Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Past Perfect: Kathy Doughty

Gypsy Kisses by Kathy Doughty

February's Past Perfect star is Kathy Doughty of Sydney, Australia. Here's what she says about the above quilt, her favorite of those she's made.
"It looks old and authentic which is something that I love. Although I generally work with bright colors, I love reproduction fabrics and old style color combinations. I believe if the quilting sisters of the past had our fabrics they would have loved using them in what are now the antique quilts we love!"
Each month I feature a quiltmaker who has drawn inspiration from the past and influenced the market on how to use reproduction prints. When you look at Kathy's quilts the words "reproduction fabrics" are not what comes to mind. But she is inspired by quilts from the past---the recent past.

Kathy is one reason we have to re-orient our compasses with South at the top of the map. Australia is the center of the quilt world today
Who's in the antipodes now?

Kathy is originally from the U.S. She spent a decade in New York City in fashion and marketing. She met her Australian husband while working for Swatch Watch at a snowboarding event and moved to Australia in 1990. She and Sarah Fielke opened the shop called Material Obsession in Sydney in 2002. Kathy became sole owner five years later.
Material Obsession is an international travel destination.

Shop books and an innovative internet presence have been quite influential on the quilts of the 21st century

Teachers and students are as creative as Kathy

Teachers like Marg Sampson George have developed techniques and styles
 (This is Kelly's work from a Marg class)

Liberty Fields

Nineteenth-century patterns updated.



Kathy talked about her design process in an interview with Jen Kingwell :
"I love antique quilt books for layout and structure ideas. In truth though, most of my designs actually happen on the design wall in my studio. I start a quilt with a stack of inspiring fabrics and a shape, and then I lay out the pieces on the way until I like how they work together."
Vintage top from about 1960---online auction

Kathy's eye is drawn to the quilts from 1940 to 1980, a fairly neglected area until she began exploring them.

Vintage Spin by Kathy Doughty

Characteristics of the era: vivid colors with a busy neutral (think dots) and the idea of pattern on pattern. 

In her book Adding Layers she talks about Vintage Spin 
"Over the years I have enjoyed collecting vintage fabrics. Some are a bit worn, some wrapped in plastic, some thrift shop clothes....Vintage Spin is a quilt made from those specially collected fabrics that were old or just looked old."

She's great at finding fabrics that "just look old" and combining
them in novel ways that echo that crazy 1960s quilt aesthetic.

This deconstructed Dresden Plate is quilted with Perle cotton twist with the knots on
tops (a strange but common characteristic of 20th-century quilts)

She's now designing fabric for Free Spirit.

Horizons should be in shops this month.

See her shop Facebook Page

And Instagram page:

Read an interview with Jen Kingwell here:

And see a trunk show at the Eugene Modern Guild site here:


  1. Kathy is indeed one of the quilting world's treasures. I love her quilts and her writing. I enjoy her Blog immensely. I think you are right about the inversion, Australian quilters are on top of the world. Such inspiration. The news about Free Spirit is devastating for all of us. Just two days ago, I read that quilting is now a 7 billion dollar industry. Fake news, perhaps, but I do know it is alive and well so why can't fabric manufacturers keep their best designers busy??? There is going to be a big hole in Cyndi's shop where she normally features Barbara Brackman's new line. ARGH!

  2. Let's hope all Kathy's latest line has been shipped and is in the shops.

  3. Kathy has a style all her own that has spread far and wide! And, she is so funny and kind!

  4. Great blog post about an amazing quilt maker! Thank you Barbara!

  5. Free Spirit's official announcement can be found by Googling:

    Free Spirit Fabrics To Be Shut Down by Coats Effective Immediately

    (I couldn't get the URL to copy on my phone).

    The announcement went to designers and is somewhat confusing. They say they will continue to "support" designers under contract (how?) and that the failure of the company was due to a faulty business model that made it impossible for the company to be profitable, with no specifics as to what exactly was wrong.

    They say that as of two days ago they will not produce "new" fabrics and they will ship ordered "existing fabric" through May 31, as well as take orders for "existing fabric".

    The shut down includes Westminster fabrics as well, so that means the fabric from Kaffe Fassett and his colleagues is also affected.

    Comments made on the site from readers say the high price of fabric for quilts in the US and even higher prices abroad discourage sales. I agree. When it costs $200 to $300 to make a quilt, that is prohibitive and people lose interest in pursuing quilting. A price of $8 per yard instead of over $10 would generate many more sales. It's ironic that when brick and mortar stores closed because of the Internet, prices rose rather than declined.

    It's not like the "old days" when you could always make a quilt out of scraps from home made clothing if a purchase of new yardage was prohibitively pricey. Now if you can't afford new fabric, you just won't be quilting. I'm sorry to say it, but many have found taking up knitting to be cheaper and that knitting projects move along to completion more quickly.

    I worry about the survival of quilting as a pursuit in today's world.

  6. The designers like Kathy and Kaffe will be picked up in a flash by other companies. Not all designers will move so seamlessly. Then too are the staff, reps, warehouse folks.... it is going to hurt many people. Let's just hope that the Free Spirit poor us that we couldn't make it was just feeling sorry for themselves.... and that bad management is why they could not make it. Truly hope it is not "a sign of the times" that fabric is too expensive to produce. It shocks me that a meter of fabric in Australia costs over $25 dollars.... yikes. I have so much fabric I could survive the rest of my life without buying any, but what fun is that??? Will be watching how this plays out. And I have many of the books you wrote about.... one of my bucket list items is to get myself to a Kathy workshop!!!!

  7. Kathy's work is so fun to peruse. I'd love to attend some of her classes as well! Maybe a trip to Australia, maybe I'll find her here in the States.

    The fabric industry shakeup is interesting as well! I appreciate reading the comments above...I think Free Spirit did a great job with their 'brand'. It is quite a cherished brand! It'll be interesting to see how it all pans out.

    Thanks for great newsy articles, Barbara Brackman. I love your work as well!

  8. I was thrilled to find this post highlighting Kathy's work as I have been a long time admirer of her. On the bucket list is a visit to Material Obsession store but gee, the last time I was in Sydney was in the last century (the mid 1990's). You are so perceptive to note that the Australian quilt world is at the top right now. Thanks for this great read Barbara.

  9. Quilters band together to keep this lovely art work alive. Our stash can keep us sewing for many years to come, then we will use ingenuity to find materials to keep us sewing and someone will start creating lovely fabrics again. Quilting will survive thanks to lovely artistic designers such as you Barbara and so many others.