Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Courage to Feel Creative: Fabric Love

The first thing that I want to talk about is Fabric Love. It really is the bedrock of our quilty craft. If we didn't love fabric, we certainly wouldn't be buying it, cutting it up into little pieces and then re-sewing it into a quilt! Some would say that there’s nothing at all creative about accumulating fabric, but I say we need to start thinking of it as part of the process because it’s the first step of DOING. Of course it’s also a practical concern because it generally takes some money to acquire, which means that most of us can’t buy all that we want to!  Hmm…. Maybe we need to learn to be better and more efficient fabric shoppers.
I’m sure that some of you are thinking ‘Move on already, this is the one thing I feel confident about! Don‘t try to mess with my fun!’ But let’s think about this for a moment. A huge part of creativity is wrapped up in our ability to express who we are and what we want to say. Even if we don’t deliberately set out to make a statement (and many of us think we don't care too much about that area of quilting) it’s already happening, starting from the minute we bring a piece of fabric home and put it into our stash.

How? Why? Creativity can't happen that easily! Go check out a couple blogs if you don’t believe me: blue elephant stitches, Inspired by Antique Quilts, nifty quilts, and Supergoof Quilts to start with.  Very distinctive styles right? And it all starts with their particular fabric choices BECAUSE, regardless of what pattern they choose to play with, there seems to be a subtle, yet very unique quality that tells us exactly who made the quilt. We should be so lucky! They tend to blend fabrics together in a way that is very hard to replicate, though I believe many of us have tried through the years. lol
That’s why it’s so very important to collect fabric that we love. Fabric that speaks to us.  Even fabric that we care about for some strange, odd reason that only makes sense to ‘moi? Who cares about what someone else may think! In my opinion, having a selection of intriguing (to us) fabrics at hand is the absolute heart of being able to make personalized quilts. I don’t think that gets emphasized nearly enough! If each of us can draw from a pool of fabric that speaks personally to our senses, invites us to play, and makes us feel good about what we’re making, then we’ll have more courage to open up and take risks. We'll be practically itching to pull it out and DO something with it! Call it the first step in creativity or call it fun, but we’re the only one that can make it happen properly.

Simply put, I think that making a conscious effort to build a unique stash is essential to having confidence in what we make and being happy with the results! There is more that segues in with this that I happen to call ‘Focused Shopping’, but I think I’d rather post that tomorrow and then jump to something else next Wednesday. So much to wade through! What do you think? Is Fabric Love part of being creative or not?

*Please feel free to come back and read through the comments! I know that everyone has a different insight depending on how they're personally wired!


  1. Absolutely! It all starts with fabric love, but that is really just a start. From thereon you have to make your own choices (and mistakes, I am destashing from time to time to eliminate my mistakes from my stash, my mistakes will be somebody elses treasures!) and not depend (too much) on others.... like the designers. They do a terrific job supplying us with great collections, but I think it's best to pick and choose from all those wonderful materials and put them together according to your own taste. I am always disappointed when I see so many quilts made up entirely from one particular collection. So far I have never done that, I may do so in the future (nothing particularly wrong with it, so far I just always wanted to do my own thing), never say never, but it will be sporadic at most.

  2. I have fabric in my stash from over 15 years ago now and I hate it! Don't know what to do with it. I try to just have a small stash because taste change. At times I just wish to get rid of some of the old stuff then I remind myself that I can always make a big patchwork quilt out of it by cutting it up into 4 inch blocks or whatever. But yes what we like changes over the years and it would be nice to just have what I like on the shelves now. But I do so much in scraps that sometimes even though we do not like some of the fabric that we have we can "hide" it in a scrap quilt.
    I try to choose more wisely now than I used to. Just because it is on sale doesn't mean we should buy certain pieces.

  3. There you go again Audrey...saying perfectly (and much better than I ever could!)what is swirling around in my brain! I couldn't agree more with the idea that our fabric stash says something about who we are and that our fabric choices express our style. I am afraid that my stash probably says I have "multiple personality disorder" but I'm okay with that. I'd like to think it makes me more interesting. :) And I would have to answer yes to your question, is fabric love part of the creative process? Choosing fabric that speaks to us is really no different than an artist mixing and choosing colors with which to paint.

  4. Perfectly put!!! I think that is the beauty of developing our "own" style - with our fabric choices!! Speaks to who we are!!

    Blessings sweet lady!

  5. This is one of the best quilt related posts I've ever read. I don't think I've ever read this particular point of view in regards to buying fabric. I must say, I agree with every word!

    I remember being told "you must buy some 'uglies' in order to keep your quilts interesting" and "there's no such thing as an ugly fabric" etc. Well, I say substitute "eccentric" or "oddball" for "ugly" and then I'll agree. I've owned fabric that literally made me sick to look at it, and kept it for years - as well as colors I cant stand (fuschia, for one) and they just sat there, taking up precious room and making me sick. Such things feel oppressive to me, and actually sap my energy! Happily, I finally gave myself permission to get rid of them, and to buy only what I love.

    Karen, I say get rid of those fabric you don't love anymore! Let somebody else cut them up into squares and make that quilt. Your time is too valuable! Does your guild ever have a flea market? Sell them. I recently did just that, and came home with eighty bucks! Well.. fifty, after I bought the feed sacks and a few other necessary gems. Or have a fabric exchange with your friends, or donate them. Then fill in the resulting empty space with something new and beautiful.

    Audrey, your post validates everything I feel in my heart about fabric choices and quilt making. Each person's fabric choices and stash is, and should be, unique. Which translates into each of our resulting quilts being unique. You will never find fuchsia in one of my quilts! And hopefully, no one will ever mistake one of my quilts for some one else's. After reading this post, I'm even more committed to making this so.

