Before I was a sewist and quilter, I had no clue about the vast, mind-boggling world of fabric. I assumed Jo-Ann Fabrics was it. That was where everyone bought fabric, right?
I will never forget the very first time I set foot in my local quilt shop. It was Intown Quilters in Decatur, GA and I highly recommend you stop in if you’re in the area. The shop is in house converted into a retail space – walls and walls of fabric bolts, notions, and patterns. I ended up talking to the owner for quite a while and explained that I was a new quilter. She educated me on the fact that there was a difference between “quilt shop quality” fabric and fabric purchased from big box stores. I learned that most quilting manufacturers didn’t even sell their lines at stores like Jo-Ann Fabrics.
Out of all the information I found on the difference between fabric and quilt shop quality fabric, Pat Sloan’s blog had one of the best explanations: the benefits of quilt shop quality are a higher thread count, less shrinkage, softer cotton, and longer lasting.
Like the fashion industry, the sewing/quilting industry has a huge number of manufacturers, designers, and lines. Chanel, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors – move over for Cotton+Steel, Moda, Art Gallery Fabrics, Robert Kaufman, and Michael Miller.
When I started out shopping for fabric, I didn’t know there were well-known makers, designers, and trendy lines. I would simply pick colors and prints that I liked and didn’t even notice what was on the selvage.
Obviously, a lot has changed since then and I have become familiar with the big names of fabric. As part of an ongoing Quiltonomics series here on Moore Approved, I have compiled a list of some the major players, and talk a little about each one. Information was gleaned from websites and other online sources.
MOTTO: Catering to the tastes of creative and dedicated quilters, Andover has a style for every look — authentic reproductions, romantic florals, exotic Orientals, ethnic influence, whimsical, funky, playful or basic
HEADQUARTERS: New York, NY
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Very little information available online
SPECIALIZES IN: Quilting cottons
DESIGNERS: Alison Glass, Carol Van Zandt, Claudine Hellmuth, Eric Carle, Firetrail Designs, Fiyel Levent, Gail Kessler / Ladyfingers Studio, Echo Park Paper Co, Greta Songe, Jamie Kalvestran, Jane Dixon, Jesus Cruz, Jo Morton, Kathy Hall, Katie Hennagir, Kelly Lee-Creel, Kim Schaefer, Lauren Marcella, Lizzy House, Lonni Rossi, Lori Mason, Makower UK, Marisa and Creative Thursday, Modern Quilt Studio, Museum of New Mexico, Quilted Koala, Quilts of Valor Foundation, Renee Nanneman of Need’l Love, Studio Art Quilt Associates, Winterthur Museum, International Quilt Study Center and Museum
VIBE: According to the YouTube profile, Andover Fabrics is “a recognized leader in the quilting industry, Andover Fabrics features designs by a wide variety of talented fabric artists. Catering to the tastes of creative and dedicated quilters, Andover has a style for every look — authentic reproductions, romantic florals, exotic Orientals, ethnic influence, whimsical, funky, playful or basic.” Honestly – I’m not even sure if I own any Andover fabrics, but the proclamation about having something for everyone seems true. The designs I’ve seen are all over the gamut.
MOTTO: Feel the difference
HEADQUARTERS: Hollywood, FL
HOW IT ALL STARTED: In 2004, founder Pat Bravo’s desire to bring a “chic and modern perspective to the quilting industry” inspired its beginnings with husband Walter.
SPECIALIZES IN: 100% Pima quilting cotton, voile, knits
DESIGNERS: Pat Bravo, Bari J, Jeni Baker, Sara Lawson, Angela Walters, Katy Jones, Bonnie Christine, Leah Duncan, Frances Newcombe, Katarina Roccella, Sharon Holland, April Rhodes, Caroline Hulse of Sew Caroline, Sarah Watson
VIBE: Art Gallery Fabrics describes its style as “Contemporary Elegant” and that definitely rings true. AGF has tapped many notable bloggers to design lines, which is a smart move to reach quilters through people who already have a devoted following. Personally, I have my eye on this fabric maker as one to watch – the designs coming out of AGF are so beautiful and unique.
