Featured Shop: Ma’s Got’A Notion


One evening, Sue Shaeffer shared with her husband Don an ad for a longarm quilting machine she’d been drooling over. It wasn’t the first time she’d thought about getting one, but after two years of looking, it was time to get serious. Don sensed that and using Sue’s nickname—Ma—declared “Ma’s got a notion!” Little did he realize where that notion would take them, or that “notion” meant something entirely different to a quilter and he’d just provided a name for Sue’s shop.front-of-shop-june-2015 Continue reading

Kickstarting your Sewing: Ideas from Moda Designers’ Blogs

There are rumors in the virtual world that blogging is dead—that Instagram and Facebook are taking over and readers just don’t read blogs like they used to. Sure, blogs are tough to keep up, but many people still enjoy connecting with online friends through their written words and photos.

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Digging Deep into the Past and Present of Quilting

There are lots of reasons we love quilting—the fabrics, the patterns, the time spent sewing by machine and hand. For most of us, making quilts is enough. But some folks want to dig deep into quilting, to learn more about where quilts come from and where the art of quilting is going.

delaine log cabin coll brackman

Log cabin pieced of challis, delaines, and other mixed wools, circa 1870.

One way to learn more about quilting is to peruse quilting books and magazines. Moda’s very own designer, quilt historian Barbara Brackman, has written many books on quilt history and these are a great place to delve more deeply into quilting’s past. Her Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, for example, contains more than 4,000 examples from 1830 to 1970. While a number of her books are out of print, you can check her Etsy shop for some of them. (The images in this post are from Barbara’s collection.)

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Peony Patch tree, circa 1900-1920

Barbara’s blogs are also a terrific source of information. Check out Material Culture and Civil War Quilts. Her reproduction patterns, available in many of her books, would make a great group project—perfect for the shop owner who wants to provide a little historical background along with teaching technical skills.

Pineapple Coll Brackman

Wool Pineapple quilt, circa 1890-1910

If you’re interested in ongoing research and study, check out the American Quilt Study Group. They hold annual national meetings as well as regional meetings, publish the journal Uncoverings, and have a Facebook group where members share their quilt finds and questions.

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Hexagons, circa 1840

Quilters interested in taking things further can study quilting at the university level. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln offers a certificate and degrees in quilt studies. (I confess that this is on my bucket list. Especially because it’s possible to earn the certificate and one of the degrees via distance learning.)

zig-zag Coll Brackman

Orange Zig Zag , circa 1910-1925

Another option for learning more about quilt history is to become a quilt appraiser. Professional appraising certification can be earned through the American Quilter’s Society in Paducah, Kentucky. According to Lori East, one of about 100 appraisers certified by AQS in the U.S. and Canada, professionally trained appraisers must know about quilts, but also fabric styles, dating, and weaves; dye chemistry and history; tax and estate conditions for new and old quilts; social and political history and stay abreast of auctions, market conditions of new and old quilts, and current quiltmaking trends. “Certification is difficult and time-consuming and includes both written and oral examinations,“ says Lori. She notes that most quilt appraisers belong to the Professional Association of Appraisers of Quilts and Quilted Textiles, and she also shared a detailed blog post about appraising. You can find it here. Having a professional appraiser come to your shop or guild is a great way for members to learn about their own quilts, as well as about historic quilting in general.

hexagonpineapple coll Brackman

Hexagonal Pineapple quilt of wools, circa 1880

Did I miss any opportunities for professional certification in the quilting world? (I realize I’ve just touched on those the United States.) If you know of others, leave a comment. I’ve learned so much from your comments and I know others do, too. Thanks!

How do Moda Designers’ Gardens Grow?

When I talk with quilters, I find that in addition to fabric, they frequently love gardening. There’s something very similar about putting together a quilt—taking into account color, scale, texture, and pattern—and combining plants in a flowerbed. I’ve asked some Moda designers to share their gardens with you and you’ll see what I mean. (You’ll also see that their gardens are as diverse as their designs!)

First up is Pat Sloan.dp_pat-sloan-1I started to garden as a teenager when I lived in Brussels Belgium. In the Grand Place they had a market during the summer weekends. I bought a begonia, then tomato plants, and from there I’ve had flowers, herbs and the occasional veggie somewhere in my yard!Pat Sloan sunflower

Pat Sloan day lillies

Many of my quilts include flowers, from a daisy or rose that I grow in my garden, to simple posies like the ones in the basket on my quilt The Sweet life. Those add that little splash of flower and are so easy to stitch.Pat Sloan Sweet Life Sew Along block 2bOne of the happiest things I can do is visit a garden. I love to plan out all the flower beds, and buy flowers like I would fabric, planning how they will look together. pat sloan verbena

Pat Sloan white flowersWhen I created ‘Friends Forever’ I was thinking about my grandparents. Their neighbor was an amazing gardener and he would give my grandparents boquets for their kitchen table.. my grandparents never did do any gardening!pat sloan friends forever 1

For my Let’s Go Sew, I added my mom’s favorite, the rose! She love pink best, if she sewed I’d make her one with pink flowers!

Pat Sloan Lets go Sew pattern

Next is Janet Clare.

dp_janet-clare-300x282-1 We live in a commuter town about 40 minutes outside London. Our house is Edwardian (built around 1908) and we have been renovating it for the last 12 years. The garden has been sadly neglected and I suspect the last time there was a green-fingered gardener living in the house he was an Edwardian too!

But, we do have space for a table and chairs (all thrifted and gathered over the years), all mismatched and wobbly. I cover them with quilts, blankets and cushions and we sit outside as often as time and the British weather allows.

JClare ChairsThe garden is very green and wild and we have two large oak trees which are home to bats, birds, squirrels and bugs.We also have lots of sky which I love. Our neighbours are all tucked away and no-one over looks our garden.

Trees, sky and a comfy chair are all I need in a garden.

Here’s what Barbara Brackman has to say about her garden.dp_barbara-brackman-300x282I moved last summer from a Victorian house in a grove of oak trees to a 1970s house on top of a rocky hill. Under the oaks I got good at shade gardens, appreciating the subtle greens of hostas. But now I am thinking sun, sun, sun and color, color, color. I’m starting small with a strip in front of the front deck. Brackman garden1The photos show the sun garden in June. I’ve always concentrated on foliage but now it’s flowers. I am planning vegetables for next year.

I am also in the habit of container gardening so I can move the plants around as the sun shifts throughout the summer. I don’t need to follow the sun anymore but do love the color of the pots.Brackman garden2 The colors in the garden definitely show up in my latest line The Morris Jewels, William Morris prints in colors he’d never thought of.

precuts Morris jewels
Lynne Hagmeier enjoys the non-green aspects of her garden as much as the vegetation.
dp_kansas-troublesI don’t have much of a green thumb, I just grow whatever the deer won’t eat and fill in the bare spots with garden junk. I collect birdhouses made with odds and ends and place them strategically around the yard for bird watching. When flea market shopping with the grandkids, we watch for old wheels, interesting silverware, rusty parts, and thing-a-ma-jigs. They claim I grow more rusty junk in my garden than flowers!I love instilling in them that even castoff parts can be repurposed and enjoyed in the garden.

Lynne Hagmeier garden 2


Finally we’ve got Kate Spain, a gardener extraordinaire who is not afraid of hard work.dp_kate-spain-300x282You may remember her garden from two years ago, including the 7,000 lbs. of stone Kate and her husband hauled in as part of their landscaping project. Here’s what’s happened since:

I love to garden and some of you might remember that two summers ago, Pete and I endeavored to transform our “blank slate” backyard into a retreat for birds, butterflies, bees…and us. I always enjoy seeing before and after photos, and when I sifted through my pictures documenting our progress…even I was surprised! For fun, you can get your bearings by keeping your eye on the bird feeder in the corner. It was one of the few things that didn’t move! So, here’s what the yard looked like when we moved in:Kate Spain garden BEFOREThis is after we rototilled and plotted out the patio:Kate Spain Garden1Here is the patio with stones in place (all put there by Pete and me!), before the stone dust was swept between the cracks:Kate Spain Garden2And here it is now! I start just about every day out on that bench, sipping coffee, watching the birds and seeing what’s grown overnight.Kate Spain Garden3Another view…Kate Spain Garden5Here’s the shade garden with a little wall I built with stones we dug up throughout the yard:Kate Spain ShadeGarden1And here it is now:Kate Spain ShadeGarden2It seems that we grow vegetables, flowers and inspiration! I find so much happiness outdoors and every season offers something different in the way of color/texture/shape. I often stroll around taking photos of details that catch my eye. Before I start designing a fabric collection, I refer to these photos as starting points to build palettes and designs around. Here are some I took the other day that may turn into something eventually.Kate Spain Garden ColorsI also love succulents for their distinct edges, shapes and layers. We have a bunch of different varieties along the bed borders and in planters. These are some that I drew and included in Canyon.Kate Spain CanyonInspiration3Kate Spain CanyonInspiration2Can’t wait to see what’s blooming tomorrow! Happy gardening!

