Category Archives: Fabric

Happy Canada Day!

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Canadian Fabric

Part of my collection of Canadian fabric.

Many of you know that I am originally from Canada. My husband and I moved to the United States more than 20 years ago. All of our families still live in Ontario, Canada. However both of my children were born in the United States.

If you’re unfamiliar with Canada Day, here’s the scoop. This national holiday celebrates Canada’s birthday in 1867. According to Wikipedia, Canada Day commemorates the joining of the British North American colonies (the current provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec) into the kingdom of Canada. (England kept parliamentary control over Canada until the Constitution Act was passed in 1982.)

Several years ago, when my oldest was almost ready to graduate from high school, I finally got around to applying for my kids’ Canadian citizenship. (Just FYI, it was a whole lot faster for me to get American citizenship than to register my children as “Canadian Citizens Born Abroad.”)

As a quilter, I wanted to make my son and daughter each a quilt to acknowledge their Canadian roots. The problem was that no nice fabric was available. Thankfully Northcott has since released three fabric lines called Stonehenge Oh Canada, which I have been collecting each time I visit Canada. (I have not yet purchased anything from Oh Canada III, which has just been released.)

As you can see, I haven’t started making the quilts yet. Frankly I  might just keep buying fabric, because I think it’s really beautiful. Given that it took Canada more than 100 years to become a sovereign nation, I doubt anyone can criticize me if it takes a few more years to make these quilts.

 

American Made Fabric (and Challenge)

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http://americanmadebrand.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/amb_circle-logo.jpg?w=238I can’t remember a time when a new quilt fabric line created such a buzz in the industry. Even though I’ve taken a long break from blogging (which will be covered in the next post), I wanted to share this with y’all.

We have a new American-made line of solid fabrics. The fabrics are grown in the U.S., as well as spun and manufactured here. Yup. The whole process. You can read their story here. I first heard about this line of fabrics from a quilter friend. Now, the buzz is everywhere and I just learned that our local quilt shop has purchased the entire line of fabrics. (Way to go, Pieceful Quilting.)

Even more fun is the fact they’ve created a Farm to Fabric Challenge. Registration must be completed by August 15th.

As someone whose been recently challenged to find time for quilting, I know that challenges are a great way to get inspired to start — and actually finish — a project. I’m pretty sure I’m going to enter myself and I’d love for some of my readers to enter too.

The quilt that nobody loved

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Mom1

The scrap quilt project … rejected by me and sewn by my mother.

This is a sad story with a happy ending.

It began at a quilt retreat about 3 years ago. The project was to create a mystery quilt, which turned out to be a scrap quilt. Instead of getting a kit of brand new fabrics, the quilt shop staff had been asked to donate their scraps. Many of these scraps, we all recognized, were from discount shops and not good quality fabric. Since I’m too much of a control freak to enjoy mystery quilts, I hadn’t planned to do the project anyway. So this sad bag of scraps and instructions found its way where most castoff’s do … to my mother’s house.

Now my mom is a great quilter and she did a wonderful job making the top. But I felt guilty asking her to quilt it, so it made the trek (once again) from Canada to the United States, where it waited for 18 months for me to put it on the longarm machine. I was dreading doing the quilting. I’m a pretty funky quilter and my mom is a traditionalist — plus I really hated the quilt — so I had no idea what to do. Finally I settled on a pretty pantograph of maple leafs, which I thought would add some texture to the design.

Mom3

Here’s my husband’s first attempt at un-quilting, as he helped me with a 20-hour rip-out project. Thanks, honey!

I was too embarrassed to take pictures of the pantographs. Let’s just say they were a big mistake. I hadn’t used a pantograph for a couple of years and my lines were atrocious. By the time I was one-third of the way through the quilt, I’d determined that I wasn’t getting any better. With my husband’s help, we spent 20 hours ripping out those darn stitches.

The quilt is now finished and it looks fine. I even sort of like it. I used a star template for the larger white blocks and did a freehand loopy design over the rest of the squares. Hopefully someone will love this quilt, because it’s certainly had a tough beginning!

