Friday, August 21, 2009

Indy and the "Sewing Advantage"

Above is a picture of our new little dog, Indy. As you can see he's sitting on a patchwork pillow, (big surprise!). He's a sweet little thing and I'm a lot less lonely because he sits in a bed on my desk while I'm working away. Pets are such a blessing!

As to another blessing, it occurred to me last night that being able to sew is a huge advantage in this economy. My son's backpack's zipper broke and instead of going out and getting him another one, I dug into my zipper stash, and was able to put a new one in.

I'm not saying it was easy, because of course the zipper that went was one of the first the original seamstresses put in. It looks like they built the backpack around that section. So, of course I had to take apart lining, sides, and various sections and then somehow put it all back together. Fortunately, I'm a skilled hand seamstress so I ended up doing it by hand as there's no way I could get it into the machine without taking the whole thing apart. However, I got it fixed, and he's thrilled because he loves the backpack he has, and I'm thrilled because I don't have to go out and spend $40 on a new one.

This is far from the first time I've been able to mend, make over, or alter something that's made a difference in our lives. Recently I bought a soft halter for Indy which I had to tailor to fit him, (he's like the rest of this family...between sizes!), so now he has a comfy halter that fits him perfectly. I just picked up a cute little raincoat for him at the dollar store, which I'm going to have to refit. But, heck, $1 and a little elbow grease, and he'll have a perfect little hooded coat without the high pet store price.

I learned how to sew from my mother when I was around five. Then I took sewing classes at the local Singer store, and of course, the wonderful Home Economics classes in junior high and high school. I'm not sure if they even have those courses anymore, but I suspect the women of my generation can at least sew on a button, (and who can regret those fresh baked cookies!). "Project Runway" has gone a long way in getting people interested in sewing again, I'm glad to see it making a resurgence, and hopefully these young people will take up the quilting banner and continue building on our heritage.

Happy Stitching!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Secrets of a Fabric Collector, Part 2

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted! I’d like to say that it’s been for wonderful and fun reasons, but actually it’s just been life and a dose of the flu. Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Anyway, I’m feeling semi-normal again, which is how I usually feel so I guess you could say I’m normal, (which if you knew me well would be a stretch!). It’s kind of confusing when you’re having menopausal symptoms and the flu…is that a hot flash or do I have a raging fever all of a sudden? Either way it’s no fun, and it really adds to those loads of laundry that have been piling up since I’ve been sick.

So, since I’m at about 85% I decided to spend the day doing laundry and getting caught up on things I can do without exerting myself too much. Hence…a blog posting!

Now, when I left off last time I was talking about buying fabrics, and was in the midst of sorting mine. I actually did finish the sorting and will upload a picture as soon as I can find the cables for the digital camera, (always a hitch!). However, it’s done, and it is satisfying to see the fabrics stacked neatly by color and category. I stacked the top two shelves with individual fabrics by color. These are fabrics of which I have only one color-way, and don’t fit into my other categories. Those categories are: metallics, dots, stripes & plaids, batiks, toiles & damasks, 1930s, lettered (fabrics with alphabets, numbers, writing, etc.), and solids. Within those groups I put all of the different color-ways of a fabric together.

I also have categories for different designers, namely my Kaffe Fassett fabrics, which I try to get all color-ways of each year. It’s an investment but his colors are so fab and the fabrics so cool that my only worry is that I’ll have enough. (his fabrics are the ones I always buy a yard of if I see them on sale). The rest of the case is filled with fabrics of which I have multiple color-ways. I like to keep them together.

I have a few stacks of holiday themed fabrics that I store separately as I don’t use them for most of my projects, as well as larger pieces that are suitable for backings and linings. These I keep in baskets above my case.

Oh, and more on what I was talking about last time….

If you are collecting colors as I suggested, one of the best ways is to wait for the clearance sales and pick up what you can then. I love the clearance bins online, particularly on, and They often have fabrics that are still at regular price in shops and online at great prices. Fabric Shack has a great clearance section with fabrics starting at $1.98 a yard, and their shipping prices make it worthwhile. also has great prices, ( I suggest signing up for their email ads…many great sales!), and if you buy $35 worth there are no shipping charges. Also, if you live in a high sales tax state like me, (hear me California Legislature!!), you don’t have to pay sales tax.

Oh, and neither of these sites make you buy 1 yard of a clearance fabric like Hancock’s of Paducah does, (although I love their site as well).

Happy shopping and stacking!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Secrets of a Fabric Collector, Part 1

I just finished sorting through my bookcase of fabric. It took a few days, including interruptions from my Chihuahua-Terrier “Indy” who has decided that jumping on stacks of fabric and wrestling with them is his new favorite thing to do. Finally I put a laundry basket at the other end of the room, filled it up with fabrics I wasn’t keeping and let him go to town! He had a ball!

I wish I could say the same. For some reason sorting fabric always makes me a little sad, and, dare I say it? Cranky!

I’ve never been a big impulse fabric buyer. I have a BA in Clothing and Textiles, so I learned how the textile industry works. It turns out that the colors are cyclical. I’m sure you’ve noticed it yourself; one year it’s brown, another green, etc. Last year blue was beginning to come back after years of being overshadowed by brighter hues. If you pay attention when you’re out and about, you can notice the subtle changes and how these take place over time.

So, if you do a lot of scrap quilting and appliqué like I do, you want to have a large variety of colors on hand. To do this you have to buy fabrics yearly, focusing on the colors that are being pushed that year. If you do this over a course of years you will end up with a stash with a depth of color and variety that will make it easier for you to create the quilt designs you envision.

Lately, things have changed a bit. In order to keep quilters interested in the new lines, the fabric companies are coming out with more lines but printing smaller runs. It explains why you might see a fabric in a quilting magazine, then go out to buy it and not be able to find it anywhere. I’ve actually asked in a quilt shop for a recent fabric, only to be told that they couldn’t get any more, it was sold out everywhere. Online can sometimes be your only shot, but then that can get pricey when you add in the shipping charges.

So, what this means is that if you want something you need to move quickly. I have favorite fabric lines, (Westminster, Robert Kaufman, and Free Spirit to name a few), so I have their websites bookmarked and keep an eye out for when the new fabric lines will be available. Some websites even offer pre-ordering, or you can see what’s just arrived. You can also check in with your local quilt store and ask them when they’ll be getting their next delivery. Then you can be there and ready to pounce when the new goodies arrive.

If you’re like me and you’re basically just stash building, a quarter or half yard is often enough, depending on the fabric. After all of these years I pretty much know which fabrics will get a lot of use and which won’t. It depends on your style of quilting, and how big your quilts are. I usually work small because I’m the art quilt type, (and because my quilts are heavily embellished - it would take me years to finish a big one), so smaller pieces usually work just fine. A half yard will actually give me enough for piecing, some appliqué, and even a backing or binding.

If you’re the kind who makes a quilt for a bed, or follows a pattern where you need so much yardage of this or that fabric, you need to make sure you buy plenty. I recommend buying at least a quarter or half yard more than you need. That way you’re covered for shrinkage, any boo-boos you make, (and take my word for it, I make plenty!), and then you have a piece left over to add to your stash. If you’re making a quilt for a house with kids and dogs, (or a messy adult), that extra piece could come in handy for repairs down the road.

Besides, you can never be too thin, too rich, or have too much fabric!