Monday, March 9, 2015

{Behind the Blog} Ashley of Film in the Fridge

Please welcome Ashley of Film in the Fridge to our Behind the Blog interview series!  I was so thrilled when Ashley agreed to participate because I get the feeling, from reading her blog, that she is a bit of a private person.  The lady graciously answered even my clumsiest questions!  Ashley has been inspiring the modern quilt community for a long, long time from her home in Vermont.  Now with two little ones about, she still finds time to make unique, vibrant works that stretch me to think of quilt construction in new ways.  As her blog title hints, Film in the Fridge is also a place to find impeccable and creative quilt photography.  Let's hear from Ashley!

::YOUR BLOG:: The purpose behind keeping a blog tends to evolve over time.  As we enter the new year, what does your blog mean to you?  

After all these years, blogging has sort of become part of my life, though certainly life (and the amount of time I have for blogging!) has changed. I always loved sharing what I was working on, and especially finished quilts, on my blog, and this is still the case. I think it's really nice to have a permanent record of what I've created over the past several years, especially since many of those quilts have gone on to find new homes elsewhere. 

::SOCIAL MEDIA::  Do you participate in other social media from a quilty perspective?  If so, which and what do they "add" for you?

I do! I love Instagram for quick peeks at what people are working on. I think it's really great for progress photos - those quick shots that may not warrant a full blog post, yet are still nice for sharing. I used to share more of the "in progress stuff" on the blog, but since Instagram makes it so much easier, I usually save the finished quilt top/quilt for the blog post. It's also such a nice/easy way to chat and meet others who share similar interests (something I always found hard about the blog) 

::VOLUME::  Yours was the first quilt blog I began to follow!  I am amazed by the volume of quilts you often make and how beautiful each one is.  About how many quilts do you make per month?  What drives you to keep making?   

Thank you! I admit I am still quite obsessed! I love the process of making a quilt - starting from a pile of fabrics and ending with something warm, useful and pretty to look at! I love vast possibilities that exist when looking at a stack of fabrics, and I suppose that's why I usually have so many quilts going at one time - there's always a new pile of fabrics to be inspired by! I really have no idea how many quilts I make each month - in the back of my mind I try to have at least one new thing to show on the blog each week, so maybe four quilt tops a month?

New fabrics, different color combos, some random thing I saw that reminded me of a quilt - these are all things that keep me wanting to make new quilts. There's always something new to explore and it's exciting to think about what I might be able to make! 

::MOTHERHOOD::  How has the addition of your two little ones changed your quilting habits?  Blogging habits?  Any tips for those of us expecting new arrivals? 

It's certainly made it harder to finish quilts! I do pretty well sewing blocks together and getting quilt tops made simply by doing a few minutes here and there throughout the day, but I no longer have nice long stretches of time available for quilting. The ones that get quilted these days are usually the quilts that I've been asked to make - for a designer or manufacturer - and to do so, I usually have to plan in advance to have everything ready by a weekend so my husband can take the kids out for a while. 

As the kids get a bit older, things continue to change. On one hand I feel I get a few more minutes to myself as they've started entertaining themselves (and even playing together!), but on the other, we're now spending more time outside the house for preschool and other activities, which means less time for sewing and blogging. 

Awhile back, when people were blogging more often, I used to aim to blog three times a week. I'd show a mix of finished quilts and in progress photos and even stacks of fabric. Now I'm lucky if I can manage one post a week. There's a lot that goes into writing a blog post - photos with the real camera, getting said photos off the camera and onto my super slow computer, editing the photos and then writing the post. It can take quite a bit of time, and that's why I've made the move to mainly blog about a quilt top or finished quilt. I like blogging for giving me the opportunity to explain why I made the quilt, what I was inspired by, or even what went wrong.... things I may not be able to communicate on Instagram. I also like to link to photos of my inspiration (when possible) and keep track of those finished projects. 

