Tag Archives: Kona Cotton Solids

Do You Use Solids In Your Quilts?

Do you quilt with solid fabrics? If so, do you create quilts from all solids, or do you mix them in with other fabrics?

The question arises from a comment on my recent post about quilting rules. The comment (from my sister) said one of her rules is no solids. Huh.

I don’t use solids a lot, and in truth prefer tone-on-tone prints. I think they offer more depth and interest, while solids can read rather flat. But solids have a long history with quilting, from the classic red, white, and green quilts of the early 1800s, to the Amish, to contemporary quilting.

When I do use them, it’s typically as one more source of color in a quilt with many types of prints. However, I have made a couple of quilts that were of only solid fabrics.

Daughter’s medallion in solids. 2014.

Branching Out. 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

A question often comes up about solid fabrics sold at chain stores, like JoAnn Fabrics. JoAnn’s sells solids under two or three different labels. One label (brand) is Kona Cotton Solids. Are Kona solids at JoAnn’s the same as Kona solids at a quilt shop? If you buy something called “Kona” at the quilt shop, it also will show the maker as Robert Kaufman. JoAnn’s doesn’t say that.

Who makes JoAnn’s Kona solids? Are they made by Robert Kaufman or some other manufacturer? Are they Robert Kaufman second-quality goods?

Bonnie Hunter’s Quiltville blog addressed this question in 2014. Bonnie and Robert Kaufman answered definitively. I encourage you to read the whole answer provided by Robert Kaufman. However, I’ll summarize here:

  1. Robert Kaufman makes ALL Kona Cotton Solids, regardless of retailer.
  2. ALL Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton fabrics distributed are first quality. Seconds are destroyed.
  3. If you find fabric labeled as Kona Cotton Solids that appears to be of lower quality, the company would like you to mail them a sample.

Where should you buy your Kona Cotton Solids? Many of us like to patronize our local quilt shops, ensuring their success to keep them in our communities. Many of us like the coupons and sales offered by JoAnn Fabrics, or the convenience of shopping various vendors online. As with most of the rest of my fabric purchases, I will continue to buy at JoAnn’s now and then, and make sure I support my local shops, as well.


July — What a Month!

For several months I’ve put together a review listing projects I’ve worked on and finished, reading and writing I’ve done, and other things that happened during the month. This month has held so much, it’s hard to know where to start. So I’ll start at the beginning.

July began with health concerns for one daughter and ended with health concerns for the other. Fortunately, things are looking up for both of them. In the middle of the month, Son had a go at illness with puking, but his issues seem to be resolved, too. (!!!) Other than the health issues that really had nothing to do with Jim and me except our worry, it was a busy and rewarding month.

On the quilting front, I finished my newest project, Branching Out. I made it for my guild’s annual challenge. This year the challenge was to create a quilt in only solids of at least three colors. Once inspiration hit, the design and execution of piecing went easily. Quilting was another story, but the quilt is done and I’m happy with it.


Branching Out. 45″ x 54″. Finished July 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush. To see the back, go to the linked post.

Last week I began a new quilt, all of 8″ hourglass blocks. It will be in a 10×10 layout, finishing at 80″ square if I don’t add borders. The fabrics are old-fashioned pretties that have been in my stash for a while, things I’m not replenishing these days. All the blocks are cut and 10 of 100 have been stitched completely. The other 90 blocks are in two parts each.

I randomly paired dark fabrics with lights to create each half-block, and I’ll randomly match up those half-blocks also. There are about 20 different light-valued fabrics. The darks are in reds, teals, greens, and purples. Once all the blocks are done, I’ll lay them out (this is a floor project) and balance them for color. Then comes assembly. It isn’t a project I’m in a hurry for, and it might be the end of August or later before it’s finished.


The view from the front of the building. You can click on the photo to see it bigger in a new tab.

A fun thing for me in July was to have my quilts displayed at a local quilt shop. Inspirations in Hills, IA, exhibits local quilters’ work on the second floor. I had 11 of my medallion quilts displayed there. Even more fun: in August I’ll have seven more showing there!

As to reading and writing, I didn’t do a lot of either in July. I am working on a new guild presentation and got a good head start on that. But blog posts have been few and far between. One Jim and I wrote together is on the new WordPress Reader format. If you are a WordPress blogger, please take a look. Even if you don’t use Reader, your audience may. There are some valuable tips in the post.

So I didn’t get a lot of quilting done, nor did I write much. What else was going on? It was a month filled with family time. We enjoyed more time with our older daughter than we almost ever get. Our younger daughter and her husband and five children came to Iowa in the middle of the month. The primary reason was a big family reunion of Jim’s family. He is one of nine siblings, and all of them and spouses were able to join in, as well as most of the off-spring. There were 87 people at our daughter’s house on the first reunion day, and only a few less than that on the second day (fortunately, NOT at her house!) Son was able to join in the fun, as well, so we were able to have all three of our children and all seven grandchildren around for a bit of time.

At the end of the same week, our young ‘uns and a passel of other loved ones were at our home for dinner. There were about 20 of us here for a precious, memorable evening.

And for just a little more excitement, Jim and I had the thrill of seeing a funnel cloud in mid-month. In contrast, at the beginning of the month, we had some of the finest July weather ever for the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival. Three days of music on four stages, all free all the time. Come on by next year!

It was not a typical month by a long shot. And, Jim Fetig, this was not a typical monthly review. No lists, no enumerations, no big analysis. I got this…

My life is full and I am very blessed.



Branching Out

Months after the challenge was issued, weeks after inspiration finally sparked, on Monday I finished my quilt in solids. None too soon, as the guild meeting was that evening.

