I love a good yarn-dye, and back when striped shirts were one of my wardrobe staples (i.e., before the T-shirts and shorts of the freelance life), I was loath to buy stripes that were printed instead of woven—it just seemed chintzy, even before I had a real clue about textiles. Using shirting fabrics for sewing, however, really only entered my mind when Stitch was looking for projects for their “True Blue” feature. The only fabric more traditionally blue than denim is shirting—stripes, checks, herringbone, all lined up right there in the fabric store, almost exclusively in blues.
Usually they’re only used one at a time, whether as a conservative blue business shirt or a foppish seersucker suit, but they’re precoordinated with each other. So I patchworked them together to make this Shirting Stripes Toiletry Bag (the pattern is in the current issue of Stitch):
So that’s how shirtings got in my brain initially. Then, while out tracking down some other non-quilting fabrics, I happened upon some more yarn-dyed stripes in less business-meeting colors:
Some were manufactured by Robert Kaufman in the familiar 44" width, but others were 56" or 58" wide and—here’s the kicker—about half the price of a typical yard of (narrower) quilting cotton. They’re a little thinner than quilting fabric, but you can’t beat the price per square inch. And if you quilt with any degree of devotion, you’ve heard the worrying news about rising cotton prices. So maybe turning to shirtings is one way to keep our costs down? After all, plenty of quilts were definitely made before such a things as purpose-made “quilting fabric” even existed.
I’m certainly not going to be forsaking quilting fabric by any means, but sometimes it’s fun to step away from the usual suspects. And no less a designer than Alexander Girard developed an expansive line of Mexicottons, yarn-dyed woven fabrics in strong color combinations (including a red and pink stripe rather like the one I found). For quilting, yarn-dyes give an extra dimension that isn’t possible when the design is only on the surface of the fabric, which is why shot cottons or crossweaves (or whatever you want to call fabric woven with different colors in the warp and weft) look richer than plain solids. Dobby weaves like in the upper-right red fabric add another design element. I’m starting to see more textural weaves in fabric in quilt shops, both imported from Japan and made by the U.S. manufacturers, so this type of shirting may not be that far from the fabrics offered to quilters after all.
That said, do I know what I’m planning to do with all these stripes? No, can’t say I do. But there’s totally a quilt in there somewhere; it’ll just take a few more trips to quilt shops and fabric stores. Which, of course, will defeat any of the original savings. Sigh. Whose idea was this cotton shortage again?