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Eye of the Beholder Joins AQR in Houston

Margaret Brewster Willingham helps a customer at one of her “Eye of the Beholder” workshops at their shop in Colorado.

American Quilt Retailer is excited to team up with Eye of the Beholder again at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas! We last partnered with owner of Eye of the Beholder, Margaret Brewster Willingham, at the Meet Me In St. Louis quilt show back in July.

Willingham was surrounded by family heirlooms growing up – furniture, china, linens, and quilts we’re all inspirations for hope in the future and expressing oneself creatively.  So it’s no wonder that Willingham uses these inspirations today to design appliqué and reverse appliqué to help quilt-makers everywhere add elegance to their lives.

Eye of the Beholder patterns include complete instructions, but feel free to attend one of her workshops if you’re in the Colorado area, or visit her website to watch a tutorial on pattern technique.

Also featured on the website are online shopping options, including patterns to download and an option to request quilts or patterns made specifically for you.

One of the featured Eye of the Beholder quilters.

Plus, if you’ve worked with an Eye of the Beholder product, you have the opportunity to be featured on their website or Facebook page! Eye of the Beholder loves to see how you played with color and design.

While you’re at the Facebook page, take the time to follow Eye of the Beholder on Instagram and Pinterest, and keep up to date by reading their blog.

If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you. And visit the Indygo Junction Facebook page while you’re there, too.

Eye of the beholder


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Fabriflair—The Fabric Sensation for Your Shop

Moda-French General-Ville de Fleurie-IJFP205-Centerpiece StarWe sat down with the founder of Indygo Junction, Amy Barickman to hear the Fabriflair story.

Looking for a fun new product to sell in your shop? Fabriflair is the latest product release from Indygo Junction, perfectly poised to help you display and sell fabric, sell tools, teach classes for all ages and stages of sewists and, most importantly, start conversations with your customers.

Indygo Junction first introduced the Fabriflair matboard template kits a little over a year ago. This method was based on paper piecing and used their hand stitched technique. The kits have been very popular and they saw the need for a machine sewn version. Now, with their new Fabriflair stabilizer and pattern line you can choose to sew hand or machine.Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 9.05.18 AM

The stabilizer is packaged in a 10” x 10” format and we also offer it in 20” wide, 10 yard bolts. The material is designed to be thick enough for our Fabriflair designs to hold their shape but it is also flexible which allows for machine sewing.  Also included is a pressing sheet in each package plus an ornament pattern to get customers started.

Watch the video below to explore Indygo Junction’s full line of patterns, see the samples they have made, and learn tips and techniques as well as marketing ideas for your store.

Precut Fabric

IMG_9967This product line offers a fun and easy opportunity to grow sales in your store as well as your community. The entire line is ideal for precuts and fat quarters. All of the patterns can be made with 10” squares.

This makes it a quick and easy way to showcase new fabric lines allowing for customization for your shop’s space and style. The Centerpiece Star, for example, has 60 sides and can display an entire line.

Fabriflair is for all ages and stages of quilters and sewers, from kids to professional FullSizeRenderquilters this product offers makers impressive results for a small investment of time. In an hour you can make the single arm Wall Art Star in one of your new lines. Isn’t this picture of Amy’s niece holding the stars that she made with her mom precious?

Not only can you create with unique fabrics, but you can also use beads, buttons, and all sorts of notions to add a personal pizazz to your finished look. Check out these Tree Toppers & Ornaments Indygo Junction made and decorated with beading pins!

Fabriflair is a fabric amusement! It is a conversation starter at the register and is ideal for classes or demonstrating at events. It can also be a project to travel with that can be sewn by hand at retreat gatherings or sewing circles.

Indygo Junction loves sharing information to help you educate and inspire your customers to try Fabriflair. Through their newsletter and blog, they share assets for you to use, such as sample photos and gifs for Facebook and Instagram.

Here are some display ideas from the Fabriflair Sew Stars Event Amy did last week at Prairie Point Quilt Shop in Lenexa, Kansas.