No tips really, though I've said all along that if it's possible to carve out a little space where you can keep your sewing machine and work in progress set up, I think there's a much better chance that you can make little bits of progress throughout the day. I can sit and sew a few minutes here and there, and surprisingly you can make decent progress! I also have adjusted my sewing habits, and do a lot more speed sewing than ever before. I'm not sure I can say the actual sewing is relaxing, as I'm usually chain piecing and racing through as much sewing as I can at each time.

::AMBITIONS::  As we enter the new year, do you have any new quilty ambitions?  For example:  book-writing, pattern-making, teaching, quilt shows, etc.  If so, what draws you to this new interest?  If not, do you ever feel pressure to "do more" as a quilter in the blogosphere?

I should, right? But no. I do often think that I should be working to make this more of a business, and certainly doing those types of things would aid in that. I've always been afraid that I would come to dislike what I was doing, and I really don't want to give up what I love about this hobby. For now, at least while the kids are little and my sewing time is limited, I've decided I want to just keep working on the things that make me happiest, while saying yes occasionally to little opportunities, even though it means saying no to many other great opportunities.

::DESIGN:: Thinking about your quilting style, is it important to you to do original, somewhat unique work or are you just as happy working in classic or popular styles of patchwork?  What excites you most in the design process?

I like all of it, though I do like to try to do something kind of different when possible. I'm not great at following directions, so patterns have never been my friend, but I have always been a fan of a basic patchwork quilt in great fabrics. I love looking at vintage and antique quilts to see how I might be able to adjust fabrics, sizing, or block placement to give it a bit of a twist.

::FABRIC COLLECTIONS::  It seems that your quilts often feature a particular collection, rather than mixing up diverse fabrics.  It's a treat, as a reader, to see new collections in action!  Do you often receive collections free of cost from manufacturers/stores who hope you will be inspired to quilt with them?  

It's funny you say that, as one of my favorite things is pulling and piling fabrics from any number of designers, and even many different fabric substrates. I think fabrics should be mixed together, and I think you can often come up with some great unexpected pairings when you're willing to go outside a specific fabric line. I suppose it's true that I'm more often putting piles together and maybe not actually sewing a quilt out of them. 

It is true that I have made many quilts showcasing a particular fabric line, though I think this is usually when I'm asked to do so by a designer or manufacturer (ok, ok, there have been a number of all Cotton + Steel quilts!). I do like seeing how a fabric line looks when it's sewn into a quilt. Since I'm not a fabric designer, it's always interesting to me to try to see into the mind of the designer - trying to discover how they thought the prints and colors might pair together.

I do receive fabric occasionally from manufacturers or designers, and I certainly appreciate when someone wants to send me fabric! However, for the most part I do purchase most of my fabric on my own. I'd rather buy it myself so that I then don't have the pressure to use it in a certain amount of time. While manufacturers don't require me to use the fabric by a certain date, I understand that they're hoping that the fabric will be used and shown off, ideally before it's no longer in print! 

Sometimes it works out well - where I receive fabric and immediately know what I want to turn it into, but other times it arrives and sits - either because I'm busy with other projects, or perhaps just not feeling inspired with it at the moment, and then the guilt sets in! It's definitely easier to sew a quilt as I'm inspired to do so, rather than forcing a quilt to be just because I feel I need to use the fabric. 

On a related note, I have always tried to keep my blog true to what I like - I don't want to push a product just because it was sent to me, so I do try to be selective about what I say "yes" to.

::YOUR STYLE::  Please share a quilt that is a favorite, as far as expressing your quilt style.  What about it represents you or excites you most?

That's a tough one! If forced though, a favorite finished one that comes to mind is the Maze & Vale quilt I made recently.

I love it because I spent so many years collecting little pieces of Leslie's beautiful hand printed fabrics, and it was so fun to see them all play together in a quilt. And of course, there's that gorgeous drop cloth backing, which really makes this quilt special. I may have spent quite a bit of time bugging Leslie about using it as a backing, and I am so thankful that I get to see this work of art on the back of the quilt every time I use it!

