Friday, July 26, 2013

Fabrics (and their fibre content) that I've used in my quilts

Let me preface with the following: I make quilts because I like them, I plan to use them AND I will not be entering them in a juried show.

I was taught to make hexagons by my Grandmother when I was a girl but that was about all I knew about patchwork for many years. When I started quilting as an adult in the late 1970s I was living in a very small town in the far north. There were no shops where I could buy fabric or quilt guilds where I could learn. My only source of information was the odd quilters' magazine. I would see a picture and draft my own pattern. The first lesson I learned, and I learned it the hard way, was that the 1/4" seam allowance is added all around the patch! That's a mistake you only make once!

As far as fabric goes I would order it mail order from a Sears catalogue OR there was mail order business in Alaska that sold bags of scraps for quilting and they were cheap. But they were not 100% cotton. And I had no idea at that time that I was expected to use only 100% cotton. Well in that scrap bag was a lovely piece of turquoise with white polka dots and another small turquoise and white print. I loved both because they were kind of quirky and different (this was back in the days when brown calico was the rage). I used both in my quilts and this is one of the quilts that contains both fabrics. This was made back I my draft-your-own-pattern and figure-things-out days! I had no idea how to go about making a quilt like this but I did remember the hexagon lessons from my Grandma so this quilt was English paper pieced! Even the larger squares!

And I also snuck some of the turquoise into a block where it didn't belong - it was a thinking patch. I wanted people to think "did she mean to put that patch in there or was it a mistake that she didn't catch until AFTER the quilt was made"?

Can you see the thinking patch?

I used these two fabrics in many of my quilts because my plan was that they would be my "signature" fabric and I would put a small piece in every quilt I made.  That plan sort of fell by the wayside when I learned I should only use 100% cotton top quality designer fabrics and I think that is sad because looking at my quilt now I realize that I lost some of my spontaneity and creativity.

And here's another block made with who-knows-what but I'm pretty sure that there's some poly cotton in there!

I also used leftovers from the clothes that I made for myself. The blue points were from a mat dress.

And then one of the first true 100% quilting cottons was purchased. My brother sent me money as a gift and a visiting sewing store came to town. I purchase the blue fabric in the centre of this star - I loved it and bought as much as I could afford which was probably about 2 yards (I still have some of that fabric).

Not only was I using blends but I was also using polyester thread....white polyester thread!!! It never occurred to me that you should match the thread to the fabric but then I didn't have much to chose from in the way of thread and white seemed like a good universal colour to use!

For a number of years I adhered to these rules - 100% cotton designer fabrics. But the trouble was that I was seeing some really nice fabrics that weren't designer fabrics OR fabrics that were poly-cotton blends. So what did I do? If it was a patch of fabric that I really liked and really needed it in a quilt I used it! I still try to use 100% cotton but it doesn't have to be designer fabric and if I run into the odd piece of 80/20 poly cotton that works in my quilt I use it. Why not? My quilts are to be used. And as for the notion that they won't last, neither will I so what's the problem? I made this quilt 30 years ago and it has been used like crazy.

I did stop using polyester thread for piecing and switched to 100% cotton. I still like it but am rethinking this because there are some really lovely soft polyester threads made for piecing and they work well, produce little to no lint and are much more economical. And if my scrappy star quilt has survived with 30 year old polyester thread......

Today I went to Fabricland for the 50% off everything sale. I had plenty of time so I went to the home dec section to browse. What did I see? Some fabulous cotton fabrics that are 104" wide.....and they were on sale at $12/metre. There is nothing wrong with these fabrics. They have a beautiful hand and are the same weight as quilting cottons. Can you say "cut me some of that"? I can and did! This one will make a beautify quilt backing!

And the other fabric I purchased is a grey-beige which will be fabulous in something but I'm not sure what just yet! The print has a bit of a woven look to it like a linen.

My point here is that if you are committed to 100% designer cotton and you have the wallet for it, by all means continue. But if like me you want to make quilts that will be loved and used and the perfect fabric is a home dec fabric or an  odd bit of poly cotton blend I say go for it! It is your quilt after all and the quilt police will not come knocking at your door! And that's my two penneth worth for today!

Until I post again, happy sewing!


  1. Loved reading your blog today. Such a breath of fresh air! I feel exactly like you do! Not always brave enough to say it these days. Sorry our craft has become a little snobby. BTW~ I may borrow your comment about your quilts not lasting. I won't either.

    1. Oh kindred spirit! So happy you enjoyed my blog today. Quilting should be fun and too many rules can make it less so. I say do what makes you happy!

  2. From the first sentence I read, I thought, "yes me too".
    My first little quilt was made from unidentified scraps and I love it! I always make scrap quilts because I love their randomness. When I show them to friends, they are like little children excitedly picking out the fabric scraps they have given or swapped me.
    Wasn't patchwork all about thrifting and make-do?
    ps I am EPP'ing a double Irish chain quilt, yes even the big squares and why not? :-D
    I must say your quilting on this quilt is divine!

    1. Hi Kath - you are absolutely right about the make-do nature of quilts and I don't have a problem with making do with what I have. I look at the Gees Bend quilts and I think they are spectacular and memorable!

      And EPP is a great solution for all kinds of challenging piecing! I even EPP a pickle dish quilt because I couldn't bear the thought of precisely cutting out all the little triangles with curved edges! I can't wait to see your double Irish chain quilt. Hope you'll be posting pictures on your blog!

  3. I just want you to know how much I enjoy your blog. I don't always comment but I so enjoy your talent. I even have learned a few things or two. LOL I love the way you approach fabric, quilting and design. You are an artist. Thanks for your inspiration.
    Hugs Bunny

    1. Thanks Bunny - sometimes if you just toss the rules and have fun doing what you want with whatever you want, that is you will get the most exciting results! Sharing with other inspires me to create and share some more!

  4. I sat here reading with a grin on my face. Yeah! Put in your quilt what you like, and not what 'they' say is suitable. Your backing fabric is utterly beautiful! Thank you for a breath of fresh air. I won't enter anything in juried shows either - too many silly rules!

    1. Hello Jane in beautiful Wales and thanks! When I think of some of the most memorable quilts none of them would have made it into a juried show. I'm not opposed to making a quit for juried show but rather it isn't my cup of tea. For me the joy of quilts is in the making and seeing the finished product. And of course sharing the quilt and what I learned with other quilters. That's what I call fun!

  5. Hi from Czech Republic, Europe.
    I´m in love with your old quilt ! The strict rules are overkill for creativity ....

    Your blog is very attractive for me, english paper piecing is my favourite method of working.

    Nice summer days to you !

    1. Hello Lenka in Czech Republic! Making quilts should be fun and if you have to break a rule it just adds to the fun!

      I like English paper piecing too!

      Thank you for reading my blog and commenting!

      Happy summer to you too!