Contributor Spotlight / DAWN / Amy Bornman
This week's Contributor Spotlight features sewist, quilter, and writer Amy Bornman of All Well Workshop. Amy designed the Sunrise / Moonrise Quilted Coasters featured in No. 11 / DAWN. Delightfully simple and modern, Amy's designs are a testament to her love for the making process and finding beauty in the mundane.
What is your craft, and how did you get started?
Sewing and needlework! I mostly sew garments, but I also love quilting (especially hand-quilting) and making things like bags and home goods. I did a little bit of sewing when I was a kid, but really returned to it shortly after graduating from college when I was feeling sort of adrift and frustrated in my lack-of-career. Sewing really centered me and excited me — and now it’s my job!
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m really inspired by folk art — particularly quilts and needlework. Contemporary textile art is amazing, but I feel really inspired when I look to the past. Handmade textiles were so ubiquitous and widely made and used instead of a niche interest like they are now, when things are so easily bought en masse. That beauty-in-mundanity really moves me.
I’m also inspired by the makers in my family. My husband has two Mennonite grandmothers who are prolific quilters, and their hand-quilting amazes me every time I look closely at it. It’s so ambitious and intricate! I’ve loved talking with them about sewing, it always gets me excited to get back to my projects.
And by poetry! I am also a writer — I have a published book of poems — and love reading poetry too. I find so many connections between poetry and sewing. Very practically, sewing is grounding and logical and helps serve as a springboard for the more intangible work of writing. But a quilt is like a poem too, with layers of richness and meaning woven throughout, little threads and pieces of memory.
What made you want to design patterns?
When I began sewing garments, I used patterns. Then I felt really excited about the flashes of ideas I had about things that I couldn’t find patterns for, so I started self-drafting and tweaking to make those things myself. I honestly think quilting geared me up for this — quilting feels really logical to me, like there are clear mechanics and ways things work, and then tons of freedom within those boundaries. I have only quilted using a pattern once — my first time — and then after that felt like I could use the “rules” I learned to follow endless rabbit trails of ideas! Garments are similar, but more complicated to get right — you’re dressing a moving body, after all. That felt like an exciting challenge.
Meeting my collaborator, Amelia Greenhall, really helped me move from designing patterns as a personal hobby to making it my work. Together, she and I have built All Well Workshop slowly over the past few years. Working with a collaborator has really amazed me with how much is possible beyond my own limitations. Two heads really are better than one!
What are your favorite materials to work with, and why?
I recently bought some beautiful handwoven fabrics from India that are so beautiful — a real treat to sew with and wear. I also get really excited about quilting cotton in the perfect color palette, and blackwing pencils.
What are your best tools and resources?
Right now — childcare! I just had my first baby six months ago, and it really turned my life and my creative practice upside-down. I expected to get back in the groove much more quickly and just bring my baby along for the ride, but taking care of him uses so much more energy than I thought it would. (The lack of sleep probably is a part of that too!). This summer, my mom has been able to come over and take care of my baby three days a week which has been a huge contributor in my being able to get back to making, slowly and surely. It has meant so much to me! And it feels good to be back to inching toward our goals for All Well, even if it’s more slow now than it used to be. I’m trying to come back into some sort of balance. It’s difficult, but I can feel my mind returning to me. Having a baby is wild!
Do you have other passions and hobbies?
Like I mentioned earlier, I love to write. I have a book of poetry out now, a few poems coming out in literary journals later this year, and I’m working on my first novel! Writing is really important to me, and more and more I’m trying to find ways to bring sewing and writing together in my life. There’s so much good and creative food writing out there — shouldn’t there be more sewing writing?
I also love spending quiet ordinary time at home with my family, especially now that Baby B is in the picture! My husband and I also have a big dog named Bobo — some of my happiest moments are talking stroller walks with the dog in our neighborhood in Pittsburgh. It’s so green here in the summer!
Why do you create & what do you hope to express with the things you make?
I think I’m really in it for the process. I love projects you can really sink into, like a quilt. Ones that take a long time, days and days, where you’re in the middle for a long time. I love that about writing too, so it seems like process is really central to me in lots of areas of my life. It’s been so fun to work on my novel because it sort of feels like a quilt in its intricacy and length. So much patchwork, so much layering things together to be quilted and bound! It’s all connected. Making a sewing pattern is this way too — there are lots of steps, lots of pieces to patch together. But I also love satisfying projects that can be finished in one afternoon! Like a garment or a poem — or quilted coasters! Sometimes you need that burst of energy that comes from having an idea to make something and then making it! Something out of nothing!
I think I’m always looking to connect to that “beauty in mundanity” idea, that attention-to-detail in an ordinary day. In writing and sewing both, I think that’s the thing that keeps me doing it. I’m always wanting to move more toward contentment and connection, toward groundedness and simplicity. Sewing is such a pathway to that for me. Not always, of course! But often.
What is one of your favorite things about the Sunrise / Moonrise Quilted Coasters you designed in DAWN?
This pattern really captures that feeling I want to express with everything I make! Beautiful ordinary objects. I love making things that will be used and touched a lot, that will become a part of the memory of a house, the coaster to put under the cup of coffee again and again and again. Everyday objects become infused with meaning almost accidentally, and it’s so special to see things that were handmade take on a life of their own by being used! I have a set of quilted coasters I made five or six years ago, and they have so much character now, after being used for years, washed and re-washed. I like them even more now, and feel a sort of warmth each time I notice myself using them (since we don’t always notice these things) — that memory, “I made these!” It’s special, and really life-affirming, I think. You can make the quilt that takes a month, or you can make the coasters that take an afternoon, maybe two, and both are incredible things to keep and use and pass on, and to really put your personal stamp on. No one else can make those coasters quite like you can. That’s the best thing about it, I think.
We're in deep adoration of Amy's handwork, and her ability to add beauty and utility to everyday objects and garments. Find Amy Bornman's Sunrise / Moonrise Quilted Coasters pattern on pages 15-18 of Making No. 11 / DAWN. For more of Amy's sewing patterns and tutorials visit All Well Workshop and follow her process on Instagram, allwellworkshop.