Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Print fabric -- spawn of the devil??

When I wrote last week about the trendy colors in modern quilting and showed an array of prints in said colors, I was surprised at some comments from people who apparently don't like prints in any way, shape or form, whether the colors are trendy or not.  Even though I know that most people who think of their work as art more than as quilts don't use commercial prints, I wasn't expecting the vehemence of the responses.

Although I generally haven't used commercial prints in my own work in more than six years, I don't share that disdain.  I own a truckload of prints in every color and style known to mankind, and have a fond hope that someday I will figure out how to use them.  In other words, don't write and suggest that I could eliminate my problem by sending the truck over to your place or to the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation.  I like my prints, just don't know what to do with them at the moment.

Here are glimpses into some but by no means all of the drawers I have filled with commercial prints.  You can see that I take some care in putting them away -- folding them to be the same height, sorting them by color.

Most of these are quarter- or half-yard cuts, although I have taken pains to save bits after using some of the fabric. 

One of my best quilting friends says she loves nothing more than to use up the last piece of a fabric that has been around for a while.  I am exactly the opposite -- I will never use up the last piece unless I absolutely have to.  When I've used almost all of a fabric, I'll fold it into a really tiny little packet and move it to a box reserved for "endangered species."

I will admit that many of my commercial prints look dated and even ugly.  Who knew what caused me to buy them in the first place?  And in some cases, I didn't buy them, I inherited or otherwise acquired them. 

It's probably time for me to sort through the drawers and pull out the fabrics that look ugly.  I still own a lot of old-fashioned small calico prints, but they've mostly been pulled out of the drawers and put into a separate place so I can give them to new quilters who want to work with a traditional look.  In general, I still love my prints.  I like visiting them in their drawers, even if they don't get to come out and play very often.  I like straightening them out and arranging them in neat rows so you can see everything there without having to paw through a pile.  I like HAVING them, even if I don't use them.  As vices go, I think you could come up with worse.


  1. In support of print fabrics making art see this article about the work of Edrica Huws born 1907 and examples of her work here -

  2. Commercial fabrics can be great if used correctly in your art. I love to take bits and pieces of let's say a printed flower and use it to make something completely different.

  3. I "inherited" a lot of commercial prints when my mother died--nothing that I really liked all that much, but I felt guilty about throwing it all away. I've been able to dye a lot of it so that the printed design isn't as prominent anymore and have used a lot of it, especially for quilt backs.

  4. Prints remind me of how I shop for clothes these days. I love the way the fashion world is combining flowers and geometrics with frills and lace but it never quite looks good on this body of mine. I always end up with those understated solids instead. Using prints in my work is challenging, it always seems like the print is asking for too much attention.

  5. I, too, have a stash of prints I just couldn't pass up.
    My excuse is that I can always put them on the backs of my quilts. In addition to the work of Edrica Huws, check out Leslie Gabrielse who uses nothing but commercial prints.

  6. I like prints and am always attracted to them more than the solids in the store. Then I go home and want to USE solids and wonder why I own so many prints.

    Sara K's comment ^^ reminds me that I pieced a Native American design quilt for my grandmother (in solids) and put a kokopelli print on the back. She displayed it to the end of her days with the PRINT side showing. So much for all that piecing work. My husband loves to needle me about that to this day.

  7. I can see getting out the paints and changing some of those prints, overdying others, discharging some,quilt backs, maybe soem aprons or tote bags.
    Then they oculd just be jsed as prints to make a old fashion quilt.

  8. I admire how people use solid color and hand painted fabric in their work.Can't seem to use them.I use only commercial fabrics in my work.Especially like large scale drapery weight prints.Check out Rhoda Cohen,Ruth McDowell and Radka Donnell quilts.They and Edrica Huws use prints like paint.

  9. I use commercial prints in my work all the time, both currently available fabrics to those from long, long ago. I use them as texture, as fragments of color and shape, and also to add a layer of meaning or commentary to the work.

    Linda Laird

  10. And I like and greatly appreciate your unapologetic opinions. You go girl! :)
    -Jane (who adores prints but doesn't use them much anymore)