Rebecca over at Chasing Cottons is running a really great beginners quilting class covering everything from fabric, to design, to construction, to finishing. It will be a great resource for not just new members of our fabulous quilting community, but I'm sure the rest of us can pick up some tips too.
Rebecca's invited the rest of us to join in by blogging about the topics she's discussing in any given week, and considering that this weeks topic is FABRIC, I just couldn't resist joining in.
I LOVE fabric. I have done since I was a little girl, and I suspect that I always will :) I can remember when I was about maybe 6 or 7, sitting next to my Mum as she went through her fabric and knitting supplies, and stashing a little pile of the things she was getting rid of that I liked.
For quilting I use 100% cotton fabrics, and I make a decision about whether or not to pre-wash based on what I'm making, and with what fabrics. There is a lot of debate about the wash/don't wash issue and you can find people who passionately fall on both sides of the debate.
As an initial general rule, I either wash ALL of the fabrics in a quilt, or I wash NONE of the fabrics in a quilt. I have to admit with the increasing use of pre-cuts it's becoming less and less likely that I will pre-wash fabric. You can't pre-wash pre-cuts (at least not in any "easy" way), so if I can't wash that part of the fabric, then I won't wash any other fabrics in the quilt. This means that when you wash the quilt the first time, they should ("should") shrink evenly. The only time that I would wash the fabric would be if I'm using pieces that are all a fat quarter or larger, because then any threads pulling off the edge are not going to be a problem.
Now, for the shopping! I do a combination of online shopping (USA and Australia), physical shopping, and ebay. Rebecca has a good list of shops on her website - and I've used a number of them - mentions would go to Hawthorne Threads, Pink Chalk Fabrics, and for GORGEOUS catalogs Keepsake Quilting.
My other favourite tip is quiltshops.com :) If you know the name of a fabric designer you really love, or a fabric range then you can type it into that search engine and it will look at a whole bunch of online shops and show you who is selling it. It doesn't show ALL the shops out there, but it does show some great ones, and it's a good way to compare prices.
If you're a beginner living in Sydney, then I can't reccomend highly enough the discount fabric section at Craft Depot at Pennant Hills. They have a huge selection of fabrics at $10 per metre, so if you're not too sure of yourself, and you're nervous about spending HEAPS of money, or cutting into a special fabric, you can easily get some great things there. It's where my collection of Alhambra fabrics came from.I completely agree with Rebecca when she says that you should buy what you love - especially if you're "stashbuilding". I read through Rebecca's post a second time, and I don't she talks about a "stash" at all so I'm going to have a go.
I think that most quilters would have a stash, don't get me wrong, I'm sure that they vary in size, I know people who only have tiny bits of left over fabric from their last quilt, and I also know people who have a stash that could literally fill a room, but almost every quilter I know has a stash. For me it started out as pieces of fabric that were left over from things that I had made. However this quickly morphed into me buying pieces of fabric that I had no specific plan for, but that I knew I HAD to have. For example, the gorgeous "Plume" by Tula Pink. I have no idea what I'm going to use it for - but I needed to have it! :) At the moment my stash spreads across about five 50 litre plastic tubs.
Deciding how much fabric to buy can be tricky too. If you know what you're making, and what you're using the fabric as (i.e. using a fabric as a border, background or binding is going to use a lot more fabric than if you're using it as the highlight colour in 20 blocks) will make it a lot easier. If you're just stash building then I would suggest no less than a fat quarter, because you'll regret it later!! A word of warning - a lot of online shops do a minimum half yard (USA) cut, which is fair enough, because if they cut a fat quarter for you, and don't sell the other half then the shop is stuck with a piece they can't sell.The most important thing about fabric is to enjoy it! Relish the colour, dive into the patterns and designs, examine the textures and figure out what you like, what you LOVE and the things you aren't so keen about. It's one of the BEST things about being a quilter.