Sunday, August 2, 2009

Secrets of a Fabric Collector, Part 1

I just finished sorting through my bookcase of fabric. It took a few days, including interruptions from my Chihuahua-Terrier “Indy” who has decided that jumping on stacks of fabric and wrestling with them is his new favorite thing to do. Finally I put a laundry basket at the other end of the room, filled it up with fabrics I wasn’t keeping and let him go to town! He had a ball!

I wish I could say the same. For some reason sorting fabric always makes me a little sad, and, dare I say it? Cranky!

I’ve never been a big impulse fabric buyer. I have a BA in Clothing and Textiles, so I learned how the textile industry works. It turns out that the colors are cyclical. I’m sure you’ve noticed it yourself; one year it’s brown, another green, etc. Last year blue was beginning to come back after years of being overshadowed by brighter hues. If you pay attention when you’re out and about, you can notice the subtle changes and how these take place over time.

So, if you do a lot of scrap quilting and appliqué like I do, you want to have a large variety of colors on hand. To do this you have to buy fabrics yearly, focusing on the colors that are being pushed that year. If you do this over a course of years you will end up with a stash with a depth of color and variety that will make it easier for you to create the quilt designs you envision.

Lately, things have changed a bit. In order to keep quilters interested in the new lines, the fabric companies are coming out with more lines but printing smaller runs. It explains why you might see a fabric in a quilting magazine, then go out to buy it and not be able to find it anywhere. I’ve actually asked in a quilt shop for a recent fabric, only to be told that they couldn’t get any more, it was sold out everywhere. Online can sometimes be your only shot, but then that can get pricey when you add in the shipping charges.

So, what this means is that if you want something you need to move quickly. I have favorite fabric lines, (Westminster, Robert Kaufman, and Free Spirit to name a few), so I have their websites bookmarked and keep an eye out for when the new fabric lines will be available. Some websites even offer pre-ordering, or you can see what’s just arrived. You can also check in with your local quilt store and ask them when they’ll be getting their next delivery. Then you can be there and ready to pounce when the new goodies arrive.

If you’re like me and you’re basically just stash building, a quarter or half yard is often enough, depending on the fabric. After all of these years I pretty much know which fabrics will get a lot of use and which won’t. It depends on your style of quilting, and how big your quilts are. I usually work small because I’m the art quilt type, (and because my quilts are heavily embellished - it would take me years to finish a big one), so smaller pieces usually work just fine. A half yard will actually give me enough for piecing, some appliqué, and even a backing or binding.

If you’re the kind who makes a quilt for a bed, or follows a pattern where you need so much yardage of this or that fabric, you need to make sure you buy plenty. I recommend buying at least a quarter or half yard more than you need. That way you’re covered for shrinkage, any boo-boos you make, (and take my word for it, I make plenty!), and then you have a piece left over to add to your stash. If you’re making a quilt for a house with kids and dogs, (or a messy adult), that extra piece could come in handy for repairs down the road.

Besides, you can never be too thin, too rich, or have too much fabric!


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