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Fabric Shopping 101

A beginner's guide to visiting a quilt shop.

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Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed


Most veteran quilters admit to a lifetime love of fabric. That love, however, doesn't necessarily make it easy to choose fabrics for a quilt or to add to a fabric stash. In fact, the wealth of fabrics that greets you when you enter a quilt shop may delight you at first, but often you're quickly bewildered by the seemingly limitless possibilities.

Fabrics in the store are often arranged by color and frequently resemble a giant rainbow. Some shops combine the principles of color and value in their displays, organizing all the reds in one area, for example. Other shops display best-selling fabric collections together. Many will group fabrics by type, such as flannels, reproduction, Asian fabrics, or wool.

When choosing your fabrics in the store, stack bolts horizontally to view how fabrics work together and how they will appear when cut into smaller shapes. Stand back and look at the stacked bolts; a view from a distance will give you an idea of how a fabric combination will work. If you need to figure out what’s missing, arrange the fabrics by color from light to dark.

To make shopping easier, especially if you aren’t able to find all the fabrics at one quilt shop, make a swatch card with snippets of your fabric. Take it with you when you’re out shopping.  With that in hand, you should be able to fill in the gaps by comparing fabrics in the stores with your swatches.

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