    Thank you for the brilliant post. Sorry for such a lengthy comment ~

  6. Oh, yes, loving fabric is part of the process. I have some very old fabric that I bought 15-20 years ago. Not still crazy about all of it but sometimes it still fills a need. We are planning to move in a year or two so I've been thinking about getting rid of some fabric. Enjoyed the posts, too, by BES. I've noticed I've been drawn to stripes recently. Often when I fall in love with a quilt a stripe is prominent. Need to remember that when I start a new project. Thanks for your insight!

  7. Very insightful, Audrey. Thanks for reminding me that it's ok to just go with what my heart loves.

  8. absolutely. it begins with the fabrics we, as quilters, choose.
    not just the color and print choices but the fabric types; thinking of the Gees Bend Quilters who have and do use just about anything. the traditional Amish quilts certainly show a distinct style, in part due to the fabrics chosen. i've noticed that certain blogs/quilters on the internet have a very distinct style and it's fun to see how they use their fabric choices.

    i like what Phyllis has to say in regards to choosing what you like from a broad panel of fabric lines. sometimes when one does that the quilt looks a bit "canned" and i agree that a project represents a quilter's style much better when it's made from a fabric stash that is more varied . . . not just different fabric lines but even different manufacture years.

    i find that i have fabrics in my stash that no longer appeal to me. obviously my "style" has changed over the years and i've begun sorting carefully through them and, after taking a small piece or a fat quarter for my stash, i find someone who i know will like the remainder and give it away or take it to thrift. taking them to thrift also gives me the opportunity to shop around for other fabrics that i might find more useful in my work. i'm not picky about where the fabric comes from as long as i like the looks of it and it is of a certain weight. also, i tend to use only cottons so do keep an eye to that.
    i guess i keep the small piece because, not having a crystal ball (or a fat wallet) i'm willing to assume that it might still cut up into the perfect choice at some point. being a lover of scrap quilts helps me to remember that often these fabrics fit right in to that sort of quilt.

    so much to think about . . . i have enjoyed reading the comments and will return for a further read as more come in.


    1. okay, second paragraph, i meant to say that sometimes when one DOESN'T do that the quilt looks a bit "canned".


  9. Well said Audrey! I usually purchase fat quarters, because the majority of my projects are small. Rarely do I buy a fat quarter bundle of every fabric in the particular line, because I usually end up with fabric that I don't use because I simply don't like a particular FQ from the bundle! I've learned this lesson the hard way! (I recently purchased a FQ bundle of shirtings... liked each of them!) I would much rather pick out my own fabrics that coordinate in MY eye, even when they are from various fabric designers. I will mix Jo Morton with Judie Rothemel, and Paula Barnes, etc., all in the same project, because I like (or love!) how they look together! If I don't like the fabrics in a particular project, I tend to toss it aside and begin something that I really love... and that first project never gets done, because I'm just not into it. I do have "what was I thinking" fabric in my stash... but I'm trying to be more selective as the price of fabric goes up... and up! Great post!!!

  10. My MIL and I are at opposite ends of this debate. She would find a pattern she absolutely loved and then dig through her stash to find the fabric she needed. I, on the other hand, tend to find some fabulous fabric that I want (and need) and then go about looking for just the right pattern to make it up. I've tried in the past two years to create by her method so I could use up some of my ever growing pile of scraps. But, if I could only make quilts one way. . . it would be to chose the fabric first.

  11. I have a feeling that this is just the start of a very good thing. I am hooked into finding out what you will talk about next. It is true that buying fabrics that make you happy, is a great motivator. For myself, I haven't had too many fabrics that I don't like. It also depends on what fabrics they end up next to in a quilt. Sometimes a fabric I had no hope for, actually became better with its neighbors!! I still adore fabrics as they get cut smaller and smaller & then wished I had more!!

  12. I only usually buy fabric that I adore because working with fabrics that dont float your boat just doesnt work for me. Makes it quite challenging when Im working on a quilt for someone else and their loves arent the same as mine.

    Ive also noticed that as Ive moved through becoming more confident about my quilting my style has really changed. I used to be all about lots of colour and now Im leaning towards more muted colour ways. Im sure that will change again in due course! Its all part of the evolution of our craft.

  13. Great post! I have been stalled by my stash that has too many fabrics I do not love but this summer, I am going through and getting rid of the stuff that doesn't make my heart sing.

  14. Life's to short to play with fabrics we don't love. :)

  15. Audrey, I think this is an excellent topic for discussion. I wrote a separate post to share my thoughts. I don't know if others will find it or not, or even be interested. Most of my blogging experience comes from genealogy blogging and in that community discussions often happen when bloggers write and post their responses and thoughts on the topic. I hope you won't think a separate post is detracting from your post, thoughts, and ideas. I'm looking forward to the next topics in this theme of creativity.


  16. I so much agree with this post. There can be two quilts made to the same design, one which is fine, and one which is WOW! The difference is the fabric choices. If you stick to ranges which go together all the time, you'll never learn how to choose for yourself and make that WOW! quilt!

  17. Such an interesting post and also the one that follows. I find it hard to replicate someone else's style as you mention. Best for me to choose the fabrics that appeal to me and do my own thing. I don't purchase a kit or block of the month often. If I do, I find myself substituting pieces here and there from my own stash.

  18. Style preferences come and go, color preferences too. As it was said previously, we need to work with fabrics we love, time is precious. I tend to save older fabrics, you never know when something from an another era will work.


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