Designer: Natalie Barnes | OLFA - CraftOLFA – Craft

Designer: Natalie Barnes

What began as a way to pass the time on a rainy Hawaiian morning turned into the adventure of a lifetime! For designer Natalie Barnes, that moment morphed into a business that encompasses patterns, books, and fabric design. She’s enjoying every minute of it! Also be sure to check out Natalie’s project for this month Wonky Shoo Fly Table Runner.


Tell us about your business.

beyond the reef was started one rainy north shore morning on a lanai in Hanalei, Kauai, while drinking coffee with author Jill Marie Landis.  I created a quilt kit for both of us to appliqué while watching the rain, waiting for the sun.  When I left, friends wanted to know how to get the pattern for the project Jill was making.  My next trip to Kauai was to visit Julie Yukimura (bless her soul) at the Kapaia Stitchery, and to see if the patterns would sell. Many years later, we are still selling patterns, both the non-traditional Hawaiian patterns, and the new pieced patterns.  It’s a delight to see!


How did you choose your business name?

I am pretty sure Jill decided on the name for this pattern design company.  When a friend calls and says, “You know what you should do ….”, well, they earn the right to name the company.


Do you specialize in a specific look or technique?

Having always lived on the beach, I draw my inspiration for color and design from the sea, the sky, and the land. And with a background in commercial interior design and architecture, I love the “puzzle”.  You know, the “Where is the block?  How did you make that?!?”  part of quilting.


Where are you from?

I am a born and raised Southern California girl.  Through and through.  Body surfing, beach lifeguard dating teen and gardening, quilting, kayaking, stand up paddling adult.  Bright sunny days course through my veins.  I guess that shows in my choice of fabric designs and project colors, too.


What is your community like?

I live in a small beach community with the bay on one side and the ocean on the other.  Our street is very tightly knit, and you can find us on any given day celebrating a holiday together on the bay, BBQ and laughter on hand.  Or just watching the sun rise over the bay, or watching a great sunset on the historic wooden boardwalk on the beach.

My quilting community is a thoughtful and giving group.  Whether it’s my local guild, or the great friends I’ve made along the way, they are all just spectacular.


How many fabric collections have you designed?

I had the pleasure of designing my first line of fabrics for Windham Fabrics, called Hand Maker.  I then designed Makers Home.  Homeward is available in shops now!

I recently had the distinct honor of being a Guest Designer for Anthology Fabrics, part of the Windham family.  Batiks are just magical.  They are one part designer and many parts artisans that make them!  It was a great experience.  Definitely magical.  Island Home will start shipping to shops in August of this year.


What do you love about designing fabric?

I love the process.  From wandering through the neighborhood or a great botanical garden for inspiration, to pen on paper, to eventually working in color … I just love it all!


And patterns?

It’s always fun to see what people do with the projects … their color choices, fabric choices … and for some people, a pattern is just a “jumping off” point, and they use the ideas in a pattern to make their very own ideas come to life!


And books!

I wrote A Modern Twist for Martingale/TPP.  It’s a pleasure to expose people to a little something about Color, Contrast or Composition … something they can carry with them and use on every project they make … that is just pure happiness for me.


Which consumer shows will you be at?

I currently attend QuiltCon in February and International Quilt Festival Houston in the Fall – October.  I also look forward to teaching at retreats and guilds and shops. Because, after all, it’s about the people!  I have met multi-generations of families attending shows together.  These are the places to see dear friends and to make new friends.


What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I was asked to be the featured quilter at the International Quilt Market this Spring in Kansas City, MO.  It was such an honor, and such a dream come true.  The fabric is called Island Home – such a great opportunity!  I had one of the best market trips of my life!


What craft or hobby did you do prior to sewing?

Well, my grandmother taught me to knit and crochet and embroider at an early age.  And I started sewing as a young teen, making garments and quilts.  Throughout the years, I kept painting and studying Fine Arts.

Do you still continue?

Absolutely!  I still love the connection that each endeavor brings.


How do you spend a free day?

Quilting or sewing.  Laying in the freshly mowed grass with the dog, or kayaking with friends.

Do you have a favorite color?

Just one?!?


Which social media platform do you prefer?

All of them I think provide something to someone.  You’ll find beyond the reef on Instagram or on Facebook

and Pinterest.  I’ve also started a YouTube channel — the series is called STITCH!  You’ll also find it posted on the Windham Fabrics youTube channel.


What don’t people know about you?

Oh gosh….lots and lots of things!  But if I told you, well, then … Okay.  Just one thing.  There’s a new fabric line in the works with Windham Fabrics!!!! (squeal!)


Is there something you’d love to do but haven’t?

One of the most important things on my bucket list, was to paddle with my best girlfriend’s husband and very dear friend Steve.  He is an accomplished Outrigger Canoe paddler, having won medals across the globe.  While visiting Hanalei, he asked if I wanted to paddle.  I was to meet him at 8:30, ready to go. So I set my alarm for 7 am.  I awoke at 4am, and finally got up at 5:54am.  I was so excited, I just couldn’t sleep!!  He gave me a paddling shirt (from his club) and a quick lesson.  “Whatever you do, don’t drop the paddle …”  I was at his doorstep, ready to go by 8:20 … to hear about this recent adventure, you’ll have to find the rest on my website!

Ooooh.  You meant quilts — yes, someday I want to make a Double Wedding Ring  —  and  a Pickle Dish.  I want to take a class with Kathy Doughty of Material Obsession.  And  Ann Shaw.  (I love her quilts!) There are such great instructors out there right now … and great retreats and conferences to attend!  While I love spending my time teaching, I love being a student and learning, too!


Besides OLFA, what are your go-to quilting tools?

I love my mechanical Janome machine – I have an HD-3000 – it is fast and sturdy and durable.  I recently took an HD-9 for a test drive and fell in love with that machine too.  Of course, I use Aurifil threads – from 50 wt for piecing all the way to the 12 weight for hand quilting.  It’s all so lush to work with!  Really, all you need to quilt is a good sewing machine, some thread, fabric and great cutting tools like OLFA.  It’s easy to get started!  What it really takes is just a few moments to get some fabric together and cut it up.  Just take that first step.  That’s why I love OLFA’s new kit with cutter, mat and ruler … all in one.  Simple.


Give us a quick sewing or quilting tip.

Just sew.  I have said it before, but it bears repeating.  Just cut up some fabric and start sewing.  The “right” machine is the one you have.  A project can be completed 15 minutes at a time – take those stolen moments for yourself – before you know it, you will have made a quilt!   Just sew.


Follow Natalie online further at the below:


Natalie is the owner/designer for beyond the reef, a quilt pattern-design company that she started one rainy north shore morning on a lanai in Hanalei, Kauai, while drinking coffee with author Jill Marie Landis. As a little girl, Natalie learned to sew, knit, and crochet from her grandmother. After a successful career in the demanding commercial/corporate interior design field in Los Angeles, Natalie decided it was time to live a new dream and put her talents to work in another area. She has never looked back. She is proud to be fabric designer for Windham Fabrics and guest designer for Anthology Fabrics.  She is also a part of the 2019 OLFA Design Team, a Janome Maker, and an Aurifilosopher and 2019 Aurifil Designer of the Month.  She is author of A Modern Twist, by Martingale/TPP with contributions by Angela Walters.  And you’ll find her entertaining tutorials on the new video series, STITCH!, or teaching at a guild or retreat near you.

Having always lived on the beach, Natalie draws her inspiration for color and design from the sea, the sky, and the land. These days you’ll find Natalie in the studio in sunny Southern California, or out and about with her dog, Stitch.