Check out their new campaign below, where Amy discusses the Sew Stars for Texas campaign for hurricane relief. Note that the campaign has expanded beyond Texas to include victims of Irma and Maria as well as Hurricane Harvey.

Indygo Junction also now offers free shipping on all pattern orders over $100 for shops! Visit to see all their Fabriflair products as well as new releases of apparel patterns featuring quilt shop cottons.

If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you. And visit the Indygo Junction Facebook page while you’re there, too. 

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Introducing Banyan Batiks

We heard the buzz over the new line of batiks entering the market from Northcott Fabrics and we were excited to learn more so we sat down with Karen Gibbs, the Lead Designer for Banyan Batiks. We hope you enjoy learning about Banyan Batiks as much as we did!

AQR sat down with designer Karen Gibbs to find out all about her designing and quilting styles.

Karen Gibbs began her textile journey designing those quirky holiday sweaters that come back in fashion year after year. Karen has an extensive background in the textile industry with over 15 years of experience and is passionate about exploring and developing techniques used by artisans in Indonesia for the quilting industry. Karen has designed over 100 quilt patterns, is featured in several online instructional videos, and is an author with AQS. Her design experience spans across the home decor, fashion, quilting cottons and the batik industry.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your path to becoming the Lead Designer of Banyan Batiks.

A: My initial experience in design was working with a company that manufactured novelty sweaters as well as knits and wovens to compliment them. I worked with an incredibly small team and as a result I was immersed in all aspects of the division, from design, to wholesale catalog creation and marketing, sourcing and production.

One of Gibbs’s only remaining original quilts that doubles as a memory quilt made of her grandfather’s ties.

Also, during that timeframe, I began quilting. Three times a year, we would see swatch cards or headers of newly released fabrics in different substrates and at the end of the season these would get discarded and as a fabric lover, that’s painful to see! I kept these fabrics and began working with them in my new-found love of quilting. I quickly learned these were very untraditional fabrics for quilting and that it was not the best idea to mix wool flannels with cotton flannels! The only remaining quilt I have of my initial first quilts is a memory quilt I made for my grandmother. The quilt is made up of 92 of my Grandfather’s ties, in a radiating Dresden plate.

Joining a quilt guild and becoming immersed in everything a guild offers, from the laughter and tears of regular shared life, to learning the basic construction guidelines and techniques used when making a quilt, is my comfort in quilting. After becoming a mother, I decided not to return to work and instead created a business focused on quilting with divisions in fabric design. The business focused on quilt pattern design for magazines, a book, a line of patterns, teaching and opening a longarm studio. I’ve worked with various fabric companies, in different capacities that ventured into the quilting world from other industries like fashion. Our industry is unique, so having a background in quilting allowed me to develop within its design capacity and outside of the design umbrella. Throughout my career I have developed national quilt challenges, sales programs, guest designer programs and I have received industry recognition for my merchandising abilities.

The culmination of all these experiences has brought me to Northcott and has made this position so exciting.

Q: What inspired you to create Banyan Batiks?

A: Northcott was interested in expanding into the batik market and was looking for someone to spearhead the division. My passion for design and love for batiks made me the perfect match for Northcott’s newest division.

After working with batiks, I was inspired to create a line that would stand out and be different from current batiks. I decided to focus on missing elements in the batik market, starting with creativity and design. I challenged every aspect of the batik design process, from color selection and tjap (pronounced “chop”) design to the finishing on the final fabrics. Batiks are more than just fabrics, they are an Indonesian art form and a way of life for the people of Indonesia. As a company, we want to support these businesses and their life style the same way we support independent quilt shops here in North America, by reaching out to small businesses and discussing innovative ideas. Banyan Batiks offers an inventive approach to celebrating the art of batiks in design. Banyan Batiks brings this art form into the quilting market as a fresh new product while still being steeped in tradition. Very much as quilting is in our community.

Q: There are a few lines of batiks out in the marketplace already, how is Banyan Batiks different?

