Two sisters, living in two different states, combine their talents to give the quilting industry bright fabrics and stunning patterns that work for beginners and more advanced quilters. Get to know more about Barbara Groves and Mary Jacobson of Me and My Sister Designs.
Tell us about your business?
We’ve had our hands in just about every aspect of quilting. From one-time shop owners, we’ve expanded our love of quilting into a business that now includes designing fabrics for Moda Fabric, developing the SideWinder portable bobbin winder, and producing and designing books and patterns for our company “Me and My Sister Designs.”
We have great fun taking what we like to call “Everyday Color” and in-fusing it into fabrics and traditional pattern designs. We’re constantly re-doing everything we see in bright and vibrant colors.
How did it start and who’s big idea was it?
Mary dragged us into this after taking one quilt class! Barb had a perfectly stable career as an X-Ray tech with a steady paycheck. Mary had the same stable job in accounting and mortgage lending. We started quilting way back in the late ’90s and opened a quilt shop after making that one quilt! The whole quilt wasn’t even finished and we sewed the binding on after we were in the shop several months. Quilting was booming and so were primitive style fabrics. Our first quilt is an example of that. Today we enjoy quilting more than ever. We don’t own that quilt shop anymore but we’re still active in many aspects of the industry.
Where did you both grow up? And where do you live now?
We were both born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Our father lost his job and moved us all to Los Alamos, New Mexico where we lived for many years. Barb now lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Mary lives just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico in a small town called Placitas.
With both of you living hundreds of miles apart, how do you divide the work of designing and running the day-to-day work of your business? What are your challenges?
For many years we both lived in the greater Phoenix area. In fact, we lived less than 4 miles apart so getting together to work was easy. When Mary’s husband got a job transfer he couldn’t refuse, they moved to New Mexico and we get more work done now. Not as many distractions. There are lots of emails and we talk to each other on the phone most days. Because we also teach together frequently, we see each other often. There is a natural division of the workload. Mary is more of the pattern design and graphic work person and Barb is more of the fabric design and daily upkeep person.
What is unique about your look and techniques?
We like color, bright color! We like to take traditional designs and patterns and infuse them with color. Mary also likes to simplify traditional techniques. She can break things down and make them easier.
Who are the companies you’ve worked with over the years to develop books, fabric, tools, and events?
We went from owning our quilt shop to working with Moda Fabrics. We’ve been working with them for many years and have produced over 45 fabric groups. Not very long after that, we began publishing and have worked with Leisure Arts and have settled into working with Martingale Publishing. We recently self-published our first book called The Double Wide Dresden Book and created a companion ruler to simplify the traditional Dresden. A template has spun off of that called the Double Wide 4 Patch Dresden Template. We’ve also worked with Wrights/Simplicity and developed the SideWinder portable bobbin winder.
How many fabric collections, books, and patterns have you designed?
Over 50 groups released or in the works by the time this publishes. We’ve lost count of the patterns! And we’ve published and/or collaborated in over 23 books and still counting.
What steps do you take to reach the final design for your fabric or a pattern?
Things hardly ever finish the way they started. It’s a process of trial and error and re-thinking. How can we make this easier or better? We’ve always worked with brightly colored fabrics and this is the first time we limited our palette to only red, white, and blue. Mary loves to sew heart blocks and we both thought they’d be perfect for our project.
As former shop owners, what do you think are important techniques to teach beginning quilters?
Keep it simple. Start with something very basic that the student can complete in a week or less. They’ll feel great about actually finishing something and be excited to try something new. We learn from our students, and our love of quilting grows and grows.
MARY: What is your ‘go-to’ craft when you want to do something different?
Knitting! (Barb says Mary does absolutely beautiful work.)
BARB: What craft or hobby did you do before sewing? Do you still continue?
Crochet! Not so many afghans these days but my “on the go “ project is crochet washcloths.
In addition to OLFA, what other tools do you rely on?
We have been using OLFA tools since the day we began quilting over 25 years ago. We carried them exclusively when we owned our quilt shop and continue to love and use them today. In addition to them, our Double Wide Dresden Ruler and the Double Wide 4 Patch Dresden Template are tools we can’t live without.
MARY: You’ll always find ______ in my fridge.
Chocolate! In the fridge comes from living in Phoenix for many years.
BARB: A household chore I actually enjoy doing is ________.
Seriously? None of them!
Tell us what’s coming up for Me and My Sister.
We have a new fabric group called Back Porch. It’s being shown to the quilt shop owners now for an August 2020 delivery. It’s the first time we’ve limited our colors to just red, white, and blue. This September we have a retreat hosted in San Diego. It’s the first time we’ve taught on the west coast in many years and we’re looking forward to it. For more information contact Eternity Quilt Events. A new Martingale book and follow up to our successful charm book series round things out.
Learn more about Barb and Mary by visiting their website and follow along with them on Instagram. Their adorable table runner pattern will look wonderful on your Summer table. Hop over to get the pattern here: I Love You More Table Runner
Company name: Me and My Sister Designs