Before I get any further in this week’s blog, I do want to finish one of the topics I wrote about last week in Stash Happens. Remember when I told you folks about my project boxes and how fabric purchased for a particular project went into those boxes? Each project has its own box, and the fabric, pattern, and any notions go into that box. What I failed to mention that I also cut the quilt out as soon as I get the fabric home, prewashed, and ironed. Why? Because if there’s a mistake in the pattern (and sometimes this happens) or I goof up (which happens more often), this is the time that the material is still available either on line or at my LQS. If I wait a year or three to cut it out before I make the project and need more fabric (for whatever reason), I’m going to have a difficult time finding it. Ebay has saved my quilting hide more times than not, but that may not always be the case.
Besides…when I’m looking to start a new project, it’s way more motivating to grab a project box with everything already cut out and know all I have to do is read the pattern through a couple of times and begin sewing.
This week I want to sort of continue our topic of stash, but let’s discuss the stash in context of how to use it in a quilt. I’m an avid follower of Bonnie Hunter and love her scrap quilts. I also had the wonderful opportunity to take a class with Augusta Cole last August, where she pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to make scrappy quilts. In the past, I always had “planned” scrappy quilts – quilts that had a rhythm and although there may be many fabrics used, there was a definite placement plan. Anyone that had quilted for a few years could pick that up. Augusta challenged me to through caution to the wind and use any and all my scraps because in her world “Honey, it all goes together…”
And it does, and it can…but there are a few tricks to that trade and it concerns your stash and how you can use it. But you have your stash for a reason and to have it sitting on a shelf (or in a box or tub) is not the reason you have it.
Remember last week in Stash Happens I discussed the fact that when I began to purchase yardage, one of the types of fabric I could purchase with no guilt after the debit card swipe was neutrals. These are generally background fabrics in whites, beiges, grays, and blacks.
I realize that the definition of neutrals has changed in the last five or so years to include whatever color you’re using as a background, but for stash purchases, I stick to whites, beiges, grays, and blacks.
Use these neutrals to set your blocks or as sashing or as both setting triangles or sashing. Janella Macbeth in her book Scrapstashtic Quilts calls these “Calm Down” fabrics and she also includes maroons, blues, turquoises, and browns in this group. The “calm down” fabric lets you catch your breath between blocks and makes the scrappy parts “pop.”
There are a couple of more ways you can get those scrappy blocks to calm down and play nicely together. One of those ways is to use several pieces of what I call “I Bought This Yardage for a Reason” fabric. I call those fabrics that because sometimes I must specifically purchase those fabrics if I don’t have the colors I need in my stash. Often times, these solids or small prints are in the same fabric family as some of the material that I used in my scrap blocks. The quilt I made with the Fireneze collection last year is one of those quilts. I did used the linen-look beige as one of the calm down fabrics, however the solid green and the orangey-coral also were used to calm down some very busy fabrics.
Another way you can get your scrappy quilts to calm down is to consider how to place your focus fabrics. In my April 11, 2018 blog Unfocused Fabric and Answered Prayer, I discussed different ways to use your focus fabric in great detail. I mentioned that in the past, many quilters would use the focus fabric in the borders and sashing to pull the quilt top together. However, that is really limiting the power of your focus fabric. To make your scrappy quilt blocks sing in harmony, you may want to consider using the focus fabric in smaller amounts scattered throughout the quilt. If you can use the focus fabric as the center square or on-point square in your block and frame the scraps around it, that can help pull your scrappy parts together. Again, I am using this method as I complete Halo Medallion and I used it a great deal in Pieces of my Past – the same focus fabric, as a matter of fact (this is the pink print I purchased two bolts of that I talked about in last week’s blog).
As you’re purchasing for your stash, another type of fabric to make sure you keep on hand are dark-ish materials with small prints and medium prints with a dense background. I use these a lot when I make quilts with sashing. Honestly, I prefer my blocks set on-point, but there are times when rows and sashing are the best way to go. The width of the sashing varies with the statement I want the quilt to make. Skinny, dark sashing gives off almost a stained-glass vibe. If I want to showcase my quilting, I make the sashing wider. I also make it wider if I decide to make cornerstones in my sashing, as I like pieced cornerstones rather than plain squares (and if you use the scraps to make the cornerstones, it pulls the top together even more).
The thinner the sashing the more it unifies the quilt top and the wider the sashing the more it bisects it and causes each block to stand out. An even wider sashing gives the blocks the appearance of “floating.” And if you’re really antsy about how scrappy your blocks are, sash them several times with different “calm down” fabrics to pull the top and blocks together. If the blocks aren’t touching, they aren’t fighting.
I hope I’ve helped you re-evaluate your stash – in the way you store it, buy it, and use it. The average quilter has at least $6,000 invested in his or her stash. With that kind of investment, it’s best to purchase wisely, use with abandon, and store it where you can get to it.
Until next week, Quilt with Excellence,
Love and Stitches,
Sherri and Sam
PS — If you don’t have Scrapstashtic Quilts: Organizing Your Fabric Stash and ACTUALLY Using It by Janella Macbeth in your quilting library, consider adding it. It’s a great resource!