Tag Archives: quilting

The Hoard

My fabric stash and I recently had a chat about the Meaning of Life. It was impromptu–all right, it was an intervention. She cornered me in my den and threatened me with death by asphyxiation under a mountain of cotton.

An early Purge Pile
An early Purge Pile, plus a Frances

She is not enormous by First World standards, which is to say that if it were all sewn up, I could clothe an extended family, but not a village. Still, when seen in those terms, it is clearly excessive.


Stash: Please tell me you are not adding to me today.

Me: What? No, no … just these two fat quarters for that quilt I’m planning, and this metre of cream bamboo jersey Frances has been asking for.

Stash. You are adding to me today.

Me: Well, ok, but such a small purchase hardly counts.

Stash: Look at me.

Me: I am looking at you. I’m trying to find a place to put these.

Stash: Get your hands off me, back up a few paces, and look.

I did.

The three large storage bins in the closet were full: of scraps for muslins, large pieces of specialty fabrics like faux fur and chennille, and various kinds of battings. The three hanging storage units were also full: of quilting cottons, shirtings, wools, corduroy, silks. Pieces of suede and leather covered the top of the dresser. The green storage bin for Christmas fabrics was not entirely full, but close. The closet shelf was stacked with linings.

The spare office chair was piled high with impulse summer purchases. And worse, the floor–Dear Readers, the floor had three large fabric piles; pieces that there was no closet, bin or chair room for.

Me: Well, I admit that this is a little bigger than it needs to be.

Stash: A little?

Me: But I have plans for all of it. It’ll all get used.

Stash: I’m sure by sometime in 2043, most of it will have been used for something. But you have pieces of fabric in me that you have been keeping for  particular projects for fifteen years.

These quilted coasters have been made partially from coordinating cottons bought because they looked pretty together.
These quilted coasters have been made partially from coordinating cottons bought because they looked pretty together. The reverse is scraps from a cotton robe project.

Me: I’ll get to it!

It sighed. I swear to god. Large piles of fabric can be remarkably expressive when they want to be.

Stash: Listen–you have a problem. It’s like you’re a dragon or something …

Me: This will be interesting.

Stash: … only you hoard fabric instead of gold and gems. Like one of those survivalists who turns their bank accounts into gold bars, only you’re fixated on fabric.  If the global economy collapses next year, at least you and your daughter will be well-clothed! Or like you are anticipating the zombie apocalypse and you think you are going to beat them off with homemade shirts. The world is going to hell, but that’s all right, because you’re equipped to construct a 20-foot-high wall of security blankets.

Me: Are you done?

Stash. Yes. I am done. I am DONE. Done with endless growth at the expense of other goals and priorities. Where the hell are you going to put your daughter’s new desk with this mess? Hmm? And you want to add more?

Underneath the coasters are appliqued tea-towels-in-progress. The white waffle fabric was bought for tea towels I don't even know how many years ago. I also bought red linen for tea towels, scraps here included for the appliques on the white--I bought that red fabric two houses ago. And have carried it with me ever since. Sad.
Underneath the coasters are appliqued tea-towels-in-progress. The white waffle fabric was bought for tea towels I don’t even know how many years ago. I also bought red linen for tea towels, scraps here included for the appliques on the white–I bought that red fabric two houses ago. And have carried it with me ever since. Sad.

Me: I think you’re catastrophizing a little bit.

Stash: You have no need for new clothes and enough clothing fabric to construct an entire new wardrobe for all four seasons. You’ve needed to replace your bicycle for three years, but you can’t because your money ends up all being invested in the fibres market.

Me: I see your point. A stash diet may be in order.

Stash: This goes beyond the need for a minor diet. It’s time to stop. Just stop.

[pause]

Me, meekly: Until when?

Stash: Until I can fit comfortably in the closet with room to add new fabrics.

