Shopping for Fabric in Tokyo, Part I

First, just to get you in the mood for how big, how huge, how overwhelming Tokyo can be, let’s Sing A Song (click on link below):

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It’s from a video taken at the Shibuyu scramble crossing, a place I went to on my recent trip to Tokyo.  The advertisers must pay Big Bucks to have four screens going at once.

 

 

Ginza Scramble Intersetion

I have to admit, I like the Ginza scramble crossing better (above), although I never got a video with people crossing, as I was always there early in the morning, before the rush.

But we’re here to talk about the fabric shopping.  I found shopping in three different places: Nippori Fabric Town (the nickname), Yuzawaya (an elegant store, 6th floor, Ginza area), and a place you might not think of: buying tenugui, or wiping cloths, in an artisan shop near Akihabara.

Here are three large files of the map of Nippori Fabric Town, 2017 version (click on each picture to enlarge it). I had printed out an older version of this map and taken with me, so this might help someone; these maps are available in many shops.  True confession:  I didn’t shop the entire street, as my time was short, so I will only share my experiences with part of the street.

Nippori Fabric Town is a section of  a street, not too far from the Nippori train station.  I had downloaded Hyperdia, an app that gives you travel directions for the massive subway system, and referred to it often.  Google Maps was also really helpful

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But the real godsend was the portable wifi hotspot we rented, which made our lives infinitely better while traveling in a place where you don’t speak the language (although there is a lot of English around, once you figure out where to look).

Oh, and Google Translate, another app.  You can open it, hold up your phone’s camera up to a sign, and it will translate it, so you can find out things by reading.  Of course, once in a shop, it translated the ingredients of a pastry as containing “walnuts, flour and Breath of Heaven,” so there you go. (I actually downloaded this at home to read a recent purchase of a Japanese book about lettering–helpful there, too–although the idiomatic expressions may always be a challenge.)

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My Hyperdia map (and Google map) said to exit the South Gate.  Where you exit in the Tokyo train stations can be as critical as to which train you take.  I had to ask once for help, and they redirected me, for even though you have the maps, you still get lost.Tokyo_Nippori2

Pretty panels outside the South Gate, as I headed on a walkway over the tracks to the stairs down to the street below:

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Check out the guy rolling his suitcase down the little ramp next to the handrail.

Come down the stairs, go across the street, then proceed straight at the next street.  Tokyo_Nippori3

Turn right when you see this:

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(You’ll be coming from the other direction: look for the giant upside-down hockey stick next to the iron maiden statue, and turn right in front of the stick.)

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I loved seeing these patterns all in Japanese, but didn’t buy any, being reminded of that line said by Barbara Bush about Nancy Reagan:  “She’s a size 4.  So is my left leg.” (I loved Barbara Bush; Japanese clothing is just not made for me.)

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I knew there was also a Happy Fabric I was supposed to scout out when I went to Seoul (next post), but doubted that they were related.  If you do a search for “fabric shopping in Tokyo,” there are several blog posts that will each give you a different piece of information about jumping into this experience.  And they all said:

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“Head for Tomato Fabrics.”

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The first Tomato shop was my favorite.  The fabrics were nicely organized, the shop was clean, the sales staff had a smidgen of English and were very helpful.  The down side of shopping on Nippori street is that the minimum purchase is 1 meter.  When I’m home shopping, and I have the back of my mini SUV to throw all my purchases in, this is not a problem.  But when I’m traveling overseas, and I have one small suitcase, slightly bigger than the size of my dresser drawer, this is not happy news.  I figured if I got desperate, I could leave half a meter of each fabric behind, but instead I left my pajamas behind, rather than part with any of my fabric (and a blouse in Incheon was abandoned, but that was a mistake: always check the closets, she now says).

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Why is she wearing a face mask?  It’s complicated.  But you see it everywhere.

At this shop I purchased these fabrics.  I made sure that everything I purchased was made in Japan, and I loved finding fabric by Keiko Goke and Yoshiko Jinzenji.  The sunflower print fabric, one a canvas and one a quilting cotton, are by Suzuko Koseki, with Yuwa again being the manufacturer.

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One down, more to go.  I’d asked the ladies in the above picture which Tomato shop had “patchwork” fabric, and headed that direction.

