Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Courage to Feel Creative: Fabric Love Part #2

Yesterday we considered the creative aspect of building our own personal stash (Fabric Love) and today I’m going launch off into the subject of buying fabric as a practical matter. For the record, I think I'm much too frugal minded to be a purist! Also, as a dedicated scrap quilter, well, sometimes I can work my way around to at least being delighted with a piece of fabric under the right circumstances. I'm good with that. If a fabric purge feels right to you and necessary in order to clean up your stash, then I say go for it! For me, the goal is to get rid of the awful fabrics, consider if (and where) I can use and/or hide the ‘maybe’ fabrics and then make a better effort to bring home fabric I love in the future. 

So.. Shopping.  Who doesn't enjoy that? It’s important to buy fabric for the purposes of adding to our stash and not just for a particular project. We obviously need to have fabric available for those impulsive projects that burn into our brains at terribly inconvenient times or what we can have is lost creativity, plain and simple. I‘m being serious here. We NEED fabric. Which we totally go along with. Oh yeah, more fabric coming our way! But there’s another side to that theory because some of us can truly get tripped up by things like limited funds or just too many dubious fabric choices stacked up at home. That's reality, but most of us don‘t have a black American Express card in our wallet to help ease the guilt. I think focused shopping can help some of us so that we don’t drag our quilty habit down into regret or otherwise adversely affect our creative spirits.

Here’s a tip that I learned years ago that might work well for you too.  It helped when I was a newbie quilter and it still works today if I remember to make the effort! The key is learning to pay attention to what fabrics are unequivocally speaking to you--finding the beauty and leaving behind the dross.

HOW TO FOCUS AND SHOP WELL (An exercise in looking beyond the obvious):

{*}Try perusing in a slow, unhurried pace around the entire store first before picking anything up. I've learned that some of the most incredible pieces of fabric for our personal stash are hiding. Only pause if something particularly catches the eye! Zero in on the few fabrics that are shamelessly trumpeting their attractions and spend a few extra seconds with them. Cruise the entire store (this even works with on-line shopping although you might want to put stuff in a cart and then eliminate later?) and remember to take a look at all the fabric styles. It’s really helpful to also look at fabrics that aren't usually your thing.  It’s a very good yardstick for judging how interesting the other fabric actually is!  Also, we never know when and how our taste in fabric will evolve through the years, so it’s best to stay alert and focused beyond the obvious choices.

After you've circled through the entire store (sometimes I even do that twice, hopefully not in a creepy way), then it’s time to go pick up a bolt here or there for cutting and gather the fat quarters that are speaking directly to you. I usually leave behind anything I’m waffling about. There will always be other fabric available. Go ahead and repeat that if you have to.*wink
  • Buy fabric that whispers, ‘Take me home, I’m special’
  • Learn to buy selectively and judiciously--one amazing piece of fabric is infinitely more inspiring than three ‘so-so’ ones
  • Buy from specific fabric shopping lists kept on hand (more about that in a later post)
  • Be adventurous in noticing (and buying) random pieces of fabric--These particular choices are the sweetest of acquisitions later on
  • Don’t buy ugly fabric just because it’s been languishing in the discount bin long enough to be a fraction of the regular price.  Make it a really good reason.
  • Do try and leave the store after only buying 1 fat quarter if that’s ALL that is worth collecting.  Really. Have some self control. lol
So… Be prepared for the fact that fabric stores are a dangerous place--main street or on-line. Step inside with a plan of attack even when ‘just looking’! This is the most effective way I've found to make sure that I can leave with fabric that will work really hard for me in my stash.

Okay, that was a lot to contemplate in two days, covering the importance of having a good stash, accumulating fabric that speaks directly to us and focused shopping. There are many other practical details like how much fabric to buy, making detailed buying lists, plus alternate ways to acquire fabric, etc., but we should probably move to something else for next Wednesday. Depending on the interest, this conversation could continue for quite awhile. I will definitely be taking my cues from you!


