Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions. Admit it… you do! We try to stick with them, but most of the time they fall by the wayside by the second week in January. Well, this is my advice on resolutions for quilting in the new year. I know, I know… I’m a little early with the new year stuff, but I know a lot of people will be busy over the holidays, so I thought this was a good time to put this out.
There are things that hold us back from our quilting fun and there’s something we can do about those things. Inspiration, de-cluttering and organization all work to move us forward. I’ll talk about this “theory” of mine this week. Let’s go!
Get inspired in the new year by going to your favorite quilt shop and looking at all the new fabrics available. Sometimes a beautiful line of fabric will inspire you! I have built up a stash and when I am looking for some inspiration, I will look in my fabric cupboard, lay out a grouping of fabric and the ideas come to me!
A second source of inspiration, at least for me, are books of antique quilts. especially those from the 19th century. Here’s one of my favorite to page through:
There are hundreds of these books available in libraries and for purchase online. I have fun looking at a block from this era and then coming up with a way to use it in a design of mine. Sometimes that entails figuring out a way to make the block easier to construct… since I do not like “y” seams or curves. Here’s a block called the Album Cross. On the left is the 19th century version and on the right is my updated version:
If you look closely at my block, you can see I modified it into 4 units made from the “stitch & flip” method to avoid “y” seams. It’s all straight seams! On the left is one of the units that make up my block and on the right is the quilt pattern I made from this block:
If you are into interesting geometrics for piecing, new ideas for borders or appliqué, you can find inspiration in everyday things. Here’s some photos I took of parts of buildings and walkways that I later used to inspire an appliqué design.
Wherever you draw your inspiration from, dip into it over the holidays and get inspired for the coming year.
This is always a good idea, and not just for your sewing room! I think de-cluttering any space makes room for inspiration and creativity.
Fabric: One place to start in the sewing room is your fabric… yes, I said it… you don’t need some of that fabric! 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 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.
Once your fabric is pared down to what you know you like and will use, it’s time to sort it by color and size so it’s easy to find when you are ready to gather fabric for a project. I’ve done blog posts about fabric organization in the past. Here’s a look at one of my organized bins:
I have several of these for my 1/2 yards and my fat quarters and 1/4 yards. My 1/8 yards and fat eights are rolled and stored in bins like these for easy access. Larger cuts of fabric are stored in a cupboard folded and organized by color.
De-cluttering fabric also includes cleaning your sewing space. Instead of fabric stacked on your cutting table or on your sewing machine table, that space will be clear so you can use it to cut fabric and sew! Those tubs I use for my fabrics are easy to find at any store that sells containers. They also stack nicely in the cabinets.
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, 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 what I call “orphan blocks” first I need to explain why I have a bunch of blocks hanging around. I like to make blocks from scraps to audition fabric color before I cut into good yardage so I end up with a lot of blocks that are then tossed onto a basket.
Here’s a few things you can do with these blocks:
- Frame them! You can frame it to hang in your home somewhere or you can give it as a gift to a friend or family member who is not a quilter.
- Make a mini quilt! Take a block and dive into your stash to create some scrappy borders on it to turn it into a mini quilt. Quilt and bind it and now you have an instant candle mat or mini wall hanging for you or a friend!
- Pincushions! Use the orphan blocks to make pincushions for you or to give as gifts to your quilting and sewing friends. The pin cushion below literally took me 45 minutes to make from an orphan block!
I used crushed walnut shells for the filling. You can find that at pet stores as I believe they are used for bird cages. Or you can use whatever you prefer for the filling.
Finally onto organization. I consider organization to include cleaning. Cleaning spaces and tools. Clean off your cutting space and your sewing table like I mentioned in the decluttering section. Organize your tools so they are easy to grab:
Organize your block pieces by creating mini design boards from 13 x 13″ pieces of cardboard covered with batting:
The photo on the far right shows these boards stacked up with block pieces (like the center photo) ready to carry to the machine for stitching.
Another way to organize is to label your pieces based on how they are labeled in the pattern. If the pattern you are using doesn’t label the pieces, create your own labeling system by writing a letter next to the list of each piece being cut. I use a piece of tape on the stacks of pieces:
Keeping quilt pieces labeled and separated helps to keep you organized throughout the project and makes it easier to store in a bin like this when you have to put it away before it’s finished.
Well, that’s it for this week. I hope some of these ideas will help you get ready for a fun and productive 2023 of quilting! Share your comments below and we can all benefit from everyone’s inspiration, de-cluttering and organizing ideas!