FreeSpirit Fabrics 2013
Shelburne Falls is a beautiful little town in Massachusetts, my home state, but as usual when designing fabric collections, the name comes last! First, I curate a selection of vintage source fabrics that will be used as the foundation of my designs. I recreate the designs in Illustrator, sometimes making changes, sometimes not. Drawing is the most labor-intensive part of the process, and I'm picky about the quality of line and form.
As the drawings come together, I begin to think about the palette, and the prints themselves do most of the talking in that regard. If I can get out of the way, they are quite clear about how they would prefer to be colored to best embody the over-arching color-feeling I want to create!
Last comes the copy (and name) that helps to tell the story of a collection. Most of my collections come from a place of nostalgia, calling on both real and fictitious "rememberings" of earlier times and places, filtered through a "Frank Capra-esque" lens. With Shelburne Falls, I wanted to share my love of old-time music and dancing. I have danced in some form or other nearly my entire life (from ballet and tap as a kid to modern dance in college and beyond), but social dancing is by far my favorite. There is something so beautiful about moving to music with a room full of people. As a pre-teen I asked for ballroom dancing lessons of all things. I went to Mrs. Walker’s Ballroom Dance classes in a neighboring city and was a painfully shy, very awkward outsider in a clicky group. Despite how socially painful an experience that was, I still love the beauty, form, and the feeling of social dance.
Years later when I discovered old-time string band music (even learning to play fiddle!) the dance forms that went hand-in-hand caught my heart. So democratic as no special skills were needed, and you didn't even have to know the steps, since a "caller" guides the group along in either squares or contras. These forms of dance are still practiced today without an emphasis on having a single partner so you get to experience the variation of styles each person brings to the floor, and don't need to have "a partner" to participate. In learning more about the dance form and music, I discovered the trove of recordings, films, and photographs the government made to document folk traditions in the 1920's and '30's, and lo and behold – there were quilts! And dresses made of feedsack fabrics.
"The swirling skirts, foot tapping rhythms, and joyful movement of New England contra dancing inspire Shelburne Falls. At once nostalgic and thoroughly new, Shelburne Falls embodies the old-fashioned courtliness and small town charm of American Folk dance." I designed Square Dance, a quilt pattern that makes use of 10-inch charms, to celebrate this collection and the dance.
I love this "Floating Chains" quilt made by Cathy Kirk of Quilting Cowgirl that beautifully showcases Shelburne Falls. "Chain" is a move in contra and square dancing, taking hands and crossing over the set or square – like a "ladies chain" or "gents chain". Usually done twice (so you get back to your partner), it creates a beautiful pattern of movement.