A: When saying I challenge every aspect of the batik process, I believe that makes us different. To start, I design by collection and typically batiks are not designed this way. Designing full collections makes it easier for sales reps and shop owners when reviewing and purchasing lines. Instead of sifting through 400 different batiks and trying to assemble them together in a cohesive grouping, Banyan Batiks are already set up in colorways and collections. As a designer, it’s incredibly fun to design everything and anything but to achieve a sophisticated and innovative look, reigning in that creativity is necessary. Each of the collections in the Banyan Batiks September line is focused on color, tjap design, and innovative techniques. Tjaps are created for each collection and are reflective of what inspired each line. Typically, tjaps are reused throughout multiple lines in a release but for Banyan Batiks, tjaps are not shared amongst other collections, meaning a tjap found in our Ikat Sketch collection will not reoccur in our Nostalgic Vibes collection. This allows me to use factories effectively while offering a variety of color palettes and collections for shops to buy.

Designs from the Nostalgic Vibes collection. 

Because I’m designing by collection, I am also dictating color within each line, which is very different. Working this way with our factories in Indonesia is something they are still getting used to! Batik factories typically produce dozens of colors and offer large groupings to fabric manufacturers who then pick which colors they want. By instructing color masters to produce specific colors, I can offer trendy, popular and difficult colors that we don’t see in batiks, filling a gap in the market!

Each collection offers an innovative technique that hasn’t been seen before in a batik line. Our Shibori collection is a great example of how different Banyan Batiks can be! This collection is designed and tied like an authentic shibori but colored like a batik. Shibori features 12 differently colored fabrics on 12 yard bolts. The colors range from traditional colors on white, to tone-on-tone colors, to high contrast and a dark, grunge-inspired palette.

Q: Do you have a design muse?

A: My family and everything I surround myself with is my muse. Northcott has allowed me to create the Banyan Batiks Design Studio here in Colorado, which keeps me in touch with the day-to-day life that fosters my creativity. I find my inspiration from outdoor activities, to the chaos kids create at any age, and the quilting culture that is incredibly strong and embracing here in Colorado. My collections illustrate these points, starting with Visual Sound—have a look at the line, any parent knows that feeling! The intense, in-your-face color compared to the noise and vibrancy of kids! Check out the double tjap application in the checkerboard print with the crayon scribbles! My road trips across America’s heartland and mountains were the inspiration for Primitive Lines. This modern Americana collection features prints inspired by Newspaper Rock in southern Utah and the hieroglyphs I encountered out there. Whereas, Nostalgic Vibes grabs inspiration from the architecture of a family home and the traditions of the Indonesian banyan tree.

Designs from the Primitive Lines (above) and Visual Sound (below) collections. 

Q: Do you have any advice for shops on how to shop this line?

A: The line was put together on beautiful fabric headers that are split by colorway, making it easy for shops to purchase the whole collection or a single colorway. The Ketan mixer program and the Shibori collection are designed to work with each collection in the release, so they act as the perfect compliment to any purchase. The delivery dates of the collections are staggered each month in 2018, allowing for innovative batiks to arrive every few weeks. Along with the fabric headers is a corresponding catalog – if you don’t already have one, you can view it online by clicking here. The catalog showcases each collection with beautiful photography for all available patterns. Also, at the back of the catalog we’ve included charts to assist when shops purchase patterns for kits. To help shops with limited budgets and shelf space, Banyan Batiks also offers 6 yard bolts when a shop buys a full collection.

Q: What suggestions do you have for shops on how to merchandise this line for the full sales potential?

A: I am a batik buyer and user. I support my local quilt shops even though I have a stash of fabrics I love. The batik wall in my local shop is incredible to see and when I’m there I must touch every one of them, and maybe even pick up a fat quarter or two of something I just have to have! But when you think about it, it’s not a very big purchase. As an existing customer in your shop, what is going to make me excited to make an impulse purchase or create a new project? As a shop, you already have the newest patterns and fun classes, so how can you intrigue a customer that’s always in your shop? Set up a display of a new, yummy collection, like Visual Sound, so as soon as your customer walks in and sees it they’re either going to do one of two things, buy a 1-2 yard cut of each fabric because a fat quarter just isn’t enough, or after the customer calms down, that collection drives them to your pattern wall for their next project! The ability to merchandise this way is exclusive for brick and mortar shops, but online retailers can post photos of newly arrived collections too! Merchandising with the Ketan and Shibori as the collections arrive in your shop will lead you to reorder these beautiful batiks as they sell through.

