Threadbenders Quilt Shop

Threadbenders Quilt Shop
Threadbenders Quilt Shop

Friday, May 30, 2014

What Kind of Fabric is That? Why Cotton and Wool are Queen and King of the Quilting World

Peg's new wool applique block
There's a mystery solved on the end of every fabric bolt. You can probably find the manufacturer, the width of the fabric and what the collection is called. Somewhere in there it should tell you what it's made of.

If you're in a quilt shop it probably says 100 % cotton. There are some very good reasons for that. Cotton has always been the go-to fiber for quilters for a lot of reasons.


  • It's soft.
  • It's washable.
  • It dyes well and has great colors.
  • It's hyper allergenic.  
  • It pieces well.
  • It irons flat.
  • It can be blocked a little.
But cotton's not the only fabric to quilt with.Wool is an old quilting choice that's all new again. Pretty wool solids make for fluid applique and a hardy textural kind of pieced quilt. Because it's a thicker fabric and more loosely woven, it feels very different to work with, but in a good way. Here's some of the reasons wool is a great alternative quilt fiber.

From Winterberry Cabin

  • It has a fabulous texture
  • It dyes well, but with different kinds of dye.
  • It needles well for hand applique.
  • It has a more raised feel and hand.
  • It's extra warm and snugly.
  • It can be blocked into shape.
Wool often has other fibers blended in with it. Unless it's a significant amount, say 15% or more, it usually doesn't make a huge difference. But of course, pure wool is best.

Fabrics you want to avoid.
When you walk outside the quilt shop there are all kinds of other fibers that are not so user friendly. This isn't like they aren't pretty or that they have their own uses. They just don't respond well to quilting techniques or they don't wear well. Here's why.

Rayon is made of tree bark. It's soft. It's pretty. But it's much too fragile to quilt with. And it sun fades very easily.

Test Tube Babies
Polyester and other test tube babies are not great quilting fabrics. They don't piece well and they are miserable to iron. And if they're mixed into a fiber blend, they still have the same issues. Do you remember the polyester double knit quilts of the 70's? Need I say more?

Lycra is a fiber that stretches. Great for sports wear. Miserable for quilting, as it has to be either stabilized or it will bounce along as you try to quilt on it.

So what happens if you find the perfect color or print and it's rayon. Or lycra? Or poly? You can use it. You can do anything that isn't illegal or deadly. But you deal with the limits and problems of those fibers for the whole life of that quilt. Did it fade? Rip? Sag? Pull out it's stitches? Cotton and wool are queen and king of the quilting world for very good reasons. They work, piece, applique, quilt and needle so much better. 

How long does it take you to make a quilt? How long will that quilt be part of someone's world? No one can afford poor fabric choices. They're just too costly in the long run.

Sue Makinen's great pin cushion
We have a new collection of vintage wools that are perfect for applique. Sue and Peggy have gone insane about them. Sue will be teaching us about wool applique and embroidery on wool in a series of upcoming classes.

Our vintage wool collection
All of this is a reason to be shopping for fabrics at a quilt store. We know what's in the fabric. And it's the best quality for quilting, all the time. Surprises are really only nice on birthdays and Christmas.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Almost Solid: The Prints that Don't Look Like Prints

So much fabric is about the prints. And there are mountains of them. Some sophisticated, some Juvenal, something for everyone you might ever want to quilt for. We all have our collections of prints that simple pleased us for the graphics or the subject matter.

But as people get more serious about their quilting, they often want something more versatile and with less cute factor. Today we're going to look at the almost solids.

One of the trends in the art world is to use your own fabric. Did you dye it? Marbelize it? Rust it? Run it through the printer? Have your own design printed? The list seems endless. It's a lot of fun but it's also fairly exhausting. If you don't do those things on a regular basis, you probably don't have the setup, patience and time to produce your own fabric in quantity. It's really out of reach for most quilters.

But with that said, they are pretty. Very pretty. And it's a great look. 

They also tend to cost the earth. They're hand crafted and they take a lot of time and costly materials.

Enter the almost solid prints.
These are the prints that mimic hand crafted fabric. They can be very sophisticated and very versatile. But since they're commercially made, they cost pretty much what ordinary quilt fabrics cost. And they do give you the designer look. Often they are designed by quilt artists as part of their fabric lines.

