Sunday, April 16, 2006
I recently received a wonderful e-mail from a quilter who's been playing around improvisationally. She asked the following questions, which I'm going to attempt to answer. Anyone who can help me with answers, esp differing opinions, please leave a comment.
My biggest question for you is how do you plan the colors/fabric choices for a quilt like your Blue and White houses? And how do you know how much fabric you need? I have started on a lap-sized housing project made from leftovers, supplemented with a few fat quarters here and there, but I’m worried it will look too scrappy, that I’ll over buy, or that I’ll run out of a fabric that I want to use again. I guess these are the risks you take when doing a liberated project. I’d love to see you share your opinions on planning fabric choices for a liberated project (yardage, as well as number of different fabrics) in your directions or on your blog.
Okay, here goes.
As far as I'm concerned a quilt cannot be "too scrappy." The more fabrics you have the better they play together. One of my absolute favorite books is Scrap Quilts by Roberta Horton which looks like it's out of print. (Why does this happen to my favorite books? At least you can get it used for very reasonable prices - act now before it's too late.) Roberta addresses questions like how many fabrics do you need in a scrap quilt (no upper limit and she shows an example of an 11-print quilt that she considers scrappy).
I don't plan what fabrics I'm going to use, necessarily. I'll decide on a color scheme, or perhaps a focus fabric and gather together all the fabrics I have in those colors. (Again Scrap Quilts is a wonderful book to help with this step.) I start with all of them and then toss some aside because they don't work well with the other fabrics I have in the pile. And sometimes I'll have many fabrics that look similar (like all those tonal, hand-dyed-ish fabrics I have) and I won't need to use each of them.
As I work, depending on what colors or fabrics the quilt seems to need I'll add fabrics back in or buy some new ones. I also frequently will end up with many that never get used at all. There's no exact science to it.
Picking fabrics for a quilt like Blue and White Houses is easier than a quilt with many different colors. You know you need just two colors: Blue and white. Have to admit I have a problem with lights, so I had to force myself to use the lighter tones of blue - the quilt really needed them and they do look good in there. What I didn't use was fabrics where the blue seemed to have too much green in it. It had to be true blue.
One fabulous fabric-type to look for if you're making a monochromatic quilt is the kind that uses one color, starting out at its lightest tone at one selvage and getting progressively darker until the other selvage. I noticed an ad for Moda Ombres which would work well. (I found the Moda Ombres at this shop, which I've never used and is in no way an endorsement. But they do have quite the collection of them.) Other manufacturers have done some that run even darker to even lighter than these Modas appear to.
I never know how much fabric I need. It's always a surprise. If I like a fabric, I'll buy a quarter yard or a 1/3 yard, which is actually a great size. Really like it will bump me up to a half yard. Love it = 1 yard. Love love love love it and I know it's something I can use in many different quilts (such as my gorgeous hand-dyed Bali Fabrications batiks) then I may buy 2 or 3 yards. I don't necessarily buy fabrics ahead of time for borders, tho it has happened.
Having said that, I'm more discriminating in what I buy now cuz I have such a large stash. So my threshold of liking a fabric has changed from where it was several years ago. I rarely buy novelty or busy fabrics any more. My tastes have changed.
I have a huge tendency to overbuy. I still buy fabric for quilts that I've already finished. It's a curse (tho I'm improving). I can't help you out with that particular question. It's not a problem so long as you love the fabrics and those colors and can use them in other quilts - that's how you get a stash. Overbuying fabrics for a quilt in colors you'll never use again.... Trade, sell, or donate extra is my recommendation there.
Unfortunately it's entirely possible to run out of a fabric. I bought the orangey-yellow fabric that surrounds the Pumpkin Pie letters during my trip to Florida. At the time I thought it was rather obnoxious, but interesting, so I only got a 1/4 yard. Got it home, washed it and discovered that I love how it feels. More importantly, I love how it worked with the other colors. It's almost all gone now. I have a few short strips and squares and that's it. That's what happens. There's no way around it unless you have unlimited funding and storage space.
So in the end, I guess what it comes down to is: buy fabric you love. Don't worry about running out - just accept that it's gonna happen. You can always buy more fabric (just maybe not the same one). Too many fabrics in one quilt is not a problem...
Does that help?