An interview with Anneliese Johnson

An interview with Anneliese Johnson

Posted by Robyn Thomas on 16th Jan 2024

We are thrilled to have Anneliese Johnson from Eye Candy Quilts as our Featured Designer for our January Classic and Modern Maker boxes. We recently interviewed Anneliese to get to know her better and we ran into some technical difficulties. We absolutely love all she shared with us so we transcribed the interview for everyone to enjoy. 

Take a few minutes and read along to learn more about this mother-daughter duo and so much more. 

LIVE with Anneliese

Kim: Hello everyone. I hope you are well. It is a pleasure to be here. Hello everyone, that's been able to join us on Instagram. I know on Facebook and YouTube you can't see us yet. We are getting it all set and sorted. Hello Annalise. How are you?

Anneliese: Good. How are you doing?

Kim: I'm doing fantastic and great. We are trying to maximize all potential means for you to get to know and be introduced to the amazing Annalise of Eye Candy Quilts. I'm going to go ahead and give kind of some background. We are here today with Annalise Johnson.

Annalise is our featured designer this month for Cotton Cuts. So as most folks know, every month we pick a different, awesome, independent designer to introduce you, our audience, too. And you get a chance to get to know them via these LIVES as well as if you are a member of our classic or our modern maker membership, you get a free download of one of Annalise's awesome patterns with your box and your delivery. So, Annalise and I have met a couple of times over the years, at market. It's crazy how in the quilting world, all these paths intersect. But Annalise has stepped in and she is our January featured designer. She owns Eye Candy Quilts, which has over 50 patterns in their catalog. We'll talk way more about that. But I have to read the first sentence as by means of introduction, Annalise, from your bio. “One calm day in southeastern Nebraska, the phrase, I have an idea was uttered. Oh my gosh”.

Okay. So Annalise, why don't we start there? Tell us this "I have an idea" Eureka moment.

Anneliese: So, Eye Candy Quilts is not just me. Eye Candy Quilts is me and my mom. And which we always forget to tell people because we just start talking at them and we're very chatty people.

And then about 15 minutes goes by and there's that look in their eyes like, you guys, how do you guys know each other? Are you related? So, there's my mom and I, I've, you know, came out of the womb quilting because of my mom, obviously.

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It's like, you know, and then there's extra things on tube of you and all the other stuff it’s like, we learn everywhere, we pick up all this stuff.

But before all those things, we used to live on the East Coast, and we used to go to a lot of the big quilt shows. And what it really fun because on the East Coast, it's really fun and easy to get to all the different places within like an hour or two. It's like now I live in Nebraska and an hour or two is, you know, going to get groceries.

It's a little bit different here. So whenever we were at a show, we would look at something and we'd pick it up and go, I have an idea. So that's just something that we've always said, and the wheels are always turning.

And what's really fun about Eye Candy Quilts is that I am a very loud brain. My mom is a loud brain in a completely different way. We are very much a balance.

So we've got the left and right brain working together. She's worked as a tech editor before in tech spaces and has like fancy businessy stuff going on. And then I'm over here like, oh, pretty colors.

So there's very much a balance and a craziness. So, a lot of times on social media people don't always know that we're a partnership because, you know, most of the social media is attached to my phone. So my face is the one that you see most often.

But we are very much a balancing act, and we still get, you know, late night texts of like, okay, what will happen if I do this and then I do this, so it's very fun.

Kim: That's awesome. I love that, like the Venn diagram. So, like you guys each bring complimentary skills together and together you're this dynamic duo and it's like the left brain, right brain.

You have to have both of them. Two right brains can't do this. Two left brains can't do this.

But one from each side, it's a beautiful marriage. 

Anneliese: It makes things so much easier.

The other weird thing, I'm left-handed and she is right handed. And so, I, most of the time, it has gotten better in the last couple of years, but most of the time tools and all the cool quilting gadgets are not made for left-handed people. And so how we design things and how we make things as my mom's always like, well, we have a tool for that.

I'm like, but is it going to work for everyone? So, like we have that going on too, is that how we come at designing things and making things. We each have different parts that we like. So, we try and make sure that our patterns are usable with tools and without tools.

