We first met Debbie through her work with Moda Fabrics as a designer. Debbie loves fibre dyeing of all kinds but most specifically Shibori and Indigo dyeing. Debbie Maddy is an avid garment seamstress as well as quilter and she enjoys using a needle and thread of some sort to include embroidery, appliqué, needlepoint, pulled thread and drawn thread work.
She has been quilting over 35 years, pattern designing for 15 years and teaching/lecturing for 20 years and has been featured on national television as well as online classes and has studied under some of the most prestigious artists in the US, Japan and England. Debbie’s patterns are sold all over the world. Her Shibori fabric range by Moda Fabrics is exceptionally popular at Eclectic Maker and we love her quilt patterns.
Debbie kindly took time out of her busy life to take part in our interview.
Who/what inspired you to take up sewing and how old were you?
My mother sewed all of my clothes and made draperies and upholstered furniture so she was my inspiration. She did not do handwork of any kind but was a fabulous seamstress. I sewed doll clothes until I was nine and then started sewing my clothes. My grandmother was the one who taught me to do handwork. She always had a piece of embroidery in her hands.
Who can you remember doing your first sewing with?
My mother was my first sewing teacher. She taught me to sew garments because that is what she loved to make. She always told me the inside of a garment needed to look as good as the outside. I still try to make that happen.
What is the first thing you made?
I made a triangle scarf with a headband inserted through a casing. I do not have a picture. That was many years ago! It was a very simple project but I felt very proud when I wore it.
What is your favourite type of stitch?
I love the plain straight stitch for piecing quilts and the buttonhole stitch for machine applique. When it comes to embroidery stitches I love the bullion stitch. It was a challenging stitch for me in the beginning. I always love a challenge and you can do amazing things with the bullion stitch.
What type of sewing projects do you prefer?
I love making quilts but I also adore making unusual garments. Wearing a one of a kind hand-made jacket or dress is so much fun.
What is your inspiration for your designs?
My fabric designs are based on ancient Japanese fabrics shibori fabrics. I try to duplicate those and then take inspiration from them to make more contemporary design. I prefer designing patterns to showcase any fabric line and easy enough for beginners. I want the fabrics to be the star.
It is exciting to see the first picture become the middle picture after dyeing and become the bottom picture after opening the stitching.
What do you consider your best piece of work?
This piece of hand dyed fabric is one of my best dyed pieces.
What is your very favourite thing that you have made?
I made a miniature quilt for the Fort Worth quilt guild quilt show. The quilt had a 3 ½” churn-dash block for the centre medallion surrounded by sixteen 1 ½” churn-dash blocks for the border. It won the grand prize for miniature quilts and I received a new Phaff serger. It was an honour to get that ribbon.
What is your favourite tool or gadget?
My favourite tool is a three colour marking pencil with ceramic lead that marks on almost anything. I keep one by my sewing machine all the time.
Do you have a favourite colour to work in?
Now my favourite colour is indigo blue because that is what I work with all of the time when making my indigo dyed fabrics. I am also a fan of any bright happy fabrics.
What type of fabric would you choose to work with?
I work with cotton most of the time but I LOVE working with silk. I love silk in quilts and garments. I especially like silk quilts because the quilting is very dramatic on silk. It is also a fabric not often seen in quilts today.
Do you prefer hand work or machine work?
I really like both. I do more machine work because of my business but love the relaxation of hand stitching. I love hand appliqué and embroidery of all kinds.
What’s your dream sewing machine?
My dream machine would be a brand new Bernina 1230 just like the 30 year old one I sew on now. I have tons of feet for it and I know how it works. It is a fabulous machine and does everything I need it to do but sometimes I think it may be getting tired.
My advice to a newbie would be …………………..?
Take classes from every teacher you possibly can. You will learn at least one thing from each one and spend time with others who love what you love. Find your niche and perfect it. Above all enjoy what you are doing.
Drove you to tears? What is the piece of work that has driven you mad/been a disaster
I am still trying to perfect the Shibori technique to dye a design called willow. It has been very elusive but I will master it in the end. I keep getting closer each time I try but it is still not perfect in my eyes.
Here is a fun piece of Shibori whist I am opening it.
Do you make things for other people?
I do make things for other people. I often share quilts, scarves I have dyed and jewellery items I have made. I love giving gifts.
Who (famous person alive or historical) would you love to create something for ?
I would like to make a quilt with my hand dyed fabrics and my design for Maya Angelou. She was the type of lady who would love anything that someone made especially for her. Her quiet demeanour and delivery of her poetry was an inspiration for me to be quiet and listen.
What’s your best sewing background music?
I actually listen to audio books while I am sewing instead of music. I am drawn to murder and hard to solve mysteries. It keeps me going as I start to get tired. I will keep sewing to hear the next chapter.
Are you an early riser or a night bird – when is the best time for you to sew?
I am a night bird. I can get a second wind around 10 pm and keep on sewing. Since my husband retired and we do not have to get up at 6 am, we sleep in and enjoy staying up later.
What other hobbies or interests do you enjoy?
I love making jewellery from antique found pieces and from sterling silver sheet and wire. I have a treasure trove of old items from Paris flea markets. I just need more time to play. I am also enjoying knitting as a newbie.
One of my most exciting times was seeing my name on the selvage of my first fabric line.
Who in the sewing or crafting world do you most admire?
I have great admiration for kind and caring teachers who travel to share their knowledge with others around the world. I especially admire Catherine Ellis who is a very knowledgeable natural dyer. She studies her trade constantly to perfect what she does and shares freely with all of her students. She is my biggest inspiration!
More on Debbie Maddy – www.calicocarriage.com