Rita from Red Pepper Quilts and our Sew,Mama,Sew! Editorial Board loves fabric. Today she shares her thoughts on building a fabric stash, choosing fabrics for a project and storing your fabric, all from the perspective of a very active and talented quilter. Enjoy!
Building a Fabric Stash
A good fabric stash is an essential element in quilt making and, as a self-confessed fabric fanatic, I can attest that a fabric stash grows and also evolves over time. I like to think of my fabric stash more like a collection and, similar to a stamp collection, not all the best fabrics can be found in the one store, nor at the one time; it is a very individual process and comes with financial constraints and changing preferences. I have been stashing fabrics for almost ten years now, and my fabrics come from all corners of the earth.
Photo courtesy of ish and chi
Not unlike other quilters, my fabric collection has changed theme and direction over the years, starting with muted florals, moving on to bold and colorful Kaffe Fassett fabrics, to purchasing entire designer fabric collections (all of those by Amy Butler and Denyse Schmidt) to now choosing individual fabrics just because they appeal to me.
Have no fear scouring your local fabric store or the internet to find fabrics that appeal. When buying fabric I generally purchase half yards of those fabrics that catch my eye. I tend to also keep an eye out for suitable backing fabrics and, depending on price, I will purchase up to 3 yards. Occasionally I will purchase a stack of fat quarters.
Another wonderful resource is your scrap bin. My own scrap bin is more like a catalogue of all of my fabrics, and will often turn it upside down for fabric inspiration. You’d be surprised what you can do with even the smallest of fabric scraps.
Choosing Fabrics for a Project
Many quilters purchase fabric with a project in mind, and then there are those who buy fabric just because they love that piece of fabric, whether it is the color or print that appeals. Your very first consideration, however, should be quality. Although the cost of good quality fabric will be a little more, you can be reassured it pays off in the long run. This means checking for thread count, grain alignment, and color or pattern consistency.
If you are new to quilting it can be very tempting to make a quilt using a single fabric collection by a specific designer. Fabrics within a collection are all designed to coordinate and you will find they include all the basics for a quilt: large and small scale prints, stripes, spots, and a range of hues that are complimentary. All of the fabric selecting has been done for you and is indeed a very safe option.
My first quilts are pieced from single fabric collections, and when I look now at these quilts I realise they lack a certain “wow” factor. Over time I have challenged myself to work outside of this comfort zone by choosing my own fabrics.
Photo courtesy of One Flew Over
When choosing fabrics for a quilt start with a print that you really like, preferable one that has just a few colors in it. Using the colors in your main fabric as a guide to choose fabrics which coordinate well, ensuring there are light, medium and dark hues. Try not to get too hung up on the required range of hues, but arrange your fabrics on a table, and see how they work together. Add more, take some away; it is all about auditioning the colors and the prints. Keep an eye out for quirky colors, and consider using an “ugly” fabric which can sometimes add interest to the quilt. Try and limit yourself to 10 fabrics or less, unless of course you wish your quilt to take on a scrappy look.
Considering the emotional and financial investment you have made in your fabric stash it is import to remember that care and storage techniques will affect the long term condition of your fabrics and ultimately your quilts. There are many factors that determine the long term quality of your fabric including pre-washing fabrics, light and temperature/humidity.
Fabrics being stored for lengthy periods of time must be clean. Although pre-washing fabrics is an oft debated quilting aspect, by pre-washing your fabrics you can ensure that your fabric is clean and that no residue will damage your fabrics (and by pre-washing your fabrics you are always ready to sew). Keeping a clean storage area for your quilting fabrics will also prevent pests such as silverfish.
Photo courtesy of quaint handmade
Fabric should be stored away from direct sunlight. Fading is very common when fabric is exposed to ultra-violet light. Ensure that if your fabric stash is stored on open shelving that it is not exposed to direct sunlight, or you will find that there is some fading along the fold edges of your fabrics. Similarly if your fabric is stored in transparent plastic containers be sure not to store your containers in direct sunlight.
Fabric should always be stored in an area that has both an even temperature and humidity level. Basements, attics, and the garage are among the worst possible places for storing fabrics as these areas often experience extreme temperature variations.
When storing fabric in plastic containers be sure they have small air holes to allow the fabrics to breathe. If you store fabrics in cardboard boxes ensure the boxes are made from acid free cardboard otherwise your fabric will discolour.
Photo courtesy of Chaletgirl
It is my dream to have my own studio where I can play with my fabrics to my heart’s content. However, this not likely to happen any time soon and as such, my fabric stash has lived in plastic tubs for many years, and has now slowly taken over my very large dresser in my living room. Being able to see all of your fabrics at once is a real advantage.
Most of my fabrics are neatly folded and arranged by color, having separate fabric stacks for blue, green, orange, red, pink, gray, black and white. My solid fabrics are stored separately in a plastic container. Although my own storage solution is not optimal, and my fabric stacks often end up as leaning towers, I love having all my fabrics readily available and visible.
Photo courtesy of modernAcorn
Remember that a fabric stash is accumulated over a period of time and that when choosing fabrics, stay true to yourself; choose fabrics because you like them, not because they are part of the same fabric collection. Take some risks when collating fabrics for a quilt, try using some colors that “clash” and you may just be pleasantly surprised to see how this adds extra zing to your quilt. Taking care of your fabrics will ensure you can enjoy them for years to come.
All images used with permission.
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