Since this post will appear for you on January 1st, I thought I’d wish you a happy new year of quilting! I’ll cover some tips on organizing and decluttering that will give you a renewed energy when you walk into your sewing space. I recently did this in my sewing room and it really does give me some more energy. I’ll close by posting links to some of my mini video tutorials to help you brush up on some quilting skills.
Fabrics. The first thing that I wanted to organize was my fabrics. The “clutter” came from me stacking leftover fabric on every available surface as I cut out several projects for months. It’s hard to keep up sometimes when that’s not the fun part of quilting. But if you organize and put away the leftover fabrics after every project, you will not feel so overwhelmed at the end of the year. Here’s a fraction of the mess I started with to give you an idea:
I had fabrics ranging from fat quarters and quarter yards down to scraps. So, the first thing I did was sort out the larger pieces, measured them and folded them. Then I stored them in tubs like below:
This is what my counter looks like now! Lots of space to work.
Now for the odd fabric scraps that are smaller than 1/8 yard or fat eights. It was time to cut strips and add to my strip collection for future projects!
And with my wool, instead of it being in a jumbled mess in one large bin, I did this:
With the wool separated into tubs by color, it’s now easier to find a piece of wool instead of wasting time digging through a pile.
Bonus… while I was de-cluttering, I found fabrics that I did not think I would use. My advice is to go through your stash and look at all your fabric pieces and honestly decide if it’s something you will actually use. If you know you won’t, don’t hang onto it. It’s just taking up space. Here’s what you can do:
- Donate the fabric you will not use to your church sewing circle or to a group that makes quilts for people in need. Many of these groups rely solely on donations and can always use fabric to continue what they do.
- Check with your quilting friends. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean one of your friends won’t. Invite your group over and have them bring fabric they do not want anymore and have a fabric exchange party. If there is fabric left over that no one wants, that goes in the donate pile.
Tools. Have you even been to a quilt shop and saw a tool you just had to have? And when you got home you stashed it in a drawer and have not used it? I can say “yes” to both of those things. Here’s what you can do with that tool:
- Take it out and actually challenge yourself to make a project with it. It doesn’t have to be a big quilt either. If it’s designed to make a big quilt, just make one of the blocks. You may find out you like the tool and will use it in the future.
- Donate the tool to your quilt guild if they have a tool borrowing library (if they don’t… that’s a good idea to start!). There might be someone in the guild who would like to try out the tool before buying one of their own.
- Finally, do what I suggested above for the fabric. Invite you quilting friends over and have them bring tools they do not want or use. Do a tool exchange! There’s bound to be someone in your group who would like to try it.
UFOs. De-cluttering definitely applies to UFOs as well. There are two things I consider UFOs. One is what I call “orphan blocks” and the other are abandoned quilt tops. I have a lot of both! Here’s some suggestions for these. For the abandoned quilt top:
- Take it out and assess what needs to be done. If it was supposed to be a large quilt but you only have a few rows of blocks, consider turning it into a wall hanging or a table runner. You get the benefit of getting something finished and you make use of a pattern that you liked enough to start.
- Another idea for that quilt top you don’t think you’ll ever finish, see if a quilting friend is interested in it. You never know, they might be thrilled to finish it!
- For an assortment of “orphan” or sample blocks, make a sampler and gift it to a family member or a friend.
Mini Video Tutorials
Pressing v. Ironing: We all know how to iron clothes. You run the iron back and forth across the item to remove wrinkles, sometimes using steam. Well, when it comes to quilt blocks and pieced quilts, we need to press not iron. The difference is not moving the iron back and forth across your seams (whether you press open or not). Ironing can distort your seam and end up distorting your unit or block(s). Here’s my mini tutorial:
A cool trick I was shown by a student who was a Home Ec. teacher is to to press a piece of wood down on the seams after pressing. It holds in the heat and creates flatter seams.
Stitch & Flip (or Folded Corners). This technique is used to create angles in block designs, like the snowball block. It’s important to do this accurately because picking out a bias seam can distort the pieces you are working with since the bias of the fabric is not as stable as the crosswise and lengthwise grains.
Crisp Points and Matching Points. A few of the problems encountered by quilters when piecing blocks and quilt tops are getting crisp points, aligning seams and matching points. All of these can be solved by carefully pinning units together and also using an accurate 1/4″ seam when stitching.
How do you avoid cutting off points? Here’s a few handy steps:
Tip#1: If you are joining a unit with a point to another piece without a point, my first tip is to keep the unit with the point on top when you pin them together. This way you can see the point as you are stitching the units.
Tip#2: Keep your eye on the point as you are stitching. I am using a pin as a pointer in the photos below to identify where the point is as I stitch. You want the seam that you are stitching to pass right above the point.
The photos below show how the seam looks on the back and how your point looks on the front once you press the unit open:
Now that you know how to achieve crisp points, what happens when you join two units or blocks together that have points you need to match up? Here’s my mini video tutorial:
So I hope these tips and videos give you a great start to your quilting new year! Leave me a comment or ask questions you may have. You will be entered into a drawing for my quilt pattern Strips & Stars.
The drawing will be on Monday, January 8th. Good luck! **We have a winner! Congrats, Linda Hirschfeld!**