Saturday, September 27, 2014

Spiral Quilts - Shopping TIPS

Who doesn't like to shop for fabric?  I consider a fabric store a superb replacement for a candy store.  I have a minor sweet tooth, but not enough to ever enter an actual candy store.  I don't even like the smell.  However, a fabric store is a different proposition.  There is a plethora of colors and textures with a good, clean fragrance and sales people who understand my needs, dreams and desires.  I walk into a fabric store and feel an immediate calm envelop me.  I can wander around by myself or with a friend and consider that I have had a very enjoyable experience, and every store has its own distinctive flavor to savor.

Before going on a shopping excursion you must figure out how much fabric to buy for your spiral quilt.  This can be daunting because the pieces are all triangles of different shapes, sizes and colors.  I don't like to spend my money on a lot of fabric that I have to store in my limited space.  On the other hand, I want to make sure I have enough of each fabric to complete my project.  On the rare occasions when I have run short, it has taken a lot of time away from construction to locate more of my chosen fabric.  That also means more money for gas or shipping for a small amount of fabric, so I have figured out a method designed for efficiency.

I make a visual chart for each color or fabric that I will be using.  You can do this with graph paper, or on the computer as I do.  On the computer I create a document in Illustrator 40" x 72" to approximate a two yard piece of fabric as a starting place.  Then I copy each little triangle in the shape (i.e. pentagon) to the chart of its color.  I enclose the little triangle with a rectangular box that is a generous 1/4" - 3/8" bigger on all sides than the triangle.  This should be plenty of room for seam allowance and maybe a little extra.  I make as many copies of the rectangle as I need for that shape in that color.  How many times does that shape occur in each wedge?  How many wedges are in the spiral circle?   I do the same for all the triangles in a shape, and then for all the shapes in the wedge.  I end up with a chart like this for each color, except that I do it on a grid, which didn't come through the export process:

Chart for p6 purple fabric.

From the grid you can estimate the amount of fabric that you will need.  Then add up to a 1/4 yard to cover pilot error or your learning curve.

TIP:  You don't have to worry about straight of grain.  The paper foundation holds everything together and prevents dancing around the dreaded bias stretch.  You will sew straight grain pieces around the finished mandala and they will hold it in line when the paper is removed.  The final quilting also exerts control over errant triangles.  I have never had a problem with bias when I paper piece.

I mentioned my fabric chart in the last post, but I actually make it before I go shopping.  Here is what it looks like printed from the computer.  [I no longer have the shopping sheet from the quilt I have been developing here, so the colors are different.  No matter, the idea is the same.]

Fabric Chart for Shopping and Referral
I type in my code name for each color and the amount of fabric needed.  I then take this to my fabric stash and pull fabrics that I think will work, cut small examples, and glue them on top of the appropriate colored rectangles.  If I don't find what I want I leave those colors open and know that I will be hunting for them in the fabric stores.  As you can imagine these pieces change, migrate and evolve as I develop the final choices.

I put this in a plastic sheet protector with a printout of my quilt design on the other side.  I also add my contact information in case I lay it down while manhandling bolts of fabric and forget to pick it up.  Been there, done that.  I have had to return more than once when I got a call from a quilt store.  Those ladies understand that my shopping sheet is an important part of my quilt!

Isn't this a lot of work?  Yes, but it saves time and money in the long run.  When my fabrics are pre-washed I cut pieces and glue them into place on a sample, paper wedge to make sure I like the way it looks.   Finally, I am ready to sit down at the machine with no worries about whether my fabric will make it through the process.


  1. Hi Mardi,
    what a great post. Thank you for sharing your ideas!
    Hugs Marle

  2. Thank you for sharing such great ideas! I love the idea of making a shopping sheet for my projects. I might have to implement that immediately. :)