Monday, August 8, 2016

The Studio - fabric arrangement

At the beginning of the year I moved my studio from one end of the house to the other, and had big plans for getting it completely organized and making wonderful art. But life has a way of changing plans and this year was no exception.

I'm finally getting back into the studio - to work on it, and in it - and while it's definitely a work in progress, I'm pretty pleased with my fabric storage arrangements. Since fabric storage is a question that comes up constantly in my sewing and quilting groups, I thought I'd get back to the blog with my storage system.

Folding the fabric around my folding board
I have a lot of fabric. A lot. I make both traditional and art quilts, and recently got back into making some clothing. And of course make some things for around the house. So my stash consists of quilting fabric, garment fabric, specialty fabric, home decor fabric and miscellaneous fabric.

Home decor, specialty and misc. fabric are boxed up in the closet, as I don't need them often. So that leaves quilting and garment fabric easily accessible in the studio. Over the years I've tried a lot of different organization plans for my fabric, large shallow bins shelved in a storage room, open shelves mounted on the wall, huge bins stacked on top of each other - the worst.
Nice, neat stack after folding

When we moved into this house, I decided I wanted to start with cube style shelves. They are sold under several brand names and in various sizes. The ones I bought are 36 by 36 inches, with nine 11-inch-plus cubes in each. They can be stacked two high -- attaching both the lower and upper to the wall for safety!

For a long time I've been using the ruler fold method of folding my fabric -- fold selvedge to selvedge, then fold around my six-inch ruler as if it were on a bolt. Slide the ruler out, then fold in half. Nice, neat stacks that are all the same size. With the new shelves, that left wasted space, so I cut a piece of heavy cardboard to 10-inches wide and use it for folding. That gives me nice, neat stacks that fit perfectly in my cubes. And no spending money on little pieces of cardboard - I'd rather spend on fabric! With this system, fat quarters can be folded in half, then in half again and fit nicely in the stack, so they are not stored separately.

Main fabric storage. On the left are novelties and specialty types of fabric.
On the right are fabrics that don't go in a special category, sorted by color.
As I said, I have a lot of fabric. So I had to arrange it to work with how I use it. Color is always a consideration, but I also work by theme or type of fabric. So my first sort is by type. I have: batiks, beach/underwater/lighthouses, landscape/seascape, 30s repros, Civil War/other repros, realistic florals, cat fabric, sewing theme, fruit/vegetable, birds/butterflies, other novelties, juvenile, stripes, bright combinations, Christmas, other holiday, and everything else.

Since I don't have room for everything, Christmas, other holiday and juvenile went into separate bins. I have a lot of batik, so it is sorted by color, then shelved. I have a lot of beach and related fabrics, so they are separated by type or them and shelved with the batiks.

The other specialty types I have less of, one or two cubes at most, so they are just stacked without sorting for color.

Then everything else - the calicos, the blenders, the small florals and geometrics are sorted by color and shelved. Since many have multiple colors, I go by the color they "read" as at first glance. The bright multi-colors have their own separate stack. The stacks of colors start off light to dark, but get jumbled with use, so every now and then I pull out the stack and rearrange.

Garment fabric above, backings below.
Bins to left have yarn.
Batik and beach theme fabrics
That covers four of my five stack of cubes. The final one has fabrics set aside for backings, and my garment fabric. I try to watch the clearance and sales tables for good backing fabrics, and last year stocked up for my backlog of quilt tops.

My only issue with the cubes is that they sit right on the floor, so fabrics on the bottom shelf may get dirty. For one set, I built a base out of two-by-fours, but ran out of time for the rest. So the bottom level has fabric bins filled with yarn - another stash for another day!

With screens up to protect fabric.
Finally, because my studio gets a lot of sunlight, I use screens - woven beach mats - to cover the shelves when I'm not picking out fabric. They protect the fabric from dust and sunlight, and make the room look a little less busy.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fabric, fabric, everywhere - and making a plan to use it

Seersucker plaids and stripes for shorts and capris, batik gauze
for tops and solids that went into the stash.
I firmly believe that, like chocolate, with fabric you can't have too much of a good thing. But.... sometimes you need to slow down, take stock and see what's going on. Since the end of the year is traditionally the time for taking stock, and making plans, I thought I'd start with my recent fabric acquisitions and some thoughts on how and why I shop.

