Who Doesn’t Love Collecting Fat-Quarters?
Collecting fabric led to my Fat-Quarter Stash Quilting style. My fat-quarter stash once hit over 1,000 pieces. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances, but more on that later. When I realized my stash collection had reached astronomical proportions, I made a commitment. I promised myself to only make quilts with the fabric in my possession. Considering that exceeded over 300 yards of beautiful fabric to work with, I was ready to take on the challenge. So, began my Stash Quilting which has completely changed how I approach quilt projects. Selecting yardage from my favorite stash fabrics is always a delight. Now, mixing in a wide assortment of fat-quarters adds such visible interest. The patterns I use are very simplified, giving my fabrics prime space to shine.
What, No Quilting Fabric?
Fortunate to have the opportunity to live, work and quilt on a tropical island for 15 years, I had plenty of time to create. With the ocean colors as my inspiration, I’ve used just about every shade of blue in my quilts. It was a beautiful place to quilt. On the other hand, living remotely has a multitude of limitations. In my case, not having a shopping mall or theater wasn’t a problem, but finding quilting fabric was impossible.
I had just recently discovered batik fabrics and wanted more. While buying yards and yards of fabric wasn’t in my budget, I could afford $20 a month to purchase a new fat quarter selection. Who knew you could join a fabric club? That was quite new 20 years ago. It became such an exciting moment to find a new fabric pack in the mail box. Each was opened lovingly to display a beautiful selection of batik fat-quarters. When a fabric arrived that I absolutely loved, I would buy yardage for a future project. This was my introduction to online shopping and I’ve never looked back. And it continued for years.
Let’s Talk About Our Fat-Quarter Obsession
My fat-quarters were stored in a clear, plastic bin so they were always visible. As more fabric arrived filling the bin, I bought another until it too, became full. At least 250 fat-quarters fit into one bin. That’s over 60 yards of fabric in each. When a new fat-quarter collection arrived, the big decision was whether to group them together or divide them by color family into different bins. When my stash was bulging out of four bins, I knew I had to act. I committed to no more fabric purchases until I used what I had.
Fat-Quarters Changed My Quilting Style
Here was a fabulous challenge. It really changed up my quilting style, too. Now, when I needed two yards of green fabric, I could pull out eight fat-quarters from my green bin. Yes, I used scraps from previous projects, but I also used lots of fat-quarters, too. The diversity in fabric choices gave each quilt a lot of color and movement, along with a cohesive design.
With my chosen focal fabric selected and spread out, I begin to add fat-quarters in color groups that I liked. While sorting and trying out various pieces, a color scheme would start to develop. From that point my quilt began taking shape. This is still how I decide which color direction I’m headed. Anything that seems to work with my initial fabric choice stays on the pile. Quite simply, when the combination brings a smile and makes me feel good, then I know I’m ready. It really is that simple.
Fat-Quarters Provide Lots of Variety
Fat-quarters are small enough to justify buying a few, yet large enough to impact a pieced quilt. They can provide a beautiful shaded array of your focal color or be blenders that bring all your colors together. Fat-quarters also offer an economical way to purchase fabric in new colors or patterns to try something different or provide some great variations in a large quilt. Whatever your reason is to purchase fat-quarters, don’t forget to use them and enjoy the beauty they will bring to your quilts.
Initially, there were a couple patterns that worked well for me. Even though I repeated the quilt construction the same way, every quilt looked very different. I was excited. Now I had a seemingly endless supply of fabric just waiting to be quilted. I sewed for a few years without buying more fabric, other than an occasional must have piece here and there.
Stash Quilting Began
If you’ve been quilting for a while, you can see the evolution of your quilts over time. Maybe your color palette changed, or your patterns are more distinctive. My early quilts were made with a specific color scheme and a single fabric for each color. Out of necessity, I had to modify my yardage selections to fat-quarters within the same color families. These fat-quarter groups generally included a multitude of prints and patterns standing in for a single color in my quilt. It worked wonderfully, and I love the results! There’s so much to see when looking at one of my stash quilts, it’s like playing ‘I Spy’.
Try to always mix it up a bit. Rather than using only one fabric for a specific color in your quilt project, gather up a group of fat-quarters that can be used together for that single color instead. This one step changed everything about how I saw quilting.
Use What You Already Have
The idea of a stash quilt is to use what you have on hand. But also, be willing to try something new. Change up your choices. If your selecting a group of red fabrics, use some with splashes of colors that will draw attention. This is especially effective if those ‘splashes’ are also found in other fabrics within your quilt. When I began using fat-quarters to make up the yardage for each color in my quilts, the transformation was astounding. Instead of using 1-2 yards of a single fabric, I now could use 4-8 fat quarters. This range of fabrics added so much more color and interest to the overall design. Try it and see what I mean.
Take an Objective Look
Always take a moment to step back from your project and look at it objectively. What can you do to add a bit of creativity and make it more individual to represent who you are as the creator? In my case, using what I had was a necessity. It was also a fabulous opportunity that changed everything about how I quilted. I still have those bins, though they hold much less fabric today. Yet, I am never short of fat-quarters for my next project.
Now five years later I’m still working on dwindling down my stash fabrics. It has been an amazing journey of discovery as I’ve experimented with color schemes I might otherwise have ignored. I’ve made more than 25 full size quilts and even more wall hangings. It’s been an opportunity to gift what I love to those I love.
New Stash Treasures
The beauty of Stash Quilting is the diversity of fabrics you can use. While fat-quarters are fabulous, the ‘Bakery Shop’ of precuts is amazing. A perfect way to sample new colors and prints, precuts let you venture into quilting territory you might otherwise bypass. Gather up a couple precuts that catch your eye and find a way to add them to your next creation. You can easily take a bold leap because you’re only using small quantities. But what an impact they can make. It’s such fun to change things up, especially with these pretty little jewels.
My stash quilts tend to be made with lots of smaller pieces, most under 5” square. Assembling blocks is very creative as my goal is to bring in lots of color that directs your eye from point to point. Precuts are a perfect solution for that very reason. They are already cut into smaller, compatible sizes that piece together easily. They’ve been perfect to incorporate into my stash quilting. So much so, that I’m converting some of my fat-quarters into precut sizes. I already trim up my scrap pile into usable sizes, now add precuts and the choices are limitless.
Fat-quarters are such a perfect size for so many projects that I can’t cut them all up. Those that will be used for smaller piecing are converted into precuts. The rest remains intact. There are a couple template variations I use to convert my fat-quarters into precuts, depending on size preferences. Also, I like to keep some larger cuts on hand, as they can easily be trimmed down later when they are needed. If you’re interested in converting some of your fat-quarters into precuts, download the templates included with this post. There are also two templates for converting just half of your fat-quarter, so you can keep some larger pieces of your favorites.
Try Some New Choices
I hope you enjoy trying some innovative fabric choices in you next projects. It’s such fun to stumble into something new and creative. The options become endless and you can barely harness your excitement. Don’t let those opportunities pass by without taking note. Literally, take notes. Write down your ideas for a future project. One day you’ll read it and all the energy will return with a new project in mind. Let your quilting take you in new directions and enjoy the adventure.
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