Today I have a special treat for you. I am sharing my interview with Dodi Lee Poulsen. Recently I was able to create a project with her newest fabric line called Simply Happy for Riley Blake Designs. When she reached out to me about sharing the project on her website, I had to know more about her. I was fascinated to learn about all she has done in our industry and delighted that she agreed to talk about her journey. Designing fabric is something that intrigues me and I love learning about how other people built their business. Everyone say hello to Dodi Lee Poulsen.
Welcome Dodi. Tell me about yourself
I am Dodi Lee Poulsen and I live in the state of Washington. I was born and raised in the Bay Area in California. I moved to Washington in my early 20s to work for Lockheed Martin Space Co. Today I live with my husband of 40+ years in Washington; we live right on the Puget Sound. Every day I am able to see water, trees, gorgeous greenery and mountains. It has been such an amazing place to live for the past 40+ years. This week, our home went on the market as we will be moving closer to our family out of state. It’s going to be a sad event to leave our home, but knowing that we are going to family will make it worth the emotional trauma!
How did you get into quilting?
I taught myself to quilt when I was a college student way back when and needed a textile project. We didn’t have the tools that are available today so each piece was cut out individually and put back together. My first project consisted of old jeans, cotton, poly cotton, drapery fabric, etc. I had no idea it would be next to impossible to make a quilt with all these fabrics as most of them didn’t allow for stretch. I still have this quilt as a reminder of where I came from! It’s so ugly but a great reminder that all good things can have a hard start.
I love that! I often look back on my first quilts and at one point I was so proud of them. Now I don’t know if I would make the same choices.
Is there a pattern that you’ve made way too many times? With me, it was the Rag quilt. I think I have made at least six of them.
The String Me Along quilt pattern I have made far too many times. But each time it turns out differently since one can manipulate the block in so many ways. And each time you make it, the colors are never the same. String quilts are amazing!!
Dodi, this pattern is stunning! I have wanted to make a string quilt and now I have the perfect pattern for it.
You have a rich background in the quilting industry. Tell me about things you have accomplished.
Oh goodness. I have been quilting for over 40 years and involved in the industry for about 14 years. During this time, I have taught across the world—literally. My favorite job being that of an instructor with Quilt Camp at Sea where I was able to teach quilting and handwork on cruise ships with a group of students. It was an amazing time for the nine years I was able to do it. I have been teaching quilting for as long as I can remember—at least 35 years.
I started my own pattern company, Two Sisters at Squirrel Hollow, in 2005 with my sister. She decided to retire and I have run the company myself for the past 11 years. I have designed over 85 printed patterns and had numerous quilts in many magazines over the past decade. I was on the Love of Quilting TV show in 2016 and that was a ton of fun. I did two episodes and that is my claim to fame I guess ( well as close as I will ever get!). I was one of the first to develop patterns to go with the new ”pre-cuts”. When pre-cuts first came out, there were no patterns to use them with and I originally designed five patterns and they were a huge hit with the stores.
I lecture and teach across the United States, mostly to guilds, and do workshops in large venues as well. My favorite has been in Maine for the Maine Quilts festival. I have done it twice and I love it there. The people are so genuine and the state is beautiful! I love making personal contact with quilters. We are such a phenomenal group! And the nicest people you will ever meet. Creating relationships with students is such a rewarding part of my job.
Wow!! I am amazed with all you have done. Good for you. It takes so much work to do even one of these things. It definitely shows your dedication and enthusiasm. I am totally a fan girl now. I love that you have taught on cruise ships; that sounds like so much fun. What can be better then traveling while quilting (day or night) and then touring different cities . . . This is on my bucket list.
What is your favorite pattern you have designed? What pattern has sold the best?
I can’t play favorites. I love them all! The pattern that has sold the best for me actually was my Have Your Cake and Eat it Too! book. It was a fun collection of pre-cut patterns that all had “cake names” and then a recipe to go with that quilt. As far as a standalone pattern, I think my new Starstuck pattern is one of my favorites. It’s just a happy quilt.
What are the names of your books?
Who has been your inspiration/ role model in our industry?
I would have to say it might be Eleanor Burns as she revolutionized quilting in my era along with Mary Fons, Liz Porter, and Alex Anderson. Also, I really love all the new talent that has exploded in the industry and they amaze me with their talents.
What is your favorite color? Do you prefer that color in your fabric lines or quilts? Is it the dominant color in your stash?
The dominant colors in my stash are greens and blues. I have incorporated them in my fabric lines in different ways, but there will always be something in a blue or green tone in my lines.
I love these colors, too! Blue might just be the dominant color in my stash.
When did you know that you wanted to become a fabric designer?
Becoming a designer just sort of happened. I had been in the industry for many years and I always wondered what it would be like to design a line of fabric. I often doodled designs and placed colors with them to play with the idea. So I suppose I just decided to try it out. One market I took my designs to and showed them around. The response was okay, so I went home and worked on them more and then sent them to Jina Barney of Riley Blake. She loved them and that was the beginning of a great relationship with Riley Blake Designs.
What was the road like for you to becoming a fabric designer? Were there any setbacks?
I think I properly had an easier time since I had already been in the industry for a while and knew about the business and was established. There are always rejections, but you have to learn not to take it personally and learn from it. Sometimes it is frustrating, but I have learned to put it away for a bit and then come back to it with new eyes and refresh or discard your original idea. It will all work out.
Tell me about working with Riley Blake Designs.
Riley Blake has been a wonderful company to work for. They have supported my ideas and encouraged me to follow my own path. Each designer has their own niche and RB is good to let us explore that.
What was your first fabric line called?
My first fabric line was called Lulabelle. I have a granddaughter named Lucie and I always call her Lu Lu and so it kind of spun off of that.
So cute!! I added a few images so the readers can get a feel for the line.
Is your business your full-time job?
It used to be, but this year my husband retired and so I am taking the year off to reevaluate where I want to go from here—and get to know this sweet guy again that I have been living with for the past 40 years but haven’t seen so much of.
What are your other interests or hobbies?
We have two children; a son and a daughter. And we have nine grandchildren to spoil and adore. Seven girls and two boys. I love spending time with my family; with nine grandchildren I really don’t get to see them all that often, so we travel a bit to see them a couple of times a year.
I do love to travel. I love to see other cultures and different parts of the world. It really inspires me and I have been so blessed to be able to do this in my life.
Are there any craft shows you love watching? Podcasts you love to listen to?
Honestly, I don’t have much time to watch TV shows like that, but when I do, I love the HGTV shows. I like catching a few of the internet shows, like Angela Walters and The Midnight Quilt Show.
Thank you so much Dodi Lee Poulsen!! I truly appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. I have learned a lot about you and you have totally inspired me. You are an incredibly brave and self-motivated lady. So often I am afraid of taking the next step. Taking that chance. But really the worst thing that can happen is someone saying no, but there are so many opportunities that can happen with a yes. Dodi, I wish you luck on your new adventure (and new home) wherever it takes you.