Organizing your fabric

How do you organize your fabric stash? There are so many possibilities. The trick is to find a system that works for you, so that at any time you can locate the fabric that you want. Here are some ideas: by color, by project, by theme. I seem to use a whole combination of these. I like to use mono-chromatic prints, so I have piles of colors. I also have many multicolored fabrics, so there’s a stack of striped fabric and another with dots. I have floral prints, assorted animal prints, miscellaneous prints. The batiks are in a separate section, as I usually don’t mix batiks with other quilting cottons. I also have a different section for hand-dyed fabrics. Possible fabrics for my current project are strewn all over my cutting and sewing table until I’ve made my selections. They usually stay out because I never make all the decisions up front and my projects tend to evolve. Every now and then, I will stack them so that I have space to use my cutting table.

Part of my stash

One advantage of tidying up and sorting is that you can actually see what you have. I often come across fabrics that I had forgotten that I have, and I get excited and inspired. I try to tidy up after I finish a major project, or if I’m going away for a while. If my workplace is uncluttered, it is more enjoyable being in it and I feel more creative. Most of us have more than one project going at once, so there’s usually one of two piles of projects on hold, or new ideas. My studio doubles as my office, so there are bits of paper to contend with and I’m not always very good at keeping them all organized. Once I get into a project, I like to work pretty intensively, so the room gets pretty messy. Then, I’ll get frustrated by the chaos and have a go at cleaning up. I’m fortunately to have a room to devote to my quilting and office needs. The storage places are utilized to the full, so if new stuff comes in, I really need to clear out some of the old stuff. I need to apply this principle to my clothing too….

Quilt Artist, Kathleen Bond, AZ (3), Quilt Backs

In October, I taught at the Thumb Butte Quilters’ Guild in Prescott, AZ. I stayed at the lovely home of the Programs Chair, Kathleen Bond. Kathleen has an impressive body of work including many hand applique quilts. Her fabric choices and combinations are unusual and often very busy, but she has a way of pulling them altogether to make stunning quilts. I’ve already written two posts highlighting some of Kathleen’s quilts. This post shows a couple of her imaginative quilt backs. Many of us have been tempted to purchase pre-printed fabrics for making stuffed animals, dolls or Christmas ornaments. Here’s a way to use up those fabrics to make your quilt backs more interesting. I love the striped binding too.


Rag Rug

Here’s a way to deplete your stash using up fabrics that have been sitting around for a while. This is my almost completed rag-rug made from 2” strips of batik fabrics.

I use Aunt Philly’s toothbrush needle which is more ergonomically friendly on the wrists than trying to make a fabric rug with a large crotchet hook. You can see the blue plastic needle in the picture. These were originally made from toothbrushes in the days when toothbrushes had holes in the handles. The head of the toothbrush was removed and filed into a point. About 20 years ago, toothbrush manufacturers started making fancy handles and dispensed with the hole, so Aunt Philly now makes these needles. Check out her website for more information. This is a fun fireside project that doesn’t require much effort and can be done in low lighting while watching TV. I made one last year and gave it to a friend as a gift. It turned out that her dog absolutely loves it and it became the hanging out and sleeping place of choice!

Visit to Hoffman Fabrics – Part II, fabrics

Last week I shared pictures of the Hoffman Fabrics facility in Mission Viejo, Southern California. In this blog, I’m writing about the fabrics produced by Hoffman. We began our tour with an interesting presentation from Michelle Flores, Marketing and Media Coordinator, who introduced us to the fabric manufacturing process and showed us some examples of the recently designed fabrics that were launched at Spring Quilt Market a few weeks ago. They are very excited to have recently acquired the capability of printing digitally which enables the printing of hundreds of colors in one piece of fabric and the use of much finer lines in the design. The color chip fabric has 374 different colors!

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In traditional screen printing, there are usually no more than 12 colors in a fabric. Here are examples of digitally printed fabrics which illustrate the enormous array of colors. The Christmas tree quilt is made using the poinsettia fabric. These fabrics are digitally printed in Pakistan.

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Hoffman cotton comes from a variety of sources, including the United States. All the cotton is woven overseas mostly in Pakistan, Indonesia and Java. The Hoffman prints with metallics are manufactured in Japan and 3,000 yards are printed on each run. These have as many as 10 colors which are all screen-printed by a machine, printing each color in turn onto the cloth. The metallic gold, silver or copper is applied as a paste after the rest of the printing is completed. Non-metallic prints are produced in Korea, Indonesia and Pakistan. The batiks are made in Bali and here are two recent designs.

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The cotton for batiks has to be of high quality to withstand the harsh process of dyeing and hand stamping with a metal chop. Each piece of fabric is 18-20 yards long and its production goes through several steps of dyeing and over-dyeing as well as hand stamping with the chop and the application of wax to achieve the patterns. After this process the fabric is carefully checked for holes.The pictures show both sides of the chop, (one side with a handle), which is used for creating the patterns.

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The chops measure 6-1/2″ x 6-1/2″ and are created from strips of copper in a steel frame fashioned in patterns copied from black and white drawings.They are dipped in wax which is stamped onto the fabric by hand. Then the fabric is immersed in a vat of dye, and later the wax is removed by boiling the fabric so that the melted wax comes up to the top of the vat and may be skimmed off. Each piece of fabric is unique.

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The packs of Bali-pops are popular. Each pack contains 40 strips. There is a large cutting machine that can cut through all 40 layers at once, but each piece of fabric must be ironed by hand on a huge table and the layers neatly stacked before being sliced into strips. This attractive basket was made from one of Bali-pop packs.

All in all, a fascinating tour which I highly recommend if you have the opportunity.

Visit to Hoffman Fabrics – Part 1, the facility

On my recent trip to teach at Beach Cities Quilt Guild in Mission Viejo, Southern California, I was fortunate that on the afternoon of my lecture, the guild had an organized tour of Hoffman Fabrics. About 20 of us assembled in the warehouse and Michelle Flores, Marketing and Media Coordinator, gave us an informative presentation and showed us around.

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Hoffman Fabrics is a major manufacturer and wholesaler of printed cottons. They are well known for their luscious prints and Bali batiks. There are numerous distributors in USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. Their on-line retailers include E-Quilter, Batiks Plus and Hancock’s of Paducah.

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The fabric arrives from their overseas manufacturers in long rolls. The picture shows the fabric folding machine that folds the fabric in half and winds it into bolts. Most bolts have 15-16 yards of fabric. The newly wound bolts are then wrapped in plastic ready to be shipped to the distributors.

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Next week in Part II, I’ll tell you about the fabric production and show you some examples of the new lines recently launched at Spring Quilt Market.