We are so grateful to have met Sarah Ashford of Sarah Ashford Studio & Great British Quilter. She is an absolute delight and we truly jump at the chance to work with her for each new collection she presents.
Our first collaboration came back in 2018 with a perfectly curated and bright collection of 12 Large Spools, expertly promoted by 12 amazing UK-based designers. It was in partner with Great British Quilter and we had so much fun!
Our second collaboration came just one year later… another homage to the Great British Quilter, but this time in closer partnership with Sarah. Great British Quilter: Back to Basics features 20 Small Spools of Aurifil 12wt in rainbow hues designed to coordinate with Sarah’s fabric collection with Dashwood Studio. It was so much fun to see designers across the UK working with our 12wt thread!
When Sarah came to us with news of her book with C&T, Jump into Patchwork & Quilting, we knew it would be a wonderful next step. Sarah is so knowledgable and encouraging, we had absolutely no doubt that the book would be an instant hit. This time, Sarah chose a 5 Small Spool box with all of her go-to 50wt colors… essentially everything a maker might need to work through the projects in her book.
Jump into Quilting released in July, just in time for the return of Festival of Quilts in Birmingham UK. We’re delighted to share this little beauty with you all today, particularly when we’re able to do it in Sarah’s words.
For those readers who are just meeting you for the first time, can you tell us how you first got started in this creative, maker-centric industry?
I’ve been sewing in one form or another since I was 7 years old. Like many quilters, I got started in quilting specifically just before my daughter was born. That was over 12 years ago now. I set about learning everything I could about quilting, and I also loved creating my own designs. I started designing quilt patterns and small projects for magazines and now I have patterns available as PDF downloads on my website. With a background in teaching, I was able to transfer these skills and teach quilting classes, both locally and internationally. I’ve just returned to in-person teaching after leading online classes during the pandemic, which has been such a joyful experience! Instagram has also been instrumental to my business; for many years now I’ve built up what I like to think of as an online portfolio of my work. I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with many fabric companies, designers and of course Aurifil; this is my third designer collection with you – it really is a dream come true!
Do you have a favorite technique?
I think my favorite technique changes each day! I love precision and accuracy of Foundation Paper Piecing, but conversely I love the freedom of improv piecing. Putting a modern spin on a traditional quilt block is also something I love to do. Traditional blocks can look so different depending on the fabric you use. I enjoy the endless possibilities of walking foot quilting, which is a class that I teach a lot, but I also like to slow down and hand quilt. I love the rhythm and meditative nature of hand sewing. I thoroughly enjoy English Paper Piecing too, and if I’m not quilting I really enjoy embroidery.
What drives you to continue creating and innovating?
I have what must be lifetime of ideas and projects that I want to pursue, and there is so much variety in what I do, I will never be bored! I also love to learn, and in quilting there is always something new to learn! I’ve just returned from the Festival of Quilts (in Birmingham, UK) and it’s the first time quilters have been together in person since the pandemic. I’ve come back bursting with ideas and inspiration, and wanting to innovate and try new things. I have this unwavering passion for quilting, I think because it brings me, and others such joy. I feel like it’s my life’s work to learn as much as I can and share my knowledge with others too.
We were so thrilled to hear about your new book, Jump into Patchwork & Quilting! Can you tell us more about what to expect and what inspired you to pull it all together?
Thank you so much! It was such an honor to be asked by C and T Publishing to write a quilting book aimed at complete beginners. We knew that lots of people had rushed out to purchase sewing machines to make masks during the pandemic, and it was a wonderful opportunity to write a book to help people build on those skills and learn to make other things such as small projects and quilts. I made it my mission to impart everything I knew about quilting and to make it as easy as possible for those new to quilting to get started. There are 6 projects in the book, and with each project you learn a new skill, culminating in the ‘Cherished’ Sampler quilt at the end.
Do you have a favorite project from the book?
I love them all, but the sampler quilt is my favourite! I knew that this quilt was going to be on the cover, and so I spent a lot of time finding a fabric collection that I truly loved. I chose a collection called True Kisses by Heather Bailey, and I paired with the pink fabric from my own Back to Basics collection that came out in 2020. I took a long time deciding on which blocks to include. I wanted them to be beautiful but not too complex; they all use skills and techniques that you learn throughout the book. I also love hearts and often feature them in my work, so I knew that I wanted to include a heart in the centre. I was so thrilled when it call came together and I am so excited to see other quilters make their own verisons.
