Sew, Mama, Sew! asked about our fabric collections, and you know I couldn’t let that one pass! Here are my answers to their questions.
*What do you usually sew?
I usually sew quilts – small, medium, large, bed or wall, it makes no difference. I’m currently participating in a Flickr group that swaps mini quilts and it’s a blast because it gives me the opportunity to try something new without committing the next six months to it. When I’m not sewing quilts, I’m sewing bags. I’ve fallen out of the habit, but I need a new, BIG bag to haul stuff around for work, so I’ll be digging into the home dec stash soon.
*When you shop for fabric, what size cuts do you usually buy?
I’m on a fabric buying hiatus right now, but when I do buy it depends on the price of the fabric and how much I love it. For example, a local quilt shop occasionally marks their ancient fabrics as low as $2 a yard, and then I buy whatever is on the bolt for anything that I even remotely like. It’s great for quilt backs, and when it’s that cheap, it pays to stock up. For regular sales, I’ll buy 1 yard, maybe 2. If I’m paying full price, I generally only buy 1/2 yard, maybe 1 yard if I really love it.
*Do you buy on impulse or do you go out looking for something you need?
Back to the fabric hiatus situation – I was a major impulse shopper, often triggered by a “need” for one thing. Now that the income is limited I shop only when I absolutely can’t find something in my stash that will work. I have a monster stash, so I haven’t purchased much fabric in the last six or eight months. I’ve learned good habits – I have a gift card for a fabric store, and I’m actually having trouble using it!
*Are you a pre-washer? If you are, do you wash your fabric before you need it, or only when you’re ready to use it?
I do not pre-wash my fabrics. When I want to sew, I want to sew NOW and if I had to wait until I washed, dried, and pressed everything, I’d never sew a stitch. If I’d started pre-washing as I bought fabric, it might have been different, but there’s no way I’m going back through my stash now. Fortunately, I don’t have any problems with bleeding, shrinking, or physical reaction to the chemicals. I throw a Shout Color Catcher in with the finished quilt and keep my fingers crossed. So far, so good.
*Do you iron it?
I do, however, iron everything. I always square up my fabric before cutting, and I need to iron it to remove the creases. Sometimes I use a little spray starch.
* How do you sort it? (color, print size, collection, etc.)
I keep my fat quarters separate from the rest of the fabric, and they aren’t really sorted. The yardage is sorted by color, then within each color by the color wheel – yellow, yellow-orange, orange, orange-red, red, etc. I usually give up about that time, so they aren’t sorted by value. There are a few “what the heck?!” fabrics that are grouped together because I’m not sure what color they should be with. I also keep my solids, flannels and homespuns separate from the rest of the fabric. And Christmas fabric. Of course the home dec stuff is also separate from the cotton quilting fabric. I split up fabric collections – I’m not tied to using “matchy” fabrics in the same quilt.
* Do you have any special folding techniques?
I fold my fabric right at the store, sometimes literally pulling it out of the hands of the clerk. (I always apologize and explain!) If I fold it before I bring it home, there’s a much greater chance of it being put away instead of sitting in bags on the counter, table, or quilting frame. For 1/2 to 1 1/2 yard cuts, I fold it in half the long way, then fold it to 1/2 yard, then in thirds. For larger cuts I fold it to 1 yard, then in half the long way, then to 1/2 yard, then in thirds. HOWEVER, I’m seriously considering changing it, because this method leaves a bunch of folded edges at the exposed side on my shelf, making it harder to see the print. I’d like to change it so the first fold – in half the long way – becomes the last fold. It’s just that there’s an awful lot of fabric to refold…
*How do you store your fabric?
My fat quarters are in plastic totes, as is my non-quilting fabric. I know that plastic isn’t the best way to store fabric, but it’s what I have so for now it will have to do. My yardage is on a bookshelf that my dad made – five feet wide and about 6 1/2 feet tall. And yes, it’s full. Again, not the best fabric storage, but it’s in the finished basement so it isn’t exposed to much sunlight.
* What tips do you have for building up a well-rounded stash?
As I look at my stash, I realize that I have a ton of fun fabrics in medium tones, and nowhere near enough very light, very dark, and tone on tone fabrics. Try to buy at least one very light or very dark and one tone on tone for every medium print. Also, shop the clearance fabrics. When it’s cheap it’s easy to purchase fabrics that you don’t love. That’s a good thing, because it forces you out of your comfort zone. I have some of the most gorgeous mustard prints that I never would have paid full price for.
* When do you say enough is enough?
I should have said enough was enough a year or three ago (and I’ve only been quilting for five years). I DID say enough is enough when finances dictated that I had no choice. Rule of thumb – if you’re spending more time buying, sorting, and petting your fabric than actually sewing on it, it’s time.
* What are some of your favorite stash-busting projects?
I like scrappy quilts. I like planned quilts. I like big projects, and little projects, and swaps, and giveaways. For now, all of my projects are stash-busting projects. I have promised myself not to spend any money on fabric for at least the next two years. (Notice I said “spend any money” – if I happen to receive a gift certificate for a fabric store, I am allowed to purchase fabric.) The best stash busting project I’ve worked on recently has been my string quilt. I cut strips from dozens of different fabrics and sewed them to muslin foundation squares. After trimming them to size, I’ll put them together using white sashing.
* Do you have a current favorite print in your stash? Let’s see it!
Asking me to pick one fabric print is like asking me to pick one favorite book. I like too many different kinds of fabrics to choose just one. Here are some of my favorites.
I like whimsy, so there are a lot of conversation prints, especially Alexander Henry.
And then there are the exotic prints…
I’ve really been into brown and aqua or green…
Oh, who am I kidding? I love it all!
* What’s your definition of the perfect stash?
I have an exceptional stash – I know I’m fortunate. With a little more very light and very dark fabrics, I’d call my stash perfect.