I went into a presentation yesterday with the fabric in the photo on my design wall. This was not my intention and I was, frankly, embarrassed that I didn’t have more on the wall when I went into the session.
Life sucks sometimes and this is what I had to work with. Life throws curveballs sometimes and we have roll with them.
Fortunately, I have been in CQFA long enough that people know I am not a slacker and we had a good discussion regardless. Also Maureen was great. She was very encouraging and not judgmental at all, so I didn’t feel as bad after talking to her as I did before.
My curveball was a torn ligament in my foot, which resulted in lovely new footwear. it also resulted in me spending a lot more time on the couch with my foot up. It could have been much worse, but I can’t help still feeling somewhat disgruntled.
I recently saw a post by Jolene over at Blue Elephant Stitches called The Secrets of My Fabric Stash. I thought she had a good idea and I am always looking for content, so I am writing a similar post. I did change the name of the post, though I wanted to have a link to her post. I don’t like the word stash. I am, after all, not a drug dealer. I also feel justified in having supplies on hand so I can do my work. I have, however, lost the fight in the quilt world to call my fabric a palette.
How you select your fabric for your projects is correct. I am going to describe the way I do it, but that doesn’t mean your method is wrong.
Jolene said that she gets asked two kinds of questions and writes in her post”… how I choose fabrics for a quilt, and the other one is how I choose fabrics from the store to add to my stash. ”
I have been buying fabric since the early 1990s, so I have a lot. I was influenced back in the day by stupid ideas like “buy ugly fabric” and “always use a fabric you dislike in your quilt.” I say unabashedly that these are stupid ideas, because they aren’t good advice. It isn’t fun to use ugly fabric, so why do it with an activity I love? I dislike brown and beige intensely, so I feel justified in refusing to use them. They do not make me happy when I use them and they do not work in my quilts. I may use fabrics that I don’t like as much as others, but I have given up using fabrics I actively dislike. The other thing is that ‘ugly’ is subjective. What is ugly to me may be gorgeous to you. The concept just doesn’t work.
I always have to remind myself that a group of fabric on display on a website or in a shop is not going to look the same when I get it home. I love the look of French General fabrics. I love the dream of what they represent, but I almost never buy them. They won’t look right, or the same, as they do in the shop with the fabric I have at home. My fabric has a brighter, clearer tone than these fabrics. I know I won’t use the creams and dustier tones included with these fabrics. I might as well not buy them.
I really enjoy fabric shopping in stores. I like to see the fabric. Having enough money to buy whatever I want is wonderful, but I have to save my pennies and be aware of storage space in my workroom, so I am very selective.
When I shop in stores, I am generally not looking for something in particular, e.g. more of a specific background fabric. Usually, I am just looking, getting inspired, hoping to see something that will work for a project I didn’t know I was making.
If I shop online, it is very dangerous. I have found that when I shop online, I am either tempted by something or feeling bad and need a pick-me-up. Neither mean I made good fabric choices. I am a visual person, so I take cues from the size of my stack of bolts. It is easy to just keep adding things to my online cart without realizing just how much I have purchased. It isn’t always so easy to remove the fabrics from that same online cart. I can easily end up with a lot of fabric coming to me in the mail and not realizing exactly how much I bought.
Also, I have a hard time judging the scale of prints. I like having a variety of prints, both in scale and color. In online shopping, those things are hard to judge because they depend on things out of your control. Some shops have rulers showing the scale, but that doesn’t always help me. In the end, it is a crap shoot and I try to shop in person. During COVID-19, that is impossible, so I am happy to have enough fabric on hand.
Like Jolene, I almost never buy a complete line of fabrics. I have in the past and have been sorry. I also have been happy. If I buy a full collection, there are prints that languish and I eventually end up using those prints for gift bags. They frequently go to the guild free table or end up in donation blocks. Sometimes, like the recent purchase of a line of fat quarters of Alison Glass/Guicy Guice, I have been happy. These were tone on tone fabrics that I can use for a variety of projects, though there were some colors (like that orangey-brown) that I probably won’t use.
