Hello fellow quilters!
We have come to the final lesson in building a proper stash! Today we are going to talk about low volumes--another "unsung hero" of the quilt fabric world.
Before I talk about the importance of low volumes, I want to give you a little history about myself. I graduated with a degree in Art History and spent significant time doing gallery work at the campus art gallery. I also worked part time in custom framing. One of the most significant things I learned from these two things was about a little thing called "visual rest."
If you go to a museum, you will notice that any photographs will often have a large mat between the photo and the frame--usually 4" or more. Why? To create visual rest. Visual rest is exactly that--it gives your eye a bit of space to relax and--overall--allows them to focus on what you want them to focus on. In a gallery, that space between the frame and the photo leads your eye to the center of the frame and what the curator really wants you to see--the artwork.
Our eyes are bombarded with trillions of bits of data every day. Have you ever looked at something--a quilt, a picture, anything, that was so "busy" you actually had to look away? For me, very busy things create anxiety. It is overwhelming.
In quilting, where you may have literally hundreds of pieces making up a quilt--visual rest is a welcome respite and adds to the beauty. Rather than overwhelming the eye, low volumes will help the eye interpret the design clearly and allow the eye to roam and to be led.
You may be asking yourself, "Victoria, can't I just use a white solid?" And my answer is, "Yes! Absolutely!" You can always fall back on that. However, a low volume print can be more versatile and add some depth and dimension while still providing that much needed visual rest.
So what is a low volume print? A low volume print is any print where the print blends away when seen from a distance. It's similar to a blender, but differs in that low volumes will always be light and soft in color--think whites, creams, sage, blush, etc in subtle prints. In other words, a low volume can be a blender, but a blender is not necessarily a low volume. Does that make sense?
The good news here is that you can find entire low volume collections that take the work out of mixing and matching for you. Since I sell Art Gallery Fabrics, that is the line I know best. Some examples of their collections include Serenity Fusions or their new Vert Fusions which I have used as an example in the pic above. However, other fabric lines are sure to carry their own.
Low volumes are fantastic to keep in fat quarter cuts if you like to make scrappy quilts. However, I love to use a low volume print as background! It adds an expert touch without being overwhelming. Using prints as background can be a bit tricky, but it is almost always safe with a low volume print. You can see in my Better Together quilt that I used a low volume blender for the background and the result is sweetly vintage, yet it doesn't distract from the other prints.
So, depending on how much you dare, you may want to keep in mind that a good low volume print is worth buying in yardage (3 yards is usually a safe bet for most throw size quilts) if you want to give a low volume background a go. Otherwise, start with some fat quarters or half yards. It will help balance your stash and be a great addition. As a follower of mine pointed out, blenders and low volumes are great to add to your cart when you need to meet a minimum for shipping. You will always find a use for them--especially low volumes.
I only have one word of warning about low volumes. Perhaps now you are thinking, I want to make a low volume quilt. I think that is a fantastic idea! But if you are a new quilter or haven't worked in all low volumes before, I encourage you to do one of two things.
One: either buy a whole collection of coordinating prints. Or, two, make sure to put the fabrics you want to use up on a design wall and then photograph them from about 6 feet away.
The reason I say this is that low volume can quickly turn into "void" if you don't include enough contrast (ask me how I know😅). Or worse, if you include one solid or print that is just a bit too dark...it will be all that you see. Low volumes are like an "all natural, no make up" make up look. It is way harder to achieve since it is so understated.
Also, low volume quilts are notoriously difficult to photograph and, even when someone gets a good pic, I can guarantee that quilt is 1000 times more beautiful in real life. So if you aren't comfortable with how much contrast is too much or not enough, pair a pretty collection like Vert fusions with a few soft-toned solids, take some pics to verify everything looks balanced and voila! You will have a beautiful quilt in no time.
So...there you go...the four things you need to have equally in your stash: solids, prints, blenders and low volumes. Half yards are generally enough, unless you need the fabric for backing or background. Always try to pick up blenders and low volume prints with every shopping trip and invest in full low volume collections when possible. (To help you get started—the beautiful Vert Fusions FQ bundle shown above will be 10% off 7/9-7/11 while supplies last—no code needed).
Arm yourself with this guide when you are fabric shopping. If your cart is full of prints, reevaluate and ask yourself-- do you have coordinating solids and blenders for those prints? Or do you need to buy them?
Remember--stashes are not built in a day. I know because I really tried to do it. 😄
The result are these rubber totes I call "the forsaken bins" because they sit unloved in a corner of our basement. When I was a new quilter, I bought a lot of fabric with no plan and not realizing that all those design rules I learned in college also applied to quilting. (What can I say? I was just an excited and eager quilter--I wasn't thinking clearly yet.)
But that leads me to one final point--never forget that quilting is an art. Allow your own personal style to shine through. Don't worry if you hate blue or only love to use solids. If it expresses your style and makes you happy--that's what counts. I wrote this for quilters who may feel like I did--overwhelmed and feeling stuck in a stash rut. It is frustrating when you want to create, but feel paralyzed about not knowing where to start. So if you have your own forsaken bins and needed this, I hope it helps you grow in confidence as a quilter.
Now for the fun part--who won the giveaway? The lucky winner is @lucidkatie! I will be contacting you via DM on instagram to confirm and you will have 24 hours to claim your gift!
Thank you so much for all the love you have shown the series. Please feel free to chat with me on Instagram! I would love to hear what else you would like to know more about! Did I mention my original ambition was to be an Art History professor? I love to teach and I would love to know what topics about design you would love to learn more about. I'm all ears!
Until next time, have a safe summer and happy quilting! Be sure to follow me @midlife_quilter on Instagram for more fun and more giveaways!