The laminated cotton on the bottom part of this bag was bought--to make bags with--two years ago. But then it was never time to make bags because there were always clothes to make instead.
The laminated cotton on the bottom part of this bag was bought–to make bags with–two years ago. But then it was never time to make bags because there were always clothes to make instead. The cotton on top of the bag was bought to coordinate with a pink-and-green print I have since given away.

Me: But what if there’s a really good sale and I …

Stash: NO!


So here we are. I’m a little frightened of what she might do to me if I fail to comply.

I pulled enough fabric out of the stash to get rid of the floor piles, and moved it down to the dining table. I then started a list of things that could be made out of it:

  • Heavy-duty tote bags (at least two, pictured above)
  • Outdoor seating cushions
  • Book tote bags (at least one)
  • Mid-weight patchwork tote bags (at least two, pictured below)
  • Approximately 8 appliqued tea towels (some pictured above)
  • Quilted coasters in a quantity yet to be specified but sure to be terrifying (12 so far, pictured above)
  • Regular coasters, in potentially an even greater quantity
  • A dish cloth
  • Little stuffed christmas trees (not that I need more xmas decorations–but anyway)
  • At least one tea cozy, and probably more (pictured below)
  • Zippered pouches
  • Storage boxes/baskets
  • Patchwork and applique cushion covers (at least two)
  • Yet Another Button Up Shirt
  • Yet Another Drapey Jersey Shirt (you haven’t seen the first one yet, but just take my word for it)
  • Fleece pants muslin for Frances
  • Potentially some dolls or stuffed toys
Mid-weight patchwork tote bags. The prints used for the patchwork were all so adorable, and what's a fat quarter between friends? The pink linen forming the bulk of the bag was bought to make a purse with. After making two large patchwork tote bags, I still have more than enough left for the purse.
Mid-weight patchwork tote bags. The prints used for the patchwork were all so adorable, and what’s a fat quarter between friends? The pink linen forming the bulk of the bag was bought to make a purse with. After making two large patchwork tote bags, I still have more than enough left for the purse.

I’ve been cutting, sewing and pressing furiously. The stack of in-progress and completed projects is growing. The purge pile, alas, has yet to appear noticeably smaller, and there is a substantial pile of fabric still to be put into a project. It is rather depressing as well as embarrassing. How the hell did it get this out of control?

So questions for you, to further impose of those of you kind enough to have actually read this whole thing:

1. Do you any of you know of any legitimate organizations with legitimate needs for these? I’m not a big fan of the “let’s give our garbage to Deserving Unfortunates and pretend it’s charity” trend. It’s crazy making for me when people try to foist their crap on me and act like they’re doing me a favour, and I can’t imagine that this would be different if I were poor. (Do you want this elliptical machine? It’s totally fine except a ball bearing broke. You’d have to get it fixed. I know you already have an elliptical machine that is better than this one and that works, but still, I think this would be a really great deal for you! No? How about this broken TV?) Please believe me when I say that sick children do not want a handmade teddy bear from a stranger, hospitalized children do not feel better when they put their heads on pillowcases made from quilting cotton, and third-world children probably do not need garish and overly-flounced party dresses made by a well-intentioned lady with an overgrown fabric stash. In all these cases, cash donations to relevant organizations are much more welcome and actually helpful to the populations in question.

Tea Cozy the First
Tea Cozy the First. Tula Pink fabric bought to make an apron for a friend many years ago. I ended up with an extra metre of fabric, and of course I couldn’t let it go…

However, if anyone knows of people actually asking for relevant donations, I’d be happy to do so. (By which I mean, just to be 100% clear, not organizations that are asking for these donations without having consulted with the target populations to get their input on what would be really useful and helpful, but organizations where the targeted population has, of their own accord, asked for the items in question.) (In other words, I don’t want to transform my stash problem into someone else’s problem.)

2. Are there project types I’m overlooking? I can only make so many tote bags and coasters. I mean, I could make hundreds if I had to, but what on earth am I going to do with them all?

3. No, I am not going to sell them.

4. However if any of this sounds like something any of you might like, and you don’t live too far away, I’d happily give you one (or more). And if you actually want part of my godforsaken (and mouthy) stash, that might be arranged. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though. It has opinions.