When did you first discover Aurifil Thread and why is it your go-to?
I think I first discovered Aurifil thread way back in 2014. I had the pleasure of meeting Alex Veronelli at a quilting retreat in London and he was showcasing the delectable colours and different thread weights that Aurifil had to offer. I think it’s fair to say I was converted on the spot! I love that my machine loves Aurifil. It is so smooth and just glides effortlessly through my machine, and it leaves less lint than other threads which is great. I love the larger spools as they last for absolutely ages, which is what you need when you’re piecing or quilting a big quilt. I love the range of thread weights too. I often use the 80 weight for EPP or closing the gap in a pouch or bag, as the stitches really do just melt into the fabric. I’ve recently been playing with the 28 weight for quilting, and it gives such an impact. I used it on a wall hanging that I made for Oakshott Fabrics and I think it’s fair to say it looks fabulous! The 12 weight is my go-to for hand quilting and embroidery. I’m proud to have curated the Aurifil Back to Basics Collection containing twenty 12 weight spools back in 2019. I also love the Aurifil brand and their values. I know how hard they are working to be sustainable and eco friendly and that is something that is really important to me as well.
Your latest Aurifil collection is a set of 5 Small Spools designed to partner perfectly with your book. Why did you include the colors that you did?
I wanted to curate a small box that would be a great ‘starter set’ for the beginner quilter, and the perfect accompaniment to the book. I’ve included 3 neutral threads which are ideal for almost all piecing and quilting – you can never have too many neutral threads in my opinion! The pink and a turquoise are not only my favorite colors, they are great for topstitching and adding a pop of color to your work as well.
What excites you most about seeing these two new releases out in the world?
Nothing excites me more than sharing my love of patchwork and quilting with beginners. I love that now I’ve written this book, I can share my passion far and wide. I’ve written it as a step by step guide, so it’s as if I’m with you when you’re sewing! Having the thread set to go with it is the perfect accompaniment. I want beginner quilters to experience stitching with Aurifil because I believe it is the best, and will give them the best results in their work too.
Drop some knowledge on us… what is your absolute top thread tip?
My top thread tip would be to make sure you have lots of 50 weight neutral thread in your stash. My go-to thread is Dove 2600 and it is perfect for piecing almost all colour fabrics and for quilting too. I used it for piecing and quilting the Cherished Sampler quilt which is on the front cover of the book and thread collection, and it blends perfectly with all those colours.
What are your plans for 2021 and where can we find you for more inspiration?
You will never believe it, I’ve actually written a second book too! It’s called Rotary Cutting Basics, and it covers everything the beginner quilter needs to know about rotary cutting, rulers, mats, egonomics, health and safety and some clever tricks for cutting templates and ‘fancy’ cutting, such as stacks and curves. It’s due out in November and I’m just finishing up the final edits.
I also plan on more in-person teaching now that the restrictions are lifting. I’ve just got back from teaching for a day and half at the Festival of Quilts and it was the most joyful experience to be teaching face to face again! I have plans to travel more, both here in the UK and internationally (if restrictions allow) which will be just wonderful.
You can find out more about my work on my website www.sarahashfordstudio.com and I’m on Instagram @sarahashfordstudio .
Cats or Dogs: Dogs – we have just got our first puppy, called Leo, the Maltipoo.
Shoes or Barefoot: Shoes, without a doubt. I HATE being barefoot!
Country or City: Tough one. A bit of both.
Camping or Glamping: Definitely glamping, but I much rather a little cottage.
To the Mountains or to the Sea: The sea. Especially if it’s warm.
Favorite Notion: A hera marker. It’s great for marking quilting lines, especially on small projects.
Current binge-worthy show: Trying – A British Comedy on Apple TV. It’s hilarious and poignant in equal measure.
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. Sarah has written 2 books; Jump into Patchwork and Quilting and Rotary Cutting Basics for C&T Publishing, both aimed at getting new quilters started on their creative journey. Sarah has also contributed to other quilting books including Healthy Quilting by Rose Parr and 100 Foundation Paper Pieced Blocks. Sarah writes modern quilting and sewing patterns which are available as PDF downloads on her website, and she loves teaching quilting both locally and internationally. Sarah is a regular writer for Today’s Quilter Magazine and is the founder and host of the Great British Quilter, shining a light on British quilting. Find out more about Sarah at www.sarahashfordstudio.com and the Great British Quilter at www.greatbritishquilter.com.
To learn more about Sarah, please visit her About page.