A Blunt Question to Ponder

Last month a family member died. He had no will, and aspects of his assets have created a mess for his widow. Jim and I have long had wills and recently reviewed them with our attorney. But I still haven’t put in writing my “studio estate plan.” Time to do that now… 

Last year I published the post below. If you haven’t written out your studio estate plan, please consider doing so. 


Do you have a plan for your stash? Not for while you’re using it, but for when you are not?

I’ve heard the old joke, “She who dies with the most stash wins!” But it’s not really true, is it? At some point, all of us will be done quilting, whether that comes because of a loss of interest or ability, or due to death. Be prepared for that day.

20151017_134733Will your family look hopelessly at your shelves, cupboards, closets, bins, and tubs, full of fabric and kits and unquilted tops, wondering what to do with it all? I have read too many stories of people whose stashes were discarded because family members were not interested and had no idea of the value.

Sewing machines are expensive. Here again, family members may have no idea of value. Would you like your $1,000 sewing machine sold for $75? It might be able to be sold back to the dealer for a better price.

Have an estate plan for your quilting or crafts studio. Consider how you want your stash and equipment distributed in the case of your untimely death, or your loss of ability to use your precious quilting resources.

20151017_134416Will one of your family members be glad to take it? Will they pay your estate the value of it, or assume it should come to them for free? Remember, a pound of fabric is about four yards. These days that would retail for about $40-50. How many pounds will they pay for at that price, or even a discounted price?

If you want your fabric donated, consider who will receive it. My local Mennonite relief store is glad for fabric donations, and the customers who shop there are more appreciative of fabric than the typical Goodwill customer will be. Perhaps your local quilt guild would like donations, or maybe not! The women’s prison about 50 miles from me has an ongoing sewing project and appreciates help. You may find similar needs in your community.

Make a plan. Write it down. Tell your family members – and those who are to receive items – of the plan. They can’t do what you want if they don’t know what that is.

Have you thought about an estate plan for your quilting resources? Who will receive your fabric? Equipment? What is your greatest hope and worst fear about this?


22 thoughts on “A Blunt Question to Ponder

  1. Thread crazy

    Thanks for the reminder Melanie as I’ve been rearranging my stash and thinking what will I do with it all! I too have had conversations with hubby, giving him instructions as to what I’d like done with my machines and fabrics. However, I think putting it down in writing is the best thing – or – possibly a videotape. That way you can photograph and talk at the same time. Hmm, maybe that’s what I’ll do. Then of course, a copy of that video must be placed with the written will. It’s sad to think that we quilters take care in selecting our beautiful fabrics and many of us will never get to use them all. Not sure what the answer is as I’m just like everyone else, I try hard not to purchase any fabric, but once in awhile one always calls my name so loud I just cave!!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      A video would work well. And it’s good to have video around your whole property for insurance purposes, too. It will see things you would never remember, if you had to make a claim.

  2. shoreacres

    And of course what you say applies to far more than quilting (knitting, sewing, needlepoint) stashes. There are lots and lots of things around even my house which need to be dispersed — and, with no familly, it needs to be done before I die. Otherwise, there’s no telling where things would end up. It’s never fun to think about, but there is a certain relief that comes with thinking about it, too.

    As one of my 80-year-old friends says, one of the best reasons to cultivate younger friends is to have people to leave stuff to!

  3. Pingback: A Blunt Question to Ponder | Free Form Quilts

  4. KerryCan

    You really touched a nerve for many people with this! I go to a lot of estate sales and such, and see so clearly that people simply never think about dying and what will happen to their stuff. My own aunt’s attic and house and basement are FULL of stuff and her daughters will be completely overwhelmed by it when she dies. I have too much, too, and I think about it wonder but haven’t done much yet. Sigh–add it to the list!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Overwhelmed, yes. We all have so much stuff. I often wish to get rid of most of it, but that also isn’t practical right now. (Why not? Will have to think about that, too.) Instead I keep chipping away, a little at a time.

