As a self-proclaimed scrap quilter you might think that I only sew with scraps. Naturally, that would lead to questions like, "Where do all those scraps come from?" and "How did you get so many scraps?" and even, "Do you ever buy new fabric?"
And the answers to those questions are... I get most of my scraps from projects I have made, and I have lots of scraps because I have made a great number of projects, and most importantly...HECK YES I buy fabric!!! I buy it all the time. I buy lots of it. I enjoy buying fabric and I don't plan to stop anytime soon just because I have so much already.
So that inevitably leads to questions like, "How much fabric do you buy?" and "How do you decide which fabrics to buy?" and "Do you buy pre-cuts or bundles?" I hear these questions often, so I've decided to share a few thoughts about my fabric buying process.
You may scoff, thinking, "Does this woman seriously think I need help shopping for fabric?" Clearly, as quilters most of us are very proficient in the fabric shopping arena. So these really are just some things I think about. Not rules, not suggestions, just ideas. I would absolutely love any ideas you might have to share on the subject!
WHERE TO BUY FABRIC:
1. I always always always start with my local quilt shop. We must support our local quilt shops or they will go out of business and then we won't have them! That is too terrifying to think about!
2. If you don't have a local quilt shop, shopping online is very convenient. I always try ETSY first to support small fabric businesses. They offer unique varieties and great customer service.
3. I do sometimes shop at large craft retailers, but always be very careful of the quality! While some products are good quality, many are not. It is worth it to me to pay more to get better quality. I'm putting too much time and energy into my quilts to watch them fall apart or fade quickly.
4. Online quilts shops and fabric sources like Craftsy can be a great place to shop and offer consistently good quality. Follow them on social media to get notifications of sales and special offers.
5. Always shop your stash first. Look at the fabrics you have, maybe a fabric you bought for a border will make a perfect backing, or vice versa. Maybe that background fabric from your last quilt will work perfectly for the lining of the tote bag you're making. You bought the fabric because you love it, now use it!
WHICH FABRIC TO BUY:
1. Bring a shopping list! Don't trust yourself to remember how much fabric you will need. Snap a photo of the pattern materials list and that way you'll always have the list on your phone when needed.
2. Bring swatches. I keep small swatches of fabric in my purse if I am looking for more of the same or something to coordinate. It allows me to compare before I buy.
3. Snap a photo of the fabrics at the store. If you are unsure if two or three fabrics work together, taking a photo will help determine 'how they will read' in the quilt.
4. Look in unexpected places. You might find the perfect holiday fabric in the children's fabric section. Or you might find a seasonal fabric that works for a baby quilt. So many fabric lines offer fabrics that can work for other uses.
5. I tend to stay away from fabrics with big motifs or specific prints. I almost never buy a fabric that is clearly for one holiday or one event. I don't think I've ever bought a fabric with Santa on it but I've bought lots of fabrics with trees or hearts. See the difference? I let my patchwork tell the story rather than my fabric prints.
HOW MUCH FABRIC TO BUY:
1. If you are on a tight budget, ask yourself, "Do I NEED this before the next payday?" If the answer is, "It can wait." Then wait. You might even find something you like better in the meantime and your budget will thank you! I've found this prevents impulse purchases that I might regret later.
2. If I think a fabric will make a great border, I buy two yards. Rarely will I need more than that for a border.
3. When I find fabrics on sale too great to resist, I buy 5 yards for a backing. I keep about a dozen backings in my stash at all times. Sometimes I will go out and buy one specifically for a quilt, but usually I have something in my backings stash that works. Saves money, saves time...win, win.
4. If I find a fabric that looks like it needs to be a background. I rarely make quilts with just one background, but when I do 1 1/2 to 2 yards is plenty. I make big quilts.
5. If I fall in love with a fabric but have no idea how I will use it, I buy a half yard. That's enough to work it into a quilt and have some left over for the scrap bin.
PRECUTS AND BUNDLES:
1. I rarely buy precuts such as jelly rolls or charm packs. It makes me feel limited and I almost never make a quilt out of one fabric line. I mix everything together, so these don't necessarily work best for me. Having said that, if I LOVE it, I buy it.
2. I'm a sucker for pretty bundles and I buy them frequently. Resistance is futile. I love bundles because of the variety. I find that fat 1/8th bundles work best for me. I can cut strips or squares and get loads of variety for less money.
3. My second favorite bundles are fat quarter bundles. While the large ones are pricey, and I don't typically buy then, I do like the smaller ones that feature a dozen or so fabrics.
4. I always look for good stash builders. Like a bundle of dots, or checks, or tone on tones. Those can be good blenders and add variety to any project.
5. I look for bundles that have been combined using several lines of fabric. A theme bundle, like one color or 'low volume' always appeals to me. I look for bundles that look like they will go with what I have without repeating it too much.
And that is where I start my shopping process. I keep these basics in mind when I'm fabric shopping. What do you do? I would love to hear your thoughts on fabric shopping, please leave a comment telling me, it'll make my day!