Prep Work Makes All the Difference

I get asked a lot of questions about my quilts and my quilting.  Some of those inquiries really only need a paragraph or two to fully answer.  I tend to collect these and when I have between ten and a dozen I write a blog and answer all of them at once.  However, on occasion I get asked a question which merits an entire blog.  This is one of those occasions, and the question asked is “How do you prep your quilts?”  My first thought was the person wanted to know how I readied my quilt for the long arm.  But no, this person wanted to know how I organized my quilt units for maximum efficiency when I sat down to sew.

Ohhhh booyyy.  Maximum efficiency.  Some days I have it and some days I don’t.  In the words of that great lyricist, Mary Chapin Carpenter – Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug. I’ll be honest, I don’t have all the answers to this efficiency dilemma and what works for me may not work for you.  Each studio set up is different and each person works at a different pace.  Some people can work steadily for an hour or two and then feel the need to get up and stretch.  Some can only manage twenty or thirty minutes at a time.  I can tell you I had to develop a system which not only allowed me to put in some serious work in short spurts of time, but also set me up for longer periods of time without interruption.  I am not retired.  I work full time at the company my husband and I own.  I know Monday and Tuesdays are my most difficult days and those are the times I may not finish pushing paperwork until late in the evening.  Wednesdays are lighter and so are Thursdays.  Work on Friday is virtually non-existent.  Weekends are pretty much wide open.  This means at the first part of the week, I may only have thirty minutes or less to sew.  The other days are more flexible.  Regardless, I like to have things semi-organized so when I can sew, I make the most of it. 

My quilting world is divided into three types of quilts: Kits, Pieced, and Applique.  How I organize each depends on the type of quilt.  Let’s start with kits.

I treat all quilt kits the same way:  As soon as I get them into my studio, I open them up and make sure I have all the fabric listed and the amount included matches what directions state should be there.  Let me add this caveat here:  Most quilt kits are just fine and dandy.  The amount of fabric included in the kit is what’s stated on the pattern.  As a matter of fact, there’s usually a bit more.  However, mistakes can be made anywhere along the way, so measuring to make sure you have what you need is always a wise thing to do.  No matter if it’s one block from a 12-month block of the month program or an entire kit, this is time well-spent.  And as much as everyone knows I’m a pre-washer I don’t prewash the fabric in a kit.  Even though you usually have a bit more than you need, prewashing does cause the fabric to shrink a bit.  I would err on the side of caution and plan to throw several color catchers in my washer the first time I wash the quilt. 

If the unthinkable occurs and I am short a few inches or an entire piece of fabric, I immediately email or call the website or store where I purchased the kit.  They will supply you with additional fabric and in some cases replace the entire kit.  The sooner this is done the better.  If the kit is an especially popular one, it could sell out completely and additional fabric may not be available.  I’ll also add this – Ebay and Etsy can save your quilting sanity.  Sometimes you can find additional kits or kit fabric on these sites.  I’ve found Ebay to be especially helpful if I am working with a kit which is several years old. 

Moving on to non-kitted pieced and applique quilts… I treat both quilts alike in a couple of ways.  First, I make sure all my fabric is prewashed.  Second, with both quilts I cut out all the blocks and block units before I take my first stitch.  I have some sound reasoning behind this.  Of all the quilting steps which must be taken, I dislike the cutting out part the most.  I would rather get it all over with at one time so I can get to the fun part as soon as possible.  The other reason has to do with the fabric itself.  If I make cutting errors and need to purchase some additional fabric, now is the best time to know it.  It could be drastically too late if I’m 35 half-square triangles into a total of 50 and run out of one of the fabrics.  If the fabric is a recent enough purchase, chances are I can still find it where I purchased it at.  However, if it’s from my stash, it could be several years old and no longer available for sale.  Again, this is where Ebay and Etsy can save your quilting sanity.  There have been several times one or the other site has exactly what I need. 

Other than those two facts, the way I treat pieced and applique quilts differ.  With pieced quilts, I read the directions through a couple of times.  I decide if I will strictly follow the cutting instructions on the pattern or will make the units the way I want to. If I have to make dozens of four patches, I won’t cut out individual squares.  I’ll use the quick strip method.  I’ll make my half-square triangles larger and trim them to size.  I’ll decide if there are certain parts (such as flying geese) I can paper piece.  After these decisions are made, all the units are cut out – including the borders.  Some people wait until the top is completed before cutting the borders.  I personally don’t do it because it slows down my momentum.  If I know I have to get up from my sewing machine and wrangle several feet of fabric, I tend to try to find something else to do.  Let me also add I do cut my borders out longer than the pattern calls for.  Sometimes the finished measurements of your quilt top will differ from those on the pattern.  Always measure the length and width of the quilt center to get the correct border measurements and then it’s simple to just trim the cut-out borders to that – much easier than wrangling yards of leftover fabric.

After all of the units are cut out, it’s very important to coral them so they will stay organized.  The way I control the madness depends on the status of the quilt.  If the quilt will be stashed away for awhile or there’s travel plans in its future, I like these:

I keep the zip-type storage bags in three sizes – sandwich, gallon, and two-gallon – in my studio.  I generally put all the units of the same size meant for the same intended use in a bag.  For instance, if I have a grouping of 4 ½-inch squares which will be used to construct half-square triangles, all of those will go in one bag and I’ll write on the front of the bag “4 ½-inch square for HSTs.”  Sometimes I even write the name of the quilt on the bag – especially if I think it may be several months before I can begin sewing.  Just a note of personal reflection right here – always write what’s in the bag and what it’s for on the outside of the  bag.  You may think you’ll remember, but that’s not always the case ask me how I know. 

If the quilt is in the “direct to the sewing machine” status, I organize differently.  The zippered bags sit well in a project box, cardboard box, or tote bag.  However, they’re slippery and tend to slide off my sewing tables, especially when stacked on top of each other.  If I plan on starting the quilt right away, I opt for these:

These clips come in small, medium, and large and keep the cut-out units together pretty securely.  Recently I discovered these clips:

Which are bigger and can hold quite a bit.  They also have a hook so they can hang.  I use these to hold completed blocks as well as units.  Just like with the plastic bags, you need to indicate what size the units are and their intended use.  With the clips I simply write this information down on a post-it note and slide it under the nose of the clip. 

Once my units are organized, I find an old cookie sheet, disposable baking pans from the dollar store, or any other large-rectangle-ish pan.  These work great to store these units in and they fit nicely in the area beside my sewing machine.  If the project will be transported or stored for a while, I like stash them in the clear, plastic boxes you find at office supply places or dollar store establishments. 

