In the Attic

Our attic is about 110 degrees in the summer, and dusty and dry. The air is heavy with insulation particles. Why clean the attic now? Because just a month or two ago, it was freezing up there! This is Wisconsin. When June finally chases away the winter, we have a few glorious days before summer hits hard. And who wants to spend those rare glorious days in the attic?

As I mentioned earlier, I get distracted in the attic. (Was cleaning the attic a squirrel?) I burrow through the disorganized totes and shove things into whichever is convenient. What was a perfectly organized system became a polyglot mess. The label might say “rayons”, but the tote might contain calico, corduroy, tulle, and swimsuit material. It was like having every one of your kitchen cupboards spill over with pots, Tupperware, coffee cups, silverware and dishrags. I’m better with the quilting calicoes than the dressmaking fabrics, but those weren’t in good order because I had so many pieces down in my sewing room.

So yesterday, I cleaned it all up. There are still some heavy totes in my sewing room, awaiting some male muscle, but the task is finished. After throwing out 5 – 25 gallon totes of “stuff” that I had been hanging onto for many years, moving from one home to another over the past twenty years, I have neatly organized and labeled:

4 – 20 gallon totes of quilt batt (but two only hold one large natural wool batt each)
28 – 18 gallon totes of quiltmaking yardage, pieces, strips and projects
20 – 18 gallon totes of dressmaking and craft fabrics
4 – 18 gallon totes of denim for quilts, rugs, mending and various other projects
10 – 10 gallon totes of dressmaking and craft fabrics
4 – 3 gallon totes of dressmaking and craft fabrics
7 – 3 gallon totes of unfinished projects and notions/sewing supplies

Oh, and although I am a big fan of Rubbermaid, I also have at least 30 of those clear Sterilite containers and stackable drawers for trims, craft supplies, unfinished projects, thread, notions, patterns, tools, misc business stuff…

And then are are the binders and file cabinets for patterns, client information and other records. Bookcases filled with books and stacked fabrics and (unfinished) quilts. My really important records are stored in my computer, of course.

My husband put in the air conditioner and rebuilt my big beautiful cutting table. All of my fabric is under control. I have no more excuses… back to work on those unfinished projects. I found 33 of those Cowgirl Boot blocks, so I made one quilt with 20 blocks, one with 9 blocks and I am currently working on 4 totebags. After this, I have an odd sort of panel quilt project. A friend and I picked up a line of pre-printed quilt blocks at the International Quiltmarket in Kansas City in 2004 for her (now defunct) local quilt shop. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We made some samples, taught a couple classes and sold some. Most ended up on the clearance table. I’m sure I will think of something good to do with it.


Look – A Squirrel!

I love to start new projects. I’m easily inspired. I go up to attic to find a piece of blue fabric and end up bringing armfuls of things back down to my sewing room: fabric for a dress for one of my granddaughters, a backing for a tablerunner, some fabrics to make a new tablerunner, a piece of wool to use for an interlining for some potholders I want to make, a piece of lace that maybe be big enough for a curtain for the back door… Then, if I have time, I might actually start some of those things. Frequently, I cut out all the pieces and maybe even do some sewing. But then I need a piece of blue fabric and run up to the attic to get it.


I have been cleaning out the attic, finishing some of the many projects I have started and abandoned. In the past six days, I have finished up a flannel baby quilt, two tote bags, and a tumbling blocks wall quilt. Just the top – I can’t afford to buy battings and backings for everything!

Now I am working on another kind of unfinished project. I’m making a Rodeo Princess quilt — cowgirl boots in pink, purple and other girly fabrics, sparkly whenever possible. It’s so cute! I had all the boot pieces cut and coordinated, so last night I cut out the background and heel fabrics and even got two boots finished. Those pieces were cut when I was making another one, and I decided that while I had the appropriate fabrics out and I was already cutting, I might as well cut out enough for a second quilt. Or maybe a couple more quilts. It was fun to select fabrics for that one, so I just kept going. I finished one of the quilts and – SURPRISE! – stuck the rest of the pieces in a box in the attic.

I’ll post some pictures later, but I am easily distracted by the computer, so I am staying up in my sewing room as much as possible. With my netbook and very close to the door to the attic, of course.


Stash Reduction Part 2

My stash reduction project is coming along nicely. It has been timeconsuming and sometimes hard on my feet and back. The high cutting table that my dear husband made me last Christmas has made it less painful, though. I don’t think I could have done this on a standard table.

A few months ago, I had two boxes of 2″ strips and one box of 1 1/2″ strips. I know have more than that, but that’s okay. I really do use those strips. Recently, I used strips cut from fabrics that I purchased in Germany when my son was a baby. He is 23 years old now.

This is an example of my starting tote, except that it’s too empty to be representative. Virtually all of the totes were absolutely crammed full of fabric and I had to work hard to get the lids to stay on.  This was the second tote full of clear blues (the green/teal blues are in a separate tote.)


As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, I cut the smaller or narrow pieces of fabric into 2″ or 1 1/2″ strips.  This is from the pink box, obviously – a real priority, since I couldn’t get that one shut even if I sat on it!


This is one of the totes for 2″ strips:


And this is what most of the totes looked like after I had purged them of the scrappy, stringy pieces:


After I cut strips from the blues, I was able to fit the bigger pieces into one tote, which was good, since I needed another tote for strips.

That was the calico.

I have a good friend who sews flannel nightgowns and baby items. She sends me her scraps, and I have been shoving them into miscellaneous “flannel” boxes in the attic. A few weeks ago, I decided that I need new napkins for my diningroom table, so I sent one of my big, strong male people up to the attice to bring down all of the boxes labeled “flannel.” There were four of the 18 gallon Rubbermaid totes crammed full of flannel scraps.

