We first learned of the Great British Quilter in September of 2017 when it was launched as a super fun social media challenge. We met and instantly adored founders Sarah Ashford of Sarah Ashford Studio and Charlie Mankin of Sydney Rose Designs. They had a contagious enthusiasm that inspired the masses, sharing quilted masterpieces, WIPs, go-to tools, mini-bios, and generally connecting quilters in a massive online quilty party. It was an absolute blast that led to our first Aurifil/Great British Quilter collaboration in 2018.
We launched a collection of 12 delightfully bright and versatile 50wt spools just one year ago. The collection brought together 12 phenomenal UK-based designers, each touting a different color, celebrating Aurifil with unique designs and boundless enthusiasm.
Since then, we’ve been working closely with Sarah, who has kept up the Great British Quilter name, pushing it in new directions including a monthly podcast featuring a talented lineup of British artists and a brand new fabric collection with UK-based Dashwood Studio.
We met with Sarah earlier this year and jumped at the chance to develop a new collection featuring small spools of our 12wt thread, perfectly in tune with Sarah’s brand new fabric collection, Great British Quilter Back to Basics. We couldn’t be more thrilled and can’t wait to see what delightful stitched accents get added in to Sarah’s projects throughout the year.
In keeping with the collaborative spirit of the Great British Quilter, we’re already seeing projects pop up from a handful of some of our other favorite British creatives! We love the ‘stronger together’ vibe and are ready to jump on that creative train! 😉
THREAD COLLECTION DETAILS
Great British Quilter: Back to Basics
20 Small Spools, 12wt (54yds/spool), 100% Aurifil Cotton
2021 – 2600 – 2630 – 2692 – 3660 – 2479 – 4020 – 2745 – 2420 – 1133
2560 – 1243 – 2715 – 2847 – 5006 – 2810 – 2130 – 1135 – 2908 – 1231
What first inspired you to start sewing?
I’ve been sewing since I was about 6 years old, when I learnt to cross stitch at school. My mum also taught and encouraged me, and sewed on and off throughout my teenage years. And this was before sewing was cool! I think even as a child it was as much about process as it was product. I just love the act of making and creating with my hands.
What is your absolute favorite thing that you’ve ever made?
This is such a tough one! One of my favourite quilts is my Up and Away quilt. It involves really simple Foundation Paper Piecing to create a hot air balloon and it’s so effective yet really easy and great for beginners to FPP. I’ve just finished hosting a 6 week sew-along on Instagram (#upandawaySAL) and it was so wonderful to see all the balloons popping up. It was a competition and I had to judge my favourite; it was such an impossible task as they were all simply wonderful and it was such a thrill seeing other people stitch up my designs!
Can you tell us about how the Great British Quilter came to be?
About 3 years ago now I had the idea to start an Instagram photo challenge that focused on British quilters. I felt like we had so much talent but that it wasn’t always being recognised and that we lacked a collective identity in some way. And so I thought the challenge would galvanise everyone and be a bit of a celebration of all things British and Quilting, which is exactly what it was. People made friends through the challenge, learnt about new shops and online stores, about new designers, found new quilt patterns, picked up quilting tips; the response was just wonderful and it’s just gone from strength to strength. This September will be our third year and the hashtag has been used nearly 12K times!
So much has happened since then – what excites you most about the direction in which you’re headed?
The Great British Quilter really is about creating an identity for us as British quilters, a sense of pride in who we are and celebrating the talent and the legacy that we have. I’m so excited for the brand to grow, to meet and get to know other British quilters and to give something back too. Last year there was a 50 weight thread box collection, which was championed by a group of 12 prominent quilters in the industry and this year there’s my fabric collection with Dashwood Studio, a monthly Podcast and of course my 12 weight thread collection. All of these things have been such wonderful opportunities, and have allowed me to meet and get to know so many fantastic people. And all the while strengthening the British Quilting community. I’m really keen for the rest of the world to see what a wealth of talent we have here on this small Island – come to the Festival of Quilts and you will see for yourself!
How does the podcast play into the bigger picture for Great British Quilter?
For me, the Great British Quilter has always been about community. About support, friendship, championing, sharing, learning and most of all having a bit of fun. This is fabric we are talking about after all! I wanted a medium in which I could interview big name quilters and people in the industry, to share their stories and their journeys and help us feel more connected as an industry. A podcast seemed the perfect way to do this as there is something about listening to a person’s voice that is so much more personal and intimate than just reading words on a page. I wanted listeners to really ‘get to know’ the people I was interviewing and experience their stories as if they were in a room with them. The Great British Quilter is also about sharing, and I always ask the person I’m interviewing to share a couple of top tips at the end of our conversation. I love that I can provide value to the listeners and ‘give something back’ to this wonderful online quilting community. I’m so grateful to Aurifil and Bernina UK for their sponsorship and support with this project.
