Fotos on Fabric – Val Sjoblom

In 1982, as a divorced single mother, Val wanted a fresh start. She left her small town in Northern Minnesota and moved her four kids and five Arabian horses to the Twin Cities. She had no idea how tough things could get in the big city. She worked all sorts of jobs (usually two or three at a time) just to make ends meet. When she was 36 years old, she went to night school and earned a law enforcement degree. Although it seemed like a good idea at a time, being a rookie police officer would mean working the night shift in downtown Minneapolis. So, she became a correction’s officer instead. When the Mystic Lake Casino opened in Prior Lake, Minnesota, she got hired as a blackjack dealer.

By 2002, Val’s children, Kimberlee, Jeremy, Chad, and Janalee were launched, but her mother wasn’t doing well back home in International Falls. Although she didn’t plan on staying, Val decided to move back for a while. Then — life took one of those unexpected turns. She fell in love, married Larry Sjoblom, and International Falls, MN once again became her home.

A sampling of Val’s antique stoves.

Val was an avid collector of antique stoves, and she wanted to make a quilt featuring photos of her stove collection. She was excited about the project and took some great photos of her stoves. She bought a top-of-the-line home ink-jet printer, figured out the software, and enthusiastically pushed “print.” Her first attempts were using fabric photo sheets, but the fiber content of the sheets made the “fabric” stiff. Finding a way to get these photos transferred to fabric became Val’s obsession. Over the years, she tried everything — bubble jet solutions, butcher paper to carry quality cotton fabric through the printer, special inks — she even bought a heat press. No matter what method she tried, the photos faded after a single test laundering.

During this time, Val started to quilt and she decided to learn how to use a longarm quilt machine. She purchased her “Statler” and started a longarm quilting business, On A Wing And A Prayer Quilting ( She named her machine “Elvis” because he shakes, rattles and rolls and “returns to sender” quickly.

Bronko Nagurski:  The turning point in Val’s business.

Bronko Nagurski:
The turning point in Val’s business.

International Falls, Minnesota, is known as the “Icebox of the Nation,“ and they have one famous son — Chicago Bears football player “Bronko Nagurski.” His daughter, Jan, came to Val in 2010 and asked if she could put a large portrait of her Dad on fabric so she could use it to make a quilt top.

That moment was a turning point for Val. It was proof that other people wanted what she wanted — the ability to put a large photo on fabric to make a quilt. It became her mission, and she started to research digital fabric printing in earnest. She traveled to several different companies to see their equipment and study the process. She found a large digital printer that could deliver the quality she hoped for . . . but with a large sticker price — $20,000. Every single person in her life told her she was CRAZY, but she bought her first large format printer anyway.

She felt if she could print -— customers would come.

The Fotos On Fabric adventure began in 2010 with the purchase of that first large format digital printer. It could print large photos on 100% Kona cotton. Fotos On Fabric could also do photo editing, including changing photos to black and white, sepia tones or beautiful color. They can print custom designs, including original art onto fabric. Fifty-eight (58) inches is the maximum width with no limit to length. They have the ability to print a very large photo in two pieces which can be sewn together to make a king size project.

Fotos on Fabric finished projects.

Fotos on Fabric finished projects.

In 2012, Fotos On Fabric rented a booth at the International Quilt Market in Houston, Texas. Val displayed many photo quilts, which got everybody’s attention. Every quilt shop owner who came into the booth had a horror story about a customer who invested hundreds of dollars into a memory quilt — only to discover that the water-soluble ink photos washed away the first time they laundered the treasured memory quilt. After that show the Fotos On Fabric business exploded.

Fotos on Fabric finished projects.

More Fotos on Fabric finished projects.

Fotos On Fabric has printed orders from all over the world. They have printed thousands of family photos for memory quilts, as well as prayer shawls for Israel, life size pictures of people, pets, horses, and vacation photos. YOU NAME IT! A National Geographic photographer wanted her photos of elephants and reptiles from Zimbabwe, Africa printed on fabric. One of the more unusual orders was from the Brooklyn Museum in New York, a life size photo of “Marie Antoinette.”

Val says, “our customers use their custom photo fabric just like any other yardage. They make quilts, or curtains, pillowcases, stuffed animals, tote bags, shower curtains. You name it and they sew it. People are so creative! And they are delighted that their finished projects will hold up through normal laundering. Fotos On Fabric has been a wild ride for seven years. We’ve purchased additional printers and are currently launching a new option — finished custom tea towels and placemats with your photos on them.”

Studio 53 Fabric and Gifts Quilt Shop, International Falls, MN.

Studio 53 Fabric and Gifts Quilt Shop
International Falls, MN.

Like all over-achievers, Val’s great ideas just keep coming. There was an empty veterinarian clinic on Highway 53, coming into International Falls — and every time Val drove by the building, had a vision. She wanted to open a store where people could come, visit with their neighbors, take some classes, exchange ideas, and make their creative dreams come true. Val and Larry opened Studio 53 Fabric and Gifts Quilt Shop in June of 2015. The first thing she did was hire her mother to be the store “GREETER.” “Mom tells everybody it took her 94 years to find the job of her dreams. She has become an icon, and she is the heart of the store.”

The irony is that Val’s creative journey began because she was an avid lover and collector of antique stoves. After opening Studio 53, a man came into the store, fell in love with the stoves and offered $50,000 for the entire collection. She sold her beloved stoves, paid bills and ordered more fabric!!