The other reason I don’t buy (and use) a full collection is because of variety. There usually isn’t enough variety in scale of prints or colors for the full collection to be useful. I remove a certain number of prints from the full collection and replace them with other fabrics that will add contrast and interest to my quilt.
Even with my man, Phil (Philip Jacobs of the Kaffe Fassett Collective), I don’t buy all of his fabrics. Some of the colors are not colors that I would use and a recent horse print he designed was not a favorite. I stick to his large flower prints, because I do love those.
Now, I only buy what I like AND what I think I will use. I don’t have a collection. My fabrics are there to be used. In the past, I bought fabrics that I loved and saved for the right project. Now, I feel kind of ‘MEH’ about some of these fabrics. That is so sad to me, because when I bought them I adored them. Now I try to use beloved fabrics right away. It is awesome to see them in a quilt, especially one that I use.
I have found that I there are fabrics that I decline to buy even though I like them, because I don’t think I will use them. If I can’t envision them in a quilt, I don’t buy them. I also don’t buy fabrics, even if I like the print, if they fray too much. Fraying fabric = imprecision and problems with fitting. It also means I have to pick threads out of seams continuously. That makes me crazy.
Access to your fabric is important. If you can’t pull down your bins or reach your bolts easily, you won’t use your fabric. I use the fabric I can reach most. Climbing up into the top of my fabric cupboard is a production and even though I don’t want to, I avoid it.
Jolene has a much nicer fabric storage solution than I do. Her cupboard is really nice and I would love to have something like that. My fabric closet is larger. 😉 If I won the lottery, I would redo my fabric closet in such a way that all my fabric was out of the plastic bins and I could rifle through it more easily. Still, I can see the amounts that I have based on the number of bins. Nobody who reads this blog regularly will be surprised that I have 3 bins of turquoise.
Storage is an issue. As I said, I have a large fabric closet, but even that is overflowing. Using 100 yards per year is not a whim. I want to use up fabrics, so all of my fabric fits in my fabric closet and I can reach it.
I also want to use my fabric so it doesn’t go to the Salvation Army or Goodwill when I die.
First and foremost, I use fabrics that I like. If a pattern calls for a blue, then I will probably chose a turquoise rather than navy.
Pulling fabrics for a quilt happens in two ways: proximity and value. I will often start with fabrics I have close at hand, especially if I am starting a project without planning. Generally, however, I start by devoting a project bin to a potential project. I toss in the pattern, or the drawings or inspiration pages, and fabrics I want to use. Everything – pattern, fabrics, drawings, special ruler, etc. – gets tossed into the project box. When I am ready to work on the project, I have a starting place.
Once I decide on a set of colors, I will go hunting through my stash to find other colors that are similar, but with different prints. The photo (above left) shows this technique very successfully with the red-violets and somewhat successfully with the turquoises. This is a technique I learned from Mary Mashuta back in the dark ages of quiltmaking. Basically, you use different fabrics in the same value to add interest. I don’t really use neutrals, except occasionally, but I have expanded this concept and use it in the foreground and the background. This allows me to use the smaller pieces of fabric, like FQs, I purchase without a plan, scraps and other pieces leftover from other projects. I don’t have to commit to several yards of a fabric I don’t know how I will use. I think quilts look more interesting with a variety of different fabrics. Also, viewers (at a show, for example) get a reward by taking the time to look closely at a quilt when they find you have used many different fabrics.
I used the ‘pushed neutral’ technique for the background of this quilt. I go back, over and over, to Scrapitude Carnivale, because this is the most perfect fabric selection I have ever done. It is not completely perfect, but mostly perfect. Every time I look at it, I am happy. After several years, I still like it. This quilt made me realize that looking at a favorite fabric in a quilt is much better than seeing it unused on a shelf.
The other important aspect is lighting. I live in a place with fog all summer long. That means I have to contend with grey days frequently. Sometimes I can’t see across the street. If I have quilts on my design wall that are too dark, I start to feel depressed. If want to make a purple quilt, I do it is January when the light is clear and there is no fog. I am currently working on a black quilt and that was a poor choice for this time of year, because that feeling of sadness keeps creeping up on me. Most of my quilts are bright, light and cheerful, because it is grey outside my workroom window and the bright colors reflect light back around the room.
