August Designer of the Month Nicholas Ball

I’m Designer, Author, and your host for this program, Pat Sloan.  This year we challenged each designer to create a block inspired by the Aurifil Color BuildersWe assigned each month a color/city and challenged the Designer to work their magic using either the city, the colors, or both as inspiration! Each designer has their assigned box + coordinating Kona Cotton Solids from Robert Kaufman for each shade of thread. We also provided Robert Kaufman Essex Linen in Charcoal to supplement the solids for their blocks.

For August, we’re traveling to the mystical coastline of Capri. The clear and crisp waters glistening in the sunlight, highlighting varying shades of teal that stretch out toward the horizon. A perfect seaside adventure!

I’m thrilled to welcome Nicholas Ball of ‘Quilts from the Attic’ to share a bit of Capri inspiration with us. When I first saw the quilts Nicholas was making they came across my screen in a burst of gorgeous improv patchwork blocks. It has been so fun to follow him and his creativity. He also has written a wonderful book that is filled with all his tips.

You can visit Nicholas via his Website & Instagram.

Missed a month from our Color Builder series or curious to check out our past Designer of the Month programs?

CLICK HERE FOR ALL DESIGNER INTERVIEWS

We have a Challenge portion of our Designer of the Month interview. Each month we select one random winner to receive 3 boxes from our Color Builder series. All you have to do is making the challenge block that you download below and share it at the link! Details at the end plus last month’s winner!

Let’s get to know Nicholas!

Where do you live and what is your favorite spot there?
I live in Cardiff, which is the capital city of Wales, one of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom. I consider myself more Welsh than British. Wales has a rich quilting history that pre-dates the Amish. Cardiff is a great place to live.  It’s not a huge city, so isn’t overwhelming, yet it has enough going on to keep you busy. There are lots of independent restaurants and bars, and plenty of green space for dog walks.  The coast is a short drive away, and spending a few hours scrambling across sand dunes and pebble beaches is one of my favourite things to do.

When was your FIRST quilt sighting? Did it inspire you to start quilting? If not, what did?
Although I don’t recall the first quilt I ever saw, I think I first became aware of them thanks to American films and television shows. If you look close enough, there are almost always patchwork quilts featured on the set. Sometimes they are draped over beds, other time hung on walls. When you first become aware of them, you’ll soon find yourself noticing them more and more. When I think back to the time I first decided to make a quilt, I was definitely inspired by the Americana and nostalgia of the old films I’d watched as a child.

Years from now when a quilt historian is looking through your thing, sketches,  papers, notions, quilts,  What might they surmise about the type of quilt maker you are? 
As an improv quilter, I like the work I produce to be inspired by something. More often than not, that inspirational source is usual something from nature; a plant, an animal or a landscape. I would hope that anyone assessing my body of work if the future would notice by love of the natural world and my obsession with the colours found within it.

Have you had a ‘light bulb’ moment in making?
I’ve had several, and looking back they all seem so obvious now.  When I started quilting, I had no idea about quality materials. I was using the cheapest fabric and thread I could find. When this continually snapped and frayed, I began to doubt my ability. Perhaps quilting wasn’t for me? Once I started investing in the work I was producing and began to use good quality materials, my quilts were all the better. 

Nicholas  you have a lot of Oakshott, why do you love this fabric, and do you have any tips for working with it? 
Oakshott is the most luxurious fabric I have ever sewn with. I was first introduced to it in 2014 during a class I took at a weekend quilting retreat in London (as it happens, it was this same retreat that I first saw a spool of Aurifil). I had never sewn with anything so wonderful. The different warp and weft threads make the fabric come alive and I’m pretty sure that a little piece of it makes its way into almost all the quilts I make. The people behind the brand are such lovely people too. They have been so supportive of me and my quilting journey, especially during the creation of the projects for my book. The cover quilt ‘How to Age a Tree’ is made all the more special by having Oakshott fabrics in it. If you do get the change to sew with them, I highly encourage you to do so! ( Check out these posts here & here for more.)

Tell us about your temperature quilt project.
It is a project that has challenged me and shifted the direction of my quilting. It started almost by accident. I had no plans to make one, but was inspired by my fellow Aurifil Designer Jo Avery’s efforts. I’ve always been a huge fan of her work. We share a similar love for improv and bold colours, so when I was stopped in my IG scrolling tracks by her needle turn applique version, the cogs began to turn. I wanted to try something different and at the time was flicking through a book about fabric manipulation. I’ve always liked the look of applique and so took the opportunity of lockdown to experiment. My blocks record the daily high. The corresponding fabric is cut into an organic shape and machine blanket stitched to a linen background using Aurifil 12wt. Each shape is completely different. Sometimes they are drawn spontaneously, other time they are inspired by stones, leaves and shells I have found during dog walks or day trips. The units come to life when they are stuffed. This is one of the techniques I discovered from the book I mentioned and it’s fair to say I’ve become a little obsessed with this original method of trapunto! The process has become quite methodical and meditative. I look forward to seeing the units come together and am already starting to think about how to quilt it.

