We recently reached across the globe to Australia to speak to Antonie Alexander, talented quilter, designer and author of Happy Quilts. We really love her designs so wanted to find out more about her and how she came up with the idea for these fun quilts.
1. So, tell me a bit about yourself and how you got into quilting?
My name is Toni and I live in Queensland, Australia. I am a Mom to three children and two cats. My Grandmother was a professional seamstress and embroiderer and my earliest memories are of her sewing room and jewell-like boxes of buttons and thread. I used to thread all her buttons onto long threads, making button ropes. It must have driven her crazy when she was looking for a button for an outfit and she had to go through metres and metres of buttons strings. She worked with fine fabrics, silk and velvet, satin and tulle, and the colours and textures of the fabric were glorious. I can still remember an evening dress she made for a client from hot pink velvet. It was such heavy, good quality fabric and it almost vibrated with colour. There was a tiny bit of fabric left over and she made me a matching suit for my Barbie doll. I had the best dressed Barbie dolls in the country.
My grandparents owned a remote beach house where we used to spend our Christmas and Easter vacations. On rainy days there was very little to do and my Grandmother introduced me to English paper piecing, hexagons, when I was about eight years old. It was the perfect boredom buster!
When we moved away from my Grandmother’s home town I lost interest in sewing for a little while, except when I made a life-sized human doll for high school art class. When my first child was born I started sewing again, making clothes for her because she was too tiny for store bought clothing. It was then that the quilting revival was gaining ground here in Australia and I was invited by a friend who owned a quilting store to ‘make up the numbers’ for a class or two. From there on I was hooked, I discovered that I loved working with fabric.The colour and texture of the finished pieces were wonderful. I’m a very tactile person.
I went on to work for a number of quilt stores, sewing for them, and writing in-house patterns and teaching classes. I was encouraged to branch out and create my own pattern line. I started out making more traditional quilts, which I love, but as my confidence grew I began down the path I’m now on.
2. Your designs are so colourful and fun, what is your inspiration?
TV was very limited in the small country town I lived in when I was a child, but we used to get the Walt Disney show on Sunday nights. All I wanted to do when I was growing up was to work for Disney and be a colourist. The animation studios fascinated me. I’ve had a love of illustration and animation ever since. I’ve passed that love to my daughter who is studying animation at University today. I’ve always had a love of colour, simple lines, and bright, happy creations. Disney’s anthropomorphised characters were a huge inspiration. Who else but Disney could add so much life and personality to furniture! (Beauty and the Beast).
3. Do you have a favourite project from Happy Quilts?
The Tiny Princesses quilt and the Wild Things quilt are my favourite projects from the book. The Wild Things are so full of personality, they make me laugh every time I see them, their goggly eyes and smiling teeth.
4, How did the idea for creating soft toys to match the quilts come about?
My lovely customers, who are so much a part of the Red Boot Quilts family, frequently asked me for easy-to-make dolls and soft toys to go with the quilts they had made. Kids love to snuggle under their quilts, and it makes bedtime even more special if they can snuggle with a character from the quilt. I’ve made a lot of the dolls in the book interchangeable. You can turn the super hero into a farmer into a prince very easily.
5, Can you give a top quilting tip to our readers?
Relax the rules and enjoy yourself. Have confidence in yourself and don’t be afraid of adapting a quilt pattern to suit your own personal style, enjoy the creative process and have fun. Most of all do what makes you happy!
(Eg. if you reduce the size of the templates for the super heroes quilt, you can make them into Princes to put on the Princess quilt!)
These keepsake quilts will make excellent gifts and with so many different designs to choose from, there is something for everyone. You can see a sneak peek of Happy Quilts on our blog here and if, like us, you love this book, you can pre order it on our website now.