My standard used to be a third of a yard. I like to buy more fabric. I like to have more options, so I prefer to buy a third of a yard. The fabrics are so beautiful nowadays that when you run out, there’s always one to take its place.
Since I’ve been making quilts for my pattern company, I have had to increase my choices to a half a yard because I’m trying not to make my pattern designs so scrappy that people will die from all the different choices they have to make. In the last couple of years, I have moved from buying a third of a yard to a half of a yard.
Unless it’s a big focus fabric, I would rarely buy a yard or two yards of a fabric. If it’s for backing or where it’s a big huge bouquet of flowers and I need 20 of them, I may need two yards to get 20. That’s an exception. If I’m going to use a blue-green, I would rather have 20 different blue-greens than one or two. I’d rather have five than one.
My collection of fabrics is not as large as most people’s as far as how many yards I have. I just have a closet, so I have to be very curt about how much and what I keep. I really don’t buy a whole lot of any one fabric, but I have a great collection of a lot of different fabrics and I love that.
In the ’70s, Fabric A was only one fabric. Now, Fabric A, for me, might be 10 fabrics. If you are a person who’s been using one fabric for Fabric A and one fabric for Fabric B, you can’t suddenly go out to the fabric store and buy large amounts of fabric so you can have 10 or 20 for Fabric A and Fabric B. Your budget doesn’t allow that, so you have to grow with the flow.
When I go to a quilt store, I don’t usually buy for a project. I buy what I love on that particular day. I just buy the fabrics that I love. If I’m working toward an image, like in visual coloring, I will. If I’m just going into a fabric shop, I’ll pick out what I really love that day. The next day, I could walk in the same fabric store and pick out completely different fabrics. If I bought 12 fabrics at a third of a yard, that won’t kill my budget as much as if I bought one yard of each of those. I have to be a little bit frugal.
Plus, that forces you to use a lot of different fabrics in each quilt. If you don’t have a lot of one fabric, then you have to mix it up.
You’ll learn, too, that you need to have different values of fabrics. Most people stick with the same value. They have a habit of buying all middle-value fabrics or all lights or all darks. I try to make sure that I buy a variety of values in the colors that I’m attracted to.