What does your studio look like, and what would you change in it? 
I’m so grateful that I have a dedicated space to sew and create. My improv process can get a little messy, so it’s nice to be able to leave things where they are and close the door. I try to have a big clean up after each project, and everything has a space which it goes back into. Fabric is organized by color, rulers are hanging up on the wall, and works in progress find a place on the design wall. My design wall is perhaps the most important part of my studio (apart from my sewing machine). It allows me to take a step back and put distance between myself and the piece I’m working on. This is so important to see if things are progressing, to assess colour and value, and to simply let things simmer while you contemplate the quilt.  If I could change one thing, it would be to make it bigger, so I could fit a long arm quilting machine in there!

What does your garden look like?
I learnt a lot about gardening from my grandmother. I dedicated my book to her with the words “to grandmother, who taught me to sew, to sow and the importance of spelling”. As we’ve been spending more time at home recently, the garden has never looked better. I’m as big a fan of colour there as I am in the sewing room. I like it when things spill over and look a little liberated, much like in my quilting.

Are you a Dog or Cat person? 
Whilst I love all animals, I do have a soft spot for dogs. Their companionship is so rewarding. Our pug Samuel often keeps me company during sewing and was a constant presence during the long hours of working on the book quilts. He inevitably ends up with scraps of fabric and stray threads on his back as he insists on sleeping as close to where I am as possible.

What else would you’d like to share? 
The last year has been a bit of a roller-coaster. My debut book Inspiring Improv was released in April and the response has been so wonderful. I’m so grateful for all the kind comments I receive, either on social media or when travelling to teach and give talks. It was important for me that the book help people break away from the constraints of regular piecing and inspire them to explore their own creativity. It’s so lovely to hear people say how the book has helped them grow as a quilter and I still get excited each time I see a new version of one of the book’s project pop up on my IG feed. Being able to enthuse through the work you produce is so rewarding. I can’t wait to be able to get back to teaching!

Tell us about your Capri inspiration…
The inspiration for my block came from Capri’s blue and green grottos. It’s impossible not to be mesmerized by the beauty of these sea caves and they are high up on my list of places to visit! My block is a technique-based one. I wanted each to be individual and unique to the maker and represent the undulating, shifting patters found in the waters of Capri. By using freehand curve and insert techniques, each block will be slightly different and, I hope, fun to make.

Don’t be intimidated by this loose, organic approach to quilting. I have ever faith that those sewing along will make beautiful versions of the block and I can’t wait to see them all!


Visit Pat’s article to watch a video of Nicholas doing Improv piecing


Visit Nicholas at:
Website: quiltsfromtheattic.wordpress.com
Instagram: @quiltsfromtheattic

Each year I make the Aurifil blocks in a totally different set of fabrics. For this month, I have to thank Carolina Asmussen for stepping in to offer me a bit of help! I’m still recovering from an accident that left me with two broken wrists. All is healing well, but after two surgeries, I still have a road of healing ahead!

CLICK TO MY Website for a few tips on making this block and the Video of Nicholas doing improve piecing.

Enter your block via the link below by September 14, 2020 to be entered-to-win a SET of 3 Aurifil Color Builder Thread sets!

Click ——>An InLinkz Link-up

1 Watermak-Needle-Black

Join our Aurifil Family
EACH MONTH we will pick one random winner that has made a block.. that person will receive a special Aurifil thread prize! Winners are all contacted email

Our random number picker selected Mary’s block! You’ve been emailed, so please check your email and respond at your earliest convenience!

CLICK to see all the great versions for last months HERE

5 comments

  1. Love the interview with Nicholas Ball. I’ve been following him on IG for quite a while now and love his style and sense of color.
    I did just enter a block by the linkup. However at the end of this article you indicate that the date to enter the photo is by August 14 and your interview was posted on August 15. Did you mean to indicate that it should be uploaded by September 14?

  2. HI there! Loved the article and the talent of Nicholas Ball! I was wondering, in the pic with “cwiltio” written, there are 2 “color wheels” shown …. I am wondering about the one on the lower left. It is very interesting and would help me greatly if I could find one. Is there a chance that anyone on staff or even some readers of this post might know what the name of this particular color wheel is?? Any help is greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

Leave a Reply to Laura Tawney Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this: