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.
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….
This photo shows part of my current project which I’ve been piecing on and off for the last 18 months. My teaching schedule has been busy this year and I’ve had family commitments with the joys of twin grandchildren. Hence, progress has been slow. I’m determined to complete the top by the end of the year and have booked my long-arm machine quilter for January. The center is a 28″ Radiant Feathered Star with a 9″ compass in the middle. Then there are four 15″ compass blocks and four 14″ diamond star blocks. The 24 small Ohio Star blocks fill in the gaps. This quilt is a commissioned piece and fortunately, my client is being extremely patient with the length of time it’s taking me to design the quilt and get the job done. I’ll post on this again when the project is closer to completion.
In October, I spent four days in Washington DC between two teaching engagements, one in Baltimore and the other in Newark, DE. When I visited the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, first opened in 1897, I was struck by the abundance of color on the ceilings and walls, as well as the elegance of all the arches and domes. There were also patterns in mosaic on the floors. It was spectacular. I find places like this inspiring and seeing them adds to my store of experiences from which to draw when I am designing quilts. This is a place not to be missed if you have time in Washington DC. Here are some pictures.
In July, I visited QuiltWorks, a wonderful quilt store in Bend, OR. Marilyn Forestell, the quilt store owner, has founded a non-profit organization, Sew Teach Me. Their vision is to match trained and screened mentors with youth to learn to sew at no cost in a safe and nurturing environment supported by a community with the necessary tools, skills and projects for a successful sewing experience.
Marilyn’s team of volunteers teach youth basic sewing skills at her store and want to share their love of sewing with the next generation. The Sew Teach Me website provides a wealth of information and the opportunity for you to set up your own team at your local store. You will receive full guidelines for the projects to help you get started. To learn about becoming more involved, you can also contact Marilyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The four beginning sewing sessions teach basic sewing skills, while creating simple and fun projects, within a one to two-month time period. These classes are free. Materials, including sewing machines that have been donated by the local sewing community.
The four sessions are:
1) Getting to know your sewing machine and making a name tag
2) Making a pillowcase
3) Making a sewing tool caddy
4) Making a pillow pal
The mentors are volunteers who have gone through a background check, and a training session to be prepared to work with students. There are many donation opportunities from donating funds to helping build the program to donating pre-cut kits for the various projects.
I applaud Marilyn for initiating this project which has already introduced over 100 youngsters to the joys of sewing. I encourage you to work with kids. Even if you can’t develop a full program like this, you may have the opportunity to work one-on-one with an eager young person who wants to learn to sew. Start with a small project that may be easily completed, before moving on to larger more time consuming ones. My books, Creative Quilting with Kids and Patchwork and Quilting with Kids have a wide range of projects for individuals and groups. The books are out-of-print, but second-hand copies are available on Amazon.
In late October, I drove across the mountains to Eastern Washington to teach at the North Central Washington Quilt Guild in Wenatchee. I came home via Highway 2 through the picturesque town of Leavenworth, stopping on the east side of town at this delightful quilt store, (11007 Highway 2, Leavenworth). What a perfect combination – a quilt store and a local fresh fruit stand! There’s also a yarn shop. The Leavenworth Quilt Company is a small store, but they have utilized the space nicely and have a good selection of fabrics. There is no quilt store in Wenatchee, so the locals are very appreciative of this store which opened its doors just five years ago. The atmosphere is friendly and it feels cozy and inviting. I recommend a stop there if you are passing through. Here’s a pictorial tour.
During my teaching trip to WY in April 2017, I came across this fun fabric panel made into a small quilt. It was hanging in the bathroom at a quilt store that we visited on the outskirts of Denver on our way to Cheyenne. Enjoy!
When I taught in Soldotna, AK at the Kenai Peninsula Quilters in July, one of my students who was a nurse passed out sewing band-aids for everyone. I always joke about having liability insurance but not wanting any blood in my classroom! I’m a stickler for checking that my students close their rotary cutter blades every time they put their cutters down, even if they are going to pick them up right away. I tell them that they get one warning and then if I catch them again, they will be fined $5 which will go to the Mongolian Quilting Center! They laugh, but seriously, we need to respect these wonderful sharp rotary cutters that save us so much time and cut so cleanly and accurately. Here’s the selection of sewing band-aids. These really amused me.
As we approach Veteran’s Day, it seems appropriate to remind you all of the opportunity to make patriotic quilts for wounded veterans or for family members of veterans killed in action. American Hero Quilts is one such group that does this. At our Bainbridge Island Quilt Fest in September, sponsored by the Bainbridge Island Modern Quilt Guild, there was a Sew In to make quilt blocks for a quilt to donate to this group.
Anyone could participate to sew simple 4-patch blocks, or string-pieced blocks to make a replica of this antique quilt using patriotic colors. The new blocks are much more vibrant in color, the antique quilt having faded with age. This project was coordinated by Marybeth O’Halloran and Barbara Kirk.
The American Hero Quilts organization was established in 2004 to provide recognition and appreciation to wounded service men and women who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Each quilt as a metaphoric hug and a way to express gratitude for their service to our country. There are now over 800 volunteers participating in the program, ranging from piecers, binders, quilters and other helpers, including generous contributors. As of the first of the year in 2018, over 26,500 quilts had been provided to deserving men and women and their families. The quilts are sent to Madigan Hospital at Joint Base Lewis McCord, other Warrior Transition Centers in the US, and directly to bases in Afghanistan.