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Batik Designs…..Where Do They Come From?

BatiksMy third collection of batiks (Malam III) is now being shipped to shops and I am already working on the next collection which will be available in about a year.

People often ask where I get the designs for the batiks. I feel lucky in that I have a vast archive of patterns I have created since 1981 when I first began designing fabric. Many of those designs can be adapted to batik prints and you would have a hard time realizing that the batik version began with the same concept as the other.

Here is the chop making working from a design and building a frame for the copper strips.
Here is the chop maker working from a design and building a frame for the copper strips.

Creating batiks is a completely different process than screen printing which is mostly what is used today. Where some of the screen printed fabrics have repeats up to 24 inches, the batiks can only have a repeat of about 8 inches. There is a very good reason for this. The “cap” (pronounced “chop” and Americanized as “chop”) is an approximately 8 to 10 inch metal square with the design embedded into it with thin copper sheets.

One of the prints from the Alsace collection by Jinny Beyer for RJR fabrics. ca. late 1980's. I do a sketch of the design and send it to the chop designer to refine for making the design in copper.
One of the prints from the Alsace collection by Jinny Beyer for RJR fabrics. ca. late 1980’s. I do a sketch of the design and send it to the chop designer to refine for making the design in copper.
The design came back and I felt it was too crowded and that the lines would run together. I asked them to simplify it. In the second drawing, it was less lines, but I didn't like the gaps between motifs and asked the the close those gaps. The second revision worked.
The design came back and I felt it was too crowded and that the lines would run together. I asked them to simplify it. In the second drawing, it was less lines, but I didn’t like the gaps between motifs and asked the the close those gaps. The second revision worked.
The final chop in copper and one of the colorations of the batik ovals design.
The final chop in copper and one of the colorations of the batik ovals design.
Oval batik print in various colors from Malam II.
Batik ovals in various colors from the Malam II collection.

Depending upon the intricacies of the design, this can be quite heavy. In the printing process, the chop is dipped into hot wax and then stamped upon the fabric…..all done by hand. The wax preserves the color that is underneath.

Stamping the design onto the cloth after dipping the chop into the hot wax.
Stamping the design onto the cloth after dipping the chop into the hot wax.

If the design is too large, the chop would become too heavy making it difficult for the person doing the stamping.

When selecting designs to use as a batik pattern I look through designs I have previously done and select ones or parts of ones that would create a nice line design, have a small repeat and create an interesting affect. Here are some photos of the original designs and the batik counterparts.

The original design that paisley came from (Corsica collection). There was a faint paisley motif in the background.  And the line drawing used for the batik chop.
The original design that paisley came from (Corsica collection). There was a faint paisley motif in the background. Right is the line drawing used for the batik chop.
Some images of the paisley in batiks.
Some images of the paisley in batiks.

If you are interested in more information about the batik printing process visit my blog about my trip to Indonesia in 2013 to see my batiks being made.

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Designing Fabric

swatchestMost of you know that I have been designing fabric for quilters for a lot of years. My first line was introduced in 1981 by a company that shall remain nameless. I did three lines for that company in two years and they decided that quilting had reached it’s peak in popularity and they were getting out while they were still on top. Hah! Little did they know.

RJR Fabrics heard that I would no longer be with that company and asked me to work for them. It has been a great partnership between us and I have been working with them since 1983. RJR is in the Los Angeles area while I am on the east coast. We mostly meet remotely but manage to get together a few times throughout the year.

Recently, I flew to Los Angeles and went to the RJR offices to meet with the new art director, individuals from the Japanese company who work with my screen print fabrics, and those from yet another company who I work with in producing my batik lines. It was a whirlwind day and a half but we got a lot accomplished.

RJR has moved to new offices in the past year so it was great seeing their new place and touring the facilities. When you walk through the door, you are struck by the openness of the offices and color everywhere. Quilts are hanging all around and it is just a colorful, happy environment.

Sorting batiks
Demi, the head of marketing at RJR, sorting batiks with me

While at RJR, I sorted fabrics from my three batik collections, mixing the groups. RJR plans to make pixie groupings of these (2 ½” strips of 40 fabrics per group) and I am designing quilts that can be made with each group. In fact, I am recoloring our popular Crayon Box quilt using these pixies. Here is a sneak peak of one of the colorways.

Front entryway at RJR Fabrics
Front entryway at RJR Fabrics


Quilts at RJR
Summer Lily and Lone Star Salute in the halls at RJR
A small portion of the warehouse
Working on kits in warehouse
Women making kits for other retailers (we make our own here in the Studio)
The shipping department
Folding fat quarters for bundles
Packaging kits and bundles
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Tips for Success with Mirror-Image Fabrics

Mirror image blogMy border prints and many of my paisleys can create wonderful effects when fussy-cutting their mirror-imaged designs.  We’ve gotten a few questions lately from quilters who have had trouble matching those mirror-images whether in patches for blocks or in borders. In today’s blog, I’d like to give you a little advice to make the process easier. If border print fabrics are new to you, click here for a video of how my border print fabrics are designed.

First, press your fabric before you begin to cut. Remove any creases and distortion.

It is always best to use templates when working with mirrored fabrics. Mark a line directly on the template to indicate where the mirror motif should be. Use care when cutting.  That seems a bit obvious, but taking the time to make accurate cuts pays off in the end.  Make sure that the mirror line is centered on the mirror-imaged motif you have chosen. You can also use the straight line on the border print itself as a guide. We have wonderful resources on our website for various effects you can achieve with border prints and much more.

Carnival uses fussy cut patches to create a unique design.
Carnival uses fussy cut patches to create a unique design.

Now, let’s do one more thing before sewing.  Despite your best efforts, the design may not be exactly the same on the cut edges. Don’t worry! Take the first two pieces to be sewn and, with right sides together, line up the fabric design. The cut edges may not be even with each other, but it will work out as all the pieces will slightly off by the same amount. To line up the designs, find an edge or point on the fabric design near the seam line and put a pin through this spot first on the top fabric, then through the exact same point on the bottom. Repeat as often as you like. Working with bias cut edges will give you any stretch you need to match these points but use care to not distort the fabric.

Sophia quilt
Intricate medallions are created in the Sophia quilt using a border print.

For many machine sewers, especially when sewing long seams, basting the seam first is a way to insure accuracy.  Increase your stitch length and take large stitches the length of the seam. You can then take a peek to make sure each of the motifs mirror perfectly. Then you can go ahead and sew with your normal stitch length.

block 6 col
A block from the 2013 BOM, Solstice
block 6
Same block as above but with a light background and the Ashford border.

I’ve added a new page to the “Tips and Lessons” section of my website on the process of fussy cutting patches using my Carnival quilt as an example.  Once you start playing with mirror-image border prints and paisleys, you’ll be amazed at the fantastic designs you can create.  I hope you give it a try.

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To Wash or Not to Wash….That is the Question

Wash or Not SwatchesThe quilting world is definitely made up of the washers and non-washers with very few feeling “wishy-washy” on the topic.  We recently posed the do wash/don’t wash question to our Facebook followers and here are the results when we finally stopped counting: 291 don’t wash while 210 do wash with more comments still coming in.  Most have definitely chosen one or the other but there were quite a few who only wash certain fabrics.

Let me start by saying there is no right or wrong method.  It is a personal choice. So what are the issues?

Those who wash tend to do so for three main reasons.  First, they want to find out if any of their fabrics will run and they wish to remove any residual dyes or other chemicals such as formaldehyde.  In the 1970’s, new environmental codes put restrictions on the amount of formaldehyde allowed to be added during the dying process but some is still present. This is important to those who could be sensitive to these products.  Another reason some wash is that fabric shrinks and they wish to do this before using the fabric.