More about brown: there is one brown I have found that works for me. It is a rich chocolate brown, slightly darker than milk chocolate, but not quite as dark as 80% dark chocolate. I have found that using a little of this color with turquoise does work and I don’t want to throw-up when I see it. I don’t use it a lot, but sometimes I’ll add it in. I used it in Calm and liked the effect.
This is Personal
Jolene writes “This is something that is very personal, but I’d say it’s a better idea to buy fabric that works with the quilts you want to make, rather than make quilts that fit with the stash that you impulsively purchased. (speaking from experience).” This is true, which is why I think more about the fabrics I am purchasing now than I did when I first started quiltmaking. I also remember that there is always more fabric and I will like the new fabric as much or more than the fabric I see on the shelf but can envision using.
That being said, I still buy some fabrics that I just like without knowing why I am buying them, without a project in mind and not even sure IF I will be able to use them. This piece of Field Guide: to Art History 101 By Marcia Derse from CURIOSITY. Marcia Derse has an edgy, urban quality that I can’t stay away from but also don’t use much. This print may be telling me to make a drawstring bag from Jeni Baker. For what, though?
I hope this gives you some ideas on my thought process. I am not telling you to go out and buy more fabric. I am telling you what makes up my fabric stash/palette and how I use my fabric. I hope this gives you some insight and helps you with your fabric buying as well.
Work is closed for summer break this week. As a result, I worked like a demon all week and was able to finish the FOTY 2018 top and back. I didn’t need to finish it. Since I was taking quilts to Colleen today, I decided taking four quilts is better than taking three.
The quilt wasn’t difficult to piece since all the squares are 2.5 inches. The difficult part was keeping the pieces in order as I sewed. After I got pairs sewed together, I started using the opposite side of the quilt as leaders/enders and that made the process go faster. I also had a lot of time Wednesday to sew.
This isn’t exactly the way I imagined it to come out. I kind of wanted it to be more like Ellsworth Kelly’s piece. I think to achieve that, I needed more black.
Add the black has kind of reinvigorated my interest in this series. I might continue after FOTY 2019. Stay tuned.
Last week, I started on FOTY 2018, which will be my piece inspired by Kelly’s work.
I have to say that putting the pieces on the wall has been a joy. I feel much closer to it with my new design wall. I also really like the white interspersed with the color. It is making me think of doing one with white squares as well as the slate grey I have planned for 2019.
I am also apprehensive about adding the black. We will see, though.
I am also really excited that I am working on a true UFO!!
I finished all the blocks for the plaid donation top. I rummaged through some older fabric and found a large-ish piece of plaid I will use for most of the back. The leftovers, of which there are still a few, will make up the rest of the back. I think this will make a great boy quilt.
In the course of my rummaging, I found some baseball fabric remnants and will use them for another donation quilt. Stay tuned for that one.
I am determined to use up the plaid. I used a good deal of it for the Plaid Block Party quilt for my cousin, but I still have some. Thus, I am making another donation top with the rest.
I am using the same Block Party pattern. I am using that pattern because it is easy and I had a number of leftover pieces that I wanted to use. I haven’t had much time to sew during the week, so I only have parts made. I am using these blocks as leaders and enders while I work on the Inside Outside Pouch.
As I mentioned when I received my first subscription box, Modern Handmade is one of my favorite shops. Because of shipping delays, I received another box a few days ago. I really wanted it to come and couldn’t really wait. I don’t know how I will wait until the end of June.
I am much more enthusiastic about this box than the first one. As soon as I opened it, I saw the coneflower fabric and was excited. I loved the previous version of that fabric, especially in flannel for receiving blankets. The fabrics are from Anna Maria Horner’s Conservatory and Hindsight collections. The colors are mostly, not colors I would choose, but I like them. I especially like the combination and may need to add some solids or tone on tones to use them together.
2 3/4 yards of fabric must be added to my spreadsheet, but I like this fabric and am already trying to think of a use for it that I will enjoy. Perhaps I will center one of the coneflowers on a Cotton Candy pouch? It is a good pattern for showcasing large motifs. I need another pouch like I need a hole in my head, but at the moment I can’t think of another project that would showcase the fabric.
