I like fabric. I know, a lot of people do. But I like it so much that I’m willing to embarrass myself in order to touch it — like the time I asked a total stranger in the restroom at O’Hare Airport if I could feel the sleeve of her luminous jacket. Fortunately she understood, and what could have been an incident for a police report instead led to us chatting like BFFs about the sheen of silk as we left the bathroom.
So it was with great pleasure at the end of October that I attended the International Quilt Market in Houston, where no one objects if you put your hands on their textiles. In fact, if you don’t you’re not really doing your job.
This annual show provides a glimpse of what will be landing in fabric shops in the coming months. Though it’s called Quilt Market (or just Market by the quilting cognoscenti), the items available for perusal reach far beyond textiles for patchwork. There are buttons, beads, threads, ribbons, sewing machines, and carrying cases. There are patterns for messenger bags, stuffed animals, cargo pants, and ottomans, and kits for making felt cupcakes and oilcloth totes. There are needles, rulers, scissors, computer software, books and magnifiers with LED lights for illuminating intricate handwork. It’s a mind-blowing display of nearly every tool you might ever need, and plenty you never imagined (including an ironing board featuring a nude male with a strategically placed towel, which disappears when you apply a hot iron).
Quilt Market is held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, where this year more than 570 vendors set up booths over 565,000 square feet of exhibition space. Booth decor rivaled some of the loveliest living rooms in town, where new lines of fabric covered couches, lamps, and floors. It’s the perfect place to check out what’s new in the world of stitching. While at the Market, I caught wind of a few developing trends in quilting and textiles.
While there is plenty of what might be considered “traditional” in the world of quilting — warm earth tones and time-honored patterns — there are some eye-popping things, too. Big name designers offered fabrics rich with vivid colors and imagery: the electric patterns of Kaffe Fasset, the swirls and florals of Amy Butler, and the layered detail of Anna Maria Horner. New fabrics by these and other quilting celebs, along with a myriad of up-and-coming designers, made my fabric-fondling self want to start stitching immediately.
Adorableness continues to dominate fabrics that appeal to young and old alike — jungle critters, tots-on-scooters, and lots of owls and butterflies.
Cloud 9 organic cottons
The most notable colors were muted olive greens combined with magenta, oranges, goldenrod, chocolate, and turquoise. Purple continues its reign.
Solid quilting cottons from Kona
While patterned fabrics abound, the quilts of Gee’s Bend and the interest in graphic modern quilts prompted several companies to show new lines of solid fabrics. A fabric rep told me that as clothing manufacturing moved overseas, textiles appropriate for home garment sewing have been harder to come by. But there’s a growing interest in home sewing, and fabrics like cotton-linen blends are joining bolts of velveteen and voile on fabric shop shelves. Quilts themselves are being transformed when stitched in luminous silks.
Oilcloth and laminates — fabric coated with a slick surface that adds strength and renders it waterproof — was big for aprons, lunch bags, placemats, and more. Etsy shop owner Anna Marino of Oilcloth by the Yard had a booth at Market where she carries hundreds of designs ranging from festive fruits and flowers to gingham, faux bois, and zebra print. “Oilcloth is fun, nostalgic, and utilitarian,” says Anna.
Cloud 9 organic prints
When it comes to organic cotton, buyers have been limited to solid fabrics. But this year, organic cotton prints are making a big splash. Daisy Janie made its first appearance at Market, and Cloud 9 was back with new lines, including upcoming prints designed by Jane Rothman, Heather Moore of Skinny Laminx, and Geninne Zlatkis.
Left: Etsuko Furuya designer of Echino fabrics in Seven Islands booth, Right: Echino bags
One of the most popular fabric designers at Market is Etsuko Furuya who designs under the name Echino. Other Japanese manufacturers featured zippers with ribbon-like tape that double as trim, and webbing already embellished with lace, the perfect handle for bags and totes. Japanese fabrics and notions continue to enchant sewers and makers.
A quilt by definition consists of three layers: the top, the filling or batting, and the backing. Some kind of stitching or tying holds these layers together. Traditional quilters use thread that matches the background fabrics to attach the layers with tiny, even stitches. A new trend, however, is big stitching. Perle cotton is prized for its sheen and large stitches in colors that contrast with the fabric are both functional and provide visual interest.
Hand-dyed silk ribbon by Hanah Silks/Artemis
The opportunity to individualize creations with embellishments is boundless. Beads, buttons, hand-dyed silk ribbon, and trims, including rick-rack of every size and color, are showing up on quilts and other stitched items.
Alyssa Thomas of Penguin & Fish with Hedgehog Pillow
Embroidery continues to gain steam as an embellishment on quilts, garments, and bags. Along with charming patterns depicting hedgehogs, gators, and the letters of the alphabet, Alyssa Thomas of Penguin and Fish showed embroidery kits that include a hoop, needle and thread. “I want to make it easy for new embroiderers to get started,” Alyssa said.
The future looks bright for those of us who love fabric, quilts, and all manner of textile crafts. I left the International Quilt Market somewhat overwhelmed, but enormously inspired. Let the stitching begin!
A lifelong sewer/knitter and former weaver/spinner, Linzee Kull McCray, a.k.a.lkmccray, is a writer and editor living in Iowa. She feels fortunate to meet and write about people, from scientists to stitchers, who are passionate about their work. Her freelance writing appears in Quilts and More, Stitch, Fiberarts,American Patchwork and Quilting and more. For more textile musings, visit her blog.
Close on the heels of Market is International Quilt Festival, a four-day extravaganza of classes, vendors, and juried exhibitions of more than 1,500 quilts that draws more than 50,000 visitors each year. Click here for more information!