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We caught up with Sarah Payne to find out about her new book and love of quilting.

Tell us a bit about yourself, how and when did you start quilting?

My name is Sarah Payne and I am an On Air TV sewing demonstrator for shopping channel Create and Craft, author, teacher and quilter. I am also a brand ambassador for Oliso irons, Wonderfil Threads and Screen Sensation Screen Printing and I design my own fabric ranges for Craft Cotton Company. I also teach my own workshops around the country, and I have just begun working with Crafty Monkies – a crafty workshop company offering high-end craft experiences and retreats. As you can imagine, that little lot keeps me busy. But I can’t help it – I just love it!  I have been sewing forever! I used to watch my mum make clothes when I was a child and I was obsessed with the scraps. Many a Cindy dress was stuck together with sticky tape in my house. I fell in love with quilting about 20 years ago after watching American Quilting Queen Eleanor Burns on TV make her “Quilt in a Day” and I was hooked. At the time my mum lived in Ireland and Eleanor was only available on TV over there, so Mum would video the shows and post the tapes over to England so I could watch them. This was well before the days of YouTube! I loved it and I was hugely inspired to have a go and once I signed up for a workshop near my home I was hooked! Excitingly, Eleanor Burns got to hear about this a few years ago and she sent me a personal message on Facebook – I had a complete Fan-Girl moment and then burst into tears. Perhaps one day we will meet in person and I will try harder to hold it together.

You used to work in IT, how did you go from that to quilting full-time?

Yes – I used to have a “proper job”! For 15 years I was a software trainer specialising in Legal Accounts. I travelled a lot and got to meet lots of different people which I loved, but the long periods away from home and the lack of any real control in my life really got to me. Eventually I decided that I could take it no more and handed in my notice in late 2010 with the vague idea that I was going to try to make a living from my crafting.  My partner Paul was supportive as ever, and I soon opened a fabric shop with a friend the following summer. This allowed me to continue teaching, which I always loved, and focus on my quilting. After a few years I was approached by Create and Craft, the shopping channel, who had been passed my details by the irrepressible Jennie Rayment. They were looking for an on-air expert to demonstrate quilting rulers from Simplicity. I resisted for a while as I didn’t think TV was for me, but no one can resist Jennie for long, and eventually I went for a screen test. Shows started to flow thick and fast, with more fabric companies and sewing machine manufacturers coming on board with the channel, and the work poured in. Eventually it took over and I left the shop to become freelance. It has been 6 years  since my first show and I still love it, despite the long hours and pressure of constantly coming up with ideas for shows. It has opened so many doors for me and I have met so many fantastic people. I even have my own show now – Sarah’s Sewing Studio – which is on once a month. I can’t believe that I am lucky enough to have a hobby that is my job – and a job that is my hobby!

Do you have any tips for beginners?

I have 2 tips I give beginners.

1 - Start small and don’t rush! You don’t need to make a double bed quilt with your very first project. If you like the look of a block, then start by making it as a cushion. If it works out and you fall in love, just keep adding blocks until you have a quilt! That’s why I have included a couple of methods in my book for finishing cushions, as well as making table runners and bags too. Take small steps that can be finished quite quickly and the feeling of success you get will propel you on to bigger things!

2 – Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Enjoy the experience and don’t worry too much about those slightly wonky points. This is a journey, and each project you create marks a point on that journey. You will look back and be able to see how far you have come as your skills improve.

Where do you get your inspiration?

For me it is down to a love of fabrics, and that is often my starting point for a design. Once I have the fabric, I am looking at the scale of the print, the direction of the design and what the project is for. Usually it is for TV, and so the size of the TV studio is an important aspect – there is no point creating a king size bed quilt if I am in one of the smaller studios and you will only get to see about 1m of the piece. Then it is about working on a design that shows the fabric off to its very best but to strict deadlines. Often it is about keeping the design simple to showcase the fabric. If it is a workshop design, then it is about coming up with a project that is achievable within the timeframe of the class and making it easy for them to finish later at home. All of my workshops come with full instructions so that attendees can feel supported after the event and create something beautiful that they can be proud of.