For the non-washers out there, our favorite reason not to wash is that they can’t wait to use the fabric. Most of today’s quilt manufacturers recognize that the number of quilters who do not prewash is a large number and therefore, make sure that their products do not run or bleed. There is minimal shrinkage when washing and many quilters like the sizing found in fabric which lends a certain “crispness.”  Also, many of today’s quilters are making pieces which will be washed little or not at all after completion.

I do not wash my fabrics.  Of course, I use only my own fabrics and I know how they will behave.  I especially like the feel of fabric right off the bolt.  I’m more concerned about the damaging effects of exposure to light, but then, that would be a topic for another blog.

For many of you, though, washing is important.  Many years ago, I visited a mill where my fabric was produced.  Here are the tips I received from the quality control manager along with my own findings for what I think is the best method to wash your new fabrics and finished quilts:

  1. Unfold all newly purchased fabrics and put them through a cold water rinse.  If not unfolded, the color can actually rub off along that crisp fold during the washing process.
  2. Wash the fabrics with a phosphate-free detergent in a short, cold-water cycle. Phosphates can contribute to the bleeding of fabrics.
  3. Watch the wash and rinse waters to see how much color comes out.  Dye catchers (such as those under the brand name “Shout”) are a good indicator.
  4. If you notice a lot of color in the water, wash the fabrics again in cold water along with small samples of the light fabrics you plan to use in the quilt.  Chances are the second wash will produce no bleeding. If there is bleeding but it has not contaminated the other fabrics, it is safe to use those fabrics together.  If the light-colored fabrics have changed color, then I would recommend not using the fabrics together.
  5. For washing quilts, use short cycles in cold water.  First put them through a cold water rinse (delicate cycle), then wash them in cold water (delicate cycle) with a phosphate-free detergent.  Put them through a cold water rinse and spin out all excess water.  Lay down several layers of towels and spread the quilts flat to dry.  I want to emphasize that I do not recommend this method for antique quilts where fabric can be extremely fragile.  Contact a textile conservationist for instructions for cleaning antique quilts.
Color catchers can be used in the wash to help collect any leftover dye from the fabric.

Note: It is difficult to find a good quality fabric today which will run or bleed. Our tester tried many different reds before she found a hand-dyed one purchased at a quilt show several years ago.

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Amazing Effects with Mirror-Image Fabric

I have mentioned the Design Board on our web site before.  Just this week we added design number 225.  All of these are free downloads and available in 6, 10 or 12 inch sizes.

As I was fussy cutting the paisley fabric for the points of this latest block, I realized I have talked about fussy cutting border prints (Anatomy of a Border Print), but not about looking for fabric with mirror-images to use in the same technique.

1 and 4 mirror blog WWO end paisley

Here is an image of the paisley fabric I used for the triangles in World Without End, Block 225. The white lines indicate the “mirror” lines. These are places in the fabric where the design left of the mirror line is the identical reverse of the design to the right of the line. In the case of this particular block, the triangle can be centered anywhere along the mirror line.  In fact, it is fun to try it in different places. And don’t forget you will get different designs if you turn the template upside down. See how many variations you can get.

Mirror image lines side by side copy The use of a fabric with mirror-image motifs can enhance the appearance of the block.  See here the World Without End block with and without the mirrored paisley fabric.

WWO side by sideBlock 218 looks great as it is but let’s add a paisley design. Here is the block as it appears on our Design Board and another variation using the mirrored paisley from Renaissance Garden.

Quasar side by side copyBlock 144, Southern Pride, from the Design Board is shown here first the original form and, second, with paisleys used in place of two of the other fabrics.

Southern side by side copyFinally, see how different Southern Pride looks when multiple blocks of each variation are put together.

Quilt side by side copyLook through the designs on the Design Board and see how many you can find that already use fabrics with mirror-image motifs and which blocks you think would benefit from the additions of a mirror-image fabric. E-mail us pictures of your designs at, we would love to see what you create.

