In a craft dominated by fat quarters, Jelly Rolls, fat eighths, charm packs and Layer Cakes, wide-width fabrics are often overlooked. Thankfully, Widebacks Australia is raising the standard, and variety, of wide-width backings available to Australian quilters.
Widebacks specialise in high-quality wide-width fabrics measuring 2.75m-3m (108-118in). With more than 300 fabrics currently in stock – and more on the way – it has one of the largest selections anywhere in the world.
“I was inspired to start buying wide backing fabrics when I realised there was a major gap in the Australian market,” owner Brenda Wade explains. “I had been a very busy professional machine-quilter for a number of years and was frequently confronted by very inferior backings.” With such dismal choice she realised other professional machine-quilters in Australia must be encountering the same problems. Becoming increasingly frustrated by the poor quality of wide- or irregular-width fabrics with multiple joins, Brenda decided to take action. “I knew some of the big fabric companies of the world produced wide-width fabrics for backings, but they didn’t seem to be bringing them into Australia,” Brenda elaborates. “Upon making enquiries I was told there was ‘no market for them here’, and that it would be a very risky financial proposition.”
This spurred Brenda into action and before long the business was taking off and she had successfully silenced the critics. “It became evident after Widebacks started advertising through AP&Q that there were many quilters delighted to be able to buy wonderful, quality backings to enhance their quilt tops,” she says.
Widebacks is a unique business with phenomenal customer service; determined to ensure each quilter receives the perfect fabric. As evidence of this, hundreds of sample books have been distributed to professional machine-quilters and patchwork shops around Australia. This allows retailers to provide their customers with Widebacks samples, thus enabling them to match and coordinate their quilt tops with the samples before placing an order. Additionally, if customers send in snippets of their quilt fabrics, Brenda will prepare a selection of samples and send them back for the customer.
Widebacks offers products from all the key patchwork fabric manufacturers around the world, including Moda, Benartex, RJR, Wilmington, SSI, P&B, Marcus Fabrics, Thimbleberries Northcott, Leutenegger, Kennard & Kennard and Fabri-Quilt (plus others), amounting to a huge selection of civil war, sateen, flannel, modern and contemporary prints, tie-dyed batiks, beautiful florals, toile and muslin wide-width fabrics.
“While Widebacks’ core business is wide-width fabrics, we also stock a large selection of pre-cuts, Colourworks solid 44inch-wide fabrics, and patterns.” Brenda explains, “Currently we are excited to be offering a huge selection of Little Louise Designs patterns.” These contemporary, dramatic and economical designs each come with the versatility of multi-sized instructions, often from cot to king-size, and many were designed to utilise pre-cut fabrics such as fat quarters and Layer Cakes, ensuring fast piecing and quick results. The simple and striking designs reflect Brenda’s support and commitment to the modern quilt movement.
The international variety of products at Widebacks is complemented by the tight-knit family who runs the business. Her daughter Danae and daughter-in-law Kristen assist with making sample quilts and step in to help with sales when Brenda is away at shows. Brenda also enlists the aid of her crafting comrades, including Val, who has been called on many times to whip something up at the 11th hour; and Francis, who has stuck labels on thousands of sample cards without complaint. Hubby is not left out, and Brenda affirms he has been the backbone of the business, helping in every possible way and acting as a perpetual support throughout it all.
Brenda’s interest in quilting was piqued at a young age. When she was in the Brownies as a girl of just seven she made her first quilted project – a teapot cover. The unassuming object was used by her parents every day for 45 years. Three years later she bought her first sewing machine. “It is a singer treadle and nobody else bid for it! It cost me 50 cents and I used it constantly,” Brenda remembers. “I still have it.”
Brenda now resides in South Australia, close to her four young grandchildren, and like any patchworking fanatic she’s ensuring they are regularly exposed to arts and crafts. “They’re all quilt and fabric savvy, and the three older ones all have a zip-lock bag with a charm pack that they chose in it,” Brenda explains. “When they want to ‘make a quilt’, they get their own charm pack out and lay out a design on the floor. It gets packed up and stored till next time, but eventually they’ll be sewn.”
Inspired by the extensive range of fabric she deals with, Brenda’s personal tastes have become varied and eclectic. “I love the richness of modern prints, but am equally smitten with the subtlety of Civil War samplers,” she relates. “On hot days, it’s a cool turquoise blue/green batik quilt on my bed, but in cooler weather I choose a quilt with a warmer palette. “
As a result of her experience in machine-quilting, Brenda prefers to make simple pieced quilts that allow the beauty of the fabric to take centre stage, with extra drama created through the quilting. “While appreciating the talent and skills that make heirloom and art quilts, my preference is for ‘quilts for real life’ – quilts that are used, washed and loved,” she explains.
In 2011, after continued encouragement from its customers, Widebacks was represented at the major craft and quilt shows around Australia. In 2012, it plans to continue taking a huge selection of wide-width fabrics to the major craft and quilt shows around Australia, showcasing sample quilts as well as offering pre-cuts, patterns and a superb selection of Colourworks solids 112cm (44 inches) for sale.
If you’d like to browse the range, Widebacks is an online shop and as such is open 24/7. Mail orders are filled every weekday using express bags, with approximately six to seven metres of wide fabric fitting into a regular 3kg bag. “We always post as economically as possible, and don’t charge a handling fee,” Brenda explains. “I’m usually available to answer any queries either by phone or email, and am happy to help with product information or sending samples out.”
For more information, contact Brenda Wade at (08) 8370 7546, 0419 199 727, email Brenda@widebacks.com.au