Saturday, February 27, 2010

Picking the fabric

People often ask me how I pick a fabric for a quilt.  First off, I have been stash busting for 4 years now, so I try to use what  have first (but after 4 years - I am happy to say that my stash is fairly small now!).  In the beginning of my stash busting I had to buy some red fabric and I made alot of log cabin quilts using light and dark strips to use up those late '80's calicos.  I like those old calicos - they all play together very nicely and make beautiful quilts.  Here are photos of 2 of my log cabins.  I've used left-overs bits to make checkerboard borders.  The left-over strips got made into quilts too - I just had to buy border fabric for the pastel one.  And more than 1 baby quilt was generated from the left-over strips too!

But, along the way, I got caught up with buying some "crazy" fabric.  Fortunately, I'm not a person who buys huge amounts at any one time - 1/2 a yard will go a long way for a scrap quilter.  I had to come up with a way to use those crazies - my Octagon Flowers is one of those quilts.  You just need a kalidoscope ruler to make these units.  Very easy!  I used a navy to help "frame" them and I love this fun quilt.  I think it is a pattern that would work with so many different fabrics as long as you use yardage to cut the strips for this quilt because it isn't fat quarter friendly.   Another "crazy" fabric quilt is my bargellos.  I like both of them very much, but the large one (pattern by Bonnie Hunter) I am going to remove the outer border and replace it with a darker/more solid fabric.  Like I said, I just like to "frame" those crazies in!  That large bargello used lots of impulse fat quarter purchases (I used just the colors that reminded me of a big field of flowers)!

Can't decide?  How about just picking 1 color to use.  I've done this more than once!  The smaller I cut the pieces, the more variety I use.  As long as I feel the fabric "reads" the color I want - I use it.  That green ocean waves quilt has some very interesting fabrics, but as a whole, it works.  The blue quilt used LOTS of odd blues, let me tell you!  The "white" is actually a small print that I had enough yardage on hand to use - so use it I did!

Odds and ends of  scraps - make great coin style quilts or wonky log cabins.  The coins I sort by color family.   In the quilt below is a small anchor block I made that my son really wanted in this quilt, so there it is!  The wonky log cabins - I just use anything (the centers are novelties cut into hearts and appliqued down).  Again, you can see that I used a solid or solid-ish fabric to frame it all.  I think I bound it in orange, but can't remember off the top of my head and don't have the photos here to refer to!  Again - these quilts were made using scraps and I bought yardage for the sashing/borders.

But my very favorite way of sorting my fabrics is by season.  Winter, Fall, Spring, Summer.  Fall tends to be my favorite color scheme.
That 3rd Fall quilt  - I started with the center fabric that I did have yardage of - and then picked the co-ordinating fall colored fabrics from my stash.  There are some "uglies" in there, but when you put it altogether you don't notice them!  This quilt is backed in flannel and one of our favorite couch snuggle quilts!  I liked the pattern so much that I made it again - again in Fall colors (the pattern is by Gayle Bong).  I am going to look for a nice Summer floral to use and will make it again.  You all know me by now - if I really love a pattern, I will make it over and over again - which would explain why I've made 3 Shakespear in the Parks and will be making it again this coming year in.... browns and pinks!

As much as I like the Fall colors, I do use Summer colors too.  Here is one...
I don't think you can go wrong with blue and yellow!  I had a chunk of yellow to use so that was the starting point!  The rest of the quilt - all scraps!  Even the star points are made with different fabrics, but they all look similar.  The borders - I bought after I made the top.
Very often, I will start with a color family and start making the blocks.  Once the blocks are made then I will buy the sashing fabric and border fabrics.  Because I like scrap quilts, a few fat quarters work really well for adding a new spark to my stash, without adding a ton of yardage.  BUT - it is usually cheaper to buy yardage, so in that case I will buy 1/3 or 1/2 a yard of fabric.  Think of the extra as "free".  Generally, fabric that I NEED to buy is the background, sashing or border fabrics.  I will buy 2 yards of a border, 3 if I want to use the same fabric for the binding.  I don't mind piecing my borders.  I usually make big quilts - if you make smaller quilts then maybe you don't need so much.  I also don't mind having a little left-over - makes for a good scrap basket!  Once everything is done or very close to being done - I buy the backing.  I love a nice backing.  Maybe one of these days I will piece a backing using scrap 10" squares - another great way to use up your stash.
Basically, when I get to a fabric store - I will only exactly what I need in of border/binding/sashing fabric (except I live so far from the store that I will buy an extra 1/4 to 1/3 yard of each just to be "safe") .  I will have the blocks made so will know about what I'm looking for. Sometimes I can't find what I am looking for, in which case I just put my list away for another trip.  If I want to start a new log cabin - I make sure I have red for the centers!  Or - if I need a focus fabric for a new top I want to start - I look for that.  Then I will buy a few new "sparks" of fabric for my collection.  Just a few!  Often times it is the impulse purchases that are the hardest to find a use for!  And - if I am running low on background fabric - I get that.  I mix and match my backgrounds alot so again - I don't buy a whole lot of any one yardage.  If a top is finished - then I get the backing.
So - that is how I buy/use my fabrics and how I decide which fabrics to use together.  The worst thing you can do is to be frozen by indecision.  Just pick a pattern and go with it!  You have to start somewhere and for me - that usually means making that first cut into a NEW fabric - scraps are ever so much easier for me to use, but in order to create scraps you have to first cut the new fabric for something!
Top photo - my son hugging his favorite quilts!  He is such a quilt lover that I don't really give too many quilts away anymore - he gets more attached to each one of them than I do.


Kath said...

I did enjoy this post! I get what you say about large pieces, I find it easier to use smaller pieces than cut up a large piece. I am making crazy blocks just now and really enjoying the freedom! best wishes from England

Lindah said...

What a treat to see photos of your quilts! (I'm with your son --I like your quilts, too!) Reading your thoughts on approach/getting started is most helpful, too. I am transitioning away from quilting for a group that had a LARGE fabric cupboard. I now have time and my stash of olde scraps on my hands. What to do? Your idea of imagining a field of summer flowers sounds like a good place to start.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always enjoy reading your posts.

Mary said...

Thank you for the explaination of your method and a beautiful slide show to inspire us.

Shasta said...

Thank you for such a great explanation you have so many gorgeous quilts You're right, I just need to get over indecision, and just do it.

Mary said...

Yep, I agree with so much of what you said -- although my stash is still pretty healthy. I do have a weakness for fat quarters and bought a few at the quilt show this week.

Autumn quilts have always been my favorites.

Tanya said...

That picture is worth every stitch, your son is such a handsome little guy. Love the quilts each one is beautiful. I want to make one.