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Why We Tear Our Fabric

When I was a child, growing up and learning to sew, I was always taught to be sure that the fabric I was cutting was on the grain of the fabric. In sewing class in school, before we could make our dirndl skirt, we had to pull a thread across the width of the fabric and then cut along that pulled thread to make sure that the grain would be straight. This would be the top of the skirt that we gathered and would assure that the skirt would hang straight.

Later, when I learned to make draperies, we always pulled a thread across the width and then cut along that thread to make sure, as I did with my garments, that the draperies would hang straight.

I have transferred those lessons to quilting to insure that the quilts are straight, the patches not distorted, etc. The equivalent to pulling a thread is to tear the fabric. The tear is always along the grain line giving you the true crosswise grain of the fabric.  I created this video to show the importance of fabric grain when cutting patches.

We start every bolt in the Studio with a tear strip to determine the crosswise grain.  If you order a yard of fabric, we measure out one yard plus extra to account for the torn edges. That way you will have a full yard of on-grain fabric to use. You can straighten the grain by gently tugging the yardage diagonally until the torn edges and the selvage edges are squared.

When fabric is cut from a bolt with a rotary cutter, it is cut at a 90-degree angle to the fold. However, how do you know that the fold is lined up with the lengthwise grain? After the fabric is woven, it goes through several processes including printing, finishing, winding onto a huge roll and then being folded and wound onto the bolts shipped to fabric stores.

All that processing and winding can pull a fabric off-grain. At Jinny Beyer Studio, all our fabrics are manufactured by the same company but some bolts are almost perfectly on grain and a few are off by inches.

The pictures below show an example.  The first picture is of the edge of the fabric as it came off the bolt, cut by the manufacturer. The second picture shows the true crosswise grain of that same bolt of fabric. It’s off by inches!  This shows why we prefer to tear and find that grain line.

FabricTearing - Combo

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Quilters’ Quest 2014

You’ve heard us talk about it for months and it’s finally here, our annual shop hop, Quilters’ Quest. Jinny is busy greeting all of our Questers and doesn’t have time to write this week’s blog. Here is a glimpse at what is going on here and at the other nine shops.

Jinny Beyer1 copy

Jinny greets all who arrive, stamping passports and handing out finishers’ bags.

jinny greeter

We have lots of items made just for the Quest with our gorgeous Quest batik fabrics.

Jinny Beyer2 copy

Again this year we have two bus trips from the Studio traveling to all of the shops. Here are pictures from the first bus trip.

Our first stop on the bus trip was Material Girls in La Plata, MD. Sisters Wendy, Amy and mom Robin own this cheerful shop.

Material girls 1

Here’s the new shop on the Quest, Crazy Cousin in Fredericksburg, Virginia.Crazy Cousin

In historic Warrenton, VA, you’ll find Kelly Ann’s Quilting located in an old carriage house.

Kelly Ann copy

Scrappy Apple in Winchester, Virginia, is owned by the ever cheerful Kelly.

Scrappy AppleCottonseed Glory is located in quaint Annapolis, Maryland.

Cottonseed GloryBear’s Paw in Towson, Maryland is famous for their indoor gazebo.

Bear's Paw1

Patches in Mt. Airy, Maryland is located in an old Victorian home.


In Hagerstown, MD, you’ll find Traditions at the White Swan, a wonderful family-run business where you are always greeted with a big smile.


Our final stop is always Capital Quilts in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Capital Quilts1

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Creating a Border Print

Not long ago, I wrote a blog about how I get inspiration for fabric designs. At that time, I talked about looking at artwork from various design houses. This week I want to expand on that and talk about my border print designs which I do for each collection.

chelsea floralI create most of my border designs from different pieces of interesting art.  For instance, this floral paisley design is part of my Chelsea fabric collection. There are so many interesting images to work with in this design.

To create a border, I select an area, copy it, and make a new file. Then I manipulate, mirror, stretch, compress, etc. I just literally play with the elements until I find something that I like.

chelsea outlineAll of my borders have a narrow stripe and a wide one with space in between large enough to allow for seam allowance. I create the wider stripe first, then the narrow.

