And this one came from...

Where did your fabric come from?
You know, your stash.  Did it grow quickly, slowly?  Are you one of those quilters that is proud of her stash, in love with her stash, content to just fold-unfold-refold or flip through it for hours? 

Was it inherited, gifted, sought out or stumbled upon?  If you quilt, it's hard not to love fabric.  I don't know any quilters (well, except maybe long armers) who are in it for the thread.
So how do you grow your stash?
Jennifer made a good point in her comment on my last post, stating a feeling that some of the "modern" quilts lack something, possibly lacking soul.  I will admit that I know that feeling.  Although they are visually striking, some of the quilts I've seen on blogs just look a little... flat.  Like, where is the story behind them?
I've written before that for me the story starts with the fabrics- where I got them, who I was shopping with, which other quilts I've used them in. 
It continues with where I was and what was going on as I pieced and quilted that quilt.  My life is stitched into my quilts.  My memories, my family, my friends. 
Each fabric means something, and if it was a "not so special" fabric before I used it, any left over will be more special because it was incorporated in that quilt first. 
When I travel I like to go to the local quilt shops.  Hell, I even arrange trips specifically to go fabric shopping.  I've bought fabric in Shipshewana, IN; Portsmouth, NH; New York, NY; Stephen's City, VA; Marietta, GA; Barnstable, MA; Kittery, ME; Lockport, IL and a bunch of other cities in the US.  Then there's Sapporo, Muroran, Tomakomai, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara Japan.  And I remember each of those quilt shops. 
Why is this important? Well, one of the topics brought up in the "modern" discussion this week was the role that the internet plays in modern quilting.  On many occasions I have seen a quilt or someone's stash on a blog and I think, "where did they find that fabric?!"  because it's awesome, current, or so perfect for that project.  Of course I know, they buy stuff online, in any of the hundreds(?) of web based fabric shops where you can find exactly what you're looking for.  And I think, "why don't I do that? (what a good idea!)" and this brings be to the point of this blogpost:
I can't bring myself to buy fabric online.
(Aside from a few early purchases on equilter.com and that terrible obsession I had with vintage fabric on ebay in college, I really haven't done it.)  Somehow I feel that the fabric I bought online would lack the meaning and experience that a piece of my stash gets from buying it in a shop.  I like being able to say, "I got this one in Japan." not, "I got this one from a Japanese fabric import shop on etsy."  I'm crazy, I know.  But part of the fabric history would be missing.
So I go, month after month, into my tiny LQS and come out with $50 of new stash, fabrics I'm not crazy about but I buy because I'll find a way to use them and I know I'm helping the shop keep its doors open.  It would be great if she carried the new and trendy fabrics I was hoping to find (well, at this point I'd be really glad if she started carrying solids) but part of the joy of stash building/fabric shopping comes from going to see what they have and getting excited about an unexpected find.  Then you take it home and make it work.  I like the experience of hunting for and stumbling upon fabrics.  I guess people do that online too, but you have to spend hours at the computer and you miss out on the personal interaction.  I'm sure I'll end up buying fabric online eventually and come to love it like you all do, but I really hope it doesn't stop me from being able to add that extra layer of memory on to my stash.  I guess that's just really important to me.


PJ said...

It's a treasure hunt! This post is well put... kind of my Louis L'Amour collection- I had to find them used sure I could have bought them new,but to take 5-6 yrs to almost complete my collection is worth waaaaay more to me.

Lesly said...

Great post, Jessica. I do shop online as well as at my LQS, partly because prices in Canada are so astronomical. But I do know what you mean about the provenance of various fabrics in your quilts having meaning. In my Values quilt (http://pickledish.blogspot.com/2009/12/wine-gums.html), I used a lot of scraps from my days of quilting of yore, ~15 years ago, and it is really nice to look at those bits and remember the quilts that I made using those fabrics.

be*mused jan said...

Wonderful series of posts, Jessica. Very thought provoking, all of them. Although I have been purchasing fabric online, I recently put the brakes on that and agree with you about the *memory component* in stash fabrics. When I choose pieces to work with, I remember almost all of the places and situations when I bought them. It adds a richness to the quilt and to the experience of making it. Love your illustration photo with the notations. :-)
Thanks for the kind mention in your last post. I'm honored, really.

shannon said...

hey jess- i too love the recent themed posts....

Your wonderful attitude has earned an award on my blog. Check it out.

Jennifer said...

Yes, Jessica, that really is true. It is important to me to use fabrics with some kind of meaning, too. And with that kind of practice comes the realization that your quilts are your quilts, and need to satisfy your own desire of what the finished quilt will look like. Does that make sense? I am all for throwing in fabrics that are a little off, a little old, a color that is somewhat strange. That is what makes it interesting, and so memorable! I have a long list of quilting inspirations, but antique quilts/quilters, and Bonnie at quiltville.com are right up there. The antique quilts I remember are the ones that are somewhat quirky, to say the least. And Bonnie loves to throw in crazy fabrics from her stash and make it work in really beautiful ways. Her latest quilt with 80's mauves and dusty blues mixed with civil war repros is stunning--and think of the memories it must contain for her! (This is somewhat unrelated, but I thought about it when you wrote about making a fabric fit into your quilt, instead of hunting for a perfect fabric to match. A favorite antique-quilt technique of mine is taking a fabric that obviously does not match like it "should", such as a red-and-white-stripe in the middle of other dark red prints, and instead of sprinkling that oddball fabric around in the rest of the quilt as a kind of accent, it is instead concentrated in one place, maybe in just one block. Sort of a "sore thumb" approach? Love that.)

Dee said...

Really liked this post, and I have never bought fabric online for me. I have as a prize for someone else, but I'm a tactile/visual person. I have to feel the fabric, experience the moment of eyeballing, deciding how much, purchasing and then "loving" my new "babies". I also usually only buy a fat quarter or 1/2 yd at a time. I feel this forces me to buy new fabric, find innovative ways to stretch and use what I have.

Anywho, thanks for the thoughts!

theodora said...

hello jessica I feel the same way about fabric I just have to touch it before bying it, ther are no quilting store here in greece , but there are fabric stores, there selection is limited I just make do with whatever I find even at the sunday fleamarket I find some awsome prints for only one euro and I buy a bunch one month ago I got 8 meters total I just couldn't resist they come from stores that have closed or stock from fabric factories that just what to get rid of it that is why I come along and buy it, take care theodora

Leila said...

It's funny because I feel exactly as you say about buying yarn online but I've never really thought about it as far as fabric goes. I suppose it's because I went to a store at the beginning of my fabric-stash-buying in Mexico, MO which is my all-time favorite fabric store and they have a great online shop so I had a natural transition into buying online. That, and the fact that I tend to buy fabric for a specific project, not just because I like it (I have too many hobbies to have space for that sort of thing!) so it's more about the project than the fabric for me. But your post will certainly encourage me to be more mindful about my fabric-collecting in future. Thanks for the great post!

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