We suggest things that we think are cool or alternatives because everyone has their favorites. So, we try and tie all of that in so it's accessible for everybody because everybody should make happy quilts. And Eye Candy Quilts always wants to make happy quilts.

Kim: So, a couple of thoughts. So, my son's left-handed. He was on some LIVES with us between Christmas and New Year's.

And he actually said his biggest challenge is he's left-handed. And he's, you know, transposing patterns and having to like flip things upside down. So, Annalise, I love that you guys are designing with that in mind.

Because as he told everyone,10% are left-handed. They have to flip everything in their mind, or in a super obscure case, teach themselves how to be right-handed when they quilt and sew, which is not super fun either. It's not great.

Anneliese: The thing there was, I remember one pattern I had, I did it and I did test blocks. And I did it and I wrote the pattern and then I sent it to my friend, and she was going to make like a bigger version of a quilt after I made test blocks and stuff. And she's like, why did you write it this way? It's all backwards.

I'm like, sorry, I have to rewrite it for the right-handed people in the room. Sorry about that. You should write it for that 90%, right? I know.

I think I did a blog post about like, okay, if you get this pattern, just reverse all of the images if you're left-handed.

Kim: So, this is now like a challenge. I'm going to think about a way to put some, that our quilting audience, we might host a challenge where you have to do everything the opposite. Instead of cutting with your right hand, cut with your left hand or switch.

Anneliese: Just bring a lot of band-aids. That's going to be dangerous for people. A lot of band-aids? Yeah. You have to cut left handed? Yeah.

Kim: So, you just got to go slower, right? 

Anneliese: Theoretically, yes. In practical efforts? In practical efforts of like, don't lean on the fabric. No one lean on the fabric.

Kim: Don't ruin your expensive fabric that way. 

So, let's see here Annalise, I have a series of questions for you. Where do you get your inspiration from? What inspires you?

Anneliese: Everything.

Kim: Give us the top three.

Anneliese: I'll give you some of my weirdest ones. So, we have a Baltimore, a modern Baltimore album quilt called 16th of Baltimore. And so, it is a very, so if you're not familiar, a Baltimore album quilt is something that is a very sort of intense applique, generally floral. And ours is a modern one, so it's Batiks on linen.

And what we did in the background was we did some diagonal strip piecing in each of the blocks. And I got that idea from watching the shadows from Window Shades.

Kim: I love it.

Anneliese: So, we have another pattern that is called carrot breath, where it's two bunnies meeting under a bunch of carrots. And I got that idea from a chair I couldn't afford. It was a carved wood chair of a bunny. And I was like, this is a cute bunny. So then I made my own version of the bunny and then he got a bunny friend and then he got some like carrot mistletoe and it just grew. Carrot mistletoe.

Kim: Wow. This is an adventure in like, in left brainness. I love it.

Anneliese: This is why we need my mom because we got to wrangle all the creative monkeys. It's very loud in here, so.

Kim: That's fantastic. I'm simple. It's a tile pattern at a hotel bathroom.

Like, I can make that into a quilt. I am inspired. That is fantastic.

What helps you get inspired from being in a brain funk?

Anneliese: Oh, just not, not trying to do the thing and at the same time doing the thing. My favorite quote is that you can't make art if you don't start.

So just have something where, you know, I've heard it called leaders and enders have your no brain project and like, just, you know, the whole thing about Einstein was a patent clerk and then he worked on a theory of relativity, have your version of being a patent clerk, have something that you can just sew through, feed through. You don't have to think about it, whether it's, you know, a trip around the world, some, you know, half square triangle, just, just get, get in front of that machine. Give yourself the opportunity to do something.

Kim: That is fantastic advice. Everyone gets in a funk where they're like, I've sewed a big complex project and when you finish you're like, I just need a break. I need to decompress.

And then how do you get back into it? I'm doing a UFO kind of self-challenge where I'm picking one UFO a month. I'm drawing it out of a jar, so it's random. I'm blogging about this as like, how did this become a UFO? Like how I got to the point where I loved this project enough to buy the fabric, start cutting it and sew it, but then walk away.