MOTTO: Organic Cotton – Happy You – Happy Earth
HEADQUARTERS: Cranford, NJ
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Since 2009, Cloud9 Fabrics has provided organic cotton fabric for the home sewing enthusiast
SPECIALIZES IN: Quilter’s weight cotton, canvas, voile, flannel, corduroy, barkcloth, broadcloth, premium sheeting, yarn dye broadcloth
DESIGNERS: Anne-Marie Bossaert, Avril Loreti, Ed Emberley, Eleanor Grosch, Elizabeth Olwen, Eloise Renouf, Geninne, Goodnight Moon, Jessica Jones, Julia Rothman, Jo Clark, Leslie Shewring, Lisa Congdon, Michele Brummer-Everett, Michelle Engel Bencsko, Monica Solorio-Snow, Mo Willems, Rae Hoekstra, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Rob Bancroft, Sarah Watson, Skinny Laminx, Steffie Brocoli
VIBE: Definitely the eco-friendly option for cotton fabric. While Cloud9 does tend to cost more, the designs are gorgeous, fun, and offer great color palettes.
MOTTO: Family-owned and operated online quilt store that exists to inspire, support, and supply quilters with everything they need for this wonderful craft
HEADQUARTERS: Vancouver, WA
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Established in 1994, the company originated as a quilting catalog business, and over the years, has grown to be one of the largest quilting sites and catalog retailers of quilting fabric, kits, thread, books, and quilting notions in the United States and Canada.
SPECIALIZES IN: Exclusive fabric collections, fabrics from other manufacturers, exclusive quilting and piecing threads, books, batting, notions, quilting kits, and precut fabric bundles.
VIBE: Out of all of the fabric companies, Connecting Threads is the only one operating solely online. I have yet to order anything, but really need to change that. I like the variety of both in-house and external designs – and the PRICES! The exclusive Connecting Threads products are so reasonably priced: $5.96 for quilting cottons and $7.96 for many of the flannels.
MOTTO: As a young company, Cotton + Steel hopes to honor the traditions of creativity, resourcefulness, and innovation inherent in the sewing and quilting world.
HEADQUARTERS: Torrance, CA
HOW IT ALL STARTED: New division of RJR Fabrics – founding designer Melody Miller sparked the idea in 2013.
SPECIALIZES IN: Quilting cottons, canvas, double gauze, cotton lawn, voile, basics
DESIGNERS: Melody Miller, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Alexia Abegg, Kim Kight, and Sarah Watts
VIBE: From what I understand, Cotton + Steel caused a huge commotion at the 2013 Fall Quilt Market because it was so revolutionary. I’ve seen this fabric anywhere and everywhere (and own a LOT of it myself!). The bold, fun, graphic prints are modern, yet have a vintage nod.
MOTTO: Responsive Passionate Appreciative – “Delightful and Rich” as our motto, through our business and responsiveness, we strive to create a plush cultural life to all.
By offering passion to our customers and in return appreciating the opportunity, we aspire to contribute to our society.
HEADQUARTERS: Osaka, Japan
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Established in 1948
SPECIALIZES IN: Quilting cottons, canvas, double gauze, linen blend, sateen
DESIGNERS: Ellen Baker, Kana Mori, Candy Party
VIBE: Delicate, novelty prints with a very distinct Asian flair. I have never owned anything from this line, but there are quite a few that I wouldn’t mind adding to my stash – particularly the animal prints.
MOTTO: Commitment to inspirational, impeccably made goods and services
HEADQUARTERS: London, UK (of course!)
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty borrowed £2,000 from his future father-in-law in 1875 to open up a store on Regent Street. He set out to change the look of home housewares and fashion. By 1884, Liberty added in-house apparel to challenge Paris fashions.
