In preparing to head to Market, I’ve been thinking about when I started going and how Market has changed in the intervening years. My first Quilt Market was in fall, 2008, and I was gob-smacked at all there was to see. That hasn’t changed.
When Malka Dubrawsky made her first quilt 15 years ago, she barely knew about fat quarters or feed dogs. But she sees that as advantage.
“Not having all those rules in my head was a case of ignorance being absolute bliss,” she says. “Sometimes you get so caught up in how things should be that you don’t make things for the pure, sheer joy of it.”
Malka understands the pleasure of creating. “I’ve known since 8th grade that I wanted to make things for my profession,” she says. After graduating with a BFA in printmaking from the University of Texas in Austin, the city she still calls home, she decided to turn her grid-like drawings into quilts. With what she describes as a “junky” sewing machine and one basic quilting class under her belt she made a traditional quilt but wasn’t satisfied with the fabrics she found. A friend doing wax-resist work (the process used to create batiks) inspired her to try it, and she was hooked. Manipulating fabric through clamp-and-dye, shibori, and other techniques gave her the look she wanted, and the success of her Etsy shop and blog, A Stitch in Dye, made it clear that others loved the look too.
Malka’s first line of fabric, A Stitch in Color, brings to quilters everywhere the eye-popping hues and graphic patterns that previously only came from the dye vats in her garage, where she painstakingly applies wax to create a resist, soaks the fabrics overnight to increase their color intensity, and then boils out the wax. Malka admits that when the strike-offs (test pieces of fabric) were delivered to her house, she was so happy with the results that she turned to her youngest daughter and said “I may never dye fabric again!”
“Moda did a fantastic job,” she says. “They got all the mottling and the little imperfections that occur when you hand dye. They spent a lot of time working on getting it right. There are plenty of people interested in this kind of fabric, but no one else is doing it like this.”
Malka’s come a long way since her early stitching days. She’s written two books, Color Your Cloth: A Quilter’s Guide to Dying and Patterning Fabric (2009) and Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, and Inspiration (2010) and created patterns for quilts, pillows, and more. One of the changes she’s most pleased with is that the items she makes now find their way to people who appreciate them.
“When I first started quilting I had success at entering my quilts in shows, where they hung on the wall and people interacted with them for a limited time,” she says. “Now, I sell or give away almost everything I make—I like that they’re used. I love when something I’ve crafted is embraced by someone else and it brings them joy or keeps them warm—it completes the circle for me.