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This shop wasn’t it.  This was the 100 yen shop, or 1 meter for 100 yen.  At this time, we estimated that 1000 yen was roughly 9 dollars, so 100 yen was about 90 cents.  This is where I started to fall out of love with this adventure.  Again–if you are local, it’s bliss.  If you are a foreigner, with limited cash and space, it’s not really helpful to have a lot of fabric that is sort of clearance stuff, upholstery stuff, etc.  How can you possible carry home 3 yards of fleece, even if it is incredibly cheap?

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I moved on to this Tomato Shop, with five floors. (Doesn’t it make your heart leap to see all these rainbow colors, even if it is just fabric for dress lining?)  I passed on the American fabrics, for I learned that I’m just not keen to pay $20 bucks for a yard, and instead concentrated on local fabrics, of which I found plenty to choose from.

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Final Tomato store was a lot of fun.  While I was waiting to be checked out, I took a snapshot out the window of this electrical pole.  A work of high-powered art.

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Dots are universal.  I had obtained a rolling cart from a helpful employee, loaded it up with cute Japanese Christmas fabric and rolled it carefully to the cutting table, having checked to make sure I didn’t have the kind of tag that indicated I’d have to buy a meter of each.

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The selvages may have played a part in my decision…

Wrong.  I had to buy a minimum of a meter of each (above).  I put half of the bolts aside, and purchased four pieces, instead of the ten I’d picked out.  Even after I’d bought one meter of fabric, he wouldn’t cut a half of the next.  One meter per roll.

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I wandered through the remaining Tomato shops, feeling very much like it was warehouse shopping, and didn’t buy anything else.  My backpack was heavy, and it was only the 4th day of my trip.  Space would be a problem, for sure.

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When they say there are over thirty shops here, some of them are like the one above: leather skins hanging out front, along with mink balls, and a dingy interior (where the owner was slurping his ramen).

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Halloween?  Traditional Costume?  With one black hand, one white hand?

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Time to go home.  I retraced my steps back to the Nippori Station, a combination of old and new.  New, in that they have the barriers at all the track edges, and old with the arches.

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When I came back to my hotel, I noticed this little shop.  Always when I’d passed by it, early in the morning on the way to the subway station, the rollup metal door had been down, and I hadn’t known what was behind it.

So later that afternoon I went to see what was there.

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It had Liberty Fabrics, sashiko embroidery kits, lots of stitchery kits–a very charming shop in a very small space.  The employees knew about 5 words of English, a larger vocabulary than my pitiful Japanese, but they were unfailingly polite and tried to be helpful, always smiling.

The younger woman in the shop kept that smile plastered on her face, even when helping two other obtuse Americans who where there with me.  Maybe it was the end of a long day, or just their nature, but I was immediately embarrassed to be from the same place as them.  Woman A was nearly taking apart one of the displays, trying to figure out how it was put together, taking several photos.  The young employee came over and smiled, and held out her hands, as if offering to help.  Woman A barked at her “How will I know if I should buy this, if I can’t read the instructions?  I have to figure out if I can even make the darn thing!”

I wanted to pretend to speak French or German…anything but be associated with this person, who had not figured out the basic rule of Japanese consumerism:  Don’t Touch the Stuff.  Seriously.  You can ask them to show it to you, you can lightly gesture towards whatever you want to see and if they give you a nod, then proceed, but we Americans like to shop with our hands.  Touch touch touch.

And one more rule: be nice.

I remember once trying to buy a little wiping towel when I was in Japan in 2001, for there really weren’t towels or dryers in the bathrooms.  Every woman carried around a little towel in her purse, and pulled it out and dried her hands that way.  In this department store from the display, I leaned over to pick up the towel (really a washcloth) and the woman helping me said gently, “No, no.”  Then she scurried off to the back, came out with a washcloth like the one I was interested, and with both hands, presented it to me.  [This trip I saw dryers nearly everywhere, but still not too many paper towels.  And women everywhere were whipping out their little towel to dry their hands.]

I accepted all my packages this week with both hands.  I offered up my credit card with both hands.  I took the receipts given back to me with both hands.  But rarely did I ever touch anything in a shop without their permission.

Woman A ended up leaving without buy a thing.

