Buying Fabric

This subject will have as many opinions as the number of people reading the post. We all have different interests and different pocketbooks determining what we buy and how much we buy.

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If you have known Country Threads over the years you know we sew with a very scrappy style. Most quilts have a controlled scrap look and when we first started writing patterns for this type of quilt, we would list shades of red, for example, such as poppy, crimson, red orange, dark pink, maroon, blood red – everything on either side of red. Every red and white quilt I’ve ever made has a wide assortment of shades of red. This quilt is above my couch – look at it with the thought of shades of red.

Look at the cover of Beyond The Battlefield- I see red, blue, tan and every shade of those colors but no green, yellow, purple, black, orange.

Here’s Best of All from the same book.

This quilt has a much broader range of colors brought together with dark brown sashing.

Beyond The Battlefield is available for $31 including postage. No, I have not decided what I’m going to make first. Have to finish my Bullseye first.

Now how much to buy? When we had the quilt shop open, we had thousands and thousands of bolts and new fabric came in nearly every day. Our employees cut us each a half yard of every single bolt so we’d know what was on the floor and so we would use the fabrics in our patterns. When an employee made a model for the shop, we of course wanted them to use fabric we were selling.

We could never use yardage over the half yard in a new pattern because everything was kitted up. Now – think about this – bolts of fabric come right around 15 yards per bolt. If we used 2 yards in the project, one full yard had been cut in two half yard pieces, leaving us 12 yds. minus any fat quarters that were cut for the shop. If the pattern called for two yards per kit/project, we would be able to sell 5 kits. Making a bigger quilt and only letting it work it’s magic for 5 kits just isn’t worth it. Too much time invested in the quilt with virtually no payback.

Here’s an example of a kit backfiring. This quilt is in the new book – called Stitching A Life. It requires 1-1/3 yd. of the feature fabric which was beautiful – a Japanese fabric that we loved.

We couldn’t get more yardage and even though we tried to substitute a fabric, nobody wanted to buy the kit unless the feature fabric was the same as the model. It died a painful death but the pattern was wonderful. Nobody could see past that Japanese fabric to choose something else.

So Connie and I have extensive fabric collections but in half yard increments only. Every time I need a backing, I either have to piece it or buy new. Half yards have come to suit us fine but our style reflects our half yard collections. I have bought very little fabric since we closed but I am going to take pictures of what we have since several of you mentioned how much fabric I had. You ain’t see nuthin yet!

Tomorrow I will talk about inspiration for color.

These two are waiting for me to go do chores – I’m ready now!

48 thoughts on “Buying Fabric

  1. B. J. Berlo

    I used to but yardage!!! Now I buy mostly fat quarters and half yards. I no longer make bed quilts so any yardage is now used as backing, or is cut into 2 1/2″ strips for binding or bowls etc. I always used to say ” I’m buying lots of fabric now because once I’m retired I won’t be able to afford it. ” Well, I’m retired now and I’m using lots of fabric that I acquired years ago. I’ve also donated lots of fabric to my quilt guild. Every time I go to my favorite quilt shop I buy five Kaffe Fassett fat quarters and some fat eighths of Tim Holtz. I just buy what I really like, but in much smaller quantities.

  2. Launa

    Mary… What a beautiful quilt…anything with lots of assorted reds! I have done one kit quilt and that’s all. Even then I swapped in some from my stash.
    Many times I use leftovers from the quilt front on the back.
    I notice snow on the ground outside your dogs’ picture. It’s been sunny and very cold here today.
    Looking forward to YOU AIN’T SEEN NUTHIN YET. 😉

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Launa – we have probably 10-12” on the ground with more coming both Friday night and Saturday night. Sigh

      1. Launa

        We had a dinner guest last night who remembered having snow here on July 4th! I had commented having a white out snow in April our first year here!
        I’ve been purchasing some light backgrounds recently in small amounts.

  3. Kathy Hanson

    Looks like your little buddies were being very patient waiting for you to do chores. How sweet.
    I seem to see something that I like and I can’t keep from getting it. I need to stop going into quilt shops to see what’s new I guess. I need to shop in my own sewing room – anybody else???
    I like what you have done with several different reds for example – I don’t think like that but I can see that I should. I tend to be too “Matchy, Matchy”!! I love seeing what you do and try to think “outside the box” more.

