More Fabric Possibilities

We’re finishing our discussion of fabric “dissection” this week. I want to share with you some ideas of getting all your money’s worth out of all of your stash. The material you quilt with is an investment and there are no reasons why nearly every inch shouldn’t be considered valuable.

A few of my green batiks. There are lots of possibilities for leaves and stems with these.

There are a couple of ways a quilter can stretch his or her fabric dollar as well as keep the stash to a minimum, while still getting a variety of shades of green or different colors for flower petals.  The first way is to shop the batik section of your LQS or website.  I love batiks.  I love their rich, jeweled tones that stand out so beautifully on a white background.  These fabrics are very firmly woven, which makes them wonderful choices for machine or hand applique.  And what’s even better is the colors undulate throughout the material, giving the appearance of multiple shades throughout one cut of fabric.  You can get the appearance of having used lots of material from just one piece of fabric.  The bonus is that most of the time there is some kind of design in the batiks that can be fussy cut to give the appearance of veins for the leaves or a design in a flower center. 

This is my May 2018 Mini Quilt. All of the flower petals were cut from batiks, and I used only four different batiks — one for each flower.

The next way a quilter can stretch their dollar and limit their stash is to purchase ombre fabric.

Ombre Fabric

This fabric works sort of like a batik.  The shades undulate throughout the material, but there are usually more shades in an ombre, and in lots of cases, even different colors.  They have a softer hand than batiks, too.  My current favorite ombre choices are the Dream Big panels by Hoffman Fabrics. 

All of the Hoffman Dream Big Panels

These ombre fabrics have a wide spectrum of shades and colors and give lots of bang for the quilting buck.  They’re relatively inexpensive and can be thoroughly used until all you have left is a handful of scraps. 

Finally, I want you to take a hard look at two types of fabrics.  The first type we’re looking at is what you have on hand – your stash.  I divide my stash into three categories:  Neutrals (used as either the “light” fabric in a quilt or background fabric for applique), fabric bought for a specific quilt (which is immediately cut as directed per the quilt pattern and put in a project box), and material I have purchased because I simply liked it.  It’s this fabric we’re need to take a hard look at.  Take a minute or two and look at these fabric samples:

These are great pieces of material.  I’m sure you can pretty much guess why I bought them – good color choices that could be used in several different quilts, quality fabric, etc.  But now let’s really dissect what other possibilities these fabrics hold.  Let’s look at this little jewel up close:

It’s kind of like bubbles on a gold background, isn’t it?  You know what this would work well as?  Applique fabric for fish.  The bubbles look like fish scales. 

Now let’s look at this fabric:

It’s a batik, so the possibilities are endless, but when I see this, I think either frogs or mermaid tails. 

And now these:

I see flower centers, berries, or Christmas tree ornaments.

What about holiday fabric?  Don’t limit that to just Easter or Christmas.  Look at this wonderful scrap I have left over.  Those jelly beans would make wonderful flower petals.

And these Christmas ornaments? 

I see leaves with veins.

You would have to fussy cut around the snowflake, and the size of the leaf would have to be small enough to fit in the space, but the dark greens swirls would be an awesome effect on the leaves.

The point I really want to make is don’t limit your fabric. It’s great to have a good stash to shop from, but as you plan ahead to purchase fabric, take a closer look at the prints and designs to see all the possibilities that piece of material has.

This piece of purple batik has nearly endless possibilities.


This fabric is designed by Tula Pink, one of my very favorite fabric designers. She always puts some kind of creature in her designs — can you see the elephant heads? The artwork in this piece of fabric would look fabulous in flowers!

Finally, let’s take a look at what I term The Homely Cousin Fabrics.  You know the type – the fabric that sits in the bargain shelf of a LQS or bounces on a fabric website forever.  It’s marked down to $5.00 a yard, then $3.00, and finally it’s buy a yard, get the rest of the bolt free.  That fabric won’t sell because everyone thinks it’s just too ugly to do anything with. 

Don’t let these little gems pass you by.  Instead of just giving them a passing glance, take a closer look at them and let your imagination come into play.  For instance, take a look at this material:

For me, the knee-jerk turn-off was the background color — bright, harsh yellow.  Now while I do like my yellows in flower centers and Sunbonnet Sues and the like, those yellows tend to lean more to the buttery shades or the yellow-orange end of things.  This background just screams at me.  However, I set the background aside in my mind and concentrated on the print.  There are all sorts of possibilities here.  Flowers.  Leaves.  Bugs.  That print could be used for a myriad of things and the yellow background would never be a major player.

And then there’s this fabric:

Border Stripe Fabric

I love fabric with these types of stripes.  This type of fabric is commonly called a border-stripe fabric because quilt borders could be made with one of these stripes.  And those borders would look as if you had spent hours intricately piecing them when they would really be comprised of just one strip of fabric. 

However, just using this type of fabric for borders is really limiting its potential.  Think what part of this print would do for sashing.

One sashing option….


Another sashing option…

And the print could be used for everything from flowers to berries to butterflies. 

In wrapping up this two-part blog about fabric, just remember this – there’s more to fabric than its 100% cotton fibers.  If you’re indulging in applique, it’s great to use any fabric that will give the illusion you’re going for.  You may have to prep the fabric a little differently or stabilize it a bit, but it’s perfectly fine to get outside that 100% cotton quilting box.  And really look closely at the material.  Sometimes the most wonderful things you can make with a particular cut are not surface-obvious.  Use your eyes and your imagination to look deeper and consider all the possibilities.

Until next week, Quilt with Passion!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

Categories: Uncategorized

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