Now that all the units are cut out and ready to rock and roll, it’s time to make sure I have any specialty threads and notions nearby.  If I’m paper piecing any units, all of the copies needed are printed.  I have the machine threaded and extra bobbins available.  I’ve changed my sewing machine needle (if needed) and I have read through the pattern directions at least twice and have my plan of action.  When I have time to sit down to sew, everything is there, and I can make the most of my time whether it’s 15 minutes or three hours.  I don’t have to stop and cut out additional units or chase down any special rulers. 

I handle my applique quilts in a similar manner.  If the quilt is both pieced and appliqued, I follow the method I use for pieced quilts and save the applique part until last.  And no matter whether I machine or hand applique the quilt, I prep the quilt the same way.  Like pieced quilts, the first step is cutting out all the units.  And let me add this helpful hint: If your applique pattern doesn’t state your background squares are larger than needed and will be cut down to size later, be sure to add ½-inch to the size of the square.  Both hand and machine applique will cause the fabric to pull up just a bit and if it’s not larger than needed, it may be smaller than you want when the applique is complete. 

At this point, the quilt prep becomes like an assembly line.  I mark all the centers of my applique squares and mark the backgrounds with any reference lines for applique placement.  Then I prep all my applique pieces.  Zone of truth here – this can take a long time depending on the size of the quilt.  Some quilters prep one block at a time, but as much as possible, I try to have all the applique pieces prepped and bagged/clipped for each block before I begin sewing.  This works for me because I love the applique process.  Once I start, I don’t want to stop.  I just want to keep sewing!  I may spend two weeks or more prepping an applique quilt, but this prep time is really worth it.  It doesn’t matter if it’s machine or hand applique or what method of applique used, advanced prep work really pays off. 

The one thing I usually don’t do is layout the applique pieces on all my background blocks. I don’t do this because I use glue to hold my pieces in place (unless I’m using the needle turn or back basting applique techniques), and the units can come unglued, fall off, and get lost.  If you want to lay out all your blocks at once, you can always thread baste the applique pieces in place.  This generally will ensure they stay put. 

After all the prep work, make sure you have any notions near your sewing area.  With either hand applique or machine applique, thread is the primary issue.  If you work with silk thread, make sure it’s nearby.  Same with cotton thread or any other type of thread you plan to use.  This way there’s no hunting for what you need if you have a few minutes to put in a few stitches.  I find this is especially important if you’re switching thread colors to match the fabric. 

Finally, there are a couple of additional steps I take to make the most of my quilting time.  These suggestions don’t have anything to do with the actual quilt prep, but these are a few ideas I’ve found save me time in the long run.  I work full-time, have a dynamic family life, and am active in my quilt guild and several other quilt groups.  If I have even 15 minutes to put in a few stitches, it pushes my quilt a little closer to completion.

  1.  Every New Year, I make a list of quilt projects I want to work on.  Generally this list is broken into four parts – Projects to finish, projects to start, projects to start and finish, and “lifers” (those projects which may take a few years to finish).  I keep this list hanging over my computer so I can see it every day.  It keeps me on task.
  2. Every Sunday, I sit down and write out a list of everything I need to do for the week.  These tasks include projects around the house, tasks for my family and organizations I belong to, and three or four quilting goals.  The weekly quilting goals correspond with the yearly quilting goals.  Some weeks I have time for several goals or a couple of lengthy ones.  Some weeks I don’t. I just remember each little step pushes my quilt closer to the finish line.
  3. When I stop machine sewing for the evening, I always make sure the units for the next step are by my machine and ready to rock and roll.  This way I don’t waste minutes searching for the things I need.  They’re ready to go as soon as I can catch some spare time.
  4. I do the same thing with my hand work.  And this is super easy to do if everything is prepped and ready to go.  I may not have the time to spend time behind my machine or I simply may not feel like it.  But if my handwork is ready to go and stacked by my chair in front of the TV, I can easily put in a half an hour binding a quilt, sewing down some applique, or hand piecing a few units. 

I’ll be the first to admit, prep work is not a lot of fun.  It’s not the “sexy” side of quilting.  But I will also be honest and tell you good, solid quilt prep saves time and sanity in the long run.  Once everything is prepped, you have the ability to make the most of your sewing time, whether is fifteen minutes or several hours.  And every step — big or small – gets you closer to finishing your quilt.

Until next week, Remember the Details Make the Difference!

Love and Stitches,



A Brief History of Quilt Shows (Or Challenge Accepted)

I’m not sure why I enjoy writing about obscure quilt topics.

Overall, any writer can tell you obscure topics require hours   of research.  Research that can yield little to no information.  Remember my blog on the quilt projects of the 1980’s?  That topic fascinated me.  When I began to look into it, I figured it would require a day or two of research, perhaps some follow up phone or email interviews and I could have it “in the can” within a couple of weeks.

“The Power Behind the Needle: The Quilt Projects of the Eighties” took two years to research and one heartbreakingly short week to write.  These projects were such a touchstone to quilt preservation, appreciation, and quilt guilds, I just knew the internet would be awash with tons of information.  In actuality, the amount of remaining data about them was so small.  So very, very small.  Tragically small.

I’m All About Preserving Quilt History

I’m one of those quilters who strongly believe preserving quilt history is as important as preserving our quilts and continuing to teach new quilters.  What we have today, as far as techniques and traditions, was established years ago.  And while none of us (at least I think) would go so far as to state we all need to return to such traditions as hand quilting everything, we all can agree this art needs to be perpetuated in our twenty-first century quilting landscape.  Just as most of us (at least I hope so) can agree understanding our quilt history is important. 

The backwash of this is a historic hard reality:  Quilting was women’s work.  And society viewed women’s work through a patriarchal filter which meant it wasn’t nearly as important as men’s.  Therefore, a great deal of our quilt history was passed down by women to other women in the forms of diaries, letters, and family folklore.  Quilts and other women’s textiles did not merit much else.  Once women obtained the right to vote in the 1920’s, things shifted a bit.  Newspapers began carrying quilt patterns and columns written by women.  Books and magazines promoted the art.  Yet we are still left with questions about quilts and quilters which may never be answered.

But we try to come up with solutions.  We study diaries and quilts and almost anything else we can get our hands on.  Which kind of brings me to this week’s topic.  A few days ago, I had the opportunity to view a Zoom lecture sponsored by The Quilt Alliance and their Textile Talks.**  Barbara Brackman and Merikay Woldvogel spoke about the Mother of All Quilt Shows, the Sears Quilt Show at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.  (If you want to know more about this, go here: and here: ).

