Category Archives: Organization

The Straight Stitch – What to do with extra fabric?

Dear Keep it Thimble,

I inherited an armful of fabric from a local quilter who passed away and it has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. She had a tendency toward traditional fabrics and patterns; I don’t share that. I don’t know what to do with this. Keep it until I find a use for it?  give it away? I am afraid that the minute I give it away I will find a use for it. And I feel badly since this fabric was a gift from her husband, who wanted other quilters to have it.

But I have little storage space and this stuff is taking up badly needed space…I favor bright colors, batiks, polka dots, not flowers.  Any suggestions?

Susan

What should I do with extra/unwanted fabric?

Hi Susan,

Thanks for writing.  If you haven’t found a use for it yet, and you know you don’t really care for it, it’s unlikely you will find something to do with it in the next few years.  Since it sounds like you can use the space, you want to explore ways you can either give away the fabric with a clear conscience, or at least swap it out for fabric that is more to your liking.

One idea would be have a fabric swap where you invite some friends over to swap out pieces from your stash.  This doesn’t solve the storage issue, but maybe it will make it easier to part with the fabric that you aren’t too crazy about and be assured that this fabric is going home with someone who wants it and has a plan for it.

Another idea is to use the fabric to sew up some quilt for charity.   There are always organizations that can use these quilts and this might be a nice use for the fabric since you don’t plan to use it for personal projects.  Here’s a link to a list of charities you can check out:

http://www.quiltersworld.com/makeadifference.php

You could also donate the fabric to a local quilt guild.  They can use it to make quilts for charity and will make sure it gets put to good use.    Another option, less altruistic, is to have a quilter’s yard sale to get rid of the fabric.  I’ve done this twice in the past and have had great success.  Depending on the quality and age of the fabric, you could get $2 – $5 yard, which can add up quickly.

Hope this helps.  Keep it thimble!

Heather

 

Advertisements

Fall Projects

I still owe you a report on my trip to Alaska and the quilt shops, and you will get that before the end of the year.  However, I have been busy working on some fall projects and should have lots to show and tell in the next month or so.

Fall Fabric Covered Box

Here’s a cute fabric covered box that I made from a class I took at Liberty Rose.  Sharon thought of this idea and taught it as a class.  This is one of my favorite projects because it only takes a 2 or so hours to complete from start to finish.  When done, it looks like something store-bought!

Project Storage Idea – Sara Lee Bakery Case

I found this Sara Lee Bakery Display at the local antique store.  It’s the perfect place to store all my works in progress.  As you can see, I have quite a few projects going on right now.  Most of these are 75% complete and will be done in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!

Keep it thimble!

Civil War Blocks – Update!

Civil War Blocks - Set 1

Civil War Blocks – Set 1

Here’s a quick peek at some of the 55 blocks I’ve completed for my Civil War sampler quilt.  These are 8″ blocks that I’ve been sewing in my monthly “Civil Sewing Circle.”  It was nice to spread them all out to get a better idea of how much has been accomplished with this project for the past year.

Civil War Blocks - Set 2

Civil War Blocks – Set 2

In addition, I am rededicating myself to the Building Houses from Scraps challenge.  The idea is to sew one scrappy house block a day – right now I have 17.  On June 1st, I started sewing 2 a day (and plan to for the rest of the year), so there will be 365 blocks by Dec 31.  As of June 1, I am only 6 blocks behind (as in, I still haven’t started sewing on them 🙂 ).

Civil War Blocks - Set 3

Civil War Blocks – Set 3

Any tips for how to better organize your time?  I’m sure all of us could use some time management advice.  I’ve tried various ways to get on a sewing (and blogging) schedule, but it seems something always comes up that is more important.  Right now, my focus is on finishing projects since so many are close to being done.  By the end of June, there should be quite a dent in the UFO pile (fingers crossed).

Keep it thimble!

March Flea Market Finds

Here’s a smile for you – my son holding up this love bug mask and saying “Hello Spring”!  How can you resist?

Hello Spring!

Hello Spring!

I had some good luck with flea market finds this month and found some great knick knacks.  I’m not sure what this first item is; it is some type of souvenir tray from Florida.  I think this might be for carrying drinks?  If anyone knows, please tell me!

Souvenir Tin

Souvenir Tin

This is a handmade Raggedy Ann doll.  Her face is hand embroidered and she is stuffed with fabric scraps (very old-fashioned).  I figure she was probably made in the 60’s or 70’s based on the fabric used for her dress.  I plan to make a new dress for her from my plethora of civil war fabric.  She looks perfect sitting on the school desk I found a few months ago.

