Friday, August 28, 2020

Stash Analysis

'This month is the last of our Quilter's Color Quest exercises, led by Rachel Hauser with her book Quilter's Field Guide to Color. We have left the color swatches behind now and are focusing on our fabric. So here's my batch of blocks for the month: 

The first exercise was to look at what we have and think about what fabrics are limiting (those with lots of colors and complex designs) and what ones are helpful (simple in color and design) when planning a color scheme/quilt. We were to pick fabrics that we find helpful and pair them with the more limiting fabrics. Hmm, looking at my stash, I'd say that it's primarily helpful fabrics, mostly tone-on-tone prints, with fewer limiting fabrics because I've never been very good at working with them. I read on someone's instagram post awhile back that she tended to use a limiting fabric as the springboard for a plan, choosing her other fabrics from the colors in the first fabric. I think that's what I have done, too, and truth be told, I think that's what I've done with this exercise. But it was fun, and it even got me to use some limiting fabrics that I've never used before. 

This first block makes me think of a picnic. The floral print is an old, old one in the tied summer quilt I used on our bed for years. In fact, I don't think I ever shared it here. Maybe I didn't think of it as a quilt as it's only two layers--plain squares and a muslin back.  

The pink check is actually a newer fabric, and strangely, I can't remember if I used it for anything. I may have bought it for a purse I made my granddaughter, but it didn't make the cut. But I love it here and thought of it as a helpful fabric to pep up the old floral. It's more modern than my usual tone-on-tones, but stays fairly simple in color. It's not one I would have considered before doing this exercise.

Next are two blocks made from sunflower fabrics that I have never used. I originally bought them for bits of background in the sunflower quilt in this post, but the background colors and/or design size didn't work for my plan. 

I sort of fussy cut the sunflower in this block and then emphasized the vivid sky with one of my favorite helpful fabrics in my blues drawer. And aren't those little green dots in the white background fabric perfect to echo the leaves? This block makes me happy.

And then this one with the black background--

I have a lot of yellow tone-on-tones as well as some oranges that could have worked here to pull out various colors of the flowers. I can see how these prints with a variety of tonal helpful fabrics could work cohesively as a whole quilt. Maybe there is still hope for these previously unloved sunflowers. 

The next limiting fabric is another potential one for a past quilt project that I just couldn't fit with the other fabrics in the quilt. It became boot inserts instead as those didn't need to match anything. But look how it looks with another ancient fabric--that little turquoise print. I was going to use solid turquoise, but this is a little more playful, I think.

And then there is this last one. I bought a fat quarter of the print on a vacation one time because I loved the colors and I was really, really trying to choose more modern fabrics instead of my usual almost-solids. I didn't know what I was going to do with it. Then I chose to make this quilt. I tried and tried to fit the fabric in, but just could not do it. Instead, I used the fabric colors to make the top without the limiting fabric. I did put some bits in a strip on the back, though, because I felt bad not using the fabric I started with on the front.

For this block, I was going to pick a solid or almost solid fabric, but then I noticed the two-tone teal print in my drawer. I think it works wonderfully with the limiting fabric as well as the putty background. (Could have cut that limiting print a little straighter. Oh well.) 

I guess the thing I learned with this exercise is that I do have a LOT of helpful fabrics in my stash. The thing is, if that's all I use, my quilts might have a sort of flat look. The exercise also really demonstrated to me that when limiting fabrics are in my drawer, I don't use them. Or, when I do, I start with them and then pair a more subtle fabric with them. What I learned most is that these might work in a scrap quilt if I consciously pair limiting and helpful fabrics in each block. That would provide the cohesiveness for the quilt. I also learned that a fabric with just a bit more movement in it (the pink check or the teal geometric print) can make a block more lively than a more subtle tone-on-tone.

The second exercise of the month was to categorize our stashes into styles of fabrics. Rachel reminded us that this is an important factor besides color for an interesting quilt that "feels right." My first thought about my style was "Old...boring" because that was how I had been feeling about my fabrics for quite some time even though I didn't want to part with ones that no longer thrilled me. Here are some groupings from my drawers that seemed to fit with categories suggested by Rachel.



Well, yeah, almost my whole stash could be called vintage, because you know--old. And then what might another quilter consider vintage? Fabric from the beginning of the century? From the 90s? Hmmm, how about the 70s? I know there are the typical repro prints like Civil War or 30's. But I'm sure young quilters would consider most of my fabrics to be vintage. I have lots more of these kinds of prints in all colors. And if you look at them, you will also see that they have very small prints. The reason for that is that I used to make miniature quilts, and when the pieces are only a quarter inch on a side, the print gets lost pretty quickly if it's larger. The reason all these scraps are around is that I would buy an eighth yard of a fabric and then use only a tiny bit of it for a tiny quilt.


This is a category that I have to admit I don't have a lot of. I know some people thrive on novelty prints for kids. And I love the quilts they make with them. But I have never been real attached to those for various reasons. I find them really limiting in terms of interests/changing interests unless you have a huge variety of prints in one quilt. And I don't want to have that many novelty prints in my stash. (I'm sure lots of you would disagree with me, and that's okay, because as I said, I love what you make.) When I do make kids' quilts, I lean more toward the circle prints and confetti you see here instead of specific images. Anyway, youthful prints are a small part of my stash. 


