Designer Q & A’s – Joanne Ridley

Posted by Amy | Posted in Patchwork & Quilting | Posted on 14-04-2016


This spring / summer we have a new workshop tutor coming to teach at the Craft Barn. Joanne Ridley is a talented patchwork and quilter who is so enthusiastic about her craft. We cannot wait to have Joanne here to teach all of the fabulous projects she has planned. As Joanne says below, ‘they are all beginner friendly’, so if you are thinking of taking a dip into the fabric world, why not add Joanne’s workshops to your to do list? There are 3 workshops coming up – Applique Cushion with Clever Concealed Zip in April, Foundation Pieced Tote Bag in June and Star Table Runner Patchwork in July. All workshops include fabrics, notions and a delicious finger buffet lunch – with a scrumptious tea and cake break in the afternoon.




I sent Joanne a few questions to find out some more about her love of patchwork and what she likes to make. Take a look below at her answers, accompanied by a selection of photos of her work.

How long have you been sewing and doing patchwork?

I come from a long line of makers so I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t do some sort of creative activity. I learnt to crochet when I was really little, knitting came a bit later (and less naturally!) and throughout High School, University and the early years of married life I did lots of embroidery. When my son was a toddler (he’s eighteen now) I went on a ‘Creativity Day’ where you could either paint or do patchwork – I really, really can’t paint so I went for the patchwork option (we made a Cathedral Windows pincushion) and I was hooked straight away. The lady who was showing us what to do was so evangelical about her hobby that it made me want to find out more. I came home and bought a patchwork magazine, saw an advert for a local exhibition, went along and found a patchwork group, was recommended a good teacher to do a sampler quilt class, and everything mushroomed from there. I eventually bought a longarm quilting machine and started a quilting business which has ranged from making banners for schools, churches and Walking Days, to quilting other patchworkers’ quilts, to running workshops. Now that I have a full-time job my business is mainly concentrated on workshops and I don’t have time to quilt for other people anymore but it was a really good grounding for being brave and going outside your own comfort zone.

How long have you been teaching the craft?

I started a little group at home about seven years ago called Stitch and Chat. We met once a month and each night was basically a little make-and-take workshop. We did all sorts of crafts, not just patchwork, but some of the ladies who come along started to ask about making a quilt themselves, so we began to have Saturday workshops every so often. Over several years now we’ve had all sorts of workshops and it’s lovely to see people’s reactions when they ‘get’ a technique, or hold up a finished article and announce, “I did it!” This is me (on the end in the white blouse) and a little group of ladies after a cushion workshop – see, lots of smiles!


What skill set is required for each of your workshops?

The workshops I’m leading at Black Sheep are all beginner-friendly. You don’t need any specialist knowledge: you just need to want to have a go and I guarantee that you’ll leave at the end of the day with an item you’re really pleased with and a big pile of new skills under your belt. The important thing to remember is that there are no quilt rules, just guidelines – I’ll show you how to do it, but if you wobble off, or find another way, or yours looks a bit different – no one will ever know! Patchwork is great fun and one of the main aims of the workshop is to try something new and discover whether there’s a whole new craft here you could be taking up!

What is your favourite patchwork technique / design? 

Oh – too many to mention! I still haven’t exhausted all the things I want to try and the list of quilts I’m going to make some day keeps on growing! The two things that keep me most engaged though are the quilting and the challenge of design. I love how the quilting transforms a patchwork top into a quilt: here’s a band of patchwork:


and here it is with freehand leafy feathers quilted onto it:


Both pictures really appeal to me (see below for my answer about which colour palette I like (!) but I think the quilted version has an extra zing to it.

Making banners for clients with very precise requirements has meant I’ve had to be quite inventive at times. Several school banners have necessitated the making of interesting elements, and on several occasions the creation of quilted children (So I got to walk out of work one evening saying, “I’m just going home to make a child” which raised the odd eyebrow…) and the pictures below show a couple of the stages – I like that I had to find ways to interpret the requested designs into reality.



Do you have a favourite colour palette you are always drawn to?

Its rainbow all the way I’m afraid: the more colours that are in there the better, and there’s just something about a lovely ordered span of colours that makes my heart pop. The rainbow banners show that I think, and I also love the colours in this picture of a stole I made for my husband one Easter.


What project (s) do you have on the go at the moment? 

Well, I’m working on something for Black Sheep but I think it might be a secret…


You’ll have to come back to me about that.

Recently we made owl blocks at a workshop which was really good fun – curved seams turn out not to be scary at all, and the owls are so cutie!


The last quilt all for us that I finished was a ‘dresden plate’ design:


I don’t only quilt though: I crochet a lot too, and because we were doing scarves and cowls at the last Stitch and Chat night, I’ve done a couple of them in the last few weeks:


(I know that it looks like knitting but actually it really is crochet: half trebles done into the ‘third loop’ at the back of the stitch – those ‘V’s that look like a rib are the tops of all the stitches being pushed over towards you as you spiral round and round.)

There’s always a bigger project on the go as well, isn’t there, and at the moment mine is with wool from a Black Sheep kit I bought from Sara at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate – it was supposed to be a granny stripe blanket but we have rather an embarrassment of blankets so I am doing a slightly different stitch and making an enormous shawl instead.


Where do you find inspiration for your projects?

All over the place really! I’ve got lots of magazines and books to browse through, and of course the internet has such a wealth of images and ideas that it can be overwhelming. I’m a bit stubborn about doing something that’s been done before though, so I usually start out with one idea and finish with a rather different end product. I do love Pinterest for mooching but I think there’s a danger that you’ll spend an hour staring at your screen when you could have been using that time to actually sew something yourself 🙂 Gazing at my fabric stash is always a good kick-start if I’m feeling a bit aimless, or looking at objects around me or other crafts I’m doing – and (as if all the crochet didn’t do the trick) just to prove that I’m not a one-craft devotee, here’s a little embroidery I did : there’s a link in it to one of the other pictures in this article – can you find it?


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