I recently asked all our teachers to answer some questions, so that we can get to know them better before September! Our first ‘profile’ is
- Can you tell us a bit about your background in textiles? Where/how did you learn and how long have you been crafting?
I can’t remember when I wasn’t making something. Dolly clothes made from a rectangles with slit for the arms and a safety pin closure. Little did I know where my love of fabric would eventually take me? My Mum was always knitting and sewing. There were 3 of us at that stage (my youngest brother came later on). She would make 2 cardigans and 1 jumper (2 girls and 1 boy) all the same. She did Fair Isle patterns all the time. Then she would make 2 skirts and one pair of pants from the same fabric to match. I really didn’t want to match my siblings, but I now realise it was actually a financial necessity so ensure we were clothed properly. Nothing was wasted. My dolly’s clothes all had matching outfits as well. Frugality at its best. So yes I suppose I was surrounded by fabric and textiles from a very early age but in a practical way.
- Did you grow up surrounded by art/textiles?
As I said before, yes I suppose I did, but in a practical way. Curtains were made along with cushions and clothes.
- What was the first thing you ever made?
My dolly clothes.
- Where do you find inspiration?
Gosh… where do I start? My inspiration is everywhere. It can be in an airport, laying back and realising that the light on the ceiling casts shadows and shapes. Most recently, it was at Jakarta Airport in Indonesia whilst we were waiting for a flight. The ceiling there is amazing. Definitely a quilt coming out of that for sure. Fences along Freeways, manhole cover, brick pattern in Bali and on temple walls. Inspiration is everywhere for me. My camera on my phone is my best tool for recording the details that appeal to me. These give me the starting points that allow me to quit.
- How would you describe your style?
My style is very eclectic. One minute I am using muted colours because they appeal to me, the next I am all about Brights and geometric patterns. I have moved away from traditional and now I love to play with fabric and design and see where it takes me. My main challenge with this though is when I am asked to teach something I didn’t take notes or photos of during its creation because it was just ‘flowing’. In this case I have to backtrack my thought processes as I did with my ‘Baptist Feather’ quilt.
- Could you please give a brief outline of your career to date?
I started my actual quilting and patchwork life in 1991 when my Mum and I attended a quilting class together at our local quilt shop. Our first quilt was all hand done. I loved the slower pace that hand work gave me as my husband and I had very busy work lives. Eventually machine work took over as I became impatient that the quilts were taking too long to complete. About a year later I was asked to teach at that particular shop which was Perth Sewing Centre. I was scared to death, but just took deep breath and went for it.
About a year after that a friend asked me if I could do a couple of classes at their shop as well. This eventually became a place that I loved to teach at. I of course did more than a couple of classes’ hahaha.
Fast forward a few years and I was fortunate to meet Leonie and Bill West from Westalee Designs whose Aussie business is now a worldwide business. Leonie and I hit it off immediately and a lifelong friendship was born. The parallels in our lives was just so close that we now feel that we were twins separated at birth. Our Mums said no, but we still are not sure. Lol. We are non – blood sisters in so many ways. We can feel each other’s feelings and moods, which can be a problem sometimes especially when one of us is ill. Leonie has taught me to spread my wings, do my own thing and trust myself. I used and taught their Award winning Westalee Design Adjustable Rulers for many years and was amazed at her vision and talent. If I have a 10th of her talent, I will be very happy. I taught at several Patchwork shops in Perth over the years and loved my time at all of them.
In 2015, they launched the First Ruler Foot and Quilting Template system for domestic sewing machines. It was revolutionary and has taken the quilting world by storm. I am honoured to have been so closely involved with its development with Leonie and Bill. I became one of her ‘testers’. The rest as they say is history. I have travelled extensively teaching and went to Houston with them to launch my first book about ruler quilting ‘Janet’s Ruler Quilt Design Book’. I didn’t realise it at the time but it was the first Ruler Quilt Design Book to be published in the world. I now travel to Houston every year with Leonie and Bill to demonstrate and teach and show my new creations. Every time I walk through those doors to the Convention Centre I have to pinch myself. Who would have thought that a lass from Perth, Western Australia would be doing all these wonderful things? Never give up on your dreams.
When I was asked to teach at the Australian Machine Quilting Festival in 2016, Domestic Ruler Quilting was in its infancy. I was so surprised to hear that my classes sold out so fast. The only other person who did that was Ricky Tims when he came over. It was so humbling for me. Thanks also to Tracey Browning, who organises the mammoth task of producing AMQF, for your faith in me and inviting me back to teach again.
Recently, in spite of a wave of shop closures, I opened up a new patchwork shop called “From the First Stitch to the Last” and ‘Janet Collins Designs” with my sister Jill and two friends, Sharon and Lynnette in Perth. So this is the latest step of my career. I am very fortunate that they support me fully so that I am able to so what I do.
7. What is your most valued achievement?
My family of course, but I think you mean with quilting. For me it’s the small things. I may be teaching a class and when I see someone who has been struggling with an aspect of what they are doing. After a little encouragement, they try again and then you can see the ‘lightbulb’ moment. As a teacher, that is such a wonderful moment to share with them.
For many years before I became involved with Ruler work, I really struggled with actual quilting, so I became a great topper and a fabulous ditcher. Because I have Tourette’s I found that I couldn’t regulate the signals from my brain to my hands. This was so frustrating that I stopped actually quilting altogether. Through Ruler Quilting I have found a new passion that inspires me. I was quilting a quilt called ‘Circles of Mystery”. It was one of those aha moments. I kept sending photos of the progress of this quilt to Leonie who in turn sent them to Tonia Brooks. They both encouraged me to keep going, even though I didn’t feel it was very good. That quilt is only a metre square but it is my most prized quilt. It was the quilt where I finally became ‘A Quilter’. You can see where I started and where I finished. At least Leonie and Tonia can.
- Do you have any interesting project/plans for the future?
Absolutely. I am in the process of writing more books on Ruler Quilting. Baptist Feathers is next, then a book on TempLeeQuilting straight after that. I am always doing new things with Leonie, but a lot is under wraps so to speak, so you won’t see it on Facebook or anywhere else until Leonie and Bill are ready to launch the products. Even my students don’t get sneak peeks.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Not really, I love what I do and because I do, it’s not really work. It is my passion and it is not uncommon for me to be up till the small hours of the night working on an idea that just ‘popped’ into my head. I can’t sleep until I get it done. I am sure that many of you have done this as well.
- If travelling to Australia, what is on your bucket list to see/do?
I live in Australia, but I still have lots of bucket List items to tick off. I still want to see our North West and Uluru. Teach my way around Australia would be fun. Hot Air Ballooning, skydiving.
Visit Janet’s page to book any of her wonderful classes Here
Please be aware that all of Janet’s classes INCLUDE the kit fee of $30- in the price of the class. You get to learn some amazing techniques using specific Westalee Rulers & learn to think outside the square on what you can create with them. Plus a kit with all fabric & wadding to complete the mini quilts. Refer to each class description that can be found by clicking the ‘info’ button in the ticketing area to read the description and inclusions.