Maura Grace Ambrose
“Madder doesn’t like a lot of heat,” whiz kid quilter and natural dyer Maura Grace Ambrose notes. She offers this while removing the lid from one of the many large stainless steel vats full of cloth soaking in dye baths on her wide, covered back porch that overlooks peaceful blackland prairie pasture. Moving to another vat and peering inside, she adds, “I’m working on getting a good black from logwood.”
Visiting Ambrose’s studio at the home she shares with her husband, Chapman, and baby daughter, Ada Mae, on 10 tree-filled acres of rolling hills outside of Bastrop, Texas is rather akin to visiting a chemist’s lab, albeit with a wonderfully pastoral twist.
Bags of neatly labeled powders are stacked in a cupboard and large jars hold concoctions in various stages of science-experiment type decomposition. Containers holding all manner of roots, leaves, onionskins, pecans, acorns, walnut hulls, marigold blossoms, wood shavings, wild indigo, and other dried plant material fill shelves, line a table, and pack baskets on the floor.
While she frequently orders dyestuffs, such as cochineal, from online suppliers, Ambrose also forages her own and neighbors’ properties for materials to use in coloring the fabrics she uses in her quilts.
“One of our neighbors has a whole grove of Osage orange trees,” she says with obvious delight. “The heartwood makes a beautiful yellow-orange.”
A 2013 winner of a Martha Stewart American Made Program award for her Folk Fibers handmade quilts, 32-year old Maura did not grow up around quilters. The North Carolina native is a graduate of the Savannah (Georgia) College of Art and Design with a major in Fibers, and she learned to quilt at school.
She has always had the quilter’s innate appreciation for fabric, however.
“My grandma had some beautiful fabrics in her attic and I used to love looking at them. When I was in high school she let me have them,” she recalls. “I didn’t do anything with them for a long time because they were special, and I wanted them to have a special end use. It took a long time before I was ready to cut them.”
Hand dyeing with organic dyes is also something that Maura learned at school. While her classes covered all types of dyes and different methods of dyeing, it was the study of natural plant dyes that really resonated with her.
Like many quilters, Ambrose finds inspiration in nature. And prior to starting her Folk Fibers business, she apprenticed with a small farmer, managed a greenhouse, and did her own gardening.
Those horticultural experiences were key to her use of natural materials for dyestuffs. “A light bulb went off in my head when I realized that I could at least partially control my sources for dyes by growing my own plants or harvesting plants that grew around me,” she says.
Part of the current maker movement, she is passionate about quality craftsmanship. Her artistic training, her love of fabrics, and her appreciation for natural color combine to produce handmade quilts with a modern twist that have proven highly popular with customers.
Maura’s Folk Fibers brand has more than 50,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook; she has collaborated with Levi’s and Terrain to produce quilts shown and sold at their flagship stores; and her work has been featured in such publications as Martha Stewart Living, American Craft Magazine, and Country Living.
Each of her quilts is quilted by hand and packed in a handmade, screen printed cedar box. Because of the high demand for her products, Ambrose has hired three Austin-based quilters to help her hand quilt. “At first it was weird to see someone else’s quilting on my quilts,” she laughs. “But now I love to see their work and I call them my angels.”
With a steady stream of orders for her quilts; a book on quilting and natural dyes in the works; and being a featured lecturer and workshop leader at the Modern Quilt Guild’s recent QuiltCon held in Austin, Maura Ambrose’s future seems bright indeed, no matter how you color it.
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Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor
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