It all started at her kitchen table 22 years ago.
Still, even after publishing her 14th book, “M’Liss Rae Hawley’s Precut Quilts,” this crafty Freeland businesswoman is humbled by the inspiration of family, friends, her beloved animals and the island that feeds her soul.
Author M’Liss Rae Hawley will be on hand for a book signing at Quilting by the Sea in Langley from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21.
“When I’m traveling I have to be careful not to say ‘Whidbey Island is the most beautiful place in the world,’” Hawley said, “Now, I know to say it is “one” of the most beautiful places so I don’t offend anybody.”
That’s just one lesson the savvy entrepreneur, wife and mother of two has learned since beginning “M’Liss’s Design & Quilting World, LLC” which led to her successful career as fabric designer, quilting teacher, featured world speaker and bestselling author under the C&T Publishing label, among other accomplishments .
“It’s exciting to reach people through quilting,” the author said.
This newest book offers a colorfully rendered and easy-to-read collection of six beginner-friendly quilt projects and tote bag. The book lays out in defined detail how to make traditional quilts easily with jelly rolls (a strip bundle of fabric rolled and tied up with a ribbon in a limited edition theme) charm squares (pre-cut 5-inch squares), strip sets and fat quarters (precut, quarter-yard pieces of fabric) by Hawley who was previously nicknamed the “Queen of Fat Quarters” by her intrepid fans.
The book, she said, is reflective of the audience she likes to reach. She writes for beginners, but with enough challenge and fun for advanced beginners and intermediate students to enjoy the projects. Also, advanced students will enjoy such a book that will allow them to have fun socializing at a class or retreat, but still get a project done in a weekend, she added.
The idea is that these easy quilts using precut fabrics allow folks to complete a quilt more quickly, such as those that might be needed for charity organizations for raffles and events, or communities creating quilts for shelters and orphanages.
The book, like the 13 before it, is published by C&T Publishing, a house that Hawley loves for the freedom it allows her.
“The publishers are creative people who let me be creative. They let me create the whole scene for the cover with my dogs and standing in our garden, and have it done by Michael Stadler,” Hawley said, noting the local photographer who took the photo for the book’s cover.
The picture is reflective of her love for Whidbey Island life and the inspiration she gains from its people and natural settings.
She and her law enforcement husband, Island County police lieutenant Mike Hawley, love to garden at their Freeland home and have planted more than 400 trees and built large flower gardens that continually evolve. They also have seven dachshunds and three cats. One of the dogs will often travel with Hawley on her frequent trips around the world, where she lectures or meets with clients for creating new fabric designs for her collections sold through Hancock Fabrics, the ubiquitous fabric chain store.
“The dogs create an instant connection with people and they’ll pull out their phones and start showing me pictures of their dogs,” Hawley said.
She meets a lot of people and is demand as a fabric designer and speaker.
“I am currently producing 20 plus ‘M’Liss’ fabric collections per year with literally millions of yards of my fabric finding its way into quilter’s, sewers and crafter’s homes nationwide,” Hawley said.
“My ideas for fabrics are all based on themes and I get ideas for themes everywhere. They are based on my pets, holidays, travel, florals; Hancock let’s me do what I love to do,” she said.
Her fabrics are used for several mediums including quilting, sewing, home decor and children’s clothing.
“And I get to do it while living on this beautiful island because of the Internet and FedEx and UPS. I get to be here and be an artist.”
Hawley said she enjoys the entire process of her business — the ideas, designing the pattern, buying the fabric. She has traveled to every state and throughout Europe, to South America and to Canada. She and her husband are presently getting ready for a trip to Korea to visit some fabric mills and to Japan.
“No matter where I am I see inspiration all the time,” she said.
Her family, the dogs, the gardens, the island and its creative people, she said, all go into what makes her business work so well.
She said she couldn’t have done any of it without her family.
“My success is truly because of my family,” Hawley said, noting that her husband and her children, Adrienne and Alexander who are now adults, supported and helped her all along the way, from being travel companions, to holding down the fort at home.
She is also quick to point out that she would not have been able to do it without the unflagging support of her first students and fellow quilters, who eventually became good friends and then her creative team, many of whom made the books, magazine articles and dozens and dozens of new quilting patterns possible, as well as those who actually quilted many of the pieces pictured in the book. Her team includes Vicki DeGraaf, Peggy Johnson, Susie Kincy, Barbara Dau, Cheryl Gilman, Carla Zimmerman, Lucia Pan, Annette Barca, Anastasia Riordan, Patricia Francisco, Cathy Sorenson, Kathy Sahlin and Louise and John James.
Hawley said that she looks forward to seeing both old friends and new at the signing and that she is grateful to Laurie Davenport of Quilting by the Sea for the event.
A door prize will go to one lucky visitor at the signing and everyone will be able to enjoy some light snacks, as well as the company of “Miss Vivienne,” one of the Hawley dachshunds.