Interview with Fabric Designer Kate Spain!

16 Nov 2010

I was lucky enough to catch up with fabric designer Kate Spain to ask her a few questions about her fabric lines.  She currently has three (soon to be four!) lines out and it is fascinating to see where all her inspiration comes from. Notice that the pictures Kate gave us show exactly what her inspiration was for her new line Central Park... anyone recognize these spots? Read on to find out more about Kate’s work!

Oh, and in order to help spread the inspiration around, one lucky reader will be winning a fabric roll of Kate’s collection Fandango! Leave a comment at the end of this post for your chance to win! The randomly selected winner will be announced on Tuesday November 23rd.

How did you get interested in designing fabrics?

Well, unlike some fabric designers, I’m fairly new to sewing and quilting. When I was growing up, my Mom had a sewing machine that she let me and my sister use so I learned how to thread it and would often make simple pillows, curtains and other stuff to decorate my room. It wasn’t until much, much later that the idea of designing fabric even landed on my radar! I graduated from Rhode Island School of Design where I majored in Graphic Design. After college, I worked in children’s book publishing and then in product development for licensed character children’s accessories. I worked mostly on designing Hello Kitty products and loved when I had the chance to create coordinating patterns to supplement the style guides we had to follow. In fact, I loved it so much that all I wanted to do was make patterns! So in 2007, I worked really hard and put together a portfolio of original art and designs and exhibited at Surtex in New York City. It was there that I met the art directors from several fabric companies (though not from Moda) who were interested in licensing a few of my designs. I didn’t know who-was-who in the fabric world at that time, and when I mentioned the possibility of designing fabric to one of my quilting-addicted relatives, she said, “You should try to work with Moda.” So I took a shot-in-the-dark and had the agent I was working with at the time send a pile of patterns to Cheryl Freydberg, the design director at Moda Fabrics. Several months later, I got the great news and we began working together! I feel so incredibly grateful to be working with such an amazing company and also fortunate to be able to wake up each day with the chance to do something I love.

What are some of your inspirations when designing fabric? 

My first fabric collection, Verna, was inspired by many of the spring flowers in my garden. Fandango was inspired by my love for ceramics and the beauty of Spanish tile work. I also love color and the way colors interact so sometimes I'm inspired to create designs around a certain palette. Other times, I may have a theme in-mind and my designs relate back to the theme. But either way, what’s most important is to have a connection that I’m excited to explore. So I guess you could say that for me, inspiration comes from so many different sources and is sometimes quite unexpected — as it was with my soon-to-be-released new line, Central Park.

What is your favorite part of the design process?

 I love every part of it from the moment when my pencil hits the paper, to the moment that I hold the finished fabric in my hands!  Most often, when I set off to begin a new fabric line, the direction I thought I was headed in can often change significantly once a design or pattern starts to take shape. This is when it gets exciting, though, because it’s when creative discoveries are made. Letting go of expectations enough to explore possibilities, then being able to recognize when something is working and building on it, is the essence of the creative process and the part that I really love.

What is your newest fabric line? How did you come up with this particular line of fabrics?

 My newest fabric line is called Central Park and will be shipping in January 2011. As I mentioned, this collection came to me unexpectedly. A little background first…I was born in New York City, grew up in a suburb close-by and then later lived and worked in NYC. Central Park was a place to find some quiet and get away from the fast-pace of city life (it's also a much more scenic and enjoyable route to cut across town!). Needless to say, I've probably walked through the Park hundreds of times. But in January of last year, I was waiting to meet my aunt and uncle to go to a show at a museum together. I had some time to kill and was right at Columbus Circle, where the main entrance to Central Park is located. So I decided to head into the Park for a brisk walk to pass the time. It was freezing cold, but the light was beautiful and for some reason, I started to notice things I hadn’t seen. The carved stone reliefs, ironwork on bridges, decorative pillars, and cobblestone paths all caught my eye and I couldn't help but see the beginnings of patterns...everywhere! I was so excited and inspired that once I settled on the color palette, this line just flowed. I did an "Inspiration Tour" on my blog where you can see the photos I took and how I translated them into patterns. The prints are named after different areas or landmarks of the Park: North Meadow, Trefoil (arch), Carousel, and the Central Park Zoo. I can remember exactly where I was when I spotted the motifs that inspired many of the patterns — and how amazed I was that I had passed by them so many times and never even noticed them. For me, this line will always connect me to those moments of discovery and awe.

What advice would you give to artists who are interested in designing fabric?

 I think the most important thing is to be true to your own style and not to present what you think fabric companies are looking for, but rather try to show what you have to offer with the uniqueness of your own hand. Your passion and potential will come through if your work is genuinely you. And that’s pretty irresistible.

