Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stash management

I spent the best part of the past two days working on my stash. Well...working in my sewing room and dealing with/managing my stash. Now I don't have a huge stash. When I started quilting, my initial objective would be to use all of the fabric that I had on hand before I bought more. That objective didn't last too long. Then I resolved not to let my fabric have birthdays. The fact is that right now most of my fabric is under two years old. I usually try to have little or no fabric left when a quilt is done. Whatever the quilt calls for, I draw out or recalculate the stated requirements because after a big finish, I don't want any leftovers. Nonetheless, today and yesterday I sorted and reorganized what I have and right now I know what's there...which is more than I could have said three days ago. My bankers box of scraps is overflowing and my box of pieces too small to save is also full. When I was sewing garments, the fabric leftover was tossed. Not now. You never know when you need a tiny piece of green for an applique piece and what's the point of cutting into a large piece for a small piece you have on hand!!?

I like to keep a good assortment of fabrics: plenty of neutrals, both light and dark, and a range of choices in my country palette. My stash pretty well "matches". That's the way I buy fabric. I practically never buy one piece of fabric, no matter how great it is. When I get to a quilt shop, I have to know what I am looking for or else it's a waste of time for me. I wander around with that 'deer in the headlights stare' and don't buy a thing. A couple of years ago, I wanted to make a red quilt. Left Brain and I were at Mardens in Waterville ME, and I had no trouble finding that first great piece but I meandered around and just couldn't finish off the 3-3-2-2 (0r 1) combo...that is, till I stood in line at the cutting table and found the last two being cut for the customer in front of me!! What luck... and the combination made into a beautiful quilt. Similarly when I was looking for blacks. It's often easy to find the first two but those third and fourth pieces can be a challenge. I know people who collect for months to make a particular quilt and I gave that a try with nautical fabric. I have a box of nauticals...notice: a BOX of nautical fabric...not a NAUTICAL QUILT. I probably won't make that quilt. Kind of a waste, both of time searching and the money spent.

Recently I read an article called The Color-Filled Fabric Pantry in Quiltmaker magazine, May/June 2006. A great article if you can put your hands on it. Written by Heather Thomas, it begins with this paragraph:
"A workable stash is like a well-stocked pantry: it has all the basic necessities and is supplemented by the odd specialties. A stash, like a pantry, should provide its owner with the resources to create whatever she wants, whenever she wants. For a quiltmaker, fabric is the medium. We should learn to buy it in the same way a cook stocks a pantry, or the way a painter buys paint. We need to buy fabric not only because it is beautiful, but because it is useful".

As you see, the article suggests that the quilter should be able to go into her stash and create a wonderful project with the fabrics at hand. Have you ever heard a quilter say she bought a piece of fabric but has 'no idea what I am ever going to do with it'? Now I am not quite this systematic but I don't feel overwhelmed by the fabric-on-hand. My Christmas fabric is in one container, albeit a really large one, but I suspect that in a month or so, there will be considerably less. I am not buying more, except for a good Christmas green which I need for a Pam Bono project I am starting in November. The greens I have are too limey or too blue or too bright. One nice piney green and I will be set to begin the gift-making for this year. Two gifts are done, a few more to go. Tick tock...I know!! I have a wonderful quilt called The Gathering pieced as well and ready to quilt and a Red Onion top ready to be quilted. Two more months of the Debbie Mumm block of the month and that will be finished ...well, the top will be pieced. That's just the beginning!!

The Heather Thomas article suggests doing a fabric inventory and building your fabric pantry by purchasing what you need to round out your collection. She also encourages having your stash in an open area so that you can see it regularly and be excited about it and Heather uses the word "CULLING"!!! Get rid of the dated fabric. That could be tough...I am thinking about those beautiful nauticals I have looked at so many times!!! There is so much more in this article you may want to have that particular issue of Quiltmaker in your library. It's a great edition and the link to buying this past issue is here:
The article concludes with a great commentary on the color wheel and descriptions of those pesky terms that sometimes confuse us, like hues, tints, tones, shades and values and be sure to wander over to for tons of great articles like this one.

The next projects will be made from my stash. I am going on a non-buying spell for a few months, maybe till the spring. So right now, for me, it's all about stash management. Use it up and then fill it up!! That's a win-win situation if I ever saw one!

Fall landscape

I thought the second landscape would be an easier task than the first, which was correct in only one applique skills were a bit better. Doing it at home, without the inspiration of two dozen others and a brilliant teacher was not quite the same but I completed the project and I like it. As with most undertakings, I am thinking about the next one. I added the little sailboats because my friend Sylvia has a quilted landscape in her bathroom which has a tiny red sail on the horizon and I thought it was beautiful. This project is bordered and bound with fabric rather than matted and prepared for framing. Just another option.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Help for machine quilting

I have already owned up to being a gadget person. That's a given. This morning I took two of my latest for a test spin with fabulous results. I hope you give some thought to the investment required with these...small as it is...but there may be a slight search involved.