Challenge Accepted

Which brings me to today’s blog.  In case you didn’t know, Barbara Brackman*** is the Grand Dame of quilt history and quilt blocks.  She began cataloguing quilt blocks on index cards in the 1970’s and all her research led to her wonderful Quilt Block Encyclopedias and EQ’s Block Base.  Merikay Woldvogel wrote one of the first books about Depression Era Quilts (Soft Covers for Hard Times).  Barbara and Merikay knew of each other but actually met when both were researching the Sears Quilt Show.  Then they proceeded to co-write a book about the show. 

During the lecture Barbara mentioned it would be nice if someone could research the history of quilt shows and how they have changed throughout the years.

I’m not sure if part of me said, “Challenge accepted” or “Gee, that does sound really interesting and since I already include quite a bit of quilt history in my blog…this sounds like a good match.”  Either way, I couldn’t stop thinking about the topic.  On a quiet Sunday afternoon in March, I cranked up my computer and Googled “History of Quilt Shows,” and “How have quilt shows changed?”

And got back literally nothing except information on Ricky Timms and Alex Anderson’s The Quilt Show. 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I searched “First Quilt Show,” “Quilt Judging,” and various other similar topics.  Still nothing.  Finally I pulled out one of my secret weapons:  Susan Pierce.  Susan is a fellow guild member.  We quilt together on most Fridays.  She’s one of my good friends.  She also knows A LOT about quilt history.  And she did not disappoint.  She pushed enough information my way that it pointed me in the directions I needed to go.

From Livestock Shows to Quilt Shows

The first thing to remember about quilt shows is this:  Quilters quilted for years without any.  And the large quilt shows we’re so used to now (such as AQS Paducah and Houston’s International Quilt Show) are very recent additions to the world of quilting.  For years, women would spread their quilts out for others to look at or put their best quilt on the bed in the guest bedroom.  These types of activities were their quilt shows.  Those quilts were examined, the workmanship praised, and they were pronounced beautiful and outstanding works of art.  Sometimes patterns were requested by the viewers.  And this had to be enough until County Fairs came on the scene. 

Depending on who you ask, which county had the first fair is up for some serious debate.  York, Pennsylvania had one in 1765.  The Franklin County Fair is the oldest, continually operating fair.  It’s been held in Greenfield, Massachusetts since 1848.  The Topsfield Fair (also in Massachusetts) began in 1818 as a cattle show.  No matter which fair you believe is the oldest, it’s safe to say county fairs were major events by the mid-nineteenth century.  While most of these events began primarily as livestock shows, it didn’t take long for the fair officials to implement categories specifically for women to enter.  And one of these categories was quilting.  The county fair quilt shows were more than just an opportunity to win ribbons; it was a chance to see other quilts, examine what new techniques others were using, and come away with great ideas for your next quilt.  Like today, you may have agreed with the judge or thought the judge needed glasses, but a good quilty time was had by all.  These quilt shows are the first recorded quilt shows in America. 

State fairs weren’t an event until 1841, when New York held its first state fair in Syracuse.  Other states soon followed, with Texas holding the record for the largest state fair and Illinois having two state fairs.  Forty-eight of our states and the District of Columbia currently have state fairs.  In many ways, these state fairs mimicked county fairs, except they were bigger, had more attendees, and anyone in the state could enter any of the categories – including quilting.  The state fairs offered a larger venue for quilters.   Quilters from all over the state could enter their projects.  Yes, it took some time for them to get their quilts to the state fair location, but in one way state fairs generally differed from county fairs – the prize winners took home cash.  That, in and of itself, was enough to motivate many quilters to finish their quilts, pack them up, and get them to the fairgrounds on time.  Ribbons and bragging rights are one thing, but cash is the great incentivizer. 

The First Large, Well-Documented Quilt Shows

At this point, quilt show history gets hazy.  While county and state fairs continued to have a quilt venue and listed the winners with pictures of their quilts in the newspapers, other quilt shows (if there were any) didn’t even have this amount of publicity.  As a matter of fact, when I began researching quilt shows apart from what the fairs conducted, I came away with a myriad of dates.  One resource stated the first quilt show (all of these are separate from those at the fairs) was in 1975.  Another said 1978.  However, I think there were at least two large quilt shows prior to the Seventies.  One of these I know very well – The Sears Quilt Show at the 1933 and 1934 World’s Fair. 

I won’t rehash everything here about the Sears Quilt Show because I wrote two fairly exhaustive blogs about them and the links to these are listed above.  The Sears Quilt Show remains the Mother of All Quilt Shows.  Attendance topped out in the thousands, and it awarded $7,500.00 in cash prizes.  The grand prize winner not only took home a ribbon and bragging rights, but also $1,000, which in the middle of the Great Depression was worth $18,014.27 in today’s money.  Although Sears gave quilters a tight deadline (the show was announced in January and the deadline was May), they did award local and regional winners as well as the grand prize winners at the Chicago World Fair.  This show also still holds the record for the number of quilts entered – 24,000.

The second large-ish quilt show was The Detroit News Quilt shows.  And this wasn’t so much one show, as it was a series of annual shows.  If you remember earlier in this blog, I mentioned women received the right to vote in 1920.  The right to vote gave women more than just power in the voting booth.  It gave them a voice.  Entrepreneurs, newspapers, and elected officials with an ounce of forethought realized the 19th amendment was simply the tip of a very deep iceberg.  Women would become a market group, voting bloc, and readership in their own might.  The Detroit News realized this and in the 1930’s hired Edith B. Crumb as the editor of their Beauty in the Home section.  As soon as Ms. Crumb settled in, she started the Quilt Club Corner in 1932. For a small fee, women could join the club.  Membership included having your letter to Ms. Crumb read aloud by her on WWJ, a popular Detroit radio station.  The club also produced a list of members for their membership which included addresses so members could correspond and meet.  Best of all, it allowed members to enter their quilts in a show.  The first of these shows was held November 17-19, 1933.  This show attracted over 50,000 viewers and had over 1,000 quilts entered.   Word quickly spread to quilters outside of Detroit and Michigan.  The second Quilt Club Corner show was held October 12-14, 1934, and was “a greater success than the first show.” 

The shows continued for several years.  Ribbons were awarded as well as cash prizes (first prize garnered $25).  The show expanded categories to include Juvenile Quilts as well as applique quilts.  These shows were hugely successful.  However, they ground to a halt in 1941.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Ms. Edith Crumb met with some of the members of Quilt Club Corner and formed The Detroit News Needles for Defense Club.  Everyone who knew how to use a sewing machine or needle and thread was invited to join this new club and members of the Quilt Club Corner were given a special invitation by Ms. Crumb to join.  The Quilt Club was disbanded for the duration of World War II.

After the War, it did not return.