Solid fabrics are a great choice when
  • You want to make a bold statement
  • You want the block pattern to show strongly
  • You want lots of room to show off your quilting

Almost solids are a great choice when

  • You want a designer look to your fabric.
  • You want some odd/interesting colors.
  • You want a textured feel to your fabric.
Try  some almost solids in your next quilt and see how sophisticated and mod they make your quilting. And you don't have to take them down to the river and beat them on a rock to create that look.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hexies Gone Modern: Not Just Gramma's Garden

We've had one Hexie Hen Party at Threadbenders and it felt a little bit like a bag of potato chips. Nobody did just one.  They were having way too much fun for that.

But for those of you who are on the fence about joining us, but don't want to do gramma's flower garden, there are some amazing modern hexies out there.

Here's some ways to make an old pattern new.

From All People Quilt
Make it large. It's a big impact, you get done faster, and there's lots of yummy room for quilting, if you wish. 

Found on Pinterest
Make it bold. Bright or unexpected colors always are exciting.
From Singing Stitches
Break the mold. No you don't have to make that grid all the way across the quilt. Leave white spaces for quilting and for emphasis.
From Quiltville
Do something unexpected. Who knew you could make letters out of hexies. But once you've seen it, you can do it.

Use your prints to advantage. Great prints are even better if you fussy cut and showcase them where they're best. Cut them so that the very best bits are in the center showing off.

Don't you dare tell us these quilts are old fashioned. Although my grandmother would have jumped right in and made one too.

Join us every Wednesday at 11:00 for the Hexie Hen party. You don't need to bring anything. Just come, sit, sew, and glow.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Domesticated Bliss: Ginny Williams: From Vintage Collector to Wearable Artist

So often the things we passionately collect become the things that craft our art. Ginny Williams, of Domesticated Bliss says she's been collecting vintage linens, laces and embroideries since she was a child. She has a fabulous collection of flour sacks, table cloths, doilies, tea towels and all the other amazing embroideries largely from the 30s'.

With all that inspiration around her, she's begun to use those fabulous fabrics in a series of apron's and children's dresses.

She started with aprons. And her aprons are lovely! Lots of lace and embroidery. Sometimes she has 4-5 different heirloom pieces within one of her garments.

Recently she took Wanda's Pillow Case Dress class, and took it to a brand new level.
We're so proud for Ginny. She's really finding her stride as a wearable artist.

 Her excellent eye blends just the right textiles together to make a gorgeous "vintage look" garment that is unique. She uses supporting contemporary fabric to make her garments wearable and easy care.

This embroidered overlay was originally a lawn tablecloth. Now it's a pretty pink party dress.

 Blackbird CrossingGinny is going to be at Blackbird Crossing  May 23-24, today and tomorrow, at Three Oaks, MI. Make sure you drop in and see her awesome work.

 (312) 342-4258

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Matchy Matchy: When to Match Colors, When to Blend Colors, When to Contrast Colors

Quilt by Karen Woodruff
Sometimes you hear the phrase "Matchy, Matchy, when we're describing color choices. It brings us to the question, "How important is it to match colors exactly? What does that do for our design?"

Like most design decisions, it comes down to what you want your design choice to do. There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. Or makes it sew.
It comes down to materials and visual choices. There are two items we're talking about at the moment: fabric and thread.
We've talked about fabric that's made to match. There are three ways to think about matching colors. We can  match as closely as we can, pick several choices that blend with each other but are not identical, 
Contrast strongly with a different color, print size, or style. These choices are neither right or wrong. But they do make a statement. 
 Match as closely as we can. 
This is best only when we really can match. If it's close, it often doesn't win a cigar. It can look very awkward. If you can match your colors pretty exactly, it gives a smoother quieter feel to you design.
Pick several choices that blend with each other but are not identical.
Sue Makinen's quilt doesn't match colors but it blends them beautifully.
This is the answer to something that only comes close. If you have a range of 3-4 colors that blend it looks like an intentional choice. And it gives a quilt a lovely scrappy feel.
Contrast strongly with a different color, print size, or style

Bright colors don't need to match. They contrast.

