The dreamy florals of June’s Cottage by Briar Hill Designs for RJR Fabrics have us dreamy of wistful afternoons by a riverside, light breezes wafting overhead… There is just something magical about watercolor! The artwork of the collection, in its entirety, is hand-painted.
This collection takes you to a whimsical place, a paradise of the past. There, hilltop cottages, lie lush gardens and climbing vines cascading over white picket fences under warm rays of dancing sunshine. Birdsong pervades the air, making it the ideal place for afternoon tea. The collections, patterns, and artwork from Briar Hill Designs are nostalgic, intended to visually transport you to a simpler time before the breach of etiquette when unspoiled natural beauty was abundant.
Julia Wentzell & Caverly Smith (the design team of Briar Hill Designs) hand selected 10 gorgeous colors of 40wt to create a coordinating thread box for June’s Cottage. We simply can’t wait to see what you make with it!
THREAD COLLECTION DETAILS
10 Small Spools, 40wt (164yds/spool), 100% Aurifil Cotton
5016 – 2886 – 2105 – 3770 – 2615
1243 – 2520 – 2510 – 2770 – 2775
What inspired you to start sewing?
Julia- Well I spent much of my childhood playing with fabric, redecorating my dollhouse; “reupholstering” couches and making teeny quilts and decor. I made my first dress with my Mom when I was 12, and spent much of my teenage years sewing clothing for myself. When I learned that I could get a secondary education in sewing and pattern making, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. So, I applied at a local University, and was accepted into their Costume Studies Program where I learned pattern making, tailoring, how to make historically accurate reproductions of 18th century formalwear, and more. It was a sewing enthusiast’s fairy tale!
Do you remember the first project that you made and how you felt after it was complete?
Julia- My first dress, circa 1992, was made with a calico print in aqua had a dropped waist, gathered skirt, and large pockets on the side.My mom helped with the zipper and the bodice lining. I felt like a huge world opened up to me when I learned how to make clothing! All at once, looking over Mom’s small stash of fabrics, I could see prints I’d like to make shorts with, or skirts, or dresses. I couldn’t get enough of sewing after that first dress!
When did you first start working together and was it exciting to have the opportunity to collaborate as family?
Caverly- We first started working together almost 4 years ago now. When the opportunity presented itself to me (Caverly), I immediately knew that Julia had to do it with me. In fact only a day or two before the chance came along, Julia had sent me a link to a website, teaching how to turn paintings into repeatable patterns for fabric! It was meant to be. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own and that I needed her expertise, her optimism, and her drive to make it work. When we met, to plan out our goals and what the shape of Briar Hill Designs would look like, we were so excited to start we could barely contain ourselves! We still absolutely love working together and rely on each other constantly. It’s been an amazing experience to collaborate as family and we’re definitely closer for it.
What would you say are your individual strengths within the business – have you settled into particular roles?
Caverly: Julia is an expert seamstress and quilt pattern maker. Having specialized education in that field, she offers insight as to what any given collection needs in terms of scale, and value. She has drive and vision and has great big ideas that she in not at all scared to tackle.
I’m the painter of the partnership. I too have experience and post-secondary training; a degree in Illustration and Fine Arts. After painting, editing and designing original watercolour artwork, I then make the designs repeatable for fabric screenprinting.
I design the fabric and Julia designs the quilts and projects that correspond with the collection. We tackle promotion, branding and marketing. Our absolute favourite thing to do together is to go to Quilt Market!
What do you love most about working together?
Caverly: The best thing about working together is that we balance each other out perfectly. Everyone has ups and downs. When there are seven children between us, we’re bound to have down times and moments of chaos that make working from home nearly impossible. It’s been miraculous to see how we naturally buoy each other up during those crazy times. When one is struggling, the other is right there, ready to pick up the slack, and vice versa.
We’ve become so much closer as a result of working together. We know each others’ tastes, preferences, breaking points, schedules and strengths.
Most of our work together is over the phone, Facetime, or texting, living so far apart. And you’d think that when we are together, we’d talk shop and nothing else. But amazingly, it’s not at all like that. We love the unspoken closeness that comes from sharing a business.