Post World War II and the Bicentennial Quilting Re-Birth

Post World War II, women once again found their position in society shifting.  During the War, women took the place of men in factories and farms, as men enlisted or were drafted into the Armed Services.  When the war was over, and men returned home, things did not go back to the way they were prior to 1941.  Many women remained in the workplace.  Quilting dipped in popularity because there wasn’t a lot of spare time for it. While county and state fairs still had quilt venues, it wasn’t until our Bicentennial Year that quilting regained a renewed interest. 

I explained much of what happened in to quilting in the Seventies here:  The 1976 United States Bicentennial renewed an interest in many folk arts and quilting just happened to be one of those.  New quilters were abundant and as the Bicentennial festivities drew to a close, they realized two important things.  First, they wanted to continue to quilt, because they loved it.  Second, they wanted to form groups which would meet to continue to foster quilting and teach new quilters.  As a result of this second idea, quilt guilds were formed throughout the Seventies, Eighties, and beyond. 

Here’s when I believe quilt shows as we know them today began to come into play.  When the guilds first formed, they met to teach and promote quilting skills.  However, what many non-guild folks may not realize is a guild is run much like a business – even though the majority of guilds are registered nonprofits.  The guild needs money for office supplies, hospitality supplies, etc. Membership fees cover part of these expenses, but most guilds learned rather quickly a bigger fundraising event was needed to sustain their bottom lines.  Quilt shows, by necessity and by choice, became the defacto means of keeping the guilds’ bottom lines in the black.  They also served another purpose.  Quilt shows became a way of demonstrating to the community how important quilts were and how the local quilt guild helped their community (since most guilds have a charitable outreach of some kind).  Members were encouraged to display their quilts and ribbons were awarded.  Thus, the local quilt show was born.  Today, we’re used to hearing about local guild shows on a consistent basis.  The earliest of these shows was recorded in 1978 by the East Bay Heritage Quilters. Props must be given to a guild which was founded in June 1978 and held a show in October of that same year. 

While the Seventies and Eighties birthed literally hundreds of local quilt guilds and their shows, a national awareness about quilts still lingered from the aftermath of the Bicentennial.  So much so, there were several national quilt shows held during this time, including Jonathan Holstein’s and Gail van der Hoof’s 1971 Abstract Designs in American Quilts, which drew major attention to quilts.  Quilts were hung vertically, presenting them as works of art, rather than domestic necessities.  Their prominent display in New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art drew thousands of viewers.  From these national quilt shows, three other folks formed national/international groups and developed what I call the “Big Three” of the quilt shows we’re familiar with today.

In 1975 Karoline (Karey) Bresenhan formed the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas.  If you’ve read my blog on the Quilt Projects of the Eighties, you may recognize her name.  Hot on the heels of the success from the Texas Quilt Project and growth spurt of Texas quilt shops and guilds, Karey decided to form both the International Quilt Market – which features vendors from all types of sewing and quilting goods manufacturers – and the International Quilt Festival, a four-day event which eventually drew quilters from all over the world.  This show has numerous categories and awards both cash prizes (ranging from $12,500 to $1,000) and ribbons (not to mention serious bragging rights if you come home with a ribbon attached to your quilt). 

Also in 1975, the Mancuso Shows were born.  Peter and David Mancuso formed the Mancuso Show Management from David’s antique shop in New Hopes, Pennsylvania.  Originally the brothers wanted to host a series of antique shows, but soon found out that quilts and quilt-related textiles were the items which drew the most attention.  They have now hosted over 300 QuiltFest shows, which awards cash and ribbons to the winners.

In 1983, Meredith and Bill Schroeder headed out to a national quilt show in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.  The Schroeders, who were avid quilt collectors, were not surprised at the number of quilts – 400 – hung in the exhibit hall.  What did grab their attention was the number of spectators who poured into see the quilts. Thousands of enthusiastic folks lined up each day and paid to view the quilts.  Delighted in the eagerness of the attendees, Meredith formed the American Quilters Society in 1984.  By 1985, AQS held its first show in Paducah, Kentucky.  To me what is unique about this, is the town of Paducah. During the week of the quilt show, the city literally turns into Quilt City, USA.  Quilts are hung everywhere – even gas stations.  An average of 37,000 folks attend this event and both cash awards and ribbons are awarded.  The cash awards in the Paducah AQS show are a bit different.  There are straight-up cash awards and then there are purchase awards.  Purchase awards mean your quilt is purchased by the show for future exhibits.  The Best of Show Winner is a Purchase Award.  While the winner may go home without his or her quilt, they pocket a substantial sum of cash and have the honor of knowing their quilt is now hanging in the National Quilt Museum (also founded by the Schroeders and named the National Quilt Museum by Congress in 2008).

These three large shows are juried shows (meaning you must send in photograph of your quilt for acceptance before it’s hung in the show).  They also have great vendor malls and classes are available to take during quilt week.  Most local quilt shows are not juried, but many do have good vendor malls, and some offer classes. 

The In-Between Quilt Shows

There are a couple of quilt shows which fall between the definitions of a “small, local show” and one of the Big Three.  The two I’m specifically thinking of are Road to California and the Sisters Quilt Show.

Road to California was purchased by Carolyn Reese in 1991.  Prior to Ms. Reese’s purchase, Road to California existed as a small, local-ish quilt conference in Anaheim, California.  She changed the dates, pulled in well-known judges, and developed a fantastic vendor mall.  The result is an outstanding quilt show, attended by more than 42,000 people.

The Sisters Quilt Show is much smaller than Road to California, but it is held completely outdoors and is completely free.  This show generally attracts around 10,000 people and the buildings in Sisters, Oregon serve as the backdrop for nearly 1,400 quilts.  There are no categories.  There is no judging.  This is just an unabashed display of gorgeous quilts – of every color and every type — for your viewing pleasure.  While this show is only for one day (the second Saturday in July), there are lots of quilting events throughout the week, including classes taught by well-known quilters.

There are other (literally hundreds) of “in-between” quilt shows like these all across the United States.  Nearly all of them (such as the Vermont Quilt Festival and the New England Quilt Festival) are off-shoots from the Bicentennial’s quilt revival.  Most have vendor malls and award both cash prizes and ribbons. 

What Does the Future Hold for Quilt Shows

The “Big Three” will soon become the “Big Four”

While the “Big Three” continue to hold ground as the most well-known quilt shows, there’s an up-and-coming fourth player in the national quilt show realm:  QuiltCon. 

QuiltCon is the largest, modern quilting event of its kind and it’s produced by the Modern Quilt Guild.  It is a juried show with twelve judged categories, special exhibits, and a vendor mall curated especially for modern quilters.  It’s only 10 years old but it’s drawing in thousands of spectators and is hanging outstandingly beautiful quilts.  My prediction is the “Big Three” will become the “Big Four” soon.  I am proud and happy that my state’s capital – Raleigh, North Carolina – is QuiltCon’s 2024 host.

