quilt and really enjoyed the process. What did you enjoy about making it?

I’ve always envied knitters because they can sit anywhere and knit and talk to people. If you use a sewing machine, you’re sort of tied to it. My machine is in the studio, so any sewing I do on it feels like “work.” It’s also a bit loud. Hand-sewing feels more reflective and quiet. Most of the quilts I do are quite large, but the Postage Stamp quilt is small and I could easily hand-piece it at home while watching a favorite PBS series. The blocks that make up Postage Stamp are tiny–each one is comprised of nine 1-inch squares–so I felt a sense of accomplishment as I went along and it didn’t take long to finish. A “scrappy” quilt like this is so much fun because you get to include tons of fabrics from your stash. Like most quilters out there, I have an extensive collection of prints, and I really enjoyed getting to use so many of them in this little quilt! 

Denyse's beautiful book. To see images of some of the quilts in it, including Postage Stamp, click here.