Review: Vintage Quilt Revival: 22 Modern Designs From Classic Blocks

Vintage Quilt Revival: 22 Modern Designs From Classic Blocks
Vintage Quilt Revival: 22 Modern Designs From Classic Blocks by Katie Clark Blakesley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve had Vintage Quilt Revival for about a year, and finally got around to making a project from it. The blocks, projects, aesthetic and photography are all very appealing and pretty. But either it was my dumb luck, or the book suffers from a number of errors, because the cross-patch bag project’s measurements were all wrong.

What it is supposed to look like, when done, assuming you pick the same colours and all in solids, which I didn't.
What it is supposed to look like, when done, assuming you pick the same colours and all in solids, which I didn’t.

It is supposed to make an 8.5″ block before finishing. The book tells you how many of each type of block to cut out, and in what size; this I did, right off the bat. Then it says to get the template off the included cd and print 16 copies and use foundation piecing to put them together. Well, this is absurd. The cross-patch block is not difficult, from a piecing perspective. Careful measurement and piecing will work to produce a good block without wasting 16 pieces of paper. Also, I don’t have a cd drive on my computer, and I’m not buying a new laptop so I can make better use of a $20 book.

The block. See where it says 8.5"? And see how simple and straightforward the assembly is? Why would they require a reader to use foundation piecing?
The block. See where it says 8.5″? And see how simple and straightforward the assembly is? Why would they require a reader to use foundation piecing? Also, when I say “inner” I mean “inside the yellow border,” and when I say “outer” I mean everything else, including the yellow rectangles.

Or it would work, if the measurements given for cutting were accurate.

But they weren’t.

(Aside: the inner pieces are given as 1.5″ wide. The outer pieces are given as 2.25″ wide. I have double-checked and yes, it does say 1.5″, and yes, it’s for all of the inner pieces, not just one–so not a typo. I have a feeling that the 2.25″ is the correct measurement so if you are going to make the crosspatch bag from this book, cut your inner squares out at 2.25″x 2.25″, and the white strip as 2.25″ x 6″. That should work better.)

Finished block. You can see how it wouldn't really work if the inner squares and rectangles were thinner than the outer ones.
Finished block. You can see how it wouldn’t really work if the inner squares and rectangles were thinner than the outer ones.

So I made up the first block just following the diagram, and the lattice arms on the outer portions were about an inch wider than the arms in the inner portion, completely breaking the interwoven effect. I had to take them apart and trim an inch off of the outer lattice pieces to make the effect work–and at that point, of course, it was no longer 8.5″. It was 6.5″. Which would mean a bag that was 12″ across instead of 16″ across. Not something I was really keen on.

So I trimmed all the outer pieces into sizes that would work with the inner pieces, cut out pieces for one more block, and turned it into a cushion cover. (3 blocks x 3 blocks with an envelope back in a solid yellow.) It’s a very pretty cushion cover, and I’ve had the 18″ form inside it hanging around for years, waiting for an appropriate home. But it’s not a bag, and I’m not sufficiently motivated to try another project from the book to see if they have more accurate cutting measurements. I’ll just use the book for inspiration, and use block instructions from elsewhere.

It's a very pretty cushion. It's just that I wasn't really planning on making a cushion.
It’s a very pretty cushion. It’s just that I wasn’t really planning on making a cushion.

View all my reviews

I’m starting to think, though, that I may be one of the few people on the planet who waits to review crafting books until after I’ve tried a project from them. This book has a lot of good reviews on GoodReads, but none of them mention anyone having actually made something from the book. Buyer beware.

