December 14, 2014

California Shop Owner Q&A: Laurie Perez, Quilts and Things

WarehouseOnWheels-page-0To begin the second week of our Warehouse-on-Wheels sale in California, we’re visiting with a shop owner who thought owning a quilt store would be a temporary endeavor.

A dozen years later, Laurie Perez  is part of our special sale at six quilts shops in California, with 30 great books as much as 75 percent off. She owns Quilts and Things in Morgan Hill, California.


What made you decide to open a shop?

I bought an existing shop in 2003, thinking it would be a three- or four-year interlude until grandkids. Here we are almost 12 years later and no sign of offspring from my sons!

Laurie Perez

Laurie Perez

What are you most proud of about your shop?

My shop has become a very comfortable place to visit and has doubled in size since I first started.  My staff sometimes acts as therapists, since customers will pour out their life stories or issues across the counter.

What trends do you see in quilting today? Have tastes changed since you opened your shop?

Smaller projects are in vogue right now – runners, totes, small wall hangings.  I hear a lot of “I have too much,” but there’s always room for something that can be accomplished in just a few afternoons.


Quilts and Things, 16985 Monterey St., No. 316, Morgan Hill, California 408-776-8438

December 12, 2014

Considering the Children

By Edie McGinnis

Edie McGinnis

Edie McGinnis

There are only 13 days left before Santa comes to call. Twelve, if you open gifts on Christmas Eve.  That’s not much time left if you’re making gifts, especially those of the quilted kind.

When I watch my grandkids open their gifts in a flurry of wrapping paper and ribbon, I am always reminded of a friend of mine. Ann was a contemporary of my parents. My mom, dad, Ann and her husband, Walt, used to get together to play rummy. I remember standing by Ann’s chair when they were playing cards. Ann would never tell me to run along.  She would just put her arm around me and snuggle me in close to her side.

The years passed, and I did that thing that all kids do: I grew up. I married and had children of my own, and I became a quilter and a feedsack collector. By this time, Ann was in her late 80s.

I would fly out to California to visit. We played rummy every night – only there were just the three of us. My parents had bothtreadle passed away, and I had taken their place in the constant rummy game.

I recall chatting with Ann about feedsacks as we shuffled the cards one day. I asked her whether she remembered wearing clothing made from feedsack fabric.

“Oh, yes, I remember that.”

But the clothing wasn’t the thing she remembered most. The recollection that lived in her mind most vividly was going to bed on Christmas Eve and hearing her mother run her treadle sewing machine long into the wee hours of the morning.

On Christmas day, Ann and her two sisters would bounce out of bed and tear downstairs to see whether Santa had come. Inevitably, a rag doll made from a feedsack would be waiting for each of them.

As Ann told me of that little piece of her life, a little smile crept out and softened the faraway look in her eyes. I knew for a few moments that she could clearly see those dolls and herself as a child again.

I don’t know whether Ann and her sisters had primitive dolls or ones made from printed feedsacks. She didn’t elaborate, and I think it was enough that her mom worked so hard to give them gifts.

During the Depression years, Sea Island Sugar printed a doll on the back of its 10-pound sugar sacks. In 1935, it printed a series called “Dolls of the World.” The dolls wore clothing that was most people’s preconceived notion of how children dressed in a particular country.sea_island_1

In 1936, Sea Island switched from dolls and printed a series of soft toys on the back of the bags. The toys included Little Red Riding Hood, two other dolls,  a panda and a frog.  sea_island_2

Sea Island Sugar wasn’t the only commodity bag that catered to parents of small children. Percy Kent Bag Co. supplied bags to Bewley Biscuit Co. that sported quilt blocks on the back. Mom or grandma could use the blocks when making a child’s quilt or a soft cloth book.


Bemis Bag Co. also printed “Quilt Blox” on the back of some of its bags. The company  bragged that the cloth was pure cambric and the “designs are in fast colors and may be embroidered or not as desired.”bemis_2

Fulton Bag Co. made bags it labeled StitchCraft. The reverse side of the bags had scenes from nursery rhymes and were intended to be embroidered. The logo says, “To Occupy Little Fingers.” Fulton recommended customers use the blocks in quilts or for hot pads for the kitchen.




