Monday, May 30, 2011

Give me your fabric opinions!

Fabric, fabric, fabric...there are certain pieces, collections, and modern fabric designers that I adore. I'm pretty new to the world of modern quilting and the accompanying designers, so there are lines of fabric that I missed because I came late to the party. For me, the 'ones that got away' include "Lightning Bugs and Other Mysteries" from Heather Ross, "Neptune" from Tula Pink, "Uptown" from Erin Michael (particularly those paint-by-number birds), and I suppose Denyse Schmidt's "Flea Market Fancy", although I have mixed feelings about that last one...mainly because of the crazy-stupid prices it goes for now. On the other hand, I have what I consider to be a lovely little stash of "Mendocino" by Heather Ross, and Erin Michael's "Lush". And here is my confession: it's become difficult to not be a hoarder. I have a few stacks & pieces of fabric that I've been hesitant to cut into...and my budget doesn't really allow for buying fabric that won't be used. What's hard for me to put under the rotary cutter? A complete set of fat quarters, for one. Out of print fabrics, for another. What if I make a mistake, and I can't GET ANY MORE??? The world might run out of gorgeous fabric any minute, you know. You really can't be too careful.

When I first started quilting, I made all the rookie fabric purchasing mistakes. Some people just have naturally impeccable taste. I am not one of those people. I see photos of other blogger's fabric shelves, and it all looks perfect and cohesive. At the back of my fabric shelves (and those shelves are deep so I can shove a  bunch of orphaned fabric back there) I've got a stack of stuff I'll never purposefully put into a quilt. Batiks for one, but I use this to make summer clothes for my daughter, so it doesn't really count. Then some 30's repro stuff, which is totally cute and completely not me. You know what I'm talking about: the pastel fabrics with little elephants and scottie dogs. Maybe I'll make a crib quilt some day? And then some truly crazy bright orange stuff. I don't know what I was thinking, but I know it was super cheap and it just sort of called out to me. I believe the word my friend Tia used was 'lurid'. I'm glad I wasn't grown up and decorating a house in 1975, because I would have been ALL OVER that burnt orange, harvest gold, and avocado green color scheme. Would have had a big piece of  Marimekko fabric on stretcher bars, too, just like my best friend's parents did.  I continue to buy some good quality fabric I don't like on purpose, so I can check stitches & tension, practice free-motion quilting, and generally experiment. It has to be super cheap, ideally $2/yard.

Another rookie buying mistake I made was getting a lot of very distinctive prints. You know, prints with big repeats, and/or lots of colors, what some folks call "focus fabrics". I'm now making up for this by seeking out monochromatic prints, dots, and the 'almost solids'. There are some terrific 'almost' solids available right now. For me, this category includes Laura Gunn's "Painter's Canvas". The first of these came out with "Magnolia Lane", but there are now 30 colors. Also in this category is "Grunge" by Basic Grey; a few new shades are included with every collection. The way the different colors are layered on these prints is kind of mesmerizing. I also seem to be a sucker for tonal stripes, like the pinstripes in Momo's "Just Wing It!", and Kitty Yoshida's wavy stripes.

I've read that many experienced quilters don't like the pre-cuts, but I think I'm addicted to charm packs. Yes, I know that the price per yard is higher, but I love love love having a piece of every fabric in a collection. The 10" layer cake size is a lot better for large scale designs. But charm packs are cheap! And cute! And cheap! And now in mini-charm size which is even cuter and cheaper (and quite probably totally impractical)!

Nowadays I plan in advance what fabric lines I'd like to get my sticky little hands on, so I can budget. My current list is: "Prince Charming" from Tula Pink, "Terrain" from Kate Spain, and "Far Far Away III" from Heather Ross. That last one looks like an odds and ends mix of leftovers from other projects, but I still love it. Especially those little guitars. I'm sure there will be more fabric that catches my magpie eye soon...which brings us to the issue of reissuing.

Trend alert! Reissuing/reprinting fabric has started to take off. I'll arbitrarily say that it's reprinting if it's a second run of fabric still on the market, and reissuing if it's gone off the market and then been brought back. To clarify, I'm not talking about vintage print reissues, like Tammis Keefe or Marimekko, but recent stuff. There was a huge, or at least very vocal, demand for more Flea Market Fancy. Free Spirit declined. I don't know what happened, but according to Denyse Schmidt herself, there will be a limited reissue of FMF in early 2012. The first reprint that I saw was Momo's "Wonderland", which seemed quite unusual for the manufacturer, Moda. Moda releases lines of fabric so fast it makes my head spin, and once they're gone, that's it. But Moda did a partial reprint of Wonderland, and I remember seeing a couple of sale listings for 'original' or 'first run' Wonderland fabric. Was there a way to tell? I'd very much like to know! And seriously, isn't that going over to the crazy side of fabric collecting? Lots of fabric lines stick around for a long time, and so must go through multiple printings, right? Reissues might have tweaks to the original designs. Heather Ross put out some Lightning Bug prints on Spoonflower (no longer available) that were in different colors with some small changes to some of the designs. "Knitmare on Elm Street" has come back from Michael Miller, in different colorways and under the name "Knitty Gritty". Side note - I think this fabric is hilarious, and the original seemed extremely collectible (I don't have any). But here's something odd: the companion fabric "That's Sew Wrong" languished on shelves, and is still available online at fire sale prices. I thought the sewing theme was equally funny, and I made sewing machine covers from it for me and my mom. What makes one fabric utterly desirable, and another one more or less flop? And finally, Moda is putting out another reprint in October 2011, the 'Pez' or "Magic Beans" fabric from American Jane/Sandy Klop. I hope it's going to be in more colors, because I really like this design.