SPECIALIZES IN: In-house collections of scarves, accessories and fabrics, and the finest designer fashion and homeware from all over the world. As far as fabrics go – Liberty makes tana lawn, crepe de chine, georgette, and silk satin
VIBE: Out of all the fabric giants, Liberty is like the Chanel of the quilting world. A highly coveted status symbol, with prices to match. The beautiful designs have an extremely distinct look. I have yet to own any of these prints, as they go for $32+ PER YARD. However, I do like many of the prints and loved this double wedding ring quilt on display at the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo.
MOTTO: Making it fun
HEADQUARTERS: New York, NY
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Michael Steiner and Kathy Miller collaborated to form Michael Miller Fabrics in 1999. Kathy had a background in sewing and painting, designing for a variety of markets and companies.
SPECIALIZES IN: Batiks, clipdot, cotton couture, cotton sateen, cozy, eyelet, flannels, laminates, organics, poly satin
DESIGNERS: Cynthia Rowley, Emily Herrick Designs, Laura Gunn, Mark Hordyszynski, Patty Sloniger, Sarah Jane, Tamara Kate, Trenna Travis, Violet Craft
VIBE: For not having as many designers as I initially thought, Michael Miller sure does put out a lot of high impact prints that really catch your eye. The designers are curated well, and I love Cynthia Rowley, Sarah Jane and Violet Craft collections. Most definitely have more of a feminine appeal, but would be magical in a child’s room as décor.
MOTTO: The company that cares
HEADQUARTERS: Dallas, TX
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Founded in 1975 as a multi-line fabric, notions, and finished product manufacturer and distributor – does not sell directly to retail consumers.
SPECIALIZES IN: Quilting cottons, notions, patterns, books, and supplies
DESIGNERS: 3 Sisters, Abi Hall, American Jane, Amy Ellis, Aneela Hoey, April Rosenthal, Barbara Brackman, BasicGrey, Berenstain Bears, Blackbird Designs, Bonnie & Camille, Brenda Riddle, Bunny Hill Designs, Chez Moi, Chloe’s Closet, Deb Strain, Erin Michael, Fig Tree and Co., French General, Gina Martin, Holly Taylor, Howard Marcus, Ingrid Slyder, Jan Patek, Janet Clare, Jen Kingwell, Jenn Ski, Kansas Troubles, Kate & Birdie, Kate Nelligan, Kate Spain, Kathy Schmitz, Laundry Basket, The Jungs, Lella Boutique, Lily Ashbury, Malka Dubrawsky, Mary Jane, Me&My Sister, Minick & Simpson, Moda Fabrics, MoMo, Pat Sloan, Primitive Gatherings, Sanae, Sandy Gervais, Sara Khammash, Sentimental Studios, Stephanie Ryan, Studio M, Sweetwater, The Comstocks, Tim & Beck, Urban Chiks, Vanessa Christenson, Zen Chic
VIBE: Moda’s marketing team is genius at putting more fun into quilting! From the Moda Bake Shop site with tutorials – cleverly named “recipes” – to coming up with cute names for precuts like charm pack, jelly roll, layer cake, turnovers, honey combs, honey buns. This is one of the first lines of fabric I ever heard of as a quilter. With a super long list of designers on the roster, there is so much to choose from.
MOTTO: Cottons that feel like silk
HEADQUARTERS: Vaughan, Ontario & Lyndhurst, NJ
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Founded in 1935 originally as a fashion textile converter. During the mid 1980s Northcott switched to the cotton print market.
SPECIALIZES IN: International distributor and converter of fine cotton printed fabrics for the quilt, craft and home decor industries
DESIGNERS: Amy Sia, Barbara Lavallee, Cheri Strole, Deborah Edwards, Elaine Quehl, Ged Akland, Jackie Von Tobel, Jane Spolar of Quilt Poetry, Janet Stever, Jenny Foster, Julie Dobson Miner, Kent Williams, Linda Ludovico, Michele Scott of The Pieceful Quilter, Sue Beevers, Tracey Sims, Urban Zundt
VIBE: Prints are mainly traditional, or for quilters who work with novelty children’s and themed prints. Honestly, I know next to nothing about this fabric house – but I see it listed on lots of online shops as a manufacturer so felt I should include it.