COVID still somewhat alters some quilt shows

For all the quilting quilters did during lockdowns, I still find the ugly backwash of the virus present.  While the large quilt shows and most of the in-between ones are up and running full speed ahead now, many of the smaller, local shows are gasping for breath.  Post-COVID, some guilds found their membership gutted, and no longer have the number of people needed to organize a show.  Some good information was garnered during this time.  Several organizations tried the virtual route – the quilts were displayed virtually and there was a virtual vendor mall.  And while there were varying degrees of success, over all this virtual picture was pretty dim.  Quilters like those in-person shows.

Quilt shows have come a long way from side exhibits at county fairs.  After enjoying a nearly dizzying height of popularity in the Thirties and then falling into near obscurity only to enjoy a re-birth of it again after the Bicentennial, they have grown and changed to reflect quilters and their love of quilting.  And personally, I’ve enjoyed falling down this quilty rabbit hole of obscure information about one of the hottest topics for any quilter.  Please take a few moments to read the additional notes at the end of this blog.

Until next week, Remember, the Details Make the Difference!

Love and Stitches,


**Quilt Alliance is located in Asheville, North Carolina.  Once a week they offer a free Zoom presentation about some historical aspects of textiles.  Quite often the program concerns quilts.  If you log into their website, you can sign up for an email notification about the Zoom programs. 

***Barbara Brackman is part of a YouTube Channel called Six Know-It-Alls and a Quilt.  Six well-known quilters discuss quilts and textile history.  This is a wonderful YouTube Channel, especially if you like quilt history.  The ladies are knowledgeable and hysterically funny at the same time.

****Those of you who have read my blogs about the Sears Quilt Show (and if you haven’t, this footnote will make absolutely no sense) remember the grand prize winner of $1,000 was Margaret Caden.  The winning quilt was titled “Star of the Bluegrass.”  And to be honest, there was nothing super-spectacular about the quilt (even by 1930’s standards).  It was a star quilt, done up in the particular minty-ish green so popular during the Depression Era.  The technique which made the quilt stand out was the “stuffed” (trapunto) leaves in the blocks adjacent to the stars. 

Margaret Caden’s Star of the Bluegrass

To be honest, this quilt has a pretty shady past.  Margaret Caden was a professional quilt maker.  She and her sister, Anna, owned a needlework/quilt making business.  They employed seamstresses to make the quilts they sold, including Star of the Bluegrass.  Margaret herself didn’t put a stitch in the quilt.  She paid her seamstresses to make the quilt and offered them none of the prize money as a bonus.  And after the quilt was complete, she didn’t follow the standard procedure for acceptance in the contest.  Quilts were to be shipped to a regional Sears in the quilter’s area.  At that Sears, they would be judged.  The top three would then move onto the Chicago World’s Fair.

Margaret Caden didn’t do this.  She shipped hers directly to the Chicago Sears for judging.  She probably did this for a couple of reasons.  The particular quilt design of this star and then a relief area was very well-known, well-used, and well-loved in Caden’s home state of Kentucky.  As a matter of fact, most antique quilts with this design (especially if they were made from silks) have a Kentucky province.  To have this quilt in the Kentucky (or surrounding area) Sears wouldn’t be in Caden’s favor.  There were probably a dozen similar quilts in that particular contest.  However, it wouldn’t be viewed as “common” in Chicago.  It would stand out. And since the quilt pattern was so common in Kentucky, it’s unlikely Margaret or Anna Caden even designed much, if any, of the Star of the Bluegrass.  In fact, it was a Mountain Mist quilt pattern.  Few, if any, changes were made.

Beside the $1,000 cash award, a nifty ribbon, and bragging rights, the Grand Prize Winning Quilt would be gifted to the First Lady of the United States, which at this time was Eleanor Roosevelt.  There are pictures and articles about Mrs. Roosevelt receiving the quilt.  Meanwhile, Margaret Caden went back to Kentucky and monopolized on her big “win.”  Pictures of the Star of the Bluegrass were everywhere, so the Caden sisters made quilt kits (for the quilter) and completed quilts (for the non-quilter) in the exact same colors as the winning quilt.  Hundreds of the Star of the Bluegrass quilts soon populated Kentucky’s homes – not to mention out-of-state sales.

Meanwhile, the original Star of the Bluegrass, which was supposed to be residing in the White House, disappeared.  We know Mrs. Roosevelt received it, and then it literally vanished.  The Roosevelt Family has been asked repeatedly through the years if any family member has it, or do they remember ever seeing it.  The answer to both questions has always been, “No.”  It’s not in the Roosevelt Presidential Library nor White House Repositories.  It wasn’t listed in the items Eleanor took with her when she moved from the White House after her husband died.  It is thought, if Mrs. Roosevelt had knowledge of the quilt’s “shady” past and monopolized future, she would not have displayed it.  Instead she may have packed the quilt away for a while and then gave it away to someone who helped her in the White House when she moved. 

We will probably never know.  More than likely the quilt was tossed a long time ago. 

From time-to-time we do hear that the Star of the Bluegrass has been found.  Each time this happens, it turns out the quilt either came from a kit or was one the Caden sister’s needlework company produced.  The closest we’ve ever came to the actual quilt was a few left over “stuffed” leaf blocks one of the seamstresses kept as her own souvenir. 


Quilting with Fibonacci

First, I want you to repeat after me:

“Numbers are our friends.  Numbers do not lie.”

Repeat this phrase as many times as necessary while reading this blog.

I am rather consistently amazed with quilters who don’t know how to “math” out their quilts or don’t understand how to.  I’m even more amazed at quilters who would rather not learn how to do quilt math and simply follow all the directions on a pattern.  Quilt math sets you free to alter patterns or design your own quilt.  And there’s nothing to really dread about this math. It’s addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  If you can balance your checkbook and come up with a workable household budget, you can easily conquer the math needed to change patterns or design your own quilt top.

Quilts and quilters generally have an uneasy working relationship with Algebra and Geometry.  Occasionally the fields of Algebra and Geometry will throw us quilters a formula we can use.  And what I find gratifying about these higher maths (especially geometry), is when the formula is introduced in the concept of concrete numbers, it makes a lot more sense than it did sweating out variables in Ms. Blalocks’ seventh period geometry class.  Which is why I also think Algebra should be taught in lockstep with chemistry, but that’s a different battle for a different day.  I have written a lot about the Golden Ratio (1.618) and quilting (Go here: ) and how we can use it to produce wonderfully balanced quilts, sashing, and borders.  Today I want to introduce another similar formula called Fibonacci.  But before we get into what exactly Fibonacci numbers are and how we use them in quilts, let’s talk a little bit about Fibonacci himself.