I spent the next few days cutting them into usable squares and strips. I cut squares according to the size of the flannel, starting with 9 1/2″ (still thinking of napkins), all the way down to 4″ squares. Pieces too narrow for squares were cut into 3″, 2 1/2″ and 2″ strips. There were two main groups of squares: sweet baby/child prints and then some that were darker, plaids, wildlife prints, etc. I did not separate the strips – just tossed them into three smaller totes according to width.

With my squares already cut, I was filled with energetic enthusiasm for using them up. In the space of a few days, I made eight baby quilt tops, and I still have piles sitting on my cutting table:









This burst of productivity coincided with a good sale at JoAnn Fabrics, so I picked up some more flannel to use for backing as well as a king sized quilt batting, which can be cut into pieces for the baby quilts. I haven’t actually got to that part yet, but I will. Really.

And I never got around to the napkins.


I’m not really throwing anything away. Stash Reduction Project Part 1

I am making huge progress in my stash reduction process. I have an obscene amount of quilting fabric, but not a lot of yardage but mostly remnants and scraps. And it’s not disorganized; the fabric is already sorted by color or style into Rubbermaid totes, and the totes are neatly labeled on both ends. I have separated all of the dressmaking and other fabrics and store those totes in other parts of the attic, so the “quilting” area of the attic contains only cotton fabric, batting, a few file boxes of quilt class patterns and paperwork, various class supply/visual aid boxes, quilt frames, and other quilt-related stuff tools and supplies. It looks good up there, but those totes are whited sepulchers. They appear nice and clean on the outside, but in reality they are crammed so full of fabric that it’s hard to find and use the pieces I want. It’s a wadded-up mess. Every time I want to do a project, I have to dig through tangles of unusable little pieces and strips, and it’s all so stubbornly wrinkled that I have to wet it down before I can press it smooth. I want my fabric supply to be accessible and usable.

I do have a system, but I have not previously applied it to the entire stash. It’s a big project, and time-consuming, but it works for me. One box at a time, I am sorting through every bit of the fabric. Any pieces smaller than a fat quarter or odd shapes are pressed and cut into 2″ strips. If they are too small for that, I cut them into 1 1/2″ strips. Anything too small for that DOES get thrown away. The remaining fabric pieces get pressed, folded, and put back in their tub. If a larger piece is not square/rectangular, I cut off the odd ends and strip those, replacing the tidied-up larger piece in the tote.

I really do use these strips. OFTEN. It’s a very convenient system for me, because I like scrap quilts. I enjoy rummaging through the ready-to-use strips. The problem is that they multiply. In their nice dark totes, up there in the attic at night, some kind of reproductive process is happening. I currently have two 18-gallon Rubbermaid totes packed full of 2″ strips and one of 1 1/2″ strips, and I need more NOW.

A few months ago, I sewed seven tablerunners and two baby quilts from the 1 1/2″ strip tote without making a noticable dent in the stash. Over the years, I have made innumerable large and small quilts from these boxes, but they never get emptier. Sometimes I get low on one specific color, but sooner or later they reproduce themselves and I once again have enough to make more quilts.

I have dressmaking friends who sometimes send me big boxes of their scraps. When I am organized like this, all of their gift eventually gets used. Efficient organization and storage prevents waste.

Now if only I could apply that concept to my kitchen…


April Showers

 This fun little quilt (35″ x 44″) is temporarily named April Showers. It’s just a top so far, and not even entirely sewn together, but I like it. I made it while I should have been sewing client orders, so “The Guilt Quilt” might have been more appropriate, but today is typically rainy and blustery. Last year on this date, we had a fairly big snowfall.


April Showers


Making progress!

I have been very busy for the past few days. In addition to some client sewing, I have finished quilting the blue and green and yellow Swedish Baskets baby quilt and a Lone Star wallhanging in addition to piecing a Trip Around the World lap quilt that I like a LOT. It’s bright colors, with an emphasis on red and pink. It started as a baby quilt, but I liked it so well, and it wasn’t really a baby quilt style… so I sewed more blocks and made it bigger.

Trip Around the World



Something a little more colorful

Last week, I started cutting out another Swedish Hearts quilt, a little bigger than the last one, in blue, green and yellow, but I got knocked out by the flu. I am starting to feel better, but not able to stand up for the cutting, so I think it will remain on the back burner for a day or two and I will find some more “sitting down” projects to do. There is certainly a lot of work to do on The Guild website and related promotion for our grand opening launch. We will have some lovely items for sale. If you haven’t signed up for the mailing list, you should do that! There will be weekly drawings from the mailing list to win prizes like the little quilt shown below.


Swedish Hearts – Pieced!

I hope to get this layered and quilted this evening, but I have some things I have to do before my ladies’ meeting tomorrow morning, so I am not sure I will accomplish that. I think it turned out nicely, and I am looking forward to doing one in which the two halves of the heart contrast more sharply. I like the shape of the hearts very much. The quilt is 30″ x 30″.



Swedish Hearts Quilt

Yesterday, I worked on drafting a woven hearts quilt – just a little one, with five blocks set on point. My friend Chautona sent me some very sweet fabric that inspired this project, but it really reminds me of making paper Swedish baskets with my mother when I was a little girl. Weaving that paper used to make me feel like I was all thumbs, but the quilt block is done differently. Over the years, I have tried several patterns to get the look I want, but the proportions were never quite right. I spent several hours with my drafting software yesterday, though, and I think it might be just right. I will post pictures as I work on it this week.