Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The circle of fabric buying indecision


Just before Christmas, a box of fabric goodness arrived from Dear Stella containing some fabrics for a few pieces that I'm currently working on for a magazine (I'm so looking forward to sharing those with you once it's out in a few months time), but there were also some unexpected extra treats in there, namely this Vanity Fair fat quarter bundle, which was serendipitous as I've been putting this collection in and out of an online shopping basket ever since I first saw it on Instagram. I'm usually a painfully indecisive shopper when I'm making purchases anyway, so making an overseas purchase (which also involves extended delayed gratification and potential customs charges) is normally precipitated by weeks of strokey beard moments before finally taking the plunge.


My thought process went something like this: It's so beautiful, soft and elegant; but what if it is insipid and too pale when it arrives? I will cure my worries by searching for every photo of the collection on the entire internet to assess whether the colours are as perfect as I think they are; I have found some, I think it really is perfect - every photo of it makes me love it more; but it's so new that I cannot find anything to look at that's actually finished - I want to see lots of examples in lots of different lights of it all sewn together, maybe I should wait until I can see more of its loveliness in action….and on and on and on. Thankfully, I only enter The Circle of Fabric Buying Indecision very rarely, because most of the time I just avoid looking. When my husband notices that I'm browsing online fabric shops with a glazed, slightly pained expression he says simplistic things like: I can't understand why you procrastinate when you're so lucky to be able to buy something that you love that only costs £30…to get the equivalent amount of joy in guitar terms I would have to spend over £2000. He doesn't see that if I bought all the fabric that I wanted on that basis, it would amount to far in excess of £2000, so this kind of mental torment is entirely necessary to hone the list of wantiness to an acceptable level.


Serendipity, freaky intuition on the part of the lovelies at Dear Stella, whatever, a fat quarter stack of this found its way to me before my research consumed me further. And it is so perfect. My first thought was a wall hanging, because the prints in this would work so well on a small scale and the lace print would look fantastic being fussy cut. However, I happened to put the bundle down on our bed and realised that I'd finally found something that I've been looking for for over five years. I love white bed linen so much that, apart from the very boring white quilt I made several years ago (which I now feel doesn't actually count as a quilt because it is so dull), we don't have a made-by-me quilt for our room. The idea of introducing colours and prints into a space that I enjoy being completely neutral and calm has never appealed…but Vanity Fair offers colour and print in a way that feels as though it doesn't detract from the feeling of calm at all. I am in love.

The sewing I'd planned to do over Christmas was delayed by another package I'd needed to go with it not arriving, which meant that I was free to cut into the Vanity Fair straight away. I wanted to make something simple, where the main focus was the quilting - partly, because I liked how I imagined that would look and partly because I wanted to spend Christmas with my family rather than my sewing machine, so setting up a quick project that was then ready for hours of sociable hand-quilting really appealed (a non-sewing Christmas wasn't an option that occurred to me. There are times when I don't sew, but it actually makes my fingers itch to think of watching a film without sewing at the same time). I used all the prints in the bundle apart from the yellow stripe - I've no idea why, as it works with the rest of the collection perfectly, but I just preferred the colours without it. For reference, if you've arrived here in your own Circle of Fabric Buying Indecision, I'd say that the top two photos in this post show the colours in a truer light - it rained all day, every day over the holidays, so the other photos are mostly taken in artificial light, which gives the colours a tone that is less fresh than the reality.


This was also an excuse to get out the completely dreamy compass that my husband gave me as a birthday gift a few years ago. I love this compass as it feels so beautifully designed and I can draw absolutely enormous circles with it as it has an extension arm. To make a quilting guide for this, I used some clear template plastic and drew curves on it an inch apart, before slicing them open with a scalpel to allow me to run a disappearing-ink marker pen through it onto the fabric.

I'm now half-way through hand-quilting this king-sized beast and have had to put it to one side as I have a few other projects that I need to finish, but I am so excited to get time to work on it again, as I can't wait to have it on our bed.