Fibonacci, also known as Leonardo BonacciLeonardo of Pisa, or Leonardo Bigollo Pisano (‘Leonardo the Traveller from Pisa’), was an Italian mathematician from the Republic of Pisa, considered to be “the most talented Western mathematician of the Middle Ages”. The name he is commonly called, Fibonacci, was made up in 1838 by the Franco-Italian historian Guillaume Libri and is short for filius Bonacci (‘son of Bonacci’). However, even earlier, in 1506, a notary of the Holy Roman Empire, Perizolo mentions Leonardo as “Lionardo Fibonacci”.  Fibonacci popularized the Indo–Arabic numeral system in the Western world primarily through his composition in 1202 of Liber Abaci (Book of Calculation). He also introduced Europe to the sequence of Fibonacci numbers, which he used as an example in Liber Abaci.

Fibonacci was born around 1170 to Guglielmo, an Italian merchant, and customs official. Guglielmo directed a trading post in Bugia (Béjaïa) in modern-day Algeria, the capital of the Hammadi empire. Fibonacci travelled with him as a young boy, and it was in Bugia (Algeria) where he was educated that he learned about the Hindu–Arabic numeral system.

Fibonacci travelled around the Mediterranean coast, meeting with many merchants and learning about their systems of doing arithmetic. He soon realized the many advantages of the Hindu-Arabic system, which, unlike the Roman numerals used at the time, allowed easy calculation using a place-value system. In 1202, he completed the Liber Abaci (Book of Abacus or The Book of Calculation), which popularized Hindu–Arabic numerals in Europe.

Fibonacci is thought to have died between 1240 and 1250, in Pisa. (Wikipedia)

The key phrase from all this history is this:  Sequence of Numbers.  While Fibonacci was pretty darn keen about substituting Hindu-Arabic numbers for Roman numerals (because the Hindu-Arabic numbers we use today make computations so much easier – can you imagine three-digit addition with Roman numerals?), he was also fascinated with number sequences.  What made it even more fascinating was Fibonacci saw his number sequences reflected in nature, art, and architecture.  The way the number sequence works is though simple addition.

Begin with the number one.  Add the number before one (in this case, zero) and one together to come up with two.

1, 1, 2

Now add the 2 and the second one together to get 3.

1, 1, 2, 3

Keep adding the new number to the one immediately preceding it, and this is the Fibonacci Sequence:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, etc.    

So, how do these numbers work in day-to-day life?  The Fibonacci Sequence is seen in tree branches, as the sequence begins with the trunk and then works out and up in the branches.  If you’re a storm tracker, the swirling masses of hurricanes is a great example of the Fibonacci numbers at work.  The numbers in sequence, with one being the eye or center of the storm, expands in a tight formation of the Fibonacci numbers.  Pinecones, flower heads, galaxies, flower petals, nautilus shells, and humans all exist as great examples of the Fibonacci Sequence.  However, in nature, instead of these numbers lining up in horizontal or vertical row, most of the time they appear in a spiral sort of form like this:

The Fibonacci spiral or Fibonacci sequence is one of the mathematical formulas par excellence in terms of the proportion aurea or divine proportion. The number is repeated infinitely, we can find it both in the organic form of nature and in the galaxies of the universe itself. It consists of drawing circular arcs connecting the opposite corners of the squares adjusted to the succession values, by putting side squares 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 and so on.

Which, if you look closely, can be found reflected in nature and architecture.

By now, if you’re still reading about the plethora of numbers I’ve thrown at you, I bet you’re wondering what does any of this have to do with quilting?  And that’s a fair question.  But before I answer, I would like to ask you to do something:  Think about a Log Cabin quilt block.  For my example in this blog, I am using this Log Cabin variation.

If you follow the progression of this block, in the lower right-hand corner are two squares of equal size.  For the sake of keeping things simple, let’s say both of these squares are 1-inch.  So, these are the first two numbers of the Fibonacci Sequence: 1, 1.  The patches adjacent to the left side and top are twice the size of the joined first two patches, making them 2-inches.  This is the third number of the Fibonacci Sequence:  1, 1, 2.  The next set of patches would be 3-inches (1, 1, 2, 3) and the sequence would continue on until the block was as large as you needed it to be.  It would also be balanced and pleasing to the eye because it used the Fibonacci Sequence during construction.

Fibonacci may also be observed in some applique pieces, especially flowers.  Note the spiral formation in the rose and the petals in the other flower.

Even star blocks reflect the Fibonacci Sequence.

So, at this point we know who Fibonacci was, his number sequence, and how to compute his number sequence.  Which brings us to the main topic of this blog: How do we use the Fibonacci Sequence in our quilting?  Is it anything like working with the Golden Ratio?  Let’s tackle the first question before the second.

One of the easiest quilts to make is a Rail Fence Quilt.

This quilt is made of blocks like this:

Which are simply strips cut the same length and width and sewn together.  There are two things I love about Rail Fence Quilts.  First, they are super-duper stash busters.  If you like to cut your leftover fabric into some kind of manageable stash-keeping system, Rail Fence Quilts is a great vehicle for this.  After you’ve constructed your quilt top, cut the remaining fabric into strips in the width of your choice (I usually cut mine 2-inches wide).  Store them somewhere until you have enough to begin piecing your blocks.  Sew the strips together lengthwise until the sewn together strips are as wide as you’d like the blocks, and then cut the strip apart into blocks. 

The second reason I like the Rail Fence Quilt is, despite its simplicity, there are some serious design variations you can throw out with these strippy blocks. 

But…let’s play with this block by throwing in the Fibonacci Sequence.  Going back to our initial sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5), what if we cut our strips the width of the Fibonacci Sequence?  How would that look in a block? It’s not hard to figure this out.  Remember, we always work with the finished size of the block, and then add a ½-inch seam allowance.  This would the actual width we cut the strips.

Strips One and Two: 1 + ½ = 1 ½-inches

Strip Two: 2 + ½ = 2 ½-inches

Strip Three: 3 + ½-inches = 3 ½-inches

At this point, our block would be 7-inches finished, and would look something like this:

And there are lots of fun ways to lay this Rail Fence Quilt out.

You can have even more fun by dividing the 7-inch block into two rectangles with coinciding Fibonacci numbers. 

Rectangle One could measure 3 x 7-inches finished and the second rectangle could measure 4 x 7-inches finished.  Within these two rectangles you could piece units within the Fibonacci Sequence and come up with something like this:

Depending on your color choices, you can get some mind-bending layout ideas. 

Please realize, too, you don’t have to stick to strippy blocks when Fibonacci is in play.  Let’s revisit our sequence again:  1, 1, 2, 3, 5.  As long as the units in your block (even if the units are pieced) measure these finished sizes, your good to go.  In other words, you could have a simple pieced block with the units measuring 1, 1, 2, 3, 5 like this:

Or you could take those units and piece them.  As long as the finished measurements of each unit come up to 1, 1, 2, 3, and 5, you’re still well within the Fibonacci Sequence. 

The Fibonacci Sequence doesn’t just pertain to pieced blocks.  Applique blocks also use them.  The circles in this appliqued quilt

Used the Fibonacci Sequence to determine what size they needed to be. And those applique blocks with flowers all over the place?  Many times the designers of those blocks used the Fibonacci Sequence to determine how big to make them.

Let me leave you with one last very practical example of how we quilters can use the Fibonacci Sequence.  Most of us have one of these:

Somewhere in our stash.  We saw the panel and we liked it.  Or in my case, I keep a few nursery panels around to make quick baby quilts for gifts.  The quickest and easiest way to deal with panels is to simply put borders around the panel.  An afternoon of quickly cut borders, sewing, and some simple quilting results in a nice baby shower gift.  We can use the Fibonacci Sequence to determine the borders’ sizes.  However, I can hear some of you right now, “One-inch borders are so narrow to sew and don’t show up well against my panel.”

That very well may be true, but allow me to also throw in this caveat – you can make the first border 2-inches wide (you simply add the 1, 1).  The second border would also be 2-inches wide.  The third, 3-inches wide, and the final one would be 5-inches wide.  You also don’t necessarily have to begin the sequence with one.  You could begin with two.  In this case, your sequence would look like this: 2, 3, 5, 8, 11.

Finally, let’s look at the last question:  Does the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio have anything in common?  Truthfully, beyond both producing pleasing blocks, applique, or quilt size, no.  But it is amazing how close the numbers come without landing squarely on top of each other.  We use division with the Golden Ratio (1.618).  If we take the Fibonacci Sequence numbers and divide them by their preceding number, the answers look like this:

2/1=2, 3/2=1.5, 5/3=1.667, 8/5=1.6, 23/8=1.625, and 21/13=1.615.

So you can see that the final number (21/13) gets super close to the Golden Ratio.

The Fibonacci Sequence is another tool you can tuck away in your quilting toolbox and bring out when you want to alter a quilt pattern or design your own.  It also comes in pretty handy when you’re dealing with some orphan blocks in different sizes or a quilt panel.  And always remember, no matter how traumatic your high school math classes were, numbers are our friends.  They never lie.

Until next Week, remember the Difference is in the Details!

Love and Stitches,



All that Fabulous Fabric

In many aspects, quilters can be divided into two groups:  Those who cultivate a stash and those who do not.  Stash – just in case you don’t know what that means – is the fabric accumulated by quilters without a specific purpose in mind.  The quilter either liked the fabric and decided she or he would make a quilt out of it at some future point, or the fabric fits one of the basic quilting needs:  It can be used as a neutral, a background, focus fabric, or is a blender.  However, no matter if you’re a stash builder or a stash minimalist, both types of quilters need fabric.  And that’s what today’s blog topic deals with – what is a good fabric, what’s not a good fabric, and where to find the best fabric.

This blog will also have many “Zones of Truth” in it on my part.  Here’s the first one:  I am a self-professed fabric snob.  I haven’t always been this way, but the longer I quilt the more particular I become over notions, thread, and fabric.  When I began quilting years ago (back when we lived in caves and I sewed with a needle made of bone), I couldn’t afford quality fabric unless it was on sale.  I used the “cheap stuff” because those were the price points my wallet could afford.  However, once I was able to construct a small quilt out of quality fabric, I was amazed at the differences.  The quilt looked better, it definitely felt better, and sewed so much more easily.  A light bulb went off and I decided I would only use quality fabric and purchase it as I could afford to.  This could mean I waited awhile to start a project or only made a small one.  However, the quilting experience was so much better with good fabric, it was worth the wait or the altered size. 

And now, since fabric can be purchased from quilt shops, big box stores, and hundreds of online sites, how can we tell if it’s quality fabric?  There are a couple of different ways.  The first is thread count.  Most of us may be aware of this term concerning bed sheets – the higher the thread count, the softer the sheet.  While quality quilting fabric doesn’t need to have as high of a thread count as sheets, it does need to be somewhere in the 60 threads per square inch category – 60 threads running horizontally and vertically in the square inch.  

So what do you do?  The next time you’re fabric shopping, do you take a magnifying glass and count the threads per square inch before purchasing? 

Nope.  The fabric will have three other characteristics to show it has adequate thread counts.  First, it will be smooth to the touch.  It won’t be super stiff, it won’t feel like sandpaper, and will be soft to both the palm and back of your hand (the back of the hand is more sensitive than the palm).  Second, it won’t fray.  Pull the bolt out and look where the fabric has been cut across the crosswise grain from selvedge to selvedge.  If there’s a great deal of fraying, the chances are pretty good the fabric has a thread count lower than 60 threads p/s/i.   Third, it will have a crisp hand.  This is different than feeling stiff.  A low thread count fabric will feel stiff enough to almost stand up by itself.  A crisp fabric can hold a crease well.  To determine if a fabric is crisp, fold a section of the material and run your nail down the fold.  Open the fabric.  If the crease you just made by running your nail down the fold remains in place, then the material has a good thread count. 

At this point, let me throw in this additional fact:  Good fabric will have a finish on it.  During the manufacturing process (usually towards the end of production, right before the material goes on the bolts), the fabric has a chemical introduced to its surface.  Now this finishing has a lot of pros and just as many cons, depending on what kind quilt your making.  If you plan on fusing any of the fabric (such as in raw edge applique), sometimes the finish can prevent the fusible webbing from adhering properly.  If any type of dye, ink, or paint is introduced to the fabric’s surface, quite often the finishing will interfere with that.  Some finishes will also flake off, so if you have a sensitive nose, it can make you sneeze. However, the finish does help the fabric look great on the bolt.  When a fabric is treated with a finishing chemical, it keeps its shape, and it prevents bleeding.  A super-stiff fabric not only has a lower thread count, but it will also (more than likely) be less colorfast than a finished fabric. 

Most of today’s quilts are made from 100 percent cotton fabrics.  And with today’s consumer interest in all-natural, organic everything, cotton fabric is easy to come by.  However let me add this additional piece of information for you to ponder – Besides having the ability to purchase good fabric to use in quilts, did you know we now can purchase cotton fabrics designed especially for quilters?  These are called Quilting Cottons, and it’s important to note that all cotton fabric sold as quilting fabric may not be Quilting Cottons.  Quilting Cottons are a bit heavier than regular 100 percent cottons, weighing in at roughly four ounces per yard.  So faced with the possibility of purchasing either regular cotton fabric or Quilting Cotton, why should you choose the Quilting Cottons?

