Fabric to watch for…

I'm making progress on the color book. Oh happy day! I have begun marking off 3 hours a day with no email, no phone. I'm surprised at how much easier it is to focus. It's only been 2 days but I think this is a good strategy. I'm a little less crazy and that's a good sign. I'm getting back to the ABCs.

So, about that fabric… I've bought a lot of fabric lately for the quilts for the book. I thought it would be fun to share some of the more interesting ones with you. 


Have you ever noticed how a narrow black and white stripe or little, dense B/W dots can vibrate when you look at them? They make your eyes hurt. The bigger the piece of fabric, the worse it is. But this tiny dot doesn't do that. Why?

I had to look closely to see that not all the dots are black! If you look at the selvage, you can see that there is black plus two very dark grays. It's sort of obvious in a close-up photo but a lot harder to see with your eyes from any distance.


Those dots with 1 – 2 – 3 show the colors in this print. Brilliant! I wish I'd designed it but a friend, Patrick Lose, did which is just as nice. 

I bought a half-yard and I will be sorry when it's gone. I didn't buy more because don't stockpile fabric. I don't have room or an unlimited fabric budget. But mostly I don't have room. 

In other news, the ugly fabric just keeps on coming. I am nervous but optimistic that I can pull off this challenge. Todays ugly fabrics are ones I actually like which was a happy surprise.


Ugly is arriving…

If you read this post, you know that I am in need of some ugly fabric. Not a lot of any one fabric, just a little bit of many fabrics. Linda H. in Bohemia, NY, came through in a serious way. She had a box of ugly fabric, saved from a group challenge, that she sent to me.

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There are some pieces I like but mostly, I hate it all. Way to go, Linda! I asked for a challenge and I got one.

Rita sent this:

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It's not a fabric I would ever buy, but it is not nearly as bad as this, sent by Bernadette:

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So far, these awful chimps win the prize for the fabric I despise the most. The only thing might be worse would be clowns… I am not a fan of clowns.

I am challenging myself, so I could give myself an out and give myself permission to discard the most awful fabrics. Instead, my challenge is that I cannot discard them. 

FYI – I bagged this assortment in my 5 lingerie bags for washing and it worked really well. After washing, I took them out of the bags, cut the threads and opened them out. They are in the dryer now.

If you have something ugly to add to my pile, please do send small pieces (up to 12" square-ish) to:

Becky Goldsmith, 919 Starlight Dr, Sherman, TX 75090

Thank you!

Yes, you really do need to wash your fabric!

I tell this to nearly every class I teach because I think it's important. They don't like hearing it and you probably don't either. I'm sorry about that. I'm sharing this information because some of you may never have been given good reasons to wash (and dry) your fabric. You get to decide how to use the information.

I know that you probably don't wash your quilt fabric because when I talk about this in class only 5%-10% of students wash their fabric regularly. I ALWAYS pre-wash. Let me tell you why…

People quit washing their fabric when machine quilting entered the quilt world in the 1980s. It was noted that if you make your quilt with unwashed fabric, used a cotton batt, machine quilted and then washed the quilt, it would look more antique. This is true! Scores of quilters stopped washing their fabric and started machine quilting. They then washed their quilts and were happy with the shrunken, softer quilt. 

Now, think about it – is it your goal to make a quilt that looks like an antique? If so, that's one sure way do it. 

If you are not after the antique quilt look, you should prewash because:

  • Fabric bleeds. How much has a lot to do with the water chemistry where you are. There is a lot of variation from place to place. Fabric that bleeds in one city may not in another.
  • Fabric shrinks (more below). Different fabrics shrink at different rates. It is better if fabric is shrunk to size before being sewn into a quilt.
  • Prewashed fabric behaves better for both applique and piecing. When the slick sizings and finishes are gone and the fabrics stay together better. You will find yourself pinning less when you piece. In applique, the pieces are easier to position and needleturn.

Fabric directly off the bolt has dyes, formaldehyde, insecticides, etc. I much prefer to wash those chemicals out of my fabric before I handle or store it.

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I wash with Orvus Paste*. I almost always add a color catcher (made by Shout) in case something bleeds. I also have Synthrapol and Retayne on hand (the professional products for controlling bleeding). I wash in the washer in cold water. I dry my fabric in the dryer on warm. I fold it and put it on the shelf until I'm ready to use it, at which time I iron it.

Yes, my fabric twists together in the washer. I have to untwist and cut threads before moving the fabric to the dryer. I could serge or pink the raw edges but I don't. I do put small pieces of fabric in lingerie bags and that helps some. Front-loading machines may not have so much twisting.

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Recently I found myself working on a quilt and I ran out of one fabric. I only needed about 1/3 yard and I had it on the bolt (which was nice). Being in a hurry, I thought maybe just this once I could skip washing this one piece of fabric. But I took a moment to check it against the same fabric that had been washed and dried. Oh my. This fabric, which is good fabric, had shrunk a full 3" from selvage to selvage! (The two fabrics are right sides together in the photo to make the top one easier to see.)


Some fabrics shrink more than others. Batiks have already been through so much in the manufacturing process that they rarely shrink. Hand dyes probably won't shrink – but they can and do bleed. Every other fabric that you buy off of a bolt will shrink and/or bleed a little or a lot and I can't tell by looking what will happen to any given fabric.

If you make a quilt with some fabric that won't shrink and other fabrics that shrink a lot and you wash it, the fabrics will shrink at different rates and you can end up with a ripply mess. (On the upside, it might look antique.)

You may imagine that your quilts will never be washed, and maybe they won't be. But what if they get dirty? Or spilled on? Or, or, or… stuff happens. For myself, I prefer to work with fabric that has been shrunk and that the excess dyes and chemicals washed have been washed out of.

