Ok fine ... here's the truth. Paul and Adlai from Fabri-Quilt invited a few of us to stop by for a quick tour of their company before we all headed home from Quilt Market in Kansas City. Wowzers! There was more to this company than I was expecting!
Not to mention, the Astral Summer line from their Paintbrush Studios division was the perfect choice for my Side Dish quilt in the October 2011 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting. Actually, the whole experience working with Adlai and Paul to get sample fabric for this project ... plus fabric for kits ... was such an enjoyable process! We were working so far ahead because of deadlines ... they stashed all the bolts I wanted away for me until I needed them for kitting. Loved that!
But then the fun really began! I don't know about you but I'm a Curious George about businesses and what they are about. It's fun seeing what's behind the closed doors. Some of the features in the warehouse reminded me of working for Woolworths as a teenager ... or in the Montgomery Wards building in the Midway area ... specifically those cool and freaky and creaky old freight elevators. I felt right at home!
The Fabri-Quilt building is a full block square ... five floors ... and a basement. We started there to see the steps to getting fabric out to the stores. One area is all cutting, folding, stacking, and packaging fat quarters. The employees were fast!
The fabric comes in on huge rolls and then is folded, measured, and bolted by machine. After it is shrink-wrapped it's stored on shelves waiting to be shipped. All of their machines are calibrated by the government to make sure they're accurate.
Some of it made me feel right at home. Love exposed brick!
On another floor, they make and ship polyester batting. Some of it is for their own use but the rest ends up in stores or at other manufacturers. The fibers come into the warehouse in these huge bales ... they have to be smoothed out and separated ... sort of like a carding machine would smooth sheeps wool. Some of the fibers are straight and others ripply and that's what helps them cling to each other. They are run through a series of machines that eventually makes them into the sheets of batting we're familiar with. Adlai told me that the number of layers added in the process determines how thick and fluffy the batting is. Once they are as thick as they need to be, they are sprayed with a binding agent and run through an oven ... on the other end the batting is rolled and packaged. Then, because the rolls are so gigantic, they run them through a machine that looks like a giant food saver. It sucks all the air out of the bag and compresses it so it's almost flat ... makes loading up a semi pretty darn easy! I've never seen anything like this ... it was pretty cool!
So what happens to the batting that stays in the warehouse? They quilt it! They have the biggest longarm machines I've ever seen!! They layer microfiber or nylon fabric or printed cotton with the batting and then send it through machines to quilt it together. It ends up at manufacturers who make outerwear or tote bags or fireblankets or quilts or table decor. You might be using something right this minute that began it's journey at Fabri-Quilt!
I want this sewing machine!! But they said I couldn't have it. Every piece of quilted fabric is checked to make sure the stitching is perfect ... if it isn't, an experienced sewer fixes it before it leaves the area. Quality control. It's a big deal to them.
They make Woollypockets! I saw them on HGTV about a month ago. They're vertical planters that you hang on walls. And Fabri-Quilt makes them. So cool!
There's more. And by now I have no idea what floor we're on. We've been in and out of a bunch of different freight elevators and have traipsed all over the building. But here are a few things I've learned. I was a little concerned about the vibrations on one of the floors so asked Adlai if that was a problem. He told me the cement floors between each level are about two feet thick ... not a big deal! The building was a factory that made cans for food products before they purchased it back in the 80s. Also ... Fabri-Quilt is able to take on small manufacturers who want their products made in America. Why didn't I know this ten years ago when I was trying to find a US company to produce a gift item I had in mind???
Next time you're in a hotel room, look around. The drapes, bed skirts, pillow shams ... they might have been made by Fabri-Quilt. Who knew! I saw an order for a hotel in Minnesota ... someone's getting a new look. Hotel remodeling is booming right now and they are right in the thick of it!
Flying home on I35 my mind was spinning from all that I'd seen. I keep thinking of all of my pals who design fabric and wonder what kind of products they could create. I love that a Made in America attitude is important to Fabri-Quilt. And I know I've been impressed with their customer service. Paul ... Adlai ... thumbs up! Thanks for the tour. It was so interesting ... gives me a new perspective on Fabri-Quilt!