Jenni Smith is one of our absolute favorite people. A super skilled sewist and quilter, Jenni has a quick wit, a sweet sense, a warm heart, and a sparkle in her eye and we absolutely adore getting to work with her!
She sews and creates from her incredible home studio in England, offering virtual retreats, unique patterns, educational videos, and endless inspiration.
Jenni has long been dedicated to highlighting the wondrous creativity within this industry, a passion that led to the creation of Just One Quilt, a campaign launched in April 2019. Her goal was truly to enlighten curious people about what drives the quilting process, how quilts are used, and why the craft of quilting is so beneficial. She set out to challenge the stereotype that quilting is an old-fashioned practice and to highlight what makes the process of quilting so impactful, both on a personal and a more widespread level. The stories shared were always entrancing, portraying bravery, love, and passion… a true celebration of a maker’s creative journey.
This remarkable knack for storytelling led to a brand new partnership for 2021, the Quiltfolk Virtual Show and Tell, a series dedicated to featuring the work of creative makers around the world. The debut episode aired at the end of March and we’re certain that fans will anxiously await new installments from month to month.
Knowing all of this, this bit of Jenni’s creative journey… understanding her passion and drive, it’s easy to see how she came to research and author a book like Quilting with Liberty (Lucky Spool). A love letter to Liberty Fabrics, exploring 145 of textile history, it might actually be the most stunning quilting book we’ve ever seen. She heralds the history, highlights the iconic prints, and gives us all an opportunity to see Liberty through her adoring eyes.
Her second curated collection with Aurifil features ten darling spools of Aurifil 50wt, selected to highlight the fabrics and projects found within Quilting with Liberty. We’re honored to be a part and simply cannot wait to see how makers interpret Jenni’s stunning designs.
You’ve been a lover of Liberty for ages. What inspired the creation of your book, Quilting with Liberty Fabrics? Do you recall when you first discovered and fell in love with Liberty?
I have collected Liberty fabrics since I was 8 years old and used to visit the mill shop where they printed some fabrics with my nan. It has been a passion ever since but particularly after the birth of my daughter in 2007 when I started sewing her sweet outfits in Tana Lawn and making small toys and pictures too. Interestingly it was when I was working with Aurifil at my first quilt market in St Louis in 2017 that I met some of the Liberty team as they promoted their new quilting cotton, so I have Aurifil to thank for that early connection which blossomed into me designing patterns.
The idea of the book came from my love of Art History and the fascinating heritage of Liberty – I decided I could tell the story of 145 years in fabric design by creating a quilt project for each decade, from 1875 to the present day. It was such fun to research and put a very unique spin on the book.
What has it been like to work with such an iconic brand?
It has been an absolute dream come true. Gaining access to the Liberty Archive of over 50,000 prints, working with the talented members of the Design Studio– as well as the publicity and marketing teams– has been an experience to treasure. We were also invited to shoot the quilts in Liberty and have access to the store out of hours which felt magical. It is one of my favourite places in the world and now has even more memories for me.
If you had to pick one Liberty print to call your own, which one would it be?
That’s too hard! Tresco is a stunning floral, but I also love collaborations they have done with artists like Grayson Perry and musician Edwyn Collins. They also just released one called Edie for Summer 21 which is my daughter’s name so that is a new addition to my pretty extensive stash!! There isn’t one named Jenni though yet – I live in hope.
What colors do you find yourself favoring within the typical Liberty range?
I keep my Liberty fabrics in colour themed containers and the blue one is very full but I do have a really broad spectrum of colour and many prints which have so many shades they are impossible to classify.
You selected Aurifil 50wt for this collection — do you find that it works equally as well with both quilting weight cottons and the range of specialty fabrics that Liberty offers?
50wt is the perfect match for Liberty Tana Lawn™ which is exceptionally high quality long-staple cotton (originally sourced near Lake Tana in East Africa) and I used it to piece all of the quilts in my book. It is equally great for the Lasenby cotton (named after the company’s founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty) which is a little heavier and more like a traditional quilting base cloth. It was used to quilt many of the projects too and obviously I was spoilt for choice with so many thread colours in your collection.
It’s surely like picking a favorite child, but if you had to select one quilt that is like your spirit quilt from the book, which one would it be?
The Argyll Quilt is designed to reflect the architecture of the Liberty Store in London – which was completed in 1924 and has an incredible backstory I talk about in the book. The structure relates to the mock-tudor timbers and leaded windows and the heart at the centre of the log cabin block alludes to the fact that Liberty is the spiritual home of fabric lovers worldwide. All the quilts have stories, which is why the book was such a pleasure to produce and it is wonderful that people are enjoying them as much as the patterns. To be honest I thought it was just me who would get excited about that element but it seems to be striking a chord with others too and that makes me really happy!
Can you give us some background on your thread color selections and why you felt they were essentials for use in partner with your book?
My goal was to produce a really useful collection and so I went through the notes of all the thread colours I had used in the projects and came up with a long list. I then trawled through my Liberty fabric stash and narrowed down my choices to the 10 spools which looked the most amazing with a vast array of prints. It was hard but I have been sewing with lots of Liberty since finishing the book and I am very happy with my collection and keep on using it in my studio all the time – it is slightly weird seeing my face on the box (I’m not sure I will ever get used to that), but they are pretty and useful and a pleasure to sew with.
How did you first come to work with Aurifil and what makes you love working with Cotton threads?
I first started quilting with Aurifil and was instantly converted because it made my machine so happy. Then… I was drawn to all the beautiful colours and the blog with so many great designers and projects. Then… I met some of the Aurifil team, and they were very lovely and genuine – so I went out to the factory in Milan and saw where all the magic happened. Then I made more projects and shared them, and over the years a nice friendship grew that enabled me to champion a thread I really love and believe in!
Looking for more inspiration?
— Check out Jenni’s featured tutorial on Liberty London by clicking HERE.
— Snag your very own signed copy of Quilting with Liberty Fabrics HERE.
— Find Jenni’s Aurifil thread set (along with her pattern, Love Letters Home) by clicking HERE.
Jenni has been sewing for the last 25 years. She grew up in a house where her mum and nan stitched upholstery for the caravans and trailer tents designed by her grandfather. She studied History of Art and Italian at University before working as an Associate Producer in documentaries. In 2006 she spent a year in Toronto where she learned how to quilt and her love of dressmaking grew with the birth of her daughter a few years later.
Jenni’s goal is to share her knowledge and enthusiasm, inspiring a new generation of people to embrace the handmade revolution.