Quilt Making

How Quilt Fabric is Made - Who Knew?

Recently I spent a lovely evening with the Evening Star Quilt Guild. I listened with fascination to their guest speaker, Ken Gamache, President of Quilting Treasures as he explained the process of quilt fabric manufacture. I had no idea what all went into the delivery of new treasures for my stash!

QT 5.jpg

First Ken told us that Quilting Treasures is the oldest fabric manufacturer in the United States, dating back to 1807! They have tons of sample books of the fabrics they’ve made over the years, and he showed us a few samples. As a person who loves both modern and reproduction fabrics, this was quite a treat! Oh to browse through those sample books! (Please forgive the blurry photos…I was in the back of the room without a zoom lens--oh well.)

Ken went on to explain about the traditional method of printing fabric, which involves multiple rollers, each for printing a different color. As you can imagine, each of these rollers must be precisely aligned or the final print will look smudged and blurry.

He showed us photos of the design process, including how designs are worked out on computers. After a design is set, a sample or strikeoff is made. This is done manually by applying each color through a screen using a squeegee. Here, first blue, then yellow, and finally other colors were added one at a time to create this cute kitty border.

This adorable fabric is called The Tale of Two Kitties. How cute and colorful!

Once the sample is approved, it’s time to print fabric. Fabric is rolled on a conveyor belt through a series of ink vats where different inks are applied one at a time through a screen. I think he said that there is a rubber mat underneath the fabric that holds it in place so the printing is precise. Anyway, this process is similar to the manual method in that color is applied one at a time, and a kind of mechanical squeegee is involved. I say similar except that well, it’s automated so none of that manual stuff. Here is how a cute Minion banner panel was printed. I think we're seeing blue, then red, then orange being put on the panel here.

And here's the finished panel with all it's colors. I think the panel is called simply "I Won't Bite," and it's part of the Minion collection at Quilting Treasures.

Those colored dots you see on the selvage of your fabric show you each of the individual inks that were applied in the printing process.

Next, Ken talked about digital fabric. Imagine a large printer with a print head that rolls back and forth over a section of fabric, digitally printing the fabric image. To me, it reminded me of my printer at home only a whole lot bigger!

After fabric is printed, whether in the more traditional way or by digital printer, Quilting Treasures applies several special finishes to the fabric to set the ink permanently and create a soft, lovely hand or finish.

Fabric is then doubled, or rolled onto fabric boards that are sealed in plastic and ready to ship to your local quilt store.

i hope you found this as fascinating as I did, despite the blurry photos. Perhaps if you squint...<grin>

At the end of the meeting, the talented team of editors, sample makers, longarmers, and pattern designers that I work with got to meet with Ken and chat for a while. He couldn’t have been nicer. What a great guild meeting!

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Tell me…have you ever wondered how fabric is made?

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 I really appreciate your comments. Please leave an email address so I can thank you personally!

Being Brave About Quilting: The Results

For May’s Brave Quilter challenge, I decided to focus on quilting. I quilt my own quilts when they are a reasonable size, so improving my quilting is something with instant benefits. Besides the actual act of quilting, another thing that is always hard for me is deciding how to quilt a quilt. So for the challenge, I decided to make a quilting sampler of some of my favorite patterns. This would allow me to practice my quilting skills??? while also creating a tool that will help me select quilting patterns in the future.

First, I cut two pieces of muslin the size of a scrap of quilt batting. Then I stitched some sections into it like this.

Next, I looked though some of my quilting books for patterns I liked. I started with The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting, a book I had the pleasure to review recently.

I quilted this swirls and pearls from page 103. Honestly, I've done a much better job with this pattern before on my quilt Rainbow Connection, but oh well.

Then I tried swirls from page 114. I love this pattern but could not quite get it. The swirls are supposed to have long tails but not all of mine do. Sigh. I'll probably quilt another sample of it. Hey, maybe practice will make perfect!

Next, I decided to quilt some narrow border designs because I often have quilts with borders. I quilted some straight lines first to divide the section into “borders”. Then I quilted ribbon candy, square chains, zig-zags, and spiral chains from pages 27-31 in the book. The spiral chains I did not really get at all. Since I like the idea, I'll try doing them again too.

