Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hosting the President of StudioE Fabrics, Blank Quilting
at my quilt guild

Scott Fortunoff speaking at the
Choo Choo Quilters guild meeting.
You've heard of "Take your Kid to Work Day," but what about "Take your Boss to your Quilt Guild Meeting Day"?

Last year, I extended an open invitation to Scott Fortunoff, the President of Blank Quilting Corp and StudioE Fabrics (aka, my boss), to come to a meeting of my quilt guild. You know... some time... when you're in the neighborhood (he lives in New York.) Surprisingly, he accepted the invite and arrived in Chattanooga for the February guild meeting this week.

Members of my wonderful and supportive quilt guild, the Choo Choo Quilters, graciously rolled out the red-white-and-blue carpet on Monday, [appropriately which was] Presidents Day, to welcome Scott to our quilt guild. Despite the downpour outside, the meeting room was packed with guild members, friends and visitors who wanted to hear about the ins and outs of running a fabric company—straight from the president's mouth.

Blank Quilting Corp. and StudioE Fabrics (two of the fabric companies I rep for), in addition to Henry Glass, AE Nathan and Fabric Editions are part of Jaftex, a family-owned business. Scott is one of the fourth generation family members that is running the business which celebrated an 85th milestone anniversary in 2015.

Here is Scott's diagram of the company's structure on the whiteboard.
Diagraming the warp threads of quilting fabrics.
I brought this quilt—made with Peppered Cottons, one of StudioE's popular blender fabric lines—for the meeting's Show and Tell. The Peppered Cotton fabric line is a shot cotton fabric designed by internationally known quilt maker, instructor and author, Pepper Cory. This quilt prompted a discussion on what a shot cotton is and how it's made. By the way, Scott does a great imitation of the shuttle shooting through the shed.
My quilt (left) made with Peppered Cottons prompts a discussion on shot cottons.
Scott (right) illustrates how the shuttle (with the contrasting colored weft thread)
is "shot" through the opening (the shed) in the warp threads to add
a contrasting "shot" of color to the fabric during the weaving process.
Be sure to keep your eyes open for the new Peppered Cotton colors that are currently in development—coming soon to a quilt shop near you! 

In honor of the president's visit (notice all the members wearing red-white-and-blue), my guild friends brought lots of great Show and Tell. The batteries in Scott's camera phone surely needed recharging by the night's end.
Show and Tell at the Choo Choo Quilters guild meeting—lots of eye candy.
Judiciously following good "quilt guild etiquette," Scott also brought something for Show and Tell—a "scrapbook on fabric" that had images of family photographs, newspaper clippings and memorabilia from the family's business dating back to the early 1900s when Jacob A. Fortunoff started the company.
Guild members admire the images on the fabric as Scott chronicles the events
that commemorate the history of the company. 
One fabric run (shown above) included the memorabilia and
another listed all the names of the companies purchased/owned
by Jaftex through the years.
After the intro to the business, questions from the meeting attendees came fast and furious. There was interest in: the difference between quilt shop fabrics and chain store fabrics, how often new fabric lines are introduced, where the fabrics are printed, where the cotton is sourced, how designs and color palettes are determined, pattern support for the fabric lines [found on the companies' web sites] and whether the fabric companies "set the trends" or "follow the trends." 

"We're lucky when we catch the trends."
"We're lucky when we "catch the trends,"" was Scott's reply. "Every year Pantone comes out with a Color of the Year," he stated. "If [a fabric company] happens to have a line with that color, you are lucky," he explained. "Last year we were lucky. This year we weren't lucky at all."

"We also operate in "one and done" mode as we would rather make more new lines with fresh designs rather than revive [and reprint] a previous one." He went on, siting the minimum quantities needed for a print run and giving examples of how the quantities of yardage for different fabrics were determined based on sales reports and projections.

With all the thoughtful and curious questions, the Q&A session was very interesting and educational including several occasions where Scott had the audience "in stitches."

