Last week I promised Susan (you know who you are!) that I would have a chat on the blog about my stash of white and cream fabrics. If you've read Quilting: From Little Things you would know that I blather on a bit in there about my fabric - what I buy, where I buy it, how much of it I get - and also that I make no apologies for my vast stash.
When you walk into my studio you go through two shelves of equal size either eide of the door, floor to ceiling, that also go along the top of the door frame. The very top shelf has bags of quilts stored along it, then all my whites and creams, then all the other colours down the shelves. Each colour has a shelf (or two), and the fabrics are divided by spots, stripes, small pieces (FQ on down - anything smaller than 5" is a scrap and goes in the scrap bin) and large pieces (1m and up).
I used to keep all my little animal fabric together but now there;s so many of them that I store them in colour. Did you know that all my quilts have an animal in them somewhere? I hoard them like a crazy person.
Now don't get all horrified. I didn't buy this fabric all at once! I've been quilting for a LONG time and this fabric has built up over about 20 years. Plus I inherited my Mum's stash when she passed away, so there are bits of that in there. And you also have to take into account that I make upwards of 30 quilts a year. That's a lot of fabric.
But I digress. I keep my whites and creams seperate. You can probably see from some of the shelves that there are a few whites and creams in there - that's usually because I've been working with them and shoved them back into the colour shelf instead of the neutral shelf. Every few months I go wild in the studio and tidy everything up, and refold all the messy fabric. It's due for a tidy at the moment but I'm making book quilts so there is a fabric explosion going off right now.
The whites and creams are seperate for a reason. I don't see them as colour, I see them as space. I love using whites and creams in my quilts because they create "air" - places in the quilt that are a place for the eye to rest, or that create their own movement and interest from the negative space they generate.
You will notice that not many of my creams and whites are plain fabrics. I don't use a lot of solids. In my opinion solids often create a hole in the quilt rather than a negative, expecially if you are using a lot of other patterned fabrics with them. There might be times when I WANT a hole, but mostly the play of lots of different patterns in loads of different sizes and shapes is what does it for me with a quilt. And so the backgrounds or neutrals have to be patterned too.
So what makes it a white fabric? Here's a (slightly extreme) example. The Amy Butler on the left is a purple. The spot on the right is a neutral. Even though they both have light coloured backgrounds the Amy reads as purple to me and the other as cream.
I love these two fabrics together. It's hard to tell from the pic but the Amy has a white background and the spot a creamy off white. That doesn't bother me in the slightest. I often use whites, off whites and creams all in the same quilt. If you get the balance right, this can make for awesome subtle background patterns rather than the creams making the whites look dirty.
These are just my opinions. I am well aware of the current passion for solids in the quilting marketplace - they just aren't really my thing, although you will find a few quilts in the new book (due out April 2013) where I've done a Sarah Fielke on some gorgeous Kona cottons! More on that later :)