Celebrate National Craft Month with stash busters + sale

Posted by on March 3, 2014, in quilting & sewing, ,

Purple quilt from Spotlight on ScrapsDid you know that March is National Craft Month? What better way to celebrate than by sewing a quilt! Better still, make that new quilt serve your spring cleaning. Make a quilt that will shrink your stash.

Because let’s face it. If you quilt, there’s a good chance you’ve amassed an impressive fabric collection. And maybe that collection is starting to seem a little…unwieldy? Are the stacks of beautiful yardage making it hard to see across the room? Would the combined contents of your scrap baskets fill a swimming pool? If so, it’s okay. We understand. One way or another, if you quilt and sew, there’s bound to be a pile of fabric waiting. Now’s the time to use it. Sew. Quilt. Celebrate! National Craft Month is here. Let’s sew a quilt!

For stash-busting inspiration, we’ve gathered tips from the experts. Read on to learn:

  • How blender prints make unfriendly fabrics play nicely together
  • Why your fat quarter may not measure what you think it does (and exactly how many strips and squares you can cut from any fat quarters you have)
  • Which fabric-selection strategies guarantee color success


Building a Successful Palette

Spotlight on ScrapsFrom Spotlight on Scraps: 10 Pretty Quilts by Cyndi Walker

Many quilters struggle with color. Some actually dread choosing fabrics—enough so that many quilt shops have staff members who will gladly help out in a color-choice pickle.
To conquer fear of color, start by working with colors you are comfortable with, and then slowly build up to more adventurous color combinations.

Broaden your horizons. If you have chosen the “perfect” yellow to use in your quilt, try substituting four different yellow prints in the same shade. Suddenly you have gone from using a single fabric to adding four new prints to your quilt. If you are feeling particularly brave, you can even try varying the value of these four new fabrics slightly—perhaps taking one a shade lighter and one a shade darker. Be a fabric rebel! This approach can work with any color and is often the way I delve into my projects.

Make friends with blender fabrics. Multicolored fabrics often find their way into my quilts as “blender fabrics.” A blender fabric is one that allows me to create harmony between colors that might not otherwise go together. Imagine, for example, that you have fallen in love with a selection of pink and green fabrics at your quilt shop. The fabrics look OK together, but will they make a good quilt? If you have to ask yourself that question, the answer is usually “not quite.” Here is where the blenders work their magic. Find a beautiful fabric with both pink and green in the print, and see how it works with the various pink and green prints. Suddenly, one piece of fabric can make two other pieces of fabric “play nicely” together.
Fabric selection tips from Spotlight on Scraps
Below, see the sparkling depth of Cyndi Walker’s scrap quilts in projects from her book Spotlight on Scraps.

Quilts from Spotlight on ScrapsClick here to see more quilts from Spotlight on Scraps.

How big is that fat quarter?

Clever Quarters - Quilts from Fat-Quarter CutsFrom Clever Quarters: Quilts from Fat-Quarter Cuts by Susan Teegarden Dissmore

Not all fat quarters are created equal. The standard width of quiltmaking fabric from selvage to selvage is 42″. When a half-yard piece is cut in half along the fold, the resulting two pieces should be 18″ x 21″ each. This measurement will vary when the yardage width is more or less than the standard 42″ and the half-yard itself is cut more or less than 18″. Always check the measurements of your fat quarters before you start. Should you come up short, remember that you can always add a fat quarter to your project. If you happen to have more than 18″ x 21″, consider it your lucky day and breathe easy.

I prewash every piece of fabric before I use it in a quilt project. Prewashing adds another alteration to the final dimension of your fat quarter. You could conceivably lose up to an inch all the way around, changing the dimension to 17″ x 20″. Once you straighten that fat quarter, the width will shrink a little more. The projects in Clever Quarters assume that the final width of your fat quarter is 17″ and the length is 20″ (although a length of 21″ is specified in cutting lists to be on the safe side).

Fat Quarter Yields - from Clever Quarters
If your stash is overflowing with fat quarters, put them to use with inspiring patterns from Clever Quarters (below).

Quilts from Clever QuartersClick here to see more quilts from Clever Quarters.

Tips on Selecting Key Fabrics

From Colorful Quilts: A Journey through Fabric by Cynthia LeBlanc Regone
A Walk in Provence from Colorful Quilts
When you look at a quilt, what catches your eye first? The fabric, right? After that initial glance, you might notice the blocks, the workmanship, and the quilting designs. But it’s the fabric that stands out and makes you want to take a closer look. Choosing the right fabric for each quilt project is so important.

After 25 years of quilting, I still get excited over each project. It may take me two years or more to accumulate just the right combination of fabrics, but the rewards are priceless. Here are a few tips on choosing the right fabrics for your quilts.

Making a quilt is like building a house: it starts with a sound foundation. Sometimes the design comes first, but that was not the case with “A Walk in Provence” (above). For this quilt, the colorful striped border fabric was the foundation that started my creative juices flowing. I carried a sample of the border print to as many quilt shops and shows as I could to collect fabrics for this quilt. Because the border print included so many colors, it was easy to pull fabrics together to make this project. When I had enough varieties of yellows, greens, blues, and reds, I was ready to start the quilt.
How to use striped fabrics - from Colorful Quilts
Experiment with backgrounds. Gone are the days when cream, off-white, and white were our only choices. Spice up your quilts with color by choosing backgrounds that are tone-on- tone but not too busy. (I find lime green to be a great neutral. Don’t you agree?) Study the examples below. Avoid using stripes, large checks, and other geometric designs as backgrounds for pieced blocks. These directional fabrics are just too distracting.
Good and poor choices for backgrounds - from Colorful Quilts
Have fun with prints. High contrast is the key to making these quilts work, so don’t be afraid to mix prints in the blocks and in the borders. You’ll notice that I’ve mixed checks, stripes, dots, and florals in several of my quilts and borders, but the colors are all compatible with the foundation fabric. Keep scale in mind, particularly when picking fabrics to use in small pieced blocks. Large-scale prints will be lost when the pieces are cut.

