An Exotic Sewing Adventure with Color Catchers

Have you seen StudioE’s new Color Catchers collection in your local quilt shop yet? A free quilt pattern using this collection is available here, but this plush, two-sided fabric can inspire beautiful garments too!

Our guest blogger today is Marilyn League, a creative seamstress and art quilter from Memphis, TN. Marilyn has extensive experience in tailoring, garment sewing, pattern making, fitting and alterations that includes mens- and womenswear, bridal attire and even costumes for the royal court of the acclaimed Carnival Memphis.She seeks out unique construction techniques and has a library of books and reference materials to prove it. Marilyn has served on the Board of Tennessee Craft-Southwest, is a member of the Uncommon Threads quilt guild and member and Past President of the Memphis Sewing Guild. Living by her philosophy that every day should be a learning experience, she shares a sewing adventure on the StudioE blog with a tutorial for creating a ruana with Color Catchers.


An Exotic Sewing Adventure with Color Catchers                                                       Guest blog post by Marilyn League

When I saw the Color Catchers yarn-dyed flannel collection from StudioE Fabrics, I knew I had to make something fabulous!! But it had to be simple… to show off the rich colors and imbedded softness of the yarn-dyed weave. One of the best garments I’ve ever seen for its simplicity and elegance is the ruana—an ancient wrap from South America, worn by natives in the Andes Mountains. The shape of the ruana lends itself to easy-sew projects for sewers and weavers, as it is basically a rectangle with an opening in the front.

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There are commercial patterns available to make a ruana, but using a template to cut the front opening is simple enough. I started with a two-yard length of the most luscious lime green—which in my mind and in my wardrobe is the “new neutral”—or you can choose another color or weave pattern from this enticing 20-piece collection. First, I cut a paper template three inches wide and 36 inches long, tracing around a small plastic cup to obtain a smooth curve for the neckline.
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Then, I placed this paper template along the lengthwise fold of the fabric, so the curved edge was halfway to the middle of the two-yard length.

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Once you’ve cut the front opening, the raw edges need to be finished in some way. I serged the front and lower edges, but left the selvedges as they are. Why make extra work for yourself? Plus, the selvedges look very nice on their own.

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After serging the raw edges, I used a sewing machine to turn them under and straight stitch them. If you so desire, the serging can be left on its own as an edge finish. If you don’t have access to a serger, the edges can be finished with a double-turn rolled hem on the sewing machine.

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Then you are finished! This took less than one hour to complete. You’ll have a lovely wrap that’s perfect for a chilly day, an overly air-conditioned restaurant or a car ride so you’re not so bundled up in a coat or jacket. And you have a variety of options for wearing your ruana. Wear it with jeans and a T-shirt to dress up a bit. Wear it over a simple dress to give it some drama. Throw one side over the other shoulder for REAL drama! Notice that Color Catchers is a two-sided fabric, so BOTH sides look good.

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The choices for constructing or customizing your ruana are endless. Here are some ideas:

  • Instead of cutting the edges straight across, curve them.
  • Use a contrasting thread for serging all around.
  • Zigzag stitch with a coordinating or variegated thread on your sewing machine.
  • If you have gobs of time and want a really special garment, buy extra fabric that matches or contrasts, and finish the edges with bias strips. Oh, wouldn’t that be runway worthy!

I hope you have enjoyed my little sewing adventure. Stop in your local quilt shop or independent sewing center, buy a few yards of Color Catchers by StudioE Fabrics and get inspired to have an adventure of your own.

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Bits-N-Pieces


This week I have a lot of random things on my mind.  So rather than writing a blog on one subject, I am going to write what I am calling bits-n-pieces….a mish mosh of things in my head, some relevant and some totally and absolutely irrelevant.


If you got the most recent Studioe newsletter that was sent out late last week, you have learned that Studioe is now starting to sell tea towels under the E-Towel moniker.  We are really excited about the prospects of this and apparently a lot of our customers are too since we have received several emails telling us so.  There are 12 designs and 6 solids (see image below).  They are being sold as 6 of a pattern and were made in India.  Samples will be out in early May, so make sure to ask to see them. The best part of all is that our pricing is very aggressive.  Watch out competition!  The last point I wanted to make about the towels and business in general is that you always need to keep reinventing yourself and be willing to try new things visa vie the tea towels.  If you just sit around in status quoland and don’t care to change and try new things, you will wake up one day and your business could be all gone.