Where can people find your fabrics and products?

 There are many online fabric shops that carry my fabrics including Fat Quarter Shop, Hancock’s of Paducah, QuiltHome, Pink Chalk Studio, Lola Pink Fabrics. You can also use the Moda store locator to find a local quilt shop in your area. Not every shop will carry my lines, so if you’re interested in something specific, it might be best to call ahead. In addition to Moda, I work with 10 companies who license my designs for use on everything from ceramic and paper tableware, stationery, and kitchen textiles to gift wrap, puzzle books and recipe binders. Products featuring my designs can be found at Crate and Barrel, Target®, Bed Bath and Beyond, Barnes and Noble, and Michaels craft stores. I usually announce new product releases on my blog, so that’s always a good place for people to connect and keep in touch.


Thanks so much Kate!

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on 16 Nov 2010 9:30 AM

I love hearing about artists inspiration for their work.  Thanks for sharing!

renazancmom wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 9:35 AM

I love how Kate created beautiful fabric designs from architectural elements.  I am looking forward to seeing these fabrics in my local quilt shops in 2011!  They have such a fresh and bright color palette.

mlm5 wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 9:43 AM

I am in need of some inspiration to get me back quilting after being swamped with work. Some new, lovely fabric would do the trick!

I love reading about how people turn their interests into a profession. I enjoyed this post!

bahomegirl wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 9:52 AM

I love learning how artists find their inspiration. It is a reminder to all of us to take a good look around!

Endorph wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 9:53 AM

Its nice to see the actual inspiration for a fabric. IT makes it that much more special.

canary523 wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 9:54 AM

Thanks for the great interview, I love to quilt and my husband is a graphic designer and I have often thought we need to put our heads together and start designing.. this was a very inspiring story.  

Textileworks wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 10:10 AM

These designs are just fantastic!  I take my camera wherever I go just to snap pics of details like these.  Thanks so much for your wonderful interpretations.

rebeccamerry wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 10:26 AM

I absolutely LOVE those lines!!  She's one of my faves.  Thanks for the chance to get my hands on some!

cindyl57 wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 10:46 AM

Love these fabrics! Thank you for the interview.

db1121 wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 10:59 AM

Thanks for the great interview. It's nice to be reminded to take a minute and look at our day to day surroundings in a new way for inspiration.

ssllmom wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 11:02 AM

I love this line of fabrics!  Fun to read how Kate comes up with the ideas.  I need to open my eyes a little more when I am stuck waiting for someone - something great might come of it!

ldhendryx wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 11:23 AM

Okay, how to win this fabric?

on 16 Nov 2010 11:40 AM

Beautiful.  I loves seeing the inspiration and actual fabric pairs together!

dancindeb wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 11:44 AM

Central Park, a favorite spot and now perhaps a favorite fabric line as well!

CLBL wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 12:30 PM

It's always interesting to hear where artists get their inspiration!

moonwild wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 1:49 PM

Great article.... love her inspirations! I spent some time looking at lichen covered rocks today for color inspirations!

Laurie Dorrell

on 16 Nov 2010 2:08 PM

I love those oranges!  Very beautiful designs.  Thanks for sharing with all of us where some of the designs came from.  I was looking at how nice the stacked fabrics look and noticed little eyes looking back.  The third piece of pink fabric has blue eyes!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us.

DinahT wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 3:03 PM

I love seeing how different artist get there inspirations.

jacadams wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 3:19 PM

It's wonderful to read about what inspires the creativity. I know that I find it in the strangest of places and often it's just the way you happen to look at something, not that it's new to you!

on 16 Nov 2010 4:34 PM

I picked up a fat quarter bundle of Central Park at the Houston Quilt Market a few weeks back and it is just gorgeous!  Thanks for the interview with Kate Spain, it is great finding out the inspiration behind the line.  This blog post is very timely as Kate just purchased one of my handmade kitty cat softies created with her beautiful holiday fabric collection, 12 Days of Christmas.  

Griffer wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 8:30 PM

I just returned from Art Quilt Tahoe and was inspired to start taking photos for inspiration so it is just great to see how others artists use photography to inspire them and get ideas.  Thanks for the the insight.

lbgrafix wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 11:27 PM

Thank you so much for posting the interview with Kate! She seems very down to earth and had some great advice for potential designers. I, too, have a degree in graphic design and absolutely love to quilt. I would be so excited someday to combine my design skills with my love of quilting for an amazing dream job like Kate's!!! So inspiring.

lbgrafix wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 11:31 PM

Thank you so much for sharing the interview with Kate! She seems very down to earth and had great advice for aspiring designers. I, too, have a degree in graphic design and absolutely love to quilt. It would be a dream job, for sure, to be able to combine my design skills and my love of quilting. Very inspiring, Kate! Thanks again.

lbgrafix wrote
on 16 Nov 2010 11:38 PM

Sorry about the extra post!

quilthexle wrote
on 17 Nov 2010 2:24 AM

Those fabrics are sooo beautiful - and I love the background story about Kate's inspiration. Thanks for offering a giveaway !!