Mom2

Here’s the background. Isn’t it perfect for hiding errors? However, trying to pick out black threads on this background was almost impossible. I guess that’s why you’re supposed to do things right the first time!

Chevron Quilt (PS: I Designed It Myself!)

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I have been wanting to make a chevron quilt for quite awhile. I had some black fabric and a great pack of Kaufman fat quarters that were perfect for the project. A bonus was that I didn’t have to purchase any new fabric, which carries on my theme from last week of actually making something from my stash. (Don’t worry, those days are passed. I broke down and ordered some new fabric yesterday.)

This quilt is made of finished 5″ squares. I began by cutting 7″ squares and using them to make half-square triangles. The resulting square was trimmed down to 5.5 inches. Each row consists of a light and dark color that were fairly close together in color. (The second row was VERY close in color … they are slightly different shades but it’s hard to see that from the photo.)

Although I’ve done some original quilts, this is my first time creating a pattern that was somewhat complex. It made me appreciate the challenges faced by pattern designers. My major screw-up was pressing all of the seams toward the dark side, and then having to re-press half of them to the other side.

My other screw-up was forgetting to bring the 7th row back to my sewing room. I sewed the strips together and ended with a row that had a big transition between colors. After some ripping and re-stitching, that problem was also fixed.

At first I was really disappointed in the quilt. I felt like the black portion was very overpowering. However, the more I look at it, the more I like it. I’ve got a great idea for the quilting and will share the final result when it’s done.

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Chevron closeup

No fabric was purchased for this quilt!

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There’s something really satisfying about making a quilt top entirely from my stash! I had a half yard of this button fabric and wanted to make a quilt with it.  I managed to find some matching red, grey and white solids, but didn’t have much of them either. What I did  have were two rolls of Kona cotton 2.5 inch strips — one set in black and the other in white. I mixed it all together and came up with this quilt top!

I have to say that I love the look of it. It’s contemporary and kind of fun! I can’t wait to quilt it. I’m also excited to use up a teeny, tiny bit of my fabric stash!

Buttons quilt 3 Buttons quilt

NYC Garment District Tour with Mark Lipinski

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Last weekend was Quilters Take Manhattan, which started with a tour of three quilt fabric companies in New York City. Our tour guide was the amazing Mark Lipinski, who I have long admired as a quilter, TV host, and editor of the now-defunct Quilter’s Home magazine. I have followed Mark’s work for many years, and he was exactly as I expected — warm, friendly, and opinionated! Mark has amazingly diverse experience as a quilter, fabric designer, media host and publisher, so he had some amazing comments and insights.

Our tour stops were Red Rooster, Quilting Treasures, and Michael Miller. All three companies were impressive with their offerings, enthusiasm, and willingness to answer our questions. We saw their 2014 fabrics, some of which had not yet been seen by their salespeople. Enjoy the tour!

Red Rooster

Red Rooster 1

Boardroom presentation at Red Rooster Fabrics. (Note Mark Lipinski in the yellow sweater)

Red Rooster 2

Red Rooster’s boardroom table runner. Fabric will be released in 2014.

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Our gift from Red Rooster! Thank you!

Quilting Treasures

Timeless Treasures 1

Presentation of artist sketches at Quilting Treasures.

Timeless Treasures 2

More artwork! So interesting to see how this was developed into fabric.

Timeless Treasures 3

Office space at Quilting Treasures. Even the professionals don’t have enough storage for fabric.

Timeless Treasures 4

A gift from Quilting Treasures. A beautiful cosmetic bag with my favorite — black and white fabric! Thanks!

Michael Miller

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The presentation at Michael Miller. Amazing, contemporary fabrics!

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Michael Miller open concept offices.

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Michael Miller’s awards for “Best Booth” at Quilt Market.

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We got to choose a fat quarter pack from Michael Miller. Love their fabrics! Thank you Michael Miller!

