A tour of designer Barb Sackel's Studio

As a Girl Scout leader, it's only natural that some of the activities I plan involve something I am passionate about. Quilting is no exception. I had a couple of girls in the troop interested in doing a quilting badge. Lucky me!

One of the requirements was to meet with a quilting professional. Again, lucky me! Barb Sackel, one of QuiltWoman.com’s busiest designers, lives just 5 miles from the QuiltWoman.com offices and was willing to talk to the girls. In fact, she offered to give us a tour of her studio and home of her business, Rose Cottage Quilting. I was so there!

Four of us (2 Girl Scouts and 2 leaders) visited Barb on a sunny Saturday morning. Her studio is housed in a sun room addition on the back of her house. Let me restate that, the majority of her studio is in the sun room. Not unexpectedly, as with any endeavor, it has flowed over into other areas of the house.

We started with a tour of Barb’s lovely home. Quilts were everywhere. Some of them I recognized as being the cover models for some of Barb’s patterns, such as Trophy Case, shown below. Others she showed are samples for upcoming patterns. I can’t divulge much, but I can say a companion quilt to her Batik Diamonds is in the works!

Barb showed us her painting area. Huh? Painting? It’s in a corner of her living room under a window with tons of natural light. The girls were a little confused as to why Barb was painting. It was then that we discovered she is designing a fabric line for Blank Quilting. Wow! I didn’t know she was up to that. And the girls had no concept that fabric lines were designed.

Barb showed us some of proofs and let me say, they were stunning. Sorry, we can’t show you pictures. But Barb is hoping the fabric line will be out in 3 - 4 months if all goes well with the processing. It is bright whimsical flowers with black, (14 flowers to be exact that you have never seen before) and it includes a panel showcasing the flowers. She will also have 3 new patterns ready that are designed just for this collection. A second colorway will also be available, (spice colors with mahogany).

Barb then showed us her embroidery workstation. Yes, this too wouldn’t fit in her large studio. It was in her dining room. She has a Bernina Artista 730. Barb has been sewing on Berninas her entire quilting journey. She relies on it for all decorative stitching, quilting, and embroidery. Not to mention the walking foot is killer! This machine gets a real workout when Barb makes one of the quilts from her 4 in 1 series (read a blog post about that series). Next to it, she has her AccuQuilt GO! That's another product she has designed patterns for. We did say she was a busy lady, didn't we?

We then moved on to the studio itself. The first thing that strikes you is the view. All those windows look over Barb’s extensive gardens. Gorgeous flowers surround you everywhere.

Entertaining us was a squirrel getting into the bird feeder with the birds watching! 

As for the studio itself, Barb uses a Commercial Juki sewing machine. This machine only has a straight stitch, but it is set up to go extremely fast. Barb stated “I use this machine as my workhorse.” She has it set up centrally in the studio with a view of the gardens. What a great environment to work in.

Taking up one wall was a 14 foot Gamill Long Arm Sewing Machine for her machine quilting. She also has a design wall she couldn’t live without, cabinets full of fabric, and a futon. I understood the reasons for everything but the futon. It turns out her husband, Grant, likes to takes naps in her studio. Awwww, isn’t that cute?

The Girl Scouts had never seen a long arm before. Barb didn’t have a project on it at the time, but she turned on the laser and let the girls try following a design from a panagram. They discovered it is s not as easy as it looks.

Barb sat down with the girls and explained what goes into designing a pattern. She explained coordinating colors, defining shapes and incorporating texture. Barb pulled out a sample from Blank fabric and explained how fabrics inspire the design of the quilt. Barb also readily admitted that she does not use a computer to design her patterns. She uses graph paper.

I always imagined a quilt designer’s studio would be full to the rafters with fabric. But Barb’s wasn’t. All she had where two cabinets like this.

Why Barb? Where is all the fabric??? I called her back after our visit to ask.

“Other than the 2 cupboards in my studio that houses fabric for my basic needs, I do have a bedroom upstairs that houses all my quilts and fabric that I don't use on a regular basis, like my collections of 30's prints, civil war prints, batiks, flannels and all my backing fabric. I really don't have an extensive collection of fabric because of the number of quilts I make. Between the quilt patterns and quilt books I have made 70 to 80 quilts, bags, wall hangings etc. in the past two years. That took a big bite out of my stash. Oh well, guess I have to go shopping!!!!”

Can we come and help?

We ended the studio tour Barb giving each scout a quilting kit and challenging them to design a quilt around it. Then we had a tour of the gardens. One of the Girl Scout’s other interest is gardening. Barb and the scout started cooking up ideas on how the scout could use some of Barb’s gardening skills and excess plants on an upcoming service project. What a perfect ending. This Girl Scout Leader says “Thanks Barb!”…for the studio tour and the promise of plants!

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