Beyond Quilting Cotton: Alternate Materials for Modern Quilts

As the modern quilting movement continues to evolve, a recent trend we’ve noticed is the increased use of alternate materials. Everything from silk to tarps (yes, tarps!) is being incorporated into modern quilt designs these days. At our September meeting, Theresa Kitchell, Stephanie Quesinberry and Audrey Workman showed several examples and shared tips for taming tricky fabrics.

Where to Find Alternate Materials

If you want to explore fabrics beyond quilting cotton, start by looking in your closet. Stephanie shared several examples, including the piece below—it is made from her old clothes.

Stephanie used old clothes to make this piece.

Stephanie used old clothes to make this piece.

For even more options, Theresa suggests you stroll through the costume and apparel aisles at JoAnn. There, you’ll find a wide variety of materials including faux fur, oil cloth, double gauze, bedazzled polyester and more. Theresa uses fabrics like these all the time in her work as a costume designer for the Signal Mountain Playhouse. Recently, she turned them into a tactile sensory quilt for her neighbor, who is blind.

Theresa used a variety of materials to create this tactile sensory quilt for her neighbor.

Theresa used a variety of materials to create this tactile sensory quilt for her neighbor.

You can also shop for alternate materials at thrift stores, hardware stores, and upholstery outlets. The possibilities are endless!

Where to Find Inspiration

After we passed around Stephanie and Theresa’s physical examples, Audrey showed us where to go looking for inspiration online.

Back in 2010, Cherri House created a stunning quilt using dupioni silk. And much of Pamela Wiley’s recent work includes velvet, linen, and other textures. Over the summer, Suzy Williams released a pattern that uses knit jersey.

To see more examples, including quilts that incorporate wool, flannel, corduroy and other materials, visit the Member Resources page.

How to Tame Tricky Fabrics

Many alternate materials require special care. Buy extra fabric and give yourself time to practice with notions, interfacings, pressing techniques, and laundering strategies. As you experiment, keep these tips in mind:

  • A Teflon or non-stick presser foot makes it easier to feed fabrics such as leather and waxed canvas through your sewing machine.

  • Use a wider seam allowance (1/2”) when sewing fabrics that fray.

  • Switch to a ballpoint needle and use a small zigzag stitch for stretchy fabrics like jersey.

  • Keep a pressing cloth handy when pressing metallics, sequins, or other materials that may melt onto your iron.

  • Baby shampoo is a great way to clean animal fibers such as wool.

At the end of the presentation, the group let us snip a few swatches of alternate materials to play with at home. If you make something with your swatch, bring it to our October meeting and tell us what you learned.

Handcrafted Happy Hour

Also this month, we launched a new series of events: Handcrafted Happy Hour! The idea was born during last year’s brainstorming session, when guild members said they wanted more opportunities to spend time with one another outside of monthly meetings.

Recently, the guild was approached by the Association for Visual Arts (AVA), which wanted to create opportunities for area fiber artists to connect. We proposed Handcrafted Happy Hour, and AVA jumped on board to help us organize and promote the bi-monthly event.

More than a dozen people turned out Thursday, Sept. 20 to kick things off at Wildflower Tea Shop & Apothecary. The group enjoyed two hours of stitching, sketching and chatting.

We had great turnout for the first Handcrafted Happy Hour event!

We had great turnout for the first Handcrafted Happy Hour event!

Mark your calendars: the next Handcrafted Happy Hour is Wednesday, Nov. 14 from 4-7 p.m. at Stone Cup Cafe.

Brown Bag Challenge

If you haven’t started working on your piece for the Brown Bag Fabric Challenge, now’s the time!

The challenge is to use the fabric you selected at our June meeting to make a modern quilt (or quilted object) of your own design. There are no size requirements—finished projects can be as small or large as you want—and they're due at our December meeting.

Habitat Dedication

In August, we donated a quilt to Habitat for Humanity homeowner Lucinda Watkins. Sara Bradshaw presented the quilt, which was completed entirely by fellow guild member Beverly Herron.

Photos of the event are provided by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga.

ChattMQG Quilts are Traveling the Country

Congratulations to Denise Ohlman! Her quilt “Rainforest Birds” was juried into the AQS QuiltWeek Grand Rapids show, and she traveled to Michigan to see it in person.

Show and Tell