Livin’ the Dream: Samarra Khaja

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March 1, 2016 by tessaraewilliams

This is the first installation of my Livin’ the Dream series. The idea is quite selfish, really; to talk with people in the quilting world who I’m inspired by and who are doing what I’d like to be doing in the future, to pick their brain for a bit to see how they got to where they are, and to ask advice on how to get there too.

To start us off, let’s talk to Samarra Khaja!


So the thing I love about Samarra is that everything she does is FUN. To me, that’s the whole point of creating! Also, I’m such a huge novelty fabric nut, and she’s an absolute wizard at novelties.


The fun doesn’t stop at her fabric designs. She also has the best ideas for quilt projects I’ve ever seen. Take a look at these applique pieces!

I’ll stop fangirling and Kermit-flailing now and get onto the good stuff. Hello, Samarra!


Ok, last one.

How was QuiltCon? Did you love it, or did you love it? Haha! Congrats on your Candy Dots quilt being shown! (Her Candy Dots quilt pattern can me found in her book!)

QuiltCon was fun and I found myself non-stop busy talking with people, even between things like book signings and meetings. The only downtime at QuiltCon is sleeping!

Do you think QuiltCon and Quilt Market are important things to go to if you’re wanting to break into the industry? Or are they something you attend once you’ve already got things to sell/show? I know you usually have to be a retailer to be able to go to Market, so that’s different than Con that’s open to everybody. I feel like those shows probably have lots of valuable information and the opportunity to network with people.

If you’re trying to break into the industry, the first stop, in my opinion, is specifically Fall Quilt Market. It’s always held in Houston and typically has the most attendance from businesses, compared to Spring Market, which is more of traveling version, as its location changes every year. It’s harder to get into as it’s for trade only, but if you can pass that test, it will give you the most bang for your buck to connect with many companies. Versus not going at all, yes, both events are good to go to, for sure.

Did you have a goal to end up in the quilting industry, or did you fall into it through your art?

I went to art school and have BFA work in printmaking, drawing and photography (and a minor in Medieval Studies, can’t not mention that!) and MFA work in photography. I’ve been working as an art director and graphic designer for over 20 years now and once I had my eldest son, my graphic and surface design morphed into the textile arena while I switched to freelance mode in order to stay home with him. It’s all quite funny, because my mom, a painter and sculptor, got her degree in textile design in Melbourne, years and years before I was born. So it wasn’t part of a plan, but that’s where my walkway in this forest of life as led me so far.

Were you approached to make fabric lines/your book, or did you seek out those opportunities?

Yes, I was approached to license my fabric designs. As for my sewing book, “Sew Adorkable: 15 DIY Projects to Keep You Out of Trouble”, I pitched that idea and since then I’ve collaborated with my publisher on other fun projects, including my coloring book, “Off the Bookshelf” and some other fun stuff that will be coming out later this year.

Do you think it’s necessary to have an art degree to become a fabric or pattern designer?
I don’t think it’s necessary to have an art degree to become a fabric designer BUT I am a firm believer in practice and honing your natural abilities. All too often I hear people ask, “what program do you use?” and “what kind of tool is that?” as if to imply that it was the program/tool/etc., that generated the design and therefore if you just have those same things, you can do the same. That’s not the case. The skill needs to be rooted in you, your eye, hand and brain, not whatever filter you can throw on something or whatever other automated thing can aid your process. To be a masterful designer, I believe in being able to make a pattern regardless of tools or latest technology. Be able to create one on a computer in Ai, but also familiarize yourself with doing it by hand with a pencil on paper. Old school, baby! I’d even say, stretch your brain, go outside and see if you can make a repeating fabric design using solely found objects from nature. It can be done and the more you know how to do all these things in different ways, the more adaptable and long-lasting your designs and workflow will be. If you don’t feel you’re good at drawing, DO IT. And then do it again. And again. Practice. Trying drawing a hand in perspective. Then try drawing a horse. And repeat. You’ll do nothing but get better if you allow yourself the time to practice, explore and hone your skills. Forget the nay sayer voices of others and your own, and do the work and progress will inevitably come from that.

Whew! I don’t know about you guys, but I’m feeling thoroughly inspired after talking with Samarra. I can’t thank her enough for giving me a bit of her time and answering all my silly little questions.

Check out Samarra’s book “Sew Adorkable” and her coloring book  “Off the Bookshelf”.
And don’t forget to look her up on social media!
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