Seeing fabric simply as colour

Have you ever felt sick of your stash?

I have a lot of fabrics, but over the years my tastes have changed. I now look in my cupboard at my neatly folded fabrics, and see things that I wish I’d never bought. If I could go back in time and start from zero to build a stash, I would certainly do it differently!

On the way home from the last quilting Wednesday, I told my friend Karen that lately I’ve felt sick of all the fabrics in my stash — there’s no fabric in there I like or want to sew with. She suggested that I needed to play with and re-sort my fabrics. If there were some I’ve been grouping together for a long time for a project, now might be the time to break those groupings apart, and think about new ways to combine the fabrics, for a new look.

Following her advice, I went home and pulled out all my fabrics. Really. It was a huge mess on the floor. I had already begun to use some of my less loved fabrics to make strip sets for my Edyta Sitar quilt, but as I went through my piles, I began heaping on more pieces that I could use up in that quilt.

two dated pinks

I don’t even know why these fabrics were in my stash. But when I cut them into strip sets, then cut those into diamonds, they simply became daubs of colour that actually worked to round out the palette.

In her sample quilt, Edyta’s fabrics are not all modern batiks, but a lot of more traditional and flowery looking things — more like a number of fabrics I have that are “weighing me down”. I pulled those out, and tried to mix in some new fabrics, using the colour wheel to tell me which colours I was missing in the mix. I tried to imagine even some of the less exciting fabrics as strips sandwiched by more interesting or brighter fabrics. And I discovered that some of the “duller” less exciting fat quarters seemed to work the trick to transition between fabrics when building a strip set. These two very dated-looking pink prints actually have worked quite well for bringing more red tones into the quilt.

I finally began to imagine myself using up some of the fabrics — and in an interesting way. Fabrics that seemed dull compared to vibrant pure colours actually brighten quite a bit when paired with colours in the same tone value: a grey mustard paired with a grey plum can actually make a showy pair, because they play off each other.

I’ve begun to see that colours are rather like notes on the piano. There are no wrong notes, or wrong colours. It’s all a matter of knowing what effect you want, then orchestrating the notes, or colours, that work to create the desired effect. An A flat might sound very discordant when tossed into a song that’s being arranged in C major, but sound completely right when played in another key. Or sometimes, an unexpected flat, when used deliberately and with understanding, can create an interesting diversion from the usual notes in the key.

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