Trend alert part deux! Big name quilt fabric designers are going mass market (or as some people might put it, to the dark side). April Cornell has long had fabric available in the big chains, notably in JoAnn Fabric in the U.S. Recently, Denyse Schmidt had a line of fabrics plus a couple of quilt patterns specifically for the chains. The cloth quality is fine, but the prints themselves are a little dull in my opinion. Do you think her DS Quilts line for the chains had anything to do with Flea Market Fancy coming back from Free Spirit Fabrics? Liesl Gibson (of Oliver & S patterns and fabrics) has the Lisette line of fabric and patterns at the chains. Now unlike April Cornell and Denyse Schmidt, who have quilting fabric lines for both the chains and the boutique/local/online quilt shops, Liesl G has very cleverly gone for a different market. Oliver & S is geared toward kids and quilting, although there are some gorgeous knits, but the Lisette line is women's apparel. If I had to predict the next big name to have fabric in the chains, I'd say Amy Butler...but she seems to be going another way, with an organic line on the way and finished goods like her bags, and the bed linens at Bed Bath & Beyond. One final note about fabric at the chains, specifically JoAnn's: it doesn't cost less. The DS Quilts, April Cornell, Alexander Henry prints are up to $10/yard. The only time I buy stuff at JoAnn's is when it's on sale or I have a coupon, and then I stock up on needles, cutting blades, thread, interfacing, etc. This weekend I picked up all four Lisette patterns for $1 each, and some Lisette fabric for 50% off.

I have to confess, I spend more time looking at fabric and projects online, browsing at fabric stores, reading blogs, and pawing through my own shelves than I spend actually sewing. My resolution is to sew more, and jump in even if it's just a half hour at a time. After all, that fabric isn't going to sew itself!

So here are my questions for you:
1. What's the fabric line you didn't buy, but wish you had?
2. Do you have fabric that's hard for you to cut into, or fabric you hoard?
3. What mistakes do you make when purchasing fabric?
4. What works for you in buying fabric?

I'd love to hear from other people! And after re-reading this very long post, I should probably state the obvious: everything I wrote is my own opinion. I'm not sponsored, and the links are just to illustrate what I'm talking about.


  1. Hmm . . . well, I also have some batiks and 1930's stuff left over from when I first started collecting, although I made a baby quilt of the 30's stuff for my friend.

    I was starting to get bad about hoarding fabric, and almost becoming afraid to make things in case I "use up" all my fabric. But then I realized, you know what, I got this fabric because I love to sew it into things, not just because I like the look of it on a shelf. And you know what, I"m always happy to see a favorite fabric peeking out of a basket or laying on my kids' bed or as part of a quilt I made. My new mantra is "I bought it to use it, so use it".

    The line I'm really sad I missed out on, and thought about buying several times but didn't was Tula Pink's Full Moon Forest -- it is amazing. The one I have the most trouble cutting into is my AMH Garden Party, and my Heather Bailey's Freshcut. I tend to get a project in my head, and I don't want to break up the fabric I have in my head for that project, even if I'm not going to make it for a long time, and I could use some of the fabric for something else. Instead I "save" it in a corner somewhere.

    As for what I"m looking forward to: mostly the Louthlouthi (especially the dots) and Lizzy House's Outfoxed.

    I often wonder what makes something "a hit" or not, too. Sometimes I think its just that big profile bloggers get excited about it, but sometimes that backfires, too. Some designers kind of develop cult followings, while others, whose fabric I like just as much, never seem to get as much buzz. It's funny, isn't it?

  2. I wish that I had bought 2 specific fabrics that I only have a teensy bit of: Amy Butler Wallflower in Mustard and Anna Maria Horner Good Folks Cathedral in Dusk.

    Hoarding fabric - well I feel like a hoarder because I have A LOT of fabric- more than I should. I have some Paint by Number Deer that I am not sure if I should use or sell..... and then there is my Flea Market Fancy...... I also have lots of African fabrics that are so sentimental - that I have to think of the *perfect* project for them before I can start using them.

    The mistakes I made when purchasing fabric - well, I usually buy online and it's relatively easy to misunderstand what the color is going to be or get the scale wrong. I am still trying to work out what amount to buy - because fat quarters are great because you can get this little piece and not to commit to a ton of yardage - but it's usually not enough if you want to do something other than quilt with it. A long time ago, if I liked a fabric, I would buy 2 yds of it - and now I realize that that was WAY too much! It's hard for me to get the amount right.

    What works for me? Comparison shopping - even though the price of cotton is rising - i have still been able to find the newest lines and get lots of good deals. I pretty much will buy from any online source - and I haven't had a problem yet.

    I am definitely looking forward to Joel dewberry's Heirloom line and Sarah Jane's 1st collection for Michael Miller.

    Lovely post bytheway - I am drooling over those painter's canvases!!!!!

  3. OMG I love this post but will have to discuss with you further... in person!