MiksMom wrote
on 17 Nov 2010 2:06 PM

Great interview - I love the fabric and now can appreciate it even more seeing where some of the inspiration came from.  I see another quilt in my future!!

marzstars wrote
on 17 Nov 2010 5:28 PM

What fun to win fabric!   I love, love, love Fandango.   Thank you for the opportunity.

on 19 Nov 2010 2:17 PM

LOVE the fabric.  Drooling!  ; )  I really like!!!!!  Feeling ultimately lucky today.

on 20 Nov 2010 6:09 AM

I would live to try these lovely modern fabrics!


EGarstin wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 6:10 AM

I love the designs and the inspirations, especially the old architechural designs. While I no longer do much sewing, I still seem to collect stash I love, mostly to give to my much younger quilters. I can see lots of Christmas and birthday gifts coming up. Thank you for the sneak peek.

hrbaker50 wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 6:14 AM

I loved seeing how the inspiration translated into fabric.  


chaines wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 6:25 AM

I want to design a purse out of the pink & blue ironworked fabric. Lovely for Spring, so bohemian.

lh5 wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 6:26 AM

Colors and graphic designs for inspirations to create...what a terrific fabric line to hear about!

dw1of4 wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 6:37 AM

I love the way you take architectural details and work them into your patterns.

Diana Walgreen

on 20 Nov 2010 6:54 AM

I can't wait until Central Park comes out! I loved reading about how your inspiration flows into fabric design.

on 20 Nov 2010 6:58 AM

Wow! Forty-five years ago, I thought I would be a fabric designer.  Life took me in different and wonderful ways and that dream never happened for me. I see these photographs next to the fabric they inspired and fantasize that this could have been me!  Lovely things!

solexa wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 7:03 AM

Interesting to see how black & white photos influence Ms Span's designs. Where does the color influence come from?

on 20 Nov 2010 7:08 AM

These colors & designs are so fresh and linger in my memory as a nostalgic yearning for elegance & grace.

on 20 Nov 2010 7:20 AM

Great Article.  Beautiful fabrics.

lorihqults wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 7:41 AM

Wonderful story!  Love see inspiration for any art, designing fabric is definitely an art!  It's lovely and I love Central Park!

beachnc wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 7:58 AM

Great article!  I love her fabrics.

cking31455 wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 8:09 AM

I love the new fabric designs and colors - so different and vibrant.  I really would love to start experimenting with vibrant color combinations however, soooo afraid! :)  With fabric lines like these, it will allow me to take the leap! Thanks!

on 20 Nov 2010 8:42 AM

Gorgeous fabric line. Could make lots of fun things with these fabrics!

RondaG wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 8:44 AM

What beautiful designs and colors!  The inspiration pictures for the fabric help me see that I need to be more observant of the things around me!

and3 wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 8:51 AM

What vibrancy of colour and is wonderful to share your design sources and see where you take them .........thank you......................would that I could be so creative !!

on 20 Nov 2010 9:00 AM

Your designs and color combinations are beautiful.  I am very impressed!!!

I would love to incorporated your fabrics in a quilt or quilted bag.  Beautiful!!!!

Brenda from Ohio

lpolynn wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 9:15 AM

I love the story of your inspiration!  it also adds meaning to the fabric since I also come from NY.  Not the city but have been to the park many times.

kathya21 wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 9:20 AM

I absolutely love the wonderful colors!

toby g wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 9:25 AM

love the clarity of your colors and the variety of scale in the collection.  

on 20 Nov 2010 9:38 AM

The interview with Kate was so interesting and I loved the glimpse of her fabrics.  I especially liked hearing about how she finds her inspiration.  I sort of do the same in getting ideas for quilts.  I'm new to quilting though I've done lots of sewing over the years.  Since I have mostly worked with paper for art making I sort of approach making arts quilts as though I am working with paper.  Anyway, now I need to find Kate's fabrics.

mama2boys wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 10:50 AM

Kate proves that if you do what you love...

Great colors and designs. I would love to win these!

4gumball wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 11:10 AM

Beautiful fabric . . . I hope I'm the lucky one!

