Thursday, July 7, 2011

Plaid facts

Working with all these plaid fabrics has been interesting. They fall into several categories and each has its drawbacks and peculiarities.

First, the thrift store dress shirts. I used a white and blue tattersall shirt for the background on all the blocks and that fabric is a dream to work with. Silky, finely woven, doesn't ravel, takes a press beautifully, and doesn't stretch. The only thing that I found was that the plaid was distorted and pulled out of square in some places in the making of the shirt and some of my pieces aren't completely square with the plaid lines, but it doesn't worry me. I wasn't in the mood to wet and block the fabric, so I just took at as it is. I don't have any more of these shirts but I need to hunt for them. This one was a designer brand (don't remember which one) and the quality shows in the fabric.

Then, my old homespuns which date from the mid nineties and came from a fat quarter bundle of plaids I bought from Keepsake Quilting. These are a very different animal from the homespuns I purchased recently. They are thinner and more finely woven, they don't stretch and they don't have that annoying (at least to me) brushed finish on one side. They are a pleasure to work with, which is more than I can say for the newer homespuns, which are too stretchy and loosely woven and have to be handled carefully. They are from good brands, too, so they aren't cheap stuff. Just a pain to work with. I like plaid bindings so I buy them sometimes but every time I regret it.

There are other recently purchased wovens, however, that are a breed apart. I refer to those yarn dyed plaids sold by French General. These are finely woven, silky and beautifully made and I wish I had more of them but they seem to be hard to find. I bought a Maison de Garance wovens fat quarter bundle last fall; half were these lovely plaids and half were more usual chunky homespun weaves in stripes. I like them too, but not as much.

And finally, the casual plaid shirts from the thrift store. These are a real mixed bag. Some of the shirts were well known brands and are made of quality stuff, and others less so. You have to be very careful when you're thrift store shopping. I found one plaid on my last Goodwill run that had beautiful colors but the fabric was too flimsy to seriously consider. A few that I bought are so tightly woven with such fine threads, however, that you can barely get a sharp pin through them. They are prime goods.

I recently ordered a yarn dyed wovens fat quarter bundle of "Arnold's Attic" from Moda that I will incorporate into the Civil War sampler blocks using that collection's prints, and I'm eager to see how they handle and sew because the plaid pickings locally are pretty slim. I looked for plaids at the Hancock's and Joann's in town and was disappointed with the plaid selection and fabric quality - too loosely woven and stretchy and the colors were awful. I've also ordered a yard of a pumpkin colored plaid from Buggy Barn to use as the binding on this quilt and am curious as to how it will work.

But for the backing of this quilt I decided to use one of the printed plaids from a recent Moda collection, Lilac Hill. Homespuns just seemed too stretchy and unstable in a large piece, and might be a pain for the longarm quilter to handle. I have to remember to ask her what her experience is with these.

How about you? How do you feel about using homespuns in your quilts? Do you mix them with other cottons? Any problems quilting them? I'd love to know.

1 comment:

The Calico Cat said...

I prefer the plaids that are printed rather than woven.

With that said, I have had similar experiences to the ones that you describe.

I too like plaid (& striped) bindings...

I never worry about the plaid being on grain, I prefer them "off" grain.