When did the partnership with Dashwood Studio first begin and what do you love most about working with them?
I’ve been working with British fabric company Dashwood Studio for about 3 years now, making samples for them from their different fabric collections for their social media and show booths. So when I first had the seed of an idea for a Great British Quilter fabric collection, it seemed like the perfect partnership. I love how this truly has been a collaboration; we both have so much to offer. Because I’m a quilter, I know what quilters are looking for in a basics collection, and Dashwood Studio know what works, what doesn’t work, what colours go together, how to get a balance of tone on tone fabrics and fabrics with motifs that ‘pop.’ Between us I feel we’ve found the perfect balance and a collection we are both really proud of.
Tell us about your new fabric collection.
So, it’s called Great British Quilter Back to Basics. The premise behind this collection is that it’s designed to work on it’s own or indeed with other fabrics that you may already have. With 20 colours to choose from, there is sure to be a fabric that coordinates! There are 8 different prints, each inspired either by Britishness, quilting, or subtle references to social media. They are as follows:
- Drizzle – That’s the type of rain we often have here in the UK!
- Stitch – All the different stitches on a sewing machine
- Flag – A bit like British bunting, and a bit like a social media icon
- Send – Like when you send an email
- Define Me – A text print of quilting definitions and the values of the Great British Quilter
- Hexie Sketch – Hexagons are a reference to traditional English Paper Piecing
- Meander – A popular free motion quilting design
- Stripe – Because everyone loves it for a stripy binding!
With brights, pastels, low volumes and text prints, hopefully there’s something for everyone!
Your coordinating thread collection features 20-spools of Aurifil 12wt thread – why was it important for you to include that weight?
Last year, the 12 spool 50wt collection that I curated with Charlie Mankin of @sydneyrosedesigns was really popular and a huge success. And this thread collection builds on this, now with 20 colours, all from the fabric collection. I’m so proud of the colour palette that we’ve created and I just knew that it would make a perfect thread collection.
I have always loved the Aurifil 12 weight, not just for hand quilting but for embroidery too, which is my second love after quilting. So it’s a really versatile thread and I can’t wait to see how people use it in their work.
What are you hoping to see fans create?
I really hope people use these threads in creative ways! Jo Avery of @mybearpaw has already made a wonderful mini quilt sample using the fabric collection (using a design inspired by Nick Ball from his book Inspiring Improv) and she used the 12 weight in the top of her machine to quilt with and create fabulous texture and movement across her quilt.
I can’t wait to see lots of hand quilted quilts, perhaps some Kantha quilting (a personal favourite style of mine) and of course more embroideries too.
The collection launches at Festival of Quilts in Birmingham this week — Just for fun:
What do you love most about Festival of Quilts?
Meeting up with all my Instagram friends in real life – it’s the best!
How long will it take you to get there?
About 2 hours on the train
Where and when will we find you?
I shall be there from midday on Thursday till Saturday. You can find me on the Aurifil stand at 2.00pm on Thursday and 2.00pm Saturday for a meet and greet, at 5.00pm on Friday for a photo with other British designers, and I shall also be giving a demo on the Bernina stand at 2.30pm on Friday. Busy, busy!
Do you have a favorite festival destination?
The vendor stalls are a pretty fun place to be, and of course the Aurifil stand, where I’m so very excited to see my thread collection on display this year! I also love looking at the quilts in the Modern category, they are always so inspiring and often times I know the makers so that heightens my interest even more. I’m also keen to visit the Quilter’ Guild of the British Isle stand where they are celebrating their 40thAnniversary. I designed a Foundation paper pieced block for them to celebrate and quilters all around the country have made them and they will be on display. I can’t wait to see them all together!
Thank you so much to Sarah!! We can’t wait to see more! <3
Sarah Ashford has been stitching since she was six years old and quilting is her passion. She feels so fortunate to have quilting as her day job. She designs and make quilts for a range of publications, including Love Patchwork and Quilting and Quilt Now Magazine. She also works closely with British fabric companies, including Dashwood Studio, Oakshott Fabrics and Hantex. When she’s not making quilts, she’s writing about them! Sarah has contributed to Curated Quilts, The Quilter Magazine, Modern Sewing Starts Here and the Modern Quilt Guild resources page. She is currently the MQG book club leader reviewing quilting books, something she loves!
Sarah also works for The Quilter’s Planner; a hardcover planner and diary, designed specifically for quilters. Along with Kitty Wilkin (www.nightquilter.com), she runs the Quilter’s Planner Instagram account, (@thequiltersplanner) and she also contributes to the content and marketing of the accompanying magazine. This role gives her such joy, as it allows her to work with wonderful creatives and spread the love of quilting even further.
To learn more about Sarah, please visit her About page.
*All images provided by Sarah Ashford Studio