An Interview with Toby Lischko

I had the pleasure of talking to one of our designers, Toby Lischko, a couple of weeks ago. I first met Toby at the International Quilt Market in the fall of 2008. She was kind enough to help us out in the booth for a few days (for that, my aching feet and I will forever be grateful), so I knew Toby was a wonderful person who designs beautiful quilt patterns for us. It was time to talk to her as a designer.

We started talking about how she joined the team. Back in 2002, was looking for new designers. Toby responded by showing us a few of her designs and she has been with us ever since. In fact, back in 2007, Toby’s pattern, Mosaic Magic was the featured quilt on the cover of a publication.

Mosaic Magic

It has been Toby’s best selling pattern ever since, along with Royal Gems.

Royal Gems

 It’s always interesting to get into the head of a designer and see what inspires them; what sparks an idea that turns into a quilt design. Toby told me, “The fabric talks to me.” I was polite enough to not ask what the fabric says. But seriously, Toby explained further that the fabric leads her to consider what kind of design would further enhance the fabric’s theme or design. For example, she just worked with some Americana fabric for RJR. This fabric “told her” it required traditional blocks and it went from there.

Her favorite activity in the quilt design/sewing process is creating the actual design. She likes to use Electric Quilt 6 and is often designing before she goes to bed. It seems her brain never turns off. She’ll go to sleep thinking about a design and in the morning the final version of it is fairly clear. She’ll get up with the finished design in her head and then work on it until she is happy with the results. Sometimes she has to drag herself away from the computer to finally sew the quilt!

Discussion of Toby’s favorite activity in the sewing process led me to ask about her least favorite (and we all have one). For her, it’s the actual quilting process. She often has to rack her brain to figure out what design to quilt on the project. Now doesn’t that make the rest of us mere quilting mortals feel better?

I just had to ask Toby about her Zen Garden pattern. I can honestly say that, in recent memory, it is the largest quilt has ever had to photograph. This king size beauty took up most of the wall in our photography studio. Toby related how she loves Asian fabrics and this quilt is no exception. It is a large quilt and would take some time to make, but it definitely would be worth it!

Toby has done some designing of miniature quilts (that’s another word for “instant gratification” in my vernacular). I asked if there was anything different in that design process. Toby said, “It has to be in scale. You need to be able to look at a picture of a miniature quilt and have no idea whether the quilt is big or small.” She has designed miniature quilts that are traditionally pieced, paper-pieced, and strip pieced.

Toby admitted to not particularly liking to do appliqué quilts. However, she knows that there are other quilters out there scared to death of appliqué so she teaches a beginning machine appliqué class called “Fast Easy Appliqué circles (or what she likes to refer to it as Appliqué for Dummies”). She also teaches beginners and advanced quilters. The beginners are her favorites; she likes to teach them how to quilt correctly before they acquire bad habits. She has taught children; having taught How To Make Shorts a long time ago, but now her favorite children to teach are her grandchildren. Both (a boy and girl) have sewn their own first quilts. She had them first design the quilts on graph paper. They got to sew them on her sewing machine, and then she let them “doodle” on them with her long arm.

Toby is certainly staying busy. She continues to design patterns, both for and for various fabric companies. Her patterns can be found in most of the major quilt magazines and as free web patterns on many of the fabric company websites. She wrote her first book St. Louis Stars, published by Kansas City Star Quilts.

She also loves to travel and is available for workshops and lectures. She has taught at the Houston Quilt Festival and will be teaching at Machine Quilter’s Expo in April 2010. Her patterns can be found here. Her class list and more information can be found on her website at Plus Toby has a Facebook Fan Page. Check it out!

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