What can I learn from that experience to make sure that I start projects I actually can get a chance to finish. I love all these psychological explorations because most people are like, we buy the fabric, we cut the fabric, we sew the fabric, we're done.

But that is not a common journey for a lot of people for many reasons.

Anneliese: You know, life gets in the way of like for better or worse is like the goal is to do something from beginning to end if that's how you work, but you know, stuff happens and you get away from it and you have to, you have to give yourself the room to be a human and not just a maker. So, it was like, you are a maker that is human.

Stuff gets in the way. There's other stuff that goes on and that's okay too.

Kim: So, what do you do that's not quilting business? How do you step away? 

Anneliese: Oh my gosh, right now I have a five-year-old, I have an 18 month old, I have a dog who's a year old, I have a demon cat who's four.

Theoretically I knit, but I'm just really good at buying yarn. Yeah, do you see, I wore one of my MeMades today.

So yeah, I, yeah, there's just a lot of stuff and my brain, like last night, my brain is just very loud and I do lots of things. Like last night I was trying to draw for a new fabric and then I looked up and it was, I yawned. I'm not, I'm a night person, but I yawned and I'm like, oh, I'm tired.

I wonder what time it is. It was two. I forgot that time exists. So please take time.

Kim: I literally get into these when my husband's not there and I can just do things uninterrupted.

I find myself staying up so much later. I get engrossed and it's like whenever we're there and it's the end of a long day with kids, like I'm asleep on the couch at 8 PM. 

Anneliese: I will fall asleep at seven and then wake up and be awake until two in the morning. That's crazy. This is a problem.

Kim: We never went LIVE on Facebook and YouTube.

Everyone on Instagram is getting a fantastic conversation, Annalise. This is amazing. And we will figure out a way to download this video on Instagram and be able to get it up over onto the other platforms.

You can see her if you have access to her account. If you follow her on Instagram, you can see her face when she's talking. 

Yes. the platforms don't make it easy. We'll just put it that way.

Even Instagram is changing, like the number of, um, influential quilters I follow that are getting locked out of their own accounts, it's driving me bonkers and nuts. Yeah.

Anneliese: Everyone put on two factor authentication, just PSA for the world.

Kim: So, Annalise, back to this list of questions.

Who do you admire in the quilting industry? What draws you to their work?

Anneliese: Oh, that's hard. Like what way? Like, are we talking? There's so many good people. Um, okay.

I'm going to say this first one just because I was texting him earlier and I saw your preview that it's in the classic box. My friend Giuseppe. I think he does a fantastic job at making things that are interesting and work with other things. So my big thing, so I Eye Candy Quilts, we have always been scrap quilters.

So, I want to be able to mix all of the beautiful fabrics that everyone makes. I want to put it all together and have it work and play together. So, I am always a fan that of, of things that play nice with others.

And I think Giuseppe's fabrics work well in saying that, like I said, I'm a big scrap quilter. There are a number of Australian pattern designers that they, they, I, okay. So again, there's just a lot of words that I use.

I call them kitchen sink quilters and it's fabulous because you know, you throw in everything but the kitchen sink, they throw in the kitchen sink and it's fantastic. And so, I look at their quilts and like, okay, how did they use color? How did they use pattern? Why does this work so well? And it's because again, scrappy, you can throw everything in and it works. And I love all those things.

Kim: One of my favorites is red pepper quilts. She's Australian and she puts together all sorts of random fabrics. I am such an engineer. I would be like; it can't have a red touch of red and I can't have a purple touch of purple, I've got to sprinkle it all throughout.

Anneliese: And yeah. Yeah. That's my, so my mom has that thing. And so, I go over, I call it the cat maneuver. She's laying stuff out. I just go over and go, what did you do? I'm like, it'll be fine. Just sew some stuff.

Kim: So, you have to do that for everyone again. What's the cat maneuver?

Anneliese: The cat maneuver? So I had a cat so that she, no lie, she looked me straight. I was, I was making English paper piecing. I was making these little prepping, these little tiny things and making my little stacks of these perfect little, little tiny hexagon things.