Garment fabrics plus some quilt fabrics, on the right. The
snowflake fabric on top will back Christmas items.
The last couple of years have not been much for sewing or creating art, as shown by the lack of blog posts. Work and life in general just took up all my energy. And I've realized that when I'm not sewing, I don't buy fabric. I guess that's a good thing, as I know of people buying when they can't sew, or buying instead of sewing. But when I don't have the time/energy for sewing, I don't have it for anything sewing related - email groups, magazines or fabric shopping. In 2014, I don't think I bought much fabric at all, unless it was for a specific project.

Coordinates, plus two extras,
for star sampler.
After the beginning of 2015, when the only thing I sewed was new curtains for our restaurant, I finally started getting my "mojo" back. I started with pulling out a couple of UFOs that didn't need much work, a Twisted Bargello in batiks and a do-it-yourself Round Robin I led for the quilt guild where I formerly lived.

A little of everything
Then I got the chance to go to North Carolina for our annual gathering of sewing machine collectors, which I'd missed the previous two years. It always inspires me to see and play with all the machines, see the work others have done and make our traditional trip to Mary Jo's Cloth Store in Gastonia. I was thinking of making some new shorts and tops, and found some nice solid color cottons at Mary Jo's, but didn't really buy much. Then I went to the new JoAnn's near our hotel and found they had cotton garment fabric half off - and had some beautiful batik-style gauze fabrics, perfect for tops, and great seersucker plaids and strips, perfect for shorts and capris. Bought some on my first trip, then went back with friends and bought more. Then got home and found a few at my local JoAnn's that the other store didn't have. That was my first fabric splurge of the year.

Backings, backings, they even included the bolts.

Which brings me to another thought about when and why I buy fabric. When I have the chance to buy good fabric at a good price, I buy a lot. And then I shop from my stash. I didn't do this when I was making clothing. I started making my own clothes in ninth grade. For many years I'd buy fabric which I had a general idea what I'd do with it, make things and buy more. I didn't always get to the project - I remember a beautiful piece of winter-white wool I bought planning to make a coat. I never got around to it and don't know what happened to that fabric - it may still be in a container in storage!
More backings. the red floral at
bottom will back the star sampler.

But during that time, I had easy access to good fabric shops. I loved Cloth World (which later transformed into JoAnn's) and later Piece Goods Shop.

But by the time I began quilting, in 2000, I lived in a fabric desert. The only fabric with 20 miles was a Wal-Mart - with a fairly decent fabric department at that time. Drive 30 miles in the other direction and there was another Wal-Mart, a very small independent shop, and a medium sized fabric store which closed soon after I discovered it. For a quilting store or even JoAnn's, I had to drive 90 to 100 miles each way.

So I got into the habit of shopping when traveling and visiting Mary Jo's, quilt shops, fabric stores, and shopping from my stash. That works well for what I do.

Some Christmas fabrics. I don't "do"
flannel, but loved the trees.
One thing I don't usually do is make quilts from coordinated sets of fabrics. But in July, Connecting Threads (one of my very favorite online shops) had a collecting in red, silver and blue, with 30s style prints, on sale. I bought most of the collection - skipped the chevrons - and later added a couple coordinating prints from the local quilt shop. I've started a star sampler with those fabrics.

Early in the fall, I made another big purchase from Connecting Threads, then a small splurge at the local quilt shop, including some great sewing theme fabric. Then Black Friday and Saturday hit, and I did some damage at JoAnn's. The bulk of the fabric I bought there was for backings for quilts. I am up to close to 20 quilt tops to quilt, including the vintage tops I bought in 2014. I now have enough backings for all the finished tops, and a few in progress. And if anything is left over, I still have a big pile of vintage quilt blocks from last year's find, and even bigger pile of blocks from exchanges.

