HollyAnne Knight (String & Story) is a quilty force to be reckoned with! Her endless curiosity, enthusiasm, and passion for the craft has set her apart from the crowd and it’s been so incredible to witness her creative journey. From a simple t-shirt quilt to her Free Motion Quilting Academy to collaborations with companies like Aurifil and Paintbrush Studio Fabrics… HollyAnne is on fire;). We’ve been lucky to work with her as an Aurifil Artisan and an Aurifilosopher and couldn’t be more thrilled to get to introduce her now as an Aurifil Designer.
Her debut collection, Quilting Rockstar!, is a collection of 6 Large Spools of her beloved Aurifil 50wt, all in her go-to FMQ colors. She has big plans for these spools this year and you’ll see these colors popping up again and again in her social feed. HollyAnne is full of tips and is a remarkable educator, so you’ll absolutely want to get your own set and follow along with her to soak up all the free motion love!
In addition to this collection, HollyAnne has been stitching up our Endangered Species blocks (designed by fellow Aurifilosopher Cassandra Beaver), creating targeted videos for our Color Builder Subscribers, and has even been hosting the subscription via her own online shop, including fabric kits! There is always time to get involved, so make sure to head HERE for more information!
6 Large Spools 50wt, 1422yds each
Colors: 2783, 2132, 1154, 2847, 2021, 2600
HollyAnne! We’re so excited to be launching this collection with you. After years of collaboration as an Artisan and then an Aurifilosopher, this feels like perfection! To get everything started, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came into this wonderful business of making?
Oh my heavens, I’m SO excited about the Quilting Rockstar! Collection and continuing to work together! What a journey it has been!
I’ve been creative for as long as I can remember– drawing, painting, ballet, knitting etc. I had my first experience sewing when I was 8 with a neighbor who helped me sew American Girl doll clothes, but it wasn’t until my early twenties that I circled back and discovered quilting. Similarly, I’ve played around with selling my art for nearly as long. I remember setting up my Little Tykes table in the driveway when I was 6 or 7 and accosting neighbors to buy bookmarks and bookplates and cards I had drawn.
When Hubster and I first got married (I was still finishing college– we were so young), money was beyond tight. I wanted to keep painting and knitting but, as we all know, being creative can be pretty expensive. We budgeted $300 as “seed money” for me to start a little Etsy shop selling stationary and knit goods, and the deal was that the shop needed to make enough money to pay for my art and craft supplies from that point forward. That turned out to be pretty awesome motivation, and I started using my free time while Hubster was at work to research entrepreneurship and to learn about business and marketing.
A couple years later, we’d had our first son Jem, and I was trying out the stay at home mom gig. He was a great sleeper, and I found myself with a lot more time during the day than I expected. My parents have always been huge supporters of my creativity, and my mom mentioned that she was curious about having a tshirt quilt made. I hadn’t sewn a stitch in 15 years, but I borrowed a machine from a friend, consulted Google, and she, most amazingly, trusted me with a big bag of irreplaceable shirts. A few weeks and one notable rotary cutter injury later, I’d sewn my first rag quilt, discovered the world of modern quilting on Instagram, and was totally hooked.
2015-2017 were a couple years of experimentation. Learning about tshirt quilts led to learning about the greater quilting world which led to discovering Free Motion Quilting which led to discovering I could teach FMQ (teaching is another one of those things that has always been present in my life). Since then, String & Story has evolved from selling finished quilts into a quilting education company, and, honestly, we’re just getting started!
Who or what has been your greatest creative inspiration?
The Quilting Rockstars, hands down. I’m in constant awe of the quilters in the String & Story community. They bring such a wealth of skills, diversity of life experiences, and generous spirit to the table, and I’m really honored to be part of their journeys.
What is your absolute favorite thing to make?
New tutorials, classes, and resources for my students. I love quilting, especially Free Motion Quilting, a whole lot. But it’s the teaching that is my bigger calling and joy.
When did you first launch your FMQ Academy? If you had to guess, how many students have passed through your program?
The very first, super scrappy version of FMQA launched in Spring 2018. Five amazingly brave Rockstars jumped in with me. Not only did they progress by leaps and bounds in their quilting journeys, they also gave me amazing feedback and insight about how to keep developing and growing the course. Since then, almost 1400 students have enrolled in the course, and this May will be the seventh cohort of Free Motion Quilting Academy. Now we have a fancy members portal, the videos have been professionally filmed, and my sewing room has evolved quite a bit, but the secret sauce is the same: passionate step by step teaching, and lots of Rockstars supporting each other through the ups and downs of learning a new skill.
How is your role as educator different from your role as maker and what challenges does the intersection of the two present within your business?
The reality is that I spend a whole lot more time thinking about quilting than actually doing it. Because I also really love teaching and business, I’m okay with that for the most part. I’ve learned to see developing String & Story as an act of creativity, too. That being said, I’ll always be a little nostalgic for the couple of years that my job consisted of 40-60 hours of quilting each week instead of 40-60 hours on my computer.