This photo shows many of the designs I achieved by manipulating the image.

chelsea in progressOnce I have the two stripes that I’m pleased with I have to make sure that they fit within the “repeat” allowed for screen printing. I also have to be sure that the elements between the stripes line up just right, so sometimes one of the stripes has to be scaled differently or stretched or compressed.

Here is the final border print that I created from that floral image.

chelsea borderAnd that is just the design.  Then it’s on to working on the different colors. My Chelsea collection has border prints in nine different colorways. Phew! How do you think they look?

Chelsea borders

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2014 Quest Quilt- Lotus

Cairo tentmakersLast February I was asked to give a lecture at the AQS show in Phoenix. The quilt show was amazing and it was my first opportunity to see the Tentmakers of Cairo. The two men from Egypt were demonstrating the appliqué technique that they use for decorating tents.  I loved both the boldness and intricacies of their designs and thought that maybe it was time that I got back to appliqué. Inspired by what I saw, I have recently been working on quilt designs that contain both piecing and appliqué.

About a month ago, I shared with you a photo of a quilt on my blog that I was designing and making for our annual shop hop, Quilters’ Quest. At that point, I had the star made and was working on the appliqué which would be in the background squares and triangles.  With all the flight time on my recent trip to Japan, I was able to finish the background and I recently added the borders.


If you are in the Washington D.C. area Nov. 7-16 this year or are in the mood for a road trip, you might enjoy taking part in the Quest. We are working very hard gearing up for it, making special projects, assembling kits, and preparing demonstrations.

Each shop has designed and made a quilt using our color-coordinated 2 ½” strips.  When you visit a shop, you will receive a free pattern for that shop’s quilt. The colors are jewel tones and blend well together. Our Quest quilt, Lotus, shown here, is made up of the strips that each shop will be distributing. There are ten shops and if you make it to all ten shops you will be eligible for some fantastic prizes.

We still have a few places on our two buses and would love to have you join us.

QQ staff image

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The design process behind my fabric

People often ask me where I get my inspiration for fabric design. I am inspired by nature, architecture, antique fabric and wallpaper, and so much more. But a lot of my design inspiration comes from other art. There are design archive companies which cater to fabric and wallpaper designers. They have thousands of pieces of art that they, themselves, have collected to show to designers.

At the Starbucks in Kyoto
At the Starbucks in Kyoto

I have just recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Japan where I met with the artists who work with me on my fabric collections. I also went to the printing facility that prints my fabrics. I try to go periodically to personally touch base with the people who work with me and to also look through their design archives.

On my most recent trip, I looked at more than 10,000 pieces of art in two days. I was getting bleary eyed! When looking at each, it is important to look beyond what is actually there. I look for interesting textures, motifs, backgrounds. Sometimes, something with really high contrast or bold electric colors catches my eye even though I would never use it as is. I look for parts of the design that I can manipulate to turn into something else.

Jinny with art2For instance, Chelsea, my most recent fabric collection, was inspired by designs that I selected on a previous trip to Japan. Let me show you an example of how this design worked for me.

Original floral design
Background design only

The first thing that caught my eye was the beautiful flowers on this more than 60-year-old piece of art. The second was the design in the background. Notice that there is too much separation between the flowers and the background making it a bit difficult to use in quilting. I also didn’t like the white dots on parts of the design.

Studying the design, I decided to make two fabrics from the one piece of art with  one being a separate fabric of just the background.  For the other, I eliminated the white dots and brought the value of the colors closer together.

I do most of this work in Photoshop and then send what I have done to the design studio. They make any corrections that I cannot do on my computer and send it back to me. Once I have the designs complete, I do the colors on my computer and send it back to Japan so they can prepare the art for printing.  Here are photos of three of the final fabrics in the collection

fabrics and backgroundsMost exciting for me is to finally have the designs the way I like them. I then work with the digital images to create a quilt using that collection. I will talk more about designing fabric in upcoming blogs.

Chelsea both colorways
Chelsea quilt in blue and pink granite