Handmade Raggedy Ann Doll

Handmade Raggedy Ann Doll

Here is a wooden bread box.  It needs a bit of cleaning (there are crumbs in it), and I may end up painting/distressing this.  It would make a perfect sewing box – especially since you can see your project through the window.

Bread Box

Bread Box

When I saw this piece with the handcarved star and the little drawers, I had to have it! According to the signature on the back, this was made in 1986, which makes it 26 years old – so it just qualifies as being vintage!

Handmade Drawers

Handmade Drawers

Lastly, here is a very clever tote bag.  This is made from a paper-pieced quilt block that shows a girl jumping rope.  Do you see how her rope is actually the handles of the bag?  Also, I love her braids!

Jump Rope Quilt Block

Jump Rope Quilt BLock

Good luck with your flea market finds!  If you find something fun, let us now by posting in the comments.

Keep it Thimble!

5 Must-Have Sewing Notions

Shaker Pincushion

Sewing gadgets can make life easier, and if they are the right price, I am happy to try them out. Some of these things include a bobbin winder (used twice), a 1/4″ rule for marking seams (used a lot!), and the Dritz EZ Hem (used once for this dress). As you can see, even when you have the right tool for the job, you may not find that it is a must-have (just a fun to have). However, there are 5 sewing tools I can’t live without.

1. Seam Ripper

Clover Seam Ripper

This gets used all the time! I used to get frustrated whenever I had to rip out a seam, but now I find it kind of therapeutic. Seam ripping is a nice break during a marathon sewing session. Also, once I learned the correct way to rip out a seam, the job was much faster and easier. There are two seam rippers I recommend (having used both quite a bit): the ergonomic once by Clover and the Dritz one that folds (which is nice for travel). The main thing is to pick a seam ripper you can easily hold in your hand without it cramping up.

2. Iron

Rowenta Steam Iron

An iron is on this list, even though it is probably not considered a sewing notion, but it is a necessity. There are wide variety of opinions on which one is best. Many people swear by their $20 iron, while others say that the more expensive irons are worth the money. I’ve had experience with both types and I find the more expensive irons (like a Rowenta) really do work better for quilting and sewing. This is because of several reasons — and if you can find a cheaper iron that has the following features, get it:

The first thing to consider is the weight of the iron, a big heavy iron is going to work better since the natural weight of the iron makes it easier for you to press down and get a nice flat seam. Some people find that an iron can be too heavy and thus tire out their arms, so keep this in mind. The temperature is another factor in how well your iron works – you want a iron that can get nice and hot, especially when working with cotton – the hotter the iron, the flatter the seam. The final thing to consider is steam – more expensive irons have more holes for the steam to escape, which makes better use of the steam. One caveat is that if you store your iron with water inside, it is more likely to leak. I have heard that keeping water in the iron is the biggest reason why irons start leaking and break down. Each time I finish with my iron, I empty out the water, and I also run the self cleaning function a few times a month.

3. Scissors

Gingher 8" Dressmakers Shears

Again, this is an area where you can spend a little or lot of money. After comparing scissors, I splurged and bought Ginghers (made in the USA!) –8″ dressmakers shears for cutting fabric, 7″ craft scissors for ribbon, wool, and foundation piecing, and a 4″ utility pair for embroidery and applique (also good for travel). There are several reasons that Ginghers are worth the money. First, they accurately cut all the way to the very tip of the blade. This is especially important for detail cutting, where you don’t want to risk a slip of the scissors. They are really sharp and can through cut several layers of fabric at once. They are LIFETIME scissors, meaning they will never wear out and I can send them to Gingher at anytime to get them sharpened (for a nominal fee) and they will be like new again.

One interesting thing to note is the difference between scissors and shears. The word “scissors” is used interchangeably between the two, but there is a difference Scissors are usually smaller, and feature two similar sized round holes for your fingers. The handles are separate and made of plastic while the blade part is metal.

Shears feature a round hole for the thumb and a larger oval hole for the rest of your fingers. This makes the shears easier to control when you are cutting fabric. The handle and blade are made out of one piece of metal. , which means that shears are two metal “scissors” held together by a bolt.

4. Chalk Wheel Marker

Clover Chalk Wheel Marker

Oftentimes while sewing, there is a need to mark the fabric. For example, you may need to draw lines for quilting, divided pockets, o r a hemline. The chalk wheel marker makes a nice sharp line and wipes off very easily. For a few dollars you can purchase a bag of chalk dust for refills and it last a loooong time.