When trying to attract more of a modern quilter, a sewist and/or DIY enthusiast, you will want her inspired in your shop, without confusing your traditional quilter. Merchandising the Shibori mixed in with Ketan allows for some color relief and the trendiness of Shibori is what will attract your modern quilter. A window display can say a lot to the modern quilter, too. Show Shibori pillows with coordinating Ketan on the back to attract quilters with this current trend!

Shibori pillows designed by Gibbs.

For the traditional quilter, our Sophie collection is perfect! Maybe she likes some batiks, but isn’t sure what to do with that riot of color normally associated with them. Offering a collection like Sophie that is colored in a watercolor effect, with colors prevalent in cottons, gives your traditional quilter a comfort level not felt before in batiks.

The Sophie collection is perfect for traditional quilters.

Q: Will these be considered “basics”?

A: Our ongoing and reorderable lines include the Ketan mixer program and multi line, Shadows and White on White.

Ketan is the perfect mixer! The line offers a range of colors that include tone-on-tone, high contrast and multi colored prints. Ketan means sticky rice in Indonesian and that’s where the inspiration came from! It’s a celebratory dish that can be seen in crazy colors. When choosing the initial colors of Ketan, I started with neutrals. I felt the same neutral tones were being used over and over and I wanted to see different shades of gray and beige. After I chose the perfect neutrals, I created colors that would mix and compliment the collections. Since I had dictated color for each collection, I knew I was offering a good selection of colors.

Shadows is offered in two colors, Licorice and Vanilla, or black and white. Typically, a black batik has a flat look to it, there are so many colors used to achieve black that sometimes it can look like it reads green, blue or even gray. In most art forms, black tends to drain the colors from its surrounding parts. I wanted a black that wouldn’t do this, so this black has lots of the greens, blues and grays in it, but also has movement on its own. I applied the same concepts for the white batik. Since White on White is already a sharp white, I needed a soft white to go with most of the batik tones.

White on White is a hand screened process made in our batik factories. Since the tjap wax is colored, it’s difficult to keep the white color in the batik, so we were thrilled when we developed this process that gives us pure white prints on white fabric. The finished product doesn’t have the stiff lacquer finish associated with white on white in cotton.

Q: Is there anything else you would like Quilt Shops to know?

A: We listened! Northcott has an amazing company culture in communication and when shops and sales reps say batiks aren’t moving or selling-through, we looked at this as an opportunity to create something new and innovative. Northcott gave me the opportunity to challenge every aspect of creative process and in doing so, I’ve designed a line that is truly different. Fabric manufacturers and quilt shops are in this together, so I made sure to listen.

As the Lead Designer for Banyan Batiks, Karen makes a great addition to the Northcott team and we are excited to see what Banyan Batiks is offering!

If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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How to get out of that business rut

Nobody ever said being a business owner would be easy.

But nobody ever mentioned that chasing a dream would mean constantly feeling overwhelmed either. Being crunched on time seems to lead to a never-ending cycle of stress and haste.

When taking a step back is too detrimental after years of hard work, follow these steps to get your business back on track.

Reflect on past mistakes

Regret can prevent progress, so instead of asking what went wrong, transform the thought into something positive. For instance, instead of asking why you didn’t get the sale, think of how you got the customer into your store. Then reflect on what you can do differently to seal the deal the next time a potential customer comes around.


