Meet Gingham Girls – the inspiration behind my new fabric line

Here is a little bit of the story behind the inspiration for Gingham Girls, my very first fabric collection for Riley Blake Designs.


Quilt Market- the semi-annual trade show for the sewing and fabric industry – just wrapped up in Houston this weekend. I was sad to miss, but excited that a part of me was there to represent. My first fabric collection, Gingham Girls, produced by Penny Rose/Riley Blake Design fabrics, was shown to shop owners and fabric buyers for the first time.  Since the cat is out of the bag I thought I’d tell you a little bit about the inspiration behind my collection.


Growing up, my mom made a lot of the clothes my sisters and I wore – just as her mother had done for her. She especially loved to dress us in matching clothes (that’s me with the buck-teeth cheese grin on the right). And since funds were tight, the most common fabric she used was good old gingham.  Not only did we have gingham clothes, we had gingham curtains, doll clothes, bed quilts, and doll quilts.


About the time I was born (mid 1970’s) my mom also made her first patchwork quilt in red, white, and navy blue. I’m guessing she made it around the time of the US Bicentennial (1976) when patriotic colors were very popular.


Quilting cottons were not widely available so she did the best she could finding calicoes and prints on polyester blends to go with her stash of gingham. I love that it’s a simple tied, patchwork quilt, but has stood the test of time – and held up remarkably well!

Fortunately fabric options have come a long way since then, but this collection is an homage to that decade, my childhood, and my mom’s first quilt. Little did she know what she was starting…


We grew-up using that quilt a lot – and since it was patriotic looking, we always used it to sit on for fire-work watching. As a result, it fondly became known as the 4th of July quilt. And here it is, still in action this past summer with the daughters of those original Gingham Girls still using it.

Here’s a little more inspiration from my late 70’s childhood. With a name like Amy you have to know I was a child of the 70’s. There was always at least one other Amy, if not 4 in every one of my school classes. (I did think it was pretty cool though, that the president had a daughter with my same name.)

So this is not the mod-version of the 70’s, but the Holly Hobbie, Little House on the Prairie, My Friend Mandy, Raggedy Ann, Gingham Paper Dolls version of my childhood. Does any of this sound familiar? What else reminds you of that era?


In doing research for this collection I also found this image on Pinterest and it SO perfectly encapsulated the period and the look I was going for – especially the addition of gold – so perfect for this era. (Anyone else have a kitchen with Harvest Gold appliances?) You can see more of my inspiration in this Gingham Girls mood board in Pinterest – and perhaps take a walk down memory lane.




And so, without further ado, here is the first official internet sneak peak of the storyboard for this Gingham Girls, including all the prints that will make up this collection. The line is also designed to coordinate perfectly with other Riley Blake basics like their Swiss Dot (my favorite!) and solids. (Update – sadly, these fabrics – printed in 2017 – are out of print.)

The most fun though: this line will also include woven ginghams! They feel so much more authentic to me. πŸ™‚  The prints are also designed to play well with denims and chambrays. You could even make a denim leisure suit – pants + vest – and wear it with a gingham shirt. πŸ˜‰


Gingham Girls won’t be available in stores until April 2017, but it is available for shop owners to order now. When the time gets closer I’ll be sharing pictures of the actual fabric itself as well as brand new quilt patterns that will go with it! Thanks to all for the kind words of encouragement and support. mwah!


And if you want to hear more about how Gingham Girls came to be, plus a bunch of other quilty chit-chat, I just did a fun interview with Stephanie of Modern Sewciety. You can hear the full podcast here. Stephanie has lots of fun, in-depth interviews with lots of interesting people in the sewing and quilting world. You can find them all here.

