29 January 2010

That Old Fabric Meme

Today, I got a little message in my formspring inbox that reads in part “I saw on you blog that you live in Michigan. Are there any fabric/quilt shops with contemporary fabrics here? If so, where?”

I love questions!  Feel free to ask anything  in comments or by using the formspring box (it's at the very bottom of the right column.)

Fabric Shops in my area:
I live in Ann Arbor. There’s really only one shop that has contemporary fabric and that is the The Viking Sewing Center. They have mostly traditional stuff and kid’s stuff, but they are a big shop, so even though they don’t specialize in modern fabric, I would guess that they have about 50-100 bolts of it (lately: Amy Butler, Studio E, Erin McMorris). I tend to browse the juvenile section as well because some of the mixers in those lines can be quite nice.

If I’m out towards Saline, I will stop intoThe Quilting Season because they carry some lovely contemporary fabrics. However, this is a much smaller store with a smaller selection, so I don’t go out of my way to visit them. All told, I probably purchase only 30% of my fabric in brick-and-mortar stores; I do most of my fabric shopping online.

General tips for finding brick-and-mortar shops with modern quilting fabrics:
Perhaps the most useful short cut I have discovered for finding out which fabric shops in a city have modern stuff is looking at stockist lists for Amy Butler. I also look at online reviews for fabric shops on Yelp! (search for "quilting" and also "fabric store"); these reviews often give a sense of what kind of fabrics are stocked in a store. I have also asked on Craigslist by logging in for the city I'm visiting and then going to community-> artists; be sure to leave a way for people to contact you (anonymized email is my choice) you can also ask in the Craigslits crafts forum, but the forums are international, so be sure to put the city name in the header for your topic and don't be shocked if you get no response, or even rude responses mixed in with helpful ones.

I'm such a nerd about this because choices in my area are so limited that I tend to look up fabric shops whenever I travel.  Two of my all-time favorite shops are Mill House Quilts in Waunakee, Wisconsin (just outside of Madison) and In Town Quilters in Decatur, Georgia (Atlanta area).

As long as I’m going on about fabric, I’m going to take the opportunity to answer the meme that Sew, Mama, Sew! started ages ago about fabric stashes.

Fabric Meme
When you shop for fabric, what size cuts do you usually buy? (i.e. If you see something beautiful, but you don’t have a use for it right away, how much do you buy?) 
Let’s say I were buying 10 pieces of fabric, usually, I would be buying 2 yards of one, 1 yard of 2, and ½ yards of the rest.

Do you buy on impulse or do you go out looking for something you need? 
I quilt from my stash, so there is almost never a strict purpose when I’m shopping for fabric. However, I wouldn’t call any of my shopping impulsive as I have a tight budget and a limited color palette and aesthetic that I lean towards.

How do you store your fabric?
It’s on a bookshelf in my office. It doesn’t get any direct sunlight there and I can see it all.

Do you have any special folding techniques?
I iron my fabric before stashing it and then fold it over my 6.5” acrylic ruler.

How do you sort your stash? (color, print size, collection, etc.)
My fabric is not sorted. I find that taking the fabric off the shelf and flipping through it piece by piece as I build a stack for a quilt is a really useful exercise. I just bring the ironing board over to that corner of the room to use as a table, pull the fabric off stack by stack and go through it. This results in fabrics continually being shuffled up against each other in new compositions and I see combinations that I never would have generated on my own (which I then set aside or photograph to remember).  This also reminds me of what I have in my stash.

(This is a combination I discovered while pulling out oranges for Stinky's Quilt.)

What tips do you have for building up a well-rounded stash?
I have no interest in a well-rounded stash. I like grays, I like mustards, I like bright reds, I like cloudy pastels, I like mid-century slightly-pukey colors. Most of the fabrics I have in my stash are those colors, the rest are likely to be dyed or discharged before I use them.
It is a little harder to explain what patterns I like, but I definitely don't like tossed novelty prints or two-way novelty prints, just one-way novelty prints.  I like a hand-drawn look, but not a painterly look. I like geometric prints, but not high-contrast geometrics. (Yes, it is true, when you look up picky in the dictionary, there's a picture of me!)

When do you say enough is enough?
Before things get messy and before I spend money than I don't have. (Being so picky does help with this!)

Do you have a current favorite print in your stash? Let’s see it! 

 Isn’t that perfect? It’s a sheet from Garnet Hill (the pattern is called Piazza). It’s going to be overdyed ecru and then will become the back and binding for The Code Quilt.


  1. Enjoyed this very much!. I also asked a young member of one on my quilt groups and she shops mostly on line--she recommended etsy. I did find lots of great fabrics there. I too had rules about what to buy--no florals, lots of stripes, not too many colors, painterly mixes. Now I am making new rules. This is good. I must admit I am new to blogs, facebook, Flickr and don't alway know quite how things work, but I am learning.

  2. I love these sorts of posts. Can you clarify your novelty policy? A lot of popular fabrics I would count as novelty myself. Not in to the cutesy stuff myself. But I've found myself going back to fabrics I bought years ago and never would have thought I'd use. But that's the pleasure of the stash.

  3. Love that garnet hill sheet! It will look perfect with the code quilt.

    I just added your fresh modern quilts link to my blog and I'm about to update the Common Threads blog with your new blog link

  4. Great post, Rossie! I will definitely have to check out some of the shops you mention when I'm near those parts of town.

    Also (because I'm a research geek by day), I noticed the Miles/Huberman text. Fun!


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