I am totally obsessed with the show “Naked & Afraid” on the Discovery Channel.  In fact, I am watching it right now and they are in the process of eating a killer snake.  Is anyone else a fan?  I would love to try to be on the show, but I have 2 problems:  1.  I am allergic to fish.  2.  I am from Long Island. Other than that, I am ready to go.


I am sure that you probably already heard, but Hancock Fabrics is officially out of business.  I am really sad to report this because it sad for our entire industry.  I never like to see anyone fail whether it is a quilt shop or a chain store.  Currently, the Hancock stores are under liquidation through an outside liquidator. Hopefully the cheap sale of fabric and other stuff won’t last too long.  In any case, rest in peace Hancock Fabrics.  Thanks for all the great years.

Going back to my earlier comments about being in status quoland, we at Jaftex are consolidating all of our New York businesses on to one floor.  Following the purchase of The Blank Quilting Corp., we subletted (is that a word) the 6th floor in our building.  Due to some people leaving the company, we now have enough room for everyone to get on to one floor.  It will take some time to get used to, but this will be a great business decision because it will make for one less rent payment.  Cutting overhead is always a positive things for businesses.  As you can see in the picture below, it doesn’t look to bad, right?


If I told you once, I told you a million times:  We do not sell to Craftsy!

Any idea what sport I played in high school?  I played defense on the lacrosse team.  The reason why I am mentioning this is because my big 7 year old son started playing lacrosse this past year.  The big difference is that he is starting in first grade and I didn’t start until 7th grade.  How the times have changed!


I take great pride in donating fabric for all kinds of good causes. Recently, in preparation for adding more people to our floor in the office, we have cleaned out a lot of closets and found a lot of fabric to donate. We get all kinds of donation requests and I usually send something because I know how happy fabric makes people…especially when it is free.  I do know it is going to a good cause.  However, recently, I noticed that a Church member that I donate fabric to started to spread the word.  So I keep getting letters like this:  I heard from XYZ that you donate fabric, can we get some too?  It made me think of this quote from a stupid reality show that didn’t last very long about some spoiled kids living in New York City. The quote was derived from a party where a guest of an invited guest took the liberty to bring their own guest.  In other words, a guest thrice removed.  So that quote was this and I crack up every chance I get to use it, “guests of guests can’t bring guests.”  In my situation the quote would go like this, “fabric donation requesters need to keep their source to themselves unless they want to start paying for the fabric.”  You know who you are!


So what time is our appointment together at the Quilt Market in Utah?  I would love to show you the lines or just chat with you about whatever.  As you know, I love meeting and greeting customers.  Even better than that, I love visiting as many shops as possible.  I will be at booth 2516, please come and say hi or just stop by and say how you are totally obsessed with reading my blah blah blog.


I am excited to start travelling again next week.  I have a big date to speak Monday night at a Quilt Guild Meeting in Wilmington, NC.  In addition, I plan to be out starting to sell the newest lines that we are offering for May.  Is there anything more rewarding than selling?  I have probably told this story a million times, but when I first came in to the business, my dad sat me down and said, “Scott, you have one task…..to sell.  If you sell, everything else will fall in to place.”  It is so true because without sales, you have nothing.  Something to think about!


Recently I received an email from a consumer who brought up an interesting subject.  She said she went to a shop and rather than cutting the fabric, the person in the shop ripped the fabric from selvedge to selvedge across the grain.  Typically, that does rip the fabric straight across. The problem arises when the fabric bows which does happen with fabric.  There even is an allowable amount of bowing, but all companies try to keep this to a minimum of course.  In any case, the million dollar question is whether ripping the fabric is a legit way of cutting?  What do you think?  Do you ever rip?  I would love to hear some other people’s opinion on this subject.

So there is my little mish mosh of info for you this week.  You likey?

