An interview with Sholto Drumlanrig

Has there been any fabric collection more highly anticipated than Liberty’s first quilting cotton collection, Bloomsbury Gardens? Not to my knowledge, anyway! As soon as the first announcement was made in the days before spring Quilt Market, excitement began to mount. Now, with the collection coming out within the month, quilters everywhere are itching to get their hands on these beautiful fabrics!

I had a chance to meet Sholto Drumlanrig, the designer behind the collection, at Market and I thought it would be a treat to do an interview with him. Sholto began his career working for fashion designer Zandra Rhodes in London before moving to New York to work for Diane von Furstenberg.  Back in London Sholto became in-house designer for Liberty before going freelance. He now designs for Royal Doulton, Liberty, the Victoria and Albert Museum, COS, The Royal Collection, Lulu Guinness, Oilily and many others.

Read on to find out how Sholto created the collection, his design process and what the next collection (launching at Fall Market in October) is inspired by! Then head to the shop and browse the fabrics we have on order. Count the days!

The Village Haberdashery: So how did you get the gig designing Liberty Lifestyle’s first quilting cotton collection, Bloomsbury Gardens?

Sholto Drumlanrig: It started when I was asked by the Kirstie Carey the Managing Director of Liberty Fabrics and Emma Mawston the Head of Design to work on a collection of prints for a collaboration with the V&A Museum. The Museum were putting on an exhibtion of British Quilts and wanted Liberty to collaborate on a range of quilting fabric to be sold with the show. I went to the V&A archive, which was amazing, and was allowed to photograph the quilts. Using the pictures I took as inspiration I then developed a range of prints. The show and the quilting fabrics were a huge success and Kirstie felt that Liberty needed to develop a range of our own prints for the quilting market. This was how I got to design the current range of prints for the ‘Bloomsbury Gardens’ collection.

TVH: What was your process for creating the collection and choosing the colourways? What was it like digging through the archives for Bloomsbury Gardens? How much creative control did you personally have?

SD: I was given a lot creative control and it was fun developing the prints. Once you have decided on the theme you do as much research as you can and then the direction for the prints and colour develops organically. You have to be mindful of keeping the integrity of Liberty print. When I develop work I always show it to Emma Mawston the Head of Design. She has been at Liberty for 20 years and has a very deep understanding of the brand and what will work.

The archive is an amazing resource and we have designs stretching way back to the late 18th century. It is a treasure trove of textile design and the archivist called Anna Buruma has an encyclopedic knowledge. This is very helpful when you are working to a theme/brief and need to lay your hands on a specific style of design.

A print from the Liberty archives that is a version of the Catherine print.

TVH: What tools did you use to design the collection? Do you hand-draw? Use design software, etc?

SD: I hand draw most of my work and I tend to draw the images using black marker pens on plain white paper. I will then scan these drawings into the computer and colour and put them into repeat from here. I think it is very important to keep the hand drawn quality in design work and this way of working preserves this. When I look at designs that are purely done on the computer with no hand drawn element they tend to lack a certain kind of soul and integrity. That said computers are amazing and allow us to work at a much more rapid pace and also to produce complex designs in a fraction of the time. Only ten years ago I was hand painting all my work. The other day I found an old design that I had painted and remembered that it had taken me a whole week to complete. Today I could have designed it, put it into repeat and coloured it in a day!

A marker pen sketch of the Virginia print next to a final picture.

TVH: What was your reaction to the overwhelming and unabashed glee from the sewing community about Bloomsbury Gardens?

SD: I was just over the moon when I saw the reaction to Bloomsbury Gardens when we launched it at Quilt Market. It was terrific! I am new to the quilting world and I loved the enthusiasm and passion that people have. It’s infectious!

Bloomsbury Gardens tea cozy by Very Kerry Berry

TVH: What can we expect to see from Liberty Lifestyle in the future? How many collections will you be releasing per year? And when is the next one coming?

SD: We are going to produce two collections a year and I have already completed the next one. It’s going to be launched at Houston on the 26th of October this year. The collection is based around Art Nouveau and it’s influence on Liberty and also around the designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I went on a trip up to Glasgow where Mackintosh created most of his work, it was so inspirational. It was great fun to work on and we are really pleased with the designs. I can not wait till we show them at Houston.

Bloomsbury Gardens cushion top by I'm a Ginger Monkey

TVH: You design for a wide range of brands in addition to Liberty. Where else can we see your work these days?

SD: I largely design for Liberty these days but I do have a range of needlepoint cushion designs that I did for Ehrman Kits that has just come out and also I did a lot of designs for the V&A shop some of which are still there.

One of Sholto's silk scarves

TVH: Can you tell us a bit about the textile design you do under your own name? You have some gorgeous silks in your shop on your website!

SD: I guess I designed and produced the silk scarves for my website because I wanted to have an outlet for my own expression. So much of my work is about collaboration and its nice to work on something that’s just your own. It was great fun doing them.

Sholto holding the fabrics I bought at Market!

Thank you Sholto!


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