A little of this, a little of that. Some backings, some neutrals
for stash and some just because.

So I am set to sew! I'm working on a plan for the new year for all the things I want to do, but that's a topic for another post.

More later!
And scraps! Someone brought this wonderful bag of scraps
for the giveaway table at guild. I'm already making plans.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Some vintage quilt finds

I'm still here! It's been a long, busy summer, but now that it's winding down, I have a little more time to think about fabric and quilting and art.

Yesterday I was in the mood for some treasure hunting. So when I saw there was a yard sale not too far away, advertising beads, quilting fabrics and three sewing machines,  I grabbed my purse and was on my way.

The sewing machines were modern, so no interest, but the beads were abundant - more on that later - and the bins of fabric had real treasures - vintage quilt tops and sets of quilt blocks.

I happily dug through the bins, while literally dripping with sweat in the 100-degree heat, and it was worth it. I came home with a small assortment of fabric, seven quilt tops, 17 bags of  quilt blocks, some complete and some in progress, and a treasure trove of beads, buttons and findings.

I don't know the history of the quilt tops, the woman who owned them moved away and left family to sell her unwanted stuff (I can only imagine the great stuff she kept!), but the fabrics range from 1930s to 1980s, and some of them have some great color and fabric choices.

Here are the quilt tops, sorry some are a little blurry. I'll share the blocks and other goodies later.


This Trip Around the World says 1960s, maybe 1970s to me.

It's not your eyes, this Trip Around the World style with hexagons is diamond-shaped.

Nine-patches with some great fabrics

I love the bold colors and graphic look of this nine-patch

And another nine-patch, this one with pastels, looks like some 1930s-40s fabrics

Tumbling Blocks  with bold 1950s to 60s colors

These blocks are 25-patches and look very 1980s to me with the dusty blue.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Looking through the treasure chest

Quilt treasure chest
For the last few days I've been assembling a quilt top from a set of blocks from a block exchange I did in 2007. As I got closer to finishing, I started thinking about what I might do next, and decided to dig out my treasure chest.

My treasure chest was once a display piece in a drapery and decorating shop. When I brought it home, in about 2002, I was able to put all my UFOs in it, as I had just started doing block exchanges and had yet to make an actual quilt. Over the years, it's been a great place to stash sets of blocks until I am ready to get to them.

I have a slightly different take on UFOs than most people seem to. To me, quilts have two "resting stages", sets of blocks ready to assemble, and assembled tops. While they are unfinished, I don't consider them UFOs.
Blue & White 2001

UFOs are the projects I started in a class and haven't finished all the blocks, or the one I cut out, planning to take a class but didn't. The difference, I guess, is whether they are at a natural stopping point. Since sometimes I am in the mood to piece, and sometimes to quilt, it's nice to always have some things ready to move on to the next stage.

Of course, this is just talking about my traditional quilts. My art quilts are a whole different story, as I have components waiting to tell me how they want to be put together, and pieces that are almost finished just waiting for that something that tells me they are done. I'll talk about them another time.

Winter theme exchange
When I pulled out my treasure chest I realized that almost all the blocks are from Treadle On block exchanges. They are always fun to do, as I try to use my more interesting machines for them and it's always interesting to see the fabrics other people choose, and the machines they use.

I think I've decided next up on my assembly list will be a Winter Exchange set from a few years ago. Seems appropriate for the weather we've been having this winter!

The oldest set of blocks is a Blue & White, from 2001, my first exchange, ever. The exchange offered the option of Blue & White or Red & White, or both. I did both - I didn't know as a beginner to quilting I was "supposed" to do simpler stuff! I finished the Red & White quilt several years ago, but the Blue & White is still waiting.
30s repro Bowties

Two sets of 30s blocks, a batch of Bowties from last year and a set of makers' choice blocks from several years ago. I'm going to combine them for one quilt.

