Thoughts on Fabric

25 10 2011

I regularly browse other blogs, because I love to read about what people are doing with their quilting and to see what they are getting inspired over… I also love to read about hot topics, and the things that make us stand up and take notice.

A little bit ago, a visit over to completely cauchy and reading her post about the striking tea towel quilt she made just struck a chord with me…

Okay, so it wasn’t just about the tea towel quilt, which is totally worth taking a gander at (and she makes yummy knitted items too!).

cauchy09 wrote:

Here’s a radical notion: I don’t want to buy quilting fabric anymore.

I know. Right? We’re still looking for signs of alien abduction over here.

I find myself continuously angry at the industry. We’ll save those issues for later. More than that, though, I am continuously angry at myself because I can’t bring myself to use the contemporary quilting fabric yardage that I own. It’s not hoarding. I just know that I don’t design naturally with these prints in amounts more than a small scrap each. Yes, they are beautiful fabrics and I covet them all, but they are not me.”

You all know that I buy a lot of tone-on-tones… I posted an in depth look into my buying habits for the Skill Builders Series Part 2A – Buying for the Stash. And, by the end of writing it, I’d started to realize just how much I am starting to dislike even looking at designer print and lines…

It’s not that they’re not pretty. They’re very pretty, and sing to the wannabe graphic designer in my heart.

They’re just not usable as is if you’re not making big blocks that follow the modern aesthetic.

Unfortunately, the modern aesthetic isn’t exactly me. I love to play with design and color. However, I do my playing on a smaller scale. Very rarely do I make a block large than 12″ square, and even then it’s likely to be a traditional block. When I do make bigger blocks, they have quite a bit of piecing to go along with them. The best way to describe me is that I’m a traditionalist who’s not afraid of color (at all – have you seen my DWR-WIP?).

And really, when one works with pieces that typically don’t go over 4″ square, what’s the point of buying a big, bold modern print? Case in point, Anna Maria Horner’s Innocent Crush line, which I lovelovelovelove. I got two fat quarters of it from a swap partner, and I swooned over it. The two that I received were Woodcut in Passion and Slow Dance in Vintage.

Beautiful, right? Problem is, the repeat on Woodcut is almost eight inches in width. But I love the rich red! Slow Dance is almost twenty inches. And I’m enchanted by the movement of the lines… I’d been sitting on these two fat quarters for months, feeling trapped by their size. And what was I supposed to do with them?

#005 Bat Wing
Farmer’s Wife Block #005 – Bat Wing

In the end, I fussy cut the snot out of Slow Dance and completely lost the repeat in Woodcut. That block finishes at 6″. And let me tell you, there is no way that I would repeat this process to make multiples of this block. Fussy-cutting makes the miser in me shriek in pain at the waste of good cotton.

Throw in that fabric lines are so color coordinated and perfectly matched… I find that while I can love individual prints in a line, I often am turned off by seeing the line in its entirety. Why? Because I can’t help but feel that if I limit my fabric selection to a single line, I’m not expressing my own creative vision. Every time I sit down with the one fabric line I purchased nearly every print of, I feel trapped. I don’t see my own design emerging. I see myself catering to the fabric designer’s vision. Not exactly a great starting point. Quite frankly, I’ve given up on using those fabrics together, and they’re being parceled out into other tops.

And that’s me and most modern fabrics, over and over and over. I’ve learned to just look and drool, because otherwise I’ll be disappointed that I spent my limited fun money on fabric that’s just going to sit there. I support a family on my income, so that $50 or so that I eke out every few months to spend on me!me!me! is something that I want to be able to enjoy long-term. (Especially if that money ends up going toward supplies like batting, thread and new rotary blades instead of fabric every now and then.)

As I stated in my comment on cauchy09’s post, I want my skills as a piecer and quilter to be what shine – not my ability to buy attractive fabrics. I feel that the fabrics in my quilts should work together to create a total image, to tell a story together. I want to step back, and see my quilt.

Not the pretty designer fabric that dominates the design.

Because, you know what? That’s all I’m going to focus on ten years from now. When that quilt has been used and loved to death, I just know that I’m going to regret having made the focal point of that quilt the fabric, not my skills with needle and thread, color and design. Of course, there’s the whole problem of will I even use and love that quilt to death if I have any regrets about it after completion… 

The pretty designer fabric lines out there represent what manufacturers have decided should be in fashion as far as color, shape and line. On top of that, there’s new fabric lines constantly releasing. I don’t know about you all, but I’ve already pointed out that my fabric budget is pretty limited. I just can’t afford to keep up with whatever is new and bright and trendy. I can’t do it with my clothing, so why am I going to do it with fabric?

Now, I’m not out to bash designer fabrics in the modern aesthetic, or the quilters who use them. They’re beautiful fabrics, and while I don’t always like the quilts that are made from them, the quilter-maker was following his/her muse. And I appreciate that. Quilting is my chosen form of artistic expression, and I love the community of individuals who share in this passion.

With all of that said, I’d like to leave you all with a comment that Sherri Lynn Wood left on the blog post that sparked this post. I think it encapsulates perfectly the whole point of this post:

The fabrics we use in our quilts are the narrative, plot, place, and the characters of the story. Each fabric has the potential of carrying so much meaning or NOT – especially if it’s the most recent color coordinated fabric line out by the latest crafty pop designer.”


Friday Free For All

16 09 2011

I ordered my solid for the Test Your Skills Sampler just a few moments ago, from…

Let me just say that I’m SUPER happy.

Why? Because I just bought NINE yards of solids for $35.65.

That’s right. Six yards of Kona Cotton Lake and three yards of Kona Cotton White (for another, separate project), and all for only $3.96 a yard. (Coupon code CAT811 for 15% off a purchase of $40 or more stacked on top of the sale price.) The sale ends 8/19/11. I’m not sure when the coupon code expires. And, no, I’m not sponsored by, nor by anyone else. I just think it’s awesome to be able to buy Kona for less than $6.00 per yard.

Kona Lake

I just pray that the Kona Lake color is actually very similar to the on-screen display (at left). Right now, it looks a shade or two away from the light aqua in my binding fabric. 

If it isn’t, I guess I’ll have six yards of Kona Lake for another project.

Also done this morning… Pinning the snot out of the quilt sandwich to get Urban Worm quilted. Apparently, Friday mornings will be when I get things done. I have an hour between getting the kiddo off to school and when I have to actually shower and get dressed for the part-time job. 

Speaking of Urban Worm, since I actually have something to work on, I’m joining in on Friday Night Sew-In.