Joan Hawley is the owner and designer at Lazy Girl Designs. She has made dozens of TV appearances (Kaye’s Quilting Friends, America Quilts Creatively, Quilter’s Toolbox) and she has a top-selling line of products in the quilt industry. Joan is a dichotomy wrapped in a conundrum. How can a woman who invented over 100 products, designed 70 patterns and written three books think of herself as “Lazy”?
Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, her whole family was full of scientists, engineers and artists. She taught herself how to sew in the 7th grade, and because she was taller than all the other girls, she was thrilled to know how to make her own clothes. After getting a college degree, she started her career in Urban Planning, and her idea of the perfect Saturday was making a new outfit for the coming week.
Joan describes a turning point in her sewing, “There was a particular suit I wanted to make. It had a fitted, lined suit coat with princess seams, dolman sleeves, and a rolled lapel. In total, there were 19 pieces, two fabrics, several interfacings, buttons/buttonholes, and a zipper. I never made it. It was a crushing moment. That project scared me and scarred me a little. I felt like I wasted all of that time, energy and love. I was afraid to venture out into another intricate project — too many pieces, too many supplies, etc. I became aware of my threshold for a maximum project effort. Too much effort for a single project is a barrier to my own success. I call these ‘boundaries’ and I think of them as my guardrails of life. If I respect my guardrails, I keep myself on the road to success.”
Joan worked as an Urban Planner for 10 years before starting Lazy Girl Designs. Urban Planning taught her to communicate big ideas — how to break down big concepts into easily digestible parts.
After moving to a new city, a part time job at a quilt shop started her on the path to Lazy. Joan realized that in the sewing world, the traditional time-consuming methods could be streamlined with a new tool or shortcut technique. That’s how she came to be a “thinger”. She makes things. Fabric is her medium, and the quilt world is her arena.
Joan started Lazy Girl Designs because she believed other sewing enthusiasts would want what she wanted: shortcuts to sewing success. Many times, the barriers to success are as simple as not having access to a tool, notion or supply. Her shortcut philosophy provides guardrails for the Lazies (anyone making her projects).
Lazy Girl patterns were the first in the industry to use full color step-by-step photographs. Some of us learn through images, some through writing, some need both. All of the directions are in there in both forms.
Inspiration for a new product often comes from her own sewing frustration. We are making new things that have different needs and challenges — supplies and tools haven’t kept up. For example, even as an experienced seamstress, Joan was frustrated by interfacing (names, directions and interleaf (i.e., those instruction “thingies” that come wrapped in the bolt) info and access to proper pressing tools.
Joan approached all the big interfacing manufacturers, but none of them would incorporate her ideas. So, she developed her own Lazy Girl line of interfacing.
- Seven interfacings for basic needs, plus a thing or two that might be new to you.
- Names that make sense (i.e., Stiff Stuff to make your bag stand up – perfect!).
- Clear instructions and descriptions on the bolt ends and interleaf.
- Only available at your local quilt shop or online. Made in the USA.
Then Joan approached Clover Needlecraft to create a line of pressing tools and supplies that meet today’s needs. After three years in development, Clover launched Joan’s very popular line of Press Perfect notions in October 2013.
Joan loves to find one new idea, approach or material to wrap her mind around and play with until she finds a way to make something out of it, and then she incorporates it into a Lazy design.
This curiosity is how her very popular Sweetpea Pods pattern came to life. Joan saw a zipper loop back on itself like a teardrop and she was completely intrigued. Is the zipper sold that way? How is it installed? Why hadn’t she seen this before? Who knows about this? How does it happen? Turns out the zipper teeth are installed, then the zipper pull is added. What a nightmare. If there’s one thing everybody knows — if the zipper pull comes off, you are done. It’s nearly impossible to get the pull back on.
Joan scoured the internet and asked her stitchy friends, but found no trick for getting the zip pull back on, no one teaching this zipper technique, nothing. For her to design around a loop zipper, she had to develop an easy way to get the zipper pull on.
She played with zippers and pulls until she figured out the mechanics, then created one of her trademark Lazy tricks to easily put the pull on. This one little trick immediately made decades of zipper angst disappear and she knew she would never fear the zipper pull coming off again. She can cut the zipper up, take the pull off, and get to stitching. This one trick brings a new dynamic to everything she thought she knew about zippers. It was a game-changer.
Joan’s One-Zip teardrop technique works with poly/nylon apparel zips — nothing fancy or expensive — just your basic, all-purpose apparel sewing zipper.
That one little trick was the launching point for creating Sweetpea Pods, Becca Bags and Fobio key fob patterns. All three use this same zipper technique and zipper pull trick. The trick is shown in those patterns.
Launching Lazy Girl One-Zip patterns meant customers were going to need longer zippers and extra zipper pulls. Joan asked friend Terry Atkinson of Atkinson Designs for help. Terry already had a successful line of high quality 14” zips and was all-in from the get-go. The two of them worked together to introduce an entire line of patterns, notions and zipper supplies so shops and makers alike could get everything they needed to make these fun projects.
This one little trick opens the door to freedom and options. You can cut a zipper apart, install the teeth, then add the pull. You don’t have to sew around the zipper pull or stops at the top and bottom. You can work on each part of the bag, then put the pull on. This saves wrestling with cumbersome assembly at the sewing machine or pressing station. It is liberating!!
Recently, Joan had a great example of this freedom. She was making a Runaround Bag (her easiest bag pattern), and she screwed up two simple things. She sewed the zip in with the opening going in the wrong direction, and the fabric pieces didn’t line up at the edges across the zipper. These are common problems. She cut the zipper bottom stop off, shifted the zipper pieces so the fabric lined up and then put the pull on (in a different color for a bit of fun) going in the other direction. Her new trick fixed both problems.
Lazy Girl Designs are available at independent sewing/quilting/machine dealer shops. Joan believes that innovation and creativity happen at the local shop, where new products, designs, and ideas bloom and are born. Shop owners and staff are professionally curious and excited about anything and everything in the fabricy world. Customers bring new ideas and challenges. That’s how she launched Lazy Girl Designs. She saw a customer need and designed a pattern for it. Suddenly she had a line of patterns for things. She makes things — not quilts, home dec or apparel. She became a “thinger,” and she is still “thinging” to this day.
After 19 years in business, Joan is most proud that her patterns teach. Every project has a new idea, technique, component, etc. Each design builds and expands your toolbox of skills, tricks and techniques. Her philosophy is:
- There’s a little Lazy in all of us.
- Close enough is good enough.
- If you can cut and sew a straight line, you can make anything I design.
- The illusion of perfection is easier to achieve and looks just as good.
Keep up with Joan online through her blog, social media, or her Craftsy class Zip It Up.
Press Perfect by Joan Hawley
Sew Lazy Interfacing