Finish Friday: Critter Cuddle Quilt

One of the most treasured objects in my house is a quilt a dear friend made for my daughter many years ago, when I was getting divorced (the pink one in the main photo). This friend has had a very challenging life, and carries many burdens and troubles; and yet, when I was getting divorced and some comparatively blessed friends disappeared, she made my little girl a quilt to help comfort her during a very difficult time. I can’t even put into words how impressed I am by her generosity and kindness to so many people (and if this paragraph has her blushing in her seat, so much the better). Seven years have passed since then, and that lovely little pink quilt is still draped over the back of a chair in the living room, Frances still requests it when she is sick or sad, and if my house were on fire I would grab it on my way out the door.

(Just now, when I went digging through her flickr feed to find a better picture of this quilt than I was able to take this evening when I finally got in from work at 8 pm, I learned two things: holy cow, this woman has made a ton of quilts; and this was the very first picture she ever posted on flickr! What a happy surprise.)

bloggish-2-2Still, time passes, children grow, and mothers like to snuggle under quilts with them while they may–all of which is to say that I wanted also a larger snuggle quilt that Frances and I could enjoy together.   It ended up being a mite larger than it really needed to be, but that is getting ahead of myself.

I am a big believer in tactile comfort. Soft clothes, yummy food, hugs and kisses, warm blankets, hot baths–things that feel good help you feel good, I think, or at least better. This has been a tough year for my girl so far, and there has been a corresponding increase in the number of tactile comforts in the house. A good cuddle quilt was essential, so I moved it to the top of the crafty priority list.

Finding a quilt pattern was the main difficulty. It had to:

1. Be not too difficult to put together. My quilting skills are still very tenuous and I wanted to be reasonably certain that I could line up all the seams and end up with something that didn’t look ridiculously amateur. This meant squares and rectangles.

2. Not use tiny blocks or patches. I wanted the pieces to be large enough that you could see the raccoon faces, or what is the point of using raccoon fabric? (You may ask yourself what is the point of using raccoon fabric in the first place. If you saw our house, Dear Readers, you would know; it is fairly dominated by nature themes and objects throughout. How could we not use the raccoon fabric?)

3. Call for fabric quantities that I already had in my stash, to minimize new required fabric purchases.

See that orange strip beside the raccoon face? That's the culprit, right there.
See that orange strip beside the raccoon face? That’s the culprit, right there.

The Giggle Box pattern from a recent issue of Quilty seemed best, though a few more solids would not have been amiss.  It’s a bit busy. It claimed to be throw quilt size. IT LIED.

I cut out all the strips one night when I couldn’t sleep. Effective for distraction. Not so effective for accurate cutting, as I discovered when I went to assemble the strips into quilt blocks and discovered that all of my geometric orange print rectangles were one inch too short. D’oh! 

This necessitated trimming an inch off all of the blocks before piecing them together, turning all of my giggle boxes into giggle rectangles, which means the quilt as a whole is 8″ shorter than it should be. Oops. Good thing it wasn’t meant for a bed–and maybe a blessing overall, since, well–

critter quiltFor a throw-size quilt this thing sure turned out to be massive once it was all pieced together with the borders and everything. Holy smokes. Even with the missing 8″, it uses most of a piece of queen-sized quilt batting. Will you look at this thing? Can you imagine it 8″ longer?

I put it together with the batting and backing about a month ago and got the whole thing quilted, then realized that (despite the instructions’ insistence to the contrary) my remaining binding fabric would not be enough to bind the whole quilt, so I had to wait for an opportunity to head back to the fabric store for another metre of the pineapple print. In the meantime, we used the unbound version for our snizza dates.

As of last weekend, and many hours spent stitching bias binding pieces together and ironing them into quarters, it is finally finished.

I know the traditional thing is to take a nice outdoor shot of the finished quilt draped over something so you can see it, full-scale and in good light. I have no intention of subjecting myself to that kind of cold or discomfort, however, so we’ll have to make do with my indoor shots. It’s big! It has raccoons, rabbits, foxes and moths on it. It adds a much-welcome touch of bright orange to our living room, what with this gloomy winter we’ve all had. It’s warm. And if need be, I can wrap Frances and myself up in it, cocoon-style, and we can imagine it into a magic force field to keep the whole world safely away.