  4. Nikki Mahaffey

    Laying out fabrics for a red/cream quilt..9 patch alternating with heart ❤️ blocks..9 in blocks..5 across 7 down..undecided on borders at this time. Very seldom buy more than 1/2 yard of fabric as I too love scrappy.

  5. Paula S.

    I love the dog figurines in your first picture. I collect them also. Regarding fabric, I use Bonnie Hunter’s scrap saver system and it works well for me. I do love the scrappy look and hardly ever buy much yardage unless I can get it for $5 a yard or less and then it’s used for backing.

  6. Ellie

    Thanks for this post. When I first began to quilt I used very few fabrics in my quilts but as time passed and I found I had bits and pieces left over and didn’t want to toss them so I had to begin to use them! Now I wouldn’t think of only using half a dozen fabrics in a quilt. I like the controlled scrappy look but I find a variety of fabrics make the quilt more interesting to work on and use!

  7. Jo in Wyoming

    If the designers would quit producing such incredible fabrics, I too could buy only 1/2 yard! At today’s prices, and with a healthy stash, I only buy if I LOVE it.
    I think it would be a dream come true to peruse your stash! I want to see it all. In a workshop, I’d rather visit with everybody and their stuff than get much accomplished. Isn’t it fun to see what they bring…
    Thank you for the color and yardage lesson.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Jo in WY – at today’s prices, fabric is simply too expensive to buy and let it sit. I never go anywhere so I’m not tempted!

  8. Sue in Oregon

    I read a long time ago that one should never try to match reds. Now I see that is so true. After I read that I did stop matching reds, but that doesn’t work as well with other colors. They don’t look right when they are miss matched, although blended is fine.
    I have been systematically trying to use my scraps. My small scraps. I don’t consider fats quarters to be scraps because I love to make small quilts. When Bulls Eye came along, I really got into my small scraps then. Bulls Eye is going to be nearly free. It has all come from my scraps and stash, even the borders. I will need to buy backing, though, because I think I am going to go with flannel. I love a flannel back for my cuddle quilts.
    I put myself on a fabric diet a few years ago. I fall off the wagon now and then but have kept to it pretty well. Sales are my undoing.
    That said, I can’t wait to see more of your fabric, Mary.

  9. Quilter in WI

    I made your Rhubarb and Radishes quilt. Mine has a light tan paisley background probably purchased as a kit from a vendor at the Chicago show. I still like the pattern.

    1. Mary from Quad Cities

      A Rhubarb and Radishes quilt sounds neat. Mary must have mentioned it before I started following her blog. Am I correct that it has shades of red and green in it?

  10. Diane in Central Ohio

    Your fur buddies are so cute together in the chair. What is the name of the red quilt? Is it in one of your books? Available to buy? I love it!! Before I retired, I bought yardage “Willy nilly” if I liked something. Now I buy for specific projects. I am trying to use fat quarters for projects like QOV, Hospice quilts etc. I try to make them comfy and cozy😃

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Diane in Central Ohio – I will try to remember to look for the pattern – I can’t even tell you what the name of it is and if I forget, remind me!

      1. Diane in Central Ohio

        Ah, I get it, Mary. I have started sending texts to myself to remind of things. How pitiful is that??!!
        Squeak says “Meow” to Millie:)

  11. Jane Dumler

    I have always bought 1/2 yards. Love scrappy quilts. If the colors are too matched the quilt gets boring. My husband, a retired pathologist, has always referred to my fabric stash as a malignant growth. He might be right!
    Cold here in Colorado and more snow on its way.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Jane Dumler – Malignant growth!!!!! I LOVE IT! The man has a sense of humor, too. Hahaha!