Identify the problem

If you feel you can’t get your business out of a rut, try to identify what got you there in the first place. If it’s your busy schedule, reflect on how you can make some more time for yourself. Whether you schedule time for mindfulness into your day, or contact the local high school home economics teacher to see if students would be interested in volunteering to help with projects, make a plan to give yourself some breathing room and go after it.

identify the problem

Set goals

Speaking of planning, set attainable goals for yourself. Follow the SMART outline when establishing your goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results focused, and time bound. For instance, instead of having the goal of “increase Instagram followers,” convert that goal to “increase Instagram followers by at least 10 a week for the next four weeks,” and create a spreadsheet to keep track of the data. At the end of the four weeks, revisit your goal, and reevaluate.

pen and paper

Keep the dream in sight

While you’re planning your way to taking your business to the next level, don’t forget to keep your dream in sight. Write down why you’re doing what you’re doing and put it in a place you will see often. Use it as motivation to plan the next goal, or to avoid getting in another rut. Remember, not everyone gets to live their dream, so make sure to keep yours enjoyable.

reach for the stars

If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.


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Become a Social Media Success Story

The internet has changed the way business is done. Today, McCall’s patterns can be found in books and on their blog.

Social media can be fun, confusing, rewarding, and frustrating.  In today’s business world, consumers expect an attractive social presence, but determining which platforms are worth your time can be a long process.

The top social platforms include Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, and each offer different opportunities for your business.

Facebook is the powerhouse of the social media sites, with 70% of active online adults a member of the tech giant. Despite the amount of users, Facebook also has the most engagement, but is the least appealing social site for younger adults. Other features include advertisement options for businesses, with filters to reach certain geographic regions.

The image-driven social sites include Pinterest and Instagram. Think of Pinterest and Instagram as a way to visually represent your company. They are both extremely popular among women, and can be used to express your company’s brand through images. If done correctly, these platforms can drive serious engagement.

A great networking tool for your company would be LinkedIn. Outside of connecting with other quilt retailers, it could also be beneficial in starting conversations on how to perfect your company’s brand (or social personality in other words).

Other platforms to explore include Snapchat and YouTube. If your business has tutorials, classes, or a variety of video options, a YouTube account might be beneficial. If your business has events, you might want to create a Snapchat account to showcase the fun time your customers are having.

Other options include Twitter and email campaign systems. If your business is focused on driving information, then Twitter is the platform for you. However, check into email campaign systems like MailChimp and Constant Contact to send newsletters and other information to customers who subscribe to your company’s email. Whatever you feel important enough to send in an email blast could definitely overlap in your social media.

It takes time, experimenting, and practice to find out what works best with your audience. Keep track of impressions and other social media data to see what works and what doesn’t, and be sure to tailor your social media schedule around that. Use polls on all your platforms to find out what your audience wants to see. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and remember that if you’re going to make an account, use it!

Social media is a great way to create conversations, offer giveaways, or grant discounts. With work and time, your social media can be optimized to drive more traffic and increase your business revenues.

If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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Fall for These Autumn 2017 Trends

It’s well after Labor Day and fall is just around the corner.

Days will get shorter, weather will get cooler, and your store will see fewer customers scurrying for their last-minute county fair project supplies.

But the end of summer doesn’t have to mean the end of a busy store. Keep customers coming back with these trending fall projects.

Fringe: Did it ever go out of style? Tassel earrings are all the rage this season, and are easy do-it-yourself projects. Just have embroidery floss and ear wires on hand, and maybe a printed step-by-step tutorial on how to tie the bundles with your stores’ logo near by. Incorporate these into your display windows with a jewelry holder or mannequin head to advertise the project more.

Colors: Pantone’s color of the year is greenery, but other popular patterns are dark romantic florals, velvet, and neutral plaids. Incorporate the soft and subtle color into those three patterns, and collect bolts of fabric that have the color in their own section in your store. This could also help inspire Christmas gifts outside of the traditional Christmas green colors.

Cork: Wine seems to be the drink of choice for most women, and like any do-it-yourselfer, the best projects are done with supplies found at home. Encourage friends to save wine corks, and make your own display projects of Christmas trees, picture frames, candle holders, and coasters. Think of the corks as lincoln logs, and all you need is hot glue to get the project done.

Although these projects are far from the traditional quilting projects, they’re extra encouragement for customers to come into your store, and extra fun for you. With less time outside comes more time spent indoors, so enjoy this sweater weather and your crafts.

