Peta Peace Headshot

Designer Profile: Meet modern quilter, Peta Peace

Peta Peace, of She Quilts A Lot, and author of A Piece of Cake, is a modern quilter with a contemporary and simple style. Let’s find out more about her career and process. By Caroline Adams

“My love affair with sewing probably started when I was young. My mum was always at the sewing machine making us clothes, making stray thread and pins as much a part of our household as we were,” recalls Peta. She believes that at some point she must have asked to give sewing a try and her mum took the time to teach her how to use the sewing machine. “I’m not sure that I was all that good at it, but I did enjoy it and from then on I’d use, or borrow, mum’s machine whenever I wanted to make something.”

In those early days, her makes were mostly skirts and simple tops and sewing was a fairly irregular activity. Peta says her decision to concentrate on sewing was made when she and her husband were building their first house. “With a limited budget and a mortgage to pay, I worked out it was cheaper to make my own soft furnishings than buy them, so I would borrow the sewing machine and make things for my house. From there I was hooked and I’ve been making and creating ever since.”

While making garments and soft furnishings, Peta was introduced to quilting by her mother. In 2001 she was living in Darwin and on her visits home she would watch her mother work on an appliqué quilt project. “It was her first quilt project and I thought it looked like it might be something I’d enjoy, so I bought a magazine with a project in it that I thought looked nice, headed off to the fabric shop and a month or so later, I’d made my first quilt,” recounts Peta.

This first quilt was made 16 years ago and Peta has been seriously quilting ever since. At the beginning, she hand-quilted every quilt and tried to machine quilt once, but to no avail. In October 2013, she decided to attempt machine quilting again and that year she made 13 quilts as gifts. By the last one, finished just two days before Christmas, she finally got the hang of it. “That definitely made the quilt-making process much easier and now I make even more quilts!” says Peta.

Create Peta’s Tree Chic Christmas Cushion

During this experimental phase of Peta’s quilting career, she realised that a lot of the designs she was seeing weren’t quilts that she wanted to make. Designing her own quilt patterns was a natural progression from there.

“For a long time I was happy doing just that, but then a few people began suggesting I release quilt patterns for others to make. I thought they were a bit crazy! However, slowly the idea grew and eventually I decided to give writing a pattern a go,” says Peta.

As with any leap from hobby to business, Peta took on a lot of hard work and worry, but she is very glad she took the plunge. She believes the release of the first pattern led to a series of decisions that have resulted in her being lucky enough to work in an industry that she loves, doing something she enjoys almost every day.

Peta uses two words to describe her work and aesthetic: contemporary and simple. “I like to use fabrics and designs that can work well in my own house. I figure if it’s something I’d be happy to have sitting on the couch when guests come over, chances are there are at least a few other people who would feel the same way.”

When Peta started quilting she felt there wasn’t a great collection of what she calls “contemporary” fabrics available. Although Debbie Mumm, 1930s and country prints were readily available, they were not what she was after. Now she says “there is such an awesome array of colours and styles available that choosing fun, contemporary fabrics is so much easier. With those changes in fabric I’ve found that my style, and my business, have changed accordingly.

Peta mainly created appliqué quilt designs early on. These days, however, she prefers to piece her quilts on the machine and the bigger the blocks, the better, as she loves “a quilt that comes together quickly and easily into a good, useable size”.

Inspiration comes to Peta in many different ways. “I’ve taken photos of scarves, chairs, walls, tiles, even whole buildings because I’ve seen something that inspires me. I’ve even taken a picture of some wallpaper in the cabin of a plane I was travelling in! Of course, I also love reinventing and playing with traditional quilt blocks, so I have a healthy addiction to Pinterest and old quilt books,” explains Peta.

As with most of us, Peta has preferred fabrics and tools and works primarily with a good-quality 100-per-cent cotton fabric. Most of her fabrics are fairly contemporary in style and she uses her Liberty stash to make something a little different. “I love how soft and delicate Liberty fabrics are and how easy they are to sew with. I love using Liberty in small gift projects (such as my tutorials — Liberty-wrapped hand towels or Lovely Lavender Bags) — but my favourite Liberty project so far is the Regent quilt. Liberty combined with soft denim is just dreamy!”

Regent Liberty Quilt
The Regent is a simple quilt design mixing denim and Liberty in a free pattern, available from Peta when you subscribe to her blog.