I usually drink hot cocoa in the afternoon (I would be an awful Englishwoman!) when I want a hot drink. I will have to switch to tea to use up some of the teas I have been receiving in these boxes.
The quilt patterns are good for using up large prints, but they are not very interesting. I’ll have to look at them more closely and see if making a quick quilt with some of the fabrics would be satisfying. I don’t want to use up the fabric just to use it. Some of it I really like and would like to be able to see it in my house.
The Market Bag is interesting. I have one in my Minikins patterns, but it might be worthwhile to try it for one of the raffle baskets. It takes a 1 1/2 yards, so it would offset some of the acquisitions I have been making lately.
It is fun to receive a box like this even if I don’t need the items in it.
Modern Handmade is one of my favorite shops. It is relatively local, too. When this whole pandemic, shelter-in-place started, I wasn’t buying a lot, because it was so stressful to try and buy food. Also, I wanted to save money in case I get laid off.
Once I got over myself, there were a few things I wanted or needed so I worked at buying things from small/local companies. I decided that it was important to me to help quilt shops stay in business. I can’t support all of them, but I can do a bit. Thus, I subscribed to the Modern Quilter’s Box from Modern Handmade.
I have been leery of these boxes. First, they may have stuff I already have. Second, they automatically add fabric to my Fabric Usage Report every month, which means I have to sew at least 2.5 yards extra every month to make up for this incoming fabric. Third, what if what I get is icky or I don’t like it? Still, I wanted to support this shop and for a limited time, this is a good way to do it. Friend Julie also subscribed, so we can talk about the boxes that come. She wrote a nice, positive post about receiving hers. Also, it is kind of a fun surprise to get something new and exciting that I might not have seen before.
The box came late since distribution was limited during the first part of the S-i-P. This means I’ll get two in May!
Since this is my first one, I don’t know if this is how they will come or if I will get the same sorts of things. The second photo, left, is what the contents looked like when I opened it. The card on top tells about all the things inside the box and gives a brief overview of the designer of the pattern, Nancy Scott from Masterpiece Quilting.
The card also talks about the notion, Purple Thang, and has a brief mention of the tea and snack, a Stroopwafel, which also came in the box.
They sent out a survey after I received the box and I told them to forget the snack. It looks yummy, but it isn’t gluten-free so I can’t eat it. Give me more fabric or quilt related stuff not snacks.
In general I can use almost everything in the box. The pattern is sort of interesting with the added Flying Geese element. I probably won’t make it, though, so I’ll give it away. Some of the fabrics aren’t those I would buy, but I do like Art Gallery fabrics, so I am sure I can use them. I have them out so I see them as I move around my workroom. I am thinking about what to make with them. I like that pink the best so far. Are you surprised?
I think I will put the Purple Thang (sincerely dislike that name!) into my Go Bag. I tried it out when I made my most recent face mask. It worked pretty well for poking out corners and flattening the inside of seams. Apparently, while I have one, I haven’t used it before. Or I haven’t used it recently.
I bought a 6 month subscription. If you try it out, I am curious to know what you think.
I am working on the Frolic! quilt, as you have seen and, of course, I have run out of fabric. This blue dotted fabric is an older fabric called Peek-a-Boo by Amy Bradley Designs for Moda Pattern #13012. I always try to think of running out of fabric as a design challenge. Thus, I have a relatively suitable substitute waiting in the wings, but would really prefer just a little more of this fabric. If you have any you are willing to sell or trade, please get in touch. I would really appreciate your help. Thanks!
A week or so ago, we celebrated Winter at my guild. There was a short Sew Day where I worked on Frolic! Clue 2, then a potluck lunch and a swap and socializing.
In between all of this fun and excitement was fabric. We hold our Sew Days in a church hall. On the side of this room are 4-5 old pews. The room used to be the church sanctuary. Normally, we store our bags and other Sew Day paraphernalia there to keep it off the floor and reduce tripping hazards.
