Designer, Modern Fabric, New Fabric

Interview with Windham Fabrics Designer, Natalie Barnes and her debut collection “Hand Maker”

Today,we are so pleased to share our interview with Natalie Barnes from Beyond the Reef Patterns. Her debut collection “Hand Maker” is available in local quilt shops! We can’t wait to see what fabric goodies you sew up with it!


Q: What’s the story and inspiration behind your collection?

That’s an easy one, but a touching one.



This hash tag captured all of the posts of all of the flower, color, and inspiration that Buddy (the dog) and I encountered on our travels, our walks, hikes, visits….

One morning, he didn’t want to walk.  I stayed awake with him that night, and by the next day, he was gone.  Almost seven years to the day that I brought him home.

When the UPS guy delivered the box of sample yardage for Hand Maker later that same month, we both stopped for a moment and had a good cry.

Because Hand Maker was made up of all of the things that Buddy and I had experienced together.  All I could do was whisper, “We did it, Buddy…..we did it….”

I have to admit, it took me a while before I could cut into that fabric….

Q: Tell us a bit more about yourself, how did you start ?

It was my grandmother, not my mother, that introduced me to the needle arts when I was pretty young.  Knitting, crocheting, embroidery, sewing, you know.  The “hand work” of a child.

That  translated into embroidered jeans as a summer camp counselor.

As for quilting, my high school boyfriend made me a quilt while he was on the “injured list”.  Bright sunny yellow and grass green polyester.  (I think his mother might have had something to do with that!!)  Not to be outdone, I headed to the library, stopped at Woolworth’s and got to work drafting quilt patterns onto brown paper bags.  To this day, I have a hard time working in bright sunny true yellow.  And in my stash?  I think I have one piece.  Just one piece of true yellow fabric…..

I started beyond the reef pattern company while visiting a girlfriend in Hawaii.  I made each of us a quilt kit – needle turn appliqué – and the rest, as they say, is history.  At that time I was still working designing commercial and corporate interiors – beyond the reef became my “second job”.

Q: What mood or point of view have you brought into this project?


We are makers.

We create a business, we make a home, we make a family, we make pies and gardens…we make friends…..and we make quilts.

Even if you are not a quilter, I can guess you’re making something…..a Thanksgiving dinner, a table filled with those you love and those that love you…..

We are Makers.  By our own hands, we make.

Q: How has your experience been working alongside Windham Fabrics on this collection?

Windham Fabrics is such a fabulous company.  Made up of a great  team of people – there’s that key ingredient again, people.  The team is concise and competent and willing to share skills.  And I am learning so very much!!

When you see the President of a company participating in industry interviews – sharing volumes of information – and then rolling up his sleeves to help break down a Market booth, you know you are seeing a company with a great leader at the helm.  I’m a firm believer of this – as the head of the company goes, so goes the company.  It’s from an old Italian saying….

Q: Describe your creative process when designing fabric.

Someone at a lecture asked what my “schedule” was – front to back – to design a line of fabric.   You know – what I did on day one and how many days it took until I was finished.  Gosh, I couldn’t really answer her.

After giving it some thought, I explained, I walk the dog, and look at all of the flowers and branches and rocks.  Drive from point a to b and spot a fence or a series of windows and pull over to sketch the geometry.  Stop to photograph peeling paint and weathered wood.  Enjoy a breakfast with friends and see how the color of the maple syrup works with the oatmeal verses the waffles.  (oh, oh….)


Today I saw a Victoria Findlay Wolfe post about some gummy bears that Carolyn Friedlander had given her at Fall Market.  What did I see…..color scheme!  (and where does one get teal gummy bears, by the way….)

It’s not a straight line process for me – it’s definitely organic!

It’s life.


Q: Can you choose your favorite print from the collection and tell us why it’s your favorite?

I didn’t think you were supposed to have a favorite child…..

Okay, well, can I have a three way tie?