If you have never worked with washed (and dried) fabric, you are used to the way fabric feels off the bolt. It feels thicker, stiffer, slicker than it will after you wash it. My suggestion is that you give working with washed fabric a try**. I think you might be surprised. 


*You can find Orvus Paste at Tractor Supply or feed and seed sort of store. In a full-size top loader, I use something like a tablespoon of Orvus Paste for a full load. If I had a top loader I would use much less and mix it with water before using.

If you google Orvus Paste, you can read much more, some of it good, some not. I'll still use it because I don't see another better choice and it has worked well for me for years. That said, if I find a better soap, I'll try it.

**I decided to do the reverse – I sewed with fabric right off the bolt. It was as I remembered. The two pieces slid against each other, making piecing accurately trickier. I used a lot more pins than I normally do. Auditioning fabrics on the design wall is harder because the slicker fabric does not want to stay put.

FYI – I don't use any of the ironing sprays either. If I need to spritz the fabric I use plain water.

Ugly fabric…

I am going to start work soon on a quilt with 'ugly fabric'. This is a project I've assigned myself as a challenge and I have a problem. I don't seem to own any fabric that I think is ugly. I did buy a piece in Grand Junction that I declared ugly on the bolt. It was so bad that I bought a whole yard of it thinking that I'd probably need that much to be able to come up with a way to use it.


Unfortunately, once I got it home I decided it wasn't actually so bad. In fact, I have a great place to use it. 

So I have what I hope is a good idea. If you have some fabric that you think is really ugly, would you please send me a small piece of it? Nothing larger than a 12" sqaure. Smaller pieces are fine. I'd appreciate it. I'm looking forward to an interesting, challenging, loss-of-control sort of challenge. I'll let you know how it goes.

Send it to: Becky Goldsmith, 919 Starlight Dr, Sherman, TX 75090


Simple is lovely…

I have been trying to de-clutter our house and it must be working – Steve finally noticed that there is less to dust around. We don't have a spartan interior by any stretch of the imagination but it feels more open. I like it. 

The quilt I've been working on is also spare – and I love it. If I didn't tell you that this is the back of the quilt, would you know? Quilting will dress it up, but I think it looks very up-to-date. Modern! 


Click on the photo to open it in a new window. Tell me what draws your eye… I know what I expect to hear but it would be nice to know if I'm right.

Big news from AAQI, from Ami Simms…

The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative will most likely reach the $1,000,000 mark in money raised for Alzheimer’s research some time in 2013!

The work of your hands and the compassion in your hearts has brought us to this milestone. I will be forever grateful to each and every one of you for your support and dedication.


Ami and her mother, Beebe, in 2006

What began as one person’s response to sorrow and frustration has grown into a national charity embraced by a large portion of the quilting community. More than 13,000 quilts have been donated, turning sweat equity into over $883,000 for research so far. For many donors these quilts were healing works of art which helped them grieve as they stitched for the greater good. Hundreds of thousands of people have seen the AAQI’s two traveling quilt exhibits about Alzheimer’s. Through this artistry came the realization for many that they were not alone on this journey of heartbreak; others understood, perhaps for the first time, what a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s really means. Together quilters have funded 11 research studies at six universities and a medical school. Three more studies will be funded this month and hopefully more throughout 2013. Because of the AAQI, scientists know a little bit more about Alzheimer’s than they did before. Hopefully this understanding will bring us all closer to a cure.

When I created the AAQI back in 2006, I never expected it to become so successful! I also never imaged how much work it would take to keep it going. As the AAQI blossomed, board members and core volunteers have had to increase our hours and pace to keep up. While I find enormous satisfaction in nurturing the AAQI, I much prefer sewing to administrating. I miss just being a full-time quilter.

For this reason, 2013 will be the last year of fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative. I hope you will help the AAQI reach our goal of One Million Dollars for research and then at the end of 2013 celebrate with everyone who made this tremendous achievement possible. Please review the important dates below:

February 15, 2013All bookings for the traveling exhibit “Alzheimer’s Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope” must be finalized.

March 1, 2013 First online auction of quilts from “Alzheimer’s Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope” traveling exhibit. Twenty-six Name Quilts will be auctioned during the first 10 days of March, April, May, June, July, August, and September. Payment will be required at the conclusion of each auction with shipping in October 2013 after the exhibit retires. The 54 Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilts from the traveling exhibit will be auctioned during the first 10 days of October and December.

July 2013: Last month to participate in the Quilt-A-Month Club.

August 1, 2013: Last day to register Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilts. Quilts delivered to scanners after August 20 will be refused.

October 29 – November 3, 2013: International Quilt Festival. We hope to be invited back one last time to sell quilts in Houston, TX.

November 1-10, 2013: Celebrity Invitational Quilt Online Auction

December 30, 2013: Last day Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilts can be purchased online.

December 31, 2013: Quilts For Sale and Donation pages will be removed from the AAQI website and all solicitations will cease.

2014-2015: The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative will monitor research grants awarded in 2013. The AQQI web page will be left intact for at least six months. Any funds not needed to sustain the AAQI’s final expenses will be donated to research. Remaining assets will be disposed of according to IRS regulations after which time the corporation will be dissolved.

There is still much work to this year as we sprint to the finish line. I hope everyone who reads this will join in, either as a seasoned veteran or a first time quilt donor or quilt buyer. We will continue to make a difference until the very last quilt is sold. Let’s make 2013 the best year ever!

Thank you for your support,

Ami Simms
Founder & Executive Director
Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative

This is from me, Becky: I am so very impressed by what Ami has done. She truly is amazing – and an inspiration. I never in a million years imaginged she would raise so much – did you? Let's each do what we can to make the $1,000,000 goal happen.