A Love Affair with Fabric

IMG_20170125_145914_hdrIsn’t this gorgeous? I bought it not long ago from Hancock’s of Paducah, one of my current favorite sources of fabric. I haven’t decided what to do with it, but I suspect I won’t be able to make myself cut into it, so it’ll probably become the backing on a table runner. That way I can see it on my kitchen table every day.

My love affair with fabric began when I was a girl. I took a park district sewing class where I made myself a corduroy jumper, and then Home Economics in junior high, both of which required my mother to take me to a fabric store. It was love at first sight! All those rows of fabric bolts made me swoon.

After seeing my interest in sewing, my grandmother took me on the bus to Marshall Field’s downtown, where she bought me my first pattern, for making doll clothes, which I still have:

IMG_20170125_155556_hdrDuring one of my regular visits to Anna, Illinois, where my other grandmother lived, I discovered a small fabric store in town where bags of fabric remnants cost a quarter. I’d save up my allowance (a dime a week) so that I could buy some bags to take home. I used the remnants to make doll clothes for my sisters and me. I discovered that once you get good at making doll clothes, making people clothes becomes easier, because they’re so much larger.

Meanwhile, my Chicago grandmother, who lived in a brick bungalow on the South side of Chicago, decided to move to the suburbs, so she no longer needed the gorgeous pink cabbage rose curtains that had graced the windows of her bedroom in the old house. Guess who got them? I made my sisters and I maxi skirts out of them. We’d wear them around the house after school and think we were really cool 🙂

All through high school, I sewed for the fun of it. I took my sewing machine with me to college; when I became stressed from studying, I’d take a sewing break. Bliss!

I got married while I was in college; after we graduated, we moved back to the suburbs and bought a house. Now my love of fabric kicked into overdrive. We needed towels, sheets and curtains. I’d stop by TJ Maxx or Marshall’s on my way home from work and come out loaded down with gorgeous bed and bath linens. I also made window treatments for most of our windows. It was so much fun, and back then, it seemed like there were endless gorgeous designs.

These days most towels, sheets and decorator fabric bore me:


There is little charm or originality in today’s designs. Much of it looks the same wherever I go. But when I shop in quilt stores or on quilt fabric websites, I find gorgeous fabric with all kinds of designs. There are even reproductions from different eras.

I’ve also found that estate sales are a good source of vintage fabric. When I find a lovely piece of fabric, sturdy Made-in-the-USA stuff from the mid-20th century, it’s like finding a treasure. I’ve made things for my grandchildren out of vintage fabric; it’s a joy to work with, and wears like iron. I just made my newest grandchild a crib sheet out of a lovely vintage sheet. So pretty!

Each spring, the Salvation Army in my town holds a fabric sale. Picture a large vacant storefront filled with donated fabric and craft supplies (all proceeds go to the Salvation Army). On the first day of the sale, there’s a very long line of women waiting to get in. Hundreds of women attend this sale every year, and I’m one of them. It’s so much fun, and I always come home with bags and bags of treasures to play with.

If it weren’t for vintage and quilt fabric, I might have fallen out of love with fabric (heaven forbid!) Instead, the love affair continues.

Want to Learn How to Sew?

Just had to share this cool new book with you! I’ve been sewing since I was a kid, so I don’t need a basic how-to-sew book. But the projects in this book, as easy as can be, are also so cute that I just couldn’t resist. 🙂

The book is called Pat Sloan’s I Can’t Believe I’m Sewing! It’s designed for people who’ve always wanted to learn to sew, but don’t know where to start. Unlike many sewing how-to books, this one includes ideas for finding a good used sewing machine, and inexpensive sources of fabric beyond what you can find at the store. Perfect for people trying to save some money, and aren’t we all these days?

The projects are easy and useful; the author features great new fabrics for an up-to-the-minute look. The table runner project is quick, easy, and a great way to highlight a few favorite fabrics. The scarf project is adorable, and the shower curtain is amazingly easy but will definitely perk up your bathroom.

As far as I’m concerned, no sewing book is complete without at least one quilt in it. This book has a couple of quilt patterns (very easy ones) plus pillows and pillowcases, so you can coordinate fabrics and make a matching set. Great simple gift ideas!

This book would also work well as the basis for a homeschool sewing course. My dd18 already knows how to sew, but couldn’t help picking up this book when she saw it on the table. She loved the projects in it!

Bottom line? Don’t miss this book; it’s a keeper.

New Project for a New Baby


I call this photo “Optimism.” You see, I haven’t made a quilt in a few years, but a friend of mine just became a grandma, and I want to make a baby quilt for her adorable new granddaughter.

So I picked out the fabrics one week, pre-washed and pressed them the next, and was supposed to start sewing this week.

Ahem. Here they are, still awaiting the rotary cutter.

I’m hoping to start sewing very soon. The fact that we’re moving 4-6 weeks from now looms large in my brain. I need to start packing. But I really want to make this quilt! So we’ll see…..

Picking out the fabric was something of an experience, btw. I wanted to buy new fabric because I figured the fabrics from my stash probably look too dated for a modern baby quilt. Most of them are 10-20 years old, and I even have some stuff from the 70s. All of my stash is good fabric, tightly woven with colors that are still beautiful. Most likely, all of my fabric stash was made here in the USA.

Several years ago, I read that most of the fabric sold here in the USA these days is made overseas. Like so many other things, fabric can be produced more cheaply in other countries, so why not? That explains why it took so long for me to find the fabrics I need for this baby quilt. I learned first-hand that cheaply produced fabric is most definitely cheap. I had to reject many fabrics that were not woven tightly, or not printed very well. Even so, a couple of the fabrics I chose because I needed them color-wise are not as high-quality as I would have wished.

Today I learned that there’s a wonderful solution to this problem. One of my favorite quilt supply catalogs, Connecting Threads, has announced that ALL of the fabric they sell now is woven and printed in the USA from cotton grown in the USA. How cool is that? And the price is still $5.96 a yard….how do they do it? They say they cut out the middleman, and I’m glad they do.  Wish I’d known this before I went shopping for baby quilt fabric. I have a feeling that the fabric they’re selling is better quality than the imported stuff.