Australian quilter looking forward to teaching at Schweinfurth's fiber arts conference


Every quilter has an origin story. For Kathy Doughty, who will be teaching at Quilting by the Lake, the Schweinfurth Art Center’s annual fiber arts conference in Syracuse, NY, the spark was receiving a quilt from her friend in 1993 upon the birth of her second son.

Perhaps Doughty’s interest in quilting was predestined. She became friends with Kathy Ford, now a well-known quilter and book author, as a 10-year-old growing up in Rochester, NY. But it was the first time that the quilting bug bit.

“I’ll never forget looking at the pattern and fabrics and suddenly realizing the potential the craft had for connecting people,” the Ohio native said. “In those long ago days, as an immigrant to Australia, I was lonely and making quilts for my family far away gave me great satisfaction. I spent the first few years borrowing books from the library to teach me what I needed to know on a tight budget.”

Taking up quilting gave Doughty community during her years as a stay-at-home mom while her children were young. It also became a channel for her creative spirit. “In the early days of my career in advertising and marketing in the 1990s, I wondered what I was supposed to be doing with my hands … and then I found out,” she said. “I love that there are so many varied techniques and outcomes.  I believe that it gives my creativity a voice and, when heard, that voice connects me to others.”

Her first quilts were inspired by traditional quilters of the past, especially Mary Jane Hanneford. “She started quilting at 80 and made about 13 quilts that we know of today,” she said. “Her quilts are off the grid, very personally revealing, and often included poems or stories as well as appliqué and piecing.”

Her more recent influences include Gwen Marston, Nancy Crow, Rosalie Dace (who is also teaching at QBL 2019), Gee’s Bend, Jean Wells, Maria Shell, and Kaffe Fassett, the last of whom mentored Doughty. “Sharing his focus on color and pattern helped me to develop a keen eye myself,” she said of Fassett.

Doughty learned well. In 2003, she cofounded Material Obsession, a patchwork shop in Sydney, Australia, that is known for innovation in contemporary fabrics and designs. She became sole owner of the shop in 2008. Her projects incorporate bright colors and large patterns, a trend she started as a way to promote the large-scale pattern fabrics she sold in her shop.

“Customers were afraid of them, so I started making quilts using them as samples for the shop 16 years ago,” she said. “What started as motivation to move fabric through the shop became my area of expertise.

“My personal style is very impulsive,” she continued. “I do like colorful fabrics and have always used big scale. I like the surprises found when cutting big prints. I also like that polychromatic prints offer up a palette that make selecting other fabrics easy. In truth, I like earthy, moody colors, but I seem to make a lot of colorful quilts!”

You can see Doughty’s color preferences in the fabric she designs for FreeSpirit Fabrics. Her new collection, called Seeds and Stems, will ship this May and features flowers, leaves, and twigs.

She will be teaching two workshops at Quilting by the Lake 2019: a two-day class called Organic Appliqué and a three-day session called Taking Shapes. The appliqué class, which is based on her new book of the same name, is a special one for Doughty to teach because it was so hard for her to master the technique.

“I struggled with the technique for a decade until I learned a few tricks about preparation that have made my outcome equal to my enthusiasm,” she said. “Appliqué is one way to always be unique in my work. I am happy to share the techniques and open up the fun of making unique projects in a classroom situation.”

In her Taking Shapes class, Doughty will start with a conversation about creating line with contrast and how to achieve that, then move onto cutting accurately. “In this class, people work with a shape and learn to compose or design projects on the spot,” she said. “It is really exciting to see what happens in the room as generally there are several different outcomes, and we all learn from each other.”

Doughty is looking forward to her third time teaching at QBL. “I enjoy the campus life and the fact that we all gather there for the same purpose: to create, learn, share, and commune with other quilters,” she said.

“QBL is a cozy environment that blends tradition with art, and that unique approach creates a place where interesting things can happen,” she said. “The lectures and activities are always entertaining and they do a great job of setting up the classrooms.  Can’t wait to get there!”

Also an author

Kathy Doughty went from reading quilting books to writing them, including:

  • Material Obsession 1
  • Material Obsession 2
  • Making Quilts
  • Adding Layers
  • Mixing Quilt Elements
  • Organic Appliqué

Many of her books and patterns are available for purchase on Organic Appliqué was just released April 7 and is a best seller on Amazon.

About QBL

What: Quilting by the Lake, a two-week fiber arts conference organized and run by the Schweinfurth Art Center
When: July 14-26, 2019
Where: Onondaga Community College campus in Syracuse, NY
Details: Fifteen different in-depth workshops taught by 10 renowned instructors from around the world. Also available is an option for an independent studio space to work on your own projects without an instructor.
Cost: Varies depending on number of days attending, classes enrolled in, and whether room and board are needed
More information and registration:


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Link for more information about Quilting by the Lake

Link to register for Kathy Doughty's class


Photo Captions

TOP: Detail from an appliqué Kathy Doughty made for the Organic Appliqué class she will be teaching at Quilting by the Lake. The skills she will focus on include fussy cutting, using interesting backgrounds, and organic stems.

MIDDLE: : Quilter Kathy Doughty is known for her use of bold fabrics, which she also designs and sells in her shop, Material Obsession. “I do like colorful fabrics and have always used big scale,” she said. “I like the surprises found when cutting big prints.”

BOTTOM: Kathy Doughty’s Taking Shapes class will focus on using 60 degree shapes, including triangles, diamonds and hexagons. Students can follow the patterns presented or create something entirely new, she said.