Saturday Morning Quilt Break: Geographic Fabrics

Custom Hoffman batik from The Cotton Ball of Morro Bay, Calif

Many years ago (or at least that’s how it feels) before I met my husband, I had a job that sometimes required traveling overseas, which I loved. On a couple of occasions, I stayed in a town called Bad Homburg outside of Frankfurt, Germany. I wasn’t doing much sewing at that time in my life, but when I found a fabric shop while walking through town one day, I had to go in.

I don’t speak German (or as one German-speaking colleague instructed me to say, Ich habe kein Deutsch), and the fabric shopkeeper didn’t speak English, so it was a fairly awkward experience. It was basically a garment fabric shop, and I didn’t see any quilting cotton. Finally I managed to indicate to the woman that I was looking for baumwolle, a word I remembered from clothing tags, and she pointed me toward a few bolts. I ended up buying a yard (or meter?) of a woven green madras. It almost certainly wasn’t manufactured in Germany, but I still remember buying it every time I see it sitting there in my fabric stash (and yes, it’s still sitting there after all these years).

Yesterday I wrote about a custom-designed and -printed fabric panel I got from a quilt shop in North Carolina that reminds me of my summer vacation.

Lightkeeper’s Quilt fabric pane

Lightkeeper’s Quilt fabric pane

This shop is not the only one that’s realized the benefit of offering region-specific fabrics to take advantage of being in an area popular with tourists. I did a little poking around online and found some other unique fabrics offered by local quilt shops around the country, such as Quilt-ish of Cape Cod, Mass., which sells a beautiful Lightkeeper’s Quilt fabric panel. And a number of quilt shops in Alaska carry fabric panels by Teresa Ascone Fabric Art.

Shop hops often feature regional fabrics that you can’t get anywhere else, such as a Bluebonnet panel from Dripping Springs, Texas; a birds of West Virginia panel from the West Virginia Mountain Quilt Quest shop hop; and Colorado-themed fabrics from Fabric Expressions in Littleton, a shop not too far from our office here in Golden.

By far, most of the regional fabrics I found, both for tourists and shop hops, were batiks, and as it turns out most were manufactured by Hoffman Fabrics. You can find these Hoffman batiks in places like The Cotton Ball of Morro Bay, Calif.; Snowy River Quilts of Laramie, Wyoming; different participating shops in Vermont; and at Abby’s Reflection of Sitka, Alaska.

Custom Hoffman batik from The Cotton Ball of Morro Bay, Calif

Custom Hoffman batik from The Cotton Ball of Morro Bay, Calif

I contacted Michelle Flores at Hoffman to learn more about this part of their business that was all new to me. As it turns out, they’ve been creating custom batiks for shops for many years.

“We work with the shop on the design and the colors they want,” Michelle said. “We also work out how much yardage, which can relate to the number of colors and the complexity of the design. The great thing about batiks is that the minimum yardage is much less than what’s required for a custom screen print, so batik is very affordable even for smaller retailers who want to do something special. One of our in-house textile artists will work on the design and repeat size, often using reference artwork provided by the retailer and/or following specific directions (incorporating a logo, for instance, or using certain colors). There will be a couple of back-and-forths, and then the fabric goes into bulk production at the exclusive Hoffman factory in Bali. The entire process from artwork to receiving bulk production can take as little as six to eight months.”

Custom batik from Abby’s Reflection of Sitka, Alaska

Custom batik from Abby’s Reflection of Sitka, Alaska

Michelle noted that the Alaskan batiks are especially popular. “As you can imagine for Alaska shops, the custom batiks will feature whales, orcas, polar bears, penguins, seals, etc.,” she said. “These custom batiks are sought by cruisers who head to the local quilt shop as soon as their ship is in port.”

It’s not all local flora and fauna being represented in batiks, though. The retailers behind one particular shop hop asked for designs featuring what they called “BFF girlfriend words” such as believe, inspire, love, breathe, laugh and dance. And Hoffman makes a wide range of custom batiks featuring college names, logos and colors. “These sell very well for retailers in areas where college sports are a big deal,” Michelle said.

I had no idea about any of this before I reached out to Michelle. The whole point of these fabrics is that they are site-specific—you won’t know they’re there if you don’t know they’re there. Because of that and because they’re produced in smaller quantities, they lend a unique quality to any project made with them.

On top of all of that great insight into these fabrics, Hoffman has generously offered to give a bundle of custom batiks to a reader of this blog. To enter for your chance to win, leave us a comment before midnight Mountain time, Friday, November 3, 2017, telling us about your favorite geographic fabric find or about the one you wish someone would make. We’ll draw the name of one winner and contact you via email. Contest open to residents of the U.S. and Canada (excluding Quebec).

And with that, I wish you a week of good quilting!
Mary Kate

Comment (1)

  • Ann R

    Terrific article. I live in Myrtle Beach SC, I am always looking for fabric related to beach activities. Unfortunately, our few fabric shops don’t carry much in the way of Beach themes. The fabric with the lighthouse is amazing. It reminds me of Tybee Island lighthouse.
    Thanks for your information. Need to take a road trip to visit more fabric shops.

    December 8, 2017 at 10:44 pm

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