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Meet Pattern Designer Terry Atkinson

The Fall issue of The Professional Quilter includes a profile on Terry Atkinson. I’ve watched Terry’s business grow since I met her at her first Quilt Market in 1997. Her simple patterns have always been well-received by quilt shop owners and quilters alike, including the perennial best seller “Yellow Brick Road.” I wanted to know more about how Terry grew her business.

How did you come to quilting?
I made my first quilt in college for an art class project because I couldn’t afford paint. I had lots of fabric around the house. Later, I took an adult education class about quilting and began teaching quilting to my home ec students. I think the teaching skills translated into my ability to write easy-to-follow instructions.

What led to the business?
I was teaching quilting at a local quilt shop. Soon, my students asked to buy my class handouts, and I adapted my most popular class handouts for my first two patterns. Initially, the patterns were sold in local quilt shops. A pattern distributor picked up those first two patterns that year, giving the patterns exposure across the United States. In 1997 International Quilt Market was held in Minneapolis, and I exhibited for the first time, giving my patterns even more exposure to shops and distributors. They started to take over on a larger scale at that time.

One of your patterns, “Yellow Brick Road,” has been in the Checker Top 20 for seven to eight years. Why do you think it remains so popular?
“Yellow Brick Road” is a quilt that looks good in any kind of fabric. It’s fun to sew, and people like the fact that it uses up all of each fat quarter so there are no leftover scraps. Each time you make it it looks like a brand new quilt because it takes on the personality of the fabrics used. From what I hear, longarm quilters end up with lots of these to quilt for their customers.

You have 27 individual patterns and 14 books. How do you decide whether to issue a particular design as a solo pattern or as a part of a book?
For a pattern, we have only four pages of instructions, so a book provides more flexibility. The pictures are larger in a book as well, so sometimes I make the decision based on if the quilt would look better in a larger or smaller photo. I also will use books to showcase new fabric collections. And, if I want to work with a theme, I’ll go with a book. For example, Let’s Do Lunch, which came out earlier this year, includes a variety of table runners, napkin rings and a few totes. Most of the patterns have food-themed names.

To read more of the profile on Terry Atkinson, you can purchase Issue 105 or start your subscription here.

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