And I had them in a little box and she came over, jumped on the couch, looked me dead in the eye, put her hands in the box and went like this. And then she ran away. I'm like, you are such a brat.

So that's my cat maneuver.

Kim: So, tell us, what future projects are you working on, Annalise?

Anneliese: I have new patterns, um, yeah, I have new patterns that I have drawn, and I have the math done.

I have new applique patterns that I have drawn that I have to decide what fabrics I want to do. I have stacks of fabric. Oh, there's going to be a cool new thing that I'm working on with some other Andover designers and then other pattern designer friends.

So we're working on that right now and I'm not supposed to announce it. I don't think so. Don't pay attention.

Just come and look at all our stuff.

Kim: You were here, but you didn't hear it.

Anneliese: It's fine.

Kim: Yeah, it's fine. I didn't say anything. 

Anneliese: I don't know. We don't know. So, we came up with the, so with Andover designer friends, speaking of quilt market is that that's a lot of times where you can go meet all the people that you, you know, text with or email with and like, oh look, you do have a face. So, we came up with a plan.

Kim: You meet those designers, right? Do you call Giuseppe Juicy Juice? Do you call him by his brand name or like real name? I know him as Giuseppe or G actually.

Anneliese: Yeah, like I call him both because again, I get called eye candy quilts all the time because I, which is part of the reason why we are eye candy quilts is not only we're two people, but my name is, is not easy to spell or pronounce.

So it was like, we just, I'm just eye candy quilts. If you say eye candy quilts, we'll turn around and we'll be fine.

Kim: It's super-secret. Her name's not Tula. Tula Pink.

Anneliese: No, no, it's not. No, but I, yeah, I, yeah, there's, I have, I have random, like none of them are bad. But like, I have a random story with that stuff too.

So, and that's the other thing, like, as I, as I pat my gray hair, it was like, I keep forgetting first of all, how old I am and how long we've been doing eye candy quilts. And so, like that you, when you do this and you see people year after year for, what are we on 13, 14 years now, I was like, there's, there's a lot of just random knowledge things you accumulate and you know, none of it bad. So, it's just sort of funny, all the things you pick up about people about, okay, well, I remember this person's favorite candy and I remember this person went to Australia at this time.

Like just all the things.

Kim: Whenever you have those touch points. It's random community where you meet online and then when you meet in person, it's like the last time we were talking, you had a two year old and like, my kids are 12 now, I know all those gaps of space and time that happen. Yes. Yeah.

Anneliese: Oh. And the funny thing with the five-year-old, the 18 month old and the dog, they all weigh the same amount. Like everyone is the same size right now.

Kim: So, it's just heavy chaos. 

So last question for you. So, for those folks out there that are looking to get into being a pattern designer, what advice would you give them?

Anneliese: Read patterns.

Kim: Tell us about that.

Anneliese: So, here's the thing is that there is no right way to be a pattern designer. And anyone who tries to tell you there is, is trying to sell you something.

Okay. And I think we all need to be very aware of that fact. So there, there are just like there's however many different ways to make a quote, there's however many different ways to explain it.

So, you need to be able to explain your pattern in a way that someone else can follow. So, you can't just be only in your head, but I think you need to remember that it is your voice, your business, if you go that way. So, it needs to still be you.

So, if you are trying to make a pattern that looks or sounds like someone else, it is not you. It is not your art. It is, you know, imitation is the best form of flattery, all of that stuff.

That's true to a point. If you're trying to make something, you need to still be you. So read a bunch of patterns, see, make notes about what you like, what you don't like.

The not fun thing, get a printer and like as in when you print patterns, see what it's going to cost you. Make some decisions there.

Kim: The price tag, it crushes me every time I hear that number.

Anneliese: It does. And but the thing is, is that it also is freeing in some way because it was like, okay, I have a guideline now. It was like, this is no, this is I know what I have to do.

And then what can I do within this space? Because sometimes it's harder to just do, oh, I can do anything and everything and then you get stuck because now what do I do if I can do everything right? So, you know, sometimes guidelines are not a bad thing.

Kim: In the legal sense on this topic as well. The image is not what's copyrighted. It's the instructions to make the image. The more unique you can make that voice, the more you can differentiate it, the more it becomes your art, it becomes your work, it becomes something that you own.

