Road Trip

We recently went to the Southwest to visit family, and of course that required visits to a few quilt shops! I like to visit quilt shops when I travel because I always find something new. All these shops have websites, so I’m embedding links to allow you to visit them, too.

First stop was Thread Bear in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Las Vegas is a nice little town northeast of Albuquerque.  It has interesting architecture for those of us who like to see fun buildings of different eras. We stayed in the oldest hotel in town, on the town square. It was built in the late 1800s.

fabric, thread bear, las vegas NM

Fabric from Thread Bear in Las Vegas, NM

But about the quilt shop: Thread Bear had lots of fun fabric from which to choose!  I limited myself (with some effort) to the two pieces above.

Next was Loveland, Colorado, where Stitches has opened since my last visit to the town. They had lots of lovely modern fabrics, so I had to have a few fat quarters. One of the pinks and the yellow are the same pattern as the purple fabric I got at Thread Bear–that’s always fun 🙂

Fabric from Stitches in Loveland, Colorado

After Loveland, we went on to Albuquerque, NM, which has several quilt shops.  I limited myself to purchases at two of them.  Especially notable, however, was Hip Stitch.  They had so much beautiful fabric (including what looked like the full line of Grunge) that I was in there a looong time (just ask my husband!) trying to limit my selection.  Then when I got to checkout, the clerk helpfully pointed out that they stock postal service flat rate boxes, so I could buy more than I could carry and have it mailed to me!  Oh my, what marketing!  So if you own a quilt shop, take note!  Anyway, here are my fabrics from Hip Stitch (I resisted the urge to buy more and have it shipped):

Hip Stitch albuquerque, nm

Fabric from Hip Stitch in Albuquerque. The red has a silver metallic print that I couldn’t resist.

Next is Albuquerque was Stitchology, where I selected several fat quarters from their nice variety.  They also had lots of lovely fabric for clothing construction, but I stuck to my priorities and did not get drawn back into that!

fabric, stitchology, albuquerque

Fat quarters from Stitchology in Albuquerque

I was able (with a little effort) to fit all my finds into my suitcase.  I do have a project planned for each of these fabrics!  I’m off to the studio now…hope you have a good week!

KonMari in the Studio

Because I had seen so many reviews of it, I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It is very Japanese in character: there is a right way to do everything, and KonMarifollowing the rules brings good fortune. I’m a little surprised at how much it has caught on in the West. The author, Marie Kondo, calls her method for “tidying” KonMari, a combination of her names.

I was unexpectedly convinced by reading her book that I can, indeed, get rid of a lot of my “stuff” and be happier for it!  And I thought I’d start in my studio, since that won’t involve anybody but myself.

My studio is pretty neat, with almost everything stored away.  And when I see pictures of other people’s studios, I realize that my stash is minimal by many standards!

KonMari recommends dealing with things by category, and in a strict order. There are no categories for a quilt studio, so I made my own categories and ordered them like this:
1. Fabric
2. Tools, such as rulers and scissors
3. Notions, such as thread and ric-rac
4. Published materials, such as books and patterns
5. Sewing and serging machines
6. Everything else

The method requires gathering all items of a particular category in one place. ALL must come out of their drawers, boxes, etc. Ms. Kondo says to pile it all on the floor, but you know THAT’s not happening!

studio organization, stash

Some of the stash laid out on tables–and some bins on the floor, too

The next step is to handle each piece and decide whether it gives me joy. If it does, it stays. If not, it GOES!

studio organization, stash managemengt

The stash from another angle

This may, at first, seem like a waste. After all, I paid for that fabric, washed, ironed, and stored it. But after reading the book, I believe the true waste is being weighed down by things I’m hoarding because I “might need them” or “intend to use them” in the mythical “some day”.  And really, do I want to work for hours on a quilt made with fabric I don’t love?

I’ll let you know how this first step turns out 🙂  How are you managing your stash?

Out With the Plaid!

Several of the blogs I read have been focused lately on purging unwanted fabrics from the stash.  It sounds like a good idea. Mind you, I still think it’s important to have a good stash. But at this point it should be a little more curated than it is!

fabric stash

Lots of stash–how much fits my current needs?

We’ve all got fabric we don’t want. Maybe it was a gift, maybe we’ve just moved past the aesthetic phase in which we bought it, maybe we ordered online and it wasn’t quite what we expected. Whatever. It’s taking up space and heaping on guilt: maybe we’ll need it some day: waste not, want not and all that 😦

There are several things to do with unwanted fabric, including:

  • Donate the fabric
  • Make donation quilts
  • Cut it up small enough to use for its color only
  • Add some fabrics you like better to make another quilt
  • Make something like wrapped clothesline bowls where the fabric will look different
  • Use it for quilt backs
  • One woman even tore her unwanted fabric into strips and made rag rugs.  Yikes!

So here’s my first de-stash: Fabrics that don’t have a nice “hand”, or feel. Maybe they’re cheaply made, but maybe not. Anyway they don’t feel good so I don’t want to work with them.


My first de-stash pile

And here’s my second de-stash: Plaids. I’ve made multiple plaid quilts and enjoyed them, but enough is enough already!  The plaids will go to my sewing buddies if they want them; otherwise I’ll donate them.


These plaids have to GO!