My favorite part of quilting is in fact THE QUILTING which for me screams "needle and thread in your hand!!" Doing the hand work was and still is my pleasure in working on a project. Then again, there is the time factor and the fact that most of us quilters have far more pieces than we have hours in the day. That is reality!! Small projects (and occasionally LARGE projects) of mine have found themselves on the deck of my sewing machine (and sometimes on the quilting machine of a wonderful quilter named Betty Gillan) . Failing that, they wouldn't get done. This past month I took a machine quilting workshop with Dorinda McCully and since then I have practiced this unique style of quilting with moderate success. To enhance my skill, I first purchased a new open-toed quilting foot from my local Pfaff dealer for a cost of approx $25, which I thought was quite a bargain. . This foot is so much better than the darning foot that comes with the machine, providing far more visibility ... and if you have tried machine quilting, that visibility in front of and behind the needle is most important. I hope you can see in the photo what I am getting at. Your local quilt shop probably has a machine quilting foot of one kind or other...there are a few generic ones on the market so if you can't get one that's designed for your machine, give one of them a try. I have heard that The Big Foot is quite good as well and have seen it for $38 at a local quilt store.

My second gadget of the day is a product called SewSlip which is a "slippery non-stick top surface for all your free-motion sewing with a permanent tacky back to hold it in place". I thought long and hard about buying this item because it was $38 plus all of the applicable taxes and it seemed a bit unnecessary. After all, when you are doing free motion quilting, you have dropped the feeds and there is little or no resistance to moving your "sandwich" around. Not true!! This multi purpose sheet sits on top of a deck that surrounds my sewing machine when I remove that little compartment which holds all of the tools. It is a generous 12" x 18" and it can be trimmed to fit your particular working surface. I need to trim about 3cm off the front of mine in order for it to just fit on the deck. It makes my "sandwich" practically float as I am stippling. It's a great item, really. The website for this is and it's worth a good look. I got mine at Timeless Stitches in River John NS and personally I feel it has helped improve the quality of my machine quilting....and that's what I want out of a gadget: I want to know that it has helped me do something better. Why else would we buy something!! We could use that money to buy FABRIC!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bendable Bright Light

I am a gadget person. There...that's out of the way!! If I can find something to make my task easier, I am all over it. This Bendable Bright Light is my current favorite quilting gadget because it allows me to sew into the night!!! Even though I have good lighting in my sewing room, this little light which can be directed right at the presser foot of my machine, makes sewing easier when daylight is scarce. The light is available at good quilt stores, and I have found that both north and south of the 49th parallel, it's about $50. Money well spent. It attaches to your sewing machine with a little adhesive disc and you can buy an additional disc for about $10. ... which I think is a bit steep...however it allows you to move the light to your serger if you see the need. At any rate, this flexible light is a great addition to your arsenal of toys and it makes a pleasant task even more so. How good is that!?

Monday, October 19, 2009

October workshop landscape

Landscape adventure

There's nothing like learning from the master. Perhaps "master" isn't quite the correct term in this case... but "mistress" doesn't sound right either!! Valerie Hearder is more like "the source" of landscape technique quilting. After all...she has two books on the topic...and if you have TWO books, then you must be some kind of source!! That's the way I see it!! "Points of View" may just be my current favorite book. Moving on.....

Saturday morning, October 17th 2009, was my introduction to Valerie and her technique of producing small landscapes in fabric. I had done a landscape before and was pleased with it, but this one, under her direction, was MY landscape. I picked the fabric, cut the shapes and pieced them together. It was mine. I like it; very much. But I am ahead of myself. If you know quilters (and I assume you do), it's not unusual to find someone ahead of themselves, going on about the product and not talking first about the process. I love the process!!

The task of overlooking a sea of fabric of all kinds and colors was at first daunting. Val talked about viewing fabric 'with new eyes': seeing shapes in the designs; seeing possibilities; jumping in and cutting, maybe from the MIDDLE of the fabric! How we hate to think we are wasting fabric by cutting into the middle!!! Be bold. Cut. Recut. Audition shapes and colors and designs. Use different types of fabric; search for textures; try again. And emerges. What fun! And the thing about landscapes is that they can be any size but small is so charming and once you get started, you can finish a project in a reasonable time. This technique is hand appliqueed which in itself is a bit of a challenge but well worth the effort and well worth working on your stitching technique to make those tiny stitches invisible.

So two days ago I did my FIRST landscape that was totally mine and I can't wait to start the next one. In fact last night before heading to bed, I took down my box labeled 'landscape and texture fabric, batiks, etc' and started pressing. I saw a fall landscape scattered across my sewing table. Everything in large pieces but already I saw the cold fall sky and the splashes of red and orange mixed with the evergreens; the browns. I can't wait to get at it. It's waiting!!! More on that project in a day or two!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome quilters!! You probably wouldn't be here if you weren't interested in all things quilting so we already understand each other. I have a few things in mind for this little venture, not the least of which is sharing my current experiences and projects as well as noting the interesting things along the way...the discoveries, the frustrations, the great products out there and the techniques worth working on. This is an opinion may be able to do things better and by all means feel free to suggest and correct.
I will be coming here often and I hope you do too. My blog is definitely a work in will take some effort to get it looking as I might want it to but piece at a time, right??!