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Lucie Summers interview - fabric designerLucie Summers Interview

Following the immense success of Summersville we catch up with fabric designer Lucie Summers to find out more about designing your own fabric line.

Hi Lucie, Can you tell us about your background?  How did you get into fabric design?  What did you do before?

My background is in printed textiles, which is what I had a special interest in at art school.  Then after graduating I opened up a patchwork shop with my mum called The Colour Room.  In those days quilt stores like ours were not usual in the UK, and we were quite ahead of our time.  We did workshops and got a reputation for selling bright fabrics quite non-traditional fabrics.  Once I had my first son, I decided I just wanted to be a ‘mum’ for a while so we closed the shop.   It was a fabulous time, but helping other people with their work was actually rather draining and didn’t leave mum or I the time or energy for our own work.

After my second son was born, nearly 7 years ago, I decided to pick up where I left off at art school and started to play with screen printing again. I started to combine paper collages with screen printing and then got back into quilting.  I didn’t want to use the fabrics everyone else was using so set about creating my own, and Summersville was born, and much to my surprise became quite a hit.

Last year received an email from Moda asking if I was interested in submitting some designs – they’d been looking at my blog and liked what they’d seen.  Scandinavian flowers in red Summersville fabricsSo of course, this was just the kick up the bum I needed!  I sent off examples, received an email saying they loved them and that the samples were being sent off to the mill…fast forward to a year later, and my ‘Summersville’ collection is out in quilt stores across the world and I’ve just chosen samples for my second collection!

Where do you get the inspiration for your fabric designs?

I get inspired by a variety of things mostly living on a farm, but I also like things like rusty wire, tyre tracks, and patterns in unexpected places like manhole covers!  I’m a real magpie for old ceramics and fabrics I find in charity shops, and find I’m influenced by the designs on them too.

How would you describe your style?

Simple, happy and hand drawn.

How do you design your collections? 

I always start by drawing by hand then I clean them up in Photoshop and put them into repeat.  I like to transfer the designs on to screens and print them by hand on to fabric - that way I can physically see what the design is like on fabric - how it handles and things like that.   Like most creative people, I have to see and feel to visualise how something will work.

How long does designing a collection take from initial concept to fabric on sale in the shops?

 Portholes Quilt by Lu SummersWith my first collection it was a year and a month from original email to the collection being on sale in the States.

What are the stages are involved?

Firstly, I send the printed fabrics to Moda in lots of different colour ways and designs and Moda send them off to the mill for ‘strike offs’ to be printed.   These are samples, usually pieces around 10 inches square that show the design and colour.  They take 60 days to arrive and when they come back we have the chance to change colours, fiddle with the designs etc.   If there are any changes to be made you have to wait another 60 days for new strike offs, so it’s nice if you can get it right first time!  With my second collection Moda sent the strike offs to me to choose the designs and colours to make up a 30 piece collection. That was a lot of fun!

Is it hard choosing which fabrics make the cut and which don’t?  What do you have to consider when making that decision?

I thought it was going to be harder than it was.  The hardest thing was falling in love with a particular design in a particular colour but realising it wouldn’t work with the rest of the fabrics.  You have to consider the range as a whole, not just as individual pieces but of course each design has to be strong enough to stand on its own too.  It’s a balancing act.

Were you surprised at how popular Summersville has been?   Stores sold out so fast, that must be a great feeling.

It was fantastic, absolutely mind blowing!  I felt humbled.

How does it feel when you see people making things with your fabric?

I feel so thrilled when out of all the designs out there, people choose mine.   I’m always excited to see what people are making, or what they plan to make.   I’ve just sold several metres to a lady who wants to make a pair of trousers from my ‘Brushstrokes’ design.

When will your next collection be out and what can you tell us about it?  Summersville Fabrics by Lucie Summers

It should be early spring 2013.  My plan for the moment is to stick with my hand drawn, distinctive look.  It might change down the line as my work develops, but certainly with the second collection it will compliment Summersville rather than be a totally new look.

What are your plans for the future? 

I’ve got several things in the pipeline; I’ve got a couple of meetings in the next few weeks for some exciting projects.  I’ve also been dipping my toe into teaching workshops which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed - so much so I’ve plans to renovate an old farm building near the house into a big workshop/exhibition space so people can visit me here for classes.  It’s all very much up in the air at the moment, but it was always in my 10 year plan to do, it’s just been brought a lot further forward.   Exciting times!

To find out more about Lucie you can visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @Lusummers.   To purchase either her screen printed fabrics or her Moda fabrics do visit her Etsy store

 Written by Fiona Pullen