Tips and Techniques

Getting a Jump on the New Year: Organizing My Fabric Scraps

Happy Almost New Year everyone!

What is it about the New Year that causes us to suddenly start organizing? Maybe it’s about reflection: a new year represents a new start, so why not have that new start be as clean and as organized as possible so you can take advantage of the clean slate?

In my case, I’d been thinking about organizing my fabric scraps for a long time. Too long in fact. Also, I had a project come up that required scraps. More about that project in a future post, but basically the project and the New Year simply provided the push I needed to tackle the long put off job of organizing my scraps.

Organizing my scraps is part of an overall plan I have to redo my sewing room which I've been working on for some time now. (No, my sewing room no longer looks like the photo show here--thank goodness!) I'll show you what it does looks like in an upcoming post.

Right now let's just say that my sewing room is a much more usable work in progress.

Back to my scraps. At first, I was thinking I’d go through my scraps and organize them into workable groups such as 1”, 1-1/2”, 2-1/2” and so on. But that quickly proved way too tedious for me. Then I hit on a plan that was easy and doable. As a result, I organized my fabric scraps in just a few hours. And I had boxes of them, believe me. But let me also clarify that last statement: my fabric scraps are organized now, but they aren’t in their final stage yet. I’ll revisit them in a later post where I’ll discuss Stage 2 of my "organize my scraps" plan.

But first, why go to all this trouble? I mean, why are organized scraps so important?

My lady of scraps, Bonnie Hunter, is probably the one you should seek for an answer to that question but I’ll try: having my scraps organized will let me use them more easily to make scrap quilts. I’ll also be able to easily use my scraps to make small projects, such as the ones I featured in my recent 12 Days of Christmas Gifts series. I also be able to use scraps for paper-piecing projects and for making BOMs and similar one-block donation events.

Organizing my scraps will also release me from the burden of having kept them in the first place. You see, fabric is expensive so I can't just throw away the leftovers after a project is done. So I collect them in boxes and bags to keep them from getting underfoot. Once my scraps are organized, I will start to use them more regularly. And as I start to use them, I’ll feel good about knowing I'm a frugal, thrifty, clever quilter. In other words, having them organized after so many years of thinking about it will make me feel real good about myself. And although I’ve only completed Stage 1, I’m happy to report that it’s already working—I feel great right now.

So what is Stage 1? Well, I decided that for me, I wanted my scraps organized into useful sizes and not colors. The goal, I decided, was to end up with strips and squares that I could quickly grab for any new project. Rather than bog myself down with the need to get directly to my end product, I decided to break it up into stages that I could easily complete. So I decided that for Stage 1 of my plan, I would sort my fabric stash into three groups: 2-1/2” and under, 2-1/2” to 5”, and over 5”. To help me sort, I created a measuring guide.

After a while, I found that I didn’t even need to look at the guide to be able to sort my strips into my three piles. I finished sorting in just a few hours, and now my scraps are organized into my three groups. Sure, there are bags and bags of scraps, but they are sorted.

Stage 2 will involve cutting the scraps into useful-sized strips and squares. Granted, that will take a lot more time. But I know now that it’s totally doable as long as I break it up into small jobs.

So I'm curious. What are your plans for the New Year? How will you make 2016 a better year for quilting?

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Put a Pin in It: Easy to Make Custom Straight Pins

I recently made some fancy pins to give to my friends. They feature each friend’s first and last initials, and they are meant to be decorative but useful. Aren’t they cute?

I got the idea for these pins from Fancy Nancy, and her directions are terrific. To make my pins, I bought alphabet beads, corsage pins, glue, and some fancy beads from JoAnne’s. I slipped the first bead on, hit the pin with a dab of glue, put the next bead on and glued it, and so on until I was done. I don’t know if I needed to glue each bead, but I wanted them to stay so that’s what I did. After adding the beads to each pin, I gently scraped off the excess glue my fingernail and then left the pins to dry overnight.

I made myself some alphabet pins from the leftover materials. I’ll use this pins to mark the column a block belongs to in a finished quilt, so I can sew my blocks together correctly. I think the pins will also be helpful for organizing those tiny scraps needed for foundation piecing. My plan is to buy number beads so I can make matching row markers as well, to help label each row after laying out a quilt on a design wall.

The pins were not difficult to make, nor did they take much time. They would make a special gift for a quilting friend!

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Getting Ready for the Shows!

I’ve been pretty busy lately, getting my quilts ready for two shows— the October biennial quilt show by the Quilters Guild of Indianapolis and a special exhibit of modern quilts at the Quilter’s Hall of Fame. I’m pretty excited about both, I can tell you!

It seems that there are a lot of quilt shows and special exhibits at this time of year, so I bet you’re getting ready for a few yourself. So what exactly does it take to get a quilt ready for a show? Well, it all depends. I’m getting my quilts ready for exhibit in the Hall of Fame and for my local guild show, so that means I have to sew a 4” sleeve on the back of my quilts (all except the miniature ones). The type of sleeve I like to use is called a D sleeve, and it poofs out just a bit. A D sleeve allows a quilt to hang straight and not bow out at the top when the hanging pole is inserted into the sleeve.

Right before the last Guild show, a friend in one of my quilt bees confessed that she wasn’t sure she was going to enter a quilt in the show. We all thought that maybe she didn’t think they were good enough, because everyone gets doubts about their work from time to time. The notion was totally ridiculous (as they often are) because her quilts were gorgeous, so we soon talked her into entering some into the show. Privately, she later admitted to me that what was stopping her was the idea of putting a sleeve on her quilts. She had no idea what to do and found it a bit embarrassing to have to ask since she was an accomplished quilter. So as I was working on prepping my quilts this week I remembered my friend and thought I’d share my process in case any of you want to know how to add a sleeve to your show quilts too!

Before I put any quilts into a show or exhibition, I make sure they are all properly labeled. So I’ve been printing out labels and adding them to my quilts this week. I always stitch my labels to the lower right corner of the quilt back. I use the blind (applique) stitch to stitch my labels on.

Another thing our show requires is that every quilt is dropped off in some kind of cloth bag. Many of our guild members purchase pillowcases for that, but I like to make mine to match the quilt. So this week, in addition to adding labels and hanging sleeves, I’ve been making tons of pillowcases. Aren’t they cute?

Are any of you submitting your quilts to a quilt show? Let me know here in the Comments section. What tips or techniques would you like to share with other quilters entering a quilt show? What makes a quilt show a great one in your opinion? I can’t wait to hear from you all!

Well, gotta get back to my quilt prep. Happy almost-fall everyone, and I hope to see you at the QGI Quilt Show and the Quilters Hall of Fame!

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