Buying Fabric: How Much Should You Buy?

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Kris’ Eagle Scout quilt

Round about 4:45 pm on a Thursday, we at Fons & Porter were discussing the popularity of Kris Peterson’s Eagle Scout (left), and how the unavailability of the khaki Boy Scout print has frustrated a number of our readers while buying fabric. Eagle Scout is a wonderful example of a how quilt design (a variation on Valiant Eagle, below) and a fabric print can just knot together perfectly, and Kris deserves a merit badge for it.

We first realized how just popular the quilt was when Robert Kaufman Fabrics contacted us. They were wondering why so many people were asking about their Boy Scouts of America fabric collection, which had been out of print for several years.

Valiant Eagle Quilt
Valiant Eagle

It turns out, Kris had been hoarding that fabric in her stash since 2010.

In the course of this conversation, Kris said something that stopped me in my tracks: “Oh, I bought the bolt.”

“Wait, what?”

“Yeah, when I saw that fabric back in 200X, I just bought the entire bolt.”

You see, Kris has three nephews—all big into scouting—and knew that this fabric would work perfectly for all of them. As each nephew has reached Eagle Scout over the years, she has made a quilt for them. This fabric has found its way into the tops of all three, as well as been used for backing. In fact, Kris has used up every last quarter inch of fabric on that bolt.

Since publishing Love of Quilting’s July/August 2017, which includes that last quilt for Kris’ youngest nephew, we’ve heard from so many readers about that fabric. We list out-of-print fabric collections in hopes that readers can locate it if needed, maybe in a dusty corner of a shop or hoarded away in a fellow Guild member’s stash. Often prints can be found online—Etsy and eBay can be quite handy. So we like to provide readers the details needed to search while buying fabric.

Clearly Kris made the right decision to ‘Buy the Bolt’, because in addition to using it all up, apparently that fabric line can’t be found for love or money.

There are other fabulous Boy Scout-themed collections out there, so we’re hoping readers can find a good substitute. And maybe, when you find it, go all in and ‘Buy the Bolt.’

Making three matching quilts—plus backing—is one thing. In that case, you ‘Buy the Bolt.’

Otherwise, if you truly love the print but don’t have a plan, we generally recommend buying fabric at three to five yards.

Kris says, “Oh yes, three yards is a good amount—that gives you enough for some nice, wide borders. “

Colleen Tauke, our sewing specialist, chimes in to say, “But five yards means you can incorporate the borders into the interior, too, bringing it all together.“

If you make scrap quilts, a one-yard cut will serve well enough, but it can be very limiting if you truly love the fabric.

One yard works great for most bindings, though.

“Unless you’re making a really big quilt—you know, like a king size, or a large queen—you can usually get by with a one-yard cut,” says Kris.

The binding, they both agree, can catch people flat-footed.

Colleen Tauke reminisces about working in a quilt shop, and how they kept a bin of scrap cuts for panicked quilters buying fabric. “So many people came in, desperate because they hadn’t bought enough for binding. That scrap bin got used!”

There are other desperate solutions for desperate binding situations. For example, you can “cheat a bit,” and cut your binding strip 2-1/4”. Or, if you’re truly desperate, you can “cheat a lot” by sewing two strips together, much like how we teach faux piped binding, with your preferred fabric on the outside. You need to make sure the non-preferred fabric is completely folded to the inside, and definitely pick a fabric of similar color and value.

This will NOT win you any awards, and we can’t vouch for its longevity, but it’ll do in a serious pinch.

“Of course, that never happens to me,” Kris jokes. “Because I plan.”

We all laugh, even Kris. But it’s true that she plans—I mean, after all, she ‘Bought the Bolt.’

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