What is one thing you’ve learned along the way that you’d love to share with other makers/educators?
Be really proud of your business. Too often I hear negative talk about business, money, goals, etc. There is so much dignity and possibility in owning a business. I spend every waking moment obsessing about how to make String & Story more encouraging, educational, and fun for the Quilting Rockstars and how to use the revenue this business creates to make a difference in the world by creating jobs and patronizing other small businesses.
That being said, if being a business owner doesn’t bring you as much joy as the quilting does, let your hobby be your hobby. All the marketing, admin, etc isn’t for everyone.
What do you love the most about teaching Free Motion Quilting to other makers?
I love watching fellow quilters be astonished at themselves. Some students come into FMQA with a little bit of knowledge and know they just need some guidance and practice. But those hard won victories– students who have inner critics so mean that every day is a battle to push past the doubt and uncertainty to learn the next skill– and then one day voila! it clicks! I scream, laugh, cheer, and dance for my students because learning how to FMQ your own quilts is AWESOME! But learning how to stand up to that mean, critical, doubting voice in your head– whew! That’s priceless!
When did you first start using Aurifil thread and what do you love about it?
I learned about Aurifil from a podcast right when I started quilting, and I remember saving my pennies to buy a small spool collection. I love the vibrant colors, that soft sheen on the fibers, and the way it just glides through my machine. What really got me though, was the company itself. I did a lot of charity quilting when I first got started, and Aurifil was one of the first and most generous companies when it came to sending supplies. Add on top of that Aurifil’s strides forward in reducing environmental impact and honoring the true diversity of the quilting world– well, I’m hooked for good. Aurifil makes amazing thread, but y’all are an amazing company, too, and it’s always a joy to work together.
What are your top tips for working with Aurifil 50wt?
Use it for everything– piecing, quilting, longarming. This thread is strong and gorgeous and perfect for adding lots of stitching to your project without getting a lot of bulk. Beyond that, understand how tension works. Because Aurifil 50wt is so fine, it’s a very forgiving thread to use to begin really understanding tension. I have quite a tutorial here: https://www.stringandstory.com/blog/tensionhowto
Your debut thread collection features 6 Large Spools of Aurifil’s 50 thread in 6 stunning hues. How do you use your thread within your quilts?
I’m excited that we were able to curate a collection that, in just 6 spools, is really ideal for piecing and quilting, light gray (2600) is my go-to piecing thread, but all three of the light shades in this collection are perfect for piecing. And all six are gorgeous colors for FMQ! What I love most about this collection is how it mixes and matches for a variety of project palettes. Personally, I’m especially psyched to quilt my Star Bright QAL quilts and Quilting Rockstar! Panels!
What inspired you to create this new collection?
If you’d told 2017 HollyAnne that I would be creating a collection with Aurifil now, I would have been in awe. String & Story was just such a little baby thing. I was paddling upstream, creating independent online education way before COVID made it cool, and I had nothing but my hustle to build a business with. And then came the Quilting Rockstars– one by one at first and then hundreds and then thousands– until we became a global community, and String & Story started to be a thing. WOW. I’ve worked my tail off as an entrepreneur, yes, but it’s the Quilting Rockstars’ support that has made my dreams come true. Rockstars, this collection is for you. Thank you for believing in this dream and this company!
What excites you the most about seeing it out in the world and how are you hoping quilters might use it?
I got my first email this week that a Rockstar had bought the collection and used it as part of her Free Motion Quilting Academy final project. Her dream come true (learning FMQ) and my dream come true (building this biz up to be teaching so many students and creating cool things like thread collections) in the same project– what a collaboration!
What are you up to this year? What can we look forward to seeing throughout 2021?
In true HollyAnne/ String & Story fashion, the rest of 2021 is going to be a RIDE!
This month, the Quilting Rockstar! Thread collection has released. Next month, I’m running a free Quilting Plan Challenge heading straight into the next cohort of Free Motion Quilting Academy. This summer, the Quilting Rockstar! Panel collection (yes, it coordinates with the thread!) with Paintbrush Studio Fabrics releases. All year long I’m creating educational resources for the Aurifil Color Builders Program. And all the stuff I have for Fall is still brewing! Squee!
You can order the Quilting Rockstar! Thread Collection (and panels soon!) directly from me here: www.stringandstory.com/shop
My blog offers hundreds of how-to resources and informational articles for quilters: www.stringandstory.com/blog
Aspiring FMQ Rockstars can get on the waiting list for the May 2021 cohort here: www.stringandstory.com/fmqacademy
Cats or Dogs: Both
Shoes or Barefoot: Barefoot
Country or City: City
Camping or Glamping: Glamping
To the Mountains or to the Sea: Both at regular intervals
Favorite Fabric: Ahhhhh….. Currently PBS solids.
Favorite Quilting Accessory: A fresh needle! We seriously underestimate those basics sometimes
Current binge-worthy show: How to Get Away with Murder and Blacklist
*Image by Klara Cu unless otherwise noted.