Joan Hawley – Bringing Out the LAZY in All of Us

Lazy Girl Logo

Joan Hawley

Joan in her studio. Notice her zip necklace.

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.

Sweetpea Podds by Joan Hawley

Sweetpea Pods stand open when unzipped and easily hold Clover Wonder Clips.

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.

Lazy Girl Interfacing. A nice tidy grouping of basics found at your local quilt shop.

Lazy Girl Interfacing. A nice tidy grouping of basics found at your local quilt shop.

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.
Joan's inspiration for Press Perfect branding and packaging developed from the 1950’s vintage home maker meets Judy Jetson. The pink/blue coloring is distinct among the green Clover brand. As well as being functional, Joan wanted these products to be pretty, colorful and refined. Simple clean lines, beautiful shapes and colors with Clover’s amazing top quality.

Joan’s inspiration for Press Perfect branding and packaging developed from the 1950’s vintage home maker meets Judy Jetson. The pink/blue coloring is distinct among the green Clover brand. As well as being functional, Joan wanted these products to be pretty, colorful and refined. Simple clean lines, beautiful shapes and colors with Clover’s amazing top quality.

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.

Fobio Key Fobs are just plain fun to make and use. Breaks all the rules with multiple zipper pulls and barely any sewing. Grab your scraps, zips and attitude to make a few or a slew.

Fobio Key Fobs are just plain fun to make and use. Breaks all the rules with multiple zipper pulls and barely any sewing. Grab your scraps, zips and attitude to make a few or a slew.

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.

joan-7Launching 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.

Take Joan’s Craftsy class Zip It Up. It’s a wonderful confidence builder and primer for working with zippers and Joan’s patterns.

Take Joan’s Craftsy class Zip It Up. It’s a wonderful confidence builder and primer for working with zippers and Joan’s patterns.

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


Twin Needles

SCHMETZ Twin Needles

Twin needles feature two needles mounted on a single shank with a cross-bar.
A twin needle creates two rows of parallel stitches simultaneously.

Cheryl Sleboda’s Tip

I love heirloom sewing “made modern.” I love the look of pin tucks.
Pin tuck feet are available in different sizes such as 3 groove and
7 groove. The way to know which double needle to use is to lay the
double needles in the pin tuck foot grooves. One size will fit perfectly!

SCHMETZ Twin Needles are available in a variety of sizes and needle types.

Available SCHMETZ Twin Needles



Cheryl Sleboda – Part 2


Cheryl’s Small Quilts 

Cheryl Sleboda had been doing traditional quilting for several years, but she’d created a sketch book, The Art of Fabric Manipulation, full of designs and ideas. She realized she was never going to be able to make that many large quilts. Besides — where would she put them? At that time (2005-6), ladies were working through an email list called Quilt Art. Once a month, they were doing 8.5” x 11” pieces. Although that project was coming to a close, it sparked the idea that she could work in a smaller format. She decided once a month was not enough time in her studio. Her goal was to be in her studio every day. So, she gave herself three simple rules:

  1. A finished quilt each week. The binding must be finished by Sunday night.
  2. Size was 6 x 6.
  3. Any design.

Cheryl created one small quilt every week for five years, changing the rules every year. During Year Two, she introduced a monthly theme:  Pomegranates, Monsters, Robots . . . that year, she started to develop a cartoony style.

Year 3:  She changed the size — instead of 6×6, she worked in 8×5 . . . and she started doing more technique work. Inspired by a 1996’s copy of Collette Wolf’s Fabric Manipulation book . . . each quilt had two different squares on it. Cheryl said, “Collette assumed her readers knew how to sew, so she left out the preparation or lead-up. I developed many short cuts that year.”


Cheryl’s Advice to an Emerging Quilt Artist

If you want to build a business, your art must be seen. One way is to enter your work in a Quilt Show or a contest. All the major quilt shows have a “Call for Entry” heading on their websites.

Mancuso Quilt Shows
(  Enter Competitions

Quilts, Inc.
(   Entries

American Quilter’s Society (AQS)
(  Contest Details

There are other websites that list “Fiber Art Calls For Entry.” When you find an event that feels like the right fit, the website will list the deadlines, the size requirements, themes, etc. Carefully read the prospectus and the contest rules. Most events or competitions want to see a good photograph of both sides of your quilt, along with a small detail shot. There is usually an entry fee.

Excellent advice about photographing your quilts can be found on the Quilts, Inc. website:


IRIS® Multi-Colored Head Pins – NEW!

Iris Multi-Colored Head Pins - NEW!

IRIS® Multi-Colored Head Pins
1½” Pins

IRIS® Pins are popular with dressmakers. They are now available for quilters with an easy to grip multi-color head. 1½” long plastic head steel pin with super sharp point. 250 pins in the famous Klik-Klap tin. $10.95 retail.


Cheryl Sleboda – Part 1

Cheryl Sleboda, SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW

Cheryl Sleboda

Cheryl Sleboda’s bio says:  I work in the comic book industry by day and am a fiber artist by night. I am fascinated by the intersection of technology and textiles. Juxtaposing heirloom techniques in modern quilts is part of my design aesthetic.

How did Cheryl become the quilting industry authority where technology meets quilting? Why make a six inch square quilt? How is she lighting up the world of art quilting?  

