Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stamp quilts (pick a destination and go!)

Traditionally, a “postage stamp quilt” is made up of hundreds or thousands of tiny blocks that are all the same size- about the size of a postage stamp. But have you ever seen quilts that look like real postage stamps, commemorating cities, states and other places in glorious detail?  The designs, by Debra Gabel at Zebra Patterns, reflect not only Debra's creative vision but also her background in graphic art and design. Looking exactly like a stamp, there is even a serrated edge on the inner border of these quilts.  We’re so enamored of these little quilts!

The patterns use raw-edge applique, and make a 24 x 30” finished wall hanging. And here’s the latest cool development: fabric panels, with the identical images pre-printed on the panels. Simply sandwich a panel with batting and backing, then quilt!   A set of three would be a great way to brighten up a hallway. Right now the CityStamp™ and StateStamp™ collections include New York, Washington DC, Baltimore, Chicago, California, Texas, and more (the entire catalog can be seen at Zebra Patterns). Let’s say you live in Alaska or Hawaii, though... is your home state available? Read on for our direct interview with Debra Gabel, and some very exciting news.

New York CityStamp™ quilt, by Zebra Patterns

The New York CityStamp™ quilt, shown above, has the Big Apple, of course, and the Statue of Liberty, set against the magnificent skyline of the city.

California StateStamp™ quilt, by Zebra Patterns

The colorful California StateStamp™  features the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, the state bird (quail) and flower (poppy), a mining pick and a mound of gold, and plenty of golden sunshine. Debra Gabel has also designed a Beach GetAwayStamp™, below, which perfectly captures the serenity of the sand, water and sky.

Beach GetAwayStamp™, by Zebra Patterns

 A Quilt Inspiration Interview with Debra Gabel, Zebra Patterns

Q.I.: Why is it called Zebra Patterns?

Debra Gabel: My name is Debra. I am also a graphic Designer as well as a professional quilter. I love black and white stripes and often include them in my work, hence the "zebra" connection. I did not want a common company name like... Debra's Patterns. So I dropped the "D" and added a "Z" to the "ebra" and got Zebra!  It is catchy and it is usually the last listing in the large trade show magazines - which is a good thing! It is easy for customers to find me - at last! (excuse the pun!)

Q.I.: The stamp quilts look very detailed.  Are they complicated to make?

Debra Gabel: The stamps are detailed and that is why they are so recognizable. However, everything is raw edge appliqued. That means every piece is a simple cut out with scissors using a pattern. Detailed work does not mean "hard". There are a lot of pieces. In my case - my patterns take some time - but are not hard. You cut the pieces and fuse them in place. Some patterns have relatively few pieces and some have many. All patterns are done in the same manner. I have had some quilters love the stamp but feel much to intimidated to even try what they feel is a complex piece. I heard those quilters.  I came up with the idea of printed panels of every state that I have a stamp for. They are fat quarter size and the quilter only needs to sandwich the quilt and quilt the top to the back on the lines and the stamp looks great! Stitching on the lines gives the appearance of pieced fabric to most non-quilters. It is also a great way to practice quilting and end up with a great project! Those were so successful that I spun it off into another product - a mini panel. The mini is great for mailable quilted postcards, featured as a focus fabric, pockets on a tote or for mini quilts.

Q.I.: We also noticed your wonderful art quilts.  What is your favorite part of quilting: designing patterns, or making original art quilts... or are you torn between the two?

Debra Gabel: I really love it all! I am really enjoying seeing my business blossom. This past market in Houston I have been approached by so many large manufacturers it has been great! I find it so rewarding to listen to what quilters want and design things for them in my style to meet their needs. My intention is to create timeless patterns. Flowers, butterflies and state landscapes certainly fit that profile. These designs come to me easily and flow nicely. My art quilts are made for one of a few reasons. When I feel I need to "say" something and work through inner turmoil I create. My "Aqua Aurora" was the first art quilt I did after having a bone marrow transplant for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma which is imagery of a tree girl with her roots in chemo that flushes through her system and cleanses her. I enter many challenges as I love to compete and the defined subject matter makes me think out of the box. Lastly I quilt as gifts. I try to really go above and beyond with my gift quilts. See my chuppahs.

Q.I.: Are you planning more designs in the various "stamps" series? (We have some ideas!)

Debra Gabel: Yes - I am planning to continue with the states and the cities. I get satisfaction by providing the customer with something the customer can really relate to. Quilters are passionate about their home state and or cities. They get so excited when they see all the familiar state symbols/landmarks arranged just for their state or city! Many collect several stamps and make a large sheet of stamps into a larger throw quilt or even a bed quilt. I would love to hear your ideas.

Q.I.: Your stamp quilts remind us so much of travel posters, like the great airline and railroad posters with their gorgeous scenery. Soooo… we’d love to see stamp quilts for the great travel destinations of the world - cities and countries (London, Paris and Venice come to mind!) But first: we understand you have a new book coming out with C&T publishing late fall 2010.  We'd love to know more about it - what can you share about the book?

Debra Gabel: I do! I was approached by C&T publishing after fall market in Houston to do a book about my stamps. It just so happened that I was in the process of writing my first book! Based on all the requests at market for various states - I decided I would make a book of 50 patterns - one for each state so that quilters could make quilts with particular states of meaning. That was discussed and we turned the book around in record time. It will be released in catalogs in Oct 2010 at market in Houston and be shipping in December. It is all very exciting! My intention is to make this one of those books that most quilters must have! It is a plethora of designs - even if the consumer does not make the blocks. There are hundreds of graphic images to use in quilts. The book will have a specially designed lay flat binding so that quilters can copy images. It has a NEW pattern technique of translucent patterning! It will also come with a CD!!!! It is all so reasonably priced (can't say price yet) that everyone will want one and each design will cost less than 50-60 cents! Most patterns cost 9.00! Most books have 8-10 projects! Mine has 51! It is so exciting!

Q.I.: We can hardly wait to see the book! Thanks so much for your time and for your inspiring designs.

Image credits and trademarks:
CityStamp™, GetAwayStamp™, StateStamp™ and NationStamp™ are trademarks of Debra Gabel/Zebra Patterns. Images are shown with the generous permission of Debra Gabel.  Patterns, fabric panels and other products are available at the Zebra Patterns website.


  1. Debra Gabel here! I had to comment on your posting about my stamps and your suggestion to do international cities...LAST NIGHT I did Paris! lol. Today I went to my email and then to your blog and saw your suggestion! Isn't that ironic! Yes - I already have plans for my next book submission to C&T... Blocks around the world! If you want a sneak peek - go yo my blog at! Too funny!

  2. Debra, your stamp quilts reminded us so much of travel posters, so we immediately thought of stamp quilts for cities and countries around the world. We were so proud of ourselves for "coming up with the idea" - or so we thought - and then saw that you had already done it, AND, that you have a second book in the works... while the first one is going to press! Great minds think alike?! (LOL) Sincere congratulations on your book(s)!

  3. Nice quilts. As a lover of postage stamps (never got into really collect them...I just love their designs) I've long thought stamp quilts would be great fun.
    Congrats, Zebra, on the book!

  4. Fabulous stamp quilts! Can't wait to see what you have for Kentucky!

  5. I am working on the Texas and Maryland quilts. Can you tell me if you stitched down the organza? If so, did you just do a straight stitch or a tight zigzag?

  6. A few years ago, I made your Philadelphia, NYC and Chicago stamps for my daughter, who has lived in each of those cities. To this day, it was the most fun and most creative quilt project of my long quilting history. Kinda loving that Baltimore stamp...


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