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I also learned to let the shop know that my purchase was a gift, and the simplest wrapping job  — in this case a cellophane bag with a piece of paper, a little bit of ribbon with a sticker — became a work of art to take home.  This little bit of Japan in my suitcase was far better than yards and yards and meters and meters of wadded up fabrics.

Next post: Yuzawaya, Tokyo Shopping Heaven, and We Venture into Dongdaemun, in Seoul.

 

 

Gabrielle Paquin: Design and Graphics

Moseying along the main street, we headed to Site #7, the Eligse St-Louis, where I wanted to see the French quilter Gabrielle Paquin.  Previous to this, in my hotel room in Geneva, I had previewed all the exhibits, looking up the artists and deciding which ones interested me.  Paquin was one of them.

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I had seen photos of previous years’ exhibits, and the fact that many of them were in churches.  But it just doesn’t prepare you for the juxtaposition of the sacred and the quilting, the symbols of religious life coupled with the themes and ideas and colors and patterns of the quilts along the sanctuary walls.  It was wonderful.

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She spoke some English, and agreed to pose with me.  Check out her sweater.

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The Round, 2017

In her biography, she writes:

“For several years, I studied drawing and painting in a school of Fine Arts, my first vocation, and since then, I practice painting as an amateur. Simultaneously, I realized traditional patchworks inspired by American models large format of the 18th and 19th centuries.

“This practice evolved towards the contemporary patchwork and the textile art that I have been practicing assiduously for ten years, thanks to a constant inspiration and stimulated by the numerous exhibitions proposed with selection by a jury of artists and curators of museums.”

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Spring, 2016.

You can start to get a sense of the materials that Paquin works in: striped cloth.  In this one, she uses larger pieces that her usual strips, and has appliquéd them down to the background with a satin stitch on her machine.  I like her small monogram in the lower right corner.

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Twilight and Stripes, 2008 (?)

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Detail.

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I didn’t quite catch the name of this one (top, and detail, bottom), but it shows her use of her striped material.  I kept wondering if she cut up old shirts, or old clothing, or haunted fabric shops to find all these variations.

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In/Out, 2017.

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Detail.

I was impressed with the quilting on this piece, as it gave me great ideas.

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Flight II, 2015.

All the placards were in French, so I’m using Google Translate to write them in English, plus heading over to her website where she has some of these quilts.

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Detail.

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Detail.

She has found so many ways to use this fabric; I didn’t include all her quilts in this series, but many of them.

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Two Black Sisters, 2016.

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Storm II, 2012.

What a huge impact the simple reversal of value (light-dark) can make!

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Looking towards the back of the church.  She is sitting there at the table with the white tablecloth, waiting for people to come and talk with her.

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R-évolution, 2017.

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The Eye of the Cyclone, 2009.

We call cyclones “hurricanes,” and after this year, can definitely relate to the eye of such a storm.

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This title says something about a spider, and it was pinned up to show the creature responsible for this exotic web.

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Please visit the gallery on her website for more quilts and inspiration.

 

Note: this series about the European Patchwork Meeting has a main page, with a listing of posts.

Quilt Market • Salt Lake City (3)

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This quilt is called Over and Down Under, and is simply lovely.  I want to make twenty.  But this was a typical sort of sight and I’m afraid a typical sort of reaction from me.

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And another.  This came out last year, but to see it in person was really fun.  And thanks to you all for leaving me comments and for entering our giveaway.  The Husband Random Name Generator picked Mary of Lake Pulaski for the Elea Lutz book and Cathy C. for the Stashbusters book. (I’ll be in touch with you both by email.)  Actually I wanted to pick you all, so the next giveaway is on June 2nd.  And by the way, I’m working through all the comments where you asked me a specific question.  Thanks for your patience.  Now we continue. . .

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But I also get giddy when I see Alison Glass’ fabrics, as they are lush and rich and saturated.  These next few pictures are from Andover’s booths.  Today’s post is the last  of the business side of Quilt Market, before we break for an Oh Christmas Tree post on June 2nd.  Then I’ll return to show you the beautiful quilts exhibited in the center of Market, award-winning quilts from Houston.  Then we’re done with my lovely tumble down Alice’s — Quilt Market’s — rabbit hole.QMarket3_Andover2 QMarket3_Andover3 QMarket3_Andover4 QMarket3_Andover5 QMarket3_Andover6

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Near the Andover gang is the Art Gallery gang.  Above are the ordering tables, and now we’ll stroll through the quilt fabric designers’ booths.

