May 05, 2021

Take a closer look at your bargain shelf -- "orphan" fabrics can help your customers learn free-motion quilting and go from bargain to bottom line!

Every store has a shelf of "orphan" fabrics that for one reason or another just didn't sell. But I have found some of my best "teaching" fabrics on bargain shelves. Here are some ways I found to turn orphan fabrics into fabulous quilts and class kits for free-motion quilting practice -- and to put money in your cash register.
Unusual Large-Print Fabrics
When I was starting work on the Free-Motion Mastery in a Month book, I went to Gotham Quilts to look for fabric. I found this fabric hiding on the "bargain" shelf, along with several unusual solid colors that looked great with it.

The characteristics that made this fabric perfect for FMM30 were the same ones that had landed it on the bargain shelf: It was a large, open patternthat most quilters simply couldn't imagine how to use. But for FMM30 it was perfect: large forms to quilt around while developing machine control and eye-hand coordination; open space for practicing fill patterns. The quilt I made from this fabric became the cornerstone of the book. I found this same fabric at several other quilt shops as I traveled around the country -- always on the bargain shelf. -- and I bought up every inch that I could find to use for class kits that my students loved.

Strange Colors 
Using unusual colored fabrics for FMQ blocks in a class kit is a great way to liquidate them. Students may not at first glance love thefabric, but as one student said to me after a class:

"I wasn't emotionally invested in the fabric. 
That let me relax and not worry if I messed it up,
so I quilted better than I ever have!"

Perk up the fabric with a bright thread color, a perky pattern for joining strips or binding, and an accent like a button, and suddenly your students see that fabric in a whole new light. As a bonus, you've taught them how to look at colors in a new way, so they'll be more likely to embrace unusual colors in the future.

Misfit Small Patterns 
The backs of block sandwiches are the perfect place to use up small patterns. Let them be the supporting actors to a large print or solid fabric on top. Depending on what you'll make from the block in the end, the small print fabric can coordinate or not.  Here's the surprising back side of the blocks in the pink and grey quilt below. (This block also uses some strange colors to really make an interesting effect.....)

If a print is small enough and does coordinate with the top fabric, small prints can also be used for joining strips and binding to accent other fabrics.

I hope this inspires you to take another look at your bargain shelf, and find your own free-motion mastery treasures waiting there!

My "quarantine quilt" in 2020, named God's Eye in the Storm, was inspired by Anna Maria Horner's fabric Passage In Midnight -- found on a bargain shelf.

Happy Quilting!
RaNae :)

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Copyright © 2021 RaNae Merrill


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