New patterns and fabrics just keep coming and coming…

Good grief, I can’t keep up anymore! I have noticed three things though:

(1) Fabric collections are starting to look alike.
(2) Designers are taking existing content/patterns and repackaging to sell as new.
(3) Prices for both have increased dramatically since the pandemic began.

The Good:
I’ve been working on my Granny’s Flower Garden applique quilt for several months now. The project came to a halt because I needed additional background fabrics and couldn’t find ones I liked. On Saturday, I spied a couple of new vintage floral lines at a new-to-me quilt shop. I purchased 1/2 yard cuts of several fabrics from this shop. They go beautifully with the existing fabrics in my project. Now working on Granny’s Garden again!

The Hmmmmm:
The repackaging of existing content is nothing new. Magazines do it all the time. Publishers convert print into electronic format. Pattern designers do the same. What really frustrates me (as both a librarian and a quilter) is that the same price is being charged for an electronic copy as the original print copy. I firmly believe there should be a substantial discount for digital copies in lieu of print. Why? It’s my paper, ink and time going towards prepping the pattern so I can use it OR I must invest in a device to be able to access the content. On the flip side, a number of magazine publishers and designers do make free content and patterns available online. Enter your local public library to the rescue! You can often borrow both print and digital books & magazines for FREE. If you don’t have a device, you can read digital materials using computers at the public library (and print for a nominal fee). I keep a Moleskine notebook just for taking notes of things that resonate with me while I flip through a book or magazine. If I really like the book, I’ll add a copy to my collection (preferably through a local second-hand shop). For digital items, I bookmark the site and download/save any free project pdfs at the same time. On more than one occasion, I’ve returned to a bookmarked site only to find the formerly free pattern now for sale in the designer’s online shop. (Nothing wrong with this practice – designer has to make money, too!).

The Concern:
The continuing affordability of fabric, patterns and notions for new quilters is a concern. Sure, you can always hand-piece or do EPP, meaning your investment might be about the same as someone who knits. However, most of us prefer to use a sewing machine. Quilting happens to be a hobby that can come with a high cost of entry. I spied charm packs at $14.95 each and yardage averaging $13.95/yard on my Saturday shopping trip. Patterns now seem to range from $12-$20. Rulers, mats, thread, scissors and other notions have also gone up. What to do?
1) Pre-shop and compare prices. Cruise the big box store (Joann, Hobby Lobby etc.) with your shopping list. What do they carry that’s on your list? Make note of listed retail prices. Next, go visit a couple of quilt shops and price the same items, plus any items not available at the big box store. Finally, come home and check amazon plus other favorite online fabric shops. Yes, online prices may be cheaper, but remember to factor in shipping costs. You may also have an immediate need for an item and can’t wait the week or more it will take to arrive.

2) Know where you can substitute. For me, Hobby Lobby’s Sewology 50wt quilting thread (on the modern spool) is a fine substitute for Aurifil – especially if 50% off. If using solids, Hobby Lobby and Joann’s carry most, if not all, the Kona Cotton line. If your project calls for solid fabrics and you have a limited budget, splurge on the focus fabric at the LQS and head to the big box store to substitute a Kona Cotton for the pricier Moda or Riley Blake solids.

3) Invest in quality tools that will last. Splurge on a pair of 8″ Gingher scissors. Buy a quality cutting mat. Test all rotary cutters, then buy the 45mm one that feels right in your hand. Buy titanium rotary cutter blades when on sale. Buy quality glass-head pins. Buy the iron that feels comfortable to you. Starting to get the picture?

4) Curate, curate, curate the items you add to your fabric stash, book collection and tool box. You do not need every ruler sold. Start with 3: 6×24, 6×12 and 3×18 or similar measurements. Add 6-1/2″ and 12-1/2″ square rulers. The small 2-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ Creative Grids ruler (often emblazoned with your favorite quilt shop’s logo) that you see while checking out also comes in handy.

5) Resist the temptation to buy every pattern and book you see. Challenge yourself to Google it first to see if a free pdf is available. (You may be surprised by what you find!). Despite the fancy name, most quilts are on based on the same set of universal quilt blocks. I found “The New Quick & Easy Block Tool” from C&T Publishing to be well worth its $17.95 cover price. As your skills and knowledge increase, don’t be surprised if you discover that you can use your block book to re-create a quilt you pinned on Pinterest – no pattern necessary. Likewise, your favorite designer probably has a certain block size and construction techniques that they consistently use. Once you’ve made a couple of their quilts and invested in a book or two by them, you may be able to save on buying new patterns for simple quilts because you can probably figure it out once you see a picture and know the block size or finished dimensions. Case in point, a favorite designer recently released a new version of an older quilt pattern. I clicked for pattern info only to discover it retailed for $17.95. Nope. Not buying that one. I looked at pictures of the finished quilt, read the available pattern info, consulted my book and did a little math. A few minutes later, I had the info needed to make my version of the quilt recorded in my Moleskine book. This is perfectly fine for you to do. Just don’t take that info and publish it online or share it with your entire quilt guild. This is most definitely not considered an ethical use of information.

Personally, I have been conducting a mindful destash over the past few months. I purged, donated or gave stuff to fellow sewists. I still need to list the items that I’ve set aside to sell – but that will come. At least I can now breathe, relax and find stuff in my studio.

If you find yourself with an abundance of stash, try one of the following:
Challenge yourself to use only what’s in your stash to make a project.
Only buy a project that you are actually going to make.
Cull your stash – give away, donate or sell what you’re not going to use.

Goals for 2021:
List and sell designated items
1 stash-only challenge per quarter (baby/lap quilt for charity)
Complete one UFO per month.