Thursday, January 26, 2012

I'm retreating!!

Tomorrow begins one of my favorite weekends of the year!!  A retreat with 29 other quilters (most are former students) to piece and quilt and eat!!  We've been doing this for close to 10 years.  The sewing machine and all its little friends are sitting by the back door ready to jump into the car in the morning!!
I always take along more than I can possibly accomplish, but it would be awful to run out of things to do!?!  The clothes basket contains 4 small quilting projects (3 with a deadline), 2 half-finished piecing projects, 12 blocks ready to set together and a top ready for borders.   But that was half hour ago.

I went up to the sewing room to bring down the basket and (just in case) I added two bundles for Valentine pillowcases for my grands, one more small quilting project, and this really old large unfinished project that I don't like anymore -- goal with it isn't necessarily to finish it, but to at least make decisions about how to repurpose it and get it out of here!!!!

I think it's inspiring to work alongside a bunch of quilters -- see what they are doing, get new ideas, and soak up all their energy.  When I return home on Sunday afternoon, I hope to have 3 small quilts ready to bind and some significant progress made on the other projects plus some more yards to subtract from the stash tally!!!  I hope you get to sew this weekend, too!!

Mary Huey

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A finishing flurry!!

Do you ever feel like you keep working and working and nothing gets done?  I do!  Perhaps it's because I have more than one oar out of the boat at a time?  But yesterday yielded the first finished project of 2012 with two more hot on it's heels!  And by the end of the day on Saturday, there will be 3 finished projects -- deadlines are my saviour!!  And here they are in the back of the car -- ready for the trip to Gettysburg!  The bottom one is a queen size version of my Sandstone pattern with a pair of matching pillowcases and all the leftover fabric (3 yards out of the stash!) in case my daughter wants to accessorize!?!  Nice strategy, don't you think?  The top one is the twin size black trains with orange sashing quilt for my grandson.  I'm still doing the hand stitching on the binding, but that will occupy my hands during the evenings while I'm visiting.

This finishing flurry has gotten the year off to a great start -- 21 3/4 yards out of the stash -- even I'm surprised!  My monthly average has to be 17.66666666 to meet the goal of 212 yards and it's only the 18th?!?  But I know at some point I'll get interrupted and so having a big start will be good.  I'm sure many of you have also discovered that pillowcases are an excellent way to burn through fabric fast!   A quilter told me last year that she used up 100 yards of her stash just doing pillowcases.  Never done it?  Joan Hawley's Lazy Girl blog has excellent instructions with clear photos --   Add to that, giving my daughter all the left over fabric from the quilt and it was an easy 5 yards out of the stash!!

I will be teaching on Friday at The Sew'n Place in Chambersburg, PA -- it's a lovely shop and I teach there when in Gettysburg.  This time I'm teaching a Civil War quilt workshop that I developed to teach this past summer during the Road to the Civil War week during the 2012 Chautauqua Institution season in New York State.  The project is a hand-pieced 9-patch similiar to what would have been a typical US Sanitary Commission donation and I share history about the efforts women made in the North and South to support their menfolk who were actively serving in the armies.  I have never been overly fond of the Civil War reproduction fabrics, but researching this class was so interesting that I have a different perspective on them.  It's a relaxing workshop and if your group is interested in hosting it, let me know!

Time to finish packing the car and get on the road!  Keep tackling your stash!!

Mary Huey

Friday, January 13, 2012

What happened to Thursday?

47" by 63" -- forgot to rotate it, but you get the idea.
It was my intention to post a progress report yesterday, but I was on the move all day -- still trying to cross things off Tuesday's "to-do" list?!?  Too many big tasks -- not good because I'm still not finished, but all the critical tasks are done.  Just finished a new sample of my pattern, Stars for All, using a simple fabric scheme -- two color families, six prints.   Started it on the 7th, finished the top on the 13th, and used another 3 1/2 yards from the stash!!  The border is a gorgeous nasturtium print I hoarded years ago -- nice to finally have it in a quilt!

Someone asked how I figure out the amount of yardage I've used in a quilt.  In one like this, I measured each piece of fabric before I cut and then after cutting to determine how much I've used.  But the scrappier the quilt becomes, the less satisfactory that method is -- too cumbersome.  So when a quilt top is finished, you can also do a little math. 

Multiply the length times the width and that gives you the square inches -- so this top is 2961 square inches.  There are 1440 square inches in one yard of fabric.  (Someday, that piece of trivia will be useful.)  Divide the square inches of your quilt top by 1440 and it will give you a yardage figure.  It doesn't take into account seam allowances and I'm reluctant to give up those numbers!  So I add on -- generally if the pieces in the quilt are small (say 2" finished) -- you can add about 1/3 of the answer to the division problem.  The bigger the pieces, the less I add.  It is perhaps still a bit on the low side but that's okay.