KathyF wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 11:17 AM

I never get tired of reading about designers and their process.The pictures were worth the proverbial 1000 words.Kate was particularly fasinating

maryposuniak wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 2:27 PM

I truly enjoyed  your article, I always think, How do people end up with such fun jobs!    Thanks for sharing. Loved the Ahha moment in Central Park!

and would love to create something wonderful with your fabrics!

mcglen8 wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 2:48 PM

Always interesting to hear from the designers. Thanks.

stardancer wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 2:49 PM

I love your fabric.  It is so youthful and bright.  It was fun to hear how you get your inspiration.  I think it would take a brick falling on my head.

dyrocks wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 2:52 PM

Amazing fabric!  I love the stories about designer, what a nice surprse it was to get this email today with the Kate Spain story.  Thank you so much!

DeborahH@43 wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 2:52 PM

Great article about Kate! I was especially inspired, as I'm a budding textile/surface designer studying at FIT in NYC. :o) Love to see how the pros do it, and one in my own back yard. Thanks!

ombudsmgs wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 4:47 PM

Lovely fabrics.  It is delightful to see designs in the world captured so skillfully in fabric design. Thanks for sharing behind the scenes processes with us!

austiff wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 5:02 PM

Great article.  Her line of fabric would look great for a quilt, but would look even greater made up in a dress for my 4 year old grand-daughter.  The colors are so bright and fresh.

lmqg wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 5:50 PM

How interesting to notice the usual scenes of daily life in new ways and to develop a line of fabric from that.   You go girl!  Inspiring!

lmqg wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 5:51 PM

How interesting to notice the usual scenes of daily life in new ways and to develop a line of fabric from that.   You go girl!  Inspiring!

lmqg wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 5:51 PM

How interesting to notice the usual scenes of daily life in new ways and to develop a line of fabric from that.   You go girl!  Inspiring!

textiler2010 wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 7:06 PM

Oh! such beautiful fabrics.  I was able to relate in some ways to your story, Kate, coming to find our passion later in our life.  I too watched my mum hand sew all the dresses for her 4 girls but never developed the patience for working with a sewing machine.  I have always preferred hand sewing as my hand always seems to do what I want it to do - very unlike a sewing machine.  It was only last year (at my young age of 57!) that I surcumed to purchasing a sewing machine - a second hand one at that! (not computerised).  I am really enjoying the challange of machine sewing, especially my own clothing.  Your bright cheerful fabrics would be perfect for a skirt or two.  And I am sure it would be very original wearing your prints in Australia!!  Thank you Kate.     June

berlot wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 7:26 PM

I too see design possibilities in unusual places, unfortunately I just never seem to do anything with them yet.  Thanks for giving me a nudge in the creative direction.

Azreada wrote
on 20 Nov 2010 8:41 PM

What wonderful, cheery fabrics. Such a nice to thing see with fall soon behind us and cold weather ahead.

on 20 Nov 2010 9:14 PM

I always wondered how designers came up with some of their geometrical prints!  Love the fabrics!

on 20 Nov 2010 9:15 PM

I always wondered how designers came up with some of their geometrical prints!  Love the fabrics!

MargaretT65 wrote
on 21 Nov 2010 8:17 AM

I loved reading about her inspirations in Central Park, one of my favorite places in NYC. I've been there often while visiting my daughter.  I'll definitely have to purchase some of her fabrics.  I'm also a big Hello Kitty fan!

HouseDragon wrote
on 21 Nov 2010 10:38 AM

How exciting!  I'm looking forward to creating a quilt with your new line: my DD and her family lived across from Central Park for years.  Thanks for sharing your creative spirit with us.

love2dye wrote
on 21 Nov 2010 8:34 PM

Love to see how you design fabric almost like a collage of your inspiration!

sempurr wrote
on 22 Nov 2010 6:02 AM

I love stories about people finding their calling in life. It gives the rest of us hope!

dmckenna wrote
on 22 Nov 2010 7:36 AM

I am inspired by these designs and Kate's process. I hope to explore fabric design myself.

autumnh3 wrote
on 22 Nov 2010 7:55 AM

Delicious! Uplifting and I so much enjoy seeing where your inspiration came from.    

autumnh3 wrote
on 22 Nov 2010 7:55 AM

Delicious! Uplifting and I so much enjoy seeing where your inspiration came from.    

autumnh3 wrote
on 22 Nov 2010 7:55 AM

Delicious! Uplifting and I so much enjoy seeing where your inspiration came from.    

maryp10 wrote
on 22 Nov 2010 7:57 AM

Absolutely beautiful!  Can hardly wait to get my hands on the fabric.

clevitt wrote
on 22 Nov 2010 8:22 AM

Beautitul designs and colors...makes me want to run out and buy some of these gorgeous fabrics and sew my heart out.

on 23 Nov 2010 9:06 AM

Hello! It's time to pick the winner of Kate Spain's Fandango Fabric roll from my interview with