How did you first get involved with RJR?
Caverly: I have a close friend from college who is very involved with the quilting industry. Over the years, he has kept in touch mentioned over and over that I should design fabric (having seen lots of my artwork during our college years). I repeatedly dismissed the notion, knowing nothing about the fabric world and industry, much less designing repeatable patterns. He finally insisted that he had contacts and knew people that could help me learn. As soon as that possibility became a reality in my mind, I knew immediately that Julia had to be my partner in this venture. She excitedly agreed (thank goodness!). He took us under his wing, and with his help and that of many others, we learned what we needed to have collections that we could present to RJR. They received our portfolio (which we so lovingly and painstakingly poured our souls into), and loved it! That was almost four years ago and we’re so happy to be releasing a new collection with RJR in the Fall!
What inspired June’s Cottage and how did you work through the design process?
Caverly: The brand of Briar Hill Designs is based around a whimsical place, inspired by the yellow-brick hilltop cottage of Caverly’s grandmother. There, the lush gardens are surrounded by white picket fences, warm sunshine and birdsong; the perfect place for afternoon tea. We wanted to design a collection that would transport the viewer to a simpler time not so long ago, abundant in etiquette, beauty and nature’s blessings; a paradise of the past. Our goal was to create a fusion of old and new. We used traditional florals to represent a by-gone era, and bright, springtime colours to make the collection feel fresh.
I keep a sketchbook, where each print begins. I painted each individual element (flowers, stems, leaves) from the sketch, and scanned them into the computer. There I use Photoshop and Illustrator to edit and bring the elements together to create the original design. It’s a longer process than creating artwork digitally, but we feel the original artwork gives the collection something special. Our goal has always been to have a collection that appears as though we have painted directly onto the fabric and we think we’ve really achieved that with June’s Cottage.
Do you have a favorite project that you’ve made using the fabrics and threads of June’s Cottage?
Julia: Definitely! It’s my Sweet Bloom Quilt!
This quilt was hand appliquéd, pieced, and also quilted with the thread colours from our thread box. I loved hand appliquéing with the thread, and piecing was a breeze. Then I mailed it off to the amazing Dara Tomasson of Stitched Quilting Co to do her quilting magic. She used 5 different colours from our thread box on the quilt. I loved how she used these colours to add quilted florals and details to the quilt.
The Sweet Bloom pattern will be available in stores and online within the month!
How did you first discover Aurifil threads?
Julia- Well, living on the far East Coast of Canada, on the “almost Island” of Nova Scotia, I heard much praise of Aurifil threads in the webisphere before I started to see it in local stores. (Nova Scotia finally got an Ikea! It often takes awhile for awesomeness to make it’s way here!) I was happy to try it once it became available here, and boy, is it nice!
Do you have a favorite color or weight?
Julia- I do, and it’s a part of our thread box! 2615 in 40wt. I love it for piecing because it easily matches so much of my work!
BRIAR HILL PATTERNS & LINKS
- Modern Petticoat Quilt Pattern & Blog Post
- Train Station Quilt Pattern
- New Spring Quilt Pattern & Blog Post
- FREE Dapper Quilt Pattern
- June’s Cottage Lookbook
We are giving away 1 Small June’s Cottage Thread Collection and 1 bundle of June’s Cottage by Briar Hill Designs for RJR Fabrics. Also, up for grabs are two free patterns of your choice from Briar Hill Designs. To enter-to-win, please click here to head to the Rafflecopter entry page. You do not have to complete all the options to be entered but the more options you choose, the more entries you have! Entries will be accepted from now through 11:59pm Eastern Time on Thursday, July 26! Winner will be randomly selected and announced here on Friday, July 27. Good luck!
Briar Hill Designs was born out of a beautiful synergic friendship between two self-proclaimed fabric lovers, and Canadian sisters-in-law, Caverly Smith and Julia Wentzell. Caverly’s fine art skills and Julia’s expertise in pattern making transport you to a simpler time before the breach of etiquette when unspoiled natural beauty was abundant. The collections, artwork and patterns are inspired by that hilltop paradise of the past.
**Most images by Briar Hill Designs & RJR Fabrics