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Fashion Designer vs Quilt Designer

Updated: May 5, 2021

The Featured Writer of April : Donna Robb


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Hello! I’m Donna Robb of Sewing Squares, a corner of the internet where I offer a monthly membership for beginners, tutorials, courses, and advice for all kinds of quilting and sewing students. I run my business and teach sewing and quilting classes in my beautiful hometown on the coast of Australia, but I’ve had quite a few adventures with needle and thread that have led me to this point.

I’m delighted to be Tori’s guest here on The Quilt Patch to tell you about my journey from dressmaking to quilting, and everything in between.

My love of sewing began at the kitchen table with my mother, and at the age of 30 I finally went to university to study fashion design. My studies opened the door to so many enriching opportunities, like studying couture pattern-making, lecturing at the Melbourne School of Fashion for over a decade, going back to school to study Visual Merchandising, and even opening my own couture bridal shops.

However, my favorite career anecdote by far is that I worked in the costume department on sets with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks under the award winning costume designer Penny Rose (Pirates of the Caribbean).

Dressmaking and fashion design taught me the intricacies of construction, of all the details and considerations for designing on a three-dimensional scale. My designs as a dressmaker had to not only look elegant - they had to allow for movement and comfort, to withstand wear and tear, and to allow for alterations to fit every kind of body.

My most trusty tools were my basic sewing machine and a pair of carbon fibre scissors. Since I grew up and studied in Australia, I used the metric system exclusively and was used to working with a 1.5 centimeter seam allowance.

When I stepped into the quilting (or patchwork, as we call it in Australia) world,I was in for a few changes and challenges. Even though it was a bit easier to go from three-dimensional patterns to flat construction, I had to get used to different systems of measuring, cutting, pressing, and much more. For example, since we use the metric system, I had to buy my quilt fabric by the meter. But, my quilting patterns were in Imperial measurements (inches, feet, and yards), so I also had to get used to ¼ inch seam allowances.

These were small hurdles, and when I traded in my dressmaking shears for the rotary cutter, it certainly made my life easier. In fact, I’m still all about producing the best result as easily as possible, which is why I specialize in machine patchwork and quilting. (Although I admire the women in my quilting circles who handpiece their beautiful quilts , I do not have their patience!) I still use the same basic machine for quilting as I did for dressmaking, and I encourage my students that they can do the same. While there are specialized machines for quilting, I believe that everyone should be able to start quilting and sewing without acquiring fancy - or expensive - equipment.

I share my love and experience of Sewing, Patchwork and Quilting over at, and I’m excited about the online beginners monthly membership: Seams Sew Modern. With online tutorials, an encouraging community of quilters, discussions and Q&As, and monthly patterns and projects, I’m able to expand my love for teaching far beyond my hometown of Torquay in Australia to encourage beginners and self-taught quilters all over the world. If you’d like to sign up, or know a friend who would be interested, I’d love to meet you here.

You can find out more about Donna's classes and membership


Donna and I had a wonderful Coffee Chat about her and her start into quilting! Check out the video below to learn more about Donna!


If you would like to see our future Featured Writers, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter here.


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