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Maureen Cracknell in front of her new collection.QMarket3_ArtGallery4 QMarket3_ArtGallery6 QMarket3_ArtGallery7 QMarket3_ArtGallery8 QMarket3_ArtGallery9 QMarket3_ArtGallery9Makers

This is a collection of pillows, using fabrics from all the Art Gallery Collections.QMarket3_ArtGallery10 QMarket3_ArtGallery11

Exquisitely quilted little piece of deliousness in Bonnie Christine’s booth.

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Cotton & Steel’s newest collection from Rifle Paper Company.  Their booth won first place at Quilt Market–for design, I suppose, because it was so lovely.  Here are some photos:QMarket3_CS2 QMarket3_CS3 QMarket3_CS4 QMarket3_CS5 QMarket3_CS6

There’s that first place ribbon.QMarket3_CS7

Such a teensy little sample!QMarket3_CS8

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I hunted down Lecien’s booth because of this:QMarket3_Lecien2

This is Semaphore, Cindy Wiens’ quilt using my design, and it has been around the world, landing here for one more stop.  Cindy did a terrific job.  Mine is in the works; pattern coming soon.

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I have no idea whose booth this was, but check out those chairs!  Those colors!  Wow!

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Windham Fabrics was another favorite stop, and I did stop at their Pop-Up Shop before leaving on Saturday to pick up a few things.  As I noted before, there was very little for sale on the floor; this was one place you could buy something.
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Felice Regina’s new collection Luna Sol (sorry I caught her with her eyes closed!)QMarket3_Windham3 QMarket3_Windham3a

Check out these hexies from Yellow Creek Quilt Designs–amazing.
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Marcia Derse and her new collection, Studio Alphabet.

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This is the corner for the new fabrics from Janine Vangool (of Uppercase Fame), inspired by designs from her magazine.  (She gave me two magazines and a skinny pack of charm squares to use in a giveaway–coming soon!)QMarket3_Windham6 QMarket3_Windham7

Natalie Barnes’ new collection Hand Maker.

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How many ways can I photograph this display from RJR?  Apparently, after looking at my photos, a multitude of ways.QMarket3_RJR2

RJReynolds is the parent company of many fabrics, most notably, Cotton & Steel.QMarket3_RB5

I hunted all over for this quilt for SloStudio, the colorful confetti-style quilt in the center, and found it at Riley Blake; I posted it up on IG, and kept looking around.  I apologize if I don’t have the names of the makers–the tables for the buyers were snugged up to some quilts and I didn’t want to interrupt the business of quilting. All the following photos were from Riley Blake’s booths.  You should also know they had the most amazing mint chocolate truffles, and I sampled one.  Okay, maybe two.QMarket3_RB4 QMarket3_RB6 QMarket3_RB7 QMarket3_RB8

Kimberly Jolly of the Fat Quarter Shop.QMarket3_RB3

Lori Holt, in the green, waiting to sign books.  She had a great booth with all her quilts.

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Close-up of the above quilt.  I love how they pieced the squares and fused on the leaves.

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Fabri-Quilt had given me my Focus quilt to take home with me, so at the end of that last day, I posed it on the door handle going out and snapped a photo, as kind of a good-bye.  I never ever expected to be here at Quilt Market, and quite frankly, wonder if I’ll be here again.  It was a whirl of creativity, fabrics, colors, people, ideas and experiences.  I’m so glad I was able to come.

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(map of convention center, showing Fabri-Quilt’s booth)

Quilt Market: Salt Lake City (2) • Giveaway

Giveaway BannerUntitled-1First off, congratulations to Dorothy, who won the giveaway.  I’ll be in touch with you, Dorothy, to get your mailing info and get that off to you next week. Thank you to all who participated, and especially to all who commented on my yank-out-the-carpet-from-under-me fall.  I’m pretty much fine, and am going forward, but you can bet I’ll look twice before coming out of an aisle.  That story also made it to Carrie Nelson’s MODA blog, as I had to tell a story to her to get one of her camping badges.  For a great recap of her Moda Designers’ booths, head over there.

