January 22, 2009

Organize Your Fabric; Get Ready to Quilt

When I was moving out on my own last year, I came across this beautiful cabinet at Goodwill for just a few bucks. I suppose some people would use it for tableware or books, but not me. I immediately envisioned stacks and stacks of my favorite fabrics, hidden from dust on the shelves of this glass-door cabinet. Once you start collecting fabrics, find a special place for them. I suggest somewhere that is dry and far away from cooking apparatuses (why do so many of us sew in the dining room these days?), and away from dust. Remember, too that your fabric will soak up any smells in your home. Some ladies keeps their fabric in clear, plastic storage bins. This is perfect because I think that you deserve to see your hard-earned money whenever you'd like. So don't stick your fabric down in the basement in a box; keep it somewhere in sight so that you can be inspired when you walk past it!

Hmmm... looks like I need to spiff it up. Oh well, just keeping it real.

My fabric stacks are mostly sorted and stacked (largest cuts on the bottom/fat quarters on top) by COLOR. I do that because I have found that while I am happy to mix vintage and modern prints, I am pretty picky about the colors I am quilting with. I get a certain vision in mind of what I want something to look like. Colors are emotion to me and inspire me that way, visually.

I do make some exceptions.

Some fabrics are stacked together, ready to quilt. The above stack just fell together while I was working on another project. The fabrics were laying there on the floor next to each other and I loved the combination. So, until I decide differently, they were put into the cabinet in that stack. I have no immediate plans for this stack, but it's still pretty.

Below is a fat quarter stack of Amy Butler fabric that was a more recent purchase. The fabrics are meant to go together, come from the same line, and already "match." More to come on this next Amy Butler quilt down below.*


I took some pictures of 3 quilts that I have made over the years. Each one is different.

The first is a quilt that I made about 9 years ago, mostly on the floor of the hotel my ex-husband and I lived in for 3 months when we moved to Kentucky. I cut the pieces (thousands of them) by hand, before I had a rotary cutter. I'm not sure I even know how I did it. It was painful. It took more than a year to finish the top. This quilt was inspired by one I'd seen in a Pottery Barn catalog. I was sure I could make it myself, at a fraction of the cost. That deserves a laugh because (I learned) fabrics can be expensive, and with backing and batting, many bed quilts can cost $300 or more to make. It would have been cheaper to buy the quilt from Pottery Barn. But then, I would have lost out on the hotel-floor sewing experience.

This quilt is also NOTHING like my style these days. I was more traditional then. To be honest, I really don't like this quilt at all anymore. I have kept it because I put so much work into it. Maybe Mabel will want it one day.

This quilt has also not been top quilted yet. In other words, its layers are not yet sewn together. I did bind it, but it can't be used until it's been top quilted. I think I collapsed after I did the binding. I'd been working on it for too long.

The second quilt I have to show you was my first pattern experience. I was very fortunate to have chosen a great pattern. It was a jelly roll strip quilt, so the directions were very easy and quick to follow. Just cut the strips to the length explained, sew five together to make a block, and turn the blocks according to the pattern. I love this quilt; it's the perfect lap quilt.

I also learned a big lesson with this quilt. When the patterns (or the sewing mavens at the quilt store) tell you to allow a 1/4" seam allowance, LISTEN TO THEM. I used closer to 1/8" on this quilt and I have had to repair a few seams already.

The last quilt I have to show you was my labor of love, and it is between queen and king size. This zigzag quilt's pieces were cut entirely on the bias.

Bias-cutting means cutting on the diagonal to a piece of fabric. This allows the fabrics to S T R E T C H, especially when you don't want it to. Spraying the fabric with spray starch helps a bit, as does pinning the ever-loving hell out of the thing. But, you need to know that no matter what precautions you take, your bias pieces (and in this case, every block for my entire quilt) WILL S T R E T C H. You have to have the confidence and the sewing ability to take this into account when top quilting or finishing the quilt. Top quilting stops the stretching because the pieces are then held in place and prevented from stretching.

Anyway, I found this pattern in a book of Mindy's. (If you're interested, leave a comment and I'll look it up.) It said "Advanced Skill Level" and... well, I got a little big for my britches. Bias-cut? Sure, I can do that! Well, this quilt was certainly a learning experience. I am so glad I made it, but I hated it as soon as I'd cut the fabric. This quilt was finished in a labor of love and it is this quilt that I hope to drape over my next person in the nude. Ahem.

For the zigzag quilt, I found I had a LOT of leftover fabric when I was finished with the top. I decided that it was more eco-friendly to use what I had (and wallet-friendly, let's be honest) than buying 5 yards of new. So, I just laid my scraps down on the floor, sewed them together, and they became the back for this quilt. Now I love the back just as much as the front.


I have a few WIP quilts swirling around in my imagination right now. I keep a notebook where I draw pictures and make notes about my Works In Progress. At minimum, I want to make a quilt for each of the boys and Mabel - each will be twin size (unless I upgrade Trevor to a full-size bed). I also know I want to make a few more for my bed (and I realize I have years to do this). Instead of putting a huge comforter on my bed in the winter, I'd like to pile up several quilts on top of me. How homey and yummy does that sound?

I just received Denyse Schmidt's quilt book last week. It is complicated and lovely, but something I wouldn't recommend to a beginner. It can certainly inspire, though. I may not even use the patterns; I may just make them myself.

I love this triangle quilt. Looks like color/white squares made from two triangles. Each square is turned to make the overall pattern. I LOVE this and very much want to use more white in my quilting. I am thinking of using this for one of the boys' twin quilts, or for my next Amy quilt.

I also love this tied quilt. I looks like a scrap quilt, and I love bright colors for a baby instead of boring pastels. (I don't count pink as a pastel, just in case you're curious, lol.) This quilt is remarkably similar to the first Amy Butler lap quilt I showed you, but with irregular strips making up the blocks. This quilt is also tied with white floss instead of being top quilted. LOVE.

So, I picked up some fabrics last week for these quilts in my imagination. I'm going to take my time collecting fabrics. Little boy fabrics, big boy fabrics, robots, cowboys, skulls with crossbones and guitars. Most of the fabrics in the bag below are for my next quilt - they are from the same Amy line as my fat quarter stack. They will look so yummy with white.

I'd also like you new quilters to know that I did not go into the quilt store to buy fabric. I went to schedule my sewing machine's service appointment. Ahem. But hey, I didn't have a spouse in the car waiting!


  1. I love that cabinet and have been looking for one similar. Binding a quilt is very scary for me. I have been turning my quilts and feel like a cheater. Do you have any tips or suggestions on binding?

  2. the colors in your zigzag quilt are gorgeous! I am totally going to make a quilt in that color scheme!

  3. Your quits are so bright and cheerful; I just love them!
    Be proud of your first quilt too; you might not have been a quilter without it:-)