Ask Grandma

Our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The following is a list of questions that people have asked Grandma.


In addition to your website, do you have a storefront that is open to the public?

Our brick and mortar store is located in Dallas, Oregon, in the heart of the Willamette Valley of Oregon. We’re open 10:00 am—5:00 pm, Monday through Saturday, and Sunday, Noon—4:00 pm (Pacific Time). If you are vacationing in Oregon, we are only a 45 minute drive from the beautiful Oregon Coast. By car, we are one hour’s drive south of Portland; one hour’s drive north of Eugene; and three hour’s drive west of Bend which means we are centrally located to many of the tourist attractions in Oregon. Our shop is also close to Oregon’s state capital in Salem. Our store address is:  167 SW Court Street, Dallas, Oregon  97338.

What type of fabrics do you carry?

We are positive that you will want your projects to stand the test of time, especially after you’ve put all that energy and effort into creating them. That’s why we carry 100% cotton fabrics of the very best quality from a variety of top designers and manufacturers. The standard width of fabric is 44/45” wide; however, we also have 54”, 60” and 90-115” wide fabrics. We note the width of fabric in our description of each product.

Are the fabrics pictured on your website the same size or scale as the actual fabric?

Fabrics can appear different sizes depending on your viewing screen or the specifications of your monitor. We scan most of our fabric in at actual size; however, occasionally we scale down a fabric so you can view an entire motif.  Clicking on the picture takes you to a larger image of the fabric and we note in the description an approximate size of each design.

What is a Fat Quarter?

It sounds like a body part, but it’s not! Instead, this is a way of cutting a quarter yard of fabric to give you more versatility in creating a project. While a regular quarter yard of fabric is 9" wide and 44" long; a "fat" quarter is the same amount of fabric cut "fat." Fat quarters are twice as wide (18") but only half as long (22"). It’s can be the perfect size for many quilting projects.

What is a Fat Eighth?

Similar to a fat quarter, a fat eighth is a small piece of fabric measuring 9" x 22". Used in quilting projects, it is also a good way to sample our fabric collections and acquire the fabric you need to build a palette of quilting fabrics.

What do you mean when you talk about “building a stash of fabric?”

If you think about it, an artist has many tubes of paint on hand so that when they are in a creative mood, any kind of a design they imagine can be created. Likewise, quilters and sewist need to have a variety of fabrics on hand in different colors, designs and theme for quilt creativity! Building a stash from fat quarters, fat eights and other cuts of fabric allows you to create your own fabric palette for use even if inspiration hits at 2:00 am and all the fabric stores are closed!

My first grandchild arrives in a few months. What do I need to consider when making a quilt for baby?

Congratulations on having a grandbaby in your life. You are going to have fun, fun, fun! The big thing it keep in mind is that these quilts will be washed over and over again. You’ll want to use only the best, colorfast fabrics that you pre-shrink before sewing. For color, think outside of the box—you don’t need to stick to pink and blue. Choose a subject that may have meaning to the child or you. Use batting that can be washed again and again without bearding. Sew the quilt together with love; then sew a label onto the back with your name, the baby’s name and details, city, date, etc.

I’ve heard my friend talk about a charm quilt. What is that?

Ever since the 1800s, needle workers have been collecting fabrics to make “charm” quilts—where every piece of fabric in the project is a different fabric print. Fabrics were collected by trading with others, plus saving scraps from sewing projects and clothing. Using squares, one patch shapes, or just about any quilting template available, you may want to begin collecting fabric for your own charm quilt. Choose a size (2”, 4”, etc.) and let the collecting begin!

Someone told me I should use white vinegar or salt to wash my new fabric to set the dye. Which one should I use?

Put the condiments back in the kitchen cabinet. Fabrics made these days will not respond to Grandma’s old-fashioned remedies, and many don’t even need special treatment. If you do have a fabric that bleeds, the only way to guarantee it won’t run is to use Synthrapol and Retayne. Synthrapol removes excess dye and keeps it from setting onto other fabrics. Retayne seals the dye to prevent migrating color. Both products are carried here at Grandma’s Attic.