Century exchange. All machines had to be at least 100 years old, and repro fabrics appropriate to that time.

Basic exchange. The three basic exchange blocks are rail fence, half-square-triangle and 4-patch.

Jewel tone HSTs and 4-patches. These were from a couple of different exchanges, but the colors planned so they could go together.

30s Makers Choice blocks
Pre-1900 Bowties. These have a folded fabric center and had to be made on machines from before 1900. I had so much fun with these blocks I made bunches more, and finished a quilt several year ago using just the ones I made.

Split 9-patch. Another exchange from several years ago. Along the way I got some cut pieces from someone who planned to do the exchange, but didn't, so have bonus blocks.

Century exchange - all machines 100 years old
White exchange. We occasionally do exchanges with specific brands, and this was for the White brand machine.

Extra 9-patches. Several years ago I started a mystery quilt. I got the 9-patches and a few other pieces assembled, but was not happy, the fabrics didn't have enough contrast. Rather than waste time on a quilt I didn't like, I threw the 9-patches into my box, the partial blocks into a crumb block bin and the cut pieces into my strips bin.  Sometimes you gotta "know when to fold 'em."

basic exchange 2001
TOGA exchange blocks. Treadle On Gathering and Academy is the name for our regional gatherings. I've been going to the North Carolina TOGA since 2001, missing last year for the first time, and made it to Florida and Tennessee TOGAs several years. I have exchange blocks from almost every TOGA I've been to.

And that's it, other than a few stray bits and pieces at the bottom of the chest. Now I think I'll go sew, instead of just talking about it!

More later.

HSTs and 4 patches

pre-1900 Bowties

Split 9-patch bonus blocks

Split 9-patch exchange

White (brand) exchange

extra 9-patches

TOGA exchange blocks

Monday, January 20, 2014

A word for the year

On one of my email lists,, many members select a word for the year, to guide them in their art and life. The words are varied, and the discussions thought-provoking, and the idea is a lot more inspiring than a resolution.

So after a lot of thought, I decided on the word "Purposefully," as a guide to life.

Purposefully - "with a specific purpose or objective in mind."

The last couple of years, life has been a scramble, with our businesses, finding time for my art (and the business of art) and life in general. I feel like I've spent too much time reacting to things, rushing to do things at the last minute and generally not putting my time to good use.

That's especially tough for my art. It's terribly frustrating to have some time free, want to sew, and not know what to work on, or have to spend half my time digging out supplies or looking for something.

So, I want to do things purposefully. That means getting my studio organized - I've been working on that the last couple of weeks - so I can find things and have space to work. It means getting projects planned out so there's always something ready to work on. It means making time for the business stuff - getting business cards printed, ordering ink for the printer - before I need something for the next art show. It means getting a few handwork projects set up so I can work while watching TV or traveling. 

I don't want to take the fun out of my art - or my life. But with purposefully as my guide, I hope I can enjoy getting things done more, and have less stress in the process. We shall see!

More later.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Trash to Treasure

I'm a treasure hunter. Thrift stores, yard sales, friends clearing out their studios, are all great sources of treasures for my fiber art work and for decorating. And that's been especially true over the past few months, as I've been decorating a vacation rental unit.

Leftover blocks and fabric combine with found tablecloths(right).
Last weekend our Fiber Guild celebrated Roc Day, or St. Distaff's Day, the day women traditionally returned to their spinning and weaving, after Christmas activities were over. Part of the meeting was a Trash to Treasure exchange. While I forgot to bring the bag of yard I'd hoped to rehome, I did bring home a treasure, a stack of six-inch quilt blocks in blues and yellows, along with some coordinating fabric. They coordinated perfectly with a pair of yellow tablecloths I found a couple of weeks ago.

I wanted to make valances and half-curtains for the kitchen windows in the rental, but there wasn't enough fabric in the tablecloths. But with the addition of the quilt blocks, I had a plan.

I divided the quilt blocks, 11 for the smaller window, 16 for the larger, arranged them to create a pattern, and sewed into a strip. Here's how to make a row of quilt blocks into a simple, lined valance (or curtain).