Until Next Week,
This Is Bit-N-Pieces Scott

 

Introducing a Modern BOM – Choreography BOM

Today, the StudioE blog shines the spotlight on an exciting new quilt, called Choreography, that features fabrics from Brushstrokes by Pepper Cory and the Just Color! basic line by Studioe. Choreography is designed as a Block of the Month (BOM) program and is available exclusively to independent quilt and fabric shops. To tell you the story behind the creation and design of this graphic, modern-style quilt is its designer, Julia LaBauve, of JML Colors. Once you’re smitten with the quilt and its story, dance over to the JML Colors web site to order patterns and contact your Studioe direct sales representative or go to the Studioe website to place your fabric order… and let the music begin!

 

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Choreography
Written by Julia LaBauve

We all dance to our own music….

It amazes me how ideas form and how they become something that I can hold, touch and use. Initially it seems simple: a design “bounces” around in my head and I can imagine that it would look pretty good as a quilt. Easy! The design takes shape, I audition the fabrics, make final adjustments and there it is! My newest creation! Make the quilt top… write directions…. and a new pattern is born. But wait, the quilt top has to be quilted. Arrange for that. And there is the testing phase… and… who will test? Go find the appropriate tester. In the midst of this process, I’m hopeful that the timing works out so that while the top goes for quilting I can finish writing and then send it all to the tester. After that, corrections… reviews… it seems it will never be finished! And while all this is happening, my fabric friend and local Studioe Fabric rep, Veronica Hofman-Ortega, is waiting to see the finished project. You know…no pressure at all!

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This is how Choreography was born. I had in mind a design that reminded me of the tile work I see when I visit my family in Spain.
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The idea took form and the pattern was born. But at the write-quilt-test stages, it felt like we were all dancing together to some particular rhythm. If one of us missed a step, we would all stumble and the timing would get all messed up. Thanks to the fabulous quilting work of Pat Yearwood (Stitch’n Quilt) and tester Patricia Kelly-Flis, Choreography is now a beautiful quilt, available to quilt and fabric shops as a BOM program.

Choreography was designed with Studioe Fabrics in mind. I wanted fabrics that were modern and vibrant.

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Fabrics that “read as solids” were the perfect choice to highlight sharp points and angles without worrying about competing fabric motifs. They also create a pleasant background to the stronger graphic design. I chose Brushstrokes, a beautiful new collection by Pepper Cory, and Just Color!, one of Studioe’s popular blender lines to achieve these goals. This was especially important when working with the paper-pieced blocks. These are slightly more complex than the rest (don’t worry, block size is 10” x 10” finished so the pieces can be handled comfortably). I wanted each piece to be clear and visible. Paper piecing is too much work for it all to blend and the design disappear in to the block!

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I love how the orange stands out, but does not seem to overwhelm anything. I especially enjoyed using a variety of blues. Choreography became a study in color – because they are “solids”, fabrics do not compete with each other and it is the color that creates the designs. And the same goes for the rest of the traditionally pieced blocks – sharp contrast that creates a strong graphic design.

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I hope you take a look at Choreography and choose to do the BOM. Shop owners should contact their StudioE direct representative for fabric orders and the JML Colors website to order the BOM patterns. I encourage quilters to visit their local quilt shop to request the program. This quilt was fun to make and see the design grow as blocks were added to the design wall. Now I am ready to find my next “bouncing idea” and to start “dancing” again.

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Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: The Quilt Market Day Of Reckoning Is Upon Us



I never like to be a Monday morning quarterback and say “I told you so” after the fact.  Instead, I am going to predict the future and you will be saying, “Scott, you called this one spot on.”  Before I go any further though, I don’t want people to think I am a hater on the Quilt Market and that I am trying to bring everyone down because I am not a hater. I am just a businessman trying to run a business in an efficient way and ultimately for a profit.  I think that is legit.  Don’t you?  In fact, I am, and have been, trying to put the word out for sometime, so maybe, someone at Quilts Inc. would actually say, “Geez, maybe the future doesn’t look so bright, this Fortunoff guy is on to something and we could use some change quickly.” The truth is, Quilt Market used to be well attended, upbeat and a place to write a lot of business.  Essentially, it used to be worth the trip, but like everything else in this fast paced world, times they are a changin’ and they are changin’ fast.  
    

