My friend, Pam, asked me this question a few weeks ago so I thought I'd share my answer with you. One of my favorite quilt shops is Fabrics Etcetera in Webster TX. Their clearance fabric is located in the back and the fabric there changes almost daily. It's hard to pass up quilt yardage that's 50% off or 60% off if you buy what's left on the bolt. This is where I get most of my backings and I don't always buy what's left on the bolt. I have to really love the fabric to do that.
Let's say I bought 6 or 8 yards of a fabric. Here is my thought process when I bring home this much of one piece of fabric:
- I wash my fabric before I use it but I don't wash yardage over 3 yards. Washing any piece of fabric that's longer than 3 yards results is a very long, twisted, wrinkled mess. For more information about washing fabric read the article, Washing Fabric and Quilts Before Using.
- If I don't have a project in mind, I will leave the yardage intact for now. As I need the fabric, I'll cut off what I need, wash it and use it.
- If I have a project in mind to use this fabric for the backing, I will add about 10″ to allow for shrinkage and cut the pieces I need to piece the backing. These pieces are usually anywhere from 2 to 3 yards each. Then I wash those, prepare the backing and put it with the project.
- Next I think about borders and binding. Lately, many of my quilts do not have borders, but when I do add a border, I generally use the same fabric for the binding. If I have a project in mind to use this fabric for borders and binding, I cut a piece for that , adding extra for shrinkage. Then I wash the fabric and cut the borders and binding. I cut borders and binding along the lengthwise grain using the information in the article, Lengthwise Grain Border and Binding to cut the pieces. Put the pieces with the project.
- Whatever fabric is left, I wash and press.
- If it's over a yard, I leave it as is. It can always be cut later.
- If it's under a yard, I will cut it into 2 fat quarters and 2-1/2″ strips because I can always find a pattern that uses these pre-cuts.
I would fold up the yardage and put it in a drawer then forget about it or open and close drawers when I was looking for something. I knew I had the perfect backing for a quilt, but couldn't find it until it was too late. Unless you just like collecting fabric, buying it on sale is not really a bargain if it doesn't get used.
If you can, I've found it's better to put the fabric onto those cards made to wrap fabric around. You can stand up the cards on a shelf or “file” them in a deep bin and see what you have at a glance. Here are the fabric organizers I use: