While there were no quilters in my family when I was growing up, my grandmother was a seamstress and fostered my love of sewing and crafting by teaching me how to sew clothing, knit and crochet. My first sewing machine arrived for my nineteenth birthday, and I sewed a lot of my own clothes for the next few years.
I started my professional career in a bank and worked in different branches and banks on my way up to consumer lending and securities, as well as corporate banking briefly. I loved the interaction and challenges with consumer lending, dealing with numbers, cashflows and balancing people’s expectations on what they could truly afford and achieve.
Once I had moved to my third bank in the city, I discovered a quilting exhibition in rural South Australia (where I was chasing my husband to be) and fell in love with quilts. Back in the city, I researched and found a comprehensive course in learning the skills to design, draft, hand piece, applique and hand quilt my first sampler quilt - all at TAFE. There were no quilt shops in the city at that time, only a fabric dressmaking shop with a small range of 100% cotton quilting fabrics.
After moving to the farm, getting married and starting a family, I had more time to indulge in my passion of quilting and continued to learn and grow with local mentors. I was never one to follow quilt patterns and started drafting my own - all prior to the internet and owning a computer! I loved working out the math and writing the instructions. My inspiration mostly came from the various Australian and American quilting magazines that I had subscribed to.
I was encouraged by a friend, who was publishing with the Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine, to submit one of my designs to be published. This was the start of designing and publishing over 65 patterns in magazines, books and newspapers around the world over the ensuing years, including a mystery series in a Canadian rural newspaper where I had the most wonderful emails received from similar farming quilters. It truly is a worldwide passion.
In 1998 I registered my business name ‘Constantine Quilts’ so that I could legally run my first micro business with my publishing and teaching activities. The name originated from our family farm – Constantine Farm – as the original owners came from the town of Constantine in Cornwall, England. Of course, this name had meaning to myself and my family, but no one else would recognise this until I could regularly use it in all these publications.
This was my first experience in understanding marketing and branding, and I strongly believe that the slow process of providing valuable content with quilt pattern designs was far more beneficial than paid advertising that did not come for many years after. I published quilt patterns in magazines and had guest contributions in international quilting books from well-known authors that gained me the credibility and name recognition that set me up for success in my retail business that followed