The problems that exist now for Quilt Market are real and plentiful and in most cases related to money.  From the quilt shop owner perspective:

  • It is too expensive to attend unless you are local.  Hotels, airfare and food break the bank.
  • It is too hard to leave the office (Quilt Shop) for such an extended period of time.
  • Why attend market when my sales rep comes to show me the same stuff?  In fact, last year someone passed by my booth and I asked them to sit down and see the lines.  The answer that I got back was, “I will see them when the rep comes to my shop.” Ouch, that hurts.  
  • People used to attend for inspiration, but with social media and such, all the inspiration can be found with a click of a button.  In fact, Quilts Inc. is so enmeshed in social media now that they are giving people another excuse not to attend.  Social media is really a double edged sword.
  • One of the few things that I could think of that are worth attending for are probably the classes offered at market, but I am sure that those classes alone aren’t worth the trip across country to Utah.  And those classes can be costly too.  I am sure that there are local or online classes that provide cheaper options.

From the fabric vendor’s perspective, here are the problems:

  • The costs of our employees attending the quilt market have gotten astronomical.  We have anywhere from 10-20 people that we have to feed 3 meals a day, provide them a hotel room (and we don’t double up) and fly them in and out among so much more. Just to put it in perspective, a flight could be $400-$500 or more depending on where the show is, the hotel per night is around $200 and the food is about $100 or more per day.  Not chump change at all.   
  • The cost of having booths at the show is complete highway robbery.  I always go to the same story about how it costed our company about $2000 to move some boxes from the back of the building to our booth.  The unions are killer and they may be shooting themselves in the foot.  
  • The cost of decorating the booth and shipping everything in is not cheap either. 
  • The cost of entertaining customers is also costly, but probably the best market investment possible under the circumstances.
  • On the contrary, the most important reason for our companies to attend market is to see the international customers.  The international customers play such a critical role in helping our companies to determine which of our lines are worth launching and which aren’t.  If anything, this keeps us coming back to market.  However, they too have problems attending due to the high costs and the weakness of their currencies.

  
So what to do you might ask?  We at the Jaftex companies cannot stand around any longer and blow the bank on quilt market. We didn’t make it in business for 86 years just sitting around on our hands and watching while our business went in to the ground. Therefore, we have decided to take the following actions this year and we will continue to evaluate the situation going forward.  

  • Fewer attendees.
  • Fewer sales reps.
  • Fewer booths.
  • Simple booths.
  • No sample spree.
  • We will participate in schoolhouses.
  • We will hopefully be making a lot of appointments.
  • We will have freebies.
  • We will have show specials.
  • We will have a lot of eye candy.

What are you going to do about market?  If you are a quilt shop owner, are you going this year?  If you are a vendor, are you attending?  Are you downsizing?  If you are an international customer, are you attending?  I am hearing that a lot of our competitors (“big boys”) and distributors are taking a lot smaller booths.  And when I say a lot, I mean a lot of people are taking smaller booths and the booths will also be a lot smaller.  I am optimistic about international customers as I have heard a lot of them are attending, but I also heard that the US attendance is going to be dismal.  I really hate to say it, but I think the day of reckoning is here.  Attendance will be down to levels not seen before, but I am sure the people at Quilts Inc. will somehow spin it positively.  Only until they are hit in the wallet will they really take notice.  I guess that only time will tell.

All in all, I still don’t have the solution to the Quilt Market woes, but getting the costs down would help everyone dramatically as would shortening the show.  I do have some other ideas, but those really aren’t worth sharing until someone actually asks.  Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone who can make a difference is going to be asking me for advice.  I am probably viewed as the enemy even though I should be viewed as the alarm clock.  If you recall, the last time that my negative comments came up about market, Karey (CEO Quilts Inc.) said, “If he doesn’t like it, tell him he should not attend.”  Nice touch Karey!   Moreover, when I emailed Karey, she didn’t even reply.  That is pretty weak considering that my companies are the future of her business.       

We will just have to wait and see.  If you are going to market, please email scott@jaftex.com as I would love to meet you and show you the lines.  Thanks for your time.

