In business school, they teach you that who you know is just as important as what you know. A great deal of emphasis is placed on networking (which often occurs on a golf course). I found this to be true when I was working, and to a lesser extent now that I have left corporate America. But for the most part, my networks have stayed segregated - business for business, mommy stuff for mommy stuff, quilting for quilting. I never thought they would intersect really.
To make a long story shorter, my DH works and plays golf with someone who also plays golf with the owner of RJR Fabrics. Somehow or other these fine men collaborated to set up a tour at the RJR facility, which incidentally is about a mile or so away from my house! Two weeks ago, I met with Demetria Hayward, the VP of Marketing at RJR, who graciously showed me around the facility.
Marketing people are supposed to be nice, but Demetria was especially so! I showed up not really knowing what to expect since my husband had set this up, and I joked about how it was a little like a blind date. Let me tell you, this was the best blind date EVER! Demetria really took the time to explain and educate me about the fabric manufacturing processes, design aspects, and even a little history of some of the fabric designers. I would like to share a little of what I learned.
First, RJR only manufactures quilting cottons. No apparel fabrics, home decor, etc. Only fabric for quilters! So they are pretty focused. They don't actually manufacture the fabric here in CA. Like other fabric companies they do that mostly in Japan and Korea. When it arrives at their warehouse in Torrance, it is on giant rolls. You can see them stacked in the picture above, though it doesn't give you much of an idea of size. Well no one wants THAT much of one fabric. So, RJR then takes them from the roll and puts them on the bolts like you see in your local fabric shop.
I'm not sure why this machine was so intriguing. You can see the large roll of fabric on the bottom of the machine (and some in the bottom right of the picture). This nice man then weaves the fabric through the machine, and it spins it onto the bolt. He will then mark each bolt with his machine number and initials, as a quality control measure.
RJR also sells some precuts and quilt kits, which they cut and package themselves at this facility. Here are some of the lovely women that get those ready.
Cutting is one of my least favorite tasks in quilt-making, I can only imagine what their day must be like. Although, they do have some specialized equipment. See that machine in the foreground, it is actually a fabric cutter. Looks a bit like an electric saw to me, which I guess that's what it is, but for cutting through multiple layers of fabric at a time. Perhaps if I had one of those, I could cut a whole quilt in a matter of minutes instead of hours?
Demetria also educated me a little about the screen printing process used to create the fabric designs and how they go about choosing designers and designs. She also gave me a bit of a history lesson when it came to some of their designers, including Jinny Beyer, a true pioneer in quilting fabric. She was one of the first people to design an entire line of tonal fabrics in a wide variety of hues of color - 150 to be exact! Can you imagine one line of fabric with 150 different colors and designs? It is called the Jinny Beyer Palette. I, of course, new nothing about any of this, and was happy to learn. I am somewhat oblivious to some of these things since I haven't really been quilting very long.
I could have spent all day chatting quilting with Demetria, but alas, our tour had to come to an end sometime. She was kind enough to give me a little loot before I left.....
OK, so that is a LOT of loot!! I was only expecting a tour, so all this was a bit of a shock. As far as blind dates go, this was like being flown to Paris on a private plane just for dessert. I love color cards and she gave me a whole bunch of them including one for the Jinny Beyer Palette and their line of solids. There is also a kit in there to make a hand bag from one of their more modern lines, Cold Spring Dreams, by Mary McGuire. AND a fat quarter pack of Doodle Zoo by Thimbleberries. Whew!
I would like to thank Demetria, RJR Fabrics, and of course those golfing buddies, for their generous hospitality and for putting the whole thing together. I had a thoroughly good time and enjoyed every minute of it!
So like I said, best blind date EVER!
Thanks for reading today,