Build a Repro Stash with Barbara Brackman

Moda designer and author Barbara Brackman’s blogs are legendary for their fascinating looks into the world of antique and vintage fabrics. This year she’ll be sharing her knowledge of those textiles to help fabric lovers build a sophisticated stash, as well as giving them an opportunity to sew with some of their favorites.

STARSINATIMEWARPEach Wednesday in 2015, she’s decided to post a lesson on her Civil War Quilts blog about reproduction prints, along with a Stars in a Time Warp quilt-along. The posts will focus on reproduction fabrics in a specific style or color, and began in in January with favorite fabrics of the Civil War era.  Througout the year she’ll shift back in time, exploring the days of chintz and toile, and forward to the end of the 19th century, with the goal of helping fabric lovers learn what’s behind their beloved textiles. 

turkey reds

Stars in a Time Warp: Turkey Reds


The sew-along involves stitching the same 6-inch star each week (you can find the pattern here), but with different fabrics. A Flickr page for sharing blocks is here. (You can also check out the hash tag #starsinatimewarp on Instagram.) We asked Barbara what gave her the idea for this weekly series, and how it’s working out.

Becky Brown pillar

A Pillar Print by Becky Brown

How did you get the idea?

I recently moved and made decisions about what quilt fabric was valuable enough to me to pay movers to truck it across town. As anybody who’s watched Hoarders knows you have to make three piles: one to keep, one to move on to another owner, and one to throw away. Very little fabric made the “throw away” box, but lots went into the garage sale box to move on to someone else’s stash.

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Forty years of fabric

What got saved and moved? Little pieces of reproduction prints from the last 30 years: Prussian blue serpentine stripes, Turkey red foulards, buff printed plaids, and overdyed green calicoes. Moving made me realize what classics these prints are. I decided to make some small stars in my favorite prints and stitch a quilt of the best.

Barbara D Schaffer

Barbara D. Schaffer has an impressive stash of Prussian blue prints.

Why not ask my online Intergalactic Sewing Group to make stars too? For several years I’ve been doing an annual block-of-the-week with readers from Paris to Perth. I could tell them why I think certain prints are classics and what to look for when shopping for reproduction prints. I could show them prints available right now and tell them why they need a fat quarter or two. It could be a class and a SewAlong. And a lot of fun.

BettinaHavig pink

Double pink by Bettina Havig

What goes into building a stash of accurate reproduction fabrics?

I hear people say they don’t like reproduction fabrics because they “don’t like brown,”  or “cheddar is my least favorite color.” Reproduction prints go way beyond brown and safety-yellow, so I realized lessons in building a sophisticated stash would be appreciated. We’ll also look at how 19th-century quilters used the colors, trying to think like they would and make similar choices. When shopping for a good repro stash one should not rely on one’s own 21st-century taste but should be thinking “What would a Union soldier’s wife buy? What prints were available to First Lady Louisa Johnson Adams and reformer Lydia Maria Child (both of whom made quilts)? What period are black cotton prints accurate?”


Channeling the past

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Vintage block

When looking for new fabric it helps to know the history behind the reproduction prints. Quiltmakers are generally a visual lot. They see a print they like in an old quilt and remember what it looked like. But one can’t rely on visual memories alone. As a former teacher trainer I know it’s important to have a verbal name for images one is trying to hold on to. By the end of the year readers will be able to distinguish between a California gold and a quercitron yellow, a lapis blue and a china blue, a coral print and an eccentric print.


Wishful Thinking

This knowledge will help them in dating antique quilts and fabrics, in shopping for reproduction prints, and in sorting their stash. A small box of “Printed Plaids” is more useful than a very large box labeled “Reproduction Prints.” Knowing that one is looking for a “madder dyed foulard” that can be substituted for out-of-print yardage will add a new dimension to fabric shopping. (Oh boy! Fabric shopping!)



Madder Reds and Shirting Prints by Jeanne Zyck

If you’re interested in joining the sew-along, you can start at any time. And if you’d like to know a bit about the history behind your favorite fabrics, this is the perfect time to learn. Thanks, Barbara, for sharing your expertise!

(In addition to Civil War Quilts, Barbara’s other blogs include Material Culture  and  Austen Family Album.)