While she didn’t start quilting until age 20, Kelly Kye’s youth in King, N.C., was spent in close proximity to it.
Her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all quilted. She even has a few quilts that all three of them made together.
It wasn’t until Kye got to East Carolina University and received an assignment to make a quilt for a surface design class that she took up the needle herself and “fell in love with the process of textiles.”
After college, Kye lived in New York City for three years and then came back to North Carolina, eventually becoming a student in N.C. State University’s College of Design, from which she graduated earlier this year.
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Kye, 32, of Raleigh, now makes “thoughtfully crafted quilts” under the name KYE + HARDY, a combination of her father’s and mother’s family names. She also teaches textile-related workshops and sells her hand-stitched, hand-dyed quilts locally and online.
Her quilts, designed to be hung as wall art or to adorn a bed, are as timeless and evocative as what three generations of her family did before her.“At some point I decided that this craft was something I wanted to embrace,” Kye said. “I just kept digging a bit deeper.”
Along with her love of hand-stitching, Kye also loves the accessibility and portability textiles can bring. Kye also enjoys the process of dyeing fabric. In her Raleigh studio, a wide white binder is stuffed with examples of different dye recipes she’s concocted, a visual history of her own creative trajectory. She dyes her fabric in her backyard, professing love for not just the act of dyeing, but also its outcome. It is clear that is true as she flips through page after page of plastic sheet protectors filled with swatches in varying shades.
Kye’s studio is in the The Pink Building, a former Raleigh dentist’s office that is now a year-long artist residency project near downtown. A few dyed swatches of rich orange, green and yellow peek out from a stack of fabric on a shelf. Splayed out on a table is a commission she is working on, a king-sized bed quilt for another local fiber artist, Mary Kircher. The quilt’s colors echo those in her studio, homey and warm, and look like it would one day keep its owners perfectly cozy with its depth in tones and contrasting rocking stitch.
Cozy is a theme running through Kye’s pieces, whether they are small patchworks of wall art or something larger like the quilt for Kircher. The combination of hand-done stitches and dyes make for pieces that could have been done by her family’s previous generations.
It’s clear that these women continue to influence Kye. In fact, she can always see them while she’s working: On the wall next to her sewing machine hangs a photo of Kye, as a baby in her mother’s arm, alongside her grandmother and great-grandmother.
Betsy Greer writes about craft and activism at craftivism.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to Buy
Kelly Kye will have items for sale for under $100 at the Cheap Art Party 6-10 p.m. Dec. 4 and Holiday Craft Market noon-5 p.m. Dec. 5 at The Pink Building, 501 E. Davie St., Raleigh.
She also will teach a holiday ornament workshop at Ramble Supply Co., 2-5 p.m. Dec. 6. More information at ramblesupplyco.com.
Holiday items, throws and quilts are sold at Ramble Supply Co., 123 E. Martin St., Raleigh, 919-977-7767, ramblesupplyco.com.
Commissions: Contact Kye directly via her website: kyeandhardy.com.