Start a new project with bright splashy print fabrics

“If I’d been asked what my favourite technique was a few years ago, I think I would have said that two-at-a-time half-square triangles were my favourite technique. They’re quick and simple but sometimes all that trimming … yuck! Nowadays I love using easy corner triangles. I save all the trimmings and then use them in other quick projects like mini quilts and pillows,” explains Peta.

Peta Peace
Peta recycles trimmed corner from larger projects into mini quilts and pillows.

Peta tries to schedule in a few days between projects to sit down at the computer and draw several designs at the same time. “Once I’m in that design ‘space’ more ideas start to flow and I’ve found it’s best to just keep going until there is nothing new hitting the screen,” she says.

The design process itself is pretty simple, she adds. Starting with the pictures she has on her phone, she begins with drawing her designs, first working out how to construct a single block and then a whole quilt. Peta says many of the designs she’s made are the result of making a mistake,  but she embraces these: “A line in the wrong direction or simply rotating parts of a block the wrong way have often led to a design that I love.”

Before Peta makes the quilt, she likes to draw all of the pattern diagrams and write the pattern. She finds it helps to make sure everything will work and, the hard part of writing the pattern is done and then “I get to have fun at the sewing machine!”

Peta has a healthy stash of fabrics made up of mostly small-scale prints. Her favourite colours are navy, teal and pink, so those parts of her stash tend to be three times the size of the other colours. “Ever seen those beautiful photos of quilters’ fabric stashes on Pinterest or Instagram? Those photos look gorgeous, but they’re definitely not what it looks like at my house,” she says. “I find it easiest to keep my fabric stash safely behind a cupboard door so that it doesn’t end up sun bleached or dusty!

“I couldn’t live without precuts in my stash. I love how precut fabric bundles make it easy to choose fabric for a quilt, and I love being able to have a sample of every print in a fabric collection ready to use. I love all types of precut bundles, but my favourites are Layer Cakes, so I tend to have more of those than others.” Hence the focus of her book.

Peta is the author of A Piece of Cake: Sweet & Simple Quilts from Layer Cake Squares, a quilt pattern book using Layer Cakes. “I still have regular ‘pinch me’ moments about the book,” she enthuses. “Having had the opportunity to have a book about something I love so much published is like a dream come true!”

The book features 14 all-new designs created to work with precut Layer Cake squares to make fresh, fun projects. Each project has clear step-by-step instructions with easy-to-follow drawings and there are plenty of helpful tips.  Techniques include strip piecing, half square triangles, flying geese and easy corner squares, as well as working with bias edges and reverse appliqué. In short … there’s something for every quilter.

The book is published through Martingale and unlike a lot of other first-time authors, Peta didn’t go through a formal submission process. “One of my designs had been passed along to Martingale to take a look at and it all started from there. Most of the work for the book was done between May and July, 2016, so it was quite a while before copies actually hit shelves. That’s a big secret to keep for such a long time but it was certainly worth it.”

Now Peta is enjoying being able to visit quilt shops a few times a year to run quilting workshops. She loves being involved in the “quilty” community rather than being behind a computer, sharing her tips and tricks she’s learnt along the way.

A typical day for Peta starts after the school run, when she sits down with a cup of tea and scrolls through Instagram before heading to the computer to answer emails and do any design work. “Computer-based work isn’t my favourite, so I like to do it first and then get on with the fun stuff like cutting and sewing! At night I like to have something I can work on by hand on the couch, so I tend to save my binding until then,” she says.

Make this table runner and coaster set for your next tea party

Peta lives in Brisbane with her family and says she feels very lucky to live in such a beautiful city. “It’s such a friendly, happy place and most of the year we have the best weather,” she enthuses. “At the moment we’re nearly finished a major renovation and extension of our house, which was built by my grandparents 70 odd years ago.  With so much house activity happening over the past year or so I’m finding that I’m very much inspired by my home and homes of other Queenslanders. I’m sure once we’re back in our house and settled that will change again, though.”

Peta is looking forward to organising her studio once in the new home. For the first time, she will have a purpose-built room to herself. “Most of all I’m looking forward to being able to put my cutting table together again. It’s an Ikea hack my oldest daughter and I built together and it just makes life simple. Most things I need are simply a drawer away when I’m working and, when I’m not, everything is packed neatly away for next time.”

She is already working on four new patterns — one quilt and a few small projects. Judging by her career so far, a new home seems to herald a creative rejuvenation for Peta, so we look forward to the inspiration her new home will bring her.


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