Friday, March 11, 2016

A little Chaos

There is a little chaos in my house at the moment -- it's the good sort of chaos even though I'm no enjoying it!!  I've hired a carpentry crew to do some small repairs and upgrades around my home.  They are moving through my list in good order -- some of it will be apparent but most of it is part of the joy of owning a cozy old house.  The challenge for me is to stay out of the way so they can work and still be available for consultations.  Not surprisingly my stitching for the week feels disjointed.  At the moment, my studio is covered in plastic ready to receive two new windows while the sun is shining Friday!   
One of my students suggested to me recently that I share how I shop and it seems like a good topic for today.  I suspect I shop differently than many quilters since I owned a quilt shop for 26 years.   When I began collecting cotton fabric, it was not as abundant or diverse as it is today so it sometimes became more hoarding than thoughtful shopping.  Yellows were so scarce that I bought every one I encountered.  Backgrounds prints -- mainly white and beiges -- were another item that never seemed to be abundant. 

Today, the volume of fabric being produced is overwhelming and there's always something new on the horizon.  Certainly the color palettes and the print styles have expanded and evolved but that's always going to be the case.  So in my mind, the answers to a few specific questions can tell you a great deal about the best shopping approach for you.  So here are the questions and my answers.  Then I'll share what I believe that means for me.

How much fabric do you own? 
 A LOT!!!  I know a couple people who have more, but I estimate my stash to be somewhere in the vicinity of 2500 yards.  A good way to understand that quantity is to determine how many full size quilts could be made with my stash -- if a full size quilt uses 17 1/2 yards (top and backing) of fabric, I have enough to make 142.85 quilts.  Whoa?!?!  That's intimidating but I'll never run out of the stuff so that's good!!
What size quilts do you make? 
At this point, over half the quilts I make fall into the large laprobe/twin size range.  There are only a couple full size quilts in the course of an average year and the rest are small projects like pillowcases, tablerunner, bags, placemats, etc.

What is your work style? 
I use a large variety of fabrics in each piece I make -- generally 25 or more.  I work with a variety of fabric styles but there are some which I ignore completely -- batiks for example.  As a result of my quest during 2012 to use 212 yards of my stash, I developed lots of flexibility, tolerance, and some creative strategies for using what I already own.  I continue to shop first in my stash.  If I have one weak area, it's feeling comfortable with many of the modern prints -- sometimes they feel too busy for me though I suspect it has more to do with the limited range of values available. 

So how do I see those three answers impact my shopping strategies? 
 As a shop owner (with a budget that could not be ignored if I wanted to maintain a profitable business), I shopped first to fill the gaps in the shop's color and value palette.  That's the way I manage my personal stash, too.  For example, I love blue and hoarded lots of it while I had the shop -- as a result, I don't need it so generally I ignore blues (unless it is absolutely fabulous).  I think it's a good strategy and I'm able to pull a good range of any color from my stash.  As a color begins to dwindle, it comes back onto the shopping list -- currently that is green -- I use it a lot and my assortment has gaps in value.  This quilt for my daughter is 70% from my stash and because she had very specific guidelines for me, I bought more than I generally do for one project.
Second on my shopping lists are new color palettes and design styles.  Two areas where I have been building my stash are grays and text prints.  Adding these two groups to my stash has enabled me to update the look of my work by blending them into the fabric assortments I already own. 

 I use a wide variety of fabrics in every quilt I make and since most of my quilts are not large, I tend to buy fat quarters and half yards.  If it's a print that I like but don't see it being very flexible, I get a fat quarter.  If it looks like something that will work with lots of my other prints, then I get a half yard.  If it's fabulous, I'll buy a larger piece but at this stage of my quilting career, I try to have a "purpose" in mind for those -- after all, there will soon be something else that is just as fabulous!!

Since I already own so much fabric, I never buy kits (though I could make quite a few from my stash!!) and I rarely buy entire collections. When I do buy a collection (usually a layer cake or a fat quarter stack), I have something specific in mind and use it soon!! 

Everyone is going to have a different shopping approach.   The most important aspect of your approach is that it satisfies the needs you have when you start a quilt!
So, Erin -- there it is.
Hope it helps!!
Mary Huey


  1. Thank you Mary !
    I read it whith a great interest...
    Love your work ...

  2. It's so interesting the perspective of how we all shop. I know how my own choices have changed in just a year and a half, and wonder how it will be when I've been quilting as long as you. Your stash is awesome, Mary!

  3. Good tips! I tend to be a "fabric collector," so I have had to FORCE myself to stop!! Retiring helped - I just don't have as much disposable income!