I also searched Pinterest and tried to copy some of the designs I saw there. First I tried various triangle fills. I used the squarish one on my Rainbow Connection quilt, and thought it looked pretty good.

Then I tried a loopy fill. I've always liked the look of this one.

Obviously, I need more quilt practice. In my own defense I'll only say that when I take my time I do much better but I really just wanted to collect quilting designs so I didn't really concentrate as much as I would have on a real quilt.. But even with the mistakes in the quilting, this sampler will definitely serve its purpose—as a collection of favorite quilting ideas. Making this sampler was on my Quarter 2 Finish Along list, so I can mark off another one!

Thanks Brave Quilter for making me brave enough to finally make a quilt sampler and to post photos of the less than ideal result. If you haven't tried Brave Quilter yet, I urge you to try. It will push you to try new things, and to pick a goal and achieve it. There's another Brave Quilter linkup opening June 4th, so be sure to scoot over to Pink Doxies and give it a try. You won't regret it, no matter what the result. Gare-un-teed. <grin>

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Tell me, do you have a quilting sampler? Where do you go to get quilting ideas?

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I really appreciate your comments. Please leave an email address so I can thank you personally!

Book Review: The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting

What do you get when you let two awesome quilters (Angela Waters—award-winning longarmer, and Christa Watson—sit-down machine quilting goddess) collaborate on a quilting book? You get the Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting (That Patchwork Place-Martingale Press), that’s what!

What I love most about this book is that it is completely unique, presenting quilting designs, how-to’s, and tips for both the longarm quilter and the sit-down machine quilter, side-by-side in an easy to follow format.

On the left side of each page, you’ll find Angela’s wisdom. On the right, you’ll find Christa’s. I loved comparing and contrasting both styles as I applied them to my quilting, which I did recently for my Charming Stepping Stones quilt, “Rainbow Connection.”

Although I don’t own a longarm machine and probably never will, I found that I could apply much of the information Angela shared to my quilting at home. She’s a natural, easy teacher and her approach to quilting (filling your “toolbox” with a few useful designs you can apply to any quilt) is something everyone can benefit from.

Christa presents the home-machine quilting sections, and in them I found tips and techniques I could apply immediately. Her thoughts on preparing the quilt top and back, setting up her machine, and dividing and conquering the task of quilting a quilt were things I could immediately relate to. And there were lots of little tips like scaling the quilting designs throughout a quilt that were both thoughtful and instantly applicable to any quilt I might be working on.

This book is filled with small projects you can quickly piece and quilt alongside these two experts. Angela and Christa each offer a unique strategy for quilting each project, so it's like getting two-for-one!

Reading this book was like taking a private class from two award winning quilters guiding me along the way. Although I don't think I will make any of these quilts, it was incredibly useful to read Angela's and Christa's thought processes behind their chosen quilting designs. I not only walked away with a variety of quilting designs and tips on how to implement them, but also some expert thoughts on when and why to apply those quilting designs to particular quilts.

The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting really deserves a spot on everyone’s quilting bookshelf. I’m so glad it’s on mine!

You can pick up a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting at your local quilt shop, order it direct from Martingale or Amazon, or purchase a signed copy (autographed by both quilters) directly from Christa or Angela. (Full disclosure: I am not receiving any compensation from the sale of this book. I did receive a free digital copy for review, but the opinion expressed in this review are my own.)

Images of the book used in this blog post are courtesy of Brent Kane and Martingale Press.

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Week 8 Stepping Stones Quilt Along: Quilting, Binding, and Last Thoughts

Party time! Your quilt top is done and you're almost finished! Woot!

For some, this is a time of joy. For me, well, it’s a time of confusion and even dread. Why? Because of this phrase: quilt as desired.

Quilt as desired. Probably the three most intimidating words on the planet. Sure, you have the complete freedom to quilt your quilt however you want. There are no rules, after all. But what it really means is that you have to decide how to quilt it. And how do you do that?

