What ARE Blender Fabrics?
That’s a question I was asked recently and I was caught off guard. I mean everyone knows what Blender Fabrics are, right? They’re…you know…the fabrics that blend…together…with each other…for the purpose of………….
Can I be honest?
I have never been very good at choosing colors, prints and/or patterns for my quilts. In fact, when I first started out, my teen son was my secret weapon. He’s an artist at heart and has an eye for things like that. I discovered this by accident one day while fabric shopping, with him in tow. At first, he was so bored and so resentful I had dragged him into a fabric shop of all places, that he was moody, sarcastic and mean by turns. I was wondering how to separate his head from his body without getting arrested for murder when…
…I started choosing fabrics.
As I began to stockpile several bolts of different colored prints in my basket, I just happened to glance up and catch the strangest look on his face as he was looking at my choices. It read, “I smell something dead.”
I asked, “What? What’s the matter?” He tried to play it off as “nothing” and re-affected the dazed and bored look. But, I knew better. When I picked up the next bolt of fabric, the “UGH” look was back. This time, he didn’t wait for me to respond. He asked, “Are you really going to put all those together? They’re awful!”
He began explaining to me that I had chosen way too many BIG/BOLD/BRASH prints and not enough blender fabrics. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think he really used the term “Blender Fabrics”, he was after all, a 15-year-old teen-aged boy who didn’t really know anything about quilting. I think what he actually said was, “…you know, the go-ey-together-colors. Like this…”. He reached for a blue batik. Even though he and I didn’t know it at the time, he was teaching me about Blender Fabrics.
Blender Fabrics are the glue that hold our designs together and bring about that artistic coalescence we all dream of when designing quilts.
Take this quilt (above) for example. The Focus fabric is the tan floral in the center of the star block. The BLENDER FABRICS are all the other colors and small-ish prints surrounding it. The Maroon, the dark green, the light colored green; the white print and solid white. These are all the BLENDER FABRICS that frame and enhance the Focus Fabric.
They are essential and incredibly important.
Shopping For Fabric.
Walking into the fabric department of any store, or into your Local Quilt Shop can be intimidating. Especially when you’re like me, devoid of any artistic talent or skill whatsoever when it comes to choosing colors, styles and print.
One of the first things I learned to do, after that experience with my son, was to take him with me every time I went fabric shopping. His eye for color and print is amazing. However, that didn’t work for long. Once my secret weapon was discovered and his sister began teasing him for being a “sissy quilter”…I was on my own again.
BUT, he had taught me to find ONE focus fabric and choose my other fabric by how well they frame the Focus. But, I still had a lot to learn.
So, I asked around and learned that fabric manufacturers can also be a secret weapon.
Right here on the selvage of most fabrics, the manufacturers print dots of colors that indicate which colors are in the fabric in question, let’s say your Focus Fabric. These dots can then be used to search out blender fabrics of those same colors and in that same color family.
(FYI: The selvages are the bound edges that run along the fabric’s lengthwise grain. Not all manufacturers include these helpful dots. But, most do…)
Okay, so answer the question. What ARE Blender Fabrics!
Blender fabrics are produced in groups or families (often right alongside the Focus prints and patterns) that are tone-on-tone in color, that BLEND with other more artistic prints and patterns. Think: Batiks; think small, very small prints that read solid (look to be solid from a distance), and or solid color fabrics with no print or pattern at all.
Of course, your pattern will lead you in the number of fabrics you’ll need to purchase.
Often patterns read:
You will need:
1 background fabric
1 focus fabric
1 solid dark fabric
1 medium tone small print fabric
These are your blender fabrics.
So, why bring them up, these glue sticks made of cloth called Blender Fabrics? Because, when I was asked about blender fabrics I realized, we don’t often pay a whole lot of attention to these unsung heroes of quilting. Without them, the Focus Fabric would just be a big floral print hanging out by itself on a dull and boring background. Not all that pretty and not all that interesting. Only with her friends, the Blender Fabrics, will she become the Focus she’s meant to be.
I guess my point is this: Pay as much attention to–and spend as much time choosing– your Blenders as you do your Focus and you’ll end up with a gorgeous quilt!