Lynda Milligan and Nancy Smith

What inspired your work? How do new ideas come to you in your quiltmaking?

This is a tough question because we never seem to be at a loss for ideas. We have a very successful partnership that thrives on the exchange of ideas. We get inspiration from Quilt Markets and conferences such as Asilomar. We love to take classes from other teachers and we enjoy getting feedback from the customers and employees in our store. We love to visit other quilt shops and chat with their owners, and we brainstorm with a group of shop owners across the country. With the help of our art team, we design quilts for our Possibilities® books. Sometimes these quilts lead to new fabric designs and vice versa. One idea just flows to another. For further inspiration, we look outside of quilting. We attend gift markets and sometimes stationery shows to see new trends in other industries. We collect magazines, greeting cards and gift items, which also helps us to track trends in other industries.

Can you talk about the development of your business? How do you determine what kinds of things quilt makers want to see?

Over twenty years ago, Nancy and I first opened the Great American Quilt Factory. Quilt shops had been around for about a decade. We had hopes of growing our business into one of the premier shops in the country. To do this, we needed to listen to what our customers wanted. We knew that in the early 1980s there weren't very many baby quilt patterns available. We designed a series of eight baby quilts, along with bumper pad, and crib sheets and launched our pattern company, DreamSpinners®. We added patterns for dolls and bears and other soft good items and became well-known for our Gingersnap Friends doll and our Bittersweet Bear patterns. It wasn't long before patterns couldn't contain our ideas, so we began our book division, Possibilities®. Our first book, Deck the Halls, was a compilation of Christmas and holiday projects. Probably our best-known books are P.S. I Love You and P.S. I Love You, Two! Which contain even more quilts for babies and children.

Again, listening to our customers and our daughters, we saw a need to introduce sewing and quilting to future generations. I'll Teach Myself®, our series of books to teach children to sew, was our next venture. Working together with a panel of about 14 kids, including Laura and Kim, we wrote a series of four books to teach children to sew. The kids gave us feedback about what projects they liked and didn't like. We filled the books with stitching games and puzzles. This series has won numerous awards, and we are proud to say that we know of several adults who have used them to teach themselves to sew and quilt.

Our next venture came from the frustration of not having just the right fabric (although we carry over 4000 bolts). Our first two lines of licensed fabric designs were printed by a company called Chapel House. One line was a unique collection of stars called Written in the Stars, and the other was a fun group of prints called Streamers and Confetti. It is so fun today to see these prints used in quilts. We also designed several terrific lines of fabric for Peter Pan including the line Star Sprinkles. Currently, we design preprinted fabric panels and coordinates with VIP fabric (Cranston Consumer Products). Our favorites have been preprinted vests and a very colorful quilt called I Spy. We also are designing fabrics for a new company called AvLyn Creations, Inc. We are excited about an innovative approach to borders that will be coming out in Fall 2001. To help promote these fabrics, we will be writing a book featuring quilts designed with the fabric. You can see how one of our ideas leads to another!

In short, by listening to our customers and coworkers, we are able to determine what quilt makers want to buy. As quilt makers ourselves, we deal with the frustrations of not having what we want or of wanting to make quilting easier and better. We have the opportunity of creating a solution when we encounter a need or problem.

 

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