Learn to Quilt With Me Series: Picking Out and Buying Fabric {Part 1}

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This post is part of my Quilt-A-Long / Learn to Quilt With Me Series (if you’re on social media, remember to hashtag it: #QuiltingAlongWithTamara). See the first post in the series for the overview and links to the rest of the posts in the series.

If you’re just jumping in here, I suggest you read the previous post, but here’s the TLDR: I’m teaching myself how to make a quilt / blanket and want to document it as I go along so that I can help anyone else who who wants to learn too.

As I said in my initial overview post, I am following a bunch of online tutorials. One in particular, a series from Amy Smart’s blog Diary of a Quilter.

So, what did I start with? Picking out and buying fabric of course! 🙂 Why? Because that’s the most exciting part of course!

I had a few pins from a long while back suggesting some of the best places to get fabric from including:

I ended up buying my fabric from because that’s all they sell — they have SUCH a wide variety and you get free shipping after spending $35! Choosing my fabric wasn’t all that difficult. I have an eye for color and design . . . for people who this doesn’t come naturally to, I am not sure what to say. I might say go to a real store and ask for help. It can certainly be overwhelming on your first go around — it was for me.

Learn to Quilt | Quilt-A-Long |Part I | Picking Out and Buying Fabric | via Yarn & Chocolate |

To make it manageable, I chose 1 main fabric (the pink flowery petal fabric) and went from there.

Down below it had some coordinating items, so I chose 1 of those: the Michael Miller Multi Dot

There was another coordinating item, but unfortunately it was sold out and not coming back 🙁

Those two together are both really really bright fabrics with lots of bright colors. I knew if I was going to do groups of 4-squares they would have to each be in their own 4-squares and not really touch each other because while the colors were similar, they didn’t really match. But, I knew they’d look good in a quilt / blanket together.

Next I knew I had to pick a grey — a light grey with a white subtle pattern on it to balance out all of those bright colors and bring out the light grey in pink floral petals pattern. I chose this one.

And then I also had to choose something light pink to pick up on the light pink in the pink floral petals pattern. So I chose this one with the baby pink with the white star pattern on it.

Finally, I had to pick a brighter, louder pink-ish color to pick up on that other color in both the multi dots pattern and the pink floral petals pattern. If there was a pattern on it, I knew it had to be subtle because the color was bright. I chose this raspberry swirl fabric.

And then sometimes you just have to throw in another color. Purple looks good with pinks and greys, so that’s what I chose! I figured I could use just a few squares on the inside of the quilt and then also use it for the quilt border as well as the binding.

All of those fabrics are 100% cotton “quilting fabrics.”

I still had to choose the backing fabric. I have a quilt someone made for me on my couch for my high school graduation. I absolutely love it, and the backside is a very comfy flannel. I figured I could do the same here. I chose this cute grey flannel print with confetti and elephants.

Calculating Quilt Measurements and Figuring Out How Much Fabric to Buy

Before you actually purchase the fabric, you have to figure out how much you need.

I knew I wanted to do a square blanket quilt that was 9 squares x 9 squares. (Or so I thought!)

Crazy Mom Quilts has a great post on calculating quilt measurements. As she says — math is a huge part of quilting!

  • Charm Packs are usually 5in squares
  • 4.5in squares are the next size down (for a finished 4in square)
  • 3.5in squares (for a finished 3in square)

Intending to do 4.5in squares (for a finished 4in square) x 9 across and 9 down that would be:
36in finished + a 2in border on either side
= 40in + 2in extra
= 42in square (room for error)

I ordered 1 yard of each of the regular fabrics, and then 1.5 yards of the backing. This was the most economical. The minimum amount you can buy on is 1/2 a yard, but the pricing is better when buy at least 1 yard of each fabric. I figured I could make something else with the leftover fabric.

Ordering Batting

According to Amy at Diary of a Quilter I would need the Baby / Crib size batting (45in x 60in) and I should get the cotton blend. I ended up getting this one by The Warm Company.

**Update – Will My Square Size Really Work? Will the Number of Squares Across and Down Really Work?**

At some point, I realized / remembered that I wanted to make my design in four-patch quilt blocks, so 9 across and down wasn’t going to work. It needed to be an even number . . .

Four-patch quilt blocks are one of the most common layouts seen in patchwork quilts. They initially contain four equal squares arranged in a grid of two across and two down. [source]

. . . so I had to change to 9 across and 9 down to 10 across and 10 down. But — this was after I had already placed the order! And if you do the math, I didn’t have enough batting! See for yourself:

4in x 10 squares
= 40 + 2in left border + 2in right border
= 44in + 2in extra
= 46in square

*That is over the size of the batting that I had purchased (Baby / Crib size batting is 45in x 60in)

So I had to go through my design options again! Here are the three options I came up with:

Option 1
I thought well . . . I could stick with the 10 x 10 and take a chance that I had enough batting, but that didn’t sit well with me.

Option 2
Cut my squares a little bit smaller — to 4in (3.5in finished with 1/4 in seams)

The math would look like this:
3.5in x 10 squares
= 35in + 2in left border + 2in right border
= 39in + 2in extra
= 41in square

Option 3
Cut the squares larger and have less squares (for my first quilt, that would be less to sew, less to mess up). So, what if I did 5in squares (for 4.5in finished squares with 1/4in seams) like the charm packs and did 8 squares x 8 squares (still an even number so that I could have my four-patch quilt blocks). Here’s the math for that:
4.5in x 8 squares
= 36in + 2in left border + 2in right border
= 40in + 2in extra
= 42in square

And we’re good again! — I was really liking Option 3, but Amy at Diary of a Quilter had a 3in border on her quilt. The quilt on my couch has a narrower border, so I couldn’t decide. So just in case, I wanted to be sure I had enough fabric. . .

Option 3b
4.5in x 8 squares
= 36in + 3in left border + 3in right border
= 42in + 2in extra
= 44in square

Still good here! — Option 3 or 3b it is 🙂

**Update Again – Option 4**

I realized after laying out my quilt it looked really busy and needed some white between all of the colors of the squares. So I thought I’d add 1in sashing all round. But, if I did that and kept the squares at 4.5in x 8 squares across and down, I wouldn’t have enough fabric.

So, I decided to redo it again like this before cutting the fabric:

  • 4in squares finished = 4.5in squares unfinished to account for 1/4in seams
  • 7 squares across & down
  • 1in sashing (white)
  • 3in purple border on both the front side and the back side (folded over, so no need for edging)

To ensure I was counting correctly and had enough fabric, I laid this out in an Excel spreadsheet.

This design makes the finished quilt 42in x 42in.

Here’s Part 2 where I write all about purchasing the quilting supplies I’ll need to complete the quilt . . . and you can refer back to the first post in the series for the overview and links to the remainder of the posts.

Remember to hashtag #QuiltingAlongWithTamara if you’re on social media.

[image - Tamara signature]

Learn to Quilt | Quilt-A-Long |Part I | Picking Out and Buying Fabric | via @ThoroughlyTamara |

This post may contain affiliate links. Questions? Please read my full disclosure . As always — thank you for supporting the brands that support me and my blog!

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