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



  1. What a great boy's quilt! Thomas the Train and Chuggington are just waning for my 6 year old as dinosaurs have become the big thing. Organizing fabric is always a dilemma - I have mine on shelves in the closet by color and a couple bins of 'extra bits' that I am sorting though and using with the Rainbow Scrap Challenge at so scrappy.blogspot. That makes me revisit the colors by month and do 'something' with them. Found you from Va's linkup.

  2. I agree...what a perfect boy quilt. I enjoyed your ready your post. I don't have a lot of fabric on hand...and what I do is fat quarters.