On the Winter Party/Sew Day at least 3 of the pews were filled with fabric. The guild had been given a donation of fabric by a longarmer who was closing her business. She donation only about a quarter of her stash to the guild. People at the party were allowed to look through the fabric and take what they wanted. I stayed away, having plenty of fabric of my own. Plenty of the members took a few pieces or filled up grocery bags with their selections. The rest will be used for our community quilt project.
This was kind of startling in a number of different ways. Will my unused fabric end up like that? Why get rid of all of her fabric? Doesn’t she want to sew anymore or did she keep her favorite pieces? I know I will probably never know the answers to these questions. I will have to think about what I am going to do with my fabric and make sure my DH knows so it doesn’t all go to Goodwill. What happens to your fabric and supplies when you go to your next adventure?
One of the things that was in the first Frolic! clue was a mention of Bonnie Hunter’s Scrap User System. I had forgotten about her system, but was reminded when I clicked on the link and started reading the article.
I don’t do exactly what Bonnie does, but I do a version of it. As I have mentioned, I cut certain pieces out of every piece of fabric I use or buy for future projects. As I mentioned the other day, this sometimes comes in handy when I work on a project that needs certain unit sizes that I have cut. This is the point of Bonnie’s system.
My cutting varies from year to year depending on what projects I have going, as I have said. I like the idea of cutting up all of my scraps into usable pieces, but it just isn’t practical for me. I like the compromise I have made. It breaks up my cutting, as I have also said. I have the pieces I need for my next projects ready to go when I am ready to sew. I have something (cutting up pieces of fabric) I can do when I have a few minutes free.
I headed down to Southern California with DH on Friday. It is the first time I have been on a trip in awhile. It was strange. We drove down to San Gabriel. As the new chairman of the Native Sons Charitable Foundation, he had to give a big check to one of the hospitals that treats craniofacial anomalies.
I bought some new fabrics.
First, my friend took me to Cat’s Quilting Corner. Check back for a post about that shop. If you are in Southern California, it is definitely worth a visit.
All the fabrics in the photo, left, are from Cat’s Quilting Corner. there were many more that I wanted, but I have to be mindful of my usage and I couldn’t think of a use for some of them. The magazine (with EPP templates), the double fold elastic and the lobster clips all came from Joann. I know! I know!, but they did have a very nice selection.
I bought the double fold elastic because of the colors. I couldn’t resist the dots. They had red with white dots as well, but I didn’t like the baby blue that went with the red. I think I might use it with the Ultimate Carry All bag. We’ll see.
On Sunday night, we stayed overnight in Paso Robles. We planned to do a bit of wine tasting, but visited Solvang instead, so we got to our hotel late. On Monday morning, we stopped at Birch Fabrics/FabricWorm as we left town. That shop has such a nice space. I wrote a review of it some years ago. They were super busy getting ready for PIQF, Houston and some other shows. The woman helping me also said they had 80 online orders waiting to be cut! Birch has a nice selection of fabrics. I was able to see some of the Ruby Star Society fabrics. The stripes shown are from their newest collection.
We had a nice trip and it was fun to see a new quilt shop and visit one I had visited before.
I went to The Granary the other day and Friend Julie pointed out a row of greys. She called it the “problem with greys.” I thought the photo explained the ‘problem’ beautifully.
The colors in the photo look different from when I saw them with my eyes, but it doesn’t matter, because you, dear Reader, can still see the difference.
None of the colors would be called anything but grey. The bolt on the far right looks black but was a charcoal (you’ll have to trust me). The shelf sports a wide variety.
I like using a variety of greys as background on my quilts and it is a happy chore to find the right ones. You can see the variety in Flying Around. Mostly I like to use greys that are very close in tone to each other so there is no grey that obviously stands out. Also, I don’t like the taupe based greys. I am sure I have said that before.
In the photo of the Flying Around background, I have more variety. It might be because I want the eye to move around the background as well as the foreground or it might be laziness. Not sure or not admitting to anything. 😉
This is an example of why my rule of ‘make visual decisions visually’ is so important. It is impossible to match any color, perhaps particularly greys, without putting the bolts or pieces next to each other.