Review: Heather Ross and Denyse Schmidt at Bolt; Fabric 2.0 Party

Sarah of Sewer-Sewist was kind enough to be my reporter and review the open-to-the-public events that happened along with Quilt Market this past weekend. This is also the first of I hope many guest writer appearances on True Up. Thank you SO much, Sarah!

There was a funny sort of feeling in the air all weekend in Portland. Normal civilians probably didn’t notice, but those of us in the local crafty community sure felt it. The International Quilt Market was in town for their spring show. Sadly, we consumers don’t get in the doors of this shindig — it’s reserved for members of the trade only. We mere mortals did get a little glimpse into the future of fabric at Bolt’s meet and great with two of everyone’s favorite fabric designers: Queen of Cute Heather Ross and Quilting Guru Denyse Schmidt, both working with FreeSpirit Fabrics.

Denyse and Heather were showing off their new fabric collections, and needless to say, it was a real treat to see these fabrics before they hit the shelves.

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Swatches from Denyse Schmidt’s and Heather Ross’ new collections

The upcoming line from Denyse will be perfect for home decorators or handbag makers. County Fair is lovely, durable 60-inch wide canvas sateen (think the weight, weave and feel of Amy Butler’s home dec fabrics), with prints that seem to be a hybrid of Denyse’s previous two lines. It features the rich, deep tones of Flea Market Fancy with bold graphics inspired by Katie Jump Rope.

Denyse also designed a special fabric the County Fair collection, what she called a “cheater print” that mimics a pieced quilt, which can be quilted without the labor-intensive piecing of a traditional quilt. Apparently, these types of fabrics used to be extremely popular, and Denyse has done a beautiful job of refreshing the cheater print by including prints of each of the fabrics from County Fair. Hearing Denyse talk about this new fabric, I began to believe that even I — as certifiably quilting-phobic — could make a pseudo-quilt.

As a garment sewer, I was initially disappointed by the heavy weight of County Fair, but was assured that it was completely doable for clothing. I’m not entirely convinced that the weight of fabric would be suitable for everyday clothing, but both Denyse and another individual from FreeSpirit were wearing perfectly adorable A-line shift jumpers made from County Fair.

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People ogle the new fabrics — note the dress on the left!

Heather Ross is the designer that I always refer to in conversation with other fabric geeks as “the one who designs all the cute stuff.” Her designs are whimsical and delicate with a bit of an ironic twist. Last year the gnome fabric from her Lightning Bugs line was sold out all over the Portland area and I had to go to great lengths to track some down, so needless to say, I’m kind of a fan.

Mendocino, Heather’s latest line from FreeSpirit, is classic Heather, with a unified feeling similar to Lightning Bugs. Heather spent a number of years on the northern California coast, which is the inspiration for this line. Mermaids, seahorses, and octopi swirl together in reds, browns, pinks, and aquas, creating prints that almost seem to move.

Heather is an absolutely delightful person. In fact, I managed to have a completely goofy moment, because I was chatting with another fabric geek at Bolt and a youngish woman came up to me and said, “I love that skirt. Great fabric.” (I was wearing my pick bicycle skirt made from one of the fabrics in Lightning Bugs.)

To which I quipped, “Thanks. It’s National Bike to Work Day, you know. I figure I don’t have to actually ride my bike if I wear this skirt.”

The person laughs and moves on. I think I’m witty and clever.

A few minutes later the same youngish woman gets everyone’s attention and introduces herself as Heather Ross. Doh!

Anyway, I managed to catch up with Heather later on and chat with her (after apologizing for being a total doofus). This has been covered somewhat on other blogs, but Heather’s got a lot of irons in the fire at the moment. In addition to her fabrics, she also has a new book coming out, “Weekend Sewing,” a quirky stationery line through Chronicle Books and a series of sewing patterns that will be released in the next six weeks or so. I talked to Heather about her book a bit. It’s not going to be released until next January, but it features lots of innovative patterns for the home, such as “Guest Room Slippers,” adorable children’s patterns (made all the more adorable by being made up in her fabrics — there’s just something about a two-year-old wearing an outfit covered in goldfish) and finally, some simple but classy adult clothing. All and all, there’ll be about 30 patterns included in this new book.

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Preview of Heather Ross’ Weekend Sewing book cover

Bolt’s owner Gina always does a bang-up job in hosting these types of events, and she didn’t disappoint. In addition to the meet and great, book and fabric preview, book signing (in the case of Denyse) and snacks, the two designers and Bolt put together a yummy goodie bag (that I didn’t win!) that people were practically looking to steal. Seriously, people were asking constantly, “If I go down the street and get a drink, will you call me if I win?” It was that good of stuff. Apparently, Denyse and Heather just grabbed a bunch of stuff from their studios to include. Included in the giant book bag was Denyse Schmidt Quilts (signed, I assume); an almost illegally-adorable pair of Munki-Munki pajama pants; stationery from Heather Ross’ Goldfish I Have Loved Too Much line; a scrap bag from Denyse’ studio and her quilt pattern “Single Girl Ring”; a Bolt gift certificate; and more (two of us pawed through the entire thing, and the goodies seemed endless — apologies to whomever won, your stuff may be “gently used”).

Other notes of Quilt Market 2008, from an outsider’s (aka someone who didn’t actually get in the door) perspective:

- Michael Miller fabrics and J. Caroline Creative hosted a mixer called “Fabric 2.0” at Oba in the Pearl District. Amazingly, my co-blogger and husband, Josh, and I were invited! There were several young (as in younger than me, so probably 20s or so) designers that had forthcoming lines with FreeSpirit. It seems the FreeSpirit is really trying to capitalize on the youth appeal with their products, so look out for some fresh, designs from that label.

- At that same event, we met Joel Dewberry, who’s just dang nice. Seriously, he’s an incredibly nice, soft-spoken guy, who seems to really be thoughtful about his work and designs. He also has a line of canvas sateen fabric coming out. Gina at Bolt told us that it’s incredible.

- We think we spotted Heather Bailey walking into Bolt just as we were leaving. I immediately recognized her because of her haircut.

- Anna Maria Horner was also at the Bolt event, but we didn’t get to meet her. Darn! I’d just listened to the podcast with her on CraftSanity, so I would have liked to talk to her about the path she took in becoming a fabric designer. Plus, her new line, Drawing Room, is sweeeet.

6 Comments

  1. [...] say, I’m thrilled to be her very first guest contributor. So, scoot on over and check out my outsider’s review of the Quilt Market fabric weekend here in [...]

  2. Jen (Annibird) says:

    Let me just say I was ecstatic when this post came up on my Google Reader. That’s actually me and my good friend in the picture…you’d actually have to squint to see. We are the two brunettes in the picture on the other side of the table. It was such a fun event at Bolt and I kick myself for not taking more pictures. We were in town for Quilt Market and I am so glad we made a stop into Bolt!

  3. Amber says:

    Fabulous post! I loved it. Thanks for all the info and Heather’s book looks great! I love this blog – keep up the great work!!

  4. Great reporting! Thanks for sharing the experience.

  5. [...] Heather Ross’ “Lightning Bugs” collection from FreeSpirit (I’m a bit of a FreeSpirit junkie, I think) that I had originally intended for [...]

  6. [...] Heather Ross’ “Lightning Bugs” collection from FreeSpirit (I’m a bit of a FreeSpirit junkie, I think) that I had originally intended for [...]