Even into the late 1940s, some of the bag companies printed dolls or toys. Phil Fawn is one of my favorites. Phil reminds me more of a reindeer than a fawn. but perhaps that’s just because he is striped in Christmas colors. The Christmasy print that is to be used for a bow to be tied around his neck does nothing to destroy that illusion, either.Phil Fawn

I know the bag companies, as well as the mills, sugar and flour companies, were using some great marketing techniques. However, it would have been just as easy for them to use dress prints as it was to print dolls, toys or quilts that could be stitched up for the little ones.doll_dress

I’ve always found it heartwarming that they considered the children, especially when I think back on the economic hardships so many people suffered during the’30s and ’40s.  The toy may have served as a gift for a child, but there’s no doubt that the bag was just as much a present for a parent.

It’s hard to look at the bags as a marketing tool. To me, they seem more like a blessing.

Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.

December 11, 2014

Bobbins’ Bargain Steeped in Tradition

This week, Mrs. Bobbins offers you a valuable piece of quilting history.

bobbins bargains logo - 200 wideShe is always one to find a good deal out there in the quilt world. Now she brings her amazing talents to you … with her weekly Bobbins’ Bargains!

Every Thursday, Mrs. Bobbins will select one of our books and offer it to you at a very special price … 75% off the current listed price!

Better yet, your shipping is FREE in the continental U.S.

Better, better yet, “Five Gets You a Freebie!” If you order a Bobbins’ Bargain just five times (from five different sales), you get a free copy of any of our books! Take your pick. We’ll contact you by email once you’ve qualified for a free book and take your order.  Plus your shipping on that one is free as well. Easy as pie!

This week’s Bobbins’ Bargain is My Stars II: Patterns from The Kansas City Star, Volume II.MyStars2

Eventually, all of the historical Kansas City Star quilt block patterns will be redrafted and published by the same company that printed them decades ago. My Stars II includes 25 patterns that are part of this ongoing effort. Each pattern in the book includes fabric requirements, templates and assembly instructions, as well as the original caption that was printed in the newspaper.

So whether you plan to stitch these famous old blocks or are a collector, sit back and enjoy the heritage of quilting.
Softcover, 112 pages, full-color.

Click here to see a YouTube video of the book.

The book is on sale for $17.95. Your price using our Bobbins’ Bargains promotion code is just $4.49, plus your shipping on this book is free in the continental U.S.!

(SHIPPING NOTE! Please allow 14 business days for delivery after Wednesday, Dec. 17, the last day of this week’s sale.)

Be sure to use this promotion code before checkout:


Please make sure to click the “Apply Promotion Code Now” button after entering the code. The discount won’t apply unless you do so. Please verify that you’ve received the discount before checking out.

Click here to order. And remember  …  your shipping of this book is free in the continental U.S.!

December 10, 2014

Shweshwe Fabric Comes With Colorful History

By Donna di Natale

Donna di Natale

Donna di Natale

Last week, guest blogger Amy Senatore mentioned some interesting fabric found in her grandmother’s stash – a collection of squares her grandmother acquired trading with other quilters from around the world. Trademarks and manufacturers’ names are on the back of the fabric. This piqued my interest in fabric research. I enjoy solving puzzles, so off to the Internet I went.


Amy Senatore’s grandmother’s fabric

Amy Senatore’s grandmother’s fabric

Back of fabric, showing trademark stamps

Back of fabric, showing trademark stamps

As you can see, the printing on the back of the navy fabric shows at least two cats, but there is the word “Three” under one of the cats, so I assumed the name was Three Cats. There was also the word “Spruce” and what appeared to be “Manufacture” or “Manufacturing.” Da Gama Textile Co. and what could possibly be a cat’s nose and whiskers were stamped on the back of the red fabric. Were these made by one company or two?

I found that Three Cats was a trade name owned by Spruce Manufacturing Co. Ltd. of England. Da Gama Textile Co. is a South African company.

