Quilt Market: Thomas Knauer

Toddler dress made by Rachael of Imagine Gnats

Thomas Knauer, a fabric designer for Andover Fabrics had not one but two fabric lines on display during Quilt Market! Someone’s busy!

‘Frippery’ and ‘Asbury’ (in the second graphic) are both full of amazing colors and graphics. I just love the amusement park prints depicted in the ‘Asbury’ collections, they are so nostalgic and it’s amazing how well they all work together…even the supporting prints are quite quite amazing!

Thomas Knauer’s ‘Frippery’ fabric collection

Thomas Knauer is one of the nicest fabric designers you could ever come across…here he is all decked out in his Asbury fabrics! Rock it Thomas!!

This is a star quilt that Thomas (head chopped off) and my friend Kim are holding up. Kim made this quilt for Thomas with his ‘Frippery’ fabrics. I didn’t get a close enough photo of the quilting, but it’s quite amazing…this quilt was long-armed by Lisa Sipes who is a pure quilting genius. This quilt was a gift for someone very very special. Don’t you love it?

Here she is giving it one more squeeze (yeah, there’s the quilting I was talking about):

I did a little interview with Thomas, and here were his answers to my questions:

  1. You have 2 new fabric collections coming out before the end of the year, ‘Frippery’ and ‘Asbury’. You seem to be such a productive designer, what is your designing schedule like with 2 lines coming out within a few months of each other?
To be honest the schedule is simply insanity; I’ve been doing a collection every three to four months since Pear Tree first hit the shelves. But that is kind of how I’ve always worked; through my entire career as an artist (stretching back to the 90s) I’ve barely been able to keep up with the ideas. I used to try to keep track of them all, but now I just let ideas sit and if they keep nagging me for weeks on end that is when I actually start working on them. I generally work on an collection for about three months before I even make the first sketch: I write, I research, and think, rethink, and think some more. When I finally sit down to design it pretty much falls into place.
As far as my schedule around launch time I just hold on for dear life. I am starting to ask for more and more help because I seem to have project piling up left and right. I make as much as I humanly can and ask some of the wonderful people I’ve met if they want to play along. With collections coming out this close together there simply is no down time, but since I still feel like I am figuring out what I am doing here in the fabric world I really appreciate the opportunities to figure new things out with each collection.
  1. ‘Asbury’ are such nostalgic designs, and I think all of the prints are really strong. These are the perfect fabrics for a quilt, as I feel like, in my mind, each print cannot exist without the others (although the text or ice cream cones would make an awesome dress!). What was your design process like for this line? Which prints came to you first?
Thank you. I always try to design coherent collections, ones that just cry out to be with each other even as they can certainly work on their own. The first print to be designed was the soft-serve cones; Bee had these bubbles and the containers looked just like soft-serve cones and that set off a whole set of memories: I spent my summers as a small kid in the town next to Asbury Park, NJ. The collection is really about a nostalgia for something that never existed; in my time Asbury Park was already far past its prime. It is a fantasy collection, but I hope that the rich autumnal colors suggest the reality beneath the fantasy. I don’t think of it as a dark collection, just one that is grounded: rich earthy tones rather than those more associated with fanciful collections so that I hope it speaks to adults and children alike.

Two bags made with ‘Frippery’ and ‘Asbury’ fabrics

  1. I know that you also make quilts. Do you feel that it’s important to you as a fabric designer to also create your own sewn items?
I don’t think it is important for all designers to sew, but it really has been a pivotal part of my learning curve. I feel like I started out designing prints for paper and trying to translate them to fabric. Now that I have started to really get my bearings as a quilter I believe my fabric designs feel more integrated, more essential to the fabric. They have become part of the cloth rather than merely sitting on top of it. A lot of the time now I am designing quilts for a collection even as I am designing the collection; I think that helps me see the holes in the collection, how it might be used and what opportunities I am missing. Of course that gives me a skewed idea of the collection because most quilters don’t make quilts like mine, but there is a whole big part of me that really does just design for me and hope the rest works out.
  1. What ideas are interesting to you right now for future fabric lines?
I’m really keen on type right now. I’m also really interested in small-scale prints and seeing what I can do if I make ultra-modern designs but use them in more “traditional” quilts. There are so many great large-scale modern prints out there, but they can be tough to chop up into one-inch squares. I recently did a quilt with over 1,000 one-inch squares out of repro fabric and that got me really interested in trying to figure out some good modern analogues to that.
  1. What is your favorite thing about being a fabric designer?
There are a lot of really fantastic things: seeing someone in a shop actually buy my fabric is still a total thrill. It has also opened up a lot of other opportunities for me, which is amazing. Working with Andover has been incredible simply because they give me so much design freedom. Not that it is a bed of roses, but when I get to make a quilt for Bee out of fabric I have designed and she looks up at me and says, “Papa, that is gorgeous!” it all just makes sense. That is probably my favorite part right now, the fact that is really seems to make sense for me to be doing this right now; it fits the entire family’s life and that really is an incredible thing to have.

‘Asbury’ has a lot of great prints, but my favorite one from this line was the text print that you can see on the outer border of this quilt. Text prints have so many possibilities, but this one has different fonts and colors…double-score!
Frippery is available now, and Asbury is due out soon!

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