MOTTO: Inspiring fabrics for every generation
HEADQUARTERS: Torrance, CA
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Founded in 1978 by Robert Cohan and sons, James and Richard.
SPECIALIZES IN: 100% cotton fabrics, brushed flannels, and cotton sateens
DESIGNERS: Lynette Anderson, Jinny Beyer, Sue Marsh, Dan Morris, Jacqueline Decker, Marianne Elizabeth, Debra Grogan, Susie Johnson, Mary McGuire, Robyn Pandolph, Yuko Hasegawa, Audrey Wright, Alex Anderson, Patrick Lose, Rachael Wright, Christine Sharp, Debbie Beaves
VIBE: Seems more aimed to the traditional quilter, carries solids and lots of novelty prints
MOTTO: Quality wholesale fabrics for quilting, fashion & manufacturing since 1942
HEADQUARTERS: Los Angeles, CA
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Robert Kaufman emigrated from Russia to New York. Eager to create a legacy for his family, Kaufman formed a successful menswear company Meadowpark Clothes. However, the stock market crash of 1929 took him back to square one. In 1942, Kaufman started the company that exists today from a showroom on Fifth Avenue in New York City. When his son was diagnosed with severe asthma, Kaufman relocated the family to Los Angeles.
SPECIALIZES IN: Wholesale converter of quilting fabrics and textiles for manufacturers as well as a supplier to the retail, quilting, home decor, bridal, uniform, and apparel industries.
DESIGNERS: Ann Kelle, Teresa Ascone, Avanti Press, Inc., Margaret Berg, Jody Bergsma, Brejer, Leesa Chandler, Sue Coccia, Heidi Dobrott, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Emmie K, Cynthia Frenette, Carolyn Friedlander, Caleb Gray, Mary Lake-Thompson, Lunn Studios, Pink Light Design, Print & Pattern, Jennifer Sampou, Amy Schimler-Safford, Peggy Toole, Suzy Ultman, Valori Wells, Wimpy Kid, Inc., Laurie Wisbrun, Darlene Zimmerman, Robin Zingone
VIBE: There doesn’t seem to be any type of fabric RK DOESN’T make. From the quilting cottons, to Kona solids, to Essex yarn dyed linen – there is so much to like. Many of these designs are more gender neutral and universally appealing.
MOTTO: Lifestyle fabrics
UPDATE – FreeSpirit’s motto: We welcome the world to a dazzling surprise: a fire for your mind and a feast for the eyes, a woven explosion of color and shade, creatively bursting with dreams to be made. So, crafters and quilters and fashion creators, accessory sewers and home decorators; our circle of makers, our one fabric nation, come, be a free spirit and find inspiration.
HEADQUARTERS: Charlotte, NC
HOW IT ALL STARTED: Founded in 1980 by Ken and June Bridgewater at a Boston art gallery, where they sold wearable arts. One of the artists was then unknown Kaffe Fassett. The company has three divisions: Rowan Fabric, FreeSpirit, and Ty Pennington Impressions.
SPECIALIZES IN: Wide range of cotton, fashion, and home dec fabric.