  12. Kathy in western NY

    I wish I enjoyed shopping for clothes like I do fabric shopping. I can always find another piece to add to my stash!! But I did shop from my flannel stash to make bullseyes (did purchase a couple light background pieces) and even my borders are from my stash. Usually when I make a scrappy quilt the borders are the fabric I treat myself to. My red and cream scrappy quilt I made years ago is one of my favorites with all the blended reds and even the different creams, tone on tones and off whites for the background. Tomorrow I am pulling from my flannels to see if I can piece a backing for Bullseye but I have found a big difference in quilt store flannels and the ones from Joann’s.

  13. Peggy

    When we closed our shop I bought the left over fabric so my stash is very large and a lot of part bolts. I try very hard to use what I have in a project but still need to add at times. I can truly relate and do lover scrap quilts. Also have been doing jelly roll rugs using my own fabric. Love you news letter.

  14. Diane Bauer

    One of my early quilts was a scrappy wall hanging (“Loon Lake”). I didn’t have much of a stash at that point and I only needed very small scraps, so I purchased a lot of fat quarters. Later projects required more fabric and I was frustrated that I only had very small pieces, so I started buying a minimum of a yard, more if I thought I would use it often or as a backing–or if I simply loved the fabric. As a result, I have quite a stash now and I’m having fun making scrappy quilts like Bullseye that help me use a portion of it up!

  15. Marsha from Kansas

    Since I retired, my fabric shopping has changed. I used to buy for projects. I, too, now make lap quilts and smaller. I mainly purchase fabric to finish up a quilt or a backing. Oh, and my Kim Diehl Club kits. But just today I couldn’t resist Edyta Sitar’s Deal of the Day from Missouri Star. When I do buy a precut (today’s was 10-inch squares), then I buy around 3-1/2 yards of a border/binding fabric and 2-1/2 yards of a background when I don’t have a specific project in mind. I have found with that combination I can make about any pattern by maybe adding other fabrics as needed. I try not to do this very often though. We got around 3 inches of snow last weekend and some more predicted this weekend, but nothing like you are getting. The 50-degree temperatures today melted everything from last weekend. I didn’t comment on the pin cushion book giveaway. I had already purchased that book and the Red and White quilt book on a sale. I have every Miss Rosie (Carrie Nelson) book and many of her patterns. Haven’t made anything from those books yet but plan to. I know I have at least 4 yards of red in my stash. I used to sell Christmas tree skirts to supplement the income and I had some red left that I used for the backing and ruffles. It will end up in one of the 2-color quilts. Connie’s pin cushions are inspiring me to make them. Love your pictures around the farm. Telly and Hazel are just the cutest! You hadn’t commented, but did you notice that a terrier (wire haired) won the big Westminister Dog show? We’re always rooting for the Shelties! Clicking on the ads, but then the ads I only click on here (like for that stapler and that farm equipment) show up on my Facebook feed. So “somebody” tracks those clicks.

  16. Amy M

    I can’t wait to see the stash pictures-remember some of your readers have seen it in person so you can’t hide the truth. Too many pictures might crash the blog (ha!) Don’t forget Connie’s!! Especially the shower in her sewing room : ) You sew so much, I just can’t imagine how you haven’t made at least a dent in it, yes I know there was a lot to start with when the shop closed. For so many years I bought yards and yards of sale fabric thinking, that will make a good back, border etc. but it never seemed to be what you want for a project. Or I bought something because I just loved it. Now I only buy for a specific project and store everything by project (and still have more than I will complete in my lifetime!) I have sworn off pre-cuts, I just don’t like sewing with those pinked edges. We had 37 degrees today and it felt like 60! But not to fear, more snow is in the 10 day forecast. We are sitting at 26″ this season (with more to come for sure) and our average is 15″.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Amy M – we’re going to have to split up the stash pictures in two posts so it doesn’t crash – haha! I still have tubs of fabric above the garage! Wish I could sew more – but I hate big pieces so my projects don’t use up much yardage. And then there’s the shirts! It is a sickness!