I'm teaching Log Cabin with Marti Michell's terrific rulers tomorrow at Cottonpickers in Chardon, so I'm off to bed with a nice warm mocha and my sidekick, Willie (large black cat who likes to snuggle!!)  What have you stitched on this week?

Mary Huey

Monday, January 9, 2012

Where to start?

This weekend I finished a quilt top and backing for my grandson, Bennett.  The idea for it was born in a fabric shop last summer when my daughter spotted a black and white fabric with drawings of trains.  At 3, Bennett is a Thomas, the Train expert and he was showing a definite preference for the color orange.  I had an idea rather quickly and pulled lots of oranges from my stash, but the pile laid on the floor all fall. 

After my last visit with them in October, I realized I better get to it before he lost interest in trains and orange.  So on December 21, I began.  Not sure why I started a new project 4 days before Christmas -- I suspect it was to avoid something less pleasant than starting a new quilt top!  

The finished top!

This past Friday, 1/6, I finished making the backing!!  I think I've intimidated myself -- quilt top and backing in just 15 days?  Not sure I knew I could move through a project that quickly.  This time I've sent it out to be quilted because there is a second idea for Bennett's other bunk bed starting to appear on the workwall and if I don't keep moving, I'll lose the motivation.  Fabric used from the stash -- 6 yards!  That's not counting the train print that my daughter purchased. 

The backing!

Obviously one must sew to use up one's stash.  And to bust your stash, it has to be very accessible -- it needs to be easier to use what you own than it is to go shopping.  So if you don’t already have a system for storing your fabric, it will be worth it to take the time to create one. 

I keep all of my stash in one room and sort the fabric in one of two ways – there are some fabrics sorted by print style.  My style groups include orientals, batiks, 30’s reproductions, civil War, fall, Christmas, novelty, florals, solids, neutral backgrounds, Halloween, and flannel.  All the rest is sorted by color – red, blue, yellow, etc.  That suits the way I pull fabrics for a project.  I start with the fabric style I want to use, say florals, then pull some I like together and fill out the palette from the color groups, like pinks.  It was easy to find the fabrics for Bennett's quilt -- all the oranges are in one pile and the backing started with the stripe which was readily accessible in another pile.  (I sliced the stripe vertically and added leftovers from the quilt top until it was wide enough.)

I have some other groups that I’ve found helpful.  There is a shelf of large pieces – 2 yards or more that could become borders or the beginning of a backing.  There is a shelf of “sacred piles” – I’ve been surprised when presenting programs this past year that the term “sacred piles” resonates with so many quilters.  Those are the groups that are perfect together so I’m “saving” them for something special? The danger is that “something special” doesn’t always appear on the horizon before some of their “expiration dates” have passed. . . . . if you know what I mean?
So the first step is to decide on an organization system – perhaps some of you have good ideas to share -- that's what the comment section is for.  I think if you have less than 500 yards, sorting by color should be a good system.  Shelves or boxes?   I say whichever works in your space -- the important thing is to make it easily accessible!  The important thing is to KEEP PIECING!!!
Mary Huey


Thursday, January 5, 2012

In the beginning . . . .

In the beginning, there was a retired quilt shop owner with a lot of fabric -- enough to last quite a few years without buying another stitch of the stuff.  Add in a "few" UFQ's (unfinished quilts), and it makes for an endless "to-do" list. 

During 2011, I strove to reduce my stash by 100 yards and by the grace of a December 30 culling of the red shelf, made it to 101 7/8 yards less fabric than on January 1.  Actually I used 160 yards of fabric but I treated new purchases as a debit against my total used.   That goal stimulated a lot of fun and creative stretching, so I have decided to do it again!

2012's goal of 212 yards can be achieved by using the fabric myself, donating it to other quiltmakers, or selling it off during my annual summer yard sale.  I'm going to keep a tally of my purchases, but I'm not going to deduct them from the final total.  One of the things I achieved in 2011 was more self-control around fabric for sale.  Part of the reason for that, I think, is that I've become really well acquainted with my stash so most of my buying was to fill gaps in my color palette or for a specific use.  I think its so exciting to use the beautiful stuff I already own and I'd rather see it in a quilt than on a yard-sale table!

I know it looks a little chaotic but I work spontaneously and can never seem to get completely through a tidy-up session without having yet another idea for a quilt.  Notice the almost empty shelf!  It's all on the floor while I look for just the right green and at least tidy-up that shelf at the same time?!?

I plan to post a progress report a couple times a week and I'll share my strategies and ideas for using up more fabric and finishing more projects.  Lots of these ideas have evolved as a result of my teaching challenges and I've created a home study course to share what I've learned with you, UFQ Assault Tactics, which is available by contacting me at

Mary Huey