  5. Pingback: A Blunt Question to Ponder – scstephquilts

  6. weddingdressblue

    I came close to dying of pneumonia about a year and a half ago and this was strongly on my mind. While I still have a lot of fabric, I am gradually working down the unfinished projects. I don’t want to leave that kind of a mess. My daughter also sews and quilts and I think she will know what to do with it, but I do need to write some things down. Thanks for the thoughts.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Being gravely ill certainly makes one think. I’m glad you recovered well, but I can’t fully imagine what kinds of concerns you must have had. The studio would have been such a small part of it, I expect.

  7. katechiconi

    I suspect that if I die of old age, I will long since have distributed my sewing tools and supplies as I choose. My hands will not outlast my sewing ambitions, I fear, nor my eyesight. I don’t have a plan in place in case of the unexpected, so perhaps I need to talk to my younger rellies to see if there’s any interest in acquiring a fully-equipped quilting setup!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      A lot of people die of old age and don’t take care of things like that. STH (comment above) talks about a very typical situation, older people who refuse to get rid of things, for any number of reasons. It’s a shame. As to the unexpected, I’ve talked about some of it with Jim, but it would be better to put it in writing.

  8. Lois Stephens

    Well I never thought about it until you brought it up! I have bought beautiful fabric from time to time at local op shops and put it to good use. Food for thought:)) p.s. I love your informative posts – you always get me thinking.

  9. STH

    Thank you for writing about this. I’ve been thinking about this issue recently, as I had to help my mother move twenty years of accumulated stuff around so that she could get new carpeting put in her house. She no longer sews, but she’s got a sewing room packed full of fabric and half-completed projects. She no longer cooks, but she’s got two linen closets full of tablecloths, place mats, and centerpieces for the dining room table she never uses. She has a garage full of my late father’s old newspaper clippings, rusty tools, and magazines. And all of this will have to dealt with by her daughters after she’s gone, as she won’t part with any of it now. Please, folks, consider ways to avoid leaving a huge mess behind that your family will have to clean up. Designating charities to receive your craft supplies would be a huge help in this. Personally, I’m going to tell my partner to give all my sewing stuff to our local creative reuse center, so that they can resell it to other sewers.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Oh my. I’m sorry. Yes, it is a mess, and one of my goals is to not leave a mess for my kids like those I’ve seen from others. Good luck with helping your mom. It’s tough, for sure.

  10. norma

    Very interesting!
    Our quilting group received sack after sack load of fabric from the family of a deceased former member. It was sold to raise funds for the Quilt Association which preserves and shows Welsh quilts – I forget what was raised but it was quite a bit.
    I bought the lady’s hand dyed fabrics because they were pretty and it seemed sad that she had done all that work but never used them. I was inspired by seeing all her fabrics to start clearing my stash and yes, I did make a quilt from her fabrics.
    I haven’t got a plan for my stuff though. I think my husband would probably do what her family did.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      My guild hears from people multiple times a year who are trying to get rid of a relative’s stash. We just can’t take it all. So while I know that’s an option for my fabrics, I would need a back-up plan, at least. Thanks for commenting.

  11. Lisa

    This is a very real concern for me, as I have terminal cancer and am looking at my life in months, now, not years. I’ve put a moratorium on fabric buying, except to finish projects. (Yeah, that’s actually not really working so well…). I am, however, trying to use as much of my stash as possible. My goal is to have plenty of quilt tops, and the information on how to get them finished. I’ve begun talking to my quilter friends about the disposition of my stash. My teenaged daughter isn’t too interested in it. Maybe that will change. Ideally, we will have much of this sorted before I go. And hopefully I’ll have a hundred quilt tops before I go!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Hi Lisa. Thanks for reading and commenting. I watched your video from a couple of days ago. Your quilts are beautiful, with a wonderful sense of joy. Good luck with your goal of making lots of tops. Of course be sure to label them with intended recipients. That’s one thing I was thinking of this morning — my completed quilts don’t have named recipients. A couple need labels made, even if only to say who has first dibs. But I need a plan for the rest, too.

      I wish you unexpected blessings and much love.


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