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The Fiber of My Being: Stashification

Two loaded questions appeared in my class Quick Techniques for Classic Blocks: Wrenches Stars & Twists from Craftsy member giantz29150371:

Questions in Craftsy Quilting Class

Is there a “go to” amount of fabric you buy when you have no particular project in mind — you just like the fabric? Fat quarter? 1/3 yd? Tell your secrets of building variety in your stash without breaking the bank or drowning in fabric.

If something catches your eye, I say go for a fat quarter. I make scrappy quilts. If that fat quarter isn’t sufficient, I’ll add something else. Besides, if you’re crazy in love with that fat quarter you can find more of it somewhere. Believe me.

Do you have fabric you regret buying (or looks dated — my problem)? What do you do with it?

I was fortunate that early on I purchased fabric I truly liked. I don’t think fat quarters existed then. Two weeks ago I gave 70 pounds of excellent fabric to some friends. This didn’t make a dent in my stash but I knew I wouldn’t have an opportunity to use it. Making quilts for “work” takes precedence.

Love the class! Thanks for info on 4″ squares — I have bunches at the tail end of a quilt project so now I have a use for them. Thank you.

In the image below, I can easily identify the eight strips of fabric on the left. I also know exactly where each piece is located in my stash. My strategy is to store and choose fabric by background color. I have separate niches for imported fabrics. Stripes, solids and serious yardage are separated out as well.

Details of a Self-Mitered Log Cabin

Details of a self-mitered log cabin

When only a small scrap remains of a fond fabric, I return it to its native home. Someday, I’ll search out that dear fabric. I’ll find only the scrap, realize I used it up and most importantly, stop looking for it. Incidentally, I have no qualms mixing fabrics within a quilt, regardless of era or style.

The four half-yard pieces below are each about 18″ x 44″. I didn’t want a fat quarter. I need at least a long quarter to get all eight stripes, not four. I rarely opt for 1/3 of a yard because it won’t easily fit in my shelving system.

Long Quarter Fabrics

Gardenvale Stripes designed by Jen Kingwell

In testing patterns for my last book, I accumulated a stupendous variety of stripe fabric. Along the way I discovered what I liked best. When I spotted Matchstick fabric from Alexander Henry I bought gobs of it. I never would have seen or realized its potential when I was a new quilter.

 Left: Favorite yardage; Right: Xcentric quilt of Matchstick fabric

Left: Favorite yardage. Right: Xcentric quilt of Matchstick fabric

The image above on the right is the quilt top during its construction, the Matchstick yardage hanging beside it. The quilt was made from only that one fabric.

The print below is another example of my occasional preference for a long, rather than fat, quarter to take complete advantage of the motif. I wound up buying yards of it from various sources.

Solomon Craftsy Quilting Column June 2016-006

Photo courtesy C&T Publishing from the book “Rotary Cutting Revolution”

Jacob's Ladder Blocks

Something old, something new. I’m currently making blocks of “old” browns and modern greens. My longtime fabric attraction is 19th century reproduction prints. They will never appear dated in my collection because they were old-looking from the get go.

Solomon Craftsy Quilting Column June 2016-004

Left: Monkey Wrench, 1997. Right: No Patience Quilt, 2000

I purchased the border fabric on the left after completing the top to accentuate it. If I select a border ahead of time I’ll subconsciously make blocks that match it. The Asian floral sashing on the right is an Alexander Henry. I like big prints but I cut into them as if they were ordinary in scale. Two and a half yards has proven effective as my ‘go to’ for sashing and remarkable fabric.

Lately I’ve been applying my rule of ice cream to fabric. When I pass frozen food in the supermarket and see pints of ice cream on sale, I won’t allow myself to buy it. I tell myself a sale isn’t a license for me to gain weight. My rule is that I may only buy it when it’s not on sale. I can’t remember the last time I ever bought ice cream at the regular price.

When, not if, I am tempted by a fabric sale I ask myself, if it weren’t on sale, do I desire it enough to buy it at the regular price? Keep in mind I already possess a major collection. I acquired it without any encouragement and it’s not the least bit fattening.

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Its really hard to know when enough is enough. I guess it depends largely on storage space and usage. To an outside observer, I am sure my fabric stash would seem obsessive. While it might be a little embarrassing to me when those moments of discovery come, I still stand up for my stash and probably would do it over again. This is who I am, this is what I love. I use it. I go through it regularly and pick out fabric to use in quilts. When I decide on a quilt to make I rarely am at the store. Most of it comes out of my stash. I might buy a coordinating color… maybe. Its like a painter with his paints. My fabric is my paint and I like to hold a rainbow.

Anita Grossman Solomon

Your comment has me smiling in agreement because we, among so many others, appreciate our collections and celebrate them.

Judy Gudelsky

I noticed you mentioned that you’ve purchased a lot of striped fabrics. As a relatively new quilter, I’ve been avoiding stripes. I thought it would be difficult to both work with the “grain” of the fabric and the stripe in the fabric pattern.

Anita Grossman Solomon

I understand your trepidation. Stripe fabric, whether woven or printed, at first might seem like a foreign language. You might dip into the stripe world first by using directional, though not stripe fabric; both will add energy to your quilt. Do you wear any striped clothing? If you do, you already have an affinity for it. I can’t add images to this reply but you have inspired me to write about using stripe fabric, perhaps as soon as my next column. Thank you!

Marlene Clausen

Stripes are WONDERFUL! Find a stripe that has the colors to work with your quilt and buy enough to make bias binding for you quilt. Look up the method for continuous bias binding. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to do and you will love the zip those bias stripes bring to your quilt. When you dip a toe, you will have no problem to taking the plunge to using it in piecing. A real go-to when you want to add movement to your quilt.

Marlene Clausen

How much of a fabric is enough? I am NOT fond of fat quarters because they are rarely on grain and have to be straightened, I don’t like or make scrap quilts, so have little use for a napkin-sized pieces of fabric. They are, however, the perfect size to make bias squares and if you have a a a stack of them from a line you absolutely love, they can be used that way. Two yards is usually enough for an inner border on a large quilt or an outer border on a baby, lap, or wall hanging sized quilts. It can be the inspiration fabric for a large quilt. I will buy an entire bolt if I can get quilt shop quality fabric for around the $3 mark and I can easily see it used frequently as background fabric or backing. I almost never buy a bolt of conversational print unless I can see using it in a quilt, tote bag, garments, and pillows or pillowcases. NOTHING beats the great feeling you get buying a bolt of your favorite designer’s fabric that retails for $14/yd for $3/yd and use it anytime you want in anything you make instead of hoarding it for that “very special” project that might never appear! I have used it to make shopping bags (plastic is forbidden in my house) and I smile every time I pack it with groceries!!


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