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  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Congratulations – can’t wait for your fabric! I enjoyed your podcast – you have such a nice laugh and sound like you are smiling all the time.
    This is my very favorite post of yours and I loved reading about your life and all the references to the 1970s. My husband and I married in 1969, and my son and daughter were born in 1970 and 1975. I sewed like crazy, making their clothes and mine (I even made my husband a plaid suit – omg!), I designed and made my own Holly Hobbie embroidered wall hanging, I had a harvest gold kitchen with a decorating theme of mushrooms in burnt orange, gold, and avocado green, and I made macrame plant hangers for the 30 plants I had in our house – lol! I get very nostalgic about those creative times.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      November 2, 2016 at 9:46 am

      Hahah! You just described our house too! I had the embroidered Holly Hobbie on my wall! In addition to sewing my mom made macrame plant hangers (I remember being fascinated watching that process) and we still have some of my Dad’s sweet plaid pants!!

      And thank you for your kind words on the podcast. I still need to listen, but I hate the sound of my own voice. hah.

  • Reply
    Summer Daisy
    November 2, 2016 at 6:45 am

    Cute girls! Love the quilt tooβ™₯

  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 6:58 am

    Congratulations! Love those little daisies on the gingham. I’m a shade older than you, but much of that looked familiar, although we were an avocado green appliance house. Oh, my!

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      November 2, 2016 at 9:43 am

      Yep. I think my grandma’s house had the Avacado Green appliances!

  • Reply
    Amy L
    November 2, 2016 at 7:14 am

    I’m a baby boomer, born in 1958. During my childhood, I met one other Amy. When I hit high school, one of my friends’ parents had a baby girl, and named her Amy. I was delighted! When I hit college, I heard Amy everywhere, including a couple of cuties that I babysat on occasion. It’s been wonderful to welcome each and every one to our name!

    And your fabric resonates with me. I sewed with gingham, and those 70s prints. I will definitely look for your line when it hits the stores. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      November 2, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Haha! Best name ever. And now I get a kick out of how many other Amy’s there are in the quilting world! πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 7:15 am

    I still have my Holly Hobbie dolls (both the rag doll and little vinyl ones that lived in my doll house,) Raggedy Ann and Andy, my Gingham Paper dolls and My Friend Mandy doll with all of her original clothing. I played with those for hours all thru my childhood. And of course, Little House on the Prairie was my favorite show, and I played that for hours outside as well. Unfortunately, we do not have the prairie dress and bonnet my Mom made for me when I was 6 for Halloween. I was Laura Ingalls that year, of which we do have a picture. Did you have the Sunshine Family dolls too?

    I love the new line! Congratulations, and I will definitely have to get my self some of it to make my own 4th of July quilt. :o)

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      November 2, 2016 at 9:42 am

      I love it! It sounds like we had a very similar childhood. We played Little House on the Prairie outside for hours! And the Sunshine Family – I’d totally forgot about them, but yes, my sister had them! lol!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 7:38 am

    This takes me right back to the seventies too! In a good way. πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Southern Gal
    November 2, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Oh, those stories and those colors speak to my heart! I love this line, Amy! (My sister was born in 1968 and she shared her name, Michele, with four other girls in her first grade class!) I will have to put this on my list of fabrics I must buy. My bedroom was pink and mint green gingham when I left home, but before that it was yellow and flowers with a huge smiley face on the wall. πŸ˜‰ I loved the 70’s!

  • Reply
    Southern Gal
    November 2, 2016 at 8:00 am

    Forgot to add our kitchen appliances were Coppertone. Brown.

    • Reply
      Judi Snarke
      April 9, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      I was married in the 70’s. The popular appliance colors were the avocado green, harvest gold and the ever-popular copper tone. I had the gold, my 3 sisters, also married around the same time, all had the green. Yikes !

  • Reply
    Patricia Cash
    November 2, 2016 at 8:21 am

    I remember wearing a lot of gingham, still love it.. Can’t wait to see and feel your fabric.

  • Reply
    charlotte m.
    November 2, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Congratulations Amy. I was born in 1957, so I was learning to sew in the 70’s and all of your fabrics have captured the era perfectly. I love gingham and calico. I look forward to seeing more and maybe even buying some of those cute prints!

