Up until now here at Charlotte Loves Henry, I’ve been a bit vague about my intended purposes for this blog, in exchange for just laying out the general feel and idea of the site itself. Beyond that, however, what started with a now defunct New Year’s resolution has evolved to bring me to a very new place as an experienced quilter. I think is worth sharing and as I’ve said, I don’t want to figure all sorts of things out and then start blogging about it; I want to share as I go along.
It starts like this – I’ve been quilting for about 20 years. I’ve learned lots about piecing and cutting and precision. Though every day is, and should be, a learning day, I’m not a quilting newby. Still, no matter how experienced I’d become, there was always something with which I struggled to streamline:
How to buy fabric I loved and could truly use effectively all the time,
without just looking at on my shelf in a befuddled stupor 50% of the time
while muddling through and making due the other 50%.
Over the years, this is what my fabric-buying tendencies resembled (and I suspect I’m not alone):
- I’d get sucked into any fabric department that existed in any store (including actual big-box fabric stores like Field’s and JoAnn’s, but also craft stores like Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, my local Meijer store and yes even Walmart on occasion. (hey, the first step toward reconciliation is honesty, or so my 7-year-once-catholic-school-girl self was led to believe…I beg you not to judge). Moving on…
- Once in the clutches of said fabric/craft department, at least one bolt, remnant, or fat quarter leapt somewhat uninvited into my hands, subsequently forcing me to begin the following lengthy, multi-step process that starts with…
- Oooooh…PRETTY! (and evolves to…)
- Will this match that ONE fabric I’ve had in my stash for eons, such that I can finally use it?
- If it’s a fat quarter or remnant, are there more if this same pattern in this bottomless bin (which then evolved toward the digging/sifting process of pulling out each one that matched what was in my hand, deciding that if there are 20, I’d have to buy all of them just in case, since Lord knows I’d never find this fabric again)?
- If so (or no – since the wrestling still ensued), I then began to rub the fabric between my fingers for an undetermined amount of time, while squinting at it up close to ascertain the thread count and overall fabric quality
Okay – since I suspect you get my point, I’ll stop there. What I’m really trying to express is this one thing:
Fabric shopping shouldn’t be that hard.
Regardless, I went about collecting fabrics over the years, becoming pretty proficient as a quilter, yet still never really feeling like my fabric stash was working for me. It wasn’t until after I set a New Year’s Resolution goal to resist buying fabric for 2015 (so I’d be forced to use up my stash) that I truly began to appreciate just how little useful fabric I had IN my stash. The reality was this – I had nice fabric of good quality and no argument could be made to the contrary, but:
- If I wanted to match anything with it, at least 50% of it bore no design or manufacturer name along the selvedge edge. So even if there had been a grouping of coordinated fabrics along with it when I bought it, I had no way of going about finding what they were.
- Some of my fabric I had several yards of, which I didn’t really need, but had bought for the simple fear I might want or need more but would never be able to find it again. Know what I figured out? Just because I love a fabric at first sight, doesn’t mean I’ll want to use it for the next twelve quilts.
Simultaneously, as all these things were occurring to me, I was still committed to NOT buying fabric. I started following fabric and notions manufacturers on social media, and also other quilters who seemed to have such a miraculously easy time assembling gorgeous quilts that I knew I was just as capable of creating. I began to recognize fabric collections by name and manufacturer, all assembled into large groupings of fabrics that coordinated together. Then I started shopping around online (without buying, mind you), seeking out fabric specifically by name. I could even find some fabric collections that were out of print if I looked in the right place, because I knew their name. Lastly, and most importantly, I’d done my research, I knew I could depend upon the quality of the fabric, so no squinting, fabric-feeling or guesswork would be needed! So I bought a Moda 5″ square charm pack online and tried it…and that was THAT.
That’s when I gave myself permission to bail (the rest of the way) on my resolution and try out some other quality manufacturer brands, and while I was at it – I veered away from my forever good quality thread, and tried some Aurifil; an Italian brand of thread I’d heard of and simply thought, ‘Heck. As if it will kill me to try?’ I promise I didn’t spontaneously explode (obviously), and my seams lay flatter too.
The photo below I’m calling:
Did you know that Precuts are brilliant?
(and see my little thread bowl beneath Henry’s left foot? That’s my collection of awesome Aurifil threads.)
I’ll talk more about precuts in my next post – why their so great, and especially a cool new way I’ve figured out for storing them. Perhaps I’ll whip up a fun little tutorial to share too.
Cheers and Happy Quilting,
PS. Remind me to bridge the topic of this business of ‘scant 1/4″ seam allowances too. I’d like to share about the crummy 1/4″ foot I’ve been using on my Pfaff for years, which, let’s just say, wasn’t terribly accurate to 1/4″, let alone a scant one.