5 Questions to Ask Before Buying More Fabric

by - 6:00 AM

According to Quilting in America TM 2014 Survey presented by F+W, A Content + eCommerce Company, the average quilter owns $5,939 of fabric. Does that number shock you? It shocked me. I’m an intentionalist and try to be very intentional with my spending because I want to be financially healthy. All of my fabric fits into two small bookshelves and as long as I live in a one bedroom apartment, it has to stay that way. So how do I limit the size of my collection and the bill? By asking the following 5 questions every time I shop.


Do I have something like this at home?

We all know of, or are, that quilter who purchases a piece of fabric and goes home to put it away and realizes that they already have so many other fabrics nearly identical to it. We tend to be drawn to a certain style or color.

Personally, I find I buy a lot of white or off white fabric with a single, light colored print on it. Usually something plain with the idea that it would make a great background fabric in something. I also have a small box of orange fabrics for when I eventually make an Oklahoma State quilt.
Already having a similar piece of fabric at home to the piece you are about to buy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But this should tell you something about yourself or ask you something.

My collection is asking me, ‘What are you going to do with so much light colored plain fabric?’.

My response: A low volume quilt with the most beautiful fabrics I could find.

I’m not buying just any piece of light colored fabric with a light brown or gold print, I’m buying very specifically for my taste. I’m literally collecting certain pieces that speak to me.
If my response was less satisfying, or I had none at all, I would not buy the fabric.

Do I have something that matches this?

If yes, then purchase what you think you will use.
If not, would you be willing to buy other parts of the fabric line? What other fabrics would complement this one? Would finding fabric that matches this be difficult? Consider the style of the pattern design and the color. Not having coordinating fabrics, would prevent you from starting a project without another trip to the store (which will probably lead to buying more things you don’t need). If finding other fabrics seems like a difficult task, reconsider your purchase.

Do I have enough to complete a project?

As a rule of thumb, I tend to by 1.5-2 yards of a piece of fabric I love with .5-1 yard of two other pieces from the collection. That is for a small quilt. If I think it’ll be a larger quilt I might buy 2 yards of the main piece and .5-1 yard of three or four others. This keeps my orphan fabric to a minimum.

Fat Quarter Rule
This is where my No Lonely Fat Quarters rule comes in. I do not buy fat quarters. All fat quarters I buy must match or go with another group of fabric. (Unless you make a lot of small items such as key fobs or zipper pouches.) This rule has kept my fat quarter stash down to a minimum.

My Only Fat Quarter Exception
I buy Cotton and Steel fat quarters of most of their prints, because Cotton and Steel is very careful in their color selection. All of their collections are related so I can mix all my Cotton and Steel fat quarters together in one project and expect perfect harmony. Be mindful though. I tend to buy a lot of dark blue Cotton and Steel Fabrics. So now I make a point to pick up other colors besides dark blue to make sure I’ll have good balance in my final quilt.

Always make sure to buy enough to be useful for something. Buying 3 fat quarters won’t make a twin sized quilt. So plan ahead when you purchase.

Does this complete a fabric line I have?

When I see fabric that is part of a line I have, I will probably buy some. Especially if the fabric has made it to the sale section. I’ll see the last little bit of something I like and will purchase the rest. Part of it is my fear is not having enough and not being able to find it again. But in the end I know I will need backing fabric, so I can incorporate the extra fabric into the back. (Usually, I do not buy backing until the top is completed. This is because I try to use my scraps from the top to make the majority of the back.)

Will I regret not buying this?

If all your other answers have led you to say ‘no, do not buy this’, this is your last resort questions to justify a purchase. Every now and then there will be a line you will regret not buying. If every single time you go to the quilt store you think you will regret not purchasing fabric, the answer is ‘NO’. Do not purchase more fabric.

But if it’s once in a blue moon, ‘Yes’, go for it. Figure out what you think it will be used for and buy what you need. Remember, the No Lonely Fat Quarters Rule and other guidelines, then Treat Yo’ Self.


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Since originally writing this post, I have started a quilt using a variety of low-volume fabrics in combination with all my Cotton and Steel fat quarters. Check out my Instagram for progress.
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Happy (Intentional) Shopping!

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