If we really can't match it, don't. Pick a fabric that contrasts strongly with the others. Complementary colors work very well for this. Or pick something that is much lighter, darker, stronger, bigger, smaller, or in some way different. It will shine out like a diamond.
  • Choosing thread for piecing is about neutrality. What color can you find that sort of blends with everything you're using. Gray, white, black and beige are really good things to start with. If you're ironing your blocks with the seams turned to the dark side, you, me and God are the only ones who will know. And God and I will be silent.
  • Quilting:
    From Wendy Shepherd at Ivory Spring

    If you feel confident about your quilting skills, nothing is as showy as a contrasting color quilt thread. It's pretty.
    From Wendy Shepherd at Ivory Spring
    Of course if you're a little less sure of yourself, a thread that matches will be more forgiving of uneven work or small boo boos.
When we're matching thread,we want to go one shade darker than you're color. Thread looks darker than it is on the spool just because there's more of it in a chunk. Once it's a single thread, it will look slightly lighter.

Quilting by machine always shows the thread color more because the whole stitch shows on both sides. A hand stitch shows in stitches in and out with the running stitch. It is visually less obvious and makes more of a dimple across the surface than a line.

As we said, there's no right or wrong way. But it helps if your choices are intentional. Because it gives you much more control over how your quilt looks.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fabric Collections: Not Just What You Put Together in a Drawer

Red Collection
We've talked a little about fabric collections. When you walk into a quilt shop, there are lots of different ways you might find the fabric arranged. Sometimes it's by color. Blues here. Reds there. Sometimes it's by subject. You might find all the flowers in one place and all the white on white prints in another.

But you often find fabrics that are clearly kissing cousins.They're not always the same color but they share the same colors. They go together because they were designed to go together. And the very neatest thing about that is that the designers have thought about what you need for a good quilt.

We've talked about contrast in color. Contrast is what makes a striking quilt. But there's lots of kinds of contrast. There's dark and light contrast. Color contrast. Size Contrast. Contrast helps us to make vibrant quilts with strong and showy design.

But contrast isn't the only concern. One of the other things that a good collection has is a consistent style. Are all the prints soft focus? Deeply detailed? From a particular place or time? Fabrics with the same consistent style hold together even if they contrast strongly in other ways.

Designer panel
Let's look at several collections and see how good designers plan that for us.
We'll need

  • A focus print
  • Small background prints
  • A connected neutral
  • Midsize prints that give size contrast
  • An exciting range of color
    Supporting prints
So how does this work? Do you remember those exercises where you pick one of each category? This is exactly how this works. Pick a panel. Pick a background print. Pick two different size supporting prints. Leave out anything you don't really like. Add happy sewing time. Shake three times and you have a quilt.

Well, something like that. Fabric collections make fabric selection goof proof.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sewing For Summer:The Wonderful Room Outdoors

After all that snow, all that cold, all that collection of sweaters, coats and boots, it's the outdoor time. We love the sports, the gardening, the sun time at the beach.

But sometimes we forget that the outside is another room.
And while we may tidy it up from time to time, it's not like it needs sweeping. All cobwebs and interesting little bugs are mostly welcome.

It's a wonderful space not only for gardening, but for creating other spaces for entertaining, reading, playing for kids and dogs. And we can decorate it with the most wonderful fabric projects.

We also forget that quilt fabric is just really great fabric. It's a better quality, it wears better than much of what is commercial, but it also is perfect in any light weight sewing project. And the prints are the best!

Here are some projects that can make your outdoor space sew special.
Sue's Mother Daughter Apron Class
They're not just for the kitchen. Everyone needs an apron for gardening, for messy projects, for painting fences, for outdoor cooking and for the grunge you hope isn't on everyone's clothes when they're done.
Play Places
Of course you want them to play outside. But a small teepee or play house is privacy for them and their safety for you.
Your elegant dining room
 And no one cares who spills what. Make a small stack of table cloths and napkins. They'll brighten the table and make it feel like a trendy restaurant.

Go away I'm reading
This triangle shade makes a lovely spot for you and a book. Or a nap. Or both.

Wanda's Pillow Case Dress Class
Sun dresses
Of course everyone wants cute, cool outfits just for summer. 

Cool Travel Bags
Whether you're going to the beach or out shopping, you'll want a big enough bag. Peg made this one out of batiks. Yes, we'll show you how.

