Keeping Focused

Christmas is always an exciting time at Casa de Fields.  For us to have only two children, two in-love children, and two granddarlings, it’s surprisingly difficult to herd everyone together in one place at one time for a meal and some togetherness.  However, Christmas is the one time of year that Mom puts her foot down and issues an edict that you show up or you’re out of the will everyone makes an effort to be there.

I really try to find not only the gifts that everyone wants, but I also make a gargantuan big effort to  purchase little “surprise” gifts that I think suits each member specifically.  Within this boundary lies a gift that “speaks to me.”  Let me explain…

While shopping, I often come across an item that has no specific purpose.

This spoke to me.  Not sure why, it just did….

As far as I know, none of my family members particularly need this item.  But for whatever reason, I am compelled to purchase it and bring it home and wrap it up and put it under the tree for some unsuspecting lucky member of my family.  Sometimes this object is tacky as all get out, but sometimes it’s sweetly sentimental. My family’s problem is two-fold.  First, they never know if the gift is truly tacky or not, and second they never know who’s going to get it.  PAYBACK!! All they know is when I hand it out, I precede the gift giving with the phrase, “This spoke to me…”

I tell you this because today I want to discuss focus fabric.  Hang with me, the above situation will make more sense as we go along.

Focus fabric for a quilt can be defined many ways.  One designer told me “It’s the fabric that jumps in my cart first.  I really can’t tell you why, but I just love it and have to have it.” Another quilting sister of mine defined it this way, “It’s the fabric I just have to buy, but think it’s too pretty to cut up.”

Literally, it’s the fabric you chose that you plan your quilt around.  It’s the fabric that is used to assist you in picking the rest of the material for your quilt. For right now, let’s just forget about picking a pattern at this point and talk only about material.  Sometimes quilters purchase the pattern and plan around that, but more often than not, we pick the fabric and plan the pattern.  And that’s the scenario we are going with here.

I can tell you my definition of focus fabric:  It’s the fabric that speaks to me.  I can be in any random quilt shop, working  my way around the room and BOOM!  There will be a bolt of fabric that beckons me to it and before I know it, the debit card is produced and five yards makes its way back home with me.  There are two rules of thumb at this point.  Notice I said I purchase five yards.  In the past, I would only buy three yards, however, things have changed in the fabric world.  Once the manufacturer of said desired fabric has run out of that particular material, they generally do not  produce any more.  So if you run short and need even a half-yard, sometimes it can be impossible to find.  Ebay has certainly saved my quilt more than once, but there are no guarantees.  It’s better to have more than you need than need more than you have.  Any extra yardage can be used in the label, binding, or in making a pieced back.  Or put back in your stash.

The second rule of thumb with focus fabric is that I’m really not quite sure why and what makes it speak to me.  This one is obvious:



It’s primarily purple, which is my favorite color.  But a closer look reveals that there are more colors involved in this batik than purple – there are also magenta and orange in the mix.

Then there’s this fabric:


This is one of those fabrics that immediately “spoke to me” and beckoned me all the way across the room.  While the background is brown – admittedly my least favorite color – it does involve a lot of other colors that I could plan my quilt around: two shades of pink, lime green, and yellow.  There are a lot of options open in this material, which makes it a fantastic choice as a focus fabric.


Here’s a great choice from Kaffe Fassett.  Sure, there are soft pastels used, but there are several vibrant colors in this fabric.  I not only could use different colors with this, but I also could use different values of the same colors.  And this is a terrific pick for either a baby quilt or any other quilt, because of the value choices.


This is another one of those “it spoke to me” fabrics.  There are pinks, blues, and greens in this material, in varying shades.  And it’s sweetly feminine.  Even though the color palate could be more limited in this one than the Kaffe Fassett above, the scale of the flowers in the fabric is small.  This means that the focus fabric would not necessarily be limited to larger patches or borders.  It could be scattered throughout the quilt.

The same is true with this fabric:


The print is a small scale, so it can be used in even really small patches, but for a tiny print, it packs a color punch – it has purple, magenta, golds, greens, and pinks.  There is a lot  I can do with this fabric.  It has nearly unlimited potential.

This focus fabric speaks for itself:


There are so many color options here…blues, pinks, golds, greens, oranges…it’s pretty much throw down nearly any other fabric and you have a winning combination.  But that’s not what drew me to this fabric.  Nope.  It was the black background.  To me, putting black in a quilt is like finishing a sentence with an exclamation point.  It’s dramatic.  Remember a few blogs back when I mentioned that a really good quilt will catch your eye across the room, in the middle of a room, and right smack-dab in front of the quilt?  Black does that for me every time.  Perhaps it’s because on the whole, quilters don’t use black too often in quilts, or maybe it’s my own preferences coming out, but black just adds more  umph to anything.

So far, we’ve taken a tour of my focus fabrics that have only included prints.  However, in one quilt that I’m currently working on, this is the focus fabric:


Again, this is one of those fabrics that didn’t just speak to me at the quilt store – it screamed.  Why a solid?  Well, more particularly, why this solid?  Truthfully, I don’t often choose solids as my focus fabric.  With a print, there are generally more color options.  But this … this fabric is scrumptious. The picture doesn’t do it justice.  It’s a deeply color-saturated fabric from French General called Noel.  It’s not a coral.  It’s not a salmon.  It’s not a shrimp or any shade of red or even pink.  It’s that elusive “somewhere in between.”  However, it’s turned out to be a great shade to bounce peaches and greens off of.

So the rules to picking a focus fabric? Only two.

First, make sure it’s a fabric you love.  It can speak to you, scream at you, or make your mind go crazy with all the options it opens up for your next quilt.  Second, buy at least five yards.


Have a great weekend.  Makes spend some time with who and what you love.


Love and Stitches….


Sherri and Sam


PS — The classes last week were fabulous.  I learned so much!


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