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WELCOME Fabric Lovers!


Winter News Letter

by  Robin Brisson

Quilter Studio


The color red continues to be a strong influence in decorating, both for Christmas and every day. And also from the influence of the Red Hat Society that is so popular in the Midwest and slowly coming to the East coast and New England area. Watch our website for items featuring the red hat society theme including fabric, t-shirts and other items.

People are getting away from "collectables" … some even go as far to call them "dustables". Evidence of this is in the decline of beanie baby sales and other items like figurines. Homes have a cleaner, neater more simplified look and feel. The world is so busy outside; people want calm inside, especially visually. Consider all the television shows that help people organize and get rid of clutter. There are even entire stores devoted just to clutter busting. Clutter is a big no-no. The trend is spend more on just one large focal point-like a beautiful vase, basket, bowl or artwork-instead of paying the same amount of money for many small items.  Another is toward very practical, functional items-photo frames, candles, kitchen textiles-instead of just items that just look good and have no practical application.

Another trend is people have much smaller Christmas trees or no Christmas tree at all. Many don't have the time or space for a tree so there are many creative alternatives. There are artificial trees that come all decorated and just mount on the wall. Some homes have very small real trees "just for the smell" and put them on coffee tables. Last year my mom used a wooden wagon to hold the gifts. She had a wonderful wagon she used outside to hold geraniums. She put it in the corner of the living room, added a garland of greens around the top and put a strand of mini white lights around the edge with a big red bow on the handle. It worked perfect. Everyone thought it was a great idea. When my little nephew came in for the holiday get together, we told him that Santa uses a wagon instead of a sleigh sometimes. I have a very small artificial tree in my kitchen. I decorate it with mini cookie cutters and other small objects like thimbles. Many people have similar themed trees in their home, like a gingerbread man theme, home on the range or cowboy, just cats, objects found on the beach or at least just a one color tree.  

Decorating and Gift Ideas

All these trends are very good news for us as quiltmakers. What could be a better focal point than a quilt on a wall! Or what could be more practical than a homey quilt on a bed to bring warmth and charm into a room! And even renters or people with small apartments (dorm rooms) can add a cozy touch of home without painting!

One recent industry survey found that 30% of shoppers planned to purchase kitchen textiles this year and another 25% were going to buy tablecloths. This supports my long held theory that a person can never have enough of the three P's…potholders, pillows and pillowcases and placemats! Nothing freshens the look and feel of a room more than a simple change of placemats or new pillows. Think of all the decorating shows. At the end they always add the magic touch, pillows for a splash of color or a nice place setting. I constantly need of new potholders; for some reason they keep getting caught on fire!

I grew up in a household where everyone always sewed all the time so I am always amazed at the number of people, of all ages, who have no sewing skills what so ever and just love to receive gifts that I have made. So look over your list and see who needs any of the 3 P's. Go through your stash and or browse through my website to find some great prints and novelty fabric just right for that special person.

Potholders- Consider some placemats and matching potholders. Add some recipe cards with your favorite recipes and you have a wonderful gift that anyone would enjoy. Potholders don't have to be square. Think outside the box. I have one in the shape of Vermont. Make one in the shape of a cats face for the animal lover. Trace your hand and just enlarge on a copier. Use a bread plate as a template to make a circle and embroider the person's name on the front. If you can't think of a unique shape just ask a first grader, they always have plenty of fresh ideas. Just be sure to use a good heat proof lining, like a few layers from the good section of an old ironing board cover, a couple of layers of a thick towel, or you can even purchase lining made just for potholders.

Placemats-A good size for placemats is about 15 by 18 inches; a bit smaller for a small table or lots of place settings or a bit larger for a big table. Rectangles and ovals work great. Try to personalize them for the recipient. Look through the U.F.O. pile. Do you have four log cabin blocks that you started but discovered you hate log cabin? Use one as a center of a placemat. Just keep adding more "logs" on the side. Do you have some left over border? Use it as a strip down the side. Make a pocket from matching fabric to hold the silverware. And while you are making placemats, don't forget the cat and dogs. People love to get things for their pet. Pet owners are spending more and more on clothing for their pets, even birds. If you don't know what to get for someone, find out if they have a cat or dog, and give something special to the pet.  Just make a rectangle from a cat theme fabric; maybe even add the cats name with a paint pen or embroidery. It adds a special touch for under their food dish. I have lots of cat fabric on the website. I even have one of very realistic looking cats. If you are in a real hurry just quick fuse some of the motifs on the waffle tea towels I sell on my website. They come in a great variety of colors; wash really well and one towel will make two placemats. Just personalize it with the family or pet's name with embroidery or a paint pen.

