Our Chat with Quilt Designer Rochelle Martin

by Lorie on May 27, 2009

Rochelle Martin
We want you to meet the talented quilt designers at You Can Quilt This, so we are doing a series of interviews with the authors. This month, we’re profiling prolific designer Rochelle Martin, who has been with our family of sites for several years now. Rochelle’s work is in quilting magazines everywhere these days, and one of her newest designs, Holiday Flourish, is a featured pattern for Kaufman Fabrics.


We asked Rochelle some questions about her business and about quilting:

Q: Why did you choose the name “Cottage Quilt Designs“?

A: I chose that name for more then one reason. We live in a cape cod home which is built like a cottage and where I have my studio. I also like cozy quilts that ask to be lived with and not stored as an heirloom under the bed! Cozy and cottage mean the same thing to me.

Rochelle’s Mom,Norma Justin 

Q: When did you start quilting and how did you learn to quilt?

A:I grew up in a Mennonite rural community where quilting was an important past time for women. As a young child I and my siblings went with my mother to quilting bees at our church. We played and they all sat around the quilting frame and worked on the quilt. That was my mother’s only experience at quilting since she is an artist and paints instead of sews. In later years she has developed her own business of painting on Christmas bulbs or anything customers asked to be painted. I enjoyed both sewing clothes and painting through school and beyond after I was married. But it wasn’t until my two children were in preschool and 1st grade that I finally had time to devote to hobbies again. I had come to the point of being bored with oil painting and after watching TV quilt shows I tried it myself. I am a self starter so I learned from quilt books, magazines and the shows in the late 80′s. I also joined the local quilt guild and learned from what they were doing and participating in the quilt shows they put on every two years.

Q: What made you want to be a quilt designer?

A:I inherited my artistic talent from my mother and her mother so it was natural to start designing my own quilts from the first because I didn’t see in books what I wanted to do! Then almost from the start I began working for a woolen mill in a town close to ours. My job was to design simple quilts and make the tops from their fabric at my home. I would take them back and they would fill them with their wool batting and make comforters to sell in their retail shop. I’ve made hundreds of tops for over the ten years I worked for them. That was where I really honed my skills of quilting, got to work at home and made money for my family! I learned alot about color, scale and fabrics from watching what my boss picked out for me to work with. The ownership changed hands and I went on to work for one season at a Joann’s store and then five years at a quilt shop where I eventually started my own line of patterns to sell and promote the shop’s fabric. I have a passion for creating that leads me to keep putting in fabric what’s in my heart and what could benefit the quilters.

Q: What level of quilters do you design for?

A:Most of my patterns are for the intermediate skill level. When I design I constantly ask myself if what I’m doing is easy to be reproduced by that skill level. I remember all too well of being frustrated as a beginner quilter with instructions or techniques that were hard to master. I want my patterns to be useable so I try to keep them simple.

Q: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in quilting?

A:Your seam allowance is what makes or breaks a project. So get a 1/4″ foot for your machine to make it easy to get consistent seam widths. Join the local quilt guild if one is near you. It brings you into contact with other women who can encourage you and help you grow. Make small projects at first to hone your skills and take classes to learn tips you wouldn’t think of on your own.

Argyle Blues by Cottage Quilt Designs
Argyle Blues

Q: I love all your quilts, but my favorite has to be
Argyle Blues. What inspired that quilt?

A:Lorie-you must love geometric pieced quilts! I designed Argyle Blues for Patti Oakley who owns the online shop, Batiks by Design. She imports traditional batiks from Indonesia. I got to know her from a yahoo group for pattern designers when she put out a call for patterns for her fabrics. My goal was to come up with a design with simple shapes that could handle the busy Indonesian prints. The quilt on the cover is made with her blue/white fabrics. I love it too!

Q: What is your favorite type of quilt to design? Applique or patchwork?

A:I absolutely love applique! I tell my hand applique students that I feel like a soaring eagle when I applique because it’s not restricted to lines, squares or rectangles. I design both types because that is what quilters want to make.

Q: Why did you decide to sell downloadable patterns?

A:The opportunity came to sell my designs as e-patterns so I said yes! A big discussion among designers is how to encourage the younger generation to take up quilting. With them much more comfortable with computers then women older then myself I decided that moving into that area of patterns would be a good thing. It would hopefully make my designs available to a different generation of women.

Rochelle’s Studio

Q: How can people reach you?

A:I have an online shop with includes my email and phone number. I’ve had questions from quilters asking how they can come and see my quilts. Since I work in our home I always answer that the online catalog for Cottage Quilt Designs is the best way to see them. Sometimes the samples are displayed at The Fabric Fair quilt shop in Bay City, MI where I worked and still teach. I don’t have all the samples in the catalog-some of them belong to others now. My studio is constantly used and usually has 2-3 projects lined up or going on at the same time so making it tidy for visitors is not an easy task!

Q: What is your favorite pattern YCQT that wasn’t designed by you?

A:I really like the quilt Sail Away by Green Fairy Quilts. I think she used beautifully the contrast of lines and shapes within the quilt. Also she balanced the cream, red and blue colors perfectly. Her quilt looks like something I would make! I like to combine resting areas with images and she did that too in her design. Very, very nice!!

Our warmest thanks to Rochelle for sharing her thoughts on quilting with us! You can see all of Rochelle Martin’s Cottage Quilt Designs here.


1 Courtney @ Sister To Sister 05.27.09 at 8:58 pm

LOVED this in the newsletter! Hope to see more interviews like this one! :)

2 Shelli 05.28.09 at 7:39 am

Really interesting interview, Lorie. I love getting to know the people behind the patterns and projects. Thank you!

3 Kris 05.28.09 at 9:00 am

It was so nice to see the face behind a name! Rochelle puts together absolutely beautiful quilts and it was wonderful to read her story about how she got started and the inspiration behind what she does. Great interview!

Comments on this entry are closed.