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I’ll also have another little giveaway at the end of this post, to reward you for reading, AND in honor of my mother’s 88th birthday.  This is a photo of her back in the day.   They apparently used to take all their birthday pictures outside because the camera couldn’t really capture the light as well inside.  I think of that when I tend to use my mobile phone everywhere because its light-capturing sensors are the best.

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Book Signings

Quilt Market is about business–the business of selling, of buying, of hawking your wares, of displaying, of meeting your buyers, meeting the designers, meeting the authors.  Sometimes I would get a book at these signings, and sometimes I just snapped photos on my way past.  Some publishers were gracious, not knowing who their books were going home with, yet others were a bit cranky about the whole thing.  Considering that I buy from all of them, I’ll never tell who was cheerful and who was cranky, but it taught me a lot about that aspect of this business.

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This talented lady’s book is part of our giveaway today.  Elea Lutz designs not only patterns, but also fabrics for Penny Rose (associated with Riley Blake Fabrics).  It’s a book published by Fat Quarter Shop and has charming pieced patterns, as shown in the quilt behind her.

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The other giveaway (I’ll divide them into two) is the Stashbusters Book, by Sarah Maxwell and Dolores Smith, a wonderful collection of scrappy reproduction-style quilts.  I’ll choose two from the comments left below; let me know if you have a preference for which book you might win.

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Once I left the cocoon of my Painter’s Palette booth and ventured out, I saw this young woman modeling the skirt found in Alison Glass’ LookBook.    It was like — pinch me!–as I encountered Famous People and things I recognized from all the advertising I see when I read magazines, or attend quilt shows, or wander through the web.  It was going to be a day of double takes as I walked among the Business of Quilting, the other side of the quilty looking glass.

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Sassafras Lane Designs, in all their colorful glory.
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Renegade salespeople in the lobby of the Salt Palace.  Great carpet, right?QMarket_QuiltSoup2 QMarket_QuiltSoup1

Quilt Soup.  (That’s not Barbara Jones, but a “booth babysitter,” she said.QMarket_Kokka

Don’t look now, but that woman in the Kokka booth is wearing a Wookie Backpack.  I was in line behind her later on at the Lucky Spools book signing, and she shared with us all the trending video of the woman who’d just purchased a Chewbacca Mask for her birthday.  I thought that was a neat coincidence.
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These three pictures are from Katie Cupcake, by Amy Hamberlin.  I love that Midtown bag.QMarket_Jillily1 QMarket_Jillily

Jillily Studio’s booth was a sweet shop, complete with little bagged chocolate truffles they gave out.QMarket_Hoffman4

Hoffman Fabrics are in my neck of the woods in Southern California, and first started with Hawaiian print fabrics for the local surfers.
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I don’t know if you can see it, but Latifah Saafir’s booth (Hoffman Fabrics) has a pair of tennis shoes slung over a wire–so LA.  I loved it!

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Fun also to see Hoffman’s newest line of fabrics from Thistlewood Farms.  Those blues! (And yes, that’s KariAnne Wood holding her quilt.)QMarket_HeatherJones

Heather Jones’ line of fabric is subtle, but I bought some at Sample Spree because I think it will work well in so many quilts.  One of my favorite types of fabrics are those that bring a punch of something new to the existing stash, giving it more life.  She has some great designs in her collection.
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Here is a series of photos from the Clothworks/Frou-Frou booths, across the aisle from each other.  Maybe because I was thinking about my trip to Geneva last week, and how I was missing the small prints from Europe, but I really fell in love with these fabrics (plus I love how they feel).QMarket_FrouFrou5 QMarket_FrouFrou4

I love their cans of projects.  Very clever.QMarket_FrouFrou3 QMarket_FrouFrou2 QMarket_FrouFrou1 QMarket_FreeSpirit5

Now, for a complete change of pace, this is the Free Spirit Booth.  I noticed more and more of this type of booth design among the big names: a central section for the business of ordering, and small alcoves for the designers.
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Amy Butler’s section.  She also had a larger booth:QMarket_AmyButler

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Tula Pink’s alcove.
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Snow Leopard Designs by Phillip Jacobs (again, for Free Spirit Fabrics)QMarket_EHartman