If it is a quilt for me, it usually still starts with the fabric – I love bold colours and I use a lot of white tone on tone fabric in my work to keep colours bright. I love to play a bit more and I adore free motion embroidery and raw edged applique.

Do you have a favourite/specific room you craft in?

I am lucky enough to have a dedicated sewing room. It is a double bedroom at the top of the stairs with an ensuite toilet that is never used for its original purpose – it is too busy being used for extra storage. My sewing room is usually in a state of barely controlled chaos. With 30 odd TV shows a month there is fabric coming in, fabric being used, and fabric that has been used and now needs ‘filing’ – but I can usually get my hands on something when I need it. I do a lot of social media things from my sewing room, and a common comment is “I don’t feel so bad about my mess now". But it is a working space – and what you see is what you get. When I have a fabric launch (which can be as many as 2 a week) I try to make a quilt, a couple of cushions and perhaps an item of clothing. These all need to be stored because the fabric may be in stock for a while – which is where racking in the garage becomes vital. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to move in the house. Everything is boxed, labelled and ready to be grabbed at a moment’s notice, which means it is tidier than my sewing room.

This is a picture of my sewing room looking unusually tidy!       

Some of my Stash – also looking unusually tidy.

How does it feel to publish your first book?

It is an amazing feeling to see your words in print. This was an emotional time for me because my Dad was terminally ill as I was writing it, but he loved me reading the excepts from it, and would constantly correct my grammar! So now it is a physical item that I can touch, it feels hugely special. I love the fact that people are enjoying the book, and actually using it rather than simply looking at the pretty designs. Within weeks of the launch I was getting messages on social media from people with the pictures of the projects they have already made from the book. Most people are starting at lesson 1 and working their way through it – just as I hoped they would. To see someone share your own joy is hugely rewarding, and I know my Dad is full of pride looking down on me.

What’s Quilt School all about?

I get a lot of feedback from people who watch my shows on Create and Craft, and they are often looking for the very basics. What is a seam allowance, which is the right sides of a fabric, how do I quilt my first project? A common message I get from social media is “I want to have a go at quilting, where do I start?” This is where I wanted the book to begin.

Quilt School is designed to help these sewers get started! It represents a classroom, where you build on your skills across a school year, with helpful hints along the way. I don’t want readers to feel overwhelmed by big projects, which is why the first project is a bag with simple squares. I thought of the main sections (Squares, Triangles and Circles) as 3 terms in the school year, with the work getting steadily more challenging through the lessons but building on what you have already achieved. Each term introduces a shape, and offers you a number of methods you can use to create that shape. You as the reader choose which one you want to use, and every lesson will give you guidance on what to cut based on the method you have chosen. This makes your new skills transferable, and hopefully it will inspire you to continue past the book and work on even more projects. It is aimed at the complete beginner – the person who has just brought their first fat quarter bundle, rotary cutter and mat, and now wonders what to do next. It also has great projects for the more experienced sewer who is looking for a bit of inspiration, or to improve their skills. I hope this book will be the starting point for a fascinating quilting journey for people.


What does the rest of 2019 hold in store for you? Any exciting plans in 2020?

I really do have the best job in the world! Later this year I have a month long trip to the USA planned when the book launches in Houston, Texas. After Quilt Market and Quilt Festival are over, I am heading off in an RV with my friend Deborah for an amazing trip visiting quilt highlights for 22 days of sewing and quilty fun. You can follow our exploits on my Facebook page where we will be doing Live sessions from the RV as we travel! It’s sure to be an adventure.

2020 also looks like it will be a busy one too, with my next fabric range due out in March. I am also producing a limited number of Quilt hampers which will be available quarterly - more details can be found on my Facebook page. I also have plenty more workshops and retreats planned with Crafty Monkies, so it looks to be busy.  

Sarah Payne's Quilt School is available to buy here.

Visit our Facebook page to be in with a chance of winning a place on Sarah's next workshop with Crafty Monkies.

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