Making Felt Objects & Embellishments
Try mixing in polar fleece if you are working with wool felt. It is much cheaper and can add interest with patterns and shadings. It is just as forgiving as felt to sew. In the flower mounted on linen pictured above, all the purples and grey are wool and everything else is fleece. The two-toned leaves were cut from a striped pattern in fleece.
Recycling wrongly-shrunk sweaters and felting thrift store finds are two other good sources of wool felt. Be sure a second hand purchase is 80 to 90% wool if you plan to felt it, and use hot water in the wash. I recently bought Betz White‘s book, “Warm Fuzzies” for some great ideas on using felt — the wool cupcakes are especially fun! She has a blog and a website, as well.
In the selection of fabric jewelry above, the black is a cut-up sweater and the soft purple (dotted with a gold-silk-covered button) was a wool, tailored jacket. Jackets, I have decided, especially if lined, may not be worth the work required to cut them up (they tend to cost more than sweaters and the panels of wool uninterrupted by seams are smaller).
It is amazing how many New England quilters resort to hot colors and tropical, summery prints in their winter work. The view out of our kitchen windowsill and recently hung quilt demonstrate the contrast.
Red as Neutral, Uglies, and Rogue Fabrics
Three of the best fabric tips I can pass along are as follows:
- Treat red as a neutral,
- Buy ugly fabric, and
- Include rogues in your work.
A guest speaker at a meeting of the Quilter’s Connection (a guild that now meets in Watertown, MA) offered the first tip, and I think I heard people gasp. I didn’t believe it at the time, but subsequent experience has proven her right. (If I track down who said this, I promise to come back and give her credit).
Ruth McDowell, quilter, writer and teacher extraordinaire, offered the second tip. To look at her quilts is to be astonished by the fabric combinations, so I have followed this advice ever since (especially since I can’t/won’t ever be able to piece the way she does!). I actually don’t have to work too hard at this because I am a scavenger at heart and all kinds of fabric comes my way that I haven’t consciously selected. The point is, though, you never know when some repulsive print in colors you abhor is going to be THE right touch.
The last tip is mine, though I have to say it was exalted by the Gee’s Bend quilters long before I ever started quilting. A rogue is a vagrant, a scoundrel or a mischief-maker. A rogue animal is one that misbehaves. So, to include fabrics that aren’t quite part of the plan, or don’t quite look like they belong, is to follow the rogue rule. (I suppose it is a corollary to the ‘buy ugly’ rule – and meant to expand one’s choices). And, by the way, even if one is an ‘improv quilter’, one can follow this rule by selecting a piece of fabric that is not in the picking pile.
Below is a quilt where the red serves as a neutral rather than as an accent and the black is a rogue, although I’ll admit I’ve used black as a rogue often enough that it has become formulaic — and certainly, a formula cannot be a rogue!!
Supplies and Goodbyes
One of the great things about being a quilter is that when people have fabric to unload, they think of you. It is only recently that I have begun to say ‘no’ because of space. Today, I received the most gorgeous selection of fabrics from a friend returning to Japan that I am humbled — not just at her generosity and the exquisite quality of the fabrics, but at the whole notion of abundance. With the economic news so uniformly and unrelentingly negative, how lovely to receive this bundle!! Good luck Yoko!! I don’t think I will be able to cut the silk obis, but if I do, some creation will be packaged and sent to Japan.
Clearly, being open to receiving whatever fabric comes your way doesn’t just expand your palette (and sometimes help satisfy the Ugly Rule), it can also open you to treasure!