Pillows/Pillowcases- I don't know about your house but in my house (especially with teenagers) someone is always sleeping on the couch or sleeping over. I have made several "cool" pillowcases to be used for just this reason. They are so easy to make that you don't mind if they get left behind at camp or someone's house or something spilled on them. You don't break a matching set for the bed and they add a more decorator touch to the family room instead of just a plain pillowcase. For a standard size pillow, purchase a one yard length of 44 inches fabric. Turn the hem down to the wrong side about 3 inches along the width of the fabric and stitch. You can even quick fuse it but it may not hold up to washings (and pillow fights) as well. Sew along the 36-inch side with wrong sides together. Turn right side out and press. You may have to adjust the size depending on your pillow.  Then have fun decorating them and adding embellishments. Have the kids decorate them with paint pens. Add lace and ribbon or embroider the person's name. Select a designer fabric (the paisley fabrics or large scale shabby chic florals on my website work great) or sew 4-inch squares together for a country look. These are also handy to keep in the back of the car. Or make a few throw pillows. They don’t' have to be square. Use a big plate as a template to make several round pillows in matching colors. Stack them together and tie with a big fabric bow. It's a great accent for any room. How about a pillow in the shape of a pair of lips for a teenager! For a child make a pillow with a pocket and buy a book or some baseball cards to tuck inside. Just cut out two fronts, fold one in half for a pouch in the front and sew as usual. Use some of the same ideas for the potholders and placemats above for the pillows. People even make little pillowcases to hold the potato while cooking in the microwave. They cook more evenly and moist.

Primitive Christmas tree- I like to decorate with found objects. I discovered a neat way to make garland. All you need is an eleven-inch square of homespun or similar fabric that is the same on both sides. Roughly mark one inch from all edges working inward. Start cutting along marked lines but slightly curving at the corners instead of a sharp edge. Depending on the width of the strip it will make roughly 3 yards of garland. If you want it reversible just fuse two contrasting colors of fabric together for the square and then cut out. Use it for your tree, wreath or hang it over your doorway and use those mini wooden clothespins to hang your holiday cards from. Use a small diameter wire and string those small white buttons on. It makes a wonderful old-fashioned looking garland for the tree too. Make a loop from red gros grain ribbon and hang 3 inch cinnamon sticks. Tiny grapevine wreaths from ribbons look nice too. Add mini cookie cutters. Dried orange slices and apples give a nice accent. Lay single strands of raffia from the very tips of the branches to make it look like tinsel. See our little homespun bell kits for another idea. They come with rusty snowflakes and jingle bells. Make a star from two stiffen doilies for the top. And course you will need a tree skirt. Gather all the blocks you started or won in the guild block exchange that didn't fit with your color scheme. Choose a Christmas print, a solid red or green fabric for the sashing strips; this will unify all the blocks. Plan the blocks out and sew the sashing between the blocks, how wide the strips will be depends on how many blocks you have and how big the tree skirt needs to be. Sew the rows together making sure the strips do not line up. Fold into quarters and cut out a circle. Sew right sides together to lining, leaving an opening up the side, turn and press. You can tie it with floss or crochet cotton. This method also makes nice stockings.

Quilt History

Usually in this section I write about one aspect of quilt history but I'd like to speak about aprons for a change.

A few of you know I have a very small collection of aprons, most handed down from my mom and grandmother, most made by them. Some of my favorites include a candy cane red and white stripe with a green felt tree complete with jingle bells, a hand crocheted light pink and cream with a satin ribbon laced through the hem, a pink and tan chiffon "party apron" and my favorite; a mint green broadcloth with a black satin ribbon sewn on the hem and top of pocket. It is my favorite because I remember my mother making it on her new Kenmore sewing machine that she got for Christmas. She made matching aprons for her and me. This was during the big "mother/daughter" craze. We even had matching shift dresses. (I was too young to protest.)  I didn't think the black ribbon looked very good on the mint green but it was rural Vermont and that was what she had on hand. Today it is one of my favorite colors combinations along with chocolate brown and light blue (I made a stunning Trip Around the World quilt using those colors).

Aprons have played a significant role in the history of women and also in the life individual women. (Remember even Rosie the riveter wore a leather apron.) So this holiday start a new tradition.  Make an apron and wear it. Make a new one for every year and pass the other one along. Make matching ones for all the ladies in the family, no matter what their age. Or make one for your and send an identical one to someone who can't be with you and wear it at the same time. You will be connected in a different way.   Or wear an apron from someone close to you that is no longer with you. It's a special way to remember them and make them part of the celebration. Make them as gifts and include your favorite banana bread recipe and promise to visit and show them how to make it.

By the way, I have the Kenmore now.

Shop Talk

We have lots of new fabrics including the popular Quilt Room collection, Red Hat Society Christmas prints, novelty prints (with cats, bears, sewing themes), new books and patterns. We have expanded our selection of tea towels. These have been very good sellers for all kinds of projects. We have added some spool thread cases from the Vermont Bobbin Company. These make unique gifts for quilters, sewers of just people who like country décor. We also have some new kits designed just for Quilter Studio. These include a homespun bell kit, folk art tree, tea towel and more.

We are starting to book our quilt shows for next year. We get our best referrals from a guild member who attended a show and loves our wonderful selection and display. If your guild is having a show this year please send us an application. Or email us if there is a show you think we should be a vendor at. We will post our schedule in early spring. 

Happy Quilting, Robin


© Robin Brisson 2000



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