After completion of the huge remodel of her new building, Val Sjoblom has three businesses under one roof: On a Wing and A Prayer longarm quilting, Fotos on Fabric, and Studio 53 Fabric and Gifts Quilt Shop.

She says, most days “we’re so busy, we don’t know if we found a rope or lost our horse . . . .”

SCHMETZ Chrome Professional Grade Microtex Needles

SCHMETZ Chrome Professional Grade Microtex Needles

The SCHMETZ Microtex, generically known as a sharp, is available with a chrome finish. The Microtex Needle has a very slim acute point. Yes it’s very sharp! Quilters love piecing & quilting with Microtex & is nearly mandatory when using batiks. Sewists love Microtex for topstitching & general sewing. Both love Microtex for precision stitches. This needle also dulls more quickly than other needle types, so it needs to be replaced more frequently.

Available in sizes 60/8, 70/10 and 80/12.

Why Chrome?

· Less friction on thread passing through eye ·
· Penetrates fabric with less resistance ·
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· Resists heat – improved durability & performance ·
· A premium needle not available in big box stores ·



SCHMETZ Chrome Stretch Needles

SCHMETZ Chrome Stretch Needles

The Stretch needle has a medium ball point. The short and narrow eye and deep scarf are specifically designed to prevent skipped stitches. SCHMETZ Stretch performs well on stretchy fabrics with elastic, Lycra® and Spandex®. PS: Did you know that Spandex® is an anagram for expands?

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Why Chrome?
• Less friction on thread passing through eye •
• Penetrates fabric with less resistance •
• Smoother stitch creation •
• Resists heat for improved durability & performance •
• A premium needle not available in big box stores •

Available now at independently owned shops and



Modern Quilt Studio – Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part blog about Modern Quilt Studio. Click HERE for Part 1.

Modern Quilt Studio Logo Inspired to SEW

Weeks and Bill both loved their careers, but they didn’t want to be forced to choose between having interesting work and raising a child. They envisioned a life where they could take their child to the zoo on a beautiful day, then go home and work while the baby was napping.

Bill was graduating from graduate school, and Weeks wanted to transition to a home-based, family-friendly business. They didn’t want to do street fairs, and they felt the quilt world was too conservative for their design ideas. Weeks’ philosophy is “Life Rewards Action.”

Weeks Ringle & Bill Kerr working in the studio.

Weeks & Bill working in the studio.

So, instead of attending Bill’s graduation, they invested their savings in a booth at the International Contemporary Furniture trade show in New York City. Weeks understood how buildings were built and funded. She also knew about decorating budgets. They went to that first show with the modern quilts they’d made. These were quilts people hadn’t seen before — all machine quilted. They weren’t trying to recreate nostalgia. They were making quilts that expressed the times in which we live. That trade show was the launch of their business. They scored numerous quilt commissions and established relationships with influential interior designers.

For the next five years, they sold finished quilts at museums in New York and had an eight month waiting list for commissions. A publisher approached them about writing a book and fabric companies wanted them to design fabric. Modern Quilts were starting to become embraced by the quilting world.

Bill, Sophie and Weeks at home with Kip.

Bill, Sophie and Weeks at home with Kip.

Weeks says, “Success didn’t come overnight. Sure, we had a bunch of quilts in the Oprah magazine, and we received lots of coverage in many prestigious magazines — but that didn’t just happen. We took risks and we invested our own money. Life rewards action — and we spent $5,000 for that booth. We printed a catalog, we sent out beautiful press releases (which looked like little fabric lunch bags). We worked hard and we took chances. We had a plan, and we were strategic. And now we have a workplace where, around 3:30 PM, when our daughter Sophie gets home from school, we make tea and a snack for ourselves and our staff. She’s a sophomore in high school. Our business predates her adoption so she always peeks over our shoulders to register her opinions on whatever we’re working on.

Although some quilters like to stick to one look or one technique, our work is quite varied. Our quilts are made using large and small pieces, hand and machine appliqué, hand and machine quilting and a variety of innovative construction techniques. We don’t want to end up in a rut so we are always trying new approaches to making quilts.”



When asked about where they get their inspiration, they had this to say:

Bill: We both keep sketchbooks on our desks and bedside tables to capture and share inspiration whenever it occurs. Weeks and I check in with each other to get opinions. I think the breadth of both of our interests and skills is vital to what we do. I tell my students that I hope they are as lucky as I in finding someone who is a great critic and editor of my work. Having a wonderful spouse whom you trust to give you honest feedback on your design, writing and business ideas is as good as it gets.

Weeks: Inspiration to us is not so much something you find on a shelf but a lifestyle choice. To be creative, you have to have a source of inspiration but you also have to have space in your head to do something with the inspiration. We find inspiration in the work of artists we follow, popular culture, and the desire to make quilts that are both innovative and practical. Every quilt we make is machine washable and dryable. Being able to use the quilt is an important part of making it for us.

It is hard to imagine what the Modern Quilt movement would look like if it weren’t for the partnership and influence of Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. It would be like a peanut butter sandwich without the jelly. A cartoon with Tom but no Jerry. Macaroni without the cheese? Needle without thread.

SCHMETZ Chrome Topstitch Needles

SCHMETZ Chrome Topstitch Needles

The SCHMETZ Chrome Topstitch needle has an extra-long eye that allows
the use of heavy, multiple or poor quality threads.
Combine the Topstitch needle with a straight stitch
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Available now at independently owned shops
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