An interview with Melody Miller

It is with great pleasure that I bring you an interview with Melody Miller today! Melody was the first fabric designer I met when I arrived in Houston for Quilt Market last year and I was so, so nervous to introduce myself and tell her I was trying to open a fabric store. Then the first collection I ordered (the first actual inventory all together) was her Ruby Star Shining collection. You could say I’m a big fan. Melody is lovely and her fabric is brilliant and I’m just so pleased she took the time to tell us a few stories!

Read on to find out more about what it’s like to work with Kokka, hear about her new book and get the inside goss on what to expect from her fall collection. Then head over to the shop, where we’re having a pre-sale on Ruby Star Vinyl! You can save 10% when you pre-order a fat quarter bundle before the fabric arrives at the end of the month.

Melody posing with Ruby Star Spring

The Village Haberdashery: What is a typical day like for you?

Melody Miller: One thing I love about what I do is that every day is a little different. Last week, I was waking up in the morning and getting straight to work on my Kokka designs for the fall collection. I sat at my computer all day, had a quick dinner break and was back to work in the evening. But after a week of that, I was finished and just spent a couple of days camping with my family. There are times when I work long days, and other times when I mostly focus on my home and family. Before market, I typically have a few intense weeks of sewing, and afterwards it’s quiet again. My husband and I both work from home, so we put a lot of time into our jobs, but also spend a lot of time with our children. We’re very fortunate.

Rotary in Ambrosia from Ruby Star Vinyl

TVH: What is your design process? How far ahead do you begin designing a collection? And what is it like working with Kokka? Ever have any funny lost in translation moments?

MM: We tend to only do collections a few months before market, so I just turned in my fall collection last week. I draw everything in Photoshop. Once I have some objects I really like, I work on layout and color. Sometimes, I enjoy repurposing earlier motifs or designs, so for instance, some of the objects in my spring collection will reappear this fall.

Working with Kokka can be very interesting. We have extremely limited communication because of the language barrier, so I submit designs, and receive either an “ok” or a “no” in response. I appreciate that Kokka doesn’t alter my designs or change the color; my work really feels like my own. And I LOVE the fabrics they print on; they’re just amazing at their craft. Once, when designing my very first collection for Kokka, a note came back on one of the prints that said “this is too cute”, and I was really excited for the compliment, thinking “they’re Japanese, they LOVE cute things, right?!” Actually, it turned out that they meant my design really was TOO cute. They wanted me to take the cute part out:)

The couch from Melody’s booth at Quilt Market

TVH: You’ve resurrected your adorable tooth cushion as a pdf pattern! What is the story behind those elephants?

MM: A few years ago, I took two sewing lessons so I could learn how to actually make the curtains I had been designing (my method is a little backward sometimes, but whatever). My homework was to practice sewing straight lines, which seemed SO hard. Instead, I decided to sew some little animals; it seemed a lot more interesting. So, I made up a chicken (which I still use as my pin cushion) and shortly thereafter, an elephant. Sewing the first chicken taught me to put right sides together, as the back of the chicken is wrong-side-up.

Afterward, I showed my friend Allison the animals I had made, and she suggested putting a pocket on the back and calling it a “tooth cushion”. I had never heard of a tooth cushion, but liked the idea, so I sewed up a few more and put them on my etsy site along with the curtains I had been working on for almost a year. Only one curtain ever sold, but within a day, I had an email from Daily Candy wanting to feature the tooth cushions on their Daily Candy Kids site. I couldn’t believe it! The tooth cushions ended up selling really well, but I sewed so many of them, I got a herniated disk in my neck. Because of that, I decided to do more designing and less sewing, and ended up working with Kokka.

I still get occasional emails asking about the elephant tooth cushions, so last year, I decided to create a pattern so that people could make their own.

Melody's elphant tooth cushion - pattern available on Etsy

TVH: You didn’t learn to sew until a few years ago. Do you do a lot of sewing these days? What are your favourite things to make?

MM: I love to sew, and seem to be most interested in figuring out how to make things I’ve never made before. I like making things up as I go, and tend to get bored once something comes easily. I enjoy making my samples for Market, as well as clothes for my kids and skirts for myself. I’d like to get better at sewing garments. Making a flat piece of fabric into a 3-dimensional object doesn’t come naturally to me, but I want to get better at it.

Ruby Star Wrapping is shipping in September

TVH: Tell us about Ruby Star Wrapping, the book you have coming out in October with Allison Tannery!

MM: My friend Allison is a really fun writer, and has always wanted to write a book. I was very interested in doing a book about gift packaging, but my least favorite part was the writing itself. So, Allison and I teamed up; I designed the projects and she wrote the text. The book is about resourceful, reusable gift packaging.

My husband Greg did the photography, and Allison’s husband Blake did the design and layout for the entire book. When we were looking for a location to do the photography, we all thought of Elsie Larson’s shop Red Velvet. I had been a fan of Elsie’s blog A Beautiful Mess for a long time, and had seen photos of her shop. The space was gorgeous. We were lucky enough to work out an arrangement to shoot in her space, and the book is something all four of us are very proud of.

The book can be pre-ordered here; it ships in late September, just in time for your holiday gift wrapping!

Melody's Quilt Market booth / Credit: Jeni at In Color Order

TVH: You had your first Quilt Market booth in Kansas City and it was a huge hit! What can we look forward to seeing from you at Fall Market?

MM: I loved exhibiting in Kansas City, and am now officially a fan of having a booth at market. While I still don’t know what’s happening this fall, I did just finish designing the collection and have two words for you: metallic ink. I am SO excited!

Want more Melody? You can follow her on twitter here and read her blog here. For another great interview with Melody stop by Pings & Needles!

Thank you Melody!

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