Elizabeth Hartman’s booth, with the lovely creator in attendance.QMarket_CoriDantini1

Cori Dantini, for Blend Fabrics.  I loved their booth:

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EdMar Company, a small vendor from Idaho was selling these gorgeous rayon Brazilian Embroidery Threads.QMarket_Benartex

Benartex.  I think you can see where all those beautiful quilts go that we see in “sneak peeks” on Instagram (and yes, I spelled “peeks” correctly).  Every booth was awash in beautiful quilts, and I must admit I hadn’t even hit the Moda booths yet, and I was already in overload.  So I thought I’d better head over and see Sherri’s booth, since I’d sewn a couple of items for her and had a sneak peek myself of some of her beautiful fabrics.QMarket_AQuiltingLife3 QMarket_AQuiltingLife2 QMarket_AQuiltingLife1

I could never get a photo that wasn’t blurry of these two women, so this will have to do.  The Moda designers were in clusters at this show, which didn’t give them much space, but that made meeting them easier.

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That’s enough for today’s post. More is coming.

WWII Lincoln Memorial

Have a safe Memorial Day (or Decoration Day, as my mother calls it).  Leave a comment below to win a book in the giveaway.  I’ll choose one and announce it in the next post.

UPDATE: Comments closed.  Winner announced in next post.  Thanks to you all for entering!

Starry Compass Rose

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Starry Compass Rose
Quilt # 156

Starry Compass Rose EQ7 sketch

I’d like to tell you the background about how I went to Quilt Market.  I was contacted by Paintbrush Studios in November of 2015 to see if I would design and make a quilt for them using their Painter’s Palette line of solids.  At first I was like, who is this? but soon got to corresponding with Anne, a delightful woman with a great sense of humor.  She turned me over to Deena in the design department, and I sent over a rough sketch.  Then another.  We soon had several renditions flying back and forth over email, which meant not only did I have to design a quilt for them, and sew it, but I also had to learn how to express myself in EQ7 (cue: grimace).  I learned it “enough” and produced the sketch you see above.StarryCompassRose_booth3

Of course, all this is stuff I couldn’t mention on the blog, but I worked on this steadily from late November until mid-February when I sent off to them a quilt top, binding, backing and a label.  Someone else would quilt it.StarryCompassRose_booth1

As a thank-you for this experience, I made them Focus, a small quilt to hang in their booth at QuiltCon. While at QuiltCon, I screwed up my nerve to ask Sue and Deena if I could get a pass to see the quilt at market, and they arranged it.StarryCompassRose_quilting5 StarryCompassRose_quilting4 StarryCompassRose_quilting3

But I was most interested in seeing my quilt, all quilted up by Denise Marieno, at Quilt Market.  I was sad to see it go in February, but ecstatic to see it now, hanging in the Painter’s Palette booth.  I checked on the progress several times on Thursday as they set up their booth, watching as they moved it from an inner spot, to an outer spot.  They were very happy with the result, as was I.  Denise did a terrific job of quilting it.StarryCompassRose_quilting2 StarryCompassRose_quilting1 StarryCompassRose_booth2 StarryCompassRose_label

So now it’s gone, and who knows when I’ll see it again, but oh, what a high! to see it at market.  I hope I can work with them again sometime, as I thoroughly enjoyed the process and the people at this company.

I’ve spent my life in unheralded endeavors: a young bride having babies, a mother at home, a student, an adjunct professor, but no one praises your skill at loading a dishwasher, managing a complicated carpool schedule, or compliments you on the nice comments you leave on student papers.  So to come into Quilt Market and to see my quilt hanging there as a professional quilt designer was an experience I won’t soon forget.  It was like someone patted me on the head and said “You did great,” that my skills were recognized, instead of just giving service or being a cog in what passes for Higher Ed these days.  I certainly don’t regret being a mother-at-home, nor of my years of teaching.  I don’t regret being an older student, trying to fit in with the 20-somethings who were writing edgy short stories that included drugs and sex, while all I could come up with is little stories of mothers and fathers and families that somehow always included a quilt somewhere.

But to round that corner that first morning and see this quilt?
Oh, so satisfying.

tiny nine patches

Next post: Day One of Market, going to Schoolhouse, a Tumble, and a Giveaway