The challenge required use of only solid fabrics (no prints, stripes, shot cottons, mottled hand-dyes, tone-on-tone, etc.) of at least three colors. Entered quilts must be finished, meaning they need to be three layers, quilted, bound, and labeled.

The guild has about 150 members, and about 20 quilts were entered in the contest. In size they ranged from about 18″ across to about 72″. In style they tended to “modern” or “art,” though all were quite different from each other. There was one big sampler, one expertly appliqued medallion, one “Aviatrix” medallion without the butterfly outer border, a couple of “twister” wall-hangings, a lovely art quilt on fading memories (one of my personal favorites). One member, Meredith, is a talented hand-quilter and entered two wonderful pieces. Both were in muted colors but different personalities, and her intricate work was beautifully integrated in the total designs.

Some of the quilts were designed by their makers. Others were modifications of other designs, and some were from patterns. Some of the quilts were quilted by their piecers/appliquers; others were not.

Our challenge is always a friendly affair with two winners. One is chosen by the judges, the committee that develops and issues the challenge, and one is chosen by the viewers. The range of designs would give an unbiased voter pause.

My quilt did not “win” in either category. However, I’m very pleased with it in general. I’d like do-overs on the quilting, in particular, but here are the positives:

  • It is my design, my piecing, my quilting, my binding, my time, my tools, my love.
  • The design is new for me, especially in terms of how I used space,
  • yet it still looks and feels like me.
  • I challenged myself to try new things on the top, the back, the label, and the quilting,
  • and I met that challenge fearlessly.
  • The design is successful in its unity, its balance,
  • its color and value use,
  • and its subtle asymmetries that keep it interesting.
  • It is fun to look at.
  • And it was fun to make,
  • except the quilting, which wasn’t.

Branching Out. 45″ x 54″. Finished July 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.


Branching Out back. Photo by Jim Ruebush.


The label stitched into the binding. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Branching Out — The Finished Top

As I mentioned in the last post about this quilt, my local guild has an annual challenge. This year’s challenge, issued last September, is to create a quilt from all solids, using at least three colors.

I was uninspired to begin a project for the challenge until I saw a quilt in the photo below. Notice the quilt hanging on the left, obscured by the chandelier.

Look at the photo on the far left, behind the chandelier. https://sewkatiedid.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/a-summer-workshop/

Though the quilt inspired me, I didn’t want to make someone else’s quilt. While I considered ideas for my own, I thought about some of the Native American designs, including some we saw in New Mexico last fall. As a third point of inspiration, it almost looked like a medallion quilt, but inside out. The “central” design on the quilt above is on the edges, while the “borders” were the diagonal stripes on the interior, and the broad section of flying geese through the middle.

Medallion quilt? No problem! I can do that!

I will admit, while I usually design my medallion quilts as I go, this one had to be designed before beginning. Of course, I did make a few changes while in process. That will always happen if only because real fabric isn’t the same as pixels. But the changes were minor.


Branching Out. Unquilted. 45″ x 54″.

This is the top, still to be quilted and bound. The July meeting is in two weeks, so barring misadventures, I have lots of time to finish it.

Branching Out — The Challenge

My local guild has an annual challenge. In the eight years I’ve been a member, I’ve participated a couple of times. For the red and white challenge in 2012, I entered this quilt using a wedding ring block. I designed the setting.

The red and white challenge quilt, also known as the hunger quilt. A friend “purchased” it from me, giving the price to a local food pantry. It’s about 70″ square. 2012.

I didn’t win. My guild has very talented members.

Really, the goal isn’t to win. It’s to challenge yourself, in the process building skills and creative power.

This year’s challenge, issued last September, is to create a quilt from all solids, using at least three colors. I use solids, but generally I mix them with patterns of one type or another. Last fall I made a small quilt all in solids. It is pretty but not very interesting.

In fact, solids are not very interesting to our eyes. They are flat and don’t provide any sense of depth, rhythm, or contrast. Unlike patterns, they don’t hold attention, as we quickly determine there is nothing more to see.

There are a number of ways to make solids more interesting in a quilt. One is by covering them with beautiful quilting to add texture and pattern, as the famously solid Amish quilts do. Another is to use them in unexpected ways. Unusual color combinations or arrangements of elements can hold interest, even when the fabrics individually do not. In a block quilt, that could mean an unusual layout of the blocks. In a medallion, using asymmetric borders might draw us in. A lot of solid modern quilts successfully break the grid altogether.

I don’t want to spend time making an uninteresting quilt with uninteresting fabrics. I’ve had a hard time feeling inspired to begin this challenge. That changed recently when I saw a photo on a blog. Notice the quilt hanging on the left, obscured by the chandelier.

Look at the photo on the far left, behind the chandelier. https://sewkatiedid.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/a-summer-workshop/

I don’t know if it is made in solids, and it doesn’t matter. The arrangement of elements — color, value, shape, line — is unexpected, interesting, and held my attention. I sent the photo to my sister and said, “I want to make THAT quilt! Except of course I don’t want to make someone else’s design.”

Challenge: design and make a quilt in all solids of at least three colors. How can I use solids in a new, interesting way? Seth Godin writes:

This is a challenge I can meet. I will try to pull a hat out of a rabbit, turning the question upside down, to do it backwards, sideways, or in some way significantly more generous or risky.

I have a plan and last week I began construction. Since then we’ve had company a couple of times, slowing me down. In a few days I’ll have a finished top and will show you the work in progress.

How do you challenge yourself? Do you seek out new problems? Or do you try to solve problems in new ways?