Monday, September 14, 2015

Cutting for Christmas

I always intend to make some Christmas gifts, but often get sidetracked, and the best of intentions are lost in the busy-ness of daily life. I had to cut out a few things for the twins room redo, so I decided I would take the time to cut out a few of the things I want to make for Christmas. The past couple years we've done a lot for Christmas, and this year I'd really like to scale back, and have a more homemade Christmas feel.

This weekend was a great example of how my personal fabric system works. I've been wanting to make a dent in my novelty fabric stash, that is mostly leftover from scrub making days. As I was cutting out the things I needed, I was simultaneously making scraps. Rather than let those scraps languish, I was immediately cutting them for my scrap user system.

Here are results of a weekend of cutting for Christmas projects. The plastic bins in the back, from left to right- 1st- strings and crumbs, 2nd- selvages, 3rd- 1.5 inch strips, 4th- 2 inch strips, 5th- 2.5 inch strips, 6th- 3.5 inch strips. In front of those  to the right are some cut squares, the largest pile of which is 6.5". I usually cut my novelty scraps to 6.5" squares (finish at 6") because there are several patterns I like using for kids quilt that use that size, and most novelty fabrics do well at that size. Sometimes when you go smaller the pictures are lost.

Now, if you look at those fanned out white pieces, those are the corrugated plastic pieces I use for my mini bolts, which I use to store pieces over a yard. This pic show six, but I actually emptied 7 of those this weekend. Some of those fabrics are completely gone, some have been moved to my smaller mini bolts. The cards in rows are my small mini bolts, which are cut from magazine backing boards. I store all pieces one yard and less on those. This pic shows 23 of those empty. I actually emptied a couple more than that, because the larger pieces that got moved down to the the smaller bolts after I cut what I needed used some of those.

The projects I was actually cutting, where are those?

Well, right now they are piled on my ironing station. I didn't finish cutting for Christmas, but I did get a lot of it done. I realized almost all of my novelty fabrics are directional prints, so I was having to cut things out taking that into account, I couldn't just cut in a way that used the least fabric. That is why I ended up with so much cut for scrap user system. I kept ending up with odd scraps.

I think to find a system that works for you, the most important thing is to realize how you work, and what you do the most. I make mostly BIG quilts, bed sized, and that has an effect on how I store my fabric. I rarely make matchy-matchy quilts, and even if I make something very color controlled, it has dozens of different fabrics in each color. Because I've taken the time to figure out how I work, I know that saving pieces less than 12" are futile. I could get cornerstones from that, but it's not enough for sashing, or a border, or most anything I would need to have matching in a quilt. I know that that 12" of fabric will get used by me much faster if I cut it down for the scrap user system.

Doing Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilts taught me a lot about how I like to work. I used to pull fabric with everyone else when she first posted the fabric requirements. The thing is, when she gave cutting instructions, I automatically went to my strips drawers first, to see if I had anything precut that would work. There were a couple years I put back every piece I had pulled uncut, because I got everything I needed from my strip drawers. Now my idea of pulling fabric, is just one piece of each color, so I can see if I like the color combination. I don't bother actually pulling fabric unless my strip drawers are low on a color.

I have developed a fabric storage system that really works for the way I work. I always go to the smallest piece I can use first. For the Christmas gifts, my scrap user system stuff was too small, so I went to my small mini-bolts. I only went to the larger yardage when I ran out of smaller pieces that would work. Doing it this way keeps me using the smallest pieces regularly, which is what tends to pile up on most people. It also keep my yardage in the largest pieces for the longest time possible,which is great when I need a border or backing that I don't want to piece much.

There comes a time for most quilters, that they are overwhelmed by their stash. This weekend, while cutting for all those projects, I was actually surprised I felt the opposite. I cut up a LOT of fabric this weekend, and I'm not done cutting. I just had to stop because I ran out of time. I have visible holes in my stash now. I realized that while it may seem to a lot of people that my stash is SABLE (Stash Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy), mine is actually not. I am a prolific quilter, and when making non-quilting projects, I go through stash even faster. I made huge dents in my novelty stash, and I'm not finished. Do I have a lot of fabric? Yes. For someone who makes one or two quilts a year, it would likely be overwhelming. Is it unreasonable for me, who goes through multiple hundreds of yards of fabric a year? I don't think so.

I've been on my own personal no-buy this year, and there is a visible difference in my stash. I have bought a few pieces here and there, but only when I need to use it immediately. I haven't bought anything for stash. I didn't do no-buy because of guilt about my stash. I don't have any guilt about it. If I had a room full of fabric and I wasn't using it, I might have guilt, but my stash works, and gets used, and eventually will need replenishing. I only did no-buy because my financial goals were elsewhere, and I didn't want to spend the money on fabric. I'm already thinking about next year, and although my financial goals are still elsewhere, I think I will add in shopping for fabric at thrift stores and the remnant bin, where the majority of my stash came from anyway. Paying full price for fabric will still be a no-no for me in 2016, unless I need it immediately. Adding a bargain here and there, I have room for that.

Time to get sewing! I need to sew up the couple things I cut for the twins room redo, and I need to get all the scrap user strips put away in the strip drawers, so I'm ready to pull for my next quilting project.  The wedding quilt I was making has the top completed, and the backing pieced, so tomorrow I'll be pin-basting it. Lots to do!

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