Sew the blocks into a row. Measure the quilt blocks (mine were 6 inches) and add 3.5 inches for the rod pocket (for standard curtain rods, more if yours is larger). If you want a border at the bottom, decide on the border size and add it twice. For my 6 inch blocks, I cut coordinating fabric at 12 inches.

With right sides together, stitch the row of blocks to the coordinating fabric along both sides, creating a tube. Turn right side out, then turn under one-fourth inch on the raw edges and stitch it down, keeping the tube open.

Finished valances
Lay out the tube with the blocks facing up, and arrange so 1.5 inches of the coordinating fabric shows at the top, for the rod pocket. Press. Stitch along the top edge of the blocks to create the rod pocket. Stitch closed the sides below the rod pocket. If desired, top stitch along the bottom edge, this is a great place to use decorative stitches.

Hang your valance.

Here are my valances installed. Once I get another pair of curtain rods, I'll use the tablecloths to make half curtains for the bottom, finishing this project.

I expect to have several more projects to share over the next few weeks, then I hope to get back to my own quilts, both art and traditional. More later.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Treadle On Cat Block Exchange

Happy New Year! Wow, it is embarrassing to see how long it has been since I've posted. But my New Year's resolution is to do more stuff worth posting and get it posted!

We're starting off the new year on the Treadle On email list with several block exchanges, and the one I'm hosting is cats. Here are the instructions for the two cat blocks that can be used for the exchange.

Reclining Cat

cut 4 inch strip
cut 3.5 inch strip

from 4 inch, cut 5.5 inch piece
from 3.5 inch, cut 1.5 inch piece
from 3.5 inch, cut 1.75 inch piece, cut in half for two 1.75 inch squares (save one for next block)

cut 5 inch strip
cut 3.5 inch strip
cut 1.5 inch strip

from 5 inch cut 8.5 inch piece (body)
from 3.5 inch, cut 3 inch piece (head)
from 1.5 inch, cut two 1.5 inch squares (ears)


Place the two 1.5 inch squares of cat fabric (ears) on ends of 3.5 x 1.5 background. Draw diagonal lines ending in two upper corners. Stitch along diagonal lines. Press open, then trim excess from back.

Place the 1.75 inch square of background fabric on the top left corner of the 5 x 8.5 inch piece (body). Draw diagonal line and stitch on diagonal line. Press open, then trim extra from back.

Stitch the ears piece to the top of the 3.5 x 3 inch piece (head).

Stitch the head to the 4 x 5.5 inch piece of background.

Stitch the top section to the body section.


Sitting cat

Cut 3.5 inch strip
Cut 1.5 inch strip

From 3.5 inch, cut one 1.5 inch piece
cut two 3.5 inch squares

From 1.5 inch strip, cut two 8.5 inch pieces

Cat fabric
Cut 3.5 inch strip
Cut 1.5 inch strip

From 3.5 inch, cut one 5.5 inch piece (side)
Cut one 7.5 inch piece (body and head)

from 1.5 inch strip, cut two 1.5 inch squares (ears)


Place the two 1.5 inch squares of cat fabric (ears) on ends of 3.5 x 1.5 background. Draw diagonal lines ending in two upper corners. Stitch along diagonal lines. Press open, then trim excess from back.

Stitch the ear piece across the 3.5 end of head/body piece.

Draw diagonal line on one 3.5 inch square of background. Place over 3.5 x 5.5 (side) and stitch diagonal line (from lower left to upper right) Press open and trim excess from back.

Stitch 3.5 background to top of side/background piece.

Stitch side/background to body/ears.

Stitch 1.5 inch strips on either side.


For the Treadle On exchange, the cats are to be made with small print fabrics (calico cats!) and jewel-tone Kona Cotton backgrounds. Blocks may be reversed/mirror-image if desired. Sets are 10 blocks, with maximum of three sets. Each set should be different fabrics. Use either, or both designs, blocks returned will be a mix of whatever is received.