It’s a remarkable thing to catch the sky at that perfect moment… when the sun is slowly sinking and the colors shift, rich and vibrant, ever-changing, ever-brilliant. Jennifer Sampou has managed to capture that magnificence in her latest fabric collection, SKY (Robert Kaufman). The colors are almost intoxicating, slipping from one hue to the next.
There are 30 colorways in all — 30 opportunities to stretch the limits of your creativity, an opportunity for a new masterpiece at each turn. At least, that’s how we feel when scrolling through the projects within Jennifer’s coordinating book, Ombré Quilts — each project a new triumph of color.
We were thrilled to collaborate with Jennifer on a thread set that pulls those stunning hues into a collection of 12 Large Spools of our versatile 50wt thread. Twelve colors for piecing, quilting, EPP, appliqué… twelve colors to construct & embellish your own perfect SKY.
We adore working with Jennifer — her style is that perfect combination of bohemian and modern that seems effortless and easy while representing something more profound. We admire her creative drive, her activism, and her gracious and caring nature. Huge thanks to Jennifer for joining us today!
Happy Holidays to you and thanks for taking the time to chat with us! For our readers who are meeting you for the first time, can you tell us what first inspired you to start sewing?
Hi everyone. I am Jennifer Sampou (sounds like Shampoo without the h). I have been a maker for as long as I can remember. From early drawings in nursery school to today, I have found tremendous joy in creating beauty with my hands, heart, and mind. Being a sewist started very early, yet working on my mom’s 1950s Singer began in earnest when I was in junior high and became interested simultaneously in both boys and fashion. Looking good was important to me as was being stylishly unique. By high school, I was for a working in a huge fabric store in Framingham, Massachusetts which carried fabrics that rivaled what was sold on 7th avenue in NYC.
*(Sewist- newish word which is the combination of sewer and artist. Better than the outdated word which has the same spelling as waste drainage!)
What is your absolute favorite thing that you’ve ever made?
To be honest, it is hard to say “favorite” as that rules out all my other makes, categories, moods, and genres, but I will share one make that was a game changer for me as a seamstress and woman: It was the confluence of my dreams, style, and skills… It was the making of my senior prom dress: a Vogue strapless sleek gown, in Ruby Red Moire with a silk taffeta black contrasted fishtail, and long 3/4 length black gloves. Partnered with loose platinum blonde curls and perfect makeup, it was all a nod to 1940s Hollywood glamour. I was 18 and suddenly so much more sophisticated than my 17 year old self (having made an itchy rose chiffon Victorian dress, with ruffled sleeves and a bodice too full of pearls and lace the year before!)
Do you have a favorite technique?
My favorite approach to quilting is to play. Creativity thrives when I combine large scale, dramatic piecing with bits of intricate piecing strewn in. It’s all about contrast, color, design, and creating impact. I also like riffing on the theme and noodling over construction and process. That’s how you improve your skills and dig deeper into an idea. Exploration!
You’ve been working with Robert Kaufman for ages — what do you love most about that partnership?
Yes, I have. I love that I know 3 generations of Kaufmans. I love that they took a chance on me many years ago and continue to support my ideas. I love that they are California based, so we are neighbors too. I love that they carry so many other substrates in addition to cotton, which makes them so interesting and diverse as suppliers.
We are absolutely smitten with the rich tones showcased in the spectacular ombres of your latest collection, SKY. What was your inspiration?
All aspects of the SKY that I could take in- and interpret onto fabric: from the glimpse of early morning light before the sun rises to stormy days and unbelievable sunsets. Plus, I was inspired to get as much of an ombre range as possible across one yard of fabric without compromising any technique or color blending. It could only be done with digital printing and, as it’s a fairly new process for the quilt fabric world, this was the first time I had ever designed a digital collection. It was so exciting.
Do you have a favorite color way?
Of course I can’t pick just one! But I will tell you I can’t live without Opal, Sunset, Dawn, Ember, Blush, Spa, Nightfall, Ocean, Tornado, Fog, Evening, Azure, Prairie Sky, Heather, Celestial, Sundance, Mist, Cloud, Haze, Midnight, Powder, Sky, Storm, Shadow, Sunburst, Cerise… have I named all 30 yet?
How did you go about selecting the colors for your coordinating thread collection?
This was great fun. Skies above us are so much more than blue. Clouds often are not white, but greys, lilacs, glowing golds, and radiant reds. My coordinating threads offer that range from the palest of blue to inky midnight, subtle warm and cool greys as well as accent brights. I took a lot of time playing with the options and settled on what I think is beautiful, most useful, and timeless.
Your latest C&T release, OMBRÉ QUILTS, pulls everything together. Could you tell us a bit about your favorite quilts and why they are so important to you?
Coming out with a book at the exact same time as the fabric which makes up all the quilts in the book was a feat in itself! I hope people are as excited to make the projects as I was making them! The cover quilt, Dawn Star, was the first quilt I made for the book. I love it because it was my maiden voyage into the power of what comes out of just 9 cuts of my ombre SKY fabrics. I had hoped for this to happen – the nuances, the drama, the subtleties… and because I don’t predesign my quilts on EQ8 or anything, a mystery unfolds as I am in the process of cutting, sewing, ironing, and piecing. Once I finished this quilt top, I realized the book was going to come together in a crazy flurry of creativity and exploration. The SKY fabrics are absolute magic to work with and I am continuing to make more quilts which I can’t share with the public yet!!
When did you first discover Aurifil thread and why has it been your go-to all of these years?
I love Aurifil because they are the most comprehensive range of glorious threads I know. I love the colors, the variety of weights, the quality. I love the people who make up the company. I love how they support so many makers and artists, and that they are a dynamic, exciting company in our maker’s market. Lastly, I love the overall feeling I get when I pull out that color card and begin to dream, what am I going to sew with next?
What’s up next — where can we find you over the coming year?
I just got back from a month of teaching in Australia and was honored to be the Guest Designer for Australia Quilt Market. I am teaching at Craft Napa in January, followed by QuiltCon in February where I’ll be an exhibitor, selling my new fabrics and kits with The Cotton Patch. Come Spring, I am filming with a few TV quilt shows to teach quilters tricks and tips for working with ombre fabrics. This Summer, I’ll teach at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Fall brings a very special engagement at Madeline Island School of the Arts where I will teach a 5-day quilting retreat with ombré SKY (I can’t wait for the foliage and big open skies on Lake Superior!) and then I’ll move into some local shows and events for early winter. 2021 brings more retreats and teaching. Plus, I am always working on new fabric lines and quilt patterns. You can find me regularly on Instagram @JenniferSampou and my website, JenniferSampou.com
Jennifer Sampou grew up in a vibrant home of makers. She studied Surface Design at Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC and Textiles at University of Vermont. Laura Ashley Headquarters in Wales, UK was her first stint as a designer and then moved to the golden state of California where she was design director for P&B Textiles. She founded Studio Sampou and licenses to Robert Kaufman Fabrics. Jennifer has created more than 4000 prints and sold millions of yards worldwide. She designs patterns for C&T Publishing and loves to teach. Wanderlust keeps her eye sharp and curiosity leads her around the world seeking color and art.
She lives outside of San Francisco with her husband, boys and many pets.