Tanya from Suburban Jubilee left me a comment on my last post asking me a question:
"I wish I had a sister. How cool is that to be able to share a project and then have this wonderful family heirloom. I love pouring over your quilt photos. I can't quite dip my toe in the water here and I need some advice....
I look longingly at fabrics but the price is quite significant. I think maybe I should buy a fat quarter every so often...but then I worry that many of the quilts I see in the shop are all so co-ordinated with "ranges" and aren't really piecemeal at all. So am I better to buy all the fabric I need in one season because the dyelots are all in similar palettes? Do you buy all your quilt fabric in one go?"
I started emailing an answer to her but it got longer and longer so I've decided to post it here for others who are interested too.
The price of fabric IS significant and I am constantly amazed at how much people seem to buy when I look around the net. However, the prices are a lot cheaper in America so that might bias my opinion.
Because I do a lot of quilting, I like to work from a 'stash' - a collection of lots of pieces of fabric that I gathered here and there. I work out what I want to make (I rarely follow a pattern completely) and then sift through my stash for pieces that will go together. This has it's downfalls - sometimes I want to use a certain fabric but don't have enough and I know I won't find it in the shops again, but this forces me to be creative. I also have to make sure that when I'm buying bits and pieces here and there that I gather a range of tones, pattern sizes and colours (or I'd just end up with stacks of mid-tone blues!).
I have quilting friends who work differently. They find what they want to make, work out how much of each colour/pattern they need and then go and buy it all at once. They spend a lump sum all at once and they don't tend to have many leftovers to use on little projects just as a whim. But they know they will have exactly what they need for that quilt and if they are making something that will last a few generations, then the lump sum is probably worth it.
Lots of quilts around are made up of one co-ordinated fabric range. They are promoted so that you buy that designers fabric, but you don't have to make your quilt like that, and in fact, I think it gives your quilt a more distinctive 'you' style if it's made from bits and pieces that you have collected. Dyelots do change from batch to batch, but you will always find fabric to co-ordinate - there are only so many colours on this earth!
As for how to afford the fabric? I save up my dollars and browse shops when they are having sales and buy a few bits and pieces that are a good price. I always check the 'specials' bin and I visit op shops and cut up cotton shirts, skirts and sheets that I've bought for a dollar or two. Specialist quilting shops have beautiful fabrics and lovely quality, but their prices reflect that. But a small amount of stunning fabric can be used as a feature, and the background fabrics can come from a cheaper place such as Spotlight.
If you are planning to do a lot of applique with little pieces, then fat quarters and fat eighths might be the way to go. If you think carefully before you buy what you might use that fabric for, you might realise that it would be better to buy a metre's worth of fat eighths and get a really good range of colour than to buy a whole metre of one fabric that you will only use a small amount of. But fabrics that you are likely to use as backgrounds or the backing of quilts - buy several metres when it's on special.
Check out the shops 'extra wide' backing fabrics. These are ones made extra width to be put on the back of quilts without having to join lengths. If you work out price per metre, you can frequently be onto a bargain and they are often perfect for backgrounds or borders (and backings of course!).
I have spent a bit of time on the net and worked out which internet shops have good prices and subscribe to their newsletters to hear about sales. I also get my plain black and white fabrics and my battings from my local guild who can buy them wholesale. Sometimes buying from overseas can work out cheaper than local even when you factor in postage, especially when you split the postage with a friend. Check out http://greenfairyquilts.com/ and use an online currency converter to get an idea.
One day I want to make this hobby of mine a career. I'm not sure in what way yet, whether in designing patterns, quilting other people's quilts, working in a quilting store or (in my wildest dreams!) designing fabric. So I use these plans to justify purchases as well, as 'research' and 'learning and development'. (By the way - anyone out there want to hire me?!)
There is a quilting saying,"She who dies with the most fabric, wins!" I guess like any true addict, I have found many ways and means of sustaining my habit. And I figure that the money I save on not styling or cutting my hair, not buying designer clothes and only buying new shoes when I NEED them, lets me have a little leeway.
(Yes, I am a frumpy, out-of-fasion woman with straggly hair and worn out shoes - but I have a fantastic fabric stash!)