I grew up on the south side of Chicago. In 8th grade we moved to the suburbs. I learned to sew from Home EC classes! My grandmother gave me a sewing machine for Christmas my senior year of high school, but no one in my family sews but me.  I went to a local community college and majored in Theatre.  There I developed a love for costuming and for sewing.

In 1996 I met my soon-to-be-husband in the early days of the internet and moved to Baltimore. Soon after moving to Baltimore I started my full time job in the comic book industry. I work for a comic book distributor, and my job is to develop tools for customers to grow their businesses.  I work with small niche, passionate store owners every day.  I travel quite a bit for the job, attending major comic book conventions to meet with our clients and grow our industry.

Because I was so far away from family and friends I turned to sewing and picked up a JoAnn’s block of the month kit as my first introduction to quilting.  From there I started designing my own traditional style quilts and joined a quilt guild. I soon realized that I was going to run out of room for my quilts and worthy people to gift them to. Besides, making a bed-size quilt is a huge commitment in time, money and energy.

Cherl Sleboda Artists Trading Cards 2010

Artists Trading Cards 2010

In 2005-7 I started transitioning to art quilting. I started out making Artist Trading Card sized quilts (baseball card sized at 2.5 x 3.5 inches) and trading them with others on the internet. I was fascinated by journal quilting and wanted to start getting the art quilt ideas out of my sketchbook and made into work. So I launched my weekly art quilts in January 2007 and made one small (6×6 inch) art quilt every week for 5 years!

Road to Home Blue Ribbon Winner, 2009 Mancuso Pennsylvania Quilt Extravaganza

Road to Home
Blue Ribbon Winner
2009 Mancuso Pennsylvania Quilt Extravaganza

We moved from Baltimore to Chicago in the middle of 2007, so my quilts that year are very autobiographical.  

By doing that work for five years, I ended up teaching myself lots of design and art principles that serve me now with my current work. I developed a “style” of cartoony faces that are completely recognizable by others as my own. I think that if I didn’t do those quilts I would not nearly have honed my artistic voice as much as I have. It’s a great “journal” to be able to go back to see where it all started.  I also did one whole year of “Technique of the Week” which I documented on my YouTube channel (

I had to make up some techniques just to get to 52 different ones. I like learning new things and trying new tools, so I plan to continue my video series in 2016 with a new season of Technique of the Week!

Two of Cheryl Sleboda's weekly quilts from Year 3.

Two of Cheryl’s weekly quilts from Year 3.

Every year, I would change my own rules. In Year 3 (2009) of my weekly series, I did a group of quilts based on heirloom sewing and fabric manipulation. This has become one of the things I most enjoy. I made a quilt with 44 different fabric manipulation techniques in it. That quilt was the inspiration for my DVD “Heirloom Sewing Techniques for Today’s Quilter.” I do these techniques by both hand and machine, and I now have a plastic template for people who want to do the heirloom Canadian smocking techniques.

Another thing I am known for is for lighting up my quilts. In 2010,  the very first “Technique of the Week” weekly quilt went viral . . . I used conductive thread in a quilt. Conductive thread  conducts electricity like wire. I made a bunch of quilts that are inspired by underwater life, as lots of creatures under the sea have a natural bioluminescence. No one was lighting up quilts at the time, and even now, it’s not for everyone, but I feel like I have been there from the early days of the technology. Now there are computer chips to program your lights that can be programmed from your cell phone. I started selling Light Up kits on my website and I’m now the quilting world’s eTextile expert, I guess!


“Geschwindigkeit (Speed)” Judge’s Choice - Mancuso Quiltfest Destination Savannah 2014

“Geschwindigkeit (Speed)”
Judge’s Choice – Mancuso Quiltfest Destination Savannah 2014

A couple of years ago I drew a skull and crossed thread-and-needle design while on a phone call at work. I loved it so much, I turned the design into a t-shirt. Next thing you know, my friends all wanted one. My husband had been out of work for over a year and I realized that there was money to be made, so a new side business was born. With the last $300 in our savings, we started selling shirts, and reinvested our profits back into the business. We developed other designs for shirts, patches, mugs, stickers, sweatshirts and much more. These are now available to quilt shops through distributors, launching with Checker in early 2015. Since I work for a distributor in comics, it’s a bit full-circle. This income and my quilting teaching income supplemented my full time income until my husband returned to work in 2014. All of my products are available through my online store at

As an extension of what I do for the comic book industry, I started giving people advice on their art businesses. Early in 2015 my friend Lynn and I did a recorded webinar about how to launch an art business. I have since written, taught, and lectured about business topics for quilt businesses on branding, time management, social media, and much more!
So I work full time, and I feel like I work full time on my art business too.  Since the move back to the Chicago area, I get to work out of my house, so I know I am incredibly lucky. I try to sew at least an hour a day in some fashion, with much more on the weekends. My goal is to make at least two large quilts for entry into quilt competitions each year. I also work on lots of small projects throughout the year. I have my business social media and other marketing plans worked out to be done in a very tight schedule, so I don’t get burned out. I teach and lecture to quilt guilds, and I love doing that. I have a huge bucket list of things I haven’t done yet, like write a book or design fabric, but I have lots of time ahead of me to get those accomplished. When I put my mind to it, anything is possible. I love what I do!