Wednesday, November 27, 2013

All in the Family: Jean Ann Wright and Janet Houts

Today we're continuing our All in the Family series, featuring sisters Jean Ann Wright and Janet Houts.

Can you talk about how/when you learned to quilt?
Jean Ann: I learned to sew when I was 3 years old; it was a disaster. I can still see myself sitting in a little chair with that doll skirt attached with crooked stitches to my own skirt. I was so proud. I cried when I had to tear it out. I didn't give up, I kept sewing and sometime during my growing up years I started making quilts, first for dolls, and then in my early 20's my first real quilt for my first baby.

Tell us about quilting with your sister.
Jean Ann: I started quilting with my sister, Janet Houts, about 10 years ago. We are still quilting together and have written several books together and often collaborate on quilts we are designing and making.

How do your designing methods compare?
Jean Ann: I like quilting chaos. I like to start sewing and let the fabric "speak to me" and tell me what to do as I go. Janet likes everything organized and planned out in advance so she knows exactly what she will be doing step-by-step before she starts cutting and sewing.

How would you describe your quilting styles?
Jean Ann: My style is colorful, uninhibited and freestyle. Janet's style is planned, coordinated and well ordered.

Can you describe how you work together?
Jean Ann: I live in Georgia and Janet lives in Idaho. We typically work via Skype. We can turn on the video and actually see what the other is sewing. We also work via the computer, sending art files back and forth with suggestions to change this or that until we both like what the other is doing. We don't always take each other's suggestions, but most often we do. Two heads are better than one!
Once a year Janet and I teach a 3-1/2 day workshop together at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. When we are not in the workshop room, we are putting our heads together in our own room to think up new ideas and techniques for teaching.

What's the greatest benefit of working together?
Jean Ann: We always have someone to check our work, to make suggestions on how to improve our designs. Also, being together is more fun than always working alone. After growing up together and then living on opposite sides of the country for most of our adult lives, it is great to have a creative reason to be in touch with each other every day.

And a challenge of working together?
Jean Ann: When one of us feels strongly that the other should change a design and that one digs in their heels and insists on leaving the design as it is.

How have your roles changed over the years?
Jean Ann: Janet started out working for me when I was editor-in-chief of QUILT magazine. After teaching her to quilt so she could help me with the graphic arts for the magazine, I find myself learning from Janet as her computer skills were more advanced than mine. We have reversed roles and it comes very naturally to us. I may be older, but I am not always in charge!

Can we see some of your designs?

Leffert's Garden, using Prospect Park
There were three fabrics in this collection that could be used as "focus" fabrics due to their distinctive design and the scale of the fabric design. I finally decided on a strippy quilt with my favorite focus fabric, the dark print with the birds cut as columns on the length of fabric. The Bachelor's Puzzle blocks provided strength in the center of the quilt. I pieced Flying Geese units on opposite sides and emphasized them with the wide multi-stripe and narrow brown strips to complete the quilt center. 

I decided to use the patchwork print as the top and bottom borders of the quilt and chose the narrow brown strips to divide the border elements and used the light bird and vine print for the side borders.

A Blue Moment, using the soon-to-be-released Palm Springs collection
This fabric has several large-scale prints that needed to be presented in big chunks. I am taken with the modern quilt movement and have also been immersed in making log cabin quilts for the past two years. I decided to combine these two concepts into one large improvisational log cabin block. The quilt has no border, but the rows that surround the center of the quilt act as quasi-borders and multiple frames for the center print. (Watch for this pattern coming soon to our website!)

Cachet Hexies, using Cachet from Contempo Studio
A contemporary collection was the perfect fit for a hexy design, considering how hot hexies are right now! This quilt is featured in the Winter 2014 issue of Quilt Trends magazine.
Photo: Quilt Trends magazine
Find more of Jean Ann and Janet Hout's work here.
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  1. Love Jean Ann and Janet's work! Now I'm in search of this issue of Quilt Trends because I love Cachet Hexies, too! Great pattern, great fabric combo!

  2. Their work is fabulous and this quilt is just beautiful!!

  3. I really like their books. They have really neat patterns.