LS: Art of Quilting Column September 28, 2008
Aunt Millie’s garden inspires floral designs
In the beginning, Linda Jenkins fussed over her quilting projects, worrying that she might not be able to make them as well as she wished.
But her friend, Becky Goldsmith, continually reassured Jenkins that her handiwork would come together with ease and be a pleasurable experience at the same time, like eating “a piece of cake.”
Since then, that friend has become Jenkins’ partner in a successful business venture they aptly named Piece O’ Cake Designs Inc.
The two met at a guild in 1990 when both were living in Tulsa, Okla., and quickly became famous for their books, patterns and fabrics. Their specialty is appliqué, and Jenkins says she especially likes the needleturn method.
After about eight years of self-publication, as well as traveling nationally and teaching, they joined C&T Publishing in 2002. They have more than 20 books and 150 patterns, nine fabric lines and a DVD to their credit.
Their lives took them in different geographical directions, but Goldsmith and Jenkins developed a long-distance business relationship.
Today, Goldsmith lives in Sherman, Texas, while Jenkins makes her home here in Grand Junction.
I recently met Jenkins for lunch downtown where she gave me the inside scoop on Piece O’ Cake and what’s in store for the company’s fans.
Their most recent publication is titled “Aunt Millie’s Garden,” a series of patterns in a large envelope packet.
The featured quilt is red, with huge floral designs in each block.
Jenkins’ named it after her beloved Aunt Mildred “Millie” Phillips, who also lives in Grand Junction.
“We like to give quilters full-size patterns whenever possible,” Jenkins says. Because this packaging format allows them to do so, their next publication will be similar.
It will be out next year with the title “Applique Outside the Lines.”
“It combines piecing and appliqué. The method is not so precise, but more loosely done when cutting out the shapes,” Jenkins explains.
While much of their business transpires through e-mails, Goldsmith and Jenkins meet four times a year — usually at fall and spring quilt markets and two other times to work on their designs and patterns.
Goldsmith spent a few days earlier in the summer with Jenkins in Grand Junction, where they developed new ideas, such as flowers and funky birds and a different type of sashing than they’ve previously used.
“Becky is the graphic artist,” Jenkins says. “She calls herself my human pencil” as she draws what Jenkins envisions.
“We work until both of us are happy,” she says.
C&T Publishing is bringing back the pair’s ’50s Santa patterns that are out of print.
Jenkins laughs when she recalls how Goldsmith first drew the characters “too skinny.”
“This was before cholesterol,” she says. “I told her ‘I want chubby Santas.’ ”
Other popular patterns from Piece O’ Cake’s past are offered as a download on their Web site, http://www.pieceocake.com.
With new designs, Jenkins says she and her partner agree on the basics in advance.
“We generally begin with color, and we like clear colors.”
For example, Jenkins is collecting red, green and black and white fabrics now for a book that will come out in fall 2010.
“I design (the patterns) on the wall, and Becky writes the text,” she says.
Both admire vintage quilts, yet their trademark style is traditional with a contemporary twist.
“Our Amish book is definitely contemporary, and some of our designs are whimsical, like “Welcome to the North Pole” for sure,” Jenkins says.
She’s pleased that Piece
O’ Cake fabrics and designs are easily recognizable to quilters.
The business continues to flourish, and the duo is working on an ambitious five-year plan.
Jenkins limits her travel these days, while Goldsmith is on a hectic teaching schedule.
But Jenkins will be going to Houston next month because she’s been nominated to the board of the prestigious International Quilt Association, headquartered in Texas.
In the meantime, she carries a fabric swatch book with her, always on the lookout for another piece of cloth.
She pulled it from her purse to show me.
“I’m really trying to vary the scale of my fabric patterns so the final quilt doesn’t look boring,” she says. “I’m also planning to use lots of dots.”
She’d already scrutinized the bolts of material at one Grand Junction store before our meal. Last I saw her,
Jenkins was off on her quest to yet another quilt shop.
Piece O’ Cake fans can continue to salivate. Whatever Jenkins’ creative eye comes up with, the final design will be one they can sink their teeth into.