Quilt Market Snapshots: Cotton + Steel

on May 22 | in Reporting From... | by | with 18 Comments

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.

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18 Responses to Quilt Market Snapshots: Cotton + Steel

  1. Suzie says:

    I. LOVE. IT.

    Sewers, quilters and fabric enthusiasts are no longer our grandmothers…they are men, women, young and old who are into the trends, the bolds, the brights and cool vintage designs. Although I credit my grandmother for every stitch she taught me, it’s about time to sewing and quilting entered the new millennium. BRAVO!

  2. Sarah says:

    I was excited to see that the Cotton+Cloud fabric is made in Japan from scratch (not just printed in Japan on Chinese material, as is happening with more and more “Japanese” fabrics).
    There is an excellent video on their site showing the production process in Japan, from bales of cotton to finished fabric. Well worth watching.
    Hope there will be an Australian stockist 🙂

  3. TammyJZ says:

    That looks like Rae’s (Made by Rae) Washi Dress, with the tie from the expansion pack.

  4. What an awesome write up! Man, I can’t wait to get my hands on their fabric!

  5. Tina C. says:

    i’d love to know what that blue dress pattern is, the one with the bow and no sleeves…

  6. Tisha says:

    Great recap of Cotton & Steel. I’m excited to see the fabrics in person. I have been following their fabric manufacturing on Instagram and loved it.

  7. Lizzie says:

    What an interesting and thoughtful post! I came up in the 80’s, with Kaffe Fassett fabrics seeming to break down the calico barrier. I was so happy to see more and more changes and refreshes happen, just in the last few years it seems. It’s wonderful!

  8. Heather Esakov says:

    Wow ! That is all I kept saying while looking at their fabrics I am in love 🙂

  9. Jamie Fingal says:

    I loved hearing about this company and breaking down the barriers. As a fiber artist who designs fabric for Hoffman California Fabrics, this just makes it so much easier, for someone like me to show people at Market another way to look at our industry, not just one way. I love that. This is fabulous news. Cotton & Steel – great name and their fabrics are amazing! Thank you for sharing your informative post with us!

  10. Heather says:

    Wow it is great to see what these girls have produced. I must get my hands on some of their cotton lawn to make into a blouse and also try their heavier weight in a bag. Thanks for sharing the Cotton and Steel amazing line of fabric.

  11. Tracy says:

    I’ve been drooling since I saw these! Can’t wait to get my hands on it. Such a wonderful aesthetic.

  12. anna says:

    wish I would have gone to sample spree (I heard the cotton & steel ran out quick!). Can’t wait to get these though. great meeting you! It was like meeting a celebrity!

  13. Wonderful pic preview of Cotton+Steel. I am really excited to see what they are bringing to the industry. Beautifully written, insightful review. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Embeth says:

    I hpe Cotton and Steel brings some of those modern quilters into independent quilt shops. It seems like so many of them only shop online. All small businesses are important but the only way to get your local quilt shop to buy the fabric you love is if you shop there.

  15. Sarah Watts says:

    Wow. This means a lot, thank you so much for this post!! *Sniff sniff*

  16. Ralitza says:

    Love the collection and the team. Thank you for sharing your experience and all these beauties!

  17. Very excited about Cotton & Steel. These are the fabrics I would be drawn to in a shop! Lovely overview, thanks 🙂

  18. This was my first market and it was so exciting! It was so nice to meet trailblazers and up-and-comers alike. And someone – ahem, I heard it was you – bought a fantastic cake from Prantl’s that was dubbed “The Best Cake in America” by HuffPo….but left the table before I saw her. 🙂 (Thankfully I was able to scarf down some scoops of the leftover cake; yummy). Talk about getting to see the cake (fabric) and eating it too! Still recovering from all of the sights and events at Market. The Cotton+Steel gals were definitely the rock stars there!

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