  1. laugh at the self control. A person I know who does a little quilting has no self control. For some reason a couple years ago she thought she was really going to be cranking the quilts out one after another and she went really crazy buying fabric - and then all of a sudden she realized she wasn't going to be so she decided to sell bolts of fabric (yes she had bought bolts and bolts) at half the price she paid for it - she is not independently wealthy but I do think she is somewhat crazy! I so agree with you stick with a plan of attack and try to not be crazy.
    Yes I did buy two partial bolts of fabric from her because they were half price, neutral batiks and you know I still have not used them - I will some day but I am so glad they are neutrals - otherwise who knows how long they would be sitting on my shelf.
    (I bet she is still paying off the credit card she used to supply her sewing room)

  2. I buy things usually in waves. I didnt buy fabric for about three months at the start of the year and the last month or so Ive gone mad buying stuff.

    I do tend to only buy things that I really love or things I know I'll use (at some point) Sometimes I buy things that compliment fabrics I already have even if I have no definite plan for using it. I dont usually buy stuff just because its on sale. Ive had to re-gift fabric in the past because I made bad purchases simply because it was cheap!

    I do have quite a stash I must admit.

  3. One rule I have used with success is on every shopping trip, come out with a basket which contains buy 75% of fabric which you need and 25% of fabric which you want. I (almost) never discard fabric, as it's amazing what can come turn out to be the perfect fabric for a sudden project - eventually!

  4. I am feeling very pleased with myself because I went through this today and walked out with only one fq and one mini charm pack. Neither were needed, but since I don't have a local store I always like to stop in when I can. I wanted to buy more, but nothing really jumped out at me....and I practiced self control. Your post made really interesting reading.

  5. I agree about figuring out how to blend those less loved fabrics with the fabrics I love. I have a friend who makes the most amazing quilts with such a wide range of fabrics.

  6. I do agree with what you are saying about being wise and think about thing before you buy but it is not easy. I always buy little pieces like fat quarters or so never bought a bolt full. Would be lovely if I could LOL.

  7. I have fabric I don't like any more. I've been trying to sneak it in scrappy projects but it just seems to multiply in spite of my efforts. Sometimes I think about my daughters who will inherit the fabric and wonder if they'll just give it away.

    One summer I decided to make a pinwheel quilt using a piece of fabric that didn't seam to ever go with anything else. It was a purple, pink, and grey print. I purposely used it as my focus fabric and matched other pieces to it. When DD#1 went through my stack of completed tops to pick out the quilt she wanted. . . she chose the pinwheel top because it had purples in it. I decided then and there that they may give away yardage but they won't give away a top.

    The key here is to have a little self-control, something I try to work on. Another thing that helps is picking up the bolt of "that fabulous fabric" and carrying it around the store as I shop. After carrying it around for 15 minutes or so my sense of ownership is often satisfied and I can put it back.

  8. Perhaps you could just come along with me next time I go to the local quilt shop? I'll buy lunch! :)

  9. I'm in the limited funds category, so I already buy very little when going shopping. My issue I think is that I am very picky and hate to buy unless it is for a project. I tend to add to my stash from changing my mind on a current project(and picking up something that works better) instead of intentionally buying for the stash.
    Loving the series and looking forward to the next piece.

  10. I love reading this series and the comments are so interesting! I was always a fat-quarter buyer. Something about holding a smaller piece of fabric in my hands as opposed to a whole bolt appealed to me and I don't know why. My buying habits are gradually shifting. I am notorious for loading up my cart with a bunch of bolts, and then once I get to the cutting table, I reject about 3/4 - way easier on the wallet. Your point about being adventurous in your fabric choices was excellent, not to be confused with buying from the ugly bin. It's similar to how I buy clothing - I have several white summer t-shirts because it's my summer uniform (black turtlencks in the winter), but it's boring and predictable. I might dress that way, but that's not how I'd like my quits to be! Take care, Byrd

  11. You are very nice, your advices and tips are indeed very smart and useful. I never lose my inspiration because every time I visit the stores it’s like all those wonderful fabrics with so many colors, patterns and textures scream creativity. I don’t know which ones to buy first.

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  12. Thanks so much for writing this.
    I have just got an idea - when you stand there in front of a tempting offer or some other fabric you like to buy - think about in which drawer you will put it. Will it be among the most beloved ones or....among the

  13. Thanks so much for writing this.
    I have just got an idea - when you stand there in front of a tempting offer or some other fabric you like to buy - think about in which drawer you will put it. Will it be among the most beloved ones or....among the


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