42006-11 Cherry.jpg


Let me think.  Okay.  One of my favorites is the red print called “Pie”.  (as in venting the top crust of a pie, or docking the bottom crust).  Because it reminds me of baking with my goddaughter, LittleNatalie, and because it’s the one fabric that everyone points to and says, “I don’t think that red belongs in this collection at all!”.  (smirk)

Q: What’s the one thing you can’t live without?

People first and foremost.

It’s not so much the event but the people with which you share it.

It’s not so much the dinner, but the people around one’s table.

Could I live on a deserted island?  Exist, yes, but not LIVE.

Okay.  One thing. The garden.  Wait.  The dog.  Or Music.

When it comes to quilting, I’d say my industrial Bernina machine,  the two “tailor’s thimbles” that I happened to find at a tag sale (I have “big” hands and fingers) and Chenille needles.  Oh, and Pearle 8.

May I also add….my big giant haas avocado tree in my postage stamp yard at the beach.

And any given sunrise or sunset.

(is that more than one?  that’s more than one…..)

Q: What other designers, makers or artists inspire your work?

I look down a long long aisle at any given International Quilt Market, and I have to say, “there is a WHOLE LOTTA talent in this room”.  And it’s true.I am inspired every day by so many…’s like the “pick your favorite fabric in the collection” question.  Eeeep.


I am always inspired by Gehry, Eames, Aalto, Calder, Moore, Knoll, Sottsas, Definitely Kahn, and Meier.  Always Meier.  Leonard Cohen.  Vector.  Morphosis.  The deZeen “hot list”.   Colbie Caillat, Andra Day, Alexi Murdoch, Brandon Heath, Tchaikovsky.  Xavier Rudd.

We live in such exciting times!  The doors have been flung wide open on design, if you ask me.  All sorts of design.  Food, cocktails, music, architecture, clothing design…..

As for quilters, I would say the same.  Every quilter I meet has some way that they inspire.  Every Quilter.  My local MQG makes pillows for parents whose children have passed.  They are presented on “the one year anniversary” to the parents by the staff at Miller Children’s Hospital.  For that, I am inspired.  That’s something I don’t think I could do.  But I am inspired by it.

I am inspired by the woman who stopped by my booth to chat, at this last Market.  She is creating a program for the prison system in Texas to teach quilting.  She had just finished a similar prison program, making needed cribs.

Inspiration comes in all forms.  We just have to be open to it.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or philosophy you live by?

“There is nothing like a dream to create the future….” Victor Hugo

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius power and magic in it.” Goethe

Or the (dated) Nike ad campaign “they will tell you no….and you will tell them yes.”

John Wooden on leadership…..

Q: What are you up to when you’re not designing?

Would it be bad if I said there’s no on+off switch? I’m always looking, photographing, drawing, sewing, stitching, knitting…’s a lifestyle, this creative life.

That’s not to say that I’m not traveling, gardening, enjoying the company of good friends…..….oh, and “taking long walks by the beach at sunset with the dog”.

(I adopted a dog after the Spring Market release of Hand Maker – and at the moment, Stitch and I are working together on making him a good dog-member of society).


Q: Do you have any other upcoming projects lined up for 2017-2018?

I am really honored to say I have a second line of fabrics being released by Windham Fabrics!  But you won’t see it for a while… will be a Spring Market 2017 release, available to shops in the Fall.  That means you’ll have lots of time to sew up lots of gifts and projects and quilts using Hand Maker.

And, well, if you have a little Hand Maker left…..I’m gonna bet it will coordinate with “Maker’s Home”….


I’m also really excited to be teaching again in July at Quilter’s Affair for the Stitchin’ Post in Sisters, Oregon….such a special event!  And, well, you know how much I love teaching and attending conferences and retreats.  Because, well, it’s all about the people!

Thanks so much Natalie!

Be sure to visit her at Beyond the Reef

2cabinmochi copy


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