All of our readers on FaveQuilts.com and AllFreeSewing.com adore fabric. We ooh and ahhh over it at the craft store, rub it between our fingers to feel the grain, and stash unsteady mountains of it in our closets. We might even follow fabric designers on Twitter or read their blogs to hear all about their newest projects. But most of us have no idea how a fabric designer’s vision makes its way from the mind’s eye to a bolt in the local quilt shop. I certainly had never thought about fabric manufacturing until I got a chance to visit the Troy Corporation warehouse last week.
After we met at Quilt Market in October, Dorothy Troy (who owns Troy with her husband Terry) invited me (Jessica, editor of FaveQuilts.com) to visit the Troy warehouse in Chicago. Troy both distributes fabrics from a number of well-known fabric companies and puts out its own family of fabrics called Riverwoods. While I was at the warehouse, I had the privilege of seeing how fabric is made from start to finish.
Dorothy began by showing me the different ways that designers present their art. Some designers, such as Marcia Derse, create hand-dyed fabric samples, while others like Pearl Krush begin by painting their designs on paper.
If the original design is a hand-dyed fabric sample, the fabric printer replicates the design in a paint and paper sample:
Once the fabric is printed, it comes to distributors like Troy in huge rolls:
A machine then rapidly wraps the rolls of fabric into bolts:
And then the bolts are wrapped in plastic and stacked on shelves so they can be sent to your local fabric stores. Troy uses shopping carts to move fabric around the factory. I thought they were so cute!
The life of a fat quarter is a little different. Here you can see carts full of fat quarters from the Earth Dancing and The Gathering lines by Mary Fisher and the latest line from Marcia Derse. The fat quarters get packed into boxes to be sent to fabric shops:
Or sometimes they get tied up into adorable little bundles like this one from Marcia Derse’s Shoreline collection. This is my favorite bundle!
Of course we all know what happens to the fabric after it gets to your fabric shop. You buy it, take it home, and hide it deep in your fabric stash until you unearth it a decade later. Just kidding! Ideally, it gets made into a beautiful quilt. The entire Troy office was hung with quilts made from the Riverwoods lines. Here are a few of my favorites: