The REAL Reason I Buy So Much Fabric

The REAL Reason I Buy So Much Fabric

Posted by Jen Lopez on Mar 21st 2024

For us quilters, there are a lot of excuses for buying fabric that you don’t really need. The explanations are many, such as: “I’m bored with what I’m working on,” “I need it for a gift,” “I don’t have just what I need at home in my stash,” or “looking at new fabrics inspire new ideas!”. For me, there is really just one explanation that covers it all: digital printing.

I first started seeing digitally printed fabrics in the early 2000’s, although the technology existed twenty some-odd years earlier. The first digitally printed fabrics I saw were very nerdy looking geometric stuff that appeared to be more like diagrams in a lab report from back in my old my MIT days than fabric designs. Fortunately, the florals soon arrived, and they were sumptuous. I was especially fond of anything from Hoffman California. I even went through a period that lasted at least two years of only buying Hoffman’s.

As the technology improved, the costs went down and now digital printing on fabric is everywhere. With traditional printing, each color required a new screen and with each screen the production costs went up. There was a practical limit to how many colors one could have in any one bolt of fabric. Now with digital printing, there is virtually no limit to the number of colors per design. Additionally, the lines can be very thin and crisp, making for a very vivid, even photo-realistic design.

The final benefit of digital printing is the one I like best: Digital printing opens up the market to a whole new generation of independent fabric design artists. Gone are the days of having to work for one of the major fabric producers and only being able to produce designs that the marketing team thought would sell a zillion bolts. Now, independent designers can print as few as 20 yards economically, making for a much larger variety of choices for the fabric consumer. Designers can afford to take chances on niche designs... and do they ever! As a result, there are so many interesting fabrics available today that I simply cannot help myself! I love the diversity of the design and color choices but most importantly, I’m so thrilled to be able to support independent designers.


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