I also have a couple quilt tops that I'm quite fond of -- they're both improvisationally pieced, with no idea at the outset of what I was going to make. I love how they came together - this one out of all solid scraps, 

and this one that just continued to grow from the center out and ended with those four corners of different solids. 

I was unhappy at first to find that I didn't have enough of any one solid to finish it, then pleasantly surprised at what I came up with by just deciding to use what I had on hand.  They remain unquilted because I'm kind of afraid of choosing the wrong design!

::TOOLS::  What sewing machine do you use for piecing and for quilting?  Are you happy with it?  Do you do most of your own quilting?   What thread do you use most often and why?

I have an older Pfaff (Expression 2036), which I bought when I first learned to sew and started the blog. I bought it used from a local shop and have been extremely happy with it. I've certainly put it to good use, and have only ever had to bring it in for regular maintenance.  I'm sure that the fact that I haven't struggled with my machine has meant I've enjoyed sewing more than I might have otherwise.

I also have a Pfaff Grand Quilter.  I don't think it is made any longer either, but it's nearly identical to many of the mid sized industrial machines. I bought it for the larger throat space, but really just pull it out these days for free motion quilting. I've always thought that it would be nice to get one machine that combines all the features I like of both machines, but I hesitate to give up on what has worked so well for all these years!

I've always done most of my own quilting; though as mentioned, I can't seem to get to the quilting part these days, so perhaps I'll consider sending a few more out so they'll actually get finished!

I gave Aurifil a try a while back, and I've stuck with it. It works well in my machine, and I like the weight of it. It's nice that it's thinner than what I used to use and consequently the bobbin runs out less frequently (one of my least favorite parts of sewing!).  I nearly always stick with white or off white. I've also played around with quilting with variegated thread, which I really like. I haven't tried Aurifil's version yet, but I've found Sulky makes some great colors.

Thanks, Ashley, for letting me pick your brain!  After sending you my interview questions, I noticed quilt after quilt on your blog made of mixed-designer fabrics.  I must have somehow fixated on the collection-oriented ones.  But, truthfully, I like them ALL!  Please keep on sharing your talent at Film in the Fridge!

p.s.  If you are a reader of Film in the Fridge and have a burning question that I did not ask, feel free to add it here in the comments.  Maybe miss Ashley will pop by and satisfy your curiosity.  xo


  1. I'm a big fan of FITF. I love everything she does. And the photography. I adore the photos of her little guys.I'm always interested to know about sewing room set-up, fabric storage, and what kinds of fabrics quilters look for. If she could answer these questions--that would be a bonus. Please--FITF--keep blogging. I can see Instagram but can't reply or participate--no Iphone, only a MacAir.
    Also, I like the written part of blogs--a lot of images, well, are a lot of images. Little personality gets conveyed. Thanks for your time.

    1. Thanks Sandra! My sewing 'room' is really just a corner of our living room, and consists of a large sewing/cutting table and one antique jelly cabinet for fabric storage. I try to keep the fabrics I reach for most often in this cabinet, while extra fabrics is stored in a closet in our guest bedroom. My fabric purchases have changed over the years - I started out buying yards of those prints I liked, but found that I never needed that much! Now I mainly look for blenders, or I'll purchase FQ or F8th bundles of those lines I really like.
      Don't worry - I still love blogging so I imagine I'll be around for a while!

  2. Rosemary B here:
    Yes, I have read your blog! You make beautiful quilts, and excellent photos.
    All of you ladies are very inspiring, You are too.
    Keep blogging, Ashley

  3. I really enjoyed reading this interview. It's fun to learn a little behind the scenes about bloggers I admire. And I certainly do admire Film in the Fridge! I love your quilts and your blog, and I'm very glad that you continue to find the time to do both. Thanks,

  4. I haven't seen Ashley's work in a while but I am impressed as always with her glorious eye for color, design and photography.

  5. This isn't a blog I've ever read so I look forward to checking it out. Thanks!


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