When I first started down this road making I spy quilts, I just purchased whatever fabrics I liked. But as time has gone along, I developed some ground rules. I am an accountant, it's just part of my personality. Rules, boundaries, guidelines, whatever you want to call them. If I have too many decisions to make, I get nervous. I know my rules are pretty arbitrary, but they help me move forward. And in general I think it's improved my quilts. Definitely given focus to my collecting efforts.
Style and Uniqueness – The variety of novelty fabrics out there is amazing. Finding dogs and cats was easy. So were frogs. Not sure why but there are always frogs. How to choose? Initially I just went for a good mix. Ok, that’s enough dogs and cats and frogs, how about some fire engines, cars, candy or bugs. But which ones? I decided I really didn’t care for the overly realistic - you know the ones I mean, row upon row of dog faces that just look like photographs. Neither did I like the silly cute-sy baby animals. Not big on cats dressed as doctors or dancing fish. But I did succumb to the flying pigs just because they were so ridiculous. I look for good design, good color, good composition, good quality, something different, something interesting. Ok, bottom line it's still fabrics I like. After all, I’m spending a lot of time with these fabrics, I want to enjoy them. I want others to enjoy them. And when I use some of the Outhouse fabric or the jelly beans, it makes me smile.What is it - I want the object in the fabric to be identifiable by a child, something they would recognize from their experience or from books. Amoebas don’t work, dump trucks do. A few years into this process I saw a quilt in a magazine where the designer had used a different fabric for each letter of the alphabet. Apple for A, Button for B, etc. I loved this idea. Now I had to shop for specific letters (it's a Quest!). This definitely adds some challenge. I never realized how difficult it is to find certain letters. Yes, Q & X are obvious problems but O isn’t all that easy either (olives, octopus, owls). And Y? Seriously? I’ve done Yarn, Yo Yos, & Yolks (as in eggs). My sister tried to convince me a picture of some oxen with yokes would work for the letter Y, but that breaks my rule of identifiable by a child.
I’m not sure my 23 year old daughter even knows what a yoke is. Or oxen for that matter. Gee, is that a gazelle? I remember my About.com quilting friends trying to help me find quail fabric and one picture posted on a LQS website was definitely a pheasant, not a quail as it was labeled. I stick with quarters and queens with a question mark thrown in sometimes. As I’m browsing fabric shops, I’m always looking for letters that I know are difficult to find or just for something new. I do get tired of giraffes for G so guitars are a nice change. I'm debating on the View Master reel fabric I saw recently. It's a great design with a nostalgic appeal, but do kids now even know what those things were? And yes, I know that kids wouldn't get the Outhouse joke, but I had to buy it any way. I'll stick it in a quilt for the parents if I know them well. In case you are curious, yes I have an Excel spreadsheet listing all the letters and the pictures in my fabrics (a memory aid). I warned you I was an accountant. I make sure each quilt has at least 1 of each letter somewhere, though they aren't always easy or obvious to find. I have a great time watching the adults trying to find the letters. It turns them into little kids, such fun.
Personal - A large selection of novelty fabrics allows me to personalize my I spy quilts. It makes the quilt especially fun when I can include things specifically related to the recipient family. Over the years I've included pets, hobbies, home states, favorite foods and parent's occupations (teachers are easy). I'm currently trying to find a lumberjack for a couple's college mascot. In a prior post I mentioned a quilt I made for my dad where every block referenced something about his life. That one took many months and numerous contributions from my quilting friends. Quilters love enabling other quilters.
Color - Sometimes a pattern will impact my collecting. Color is one example. I’ve recently done several patterns that relied on the overall color of the fabric as part of the pattern design. I discovered most of my novelty fabrics had either black or blue background, so I started looking for green, red, yellow. Purple is a challenge, the only purple fabrics seem to either be butterflies or Halloween, no idea why. I store my folded fabrics by color to make pulling them easier for these quilts.
I’m planning a separate post devoted to my color study quilts, but here are a couple of examples of patterns where color makes the design:
|Trip Around the World, traditional pattern|
Scale - The scale of the pictures is important too. Many of the patterns I’ve done use a standard 4” finished block size. It’s a good medium size, most novelty pictures will fit in that size. I keep an Art Bin full of pre-cut 4.5” squares, sorted by topic – yes I’m weird, I know but it saves time.
I’ve done some patterns however where the block size was smaller. These need a small scale over-all design in the fabric, otherwise you cut pieces off and can’t tell see the object. Overall patterns in the fabric make the pictures recede and thus the quilt pattern itself becomes the focus. This pattern is constructed using two 2" strips and a half square triangle to make the arrow shape in 3 different lengths. The figures in the fabric had to be small enough to fit in that 2" width. The small arrows were only 1" so I had to be extra careful selecting those. I made a template of each size to preview the fabrics to make sure the picture didn't get lost.
|Which Way Is Up pattern by Whistlepig Creek Productions|
Other quilt patterns have large blocks which look better with larger scale fabrics. I typically don’t purchase fabric with pictures larger than the 4” finished block, primarily because I haven’t done many quilts with large blocks and I struggle to figure out how to use them. If there are only a few blocks, it’s also difficult to get all the ABC’s in since there have to be multiple letters in each fabric. I try to get a variety of fabrics with different scale for those most patterns as it adds to the visual interest of the finished quilt. I designed this pattern specifically to use some of those large scale fabrics that weren't every getting used.