So now I’ve put the fabric that doesn’t feel good, and some of the plaids, into my “bad fabric” box to use for tearing strips to tie up my tomatoes, cut into “bridges” for continuous piecing, etc

The discard bin

The discard bin

And what about you? Any plans to de-stash? How?

Fairyland to Vermont

I’ve just submitted my improvisational quilt “In Fairyland” to the Vermont Quilt Festival, and of course I’m hoping it gets in!

improvisationally pieced quilt

In Fairyland

I made the blocks at the top just for fun when I got an EQ add-on called “Town & Country Patchwork” by Cori Derksen & Myra Harder (who have generously agreed to my use of their designs in this quilt for the show).  The blocks are paper pieced and I made them in fantasy colors because those were the scraps I had on the day I decided to make them. Then the blocks sat around for quite a while 😉  Sound familiar?

Eventually I decided I needed to use up some of my MANY scraps.  At least the scraps are cut into strips of standard widths, so when I get a notion to use them, they’re ready to go.  So I just made rows of scraps, putting the sky-type ones at the top.  Below the houses, I arranged the thinner rows in the “distance”.  Finally, I found one of the flower fairies and put her in near the bottom.improv pieced quilt

My friend Joyce quilted the whole thing on her long arm, using a pattern of leaves at my request.quilting on improv quilt

I’m happy to say I’ll be going to the Vermont Quilt Festival this year–something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I’m hopeful that “In Fairyland” will be included so I can view my own quilt there!  Anybody else going?

10 Reasons to Have a Good Stash

Fabrics in storage cabinet

Inside one storage cabinet–lots of stash!

We often read that a quilter’s stash of fabric has expanded past the bounds of the studio, taking over kitchen cabinets, the linen closet, and even bins in the garage.  (We ALREADY KNEW stash was stored under the beds.)  Next week I’m going to discuss the possible need to get rid of some stash, but for now I’m listing 10 good reasons to have plenty of available fabric.

  1. Stash saves trips to the store.  Often you need “just a little” fabric to finish a project.  Pulling from your stash rather than making a trip to the store saves both time and money.
  2. Binding:  If you live at a distance from shopping, stash may be a necessity.  I live an hour from the nearest quilt shop and depend on my stash to provide binding fabric for most of my quilts.

    fabric stash

    The solids drawer; one of the batik drawers

  3. Comfort quilts:  Many guilds ask each member to make a single block for a “comfort quilt” to be given to a sick guild member.  If you can pull from stash for this, you can get it done quickly and turned in on time.

    Drawers, fabric

    Fabric in storage drawers

  4. Audition options:  You may decide to add sashing or borders to a set of blocks, and having several fabric options available allows you to lay the blocks out and “try” various fabrics, then get started at once when you find the right one.

    nickel squares in bins

    5 inch squares–two bins!

  5. Instant gratification:  If you have adequate stash, you can start IMMEDIATELY on the wonderful quilt in the magazine that came today!  I’ve done this more than once, pulling all I need for a project from my stash, and it’s VERY satisfying!
  6. Last minute projects:  Who hasn’t been faced with a baby shower, housewarming, or other occasion with little time to make the appropriate gift?  Having the fabric you need on hand can give you a good head start.
  7. Thrift:  By purchasing fabric when it’s on sale and keeping it on hand, you can minimize the amount of full-priced fabric needed for a project.

    Blue fabric

    The blue drawer! But not even close to all the blue fabric…

  8. Try-outs:  Stash can be used to test a block pattern before deciding whether to buy fabric for a whole quilt.
  9. Backing:  Stash can be used to piece the back for a quilt, incorporating scraps or extra blocks from the front.  This provides more visual interest than one large piece of backing fabric.

    Closet fabric storage

    And a closet full of projects, and fabric, and…

  10. Usefulness and beauty:  “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  ― William Morris     We have lots of stash because fabric is beautiful as well as useful.

5 Great Uses for Orphan Blocks


Orphan blocks (i.e., those not intended for a particular quilt “home”) JUST INCREASE ON THEIR OWN in the dark places where you store your quilt bits…I learned that I have SEVERAL HUNDRED when I started taking pix for this post.

They come from lots of places:

*The sample blocks you made to try out a new pattern before cutting the fabric for the quilt

*The extra blocks you made so you’d have design choices in a quilt top

*The “found” blocks that just JUMPED ON YOU at a garage sale or thrift shop

*The single blocks you made at quilt classes but didn’t like well enough to duplicate for a whole quilt

*And the ones that JUST SHOWED UP and you have NO IDEA what they’re doing there

You get the idea—there are many sources of orphan blocks and many of us have quite a collection.

Therefore, I’m starting a little series of posts about what to do with them.  Here’s my list; I’ll write a separate “how-to” post on each use.  I know I’ll learn things along the way; hopefully my readers will, too!  So here we GO…

#5:  Decorate a tote bag.  You don’t even have to make the tote bag yourself!  These make great gifts.

#4:  Make a throw pillow.  Quilt it or not.  Use to spruce up your couch or as a housewarming gift.

#3:  Decorate a “work shirt”.  Great gift for quilty friends.

#2:  Make a table runner.  Keep on hand for hostess gifts, etc.  And a good build-up to my favorite:

#1:  Make a scrap quilt with an orphan-block focal point—MANY options with this one!

As you can see from the pix at the top and below, I have lots of orphan blocks to use!  I hope you’ll try out some of these ideas as I post instructions for them.