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Fabric & Size

Fabric gets me in trouble.  I buy fabric with no plan.  I’ve created plans off  new fabric.  I’ve got fabric that I can’t cut into because it’s so pretty.  I’ve got fabric that I’ve bought so many times, I should have purchased a bolt.  Sometimes l walk into the store and just let my fingers gently run over each bolt.  Touching the goodness and smelling it like a new book.  Oh bolts.  I love how it’s so tall, new, and crisp.  Standing at attention just waiting for someone to create something… anything.  I especially love the sound the bolt makes as the salesperson pulls the tail and lets it flop on the cutting board as they pull yards from it.  Boom.  Boom.  Boom.  It’s like the flop is a midwife spanking a newborn’s butt for life (I’m pretty sure that don’t spank, but go with it).

Because I love fabric so much, I’m rarely concerned with buying too much.  You can always use fabric.  And having too much is always better than not having enough.  Sadly, I know this as a fact, but it was good excuse to start a new project.  This time with plenty of extra inches.

I didn’t give you my favorite online places on purpose.  You need to get into a fabric store.  Walk in and see all the colors lined up against the wall.  See the different hues of greens.  See the prints mingling before your eyes.  And feel the quality.  Get into a fabric store!  Yes, it feels funny at first.  My first time in a quilt shop alone was awkward.  This is coming from a Gal who was raised around a sewing machine.  Who used to play with old pattern books.  From a Gal’s who’s had her ACTUAL waist measured a thousands time (hint: it isn’t where you think).  My mother is an amazing seamstress and I still felt funny about walking into a fabric store.  But get over it.  They aren’t going to bite or laugh at you.  Why?  Because they love sewing so much and only want to pass along this knowledge.

I bought a house where my favorite fabric shop is almost on the corner.  Happy accident?  Maybe.  Sew to Speak is a beautiful shop in Columbus.  It’s run by the most helpful and encouraging staff.  They always give an honest opinion and are nice about doling out info. You always leave knowing you made the best possible decision and your project is going to be better for it.  If you live in Columbus or planning a trip, please PLEASE come visit Sew to Speak.  And call me!  I’ll stop down and say Hey.  Can’t get to Columbus, shop here.  At the end, I’ll share a few of my favorite online places, but I really want you inside a local fabric store.  It makes a huge difference.  Trust me.

Step One: Find your local store and go in with a plan.  Pick a color palette.

There’s a ton of stuff on color theory.  But I sort of know what I’m thinking for a quilt.  For Scrappy, I wanted Yellows.  For a Granny square I wanted Pinks.  I walk in and my eye goes straight to that color and I find one main piece of fabric.  After that piece has been chosen, every bolt or fat quarter I pull is placed next to that main fabric.

Step Two: Figure out what color you love.  Find something pretty and mix it up.

I’m a big believer in sticking with warms or with cools and I don’t mix much.  If I’m going to make an orange quilt, I stick with all the other warms: yellows and reds.  If my main Orange fabric has a little bit of blue in it, I go sparingly with a similar blue.  But I try not to mix it in too much because the color palette falls apart.  Neturals always mix in: whites, browns, grays, and black.  Find a fabric you love and stick with that palette.

For the Lazy Gal Quilt, the finished square is about 5 1/2 inches.  Large prints should be used with caution as you might not see the entire print.  If you find a large print that matches your color palette, maybe save it for the back.  Don’t forget to mix in small scaled prints like polka dots and solids.  But don’t go crazy with the colors.  Use a handful.  You don’t want circus-y.  Pile up your fabrics and squint at them.  If anything feels wonky, take it out and find something new.

And remember to use 100% cotton.  Flannel quilts are fantastic and I’ve used it for backing.  Mixing flannel and 100% cotton on the top might be difficult.  No knits or stretch.  That’s a whole other post.

Step Three: Do some math.

For this quilt, I used a few leftovers and 12 fat quarters.  A fat quarter is a half of yard of fabric (18 inches by 44 inches) and then cut in half to  18 x 22 inches.  We’re using 6 inch strips that are 19-20 inches long.  Because you have to square up your fabric (more on this later), you will never get to use the full 18 inches.  I was able to get 2 strips from a fat quarter.  I can use the extra on the back, binding, or add it to my stash pile for the next quilt.  Never hate the extra!

Fabric is typically between 40 and 44 inches wide.  It depends on the print, you’re usually good to count on 42 inches.  If you buy a half a yard, you’ll get 4 strips with extra.

I’m lazy, so grab some paper and do some math.  But you’re safe to finish this blanket with 14 fat quarters.  And most fabric shops will cut you a fat quarter if you ask.  So ask!

You can google quilt sizes and a bunch of people will give you proper sizes.  I measured our most beloved quilts.  I saw a pattern emerge.  I like lap quilts that cover multiple laps.  I like baby blankets that allow enough room for the baby to roll, play, and eat lunch with Momma mostly on the quilt (soggy butts suck).  Mine tend to be larger than the average numbers.

For Lazy Gal, each finished block is about a 16 1/2 inch square.  It’s 3 blocks wide by 3 blocks tall.  Smaller than my normal sized, but I wanted to get it done in a good time frame for y’all.  Feel free to make it as large as you’d like.  But do your math for fabric.  Again each block is made of mixing 3 six inch by 19-20 inches strips.

I usually wait to buy the back and the binding quilt until the end.  I have no reason why.  I just love to get started as soon as possible.  If you buy 2 yards for the back and 1/2 yard for the binding, we should be good.  But I love to wait.  I’ll give you back and binding theories later.  I still need to buy mine.

Step Four: Buy the fabric.  Duh.

Step Five: Get it ready.

There’s always at least two ways to do everything with quilting.  Here’s the first big one that quilters have a huge battle over: prewash or don’t.  Pick a side.  I won’t judge or hate you.  I prewash.  I simply prewash because I was raised to buy an XL sweatshirt if I really wanted it to fit like the M sweatshirt.  My mom is convinced everything shrinks 15 sizes.  It’s a hard habit to shake.  I’ve had too many shirts ruined by red socks, so that still freaks me out.  I assume everything bleeds during the first wash.  Silly, because I know that most good fabric doesn’t bleed.  Plus you can buy color catchers.  I prewash because I’ve been conditioned to prewash everything in my life.  But the next quilt, I’m going to be reckless and not prewash.  After all, it fits my style more.  Prewashing takes time.  Do whatever you want.

Get moving, Folks!

Next up: Cutting.

Or ripping.  Whatever suits your fancy.  Guess which suits mine…