If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.


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Make the Most of Your Time

Being a business owner correlates to a busy schedule. Fortunately, apps are available to organize your life and increase productivity. The following is a review of user-tested apps to help you breath easier and manage more.

EvernoteEvernote: If you had to chose one app to simplify your life, Evernote would be the app to download. This app is all-encompassing; the main screen includes different “notebooks” that can be organized with tags and shared with others to work on projects. Notes can include alarms, shortcuts can be made to access information more quickly, and a search option pulls key words and phrases from all your chicken scratchings.  Ease is the name of the game with Evernote; a work chat feature even stores conversations in one area. This app can be accessed from phone, desktop, or tablet, and includes a premium option for $7.99/month.

SlackSlack: Speaking of storing work conversations in one area, Slack is the app for business communication. Similar to Twitter, mention people by using the @ symbol and create trends by using phrases behind a hashtag to organize the conversation. Other features include liking messages and creating a status. Use this app for multiple group chats; groups are stored by clicking on the top left tab. Perhaps the easiest to use for anyone who knows how to text, Slack is available on phone, tablet, and through a website URL, and is free for all users. Note: the administrator, or the one who creates the group, is the only one who can add others to the chat.

NozbeNozbe: Put your entire staff’s schedule into this calendar-like app. Aside from just sharing your schedule, store and work on projects with your team and create templates for future use. Also included is a priority to-do list and a category option for even further organization. Available on phone and tablet, this app costs $5 a month for a team larger than two people, and includes less features than Evernote.


Flyp1Flyp: Make a lot of business calls with your personal cell phone? Flyp turns one cell phone into two. Flyp is an app that generates random numbers, and makes calls from the app like any other messaging system pre-installed in a phone. Contacts can be imported from your phone, or added manually to the app’s phonebook. Flyp is free, unless you want to use the same phone number every call, and is the most cost effective way around purchasing a second phone.


CamcardCamcard: Ever want to throw away someone’s business card, but not sure if you’ll ever need their assistance in the future? Go ahead and throw away that pile of cards after storing them in Camcard. Camcard is an app only for storing business information. Store your own even, and scan a card in every time you get a new one. Never worry about looking another phone number up when you have to make that once-a-year phone call.

Life is hard enough, so why not try to make it easier, one app at a time.

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Martingale to Distribute Stitch Publications Books

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 8.15.42 PMNews flash! Stitch Publications, a Seattle based publishing company, will now have their books distributed worldwide by Martingale.

Stitch Publications may be best known for translating Yoko Saito’s Japanese quilt books into English. Yoko Saito, known for her precise needlework and taupe color palette, has had 11 books translated into English by Stitch Publications.

Stitch Publications has a goal of finding craft books outside of the United States and introducing them to the English stitching world, while maintaining the original intent of the authors and creators.

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 8.15.55 PM

Stitch Publications journey was years in the making. The owner, an American born and raised overseas, eventually had a career in software that enabled her to travel the world. Many stitch-related books were bought during these excursions, and in 2011 Stitch Publications was born to introduce new approaches to color, technique, and design in the United States.

Through partnering with Martingale, a 40 year old company known for publishing works on quilting, sewing, knitting, and crocheting, Stitch Publications can boast a support system with over 3,000 books that have sold over 24 million copies.

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 8.16.29 PMSaito’s books vary widely, from topic to skill level. Her 11 books include cute and easy projects as well as more difficult and extravagant undertakings. Saito has published two books on bag making with over 45 traditional block patterns and Saito’s favorite fabrics. Other books get sentimental including story quilts, inspired from Saito’s own life as well as holidays, school, and animals.

Saito shares her signature skills in a book on taupe color theory and another with 130 original appliqué designs. Although known for her Japanese inspirations, Saito’s Scandinavian quilt book also features her delicate needlework and beautiful floral patterns. Single patterns are available for wall hangings, table runners, wreaths, pouches, and more.

The next time you’re looking for creative inspiration or a gift for a fellow craft-lover, keep your eye out for one of Stitch Publications unique books.