I'd love to know if any of you go through similar indecision and dilemma when buying fabric or if you have a fabric buying strategy to work around it…and if you shop on impulse how do you not just buy everything?

Florence x

P.s. If you're interested in putting some Vanity Fair in and out of your own shopping basket, you can find it here. However, I can wholeheartedly attest to its loveliness.

31 comments:

  1. a 'dreamy compass' haha. They look like lovely fabrics. I also have this problem and spend hours in the haberdashery shops. I can't wait to see it completed!

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    1. It is a totally dreamy compass - it's reassuringly heavy. And yes, hours can be passed in a good haberdashery :)

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  2. Oh my goodness, this fabric is EXACTLY what I've been looking for! I have pictured making a soft, pale, dreamy, taupe-toned quilt for myself, and this looks just like what I've had in my mind. THANKS so much for sharing. I can't wait to see your finished quilt! I'm going to get this FQ bundle ASAP!

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    1. I'm so pleased as I think you'll love it - it is even lovelier in real life than in pictures. I'd love to see what you make.

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  3. Ha! I buy fabric or rather don't buy it, exactly the same way. Searching the web for every last photo of the said fabric in every light seems perfectly normal.

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    1. Thank goodness. I'm either normal or at least not entirely alone!

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  4. That would look so lovely in my bedroom too. I normally go fro bright colours but I agree that a bedroom should be restrained and calming. ting to see the finished thing and if its no good for you I can give it a good home!

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    1. What a kind offer, Catherine, but even before it's finished I know I'll be hanging on to this one.

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  5. I am now coveting your compass. Oh my.

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    1. It's glorious, isn't it. It's made by a German company called Ecobra - I don't think they dabble in 'green' lingerie…it does seem to just be 'mathematical instruments' :)

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  6. Oh, the fabric shopping indecision... Hours (days, weeks?) of my life I can never get back. Hadn't occurred to me to search other people's photos for evidence, though - I just look at pictures on different shop sites. I usually eventually snap myself out of it by remembering how much unused fabric I have already... And I don't get unhelpful enabling messages from him indoors like you, thank goodness - mine always says, with seemingly genuine shock even though it happens so often, "I can't believe you're buying more fabric!" Lack of funds is probably the main limiting factor, though, if I'm honest, but that occasionally leads to rash/regrettable impulse purchases when a bargain presents itself... x

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    1. Yes, I often end up buying absolutely nothing, because of decision paralysis! I'm so sorry to have shared more ways to extend your research methods.

      My husband is very clever - I think he uses this enabling talk as reverse psychology, as once he's encouraged me to spend wildly, I feel as though I must be the responsible one who doesn't go and do this!

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    2. Good point, the disapproval has been known to make me more wilful...

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    3. There's every chance he's developed that strategy as I have a similar reaction to disapproval or being told what to do ;)

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  7. Being new to sewing I don't have exactly a stash - my fabric came form my mother's stash, and comprises mostly some odd fat quarters and quarter meters of fabric. After Christmas I folded it so it looked a little more lke the nice stash photos I see on the web - and it made into a shoe box, plus a box of scraps (I seem to have a problem with throwing fabric away...)
    Then I orderd a fat quarter bundle form Anna Maria Horner (I don't know where it will live yet). And this low volume bundle - I just love it. I can't wait to see the complete quilt! Are you quilting by hand? Your stiches are perfect.

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    1. Yes, I'm quilting by hand - thank you! It's something that I started off really struggling with but by the time I'd hand-stitched an entire quilt very densely last summer, I found it's slightly like riding a bike. Do give it a go - maybe your mother hand quilted, but if not, it's incredibly sociable and I love the repetitive action of it - it's like meditation for sewers!

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    2. No, my mother isn't a quilter, so I have no experience whatsoever... I'm slowly learning the basics and I'm yet to complete a quilt. My next big project is a quilt for my new baby, maybe I'll try handquilting since it will be a small one. Thank you for the encouragement!