If you want, you can choose a quilting pattern based on how the quilt will be used. After all, if it’ll see daily use, you probably shouldn’t bother with some intricate, carefully planned quilting pattern. For such a quilt, an allover pattern is probably best. Since Stepping Stones and Charming Stepping Stones are full of geometric shapes, I recommend a curvy pattern to soften it. My first version of Stepping Stones used neutral fabrics that reminded me of a series of stepping stones, so I choose a raindrop all over pattern that really complimented that. Because of the quilting motif I chose, I’m going to call this quilt something like “Raindrops on the Sidewalk” or “Rainy Mondays”.

For a special quilt that’s not a utility quilt, you might want to opt for custom quilting. Custom quilting means you choose quilting motifs for the quilt blocks, sashing, and borders. My second version of Stepping Stones featured a fun pink floral fabric. The large quilt blocks just begged for some special quilting. I wanted to focus on the strong diagonals created by the floral prints, and choose feathers for those areas. I think the result is marvelous, and I’m especially appreciative that I found a longarmer who would quilt this for me because quilting on the diagonal is not easy to do on a longarm.

Stepping Stones and Charming Stepping Stones are modern looking to me, with large areas for special quilting. For the rainbow version of Charming Stepping Stones, I chose to emphasize the modern look with modern quilting designs quilted on the diagonal.

I’m not sure yet how I’m going to quilt the gradations version of Charming Stepping Stones, but I know it has to be special. My husband things the quilt looks like ocean waves rushing to the shore, so I might go with something wavy. If you’ve got any suggestions, please comment here!

Meanwhile while I’m deciding on a quilting design for gradations, here are some additional quilting designs you might consider for your quilt:

After quilting your quilt, you’ll need to trim and square it up, then bind it. As a reminder, here’s how much binding I told you to get.

Stepping Stones

Binding: 1/2 yard (unless you are making a scrappy binding from leftovers)

Charming Stepping Stones

Binding: 5/8 yard (unless you are making a scrappy binding from leftovers)

Cut your binding strips lengthwise for more stability. Cut them 2-1/4 to 2-1/2” wide as you prefer. Use a diagonal seam to join your strips, then press the binding in half. Attach the binding to the quilt.

Last week's Progress

Last week I saw great progress! Some of you needed to simply prep your quilt back for a longarmer, while others needed to baste your quilt for home machine quilting as well. Christine, bless her, sped through the last few steps and caught up! With two quilts! All I can say is "You go, girl!"

Let's take a look at what everyone posted.


Now let’s find out who won last week's giveaway. Everyone who posted a new photo last week was assigned a number and Random.org identified the winner.

Congratulations Christine! I guess your hard work has paid off! I'll be sending your quilted scissor cozy to you soon.

Next week we all have the week off. We'll meet back here on May 18th for a Show It Off Party! I'll be showing off my finished quilts--hopefully gradations too--and providing lots of photos so you can really get a good look at them.

You can show off too and maybe win a prize! When you get your quilt done, post a photo of it to the Quilting with the Inquiring Quilter Facebook or Flickr groups or to Instagram with the hashtags #SteppingStonesQAL and @inquiringquilter. If you post a photo of a finished quilt by midnight EST, Tuesday May 17th, you will be eligible to win this lovely zippered pouch! Woot!

Because I want all of us to be able to show off our finished Stepping Stones/Charming Stepping Stones quilts, I'm going to host a second Show It Off Party on Wednesday, July 6th. Everyone who posts a photo of their finished quilt by midnight July 5th will receive a coupon code by email good for 20% off the patterns in my shop (printed or instant download). (You'll receive the coupon after you post, even if that's before July 5th!)

See you in two weeks everyone, if not sooner. If you want to follow my blog posts regularly, you can subscribe by email, Bloglovin', Feedly, or Quilter Blogs (see my sidebar on the right for more info). You can also follow me on Facebook and other social media by clicking the buttons at the top of my sidebar, just below my photo.

In the meantime, happy quilting!

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Tags: SSQAL, Easy, Pieced, Modern, Featured, Finished Quilts


That’s it! Good luck with the quilting, binding, and finishing, and don’t forget to share your beauties on Flckr, the Inquiring Quilter Facebook page or group—not sure, and on Instagram using the tags @inquiringquilter #IQQAL. Don’t show the whole quilt though—let’s save that for the big reveal next week at Show and Tell.