The price of fabric and other values

Oh that’ll be just perfect, I said to myself as my eyes came to rest on a bolt of blue Phillip Jacobs fabric. This was ‘the one’ for my August Rain quilt, the perfect backing fabric. The colours would complement the front and, I don’t know, I could just imagine these petunias after some summer rain.

Backing fabric

Phillip Jacobs, Petunias

I took it to the counter to have a length cut and the sales assistant warily asked “you do know this is £16.00 a metre?” (That’s $25+ USD). I was expecting it to be £12.00 (which in itself is a hefty price tag, but not unusual these days). “It’s a Kaffe Fassett.” Well, no actually, it’s a Phillip Jacobs. I roughly calculated that I would need four metres (due to the width): £64.00 ($102+ USD) for a lap quilt. For the back. Maybe I could get away with 3.5 meters? Ok, so that’s, what £56.00 ($90 USD)? For the back. I stared in disbelief, having seen only yesterday that someone on Facebook had picked up 7.5 yards of Kaffe Fassett Aboriginal Dot in a sale for $2.99 a yard (£1.86) in the US. I think it’s fair to say that would never happen here. I really would love to know why fabric sold in this country, that’s made in the far east, costs such ridiculously high prices, when clothing, made in the same part of the world, can be so cheap? That’s clothing. Fabric that’s already been cut up and stitched back together again. As opposed to fabric. Which hasn’t. It’s actually more expensive to make your own clothes than it is to buy them. Which is downright bloody ridiculous.  Who’s making the money? And at who’s expense?

I bought half a metre. My August Rain quilt is made of scraps: waste not want not, make do and mend. I would make do with half a metre of the perfect fabric and find a creative way of piecing it with something perhaps less perfect, but most definitely more affordable.  I’m going away next week and I plan to take it with me to hand quilt in the evenings. I’m really looking forward to getting it under way and by the time I finish the quilting I might’ve saved enough pennies to buy the perfect fabric for the binding instead. I still came out of the shop smiling, half a metre of a lovely fabric is better than none at all. That sorted I had some time to spare as I waited for my son to arrive in town after college. He needs to buy a new jumper.

That reminds me (don’t ask me why!), I need a new bag. I haven’t bought a new bag for well over a decade and I’m getting a tad fed up carrying around the massive (but lovely – it’s orange!) laptop bag that Kim and his dad gave me for my first mother’s day 16 years ago (and I don’t want to completely wear it out either.) I want something small, robust and relatively waterproof. I find something I like, make sure everything I need fits in (it’s pretty small), buy it and take it home. Kim decides he’s not coming in to town after all.

I’m still smiling when I get back. Until that is I realise I’d forgotten to try the bag with my glasses in and that when they’re in a  hard case they won’t fit in with everything else. There’s nothing like getting to ‘a certain age’ and needing reading glasses to remind you that you’re a ‘certain age’. They drive me nuts. Having got this far down the road I was used to not wearing them, so now I have nothing but trouble remembering I actually need the things. And I can never find them when I do. The evening’s agenda suddenly changed. I gave myself a couple of hours to make a soft, quilted case that would easily fit in to the new bag. And was bright enough that I could see it a mile off.

Red quilted glasses case 2104. © Stephanie Boon, www.DawnChorusStudio.com

New glasses case. It’s bright! (And this *is* Kaffe Fassett fabric.)

I am ridiculously pleased with the results. Disproportionately pleased for something that was quick and simple to make and is as utilitarian as a glasses case. Little things please little minds, so they say.

I’ve also been cutting up more shirtings for the Ocean Waves blocks I mentioned yesterday. The train journey to Norfolk at the weekend will be a long one and piecing some of these should pass the time productively. I love the rhythm these blocks create, even though I’ve got one of them upside down in the (terrible) photo.  I suspect that when I come to stitch the blocks together I’ll be doing plenty of ripping out!

Ocean Waves patchwork blocks, © Stephanie Boon, 2014 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Riding the waves

This quilt will eventually be for my son, Kim, although it’ll probably be a couple more years in the making yet. Can you imagine saying that to some people, “a couple of years to make”. It’s just so against the ‘now, now, now’ culture this society promulgates (I think it’s even evident in quilt making). I would love it if more people found the deep satisfaction that can be had in ‘slow stitching’, making something by hand, for yourself; it gives so much more meaning to the word ‘value’ (and of course that doesn’t just apply to sewing). Value becomes about time and process, intention – which is significantly more than it’s monetary worth. I’m already thinking about what I want to quilt in those white squares, something to do with the sea, with Cornwall perhaps, so that wherever Kim ends up in the world, he’ll have something to remind him of home.

To me that’s where real value lies.


If you’d like to see some completed Ocean Waves quilts for ideas and inspiration I highly recommend these:

  • Ocean Waves Quilts Pinterest board by Jean Hortado includes modern, antique and vintage interpretations
  • Great book with a crib quilt Ocean Waves pattern

Well that’s me about finished for the day, what have you been working on, I’d love to come over to your place and find out 🙂 Linking up with Work In Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced (link in the sidebar on the right) – some festive Fair Isle inspired quilting going on over there this week!
Happy quilting lovely friends

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8 replies
  1. JanineMarie
    JanineMarie says:

    Oh, I hear you about slow stitching. I just finished a long-term hand quilting project yesterday, and felt a little sad that it was done. It’s so relaxing and meditative to hand quilt–even though I do enjoy quilting by machine for a quicker finish. Your ocean waves quilt is lovely.

    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Oh JanineMarie, I know exactly what you mean about finishing up a long-term project, sometimes I can hardly bear to say goodbye! I have nothing against machine quilting at all (and it can still take an awful long time), but I don’t find it relaxing at all – more of a fight to get it under the machine to be honest!

  2. kate
    kate says:

    Loving that ride the waves quilt. I know what you mean about time, my MIL was shocked when I told her that the quilt I’ve been making for her (for two years) may take as long to finish. It’s just how it goes!!

    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Exactly, and if you’re enjoying the process what does it matter how long it takes? And I’m sure she’ll find it’ll be worth the wait, I know I would 🙂

  3. Elita @ Busy Needle Quilting
    Elita @ Busy Needle Quilting says:

    It rubs me the wrong way too when I find “the fabric” for something here & it’s so expensive! I know why (import taxes etc) but it just bugs me. I’m sure you’ll find something beautiful to do with that August Rain that will allow you to see it often. Loving the Ocean Waves & the sentiment behind it is spot on! Happy quilting!

    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Thanks Elita, lovely to see you again! I think a binding will be a great way to see it often, maybe with some larger patches on the reverse to get to see the full glory of some of those petunias! I think the frustration with fabric prices comes from seeing just how many quilts ‘our American cousins’ can make in a year – it must allow you to really explore your creative impulses. The trouble is that doing that here would bankrupt me in a couple of weeks!!!

  4. Mary
    Mary says:

    That is gorgeous fabric but the price is ridiculous. What is a “jumper” – to me it’s like a sleeveless dress that you’d wear over a turtleneck or blouse in the winter. My guess is a jacket. I like your glass case using a pretty fabric that you’ll enjoy each time you pull out your glasses.

    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      That made me laugh Mary! A ‘jumper’ is what, I think, you call a sweater! Jumper is a much more common word than sweater here, although you do hear it occasionally. I forget the little differences in language we have – and when it’s brought to your attention the word ‘jumper’ just sounds really funny, who knows where it comes from! And you’re right, the glasses case is still making me smile 🙂


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