Until next time,
This is Sew Excited for Quilt Market Scott

PS

On Thursday, the Studioe blog will shine the spotlight on an exciting new quilt, called Choreography, that features fabrics from Brushstrokes by Pepper Cory and the Studioe Just Color! basic line. Choreography is designed as a Block of the Month (BOM) program and is available exclusively to independent quilt and fabric shops. To tell you the story behind the creation and design of this graphic, modern-style quilt is its designer, Julia LaBauve of JML Colors. Once you’re smitten with the quilt and its story, dance over to the JML Colors web site for patterns. Thereafter, contact your Studioe direct sales representative or go to the Studioe website to place your fabric order… and let the music begin!

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Florida Road Trip & Upcoming Guild Meeting

Happy Monday Studioe Fans!  Hopefully you have been following my travels down South up to this point.  On the last leg of my little trip, I hit Florida with Studioe sales rep, Brenda Buddenhagen.  Brenda and I went to visit the lovely Johanna Felberbaum of StitchCraft in Boca Raton.  The address is 399 S. Federal Highway.  You should definitely go check out the shop if you are in the area.

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As you could imagine, the Florida shops have an entirely different look than the majority of other shops I have visited in my lifetime.  Everything is just so bright and fresh.  It just makes you just want to smile.  It was as if the entire place had a glow around it and Johanna had just the energy that you would expect from someone with such a bright and fun shop.  Thank god I had my sunglasses with me.  Check out this picture as this was the first thing that I saw in the parking lot.  It was an absolute precursor of that glow in the shop that I just referred to.  Bam!  Can you say Florida flamingo pink?

This was a great meeting for me because I got to relax, speak with Johanna and tour the shop while Brenda worked her magic.  And let me tell you, Brenda is another one of our awesome sales reps.  You know why she is so awesome?  I am going to tell you.  Because she comes prepared with an abundance of samples that are so impressive and inspiring.  I can’t help repeating myself, but our sales reps are really sales reps on steroids.  They don’t just show the lines, bore you to death and put you to sleep, they show the lines and show you all kinds of ways that you can use the lines.  It really gets your creative juices flowing and that is important in and of itself.  Imagine that?  Not only that, but our reps are more than glad to help you brainstorm and come up with ideas for whatever event you have planned for your shop, whether it is a shop hop, a row by row or something else.  All you have to do: just ask.

Below are two quilts reflecting what you would expect from this “glowing quilt shop.”


Studioe’s By The Sea by Elizabeth Isles.  This one screams Florida and its beautiful waters, right?

 
Garden Critters by The Blank Quilting Corp.  So Florida, right?  It reminds me of the time I went fishing in Florida and was attacked by red ants.   

And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t pick on my brethren over at Henry Glass Fabrics.  You are going to love this one.  Talk about location, location, location, but I guess it is better to be over the toilet than in the toilet.  You can’t really tell from this picture, but when Johanna wasn’t looking I was putting some of our competitors fabric in the toilet to see how good her plumbing was and also to see if their fabrics could float.  Do you believe that?  And none of them floated, what a shame!

With that, I am going to wrap up the final leg of my trip down south.  However, before I go, I wanted to let you know about some other plans that I have coming up.  Since I visited the Chattanooga Choo Choo Quilt Guild, I have been entertaining some compelling invites to speak at other guild meetings across the nation.  Imagine that?  People actually want to hear some little 43 year old punk who has sewn nothing more than a pee-pee tee-pee talk about fabric and this great industry.  All I have to say is, whatever floats your boat as I aim to please.  In any case, after a lot of vetting out the venues, weather, fees, attendance and perks, I have decided to….drum roll please….visit with the Quilter’s By The Sea in Wilmington, NC (careful because there are 2 guilds with this name).  Thanks for the invite Kirsta!  The event will be held at 7 pm on Monday April 25th at the First Christian Church on the corner of Oleander and Mamosa.  So if you are in the neighborhood, please come out to see what I might say.  Please no hecklers and no pies in the face.  


Ouch!

Until next time,
This is Sarcastic Scott From Studioe