Welcome to the first StitchBlog Q&A! We hope to make
this a monthly blog feature, with interviews from interesting people from
around the sewing world.
When we were thinking about whom we should feature in our first
Q&A, one designer immediately came to mind—Kevin Kosbab. Kevin
has designed projects for Stitch since our second issue, and his bold and inventive ideas always bring a smile to our faces. From quilts to placemats and beyond, Kevin combines a midcentury modern
aesthetic with creative piecing and appliqué techniques to create modern,
graphic projects that we really love. You can find out more about Kevin and his
designs on his website, feeddog.net, or on his blog, feeddog.blogspot.com. So
without further ado, here's Kevin!
Stefanie: How and
when did you learn to sew, and what is the first thing you ever made?
Kevin: I learned to sew about four
years ago in the course of decorating my first apartment. My mom balked at my
Stitch Witchery window treatments, bought me a sewing machine, and off I went.
I think the first real project I sewed was a quilt adapted out of Denyse
Schmidt's book, a really simple quilt but enough to give me the bug. A friend
from work at about the same time had taught me to knit, but it just didn't
catch—scarves and sweaters didn't have the same appeal for me as stuff I could
use around the apartment. So I'm a needle, thread, and fabric guy.
S: How does
sewing fit into your life?
K: I've always had creative impulses
and an interest in graphic design, and quilting gave me a medium for that. I do
at least a little sewing most days, whether by hand or machine (it drives me
crazy to watch TV without handwork, so like an uncultured Neanderthal I veto
anything with subtitles). I wish I had more time to sew just for fun, but I try
to design projects for work that I'll have fun sewing. I work as a full-time
freelancer, and sewing has crept into every facet of that: I edit craft books,
write for quilting magazines, design for magazines like Stitch, and sell
patterns under my Feed Dog Designs label. So insofar as I make a living, it's
coming from sewing!
S: Walk me
through the steps when you're making a project. Where does your inspiration
come from, and how do you translate that into a finished piece?
K: Great fabrics inspire lots of my
projects (the Hilltop Drive quilt in Stitch Spring 2010 was all about the
fabric), but I'm also hugely influenced by mid-century modern graphic and
textile design, and generally all the cool stuff going on visually from the 1950s through the 70s. My basic ideas usually get sketched out on
paper, kind of as a placeholder, and then I do more detailed
design drawings on the computer to play with colors, fabrics, proportions, etc.
I usually mess around with the actual fabrics again on the design wall, then I
figure out the logistics while I'm sewing. For a quilt with lots of different
appliqués, I'll sometimes start sewing a few blocks before I've got the whole
S: The items
you've made for Stitch have mainly been home décor projects—quilts,
placemats, pillows, etc. Do you mostly stick to these types of projects? Do you have a favorite project?
K: I think of myself mainly as a
quilter, so that's what I work on most often. As for clothing, I've only gotten
as far as printing some patterns. I'd love to try, but it's a little more
involved to tailor a pair of men's trousers than to whip up a circle
skirt—what's the beginner menswear garment? I tried making a pair of
underpants, which were a little too daring to ever see the light of day! My
favorite project is usually the one I'm working on currently, but that's a
cheater's answer... my flamingo bed quilt will always be up there because it was
my first appliqué work and I made it for my partner when we were doing the
S: I noticed that
your blog includes a link to a Quilt Blogs by Men blogring. Is there an automatic
sense of community among men who sew? Have you had to overcome any prejudice
from people who assume that you can't quilt well because you're a man?
K: Yeah, there's a sense of
camaraderie among guys who quilt—even if it's because we share the experience
of searching out the elusive men's bathroom at a quilt show. I bring a
different perspective to my quilts partly because I'm a man, but we male
quilters all have our different styles, too. Maybe as men we don't feel that we
have to make our quilts within the traditional categories, but who says a woman
has to make a quilt a certain way either?
Occasionally I'll run into some prejudice—one cutting-counter attendant seemed
to think I didn't know what a seam allowance was—but more often women will
express that they're excited to see a man quilting. There does seem to be an
undercurrent, though, of the idea that men have an easier time achieving
success in quilting, however that's defined. It's probably true that being a
novelty helps, but when I first started publishing designs, I also heard things
like, "Oh, yes, men usually do better with that because they have more
confidence." I don't think I'm a hyper-confident macho man, (and I know a lot
of women quilters who certainly aren't shrinking violets), and I'd like to
think my designs have more to do with it than that. But I don't mind being a
novelty if that's what it takes!
S: When you say
"quilt" to the average person, they tend to summon up an image of something
very traditional, yet there is an emergence of quilters making very fresh and
modern projects. How did that revitalization come about, and where do you think
K: I think people in general are
more attuned to graphic design than we used to be, and lots of us are looking
to quilting through those eyes rather than (or in addition to) the lens of
tradition. The explosion of bright, fresh fabrics is a big factor (though
that's probably a two-way street), but quilting's also an easy way to get
started sewing. Sure, there are a lot of steps to learn, but you can start with
simple designs (which look the most modern), and you're only really working in
two dimensions—no scary darts or complex seam finishes. On the other hand, the
range of what you can do with quilting allows for limitless possibilities,
with plenty of room for skills to grow. In the future, I hope we'll see as much
innovation in appliqué as we have in patchwork, and especially new ways of
combining the two. Eventually I can see "modern" quilting becoming a sort of
third way: not traditional quilting, not art quilting, but its own broad style
allied with both. And as novice modern quilters get more experienced, I think
we'll start seeing more ambitious designs that aren't necessarily aimed at
As a special treat for our blog readers, we're offering
Kevin's Felt Sweets pattern as a free download in our pattern gallery. Feeling
British? Stitch up a mini jam sponge with felted jam and cream. Staying
Stateside? Make a Swiss roll cake. Can't decide? Make both!
Many thanks to Kevin for being our first Q&A subject!
Stay tuned to future issues of Stitch to see more projects from Kevin, and check
out his website at feeddog.net.
Images: Top, Hilltop Drive Baby Quilt from Stitch Spring 2010; center, Felt Slash Pillows from Stitch Fall 2009; bottom, Kevin's home office, with a color scheme inspired by his quilt.