During his short, two-day visit, we did have the opportunity to squeeze in visits to [unfortunately, only] a few of Chattanooga's terrific quilt shops. Direct from the Chattanooga airport, Scott met me at our first stop at Bernina Quilt and Sew Studio with Melissa and Bill Klingensmith. This sewing machine and long-arm dealer has an extensive selection of 108" wide backing fabrics, including wide backs from Blank Quilting and StudioE). Scott and I also got a tour from Bill of the in-progress renovation of the shop's new expanded space. Watch for a big reveal soon!

On Day 2, we assisted Melanie Coakley and Terri Zitrick-Dennehy at Ready Set Sew select fabrics for this shop's 2016 Row by Row pattern. Both Blank Quilting and StudioE Fabrics are sponsors this year for the annual Row by Row Experience, a national quilting event.
Choosing fabrics for Row by Row at Ready Set Sew with owner 
Melanie Coakley (center) and Terri Zitrick-Dennehy (left).
Then on to Chattanooga Quilts in Ooltewah, TN for a visit with Kim Thomas, the shop owner, and Melissa Wexler, one of her shop associates. Upon entering the shop, we were greeted by a charming display of these pre-packaged table runner kits featuring two of our sewing-themed fabric collections, A Stitch in Time and Small Talk. Of course, this immediately caught Scott's eye as Kim's lovely display featured fabrics from both companies.
Chattanooga Quilts offers kits with projects of all sizes and for any budget. 
Another shop sample was this fabulous bag featuring Peppered Cotton stripes, coordinating nicely with a Kaffe Fassett print. (Yes, all our fabrics play well with others!)
Peppered Cotton stripes with a Kaffe Fasset print.
As this shop visit wrapped up, one of Kim's good customers stopped in and updated everyone about her latest quilting endeavors.
Scott talks quilting with a customer.
I'm not quite sure what this conversation (below) was about, but Scott was apparently putting on a show...
Antics at the quilt shop.
... and had everyone laughing.
You can dress him up, but look what happens when you take him out... to the quilt shop.
From Ooltewah, we headed southwest to meet Donna Cagle at Huntsville Sew and Vac. If you follow my blog, you may recall that Donna has invited me to teach various free-motion quilting classes at her wonderful shop the past few years. I wanted Scott to have the opportunity to meet her and Sheri Spivey, her associate, and to see this full-service, sewing machine, vacuum and fabric shop. 
Huntsville Sew and Vac, Huntsville, AL.
We wrapped up the trip with a lovely dinner with Sherri at Mezza Luna in Huntsville. This place has an upscale contemporary vibe, open spaces, a wood-fired oven and serves up Mediterranean and Italian flavors with local southern ingredients. The artisan pizzas are quite tasty!
Dinner at Mezza Luna in Huntsville—Scott and I.
Thanks for the photo opp, Sheri!
From dawn to dusk each day, it was quite the whirlwind adventure. But such are the lives of those in the fabric and quilting industry—whether it's the president of the company, a shop owner or a fabric rep. I'm hoping that next time Scott comes to visit, the weather is more cooperative so he can fully enjoy the beautiful landscape and vistas of the Tennessee River valley in addition to the creatively curated displays at our colorful, fabric-enriched quilt shops. Thanks for coming to visit, Scott.


  1. Sounds like you had great visits at the guild and all the shops. Good for Scott to see things from your perspective and I'm sure the guild members enjoyed hearing his side.

    1. The guild members really enjoyed it. They threw a few "curve ball" questions at him, but he still batted 1000. It was a fun night.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Gwen. You would have enjoyed the programs at the guild.

  3. This is a wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing all your adventures and I LOVE the pictures. It sounds like it was wonderful fun for all involved. You have a talent for this and it shows in all you do. Glad it went so well and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

    1. Thanks, Trina! Despite the rainy weather, we had a great time. My guild enjoyed the presentation and Scott gave a lot of behind-the-scenes info on how the fabric is designed, printed, and double-and-rolled. As you can see by the pic at Chattanooga Quilts, he got to clowning around and was cracking everyone up.


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