February 22, 2008

Ever since I started this blog I wanted to do a feature on fellow designer Darcy Ashton. Darcy lives in Oklahoma and even though we’ve never had the chance to meet in person, she’s been an inspiration, a mentor, and a friend. Darcy runs a one-woman publishing company, as do I, and has been a great help to me with the benefit of her experience.

A Darling Little DogIf you’ve been a quilter on this planet, you’ve seen Darcy’s distinctive and highly successful books featuring remarkably realistic-looking animals done up with buttonhole stitching. Amazingly, most of them are made up of only one piece of fabric.

Her resume includes such titles as Grandma’s Bunnies, Claire’s Cats, Butterfly Dance, Aquatic Creatures, Darling Little Dogs, and Beautiful Big Dogs.

Darling Little Dogs coverAquatic Creatures coverButterfly Dance cover

When I asked Darcy how she managed to balance running her very busy design and publishing company with family life, she replied, “My one-woman business came about because of my family life.”

Darcy had worked in graphics at several companies until the time her two small children came around. Then she learned that her current employer was closing and she’d be out of a job. Admitting that it was “actually a bit of a relief,” Darcy purchased her computer workstation from her former employer and settled at home to raise her kids.

Darcy came from a family of quilters, so it’s something she’s been doing for a long time. At a family reunion, her dad was given an unfinished quilt top to bring home to Darcy. It was started by Grandma, and as Darcy puts it, “One of the blocks had a rusted needle still parked in the block where she had put it down and never picked it back up. It had been set aside in the bottom drawer in her sister’s house and there it had waited patiently for nearly 60 years for her to get back to work on it.”

That UFO changed Darcy’s life. Guess what was on it? Bunnies! Adorable appliquéd bunnies with embroidered details. Darcy finished Grandma’s bunnies and put it up on her wall. Then, she says, every time she looked at it, she wondered why they didn’t have any tails, and why their whiskers were so long. Pretty soon she was re-drawing the bunnies and making her own quilt.

Without Darcy’s income, the family started to run on a tight shoestring. And, having worked for years, Darcy also started to feel the desire to have something to think about and work on in addition to taking care of her children. She got the idea that she could start teaching appliqué. When she went down to her local quilt shop with her bunny quilt to ask the owners if she could teach a class, they kept getting interrupted by quilters wanting the patterns!

That was a light-bulb moment for Darcy. With all of her experience working in graphic arts and publishing, she was very well prepared to put out a book of patterns, and published a limited number of Grandma’s Bunnies. The first printing didn’t last long. Word of mouth spread so fast and so far that before she knew it, Darcy was reprinting and selling far and wide.

Then quilters wanted cats. So Darcy published Claire’s Cats (named for her daughter) and hasn’t stopped producing amazing books since!

cc2_cover.jpgThe original Claire’s Cats has been so popular that when Darcy recently came out with Claire’s Cats Volume 2, there was such an overwhelming demand for the first volume to go with it that Darcy decided to reprint it once again. If only I could get into such a predicament!

Darcy sent me Beautiful Big Dogs (I am a dog person, you know) and Claire’s Cats Volume 2 (okay, I also have three cats) to take a look at. Besides the incredible patterns, these books are just jam-packed with information, tips, and options for making the critters and dressing them up in different ways. I especially liked the section on different ways of making the eyes. And, now I know how she does her appliqué! (You can use either hand or machine techniques.)

Darcy prefers to support our wonderful independent quilt shops, so ask for her books at your favorite shop. She also sells her books and patterns from her website, Ashton Publications if that’s a better option for you.

Darcy recently started a blog at www.DarcyAshton.vox.com, and take it from me, she’s quite the photographer as well.

To top things off, Darcy has graciously permitted me to post one of her free patterns for download! Here’s the bonus pattern from CC V 2. Enjoy!

Last thoughts: Darcy says, “You should not be ashamed of your UFOs. Leave something behind to inspire the next generation. If one of your unfinished projects lands in the lap of a young girl years after you are gone, you could be spreading the seeds of the next generation of quilters.”

Until next time,
Kay
Quilt Puppy Publications & Designs

Comments

2 Responses to “Spotlight on Darcy Ashton”

  1. Shirley Wright on March 11th, 2008 2:37 pm

    Kay, that is a really nice article you have written about Darcie. We met Darcie at the Houston Quilt Show. (Desiree and I were very stressed as our quilt patterns and all our stock was delayed at customs because of the container they had been shipped in, Somebody else’s goods were being investigated and it held up our shipment as well.)

    Meeting Darcie was so nice as we are appliqué nuts as well and it was nice to talk to a like-minded person. It was our 1st trip to Houston and while everyone at the show was sympathetic, but no one really knows how much work goes into printing patterns and books unless they have done it themselves.

  2. admin on March 11th, 2008 3:55 pm

    Shirley, you said it!

    It is a lot, and I can only imagine, on top of that, trying to get the stuff to the U.S. from New Zealand!

    Glad we have Darcy as a friend in common.

    Kay

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