Here we are for the second part of my post on acquiring fabric! Last week I talked about the different colors and types of fabric you want in your stash. You can read the first half here.
Today we'll talk about the practical side. Where, how, and how much.
First we'll talk about WHERE. Where do you buy fabric? I think the ideal place would be fabric shop just down the street. They would have a huge selection quilting and apparel fabrics, lots of notions, books and patterns, helpful staff, and all at a reasonable price with huge sales now and then!
The chance that you have something like this nearby is quite slim, I'm thinking! That's why we have to shop around at many different places to buy fabric.
I think that buying fabric in real life at a store is the best option. You can see and feel the fabric and you have a better chance of knowing that it's some thing you like. Really, the only reason I buy online is because my brick and mortar shop options are limited, and online prices tend to be more affordable.
So, selection and price are the two factors that make me choose online shopping a lot of the time! There are many, many online fabric shops! I'm not going to list my favorites now, but I'm hoping to have a comprehensive list of some great shops in the near future.
So the one disadvantage to shopping fabric online is that the swatch you see on your computer screen can be misleading. Here's what I do. I look for actual photos of that fabric, rather than just a flat computer generated swatch. This means that I do a google search on the name of the particular fabric I'm eyeing. Hopefully someone has already sewn something with this fabric so that I can visualize the scale, color and texture. Also there are some shops that take actual photos of their fabric, and this is very handy to look at!
Are you concerned about the quality of this fabric you are ordering? If you order from well known fabric companies like Moda, Free Spirit, Westminster, Robert Kaufman, Michael Miller(and many many more of course) You're basically guaranteed a consistently good quality. The regular price of quilting cotton these days is US$8-$10, so that can be a bit of a guideline.
Brand new quilting cotton is not the only fabric you can use for quilting! I love using vintage fabrics as well. If you have some thrift stores nearby, you may find some real treasures. Etsy and Ebay also have lots of options, although you are dealing with possibly higher prices and the risk of not knowing the feel and quality.
I guess I kinda covered the HOW above, where I talked about finding actual photos of the fabric you're looking at. I think most of us know a little too well how to hit the Add to Cart button, so maybe I don't need to go into that one!
So let's touch a bit on HOW MUCH? I get this question quite often. I'd say that my method has definitely changed over the years. I think I've got myself about figured out by now, so the way I do it is tailored to the way I think.
I buy mainly half yard pieces. I find them to be a useful size for the quilting I do. I also buy some quarter yards or fat quarters from shops that have them available. I almost never buy more than a half yard when it's a fabric I've never seen in person. I've been disappointed by thinking a certain piece would be perfect for a quilt back, plus it's on sale! And then when it arrives, it's just not quite how I pictured it. Or maybe I still like it, but it's just not something I'll use that much of. When I find myself loving a 1/4 or 1/2 yard piece, when I cut into it almost right away and start to worry that it's going to be used up soon, then I consider buying more. ( I said consider) If over time I find it to be a versatile fabric that I love the color of, and know that I will use more, paired together with finding it on sale somewhere, then I might purchase 2-3 yards.
The photo above shows examples of fabrics that I have repurchased because I found myself using them and know I'd use them more. A couple of them are basics (like the bottom three) I never found them on sale, but I knew I'd use them lots, and I do. The next two are not necessarily 'must-haves' but I found them on a great sale and knew from experience that they were prints I liked, so I bought a few yards. These kind are pieces that work well for quilt backs. The geometric green print second from top is my all time favorite green print. I find it hard to find the perfect shade of green, and this is one I love, so I can't imagine what I'll do when it's gone! And the very top print is just one that I loved because of it's vintage look and I had to have more before it was gone!
The funny thing is that really my favorite cuts of fabric are the fat quarters and quarter yards. They just seem more special, I can have more variety of fabrics, and I find myself using them sooner. For some reason I don't find myself cutting into large 1 yard pieces when I'm making patchwork. I've learned that there will always be another piece of fabric that I love just as much, so when this one is gone I don't need to worry!
On the other hand, you simply DO need some larger chunks of fabric. Maybe for sashing, or a pattern that has a lot of one background. And for quilt backs of course. Here's the thing: I never choose backing or binding till my quilt top is complete. So it is nice to have a bit of selection when that time comes. I like to have a few Ikea sheets on hand for larger quilts. I also always have a few 56" wide voiles on hand since I love the feel of them on the back of a quilt (plus they're a bit wider)
Ok, I must run now, although I could talk longer! Any other thoughts or comments, please feel free to add and I'll try to reply in the comments below!