Buying Fabric Online

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I’m always amazed at the number of women I meet who have never purchased fabric online. Their main reason is that they want to touch the fabric before they buy it. This always makes me smile! If you’re purchasing good quality quilter’s cotton, there is very little chance that you will get a fabric that feels too cheap or too stiff.

With the exception of The City Quilter  in New York City, I buy almost all my fabric online.  I like the selection of an online store. In most cases, the fabric arrives within a few days.  The prices are very often better than available locally. It’s not that I don’t want to support our local quilt shops, but the convenience, selection and cost from an online store usually win my business. Here are a few of my favorite shops, in no particular order, to get you started. (Please note that I have no financial interest in any of these companies.)

Fat Quarter Shop — This is one of my favorites.  They have a great selection and a good variety of fabrics. They also send out a nice newsletter on Fridays with a fabric special. Their shipping is extremely fast and they package the fabrics in cool clear cellophane.

Pink Chalk Fabrics — Pink Chalk Fabrics is new on my favorite list. They are a modern quilt shop with a really nice selection. They offer a lot of bundles, especially of modern fabrics and solids, and many of the collections come from bloggers. They have an excellent blog! The few times I’ve purchased from them, their shipping has been very quick.

eQuilter.com — eQuilter has an amazing selection and also sends out a great newsletter with their new arrivals. My favorite part about eQuilter is that they have a color matching tool. I use this a lot, especially to match solids for modern quilts. The major downside to eQuilter is that their shipping is very slow (often more than a week). I’ve contacted them about their slow shipping a couple of times … they usually send me back an excuse about it being a busy time. I’ve purchased from them for several years and the shipping speed has not improved. I stay with them for their selection.

Fabric.com — This store has the best prices and free shipping if you purchase more than $35 in fabric. They also have frequent sales on top of their already awesome discount prices. My favorite part of fabric.com is that they show a ruler with each fabric, so you know its scale. (I wish all companies did this, but they don’t.)  Shipping is usually fairly quick, although my daughter and I have both run into speed problems recently. They are a great choice for novelty fabrics and also sell upholstery and fashion fabrics.

Web Fabrics — Web Fabrics carries full lines of all their fabrics, which is great because most places (especially locally) do not do this. It is a particularly great source for blenders. Shipping is fast and they seem to almost always have everything in stock. They send a short weekly newsletter describing their newest fabrics.  They also sell sample packs of their blenders, so that you can easily match blenders to your own fabrics.

If you haven’t given online fabric shopping a chance, give it a try!  Subscribe to some of the above stores’ blogs and/or newsletters, and enjoy some browsing without getting off the couch. Happy shopping!

How much fabric should I buy?

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Of course the answer to this question is that you can never buy too much fabric! However there are normally two issues that may hold you back: (1) storage space and (2) budget! Some people don’t like buying fabric if they don’t have a project in mind, but I tend to use the fabric to inspire the project!

I’ve spent the weekend organizing my new office space. A big part of this is categorizing and organizing my fabric. Yes, I have a lot of fabric! But much of it comes from my first year of quilting, when I was primarily making fused wall hangings. I would see a fabric I liked and buy a fat quarter. Occasionally I would buy half a yard. Fast forward four years and I have a large — and very odd — collection of fat quarters. My interests have transitioned to making traditional quilts, so I don’t have nearly as much need for novelty fabric. I also usually need more than 1/4 yard.

I also had a lot of fabric from a buying spree at a discount store. I was a brand new quilter and couldn’t resist the cheap prices. Many of  my purchases were a name brand, but it was a low-end version that looked good and felt very stiff. Today, I would never use that quality of fabric in my quilts, but at the time I didn’t recognize the differences in quality.

One thing I have learned is that you don’t need to buy every fabric in a line. I have many collections where I purchased 1/2 yard of at least a half-dozen fabrics. It’s not enough fabric for anything more than a lap quilt. Now I buy the focus fabric and maybe one other. You can always find blenders, and it keeps your quilts from looking like an advertisement for a particular designer.

