Monday, December 20, 2010

Where does your fabric come from?

I had a good weekend sewing, but it was mostly Christmas related stuff, and someone might peek, so I'll post on that later. My other effort over the past few days has been to create a new work station in my studio for sketching/painting/glueing and other non-sewing activities. There's some progress there, and more to come, I hope.

One of the hot topics of conversation on most of my quilting lists has been the expected increase in price for cotton, for fabric, for batting and everything made with cotton. Some people plan to restock before the price goes up, some work from their stash. And on the QuiltArt list, the discussion turned to repurposing fabric.

It was nice to see that so many talented quilters and artists see the value in repurposing, as I've been a fabric scavenger for a long time.

I love fabric stores, don't get me wrong. Let me loose in Mary Jo's, or a quilt shop with a good sale, and watch out! But I'm not a fabric snob, I'll buy fabric anywhere if I like the fabric and it fits my purpose. WalMart, JoAnn's, Hobby Lobby, quilt shops, you name it.

And thinking about my stash, a lot of it comes from non-traditional sources. There's quite a bit I've found at thrift stores and estate sales, there's fabric I've bought from quilting friends, there's clothing that's been cut apart for fabric, there's fabric I've gotten from people on FreeCycle,  and there's even fabric scavenged from the side of the road!

One of my favorite estate sale finds came years ago. The lady had made the most amazing jackets and blouses, using Seminole patchwork style piecing and mostly polished cottons. She had almost every color imaginable. The woman had moved into assisted living of some sort and her daughter was handling the sale. The daughter sewed too, and we had a great conversation as I picked out stacks of fabric to bring home. The next day I went back for even more. My only regret was that I didn't buy one of the Pfaff sewing machines she had for sale. I was new at sewing machine collecting then and didn't know what a treasure they were.

Points in this star came from fabric in a wreath.
Thrift stores are great, of course, and when you work in the same building with a thrift store you get plenty of chances to find treasures. Once the ladies who ran our store knew that I sewed, they often let me know when fabric or supplies came in.

One of the best finds was a fabric wreath. It was a cutesy country wreath on a foam form, but the fabric was a really nice turquoise and pink print. They were going to toss the wreath, but gave it to me. I took it apart and got over a yard of fabric from it. A little bit of that fabric went into the Shakespeare in the Park quilt I'm working on.

Fabric from clothes is another great source. I don't remember if I had been reading Bonnie Hunter's discussions of using men's shirts as fabric (I don't think so) when I first noticed that there were some really pretty men's shirts coming in to the thrift store. I started by picking up one or two with really nice fabrics that I revamped as shirts for myself.

Then I started buying shirts just for fabric. The thrift store does an end of season sale each summer and winter and clears out the old season's clothing. I started cotton shirts, skirts, sundresses, anything that had nice fabric. And I started picking up some silks and blends that I could use for other sewing. By the time I left the job in that building, I had stacks of shirts, and spent most of last winter cutting them up as I watched television.

This treasure trove of decorator fabrics came from
someone on FreeCycle
Another treasure trove came through FreeCycle. A lady who has an upholstery and home decor shop listed that she had scraps. I ended up visiting her and bringing back several huge bags of scraps and yardage. Not quilting cotton, but I've used it for tote bags, table covers, re-covering cushions and all types of things.

Okay, I'll admit now to picking up fabric on the side of the road. In the town where I live there used to be a small plant that made uniforms. About 10 years ago the plant had closed down and they were clearing out the building and literally dumped stuff on the side of the road. Fabric, tables, chairs, all kinds of stuff. It had been sitting out a while by the time I discovered it, so who knows what treasures I missed. But I brought home several metal chairs and a couple of work tables (that I'm still using). And I dug through the piles of fabric – it had rained by then – and brought home piles of fabric. Most of it was synthetics or blends that had been used for pants, and some lighter blends for shirts. But I did find a big pile of prints, mostly in bold prints. I spent the next couple of days washing all the damp fabric and folding it up.

I've used that fabric for everything from shorts to laundry bags to pet beds and there's still plenty left. The prints are still waiting for an inspiration to use them in a quilt.

So, am I worried about cotton prices going up? Not really. I don't like it, because I always enjoy getting new fabric. But it won't keep me from my quilting. With the exception of batting, I could probably sew/quilt/create for the next five years without buying any materials. I hope I don't have to, though.

Time to change gears and run to the store to pick up baking supplies. This afternoon I'm baking cookies  for a Christmas party. Yum.

More later.