DESIGNERS: Kaffe Fassett, Tula Pink, April Cornell, Zandra Rhodes, Alice Hickey, Studio KM, Vicki Payne, Nel Whatmore, Brandon Mably, Jennifer Paganelli, Anna Maria Horner, Ty Pennington, Victoria & Albert Museum, Amy Butler, Tina Givens, Erin McMorris, Jane A. Sassaman, Verna Mosquera, Valori Wells, Denyse Schmidt, Tim Holtz, Tanya Whelan, Philip Jacobs, Marjolein Bastin, Kathy Davis, Parson Gray, Jenean Morrison, Heather Bailey, Joel Dewberry, David Walker, Dena Designs, Amy Butler
VIBE: This fabric giant has branched out into several areas of textiles, and carries both modern and traditional quilting fabric. Tula Pink seems to be the one of the hottest designers at the moment. Kaffe Fassett, Anna Maria Horner, and Amy Butler designs cater more to the artsy quilter.
MOTTO: To create fabrics which inspire passion and creativity for quilters with various tastes and differing skill levels throughout the world.
HEADQUARTERS: Jersey City, NJ
HOW IT ALL STARTED: A division of Baum Textile Mills, a family run business since 1955, Windham Fabrics was introduced in 1995 to focus on the needs of quilt shops. Windham Fabrics works with quilt historians, industry experts, an in-house design studio, and well-known designers from all around the world.
SPECIALIZES IN: Baum Textiles features an extensive selection of fabrics for both retail and manufacturing clients. Windham Fabrics focuses on authentic reproductions of antique fabrics, florals, textures, retro and many other contemporary fabric collections sourced from home textiles, scrapbooking and the fashion industries that are created exclusively for quilt shops only.
DESIGNERS: Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew, Amanda Caronia of Bella Caronia, American Vintage, Ampersand Design Studio, Amy Sedaris (WHAT!?), Another Point of View, Bethany Fuller, Brenda Papadakis, Carolyn Gavin of Ecojot, Carrie Bloomston of SUCH Designs, Cheryl Warrick, Daphne Brissonnet, Dinara Mirtalipova, Erica Hite, Fierce Mally, Fiona Stokes-Gilbert, French Bull, Heather Givans, Heather Ross, Historic Hugeunot, Iza Pearl Design, Jan Avellana, Jeanne Horton, Jessica Levitt, Jill McDonald, Jill Shaulis – Yellow Creek Quilt Designs, Julia Rothman, Julie Hendricksen, Karen Cruden, Kate McRostie, Kim Andersson, LB Krueger, Lily Gonzales-Creed, Lisa DeBee Schiller, Lotta Jansdotter, Macrina Busato, Marcia Derse, Mary Elizabeth Kinch, Mary Koval, Melanie Testa, MY<3KT, Nancy Gere, Petit Collage, Rosemarie Lavin, Sara Franklin, Sarah Fielke, Sue Schlabach, Tracie Lyn Huskamp, Whistler Studios, Williamsburg
VIBE: First off – whoa – that’s a lot of designers! Like Westminster, Windham doesn’t just have one style – they are all over the place on selection. I probably have a few pieces of Windham in my stash, but it’s not like you look at a bolt of fabric and can say, “Oh yes, that’s definitely a Windham!” The website is at least easy to navigate and sort by theme or category, and this was one of the easiest companies to research online. And did anybody know actress Amy Sedaris had her own fabric line??? I wonder if she sews…
When I set out to round up the movers and shakers in the fabric world, I thought it would be a pretty quick post.
It was not.
This is the culmination of about 12 hours of my time and effort. The information was not exactly easy to track down. While some of the fabric houses were easy to research, others had very little available. I emailed a couple to ask for additional facts about their company to include, but didn’t receive a response. If I do – I will update this post accordingly.
I learned a LOT from this experience. For whatever reason, a few of the manufacturers appear to have far more designers than they actually utilize. Must mean they’re very effective at creating an impression, right? The history of each company and finding out the scope of what they do is absolutely fascinating.
Moving forward, I may focus in on individual fabric companies to profile. Is that something that you would want to read out? If so – let me know below in the comments.
Feel free to share this post and tag @MooreApproved and hashtag #MooreApproved and #Quiltonomics. My goal for this series is to share information about sewing and quilting to a more universal audience and hopefully encourage others to give it a try!
See you next time!