Over the past week, I’ve been trying to think of a good way to describe the atmosphere of the Pittsburgh Quilt Market. There were new credential requirements, so there were fewer people on the floor, but the thing I noticed most was the feeling of buoyancy that the presence of Cotton + Steel brought to the floor.

A little over a decade ago, Amy Butler and Jane Sassman made their way onto the fabric scene and got their fingers under the barrier that was separating modern and traditional fabric aesthetics. There was resistance, but there was also a lot of excitement. Over the next few years, the brilliant team at Free Spirit signed Valori Wells, Jennifer Paganelli, Heather Ross, and Anna Maria Horner. They pushed the gate up a little more. As an early online shop owner, I can tell you that I was super excited to carry these designers in my shop, but that was it! I wasn’t turning down any fabric collections–I was buying everything that appealed to me. I could cover the Quilt Market floor in a matter of hours.

Around the same time that Free Spirit was building their brand, Michael Miller started doing retro prints as well as lines with bold color–they pushed the gate up a little more. Alexander Henry gave it a shove. Quilt Market became more interesting. Over the years, dozens of amazing designers and manufacturers have done their part to push that gate up inch by inch, and as a consequence modern shop owners have had so many choices they’ve actually had to start curating their inventory.

At this Quilt Market, Cotton + Steel threw the flood gate up ALL. THE. WAY. No barrier, no resistance, no separation. Rather than a deluge washing one aesthetic away, however, everything was just mixing, floating, complimenting. The Cotton+Steel/RJR team itself is a prime example. Who would have thought (other than Melody Miller), that a company with such a strong traditional quilt shop customer base, would be producing such an amazing modern fabric collection?! Everywhere you looked, new and established, dark and light, modern and traditional, were side by side–the quilts, the garments, the fabric, and the people. Young bloggers and designers were literally embracing their mentors. Sewing is for everyone, and for once it felt like we were all bobbing along in the same pool. It really was lovely, uplifting, and inspiring.

I have no doubt that the sewing industry will think of the Cotton + Steel debut as a turning point. The brilliant team of Melody Miller, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Alexia Abegg, Sarah Watts, and Kim Kight deserve a huge amount of credit for that, but so do all the trail-blazers that came before them. It was an exciting moment for fabric lovers and I’m super glad I was there to witness it. As far as shop owners go, I’m sure the decision-making at market has become agonizing with so many wonderful choices. I predict that in the coming years, many of them will have to refine and define the niches their shops can fill in the marketplace.

Here is a glimpse of the Cotton + Steel line. Over the next week, I’ll show you more snapshots from the floor.

 

 

The official Cotton + Steel Spring Preview (used with permission.)

2014 Spring Preview from Cotton + Steel on Vimeo.