This category is almost non-existent in my stash. In fact, probably only the two lower prints in this photo fit best in this category. It's not that I don't like the category, but I don't run across (or maybe seek out) these fabrics as much. And I suspect the prints would be hard for me to work with as "limiting" fabrics because of the distinctive print. Maybe that's why I also pulled the two upper fabrics as ones that might be more helpful along with larger prints. Anyway, maybe something to explore in the future. 


Rachel talks about these being more complex and colorful than vintage prints. Well, here ya' go. These are some of what I call my pretties. And guess what? They are also the fabrics that I think of as limiting in my stash. Hmm. In fact, you can see some of those very fabrics in the blocks I already shared. How about that? I'm glad we had the lesson on how to pair these with helpful fabrics so that I'll find ways to use them.

Rachel talks about these as being simpler in design and color scheme. My modern fabrics are probably even more simple in design than most stashes. We'll talk about that more in a minute. 

I like Rachel's categories. They help me look at my stash with fresh eyes and see why sometimes I can't find fabrics that go together even though the colors work. The styles don't always play well together. I started thinking about what categories might be unique to me. I have a fairly hefty amount of solids in my stash. (No photo here, but you know what those look like.) I sprinkle them in printed quilts, but mostly like to use them exclusively in a particular quilt. Another category I've already noted above that is unique to me--but does overlap with the vintage category--is tiny prints for miniatures. I don't make these often anymore but I still have a considerable amount in my stash. And then, an important category for me because I like to make landscape quilts, is batiks. I find that these don't always play well with other kinds of prints but can be invaluable for landscapes. Here are just a few of my batik and batik-like prints. 

As I noted above, I also have a lot of tone-on-tone or "blender" fabrics that can read as primarily one color. 

These fabrics tend to be jewel tones, but I do have a full range of colors. In recent years, I've tried to start collecting similar types of fabrics with more modern prints in them. 

They do tend to be more clear colors, and they also can cross over into the youthful category, don't you think? 

So let's look at my blocks for the style exercise, and then a few more words about my stash and the future of my stash. I chose vintage as a nod to my miniature-making days

and batik for my landscape interests.

So, my stash...lately I have been drawn most to modern prints, not real showy ones, but ones like those in my modern fabrics photo above. It is definitely a goal to build that part of my stash as a gradual replacement for my tone-on-tones. I think that I tend to use up my modern fabrics more than my old fabrics, perhaps because of my frugal ways of buying just what's needed for a quilt. I may need to buy just a bit over what I need to build up this part of my stash for more balanced scraps.

Another category of fabric that I've been wanting to expand is low volume fabrics. When we started making the blocks for this workshop this year, I intended to use a scrappy batch of low volume fabrics for the backgrounds. I did use some, but did not have the variety that I would have liked. And the low volumes I have are mostly very low volume--solidish. What I'd really like is a variety that read white or off-white but have bits of color in the prints. 

One other thing I'll do is try to fill out some colors that are kind of slim. My purples have always been in short supply and recently I used up almost all of my favorite yellow-greens so those are good colors to start with. As I purchase them, I'll keep track of keeping a range of values. 

Boredom with old fabrics is a bit of a problem, and I probably should get rid of some; however, I think I will continue to work with them to make scrap quilts using what I have learned about pairing fabrics over the past few months. There will probably be a lot more Bear Paw blocks because I love their simplicity of construction. 

Well, as I've been contemplating all of this, I won Rachel's July giveaway associated with the workshop. Working with Fenceline Fabrics, she put together two bundles of fabrics representing two color stories: A Child's Imagination and Twilight. What a great modern infusion to my stash! Thanks so much to Rachel and to Liv at Fenceline Fabrics.

So, here are all of my Bear Paw blocks (in no particular order) made during the Quilter's Color Quest this year--except for eight blocks that just had to be made into a quilt right away. (That Coleus quilt top has been basted and is ready for quilting.) 

I don't plan to make these into just one quilt. Rather, I will assess the styles and colors and use sets of blocks as seeds for other quilts. (I see two pale blocks I'm not crazy about, so they will probably get a makeover, but we'll see.) I know that I will continue to consult the Quilter's Field Guide to Color as I go. If you are curious about my previous posts, you can click on the Quilter's Color Quest label at the bottom of this post or in the right margin.

Thanks again to Rachel for this book and for leading us all through this workshop for the past six months. Who knew this would be so needed this year? It has helped me focus on something when I had no focus, to distract me from disturbing and terrifying news, and to create during small windows of time when I didn't feel like making anything at all. Quilting is definitely therapeutic, and I expect that it will be needed for some months to come. Just as I was finishing this post up, I saw that Rachel has posted on her blog all of the links that relate to this workshop--which she refers to as a bookalong.  So if you have her book, you can find them easily to use in your own color quest. I've changed the link at the top of this post, but here it is again if you don't want to scroll back up.

I hope you have found time to practice your quilting therapy this month. Stay safe, stay well, and honor others with your consideration for their health. Together we can make a positive difference if we persevere. 

(Just a reminder: I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products, services, or stores I'm just documenting what I used or liked.)