I have now transitioned to buying 2 or 3 yards of the focus fabric. (I want at least enough that I can cut the borders without have to piece them.) And then I buy the blenders when I figure out exactly what I’ll be making.

My First Quilt Market: Part 3 — Buying Fabric

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Quilt Market, the big quilting trade show held in Houston last month, is where many quilt shop owners buy their fabrics. Because (I believe) all of the major  fabric companies were vendors at Quilt Market, it is one-stop shopping for seeing new fabric lines and making purchases.  Throughout the show floor, I saw innovative booths with long rows of tables, where buyers intently looked at the new fabric. Quite honestly, the whole scenario was very overwhelming and I was glad not to be charged with buying any fabric for anybody.

The experience did, however, make me curious as to how fabric is selected. Regina Storms, a salesperson with Marcus Fabrics, was kind enough to explain the process to me: A few weeks before Quilt Market, Marcus Fabrics sends an email blast to their customers. This email describes the new collections that will be available at Quilt Market, and invites them to make an appointment.  Once a customer arrives at the booth, they sit down in front of a sales associate and look at large fabric swatches that are glued onto sheets of cardboard. Each sheet of cardboard shows all (or part) of a coordinating line.  It is interesting that these “swatches” may fabric, if the sample fabric has arrived in time. Otherwise they are printed images of the fabric (ie paper). The customer then chooses the fabrics that are appropriate for their store.

I did talk to several quilt shop owners. Some of them purchased all of their fabric at Quilt Market. Others purchased none, but viewed it as a time to see the new collections and gather information. They then purchased fabric at a later date, from their sales rep, at their store.

Regina Storms, a sales associate with Marcus Fabrics, describes how to purchase fabric.

View of the Moda Booth

View of Michael Miller Booth

Buyer looks at new fabric lines.

Part 2: Quilting with Minkee on Both Sides of Quilt

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Yesterday we talked about quilting with Minkee as a quilt backing. As I said, this beautifully soft fabric makes a lovely backing. However Minkee can be a challenge because it is stretchy, slippery fuzzy, and can be quite thick.

A few weeks ago,  Rita H. brought me a beautiful quilt top that she’d made for her son. The quilt was absolutely stunning! By using Minkee on the top, it made me just want to pet the quilt.

The top used Stonehenge fabrics for flying geese interspersed with Minkee. The bottom was Minkee. In quilter’s lingo, that meant that the top had a bias stretch from the flying geese plus the stretch from the Minkee. The bottom had stretch. And the quilt was very thick where we had Minkee on the top and bottom.

Beautiful quilt by Rita H. Note the leopard Minkee fabric in the body of the quilt, as well as the plush chocolate brown Minkee border

However every quilt comes with a story — and this one was heartbreaking. Her son’s home had been destroyed in a fire. He had begged her to re-make his favorite quilt. What mother could say “no” to that?

Because this quilt was so technically challenging, I did something that I’d never done before — I made a practice quilt. My initial plan was to use a simple pantograph, but I quickly discovered two things:

1. There was such a height difference between the Minkee fabric (thick) and the cotton (thin), that the hopping foot was getting caught in the Minkee.

2. Quilting through double Minkee is like quilting through mud. I needed to use freestyle quilting, and only in a very simple design.

As a result, I ended up using a large meander on this quilt. I chose a tan color thread that would blend with the background of the flying geese.

Speaking of blending … here’s another “joy” of working with Minkee. I could not see where I’d quilted. The quilting blended into the furry fabric so well that I was using shadows to tell where the stitches were. Yet another challenge. However the upside is that the quilting does not diminish the softness of the Minkee; it just adds texture.

Overall I would not recommend using Minkee on both the top and bottom of the quilt — especially on a home machine. However the result is an absolutely stunning quilt with great texture, so at least the challenges result in a fabulous quilt.

Photo shows the height difference between Minkee (pink) and cotton (floral). This meant that I had to be careful not to have the hopping foot get caught under the Minkee fabric.