So I like the idea of doing the market scan, what do you like? What do you not like? I know that, you know, there's a super simple pattern, which are literally just blocks and tell you dimensions with no written words. Not everyone learns that way. And then I've also seen the patterns, here's my blog about everything I did the day I was working on this block.

It's sewing together and it's narrative. I am an engineer; I need a checklist. But the narrative works, right? If you're learning and your voice is to narrate and inject yourself in the pattern, then write it that way.

Anneliese: It's true. And maybe the thing if you give it to, then it gets into the bigger conversation about oh, sample makers and other stuff that we're not going to talk about. But if you have someone, it goes back to you can't be only in your own head. So, if you want it to be your voice, but you need to be understandable by other people. So again, like Eye Candy Quilts is me and my mom.

So, I'm very much in my head and I know what I mean. But does someone else who is not in my strange little noggin know what I mean? So, whether that's someone that you trust that is experienced or someone that's new that you know, you don't want to have to explain everything, but can they get it like you need to have other eyeballs on your work. And however, you do that, that's up to you.

Kim: Really anything, right? I remember my very first big mistake doing this business. We printed a sticker, and it had the word fabric on it. I was so excited.

I had no money. I'm going to print this sticker and we're going to give them away. I only have $600 in the bank and it's like $400 to print these stickers. And I misspelled the word fabric and I spelled it F-A-R-I-C.

And I'm like, oh my gosh, like $400 of the only $600 I have is gone. If I'd have gotten that second set of eyes, right. You have to figure it out and get back to the beginning.

It doesn't matter how many times I looked at that sticker. I missed it. And what do we do here? Fabric? 

Anneliese: yeah, I have, I have one in my hand that is exactly like that. It's like that.

Then it becomes a marketing opportunity for what do I do with all this product? Yes.

Kim: How do I make it better? 

So tell everyone how they can find you. How can they find you? Because you are, my side note, you are amazing on TikTok. You are crushing it on the TikTok. I love everything you're doing there.

Anneliese: So, it's pretty easy. All our, all of our handles are pretty much the same.

So we are just Eye Candy Quilts. Eye as in eyeball, not as in a MAC product. Quilts with an S. So we're on Instagram, we're on TikTok, Facebook is where we have a presence there because Meta makes us.

We're not really super active on there. But if that's a touch point for you, I do see stuff, it's just not as fast. Website,, also have a, we have all the things, just, yeah, that we will get you everywhere.

So, Eye Candy Quilts, and that'll get you to all the stuff. We're a little bit weird. There's always a lot of things going on.

Kim: Your social channels are an adventure in your brain and your mom's brain, and I love it.

It is a little bit of everything when you look at it that way. And Annalise is also a fabric designer. I know we just kind of bounced in and out on that, but she's also a fabric designer for Andover.

So definitely look her up online. Find her fabrics at your favorite local retailer. Go find her fabrics because they are fun and quirky and awesome. 

Anneliese: I know Annalise, this is fantastic. Thank you. Yeah, we like whatever.

So the whole goal with Eye Candy Quilts is we want to make things colorful and we want to make it easy and we don't want you to work that hard to have really cool stuff. So however, we can make that happen for you, that's what we try to figure out.

Kim: That is amazing. Before we sign off, I want to show everyone, I've got to cover up the code. So, these are the patterns that we're featuring from Eye Candy Quilts for this month's Classic and Modern Maker Boxes. And you can learn more about her and her mom and all the socials and how to find them.

This is amazing, Annalise, you have been fantastic. Thank you so much for your time today. Have a great rest of your day.

Anneliese: Yeah. Yeah. I was like, I took my kids to daycare this morning and no other kids were there because they're all home.

I'm like, mommy has to go talk to fabric people. You have to go play though.

Kim: Thank you so much, Annalise.

It was lovely talking with you. And for all our viewers, if you have any questions, pop them into the chat and our team will get them the right direction. All right.

Thank you all. Bye.

We had a wonderful time interviewing Anneliese. We hope you keep joining us as we highlight more of our Featured Designers.