5. Pincushion

Tomato Pin Cushion

Pincushions are something I can’t live without. They are pretty, functional, and fun to make. I have three that get used on a regular basis, and several others for decorative purposes. They are great scrap busters and you can make them in variety of shapes and sizes.

From a functional standpoint, pincushions are much easier to use — you don’t have to worry your pins falling on the ground as you add and remove pins to your project. If you want to get fancy with your pins and needles organization you can section off the pincushion by type – needles in one section, applique pins in another, and quilting pins in a third.

Finally, the tomato pincushion is pretty much the universal sewing symbol. Why the tomato you ask? According to some, people used to place a ripe tomato on the mantle of a new home to guarantee future prosperity. However, in those days, tomatoes were not available year-round (or would rot easily), so a round ball stuffed with sawdust or sand was used instead. These balls were the perfect place for storing pins, thus the tomato pincushion was born. The strawberry that is attached to most pincushions is filled with emery which is useful for sharpening pins. I wasn’t able to find an explanation for how the strawberry got added to the pincushion…if anyone knows, please enlighten us!

Shaker Pincushion

Since everyone needs a pincushion and a place to store all their odds and ends – a Shaker Pincushion is the perfect solution. Click here for my free pattern. Enjoy!

Keep it Thimble!

3 Tips for Making the Most of Your Sewing Time

Joseph's Coat

Joseph's Coat

I am a member of the “Civil Sewing Circle” that meets once a month.  Each month we get patterns and fabrics to make four blocks. The meetings started in August and by now we should have 24 blocks completed (can you see where I am going with this?).

I got behind pretty quickly and by the end of December, I only had SIX blocks completed (as in 25% of the blocks).  I’ve included a pictures of a few of the blocks I made so far.  This quilt is a lot of fun and I look forward to completing it sometime next year.

Rambler

Rambler

However, once the New Year began, I vowed to get caught up and knew I needed to make some changes in how I managed my time.

One thing I’ve started doing is sewing at least 30 minutes a day.  I am surprised at how much I can get done in an hour (even if it is comprised of 10 minute spurts throughout the day).  I keep a small basket with my latest project next to the machine and sew when I can.  This is more efficient if I have everything cut out and ready to go the beforehand.

Flying Geese

Flying Geese

Which brings me to my next tip.  Dedicate a few hours each month to cutting out three projects to work on.  This way, you can store all the cut pieces, instructions, and other notions in a project bag and have it ready for your thirty minutes of daily sewing time.  This is helpful because cutting out the project is oftentimes the task that requires the most room and creates the most mess.  By cutting out multiple projects ahead of time, you can make a single BIG mess once a month, and then more manageable smaller messes the rest of the time.

For things that involve a larger commitment (like sewing 4 civil war blocks a month, or a scrappy house block a day), I use the “timebox” method.  Timeboxing is where you set aside a block of time and do as much work as you can (the time box).  This works great on the weekends when I can set aside 3 – 4 hours at a time to work on projects.  I put this block of time on my schedule and treat it like a meeting (this is the project manager in me coming out).

So far, this has been a success.  What are some tips you have for managing your sewing time?

Keep It Thimble!

Scraps Gone Crazy!

In keeping with the theme of reducing and organizing your stash, let’s discuss the “scrap problem”.  Right now, my scraps are stored in a single plastic bin.  However, when I take the lid off it literally explores from all the fabrics I have stuffed in there.  This method also makes it difficult to track what colors and styles of fabric are there.

Scraps gone crazy!

Since the Scrappy House blocks are made from scraps, this bin needs organized so that the blocks can come together more quickly.   The first one was finished yesterday and only 18 more are needed in order to be caught up! I plan to work on them this weekend so that things are back on track by Monday.

First Scrappy House Block!

The first one turned out really cute.  This uses some of the modern fabrics in my scrap bag – do you see the little bird in the window?  My plan is to mix up all the fabric styles – civil war, trendy, holiday, and so on.  It will look nice and scrappy when completed.  In order to give the final piece some unity, the same black and red fabrics will be used to create the border and corner stones that surround each block.  The search is still on for these two fabrics.

Anyway, back to to the scrap problem.  I purchased 8 clear plastic shoebox bins and will be organizing the scraps by the colors of the rainbow (black/white for the last bin).  This seems to be an easy way to get them in order  for now.  Since I have so many civil war scraps, these will be organized in another set of bins.

How do you organize your scraps?  Please post your suggestions in the comments section.

Keep It Thimble!