  • Reply
    Tracy W
    November 2, 2016 at 9:48 am

    LOVE it! I am also a child of the 70’s and this really brings back a lot of memories. I recall a lot of gingham and strawberry print fabric around my house, and can also relate to the name thing as one of a million Tracy’s born in that era. Can’t wait for the fabric to come out!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 9:57 am

    I loved reading this as a fellow Amy of the 70s who had a Holly Hobbie doll, thermos and lunchbox AND Raggedy Ann and Andy doll. The colors are very similar to fabrics my mom used to sew my clothes too, when I wasn’t wearing my boy cousins’ hand me downs.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      November 2, 2016 at 10:07 am

      Yes! i had the Holly Hobbie lunch box and thermos too! I saw one just like it a while ago at an antique store for $50. (what?!) I guess I should have held onto it.

  • Reply
    Ranch Wife
    November 2, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Congratulations on your first line…it’s wonderful and the first line I’ve seen in some time that I know I will will buying in bulk when it is available. Thank you for sharing your childhood memories of that iconic decade. You’ve captured the retro – classic vibe of the 70’s perfectly. Those ginghams are just too cute!

  • Reply
    Donna Murdock
    November 2, 2016 at 11:22 am

    I still have my children’s Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. I have pictures of them inn their red gingham clothes. And, I am so glad to hear you love the woven ginghams versus the printed ginghams! I am not alone. I am not alone. All the fabrics in this line seem so familiar to me, as if I had already sewn them up before for my daughter or myself. Yes, I am that mother of the 70s. That is awesome that Riley Blake solids and the Swiss Dots will match your new line. This company is thinking smart. Didn’t mean to make a pun, but it works well.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Congrats on your new line. I too, love gingham and you definitely did it and the ’70 up right!! Lots of great memories come rushing back. I was in college and made my first quilt (using the term VERY loosely) without any direction other than garment sewing knowledge. We have come a long way, baby. Indeed!!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Nice to read about what inspired you to create this collection. Love this quilt! And love these old pictures :))

  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    I love this fabric, it totally reminds me of my childhood. I have those same Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls still as well. Congratulations!!!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    I love, love, love this! Would be good for a fourth of July quilt! I hope to make one this year!

  • Reply
    Ana from The Lost Apron
    November 2, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I love your fabrics. The peek into your inspiration adds so much to your line. I can feel the connection to the fabrics from your story. I could probably find similar pictures in our old albums. I have saved some of this photos to my Gingham Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/thelostapron/gingham/

  • Reply
    Kirsty @ Bonjour Quilts
    November 2, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Another 70s child here (’74) and I had plenty of handmade clothes, too. I absolutely adore that photograph of you and your sisters! I have a few like that as well, although Mum would always buy/make the same outfit, just in different colours. I was always blue, my sister’s was red. I think because I have red hair and she’s blond, so I looked pretty frightening in red πŸ™‚ There is such a thing as too much red.
    Congratulations on your fabric line, I love how much meaning it has to you and I’m sure there will be many new heirlooms sewn with it!

  • Reply
    Dee Whisnant
    November 2, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    I look forward to see your fabrics soon! Love the gingham!!
    Reminds me of my younger self

  • Reply
    Karen Seitz
    November 2, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Great trip down memory lane! I’m glad there will be even more Gingham Girls posts in the future.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Ditto to what others have said. I lived in the same era. I still have my raggedy Ann and Andy dolls. And I was one of 6 Amy’s in the sixth grade. Funny how it seems like we all lived in the same home with a mom that sewed clothes. My mom was big into Gunne Sax by Jessica McClintock. I think that is what they were called. She made matching dresses for me and my 3 sisters. Good memories!

  • Reply
    November 2, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    We have a lot in common although I’m a bit older. My mom sewed my clothes, and my aunt sewed ice skating costumes for my cousin Amy!
    Some of my favorite tv shows, in addition to Little House were S.W.A.T. and Charlie’s Angels. I like your fabrics a lot! Congratulations!

