Monday, April 30, 2018

The Project That Wouldn’t Die

This is the story of a quilt that took almost three years to make. Now, the piecing didn’t take three years. The quilting didn’t take three years. But the laborious process of making decisions and choosing a path for my design did. And let’s face it: If I hadn’t set aside two weeks to focus on this quilt last month, it could have easily taken four years or more.

I designed the project in question back in October 2015 and started to piece it in Essex linen and “made fabric.” I was using fabric that I love, and I thought that meant I would love the final product. But this design is a commitment. It features huge geese (or geese-ish triangles, not all of them reflect the standard 1:2 proportion for geese). In fact, the largest of these geese are 40 inches wide. When I realized I wasn’t getting results I liked early in the process, I cut my losses, unpicked stitches, and set aside the bits of fabric for other projects.

My original design, from 2015.

My first try included blue prints and Essex linen.

A year later, this design was still stuck in my head. I started piecing it a second time, in three Kona colors: white, shadow, and pewter. In attempt to add some color to the lackluster palette, I incorporated some solids and prints in shades of raspberry and cranberry. Again, I didn’t like how the project was coming together, so I folded it up nicely and hid it in the back of my closet.

A second try, with colorful solids and prints.

When establishing my quilt-related goals for 2018, though, I knew I had to finish this quilt. I decided to omit the more colorful fabrics and finish the design in the muted Kona solids. Once I was ready to quilt, I could add color with thread. Cassandra Beaver has used thread in that way; maybe I could achieve similar success with my quilt. (See this post from Cassandra for some examples of how she uses thread to add color and enhance design.)

In the end, however, this quilt wanted to be about size and shape, not color. I used an off-white thread to quilt each section densely in a different direction. So, for example, the top-left arrows that point to the left are quilted with horizontal lines, and the equilateral triangles below them are quilted with vertical lines.

Finally, a finish!

The only deviance from the gray and white palette is the Kona Aloe I used for the binding, which matches the back.

The binding adds the hint of color the quilt needed.

Not every project deserves to come to fruition; there is something to be said for knowing when to give up. I’m glad that I followed this rabbit hole through to the end, though, and I’m ecstatic about the final product.

Do you have a project that won’t die in your quilt queue? Let us hear all about it in the comments. : )

Linking up to Let’s Bee Social, Needle and Thread Thursday, and Finish It Up Friday ...

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

My Fabric Diet

I know I’ve said it in the past, but it’s time I get serious about shedding some weight from my fabric stash. It’s not about the expense or the storage—although either would be good reason to trim my hoard—it’s how all that fabric, already purchased and waiting to be used, affects my creativity.

More and more, I find myself choosing projects or assembling fabric pulls to use up the fabric I have. It’s hard to justify buying the fabric I want to use for a particular project when I already have enough on hand to make many (many) quilts. (I discuss this briefly in my interview for the Creativity Project.) There are even times I think that I quilt to support my fabric-buying habit. I think it should be the other way around.

If my situation resonates with you, can I suggest ways to trim down the fabric you already have and prevent yourself from buying more?

1. Get rid of what you know you won’t use. There’s something helpful and productive about purging what you no longer love or what’s no longer your style. That subpar fabric can affect how you see all the other good and usable stuff in your stash. Any castoffs can be offered to friends, donated to charity, or put up on Instagram or Facebook and sent to a new home. This past February, I gave some of my unwanted fabric to my guild’s annual yard sale. (I wrote about last year’s sale here.)

2. Start with your stash when planning a project. It’s easy to home in on a new quilt design and immediately think that a trip to the quilt shop is in order. When I start playing around with my stash, though, I’m amazed by the potential. Sure, I may need to augment a fabric pull with a new solid or two, but the bulk of many quilt tops can be found in my stash. Precuts and bundles are especially easy to use up—they’re made to coordinate and require fewer new purchases.

I've started this Modern Medallion quilt, by Lynne Goldsworthy, with precuts
from my stash.

3. Buy what you need when you need it. When embarking on a new project, only buy what that project requires after you’ve confirmed that you don’t have a suitable substitute in your stash. I prefer to buy local when possible so I don’t have to order minimum cuts—which are sometimes a full yard!—from an online retailer. Some more advice on this front: Don’t buy too far in advance. If you’re like me, your to-do list will likely change and you’ll find yourself with fabric cuts you no longer need. Also, be wary of free shipping deals online. Sometimes, it’s better to pay five bucks shipping than add unneeded fabric to your shopping cart just to avoid shipping charges.

4. Identify your weakness(es). How are you likely to blow this fabric diet? Are you a social fabric buyer, someone who heads out with friends for some fabric shopping and lunch on a Saturday morning? Then invite your friends to your house to sew instead. Do you find yourself perusing #thegreatfabricdestash posts on Instagram or getting sucked into browsing fabric sales online? Then unfollow the necessary people or shops, and unsubscribe to retailers’ email lists. (All of these will welcome you back when you’re ready, I promise!)

Fabric on sale—especially if it’s by Denyse Schmidt, Amy Butler, or Anna Maria
Horner—is one of my weaknesses!

5. Give yourself some wiggle room. It’s hard to be good all the time. Decide on some healthy parameters for shopping at fabric stores. If you’re going on a quilt retreat and fabric shopping is on the agenda, determine up front how much you’ll spend shopping. If you’re dieting for a nonfinancial reason, try splurging on something other than fabric, like a fabric-cutting machine, quilting services, or high-quality thread.

A few months ago, I went fabric shopping with my mom and sister. It may have been the first time we did that (admittedly, my mom and I shopped, and my sister spent the time on her phone, researching Sesame Street Live!). I decided before we entered a store that I could buy a backing or two for some projects on the horizon. I scored Amy Butler fabric and Anna Maria Horner fabric for $3 a yard and used one of the cuts, pictured below, immediately. I got to have fun with my family and enjoy the thrill of some good fabric scores!

I bought this floral print from Anna Maria Horner when shopping
with my mom and sister. I paid $3 a yard!

Does the size of your stash affect you? Is it time to start a fabric diet? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to cheer you on!

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