Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Nuts for Bolts

Have you ever bought a whole bolt of fabric? How about besides muslin or a solid? I have bought lots of bolts, and most people think I'm nuts. That could very well be, but you know what? At one time I had about 40 bolts of fabric, and I have very little of any of it left.

A few years ago I was making scrub tops on commission, and a lot of my stash was acquired at that time. Fortunately for me, there was a company selling off their complete inventory by the bolt on ebay around the same time. I got bolts of 100% cotton fabric for $10-25. I wouldn't bid over $25. Buying those bolts made me realize that bolts are not created equal. Some bolts had 25 yards of fabric, others just 8. HUGE difference! I always knew how much was on a bolt when I bid, it's just that prior to that I figured there was an industry standard. I didn't bid on every bolt that company was selling, and because I was bidding so low, I lost far more bids than I won. I figured I ended up with what I was supposed to have.

Today I was using one of the few bolts I have left. I was piecing a backing for a wedding quilt. When I make wedding quilts, my minimum size is 100x100 inches. I want it to fit whatever size bed the couple has. Depending on the pattern, I may end up with a center that's 100x100, which was the case today. After borders, the quilt is 112x112. A 108" extra wide backing wouldn't be large enough, and besides, I want to be working from stash as much as possible. I happened to have most of a bolt of a fabric that matched the quilt top very well. I'm not sure how big this bolt was when I got it, but I had used some fabric off of it previously.

This is what is left of that bolt after piecing the backing. I'm not even going to bother putting it on one of my small mini-bolts, I'm just going to cut it into strips and stick it in my strip drawers.
I saw an online question the other day from a new quilter asking how much fabric to buy for a backing. She did not mention what size quilt she was making. An experienced quilter answered that 7 yards was enough to back any sized quilt. Really? I needed a backing about 120" square, which is three lengths of 3 1/3 yards, so 10 yards of fabric. The Aussie quilt I made for DS the Elder, was 114" square, and I purchased a bolt of quilter's flannel to back it, but a bolt wasn't enough, because a bolt was only 8 yards. Because of shrinkage I actually ended up using almost 11 yards of fabric for his backing, and unfortunately, I ended up with two different dye lots, so one length is far lighter than the other two. Is buying by the bolt really unreasonable when I enjoy making king sized quilts? I don't think so.
If I were to buy bolts in the near future, which is unlikely, I'd probably buy bolts of solids. I like the look of a constant solid in my scrap quilts. Did you know there is a company making quilting solids completely in the USA? American grown cotton, woven and dyed all in the USA. Here is the link if you want to read about it
I looked around online, and there are a couple places selling fat quarter bundles of all the colors they have. That is really tempting. I'd love to have several bolts of solids to use when making scrap quilts, choosing which colors would be the hard part.
I might have as many as a half dozen fabrics in stash that currently have enough yardage to make king sized backings. For the most part, those days are coming to an end. I am really taking to making backings out of 10" finished squares, and that I'll be able to do for years. The trick for me is to piece the backing as leaders/enders while I'm working on the front. If I wait until the quilt top is finished, I don't always want to take the time to piece a backing. Sometimes I just want it done, and that's when I am most likely to go buy an extra wide backing. I'm trying to avoid buying backings, when I have a perfectly good stash, so adapting to what I've got is important.
I saw a discussion about pieced backings, and whether or not someone receiving a quilt as a gift would be OK with a pieced backing. One of my DSIL's, husband to DD#2 did not grow up around quilts, but the quilt I gave them as a wedding gift has a pieced backing, made of 10" finished squares. The other day, he and DD#2 were making the bed, and he suggested they flip the quilt over to show the other side, since I had gone to the trouble of making it reversible! I LOVE IT! It's OK to use what you've got.
I did add to stash a bit lately. I'm planning on making a dress-up trunk for the twins for their birthday in January, and I have few garment fabrics left. At a thrift shop I picked up some fabrics, turns out it was 14 yards, for $4.50 total. I got a few quilting cottons too while thrift shopping, for another $4. I may have a large stash, but I don't have an expensive one.

I can't show the wedding quilt I'm working on, now that the borders are on. The borders completely give away who it is for, and since I don't know who reads my blog, better safe than sorry. I am hoping to get it pin-basted tomorrow.

Check this photo out, it looks like quilter's toilet paper! Granny had a bunch of bricks cut out, so I decided to make a piano key border for the quilt from her last project. I haven't assembled the quilt yet, so I don't know the final measurements, so I just sewed all the pieces together in one long piece. It was getting unwieldy while pressing it, so I decided to wrap it around an empty toilet paper tube. It looks funny, but will keep it from getting wrinkled while it waits for me to go back to that project. I had piano key borders cut out for a couple of other quilts, whose centers are assembled. I sewed those into huge long borders too. I can easily unpick the seams where the borders need to end, but this at least got them together. I'm not worried about having too much border sewn. If I need to make a backing just a little bit wider, this could do the trick. If I add to them I could make another scrappy piano key border, or even a Chinese Coins quilt. I love piano key borders, especially on scrap quilts. Actually, I'm just enjoying pieced borders in general more and more. Why? Because they use up more scraps! Scraps I will always have in abundance. Not every quilt needs a pieced border, and sometimes I'm just too lazy or sick of a quilt to bother piecing a border, but overall, I am liking the pieced ones more all the time.

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