Sewing at the Speed of Sound
This self-described “aircraft engineering nerd” redesigned her life to focus on health—and quilting.
Yvonne Fuchs is drawn to saturated colors and bold geometric designs. Maybe this stems from her earlier career as an aerospace engineer. Or perhaps it’s the product of intentionally focusing on her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
“I worked on a milestone aerospace project, and once my role was complete, I was at a crossroads in my career,” Fuchs recalls.
After years of working in a prototype aircraft and flight test environment, the stress had taken its toll. When Fuchs stepped away from engineering in April 2014 to focus on all facets of her health, she started thinking about how to turn her quilting hobby into a career.
How does your background influence your design aesthetic and make you stand out in the quilt industry?
I have taken what I learned translating engineering designs into blueprints and instructions and applied it to my quilt patterns. Specifically, I believe that quilters are very visual learners, so my patterns rely heavily on a combination of both text and graphics. I am also a very strong technical editor and love working behind the scenes in the industry in that capacity.
“When I worked as an engineer, I quilted on weekends,” Fuchs says. “I eventually progressed to a point where I couldn’t wait to get home from work to start sewing every day.”
Now, as a professional quilter under the company name Quilting Jetgirl, Fuchs stitches together the pieces of her professional histories. Her tagline, “Sewing at the Speed of Sound” pays homage to her work on the second privately funded vehicle to break the sound barrier.
“Whether it is due to my engineering background or not, I tend to start all of my design sketches in black and white line drawings, either on graph paper or digitally on a computer,” Fuchs says. Color combinations drawn from her husband’s nature photography influence Fuchs’ palette. Her goal is to encourage people to approach quilting with joy, helping others tap into their creative natures as she delves into her own.
What first drew you to quilting?
When I was a sophomore in high school, my paternal grandmother offered to hand-quilt a twin-size quilt to use in my freshman dorm room—if I made the quilt top. My mom and I headed off to a quilt store and purchased a rotary cutter and cutting mat, an Eleanor Burns “Quilt in a Day” book featuring a Card Trick pattern, and lots of fabric. After making my first quilt top, I made two other quilts while in high school and then took over my mom’s sewing machine every time I was home from college until my parents purchased my first sewing machine as a Christmas gift a few years later.
Please describe the value and importance you place on creativity and how help others develop their creative potential.
During my engineering career, if someone at work had come up to me and asked, “Are you creative?” I am certain that I would have told them that I was not. I now believe that we are all creative and that our creative natures shine through in the choices we make from the clothes we wear, to the way we decorate, to the choices we make as quilters. Encouraging others to try something new and seeing the spark of joy as they progress in their creative journey is contagious.
Describe your business model. What are your goals? What empowers and defines your success?
For my brand, Quilting Jetgirl, my goal is to release six new quilt patterns a year, provide a quilt along once a year, and continue to be an active blogger, posting at least once a week. I am also currently growing the technical editing side of my business. Success for me is the ability to contribute to my household financial needs while still enjoying the work and staying active and healthy.
What products and support do you offer retailers?
I offer both printed and instant download PDF patterns on my website https://quiltingjetgirl.com/. Because many of my patterns relate to transparency techniques, which can be intimidating to quilters when selecting their fabrics, I offer many free tips and tutorials on my website to assist shop owners and quilters (https://quiltingjetgirl.com/tutorials/).
What feedback do you receive from shops that carry your patterns?
Shops that make sample quilts and/or offer kits to accompany my patterns have a lot of success in selling the patterns. I have received additional feedback that owners particularly appreciate the Lucent pattern for its ability to showcase large scale prints and Bundle Buster pattern for introduction to quilting classes.
Who is your target customer?
My target customers are beginner to intermediate level quilters who are interested in exploring, or are excited about, modern quilts.
Do you do lectures? Teach workshops?
I am currently only booking for virtual lectures, trunk shows, and workshops. Workshops and lectures are listed at https://quiltingjetgirl.com/teaching/. Please email me at yvonne(at)quiltingjetgirl(dot)com if you are interested in having me lecture or teach at your upcoming event and for current pricing.
What is the biggest risk you have taken in this business venture and how did it turn out?
Starting my own business and leaving a very lucrative engineering job was the biggest risk I have taken. Overall, I am in a much healthier place as a result of this decision and I am still working hard on figuring out what works (and what does not).
What is your most memorable failure and what did you learn from it?
I was working on a custom quilt for some clients and they were not happy with how the central medallion turned out. I had pitched and used dense quilting to make the design, and it was clear that they did not understand from my proposal how that would translate into the finished product. After unpicking a lot of quilting and moving forward with an appliqué design, I learned how to better communicate and discuss the pros and cons of design elements and techniques. I also learned a lot about my own preferences and have since decided to focus on pattern writing, technical editing, and teaching instead of taking on custom quilt work.
How did your arctic adventure influence your brand? What did you gain through the experience?
My husband and I designed and built an expedition vehicle that we called Wabi-Sabi Overland (https://wabisabioverland.com/), and we drove on the only two roads in North America to cross the Arctic Circle, making it to the Arctic Ocean in both Canada and Alaska. I brought along a travel sewing machine, quilting and working as a technical editor along the way. After living in a self-sufficient 75-square foot space for five months, it was interesting to adapt to being home again. The travel gave me some much-needed time to reflect on what was and was not working for me and my business. Upon reflection, I realized that I need to spend a lot less time “online” and focus my time on sewing and creating. Social media can make us all feel like we need to be doing more, and the best way for me to do more is to limit social media and spend time in my studio!