  17. Kelli

    Love all the comments! Fun to read how everyone builds a stash. Love seeing the red and white quilt – I think two color quilts are stunning! Look forward to seeing more of your stash

  18. Carolyn Boutilier

    Waiting to see your stash Mary. I have mine in boxes under our king size bed, in every closet and in plastic tubs in the upstairs hallway. I don’t have a good place to store my quilting fabric as I have a stash of wool for my rug hooking that is in every spare space I could find at the time. Yesterday we had sure had a mix of weather, snow about 5 inches, one inch of sleet, freezing rain then rain with thunder & lightning. Today 63 degrees so most of the snow melted. I am working on a prairie bonnet and cut some worms for my rug hooking. I need to finish my Bull’s Eye quilt. Love your pictures of Telly & Hazel on your quilts.I am enjoying your book. I have some of your Goat Gazette newsletters and love going back over them. At that time I was working and busy with life. the past 3 years your inspirations of quilting has kept me going dealing through tragedy. Carolyn B Shenandoah Valley VA

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Carolyn Boutillier – when I hear someone say this group blog has helped them through a rough patch, I know it’s worth doing. Helping others in any way is an act of worship in God’s eyes. I’m so sorry you’ve had tragedy in your life – hang in there and if you need a hand and we can help, give a shout out!

  19. Carol

    Thanks for the fabric tips, glad fat quarters aren’t a bad idea and now, I’ll start getting 1/2 yards that are blenders, neutrals, shirtings rather than just buying because it’s irresistible.
    Closed several ads, seems like there were a few more today than usual.
    Even when I don’t comment, I am loving your farm life photos, your animals (especially kitties of course!), and your quilts and collections.
    Hang on, it’s going to be March soon! Hopefully we’ll all be enjoying some sun and warmth before long.

  20. Joyce

    When I add to my stash…it has to be something I absolutely love! I have a significant amount of fabric bought when prices were reasonable. I considerate it an excellent investment 😊. Tomorrow we’re driving up to my daughters in the Twin Cities… I’m thinking a stop at SR Harris is in order as their quilting cottons are on sale this month. I can always use neutrals and absolutely love shirtings! I’ve also found some great civil war fabric there too! Oh I think I could get into trouble as I love Millie P’s too.. lol

  21. Sandy Kolarik

    I have a lot of older fabrics which I’m not thrilled with. I feel real guilty about just getting rid of. Should I cut in strips and use in scrappy quilts hoping they’ll get along with others or should just get rid of? Suggestions please.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Sandy Kolarik – if you made a rug, it would use up 15 yds. I would not try mixing it in with fabric you love – you might end up hating the quilt. You could donate to a church who makes quilts or simply take it to the thrift store and you’ll never have to think about it again! Now wouldn’t that be a relief? Life is too short!

  22. Marilyn

    Mary wonderful pictures. Thank you for sharing with us regarding your stash. I mailed my check for the bunnies and March pattern. Still working on bullseye using browns and blues because I seemed to have more scrapes in those shades. Can’t wait to see the rest of the stash.

  23. Ann Barlament

    I must be the oddball out ~ if I fall in love with a new pattern and it’s kitted, I go out of my way to make mine different. I don’t want mine the same as everyone else.
    The only time mine was the same as the kit, is if I made the sample for the quilt shop or pattern designer.

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Ann Barlament- I’m with you, Ann! I’d never want the kit – the most fun was choosing fabric and when doing a shop model, I’d always throw in one distinct small piece so I could identify the quilt as mine.

  24. Kate Schloemer

    I use to buy 2 yards of fabric every time I bought. I also bought kits. Today I only buy what I use and if I purchase fabric it’s only to go with what I need to add to fabric needed for a projects. Mostly do baby quilts for all the great grandchildren when they are born.
    Envious of your fabric. Will be thrilled to see your stash.

  25. Donna Albright

    I love the red quilt!!!! I’ve been wanting to make another Christmas quilt and this would do the trick. Is the pattern yours and is it available?

  26. Deb - SW Minnesota

    I buy fat quarters to build my stash or yardage if it is on sale. I try to keep my stash purchases to 30’s or civil war reproduction fabrics since they are my favorite. It is so easy to make scrap quilts by doing that. I had made a number of lap quilts and started selling them. I was surprised with how many people asked for larger quilts. So now I’m making queen sized quilts by order. Since I have a full time job as well, I can only do a few each year. But I’m doing something I love, providing a beautiful quilt for someone who loves it, and making a little money to buy more stash! I always give the left over fabric to the buyer since they purchase all the fabric, but they all give it back to me to add to the stash – and they never let me pay for it. They say it is my bonus :).