It's time to get sewing so that when summer comes you have your out door room all ready. We're going to be offering dress, apron and bag classes to help. Or come in and we'll talk you through.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ann Wasserman’s New Book: Preserving Our Quilt Legacy

Ann Wasserman’s New Book: Preserving Our Quilt Legacy

annAnn Wasserman has repaired and rehabilitated countless quilts over the last 30 years. She has vast experience and a curator’s attitude towards the work. And a great deal of common sense. Most quilters think that they know about repairing quilts. We also think we know about storing quilts. 

It’s not necessarily so. We know about stitching and color, but the skills to repair a  really damaged quilt are really different. Machine quilting isn’t any help here. Repair and conservation require a knowledge of fabric history, a skilled set of stitches and a sense of restraint. book cover Ann’s new book, Preserving Our Quilt Legacy provides all that.

There is a mountain of information about fabrics from different periods of time, bats, and nicely drawn stitch diagrams. But more than that, there’s a wealth of information about the difference between  restoration and conservation. She offers a very sensible set of guidelines for when to repair and when to simply preserve a quilt that respects the quilt as an historic document. And a huge base of information about storage, care, and sensible display. 

If you have a lovely old quilt in your life, this book is solid information for it’s care. For a collector of old quilts it would be an invaluable resource. For anyone doing restoration or conservation, a bible.
She also answers the age old question," When should I wash an old quilt."

AnnsquiltAnn is also an established contemporary quilter. You’ll find her own work and her book for sale on her web site at

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The American Made Brand Collection, Some Solid Solids

You may have heard people talk about fabric collections or designer fabric collections. What does that mean?

When you go into a quilt store, you may find several prints in the same color scheme, and the same style. That's not an accident. They were designed to work with each other. They're put out by the fabric company as a collection.

  Did you want a background that matches the white in the print? Did you want the same colors but in a small print for the bias? Collections make that super simple.

But sometimes a collection reaches past that and becomes a constant staple.

That's why we're so excited about the American Made Brand Collection from Clothworks. It's more than 20 colors of solids in the same weight, perfect for piecing and for quilting. And it's made and grown in America, which is jobs and support for our own fabric industry.
We couldn't wait till it arrived. And we couldn't leave it alone.
Most times we buy solids it's catch as catch can. You'll find a piece in one weight, another piece where the color is perfect but it has poly in it. And there will be no more than two of every color. How limited is that!

That's why this collection is so great! The colors blend well. There's a full color range. They're the same weight and content. And did we say that they're pretty? They're really pretty. 

Solids also give us a great design experience. They give us the best backgrounds for quilting and shine clean and clear in your quilt design.

Clothworks shared this great Thickety Mountain quilt pattern with us. If we had to hunt this range of colors that could be a long search. This great collection has them all ready for us. How good is that?

You can look forward to that as a class at the shop.

Things to know about collections in general:

  • Usually (unless it's an amazingly popular print) you will probably only see it for one season. Collections come and go. Quickly. If you like it, we recommend you buy it now. You many never see it again. And it's not likely the store will be able to reorder it, particularly if it's from a past year.Totally sad. Totally true.
  • Colors change every season. It's not always drastic but it does happen. One reason to collect bits of fabric constantly is that this year's green may not be in next year. Really.
  • Having a mix of colors is always better if you do run out.  5 prints the same shade may look like a design decision. When you have one block with one different shade, we all know what happened.
Fabric collections make quilt design super easy and fool proof. It's like you have a fabric designer in your pocket and she picked out the best stuff for you. And the new American Made collection has us wowed! Come in and play with it today!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Special Visitors Come to Threadbenders: We're Moms Too

Last week we had a special visitor come to Threadbenders. Cindee Schroll's grandson, Jacob, had sent her his friend, Flat Stanley, in the hopes that she'd show him around Michigan City.  Of course she brought him to Threadbenders.

 It turns out Flat Stanley loved the store.

He checked out Wanda's cool challenge quilt blocks.

 He went head over heels over hexies. 

And he flirted with us all. He talked over his next quilt project with Peg. 

We so enjoyed his visit. So, Jacob,  this is for you. Stanley had a nice time with us and he wanted you to know.

The point to all of that is not that we play with paper dolls (well at least not all of us). But we all have children in our lives and we understand that you want to include them in your sewing world, because it's such a big part of yourself. 

And we're delighted to be part of that.

We were so pleased to help Cindee do something special for Jacob. And when you have a project for a child you love, bring it in. We'll do our best to help. We have kids too.