Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stash Bee FYI: Making fabric choices -- quality, color, style

With sign-ups opening on October 9th, I thought it would be worthwhile to explain some of the aspects of the Stash Bee to those who have not participated previously but are interested in signing up for 2015. These posts will all be linked on our Rules and FAQ pages. If you have questions, please leave them as comments on any of this week's posts and I will do a question round-up post next week. -- Alison

One of the biggest complaints that participants have about the blocks that they receive is that someone used poor quality fabrics to create them. Often, people use the poor quality fabric they have on hand because it is the right color OR they purposefully buy discount fabric to save themselves money. I think the first happens more often than the second, but both occur, unfortunately.

How do you differentiate poor quality fabric from good quality fabric? Here's some helpful pointers.
1. Blocks made for the Stash Bee must be 100% cotton quilting fabric.
2. I would tend to trust anything that came from a shop that is dedicated to quilting fabric -- whether a local brick and mortar store or an online shop. Most of us know the "big brands" -- Moda, Free Spirit, Robert Kaufman, etc. -- that always provide high quality products so it is a  good idea to check who the manufacturer is when you're shopping online.
3. If the fabric comes from a craft store (JoAnn, Hancock, etc.) I would be rather wary and inspect the fabric before buying it and/or using it in a Stash Bee block.
4. Compare the feeling of fabric you know to be good quality fabric to what you're unsure of. Is it rough? Does it have a very low thread count? Does it seem extremely thin? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, you might want to reconsider.

Another complaint from members is that their hive mates did not use the fabric styles that they requested to be used in their blocks. This is a sticky issue. First, hive mates should be following their Queen Bee's requests as closely as possible -- that's just good etiquette. However, as this is the Stash Bee, participants are not required to go out and purchase fabric to complete their blocks. If you feel the fabric in your stash doesn't closely match your Queen Bee's requests, then you should contact her and see how flexible she would be given your current stash. More than likely you can come up with a solution. For example, if Audrey is the Queen Bee and requests that we use a pink floral print for our blocks and I have no pink floral, the right thing to do is to tell Audrey my situation and see if there are any fabrics that I do have that might work.

Note: there will more than likely be a few times that you might have to buy fabric if your colors/styles aren't what the queen bee is looking for. If Sarah is the Queen Bee and requests that we make blocks that have purple in them and I have absolutely no purple in my stash, it would be the wrong thing to make her a blue block because it is "close enough". In this situation you could purchase purple fabric, ask the Queen Bee to send you some purple fabric, swap with a friend or guild mate for purple fabric, or request an angel block for that month (by the deadline, of course!).

The following is a brief list of some common styles of fabric in the quilting world that people sometimes have strong feelings for or against but in no way is a complete list. The purpose of this list is to educate anyone who is new to the quilting world and may be unfamiliar with all of these terms. Your queen bee will tell you what types of fabric to use and what types to avoid. Use your best judgement when picking fabrics from your stash for the blocks that you will make and err on the side of caution when necessary.

Batik: Batik fabric is made from a repeated process of dying and using wax as a resist on fabric. Batik fabrics often have patterns that look mottled, may incorporate floral or botanical motifs, as well as what I would call "tribal" type prints.

Civil War: Civil War fabrics are fabrics that reproduce patterns and prints that would have been popular during the 1850s-1870s in the USA. Often times these are somewhat darker fabrics, often using paisley and other florish type motifs. White backgrounds are not often found with civil war fabrics. A modern designer that produces Civil War style fabrics is Barbara Brackman.

1930s: This type of fabric is often bright and use white much more significantly than Civil War style fabrics. Many 1930s prints are small scale florals or geometric prints-- 1930s fabrics don't often incorporate very large scale prints, unlike many modern designers.

Holiday: This is rather self explanatory -- holiday fabrics have motifs that recognize a particular holiday. Unless your queen bee specifically permits or requests holiday fabrics for her blocks, you should not be using holiday fabrics.

Novelty: Novelty and holiday fabrics often go hand in hand. Novelty fabrics are not usually subtle. They often have characters, animals, people, fruits, vegetables, specific careers, sports teams, etc. etc. etc. These should be avoided as well unless your Queen Bee requests them.

Florals: have flowers and botanical motifs -- pretty self explanatory.

Text Prints: have words/letters on them -- again, self explanatory.

Tone on tone prints: patterned prints that often look like a solid at a distance or if you would squint. Often referred to as "blender" fabrics.

Remember that when it comes your turn to be Queen Bee you are NOT allowed to ask for your hive mates to use a particular brand and color of fabric to complete your blocks. For example, you may ask your hive to use a white background, but you may not ask everyone to use Kona White. If you desire to have all of your blocks to have identical background fabric you have the option to send out fabric to each one of your hive mates to use in completing the block. You are also not permitted to ask for a particular designer or line. You are more than welcome to reference fabric lines for your color palette but you are not allowed to request that hive mates use fabric from it.

Missed some of our other Stash Bee FYI posts? Click over to the FAQ page!

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