  27. Barb

    I am trying not to buy much fabric anymore even though for years I have only bought fat quarters or half yards unless I need something specific for background or focus. I have also pieced my quilt backs for years so don’t usually buy backing. My biggest problem is that I have found that my taste has changed over the years and a lot of my older stash fabrics don’t appeal to me very much any more! Spent some time this past week going through boxes of fabric and pulling out stuff to donate to a friend who is in a group doing charity quilts…and I still have a mountain of fabric. Not ruthless enough, I guess!

  28. Holly in Two Harbors

    What a great post! And I loved reading all the comments, too! (I’m still laughing about the malignant growth!)

    I also bought like a crazy person to prepare for a more spare retirement budget. I don’ think I’ll get through it all in my lifetime, but I’m giving it a try. I buy the occasional one-third to half yard or precut. I’m currently on the lookout for low volume prints, which weren’t a thIng when I was power shopping in quilt shops. I loved the stack you showed in a post awhile back. And there’s a Moda line coming out in April I’m saving for–Day in Paris. It’s just too beautiful to pass up. Another addition to my malignant growth!

    In the meantime, all your wonderful pictures have me thinking I should get out my On Behalf of Chickens book and make a scrappy lap quilt commemorating some of the chickens I’ve had, and loved, quilting their names on the blocks.

    You always provide inspiration. Thank you!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Holly in Two Harbors – our first book, On Behalf of Chickens, has so much to offer – I’d love to go back and make some of those great quilts in bright fabrics!

  29. Janine

    What an interesting post. Love hearing how people buy fabric. Can’t wait to see your fabric stash! Hope Connie joins in. I’ve always bought primarily fat quarters and half yards because I’m such a fan of scrappy quilts. But now that civil war and reproduction fabrics seem to be more limited, and most of the quilt shops around us are focusing on modern and bright lines, I’m buying what I like when I find it. This year I’m working on holiday and Christmas quilts, so when I find a great red or green, it’s coming home with me.

  30. Diane in WI

    I love the picture of Telly and Hazel, such faithful companions. I also like your dog collection. I have started buying mostly half yards. I don’t make many large quilts. We live in a one hundred plus old farmhouse. I tell my husband that my fabric is insulating the house. We are to get freezing rain again tomorrow and then some snow. I am done with winter.

  31. Sunflower

    What a lovely post!! I like knowing I’m not the only one with so much fabric! If I see a fabric I love, I usually buy 3 yards in case I want to use it as a backing. But if I end up using it in other projects it makes me happy each time I use it. Otherwise I buy a yard. I immediately looked up your first book, in case I need another book(!). It looks interesting and I just love the name! Stay safe this weekend. I’ll be watching the great rivalry game between Michigan State and University of Michigan. I like to joke that my heart belongs to MSU as it’s an agricultural college and I’m a farm girl, but my money went to U of M, when we paid for two kids’ education there!!

  32. Liz Schrader

    Mary, I enjoy your blogs so much. They remind me of Garner where I lived over 30 years. I received so much knowledge from you and Connie at a couple classes I took at Country Threads. I love quilt shops, so have to be careful to not buy too much fabric because I have a big stash at home. I buy mostly half yards but sometimes can’t resist a yard of stunning fabric. I enjoy reading stories from all the other ladies too!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Liz Schroeder – Hi, Liz! Those were the days, weren’t they, when we were getting started and building up our business. Retirement is hard sometimes – guess neither of us can actually give up the business – Ha!

  33. Vivian

    Mary, after seeing the studio tours, I happened to browse back to this post — did you ever do the follow-up post to this on your color inspiration? I looked forward and didn’t see it and would love to hear your thoughts on that topic!

    1. CountryThreads Post author

      Vivian – I am planning on that topic this week. – unless weather interferes again. I think this will be an enjoyable topic for all of us.

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