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How Much Fabric to Buy?

Sandra Hatch

How Much Fabric to Buy

Merlynn asks: "How much fabric should I buy when I see quilt fabric that I just must have? How about when it's a novelty? I usually make lap quilts and with the novelty sometimes, I like to make quilts, aprons and little dresses for my daughter. Most of the time I get just 2 yards. Is this too much or too little?

That is hard to answer. I usually buy 3 yards of something I like because then there is enough to use as a border if I need one. If it is something you love, 3 yards is a good choice. I don't think I have ever needed more than that of a fabric I bought just because I liked it.

Yesterday I bought some batiks for a jacket. Because I know it will be patchwork and I won't need long lengths for borders, I bought just one yard of a couple of pieces and 2 yards of the one I liked the best. Novelty prints are sometimes the focus of a quilt. It is a guarantee that when you actually get to use it, you won't be able to find more. If you can afford it, then you should buy at least 3 yards.

Sandra writes: "I wanted to laugh when I read the question about how much of a fabric to buy. Having over-bought a few times, I can relate to the issue. What was I thinking?

"My solution was to cut several pieces into good, healthy fat-quarters and take them to my guild for the drawings. So far I have won only a few back, and I love them in my fat-quarter box. I have another covered box titled 'Someday a Scrappy,' and in it are all the wonderful pieces I just cannot part with.

"The clear, zippered bags my mattress covers, sheets, pillowcases, etc., came in are wonderful for toting things I'm working on to sit-and-wait places. The bag can go on the floor next to my seat and not get the contents soiled or spread all over, and I can see what I am looking for. I do not store fabrics in the plastic at home."

I use those zippered bags, too. Now my daughter is saving the littlest bags. Today I used three of them because I had three different projects going at one time. Before I started the fourth one, I had to pick up the others. The fabrics and whatever stitching I had done on each project went together in a zippered bag. One of the bags was trimmed in pink-check binding -- three infant shirts were purchased in it. We quilters are savers, that's for sure!

Hannalore says, "Hi Sandra! I buy anywhere from 3-5 yards of any fabric or color fabric I like, but I must really like it. If I like the fabric and I know it is hard to find, I don't want to be looking for it later. I also buy the backing fabric when I buy the fabrics for the quilt top. By the time I get to make the quilt it sometimes is not available anymore. I have a full-time job, and I don't have time to waste looking for something I should have bought when I first saw it. Thanks for your newsletter; I enjoy it very much every time it comes."

Alice shares: "On the subject of how much fabric to buy, for me it depends on price, pattern and such. I bought 2 yards of a red cat print, because I just had to have it. Since then I bought a panel of cat sayings, so the two are going to be combined into a wall quilt. I was lucky that I purchased enough of the first fabric to border the panel. I will soon be retired from my full-time job, so I will be able to spend more time quilting, weaving, spinning and whatever else I get into."

Shauna writes: "I like to buy fat quarters in matching bundles, if they are available. My local quilt shop has a good variety and offers classes for using them, making it an enticing purchase. There are many books available for making fat-quarter quilts, so I have no problem using them up. I usually purchase at least 3 yards of one fabric in the bundle so I have a coordinating fabric from which to cut border strips, then I select mottleds and tonals to match when I actually begin piecing a quilt."

Sue adds her two-cents worth about buying fabric. "I have too much fabric, but what quilter doesn't? I like so many different colors and prints that it is hard for me to narrow down my choices. I can't afford to buy anything I want, though, so I try to buy on sale. If it is a really good sale, I try to buy 6 yards of one fabric for backing and then 2 or 3 yards of a couple coordinates that have lots of colors that will blend with what I have in my stash at home. I know I won't live long enough to use half of it."

Connie shares. "I collect fish prints. Not only do I like the fish shapes, but I really love the colors that these prints usually include. Because this is a collection, I don't need lots of yardage of any one print, rather I like to buy 1 yard of anything I like. Over the years I have acquired quite a collection."

Sue chimes in. "I buy fabrics in my two favorite colors -- burgundy and green. I like the folk-art look, so most of these fabrics would be dark. Homespuns and plaids are among my favorites. Of course, once in a while a whimsical print catches my eye, and I am drawn to make a quilt for my grandson or a niece or nephew. I realize not everyone likes the same colors I do."

I can identify with each one of these fabric collectors. I actually hate to cut up some of my favorite fabrics. I just like to look at them in my closet, move them around once in a while and think about how I might use them one day. It is a sickness, I know, but I just can't stand the thought of not having it anymore. I would like to hear about how other quilters deal with their fabric obsession.