It all began with indigo cloth dyed and handstamped in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In the early 1840s, French missionaries to South Africa presented some of the fabric to Lesotho’s King Moshweshwe I. The fabric quickly became popular for traditional African clothing, known as shweshwe.

By the 1930s, acid-resist printing had replaced handstamping. Among the most successful was Britain’s Spruce Manufacturing, whose most popular brand was Three Cats. Around 1982, Tootal, a British company, began producing the indigo printed fabric in South Africa under the trademark Three Leopards. In 1992, Da Gama Textiles purchased the rights to the Three Cats range of designs, and it is still in business today producing shweshwe fabric under the Three Cats, Three Leopards and Toto 6 trademarks.

SF Da Gama tradmark

Da Gama still uses the original printing process. The designs, mostly overall patterns of florals, stripes and diamonds, are made of tiny dots etched into the surface of the copper rollers. A weak acid solution is  fed through the rollers and onto the dyed fabric, bleaching the fabric to create the distinctive white designs. The repeat of the print depends on the size of the rollers.

shweshwe copper rollers

Photos courtesy Da Gama Textiles

Photos courtesy Da Gama Textiles

Panels were and still are popular for dresses and skirts, and occasionally designs are introduced to celebrate special national events. Young South African designers have created a renewed interest in the traditional fabrics, winning international awards for their fashions made of shweshwe. On the British TV show “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency,” the main character, Mma Precious Ramotswe, wore outfits made from shweshwe.

Traditional shweshwe dress

Traditional shweshwe dress

Modern designer shweshwe dress

Modern designer shweshwe dress

As with many popular ethnic fabrics, imitation shweshwe fabrics exist. Authentic shweshwe can be identified by feel, smell and sound, and by the printed trademark on the reverse of a solid dyed fabric. The fabric feels and sounds stiff and crisp because of the traditional starch added to keep the fabric flat. The smell also comes from the starch and is somewhat acrid. The starch easily washes out, and the fabric becomes softer with each washing.

The natural dyes also fade with wear and washing.

Another clue to authenticity is the fact that the real shweshwe fabric only comes in 36-inch widths. It is available online in the United States through ShweShweUS, which offers fabric by the yard, in bundles or in kits for quilts.

SF indigo print

SF red print

Photos courtesy Da Gama Textiles

Photos courtesy Da Gama Textiles


For more information, you might want to read “Shweshwe – Indigo Fabric from South Africa,” a blog Nancy Zieman posted on Dec. 10, 2011, at

Donna di Natale is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Wednesday.

December 9, 2014

California Shop Owner Q&A&: Linda Williams, The Nimble Thimble

WarehouseOnWheels-page-0To celebrate our Warehouse-on-Wheels sale in California, we’re talking with the participating shop owners to find out how they got started, why their shops are special and what changes they’ve seen in quilting.

Our special sale at five quilts shops in California continues through Dec. 21, with books as much as 75 percent off!

We kick off our interviews with Linda Williams, “owner and chief bottle washer” at The Nimble Thimble in Gilroy, California.


What made you decide to open a shop?

Linda Williams

Linda Williams

After working at a “real job” for 30 years, it became important for me to do both something I loved and something that would provide value to others. The NT (Nimble Thimble) is a way to give back to my home town, help women improve their skills and cultivate a community of quilters who support and value each other.

What are you most proud of about your shop?

My shop reflects my eclectic taste in fabrics and gadgets. I am excited about the color and the creativity that happens when customers are building projects or searching for that perfect print. The NT is a place where you have fun. If not, we aren’t doing it right!

What trends do you see in quilting today? Have tastes changed since you opened your shop?

I have owned the shop for two years, so my perspective as a shop owner is somewhat short-term. My customers are beginning to embrace the modern values, so I believe this will continue to change the world of quilting.  At the same time, I see young people show a lot of interest in historical fabrics and patterns. The world of quilting feels bigger than ever before.


The Nimble Thimble, 7550 Monterey St., Gilroy, California 408-842-6501