First, Quilting Cottons are heavier than regular cottons.  This means there’s less chance of the batting bearding through.  Second, Quilting Cottons are also more tightly woven than regular cottons, meaning they are extremely stable and won’t stretch or warp while cutting and sewing.  The third and fourth reasons are from my Zone of Truth.  If I have to cut a lot of pieces on the bias, or I’m making true bias binding for a large quilt, I try my best to perform those two tasks with Quilting Cottons.  The tighter weave of the fabric gives it more stability and I personally think this keeps the bias from stretching too much.  The fourth reason concerns the quilting itself.  I think Quilting Cottons quilt up prettier than regular cotton fabric (and this reason is completely subjective).

Of course, quilts from the past were not always made from 100 percent cotton fabric.  Many times women had to work with what they had or what they could find.  It’s not odd to find wool used in antique quilts and quilts from the 1970’s have an abundance of double knit and polyester.  Today quilters will often turn to linen and flannel for their quilting needs.  However, with the growing popularity of “upcycling,” many quilters are searching for fabric/used clothing at thrift stores, estate sales, and their own closets.  Which can raise the question (especially if there’s no tag on the item), how do we know if the fabric is 100 percent cotton or not?  Luckily there’s a test we can do to find out.  All you need is a couple of square inches of the fabric and a match.

Place the test fabric in a flame-proof container and use the match to set it on fire.  Let it burn out completely.  If the fabric burns like paper, the flame has an orange to yellow after glow and the ashes dissolve in water, it’s 100 percent cotton fabric.  If the cloth appears to melt, smells like burning hair (or something equally offensive), and the ashes are brittle, it’s not 100 percent cotton. 

At this point, you may be wondering why it’s important to know if the upcycled fabric is all cotton or not.  Remember all fabric have different shrink ratios – even among different types of organic fabric.  Pure cotton fabrics shrink at a different rate than 100 percent linen.  Polyester/cotton blend fabric has little to no shrinkage.  If you make a quilt with different types of fabric before pre-washing them, you’ll get different shrink ratios and this may make the top a bit difficult to quilt and look a little wonky.  Of course you can completely avoid this test by prewashing everything…but I know some quilters don’t like to do this. 

These two photos are of the quilt, “Goodwill To Men” designed by my one of my quilting BFFs, Janet Wells. Most of the paid fabric in this quilt was upcycled from men’s shirts purchased at thrift stores (hence the name, Goodwill to Men). Not only did this upcycled project turn out completely beautiful, Janet snagged two ribbons for it in our guild’s last quilt show.

By now you may be thinking, “Okay…you’ve convinced me to go for the good fabric.  Where do I shop so I know I’m purchasing good quality, 100 percent cotton fabrics?” 

Not  most Big Box Stores.  If you find yourself shopping at Walmart or even Joann’s for fabric, be sure use the touch test to see if it’s good stuff.  You don’t want a stiff fabric.  You want one with a smooth surface which doesn’t ravel a lot.  And this can be a bit dicey at times in these stores.  Take your time as you shop there and be sure the fabric will work in your quilt.  Quilt stores are a different story.  Quilt shops exist to satisfy the quilter’s itch for good fabric.  Noted, it will cost more than the cloth in a Big Box Store, but overall you won’t have to worry about the quality.  Online stores can be a bit of guessing game.  I suggest you try website affiliated directly with a quilt shop, or the well-recognized online names such as Fat Quarter Shop, Shabby Fabric, Keepsake Quilting, Pineapple Fabric, Missouri Star, Stitchin’ Heaven, Hancocks of Paducah, E-quilter, and Fabric Shack, to name a few.  These online stores have an excellent reputation for wonderful fabric and stellar customer service. 

Finally, one last Zone of Truth as I’m rounding out this blog on fabrics — I would like to share my favorites.  I’m asked pretty frequently which lines of fabric I use in my quilts.  My very, very favorite is Fig Tree Fabrics.

Fig Tree Fabrics

I love the sweet colors and prints this fabric house produces.  And added bonus (after hearing me harp for months about most fabric families don’t have a true dark) they will have a true dark in their fabric lines. 

My next favorite is Henry Glass.

A very small example of Henry Glass fabrics. This fabric house is huge!

This production house has Kim Diehl’s fabrics and hundreds of other whimsical prints.  If I need inspiration, I look at their website. 

P&B Fabrics

P & B Fabrics round out my top three.  I began purchasing this line of fabric for their quilt backs. Often backing fabric feels stiff and thin.  P&B’s doesn’t.  It’s thicker and the mottled colors are just gorgeous.  As a matter of fact, I use a lot of their backing fabrics in my tops.  All of their fabric is so wonderful to needle, either by hand or machine.

After these, in no particular preference are: Buttermilk Basin, Hoffman, Cherrywood, Tula Pink, RJR, and Riley Blake.  All of these are great to sew with (by hand or machine) and come in clear, bright colors and with a variety of neutrals and shirtings. All of these fabric companies have produced quality fabric consistently for years.    

One line of fabric you may have noticed is absent is Moda.  When I began using Moda some years ago, it was a really good fabric.  Through the years, it has appeared to me, the fabric has gotten thinner and feels a bit rough.  My complaint is primarily with Moda’s solids.  Fortunately, I have discovered a line of solids which are crisp – Painter’s Palette.  They work well with either machine stitching or hand stitching.  And an added bonus with this line is the consistency of the fabric colors.  They don’t discontinue colors readily and the fabric dye doesn’t change.  For instance, I used their Agave for a quilt I started a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately when I ordered the fabric, I had not planned on using Agave in the borders, but changed my mind as I was completing the top.  I ordered two additional yards, a year later, and everything matched perfectly.  Painter’s Palette also produces a handy-dandy swatch card which is true to color, also, making fabric coordination oh, so easy. 

No matter where you purchase fabric, keep in mind it’s important the material feel smooth, not ravel at the cut edges, and is crisp. Indulge yourself in the colors and prints you love because any sewing project – quilting or otherwise – is a time commitment.  You and those fabrics will be spending hours together.  Make sure it will sew wonderfully and bring joy to your eyes and heart.

And here’s where my standard disclaimer goes:  I don’t work for any of the fabric companies, stores, or websites mentioned in this blog.  They do not supply me with any “freebies” for mentioning them.  My blog is not monetized in anyway by any corporate entity.  The opinions expressed are my own, drawn from over 30 years of sewing and quilting experience.

Until Next Week, Remember the Details Make the Difference!

Love and Stitches,