Fabric Shopping with Alex Anderson – November/December 2006

understand these basic concepts. It is simply a matter of learning how to combine prints and colors. So sit back, relax, and be willing to take a few risks to give your quilts a special look. I promise it’s easy and fun!
   I have a game plan for choosing fabric—first I determine why I’m purchasing it. Is it a new project? Am I keeping my stash current? Is that
piece of fabric begging me to take it home? The amount to purchase depends on the role the fabric is going to play, the size of your bank account, and how much fabric storage space you have. I try to work with the best 100% cotton fabrics available from my local quilt store. When the fabric is not top quality, it can cause serious problems, such as stretching, distorting, tearing, or bleeding in the wash. A lot of work goes into making a quilt. Your time is worth using the best products you can find.

   The following fabric groups are the main staples of every quilter’s stash and are the seven Keys to Success.

1. TONE-ON-TONE FABRICS: Tone-on-tone fabrics are very subtle and monochromatic (one color). They often read as though they are solid-colored. They give the eyes a place to rest when used in a quilt. They add more interest and visual texture than solids and are forgiving if your piecing isn’t perfect. Typically I purchase 1?3 yard (1?4 yard cuts get tangled in the washer and dryer).
2. BRIDGE FABRICS: A bridge fabric is a monochromatic print with several color variations within one color family. These fabrics can ease the transition of using many variations of one color within a quilt. Notice how the fabric used on the top bar of the color family pulls together the three colors below it. These are more difficult to find, so I purchase 1?2 yard.
3. SPARKLE FABRICS: Sparkle fabrics are monochromatic and have a complete range of value—light to dark. These fabrics are very lively and add a crsip look to quilts. They are fairly readily available, therefore 1?3 yard is an adequate amount to purchase.
4. POLKA DOT FABRICS: I love polka dots. They are fun and add a sense of whimsy to quilts. I think of polka dots as seasoning. A little goes a long way, but they make the quilt spicy. These fabrics are harder to find, so I usually buy 1?2 yard.
5. STRIPE FABRICS: Stripes add a sense of order to quilts. Sometimes a quilt gets visually overwhelming, and the stripes help hold it all together. Stripes are especially good for inner borders. These fabrics are a little harder to find, therefore 3?4 yard is a good amount to purchase.
6. FOCUS FABRICS: Focus fabrics are large-scale prints with interesting color combinations. Two to three yards is a safe amount to have. This gives you enough if you decide to use the fabric for the border. If not, it will work nicely for a pieced backing.
7. NOVELTY FABRICS: Novelty fabrics (also known as theme or conversational fabrics) have identifiable images printed on or woven into the fabric. A little novelty goes a long way; I usually buy 1?3 yard unless it is absolutely great, in which case I will buy a lot more, maybe up to 1 yard. It can always go on the back of a loved one’s quilt.

Excerpted from Fabric Shopping with Alex Anderson published by C&T Publishing. Reprinted with permission.

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