  • Reply
    Melody A.
    November 2, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    Congratulations, what an accomplishment !! I love Gingham so it does bring back wonderful memories of things I have made and loved. I had red gingham curtains in our farm house my husband and I bought and I thought they were so pretty!!

  • Reply
    November 3, 2016 at 12:10 am

    Congratulations! I love your line. Bright and cheerful and absolutely fabulous prints. I will be in line to order!! Thank you for sharing your story. I am closer to your mother’s age (if not older) and I, too, sewed my 2 daughter’s clothes and shirts for my 3 sons. I would do it again and again. Great pleasures/memories! Congratulations again!

  • Reply
    November 3, 2016 at 8:33 am

    I love your fabrics! Congratulations on your first line of fabrics. That has to be so exciting. Looking forward to seeing the patterns and getting my hands on some yardage!

  • Reply
    November 3, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Amy, I love this fabric collection.
    I cannot wait to get at the very least, a fat quarter bundle!!!
    Riley Blake is probably the only fabric manufacturer at this time that makes quality gingham

  • Reply
    Becky G.
    November 3, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Congratulations!! That’s just so exciting! The fabric line looks just wonderful.

  • Reply
    Cathy Melancon
    November 5, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Congrats on your fabric line!!! It looks great and I can’t wait to see it in the stores! I love all the pics from your past and the stories that go with them!! So happy for you!!

  • Reply
    November 6, 2016 at 5:03 am

    Gingham childhood- My mother shared this post with me and I smiled through every word. I too was born in the mid 70’s and my nursery was red, white and blue gingham (all sewn by my mom). Many of my Easter dresses and sun dresses where varying shades of gingham. My “big girl room” was yellow gingham (again, everything was made by mom). So when it came to my own children’s nursery it was gingham. This time lime green and baby blue. (I made most of it…at the time I wasn’t brave enough to sew the bumper.) Thanks for sharing your childhood and helping us remember ours.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      November 7, 2016 at 8:19 am

      It sounds like we lived parallel lives! Not only our childhood, but my first baby’s nursery I found and used gingham again for the first time too! Thanks for your sweet comment!

  • Reply
    November 6, 2016 at 7:52 am

    Not only is the fabric line fun and versatile but you are one of the most genuine quilters online. I’ve always enjoyed your quilts and now you have this great story of rags to riches (ha!). How poignant that you started out on a $15 budget and now you’re designing the fabric. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person! I’ll be getting a bundle of it when it’s available!

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      November 7, 2016 at 8:18 am

      Aww, thank you so much for your kind comment, Jamie. That means a lot. I do think back to those early days and know I could never have dreamed this.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Congratulations! I have been a big fan if your for a while. Will you make a quilt pattern available using this line? I love it when designers do that.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      November 7, 2016 at 8:16 am

      Yes! I have four patterns in the work. Each has a different style, so hopefully there is something for everyone. πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  • Reply
    Sandi Griepenstroh
    November 6, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Very cute! It makes me want to make a little dress for my granddaughter!

  • Reply
    Lynn L.
    November 7, 2016 at 6:33 am

    Amy – my most heartfelt congratulations to you on this wonderful achievement – you’ve come so far, and now you have your own fabric line! Wow. All of us who knew you when…are so proud of you. Talent shows.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      November 7, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Thanks Lynn! You’ve always been a great friend. I remember loving making the quilting connection with you way back when. So glad to be able to keep in touch.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    November 7, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Amy, this is such a beautiful line of fabric!! Congratulations. I look forward to seeing the fabric. The quilt your mom made is so pretty!

  • Reply
    November 14, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Catching up on my blog list, so I’m a little late to the party. Born in ’71, I loved reading your post. I practiced french braiding on My Friend Mandy’s hair. Our house had the avocado green kitchen and our living room couches were gold/orange/green colonial. The funny thing is, I still love those colors:) Congratulations on your fabric line! My mom and Granni sewed me dresses with tiny flowers just like yours – and I still have a few in my attic! I can’t wait to show this to my mom! Best of luck!

  • Reply
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  • Reply
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  • Reply
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  • Reply
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