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  8. I hopped on over to the Fat Quarter Shop and bought a bundle before I even finished reading your post!

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    1. I'm so pleased! Let me know what you make with it - I'd love to see.

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  9. I can fill an online basket then change it at least 5 times...I am a feely touchy buyer. And I keep buying fabric to the point that I will not live long enough to use it up!

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    1. I think that may be a problem that worries all of us. I sold nearly all my fabric for that reason last year and it's fun to restock in a (slightly) more careful way.

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  10. Can't wait for the reveal on this Florence. And I to can fill and empty a shopping basket a number of times before committing to purchase (I did this recently with Henna by Beth Studley but it's a tad more colourful!). I too had a Christmas project planned out way before Christmas day, the thought of not sewing for a few days gives me the jitters!!!!

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    1. I'm so pleased I'm not the only one - my husband is always amazed at how unrelenting the addiction is and can frequently be heard saying: don't you ever feel bored by sewing?

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  11. I have a truly difficult time selecting fabric even for a specific project, in an actual fabric shop where I can touch everything! This is why I am so absurdly proud of my success just 2 days ago, when I was anxious to get home after a long series of errands, but was in the town with the lovely old fabric shop - an hour from home, in a direction I rarely travel. I hurried in, patterns in hand, and was out the door with fabrics and thread in about 20 minutes. Even the woman who cut the yardage commented on my decisiveness. And I got home just in time to get the goats fed before dark :)

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    1. That's incredibly impressive on so many levels - decisiveness, brave driving and navigation AND feeding goats on top of all that! I'm in awe…sadly we don't have satnav and I have no sense of direction at all, so if it's far from home, I tend to ask my husband along on any fabric-related trips that involve the car.

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  12. Are you quilting in your lap or on a frame?

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    1. I usually use a quilting hoop, but over Christmas my children wanted to snuggle under the quilt while I was sewing, so I tried without the frame and found my stitches look pretty much the same as with the hoop - it certainly feels more comfortable :)

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  13. Hi Florence - I'm exactly the same way with fabric buying! And, this post came at the perfect time since I want to treat myself for my birthday and I have about 4-5 bundles I want to get and I can't make up my mind! And like you, although a bundle of fabric is not a huge commitment on price, I end up loving TOO many bundles that quickly adds up! My biggest problem, I've found, is that I can quickly fall out of love with fabric, especially if I don't finish the project right away because I find something new to fall in love with. And part of that is that I think I'm going through a personal sewing style change, so my indecision is at an all time high. Fabrics/designers I used to love are not as appealing and I find myself looking for great colors and prints that I can mix and match for future projects. So, I think I'm going to start just pushing through projects I currently have and see where it takes me!

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  14. Hi Florence I know exactly what you mean. Hours have been lost gazing at fabric swatches trying to decide which ones my customers would like as much as I do. One of my "Things To Do In 2014" is to try hand quilting. Machining is soooo much quicker but in an effort to try and slow down a bit I am aiming to give it a go. Good luck with yours, that fabrics look gorgeous.

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  16. I can't believe you have hand-quilted it. The stitches are so neat.
    A year ago when I made my first quilt (and so far last) I decided on hand-quilting it. It took me a whole week with every day spending 8-9 hours sitting on the quilt and bent over it, stitching and stiching. The quilt was occupying half of the living room floor. I was 38 weeks pregnant and was just hoping to be able to finish it before the baby arrived. And now this quilt is gathering dust in a drawer as once I finished it suddenly looked way too bright and colourful for our bedroom. It is weird how I hadn't noticed that before :)
    When it comes to buying fabric, I am also very indecisive. I usually try to imagine how the fabric would look on a certain project, then start thinking what else I could use it for if not for that project. If the fabric in question has more potential uses then it has a greater chance of going into the shoping basket. That process can often take a few weeks:)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x