What is Redwork Embroidery?

Grandma loves to create embroidery work! Redwork is a type of embroidery that was very popular from about 1875 through the 1930s. Patterns were outline stitched in red (or sometimes blue) on a muslin background. Stitches are made using 2 strands of cotton floss (one strand for fine details). Catalogues of the time period offered "penny squares"--small sheets of muslin with stamped patterns that sold for pennies apiece. Older women have told us that they can remember going to the local dry goods store as a little girl and picking out a pattern to have stamped for embroidery. They would stitch this design during their free time each week. Many looked forward to the Saturday trips to town to pick out their next design.

What color floss should I use to recreate old-fashioned Redwork Squares?

The color of floss closest to the color available during Redwork’s heyday is DMC #498. This color is a nice turkey red. Other colors for Red can include DMC #816 (dark red); DMC #321 (medium red); DMC #304 (cherry red); and DMC #666 (true red). For Bluework, we suggest DMC #797 (blue) and DMC #813 (light blue). All DMC floss is available in our webstore.

Can I use a different color for Redwork embroidery?

It is perfectly acceptable to use any other color when you are stitching Redwork embroidery. You might choose indigo, green, purple or any other color you like. The reason the old quilts of the late 1800s were done in red is because it was one of the few colors of cotton thread available at the time. (Indigo, ecru, white and black were the other colors available.) Crazy quilts of the time period had more colors in them because they were often made with silk or wool threads.

Can I use coffee in place of tea for tea-dye work?

You can use either coffee or tea for dyeing fabric; however, keep in mind that both will degrade your fabric. This is because of the tannic acid that is found in them—an acid which will eventually ruin the fabric that you are using. Earl Grey is usually the tea of choice for dyeing, although some people use English Breakfast. Fruit teas are not recommended. You do not want to “cook” your fabric in the dye bath. Instead, use cold water. It will take 20-60 minutes to saturate the fabric.

Some of my quilt block squares are not really square. What should I do?

A fabric square may not be a true square for two reasons: faulty construction (inaccurate templates or not taking care in cutting and piecing) or distortion in ironing or storing after construction. If construction is a problem, try again by creating a fresh square while paying attention to technique. If careless ironing or storage caused distortion, blocking the square and gently pressing into shape should solve the problem. Remember: the more accurate you are cutting and piecing, and the greater care you take to press (don't iron!), the happier you will be with the results.

My grandma recently gave me a quilt that had been stored in her attic. There are dark yellow stains on the fabric. How can I remove these stains?

For one thing, those stains are caused from the fabric coming in contact with wood. If you or your loved ones have stored this quilt on a wooden shelf or (worse yet) in a cedar chest, then a chemical reaction is taking place, causing those yellow-brown stains. Stains can also be caused by aging, mildew, and a myriad other reasons. Since your quilt is considered an antique and not recently made, you may want to talk to a textile conservator as well. For yellow stains on linens, try "Retro Clean." This product is available in our webstore.

How often should I take my sewing machine in to be serviced?

This depends entirely on your sewing machine and how much you use it. A good rule of thumb is that you should take your machine in for maintenance once per year. If you are working with flannel, minkee or other products that create a lot of fabric “dust,” you may want to do this more often. Refer to your machine guide for details. When in doubt, have it checked out by a professional.

I found several old spools of thread in my Grandmother’s sewing box. Can I use them?

It’s always fun to find those wooden spools filled with colorful thread from days gone by, and especially nice when they belonged to your grandmother. I would be hesitant to use this thread in a current quilt project because thread itself has a shelf life. You will want to test the thread to make sure that it does not easily break due to dry rot. You’ll also want to ensure that it is color fast and the appropriate type and weight for use in your sewing and/or quilting projects.

I’ve been told there’s a marking pen that will mark on fabric but disappear once the fabric is ironed. Can I safely use it?

Grandma strongly recommends that you do NOT use this pen on your sewing or quilting projects. The ink from these pens will reappear the minute that the item you created is exposed to the cold. Imagine you’ve worked forever on a project only to have the ink reappear when the weather gets too cold. What a nightmare