What is Buffalo Plaid?

This isn’t the typical Ask Sewfie column, in that it’s not an actual question from a Sew Fun reader. This Ask Sewfie inquiry came about out of pure curiousity after my son, 8, asked for some red and black checkered pajamas… to match his new red velour robe, of course. I dutifully went to the local JoAnne’s where they predictably had plenty of red and black plaid fleece. I noticed it was all labeled “buffalo plaid”.

“What the hell is ‘Buffalo Plaid’?”, I thought. Note that in high school I rocked the 80’s in a custom made purple wool buffalo plaid winter coat. It was awesome. Thanks, Mom!

The Back Story

Well, it turns out, “buffalo plaid” originated from the Woolrich Woolen Mills, in Maine. The company began producing the Buffalo Check shirt around 1856. Due in no small part to its thickness and warmth, the shirt was an instant hit with workers and outdoorsmen braving the elements and has been in the Woolrich line ever since. Legend has it that Woolrich’s designer of the distinctive style owned a herd of buffalo and that’s how it got its name.

Woolrich Wooolen Mill

The Pajamas

I got started on the pajamas. I was pretty horrified that a simple “Easy, One-Hour Project!” pattern cost $15.95. When I was in high school, (yeah, this post is devolving into one of those old-people “when I was a kid” stories….) the only patterns that cost $15 were the crazy Bellville Sassoon patterns which would only be suitable for the prom, although I never did buy any of their patterns and the prom dresses I did make were pretty lame.

Pajama time!

Here is a Handy Tip

Whenever I make pajamas (and yeah, it’s A LOT), I always add a little satin ribbon tab on the butt so that the kids know which side is “the back”. Choose a color that’s REALLY REALLY obvious. Remember, our kids are the YouTube Generation which means they seriously don’t know how to dress themselves.

Add a satin tab on the back of your jammies and you’ll always know where your butt is

On an Unrelated Note

What is Low Volume Quilting?

Dear Sewfie,

What is “Low Volume” quilting? Apparently, its a “thing”. I’ve been hearing a lot about it, but I don’t get it.

– Volume What?

Dear Volume Impaired,
Contrary to what the name would imply, Low Volume quilting is not a bunch of lazy quilters that only make one quilt every five years. It’s actually a term referring to what types of colors and prints are used in the fabric selection.

Some describe Low Volume fabrics as low contrast, using a lot of white, light grey and pastels while avoiding bright or saturated colors.

A nice example of a Low Volume quilt

This isn’t a totally accurate description because although Low Volume fabrics are pale fabrics, with mostly white, cream or pastel backgrounds, they often have accents of brighter or darker colors thrown in for interest. These fabrics can vary from the lightest tone-on-tone fabrics, to text fabrics printed on a light background, to light floral fabrics.

Tips for working with Low Volume fabrics

  • Variety – When choosing Low Volume fabrics, be sure to gather a variety of different types of prints: soft polka dots, light floral prints, tone-on-tone fabrics, soft text prints, and geometrics are all good choices. Even a bold pattern like a chevron can work as a Low Volume fabric if the colors are light enough.
Tone-on-tone and even chevrons can be considered low volume
  • Scarcity – Try using Low Volume backgrounds in just a few blocks from a quilt or sampler. Using just a touch of these fabrics will make the quilt a bit more modern with a touch of whimsy.
  • Fun Prints – Look for fun Low Volume prints such as line drawings of flowers, trees, branches or bikes, or even cartoonish animal prints and text prints.
  • Practice – Try using Low Volume fabrics in a smaller project such as a pillow, table runner, or wall hanging before moving on to working with these fabrics in a larger quilt project.

    Any easy way to get started with low volume quilting could be a sampler pillow made up of 2 1/4″ “mini’s”
Warm Stitches,


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