Successfully mixing prints in quilts - from Colorful Quilts

Got a rainbow’s worth of fabrics in your stash? Below, check out eye-catching quilts you can make, all from Colorful Quilts.

From Colorful Quilts
Click here to see more projects from Colorful Quilts.

Crafty reader, what are you making during National Craft Month? Will your project shrink your stash or increase it? Tell us about it in the comments!

13 Comments (leave a comment)

  • I am making a "portfolio" to keep my blocks neat and clean and organized while making a quilt. I am using foam core board, batting and home dec fabric. This also is useful when bringing blocks to a class. It has a handle and velcro closure.

    —Shirley on March 3, 2014
  • I disagree with the "poor choices for backgrounds" example (by Cynthia Regone). I think that the black and white stripe adds vibrancy and excitement. I’d use that stripe or any of the others in the example for the bold, bright Scrappy Cake Stand block in preference to the yellow/tans shown in the "good choices" example.

    Nann on March 3, 2014
  • I ‘found’ some material after clearing out some boxes that moved here when I bought my home and I do remember getting it but forgot I had it and now I don’t know what I was going to make with it…gads and there is a lot of it, 2 sets of 21 pc groups fat quarters and a set of 2 1/2′ strips and considerable yardage of solid that is midnight blue…egads!

    —diane on March 3, 2014
  • I’m currently between processes – that is to say, I’ve finished the quilt tops but am waiting for my friend to come over and pin them for me. We have an arrangement, she pins my quilts and I attach the binding on hers 😀

    In the mean time, I’ve been playing in my scraps basket. This isn’t the main scraps recepticle, it’s where I throw all those really small bits of fabric that I just can’t throw away. This last weekend I went through and pressed all the darling pieces and snipped what I could into hexagons to fit my 1/2″ hexagon papers. This left me with those scraps that were too small for this project; they went into a lovely biscuit tin which will now hold scraps for my 1/4″ hexagons.

    Excuse me, I think I hear a van pulling up outside… Yep, it’s those pesky guys with that wraparound jacket and the giant butterfly net. Excuse me while I go and hide in the attic for a spell.

    —Kayt Deans on March 3, 2014
  • I totally agree with Nann!! The stripped background makes the block come alive. The other is not exciting at all. I want to make quilts that sing happy songs not ones that are hohum.hohum. That being said, Bonnie Hunter is right on the money with her advice that all fabrics can play nicely together.

    —Cindy on March 3, 2014
  • I am playing UFO and Strip quilts this month. Maybe I will dig out from under and find the bottom of the floor in my sewing room. That is the goal anyway.

    —Chris on March 3, 2014
  • Been working on strippy quilts. Measure scraps to 8″wide and no bigger than 3-1/2″wide — sew to length of bed, then add sections of border print for the total top. Am getting some of the scraps gone but seem to always find more. Still have those really small pieces to work on. :-}

    —Shirley on March 4, 2014
  • Thanks, Cindy, for your comment!
    I’m currently coordinating a "dots and dashes" swap (on the Blockswappers Yahoo group). Participants are making 6″ Shoo-Fly blocks using stripes and polka dots. I’ve gotten blocks from four people so far. What a lively variety!

    Nann on March 4, 2014
  • As usual, I’m working on way too many projects at one time. There’s the queen sized quilt of copper stars on a field of blue that reminds me of my former New Mexico home; the Flower Boxes quilt from Kim Brackett’s Scrap Basket Sensations that I pieced for myself last spring & then put aside while I made quilts for everyone else -that is just waiting to be quilted; the blue and white feathered star sampler I started in January & promised my husband; and, oh yes! The mariner’s compass medallion quilt I’m designing for my step-daughter"s wedding present. But wait! I forgot the 11 Sister’s Choice blocks for my guild block exchange next month & the table topper I’m half done with for my sister in law. I think that should keep me busy….until next year!

    —Barbara K on March 6, 2014
  • I adore the black/white stripe background of the block shown. I’d never choose a light bdgd, make it bold, make a statement, make it stand out, make it sing WOW!

    —Sylvia on March 7, 2014
  • I have been working on many different quilts using up scraps and my stash. I just finished the cutest wallhanging (using a Debbie Mumm pattern) for a new granddaughter who will be arriving in April. All the fabrics came from stash!! I was sew excited!

    —Renea on March 7, 2014
  • I agree with the others about the background fabric examples. The top half of the cake stand disappears into the "good" background, but it just pops off the "poor" background. Give me "pop" almost every time!

    —Mary Lou on March 7, 2014
  • I am working on a couple partially done quilts. Of course I always have to get a few pieces to finish it. I also need to get a quilt made for a family wedding gift this fall. It needs a large variety or light and dark prints. Of course I need some of the leftovers from the first 2 plus I had to get a few more lights. So to answer the question; Maybe I’ll come out even.

    —Louise Buker on March 8, 2014

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