Getting It Out in the Open

I mentioned in a recent post that my studio is suffering from some disorganization. There are a lot of different ways to address the problem. The right solution will differ for each person, and the best right way is one that leads to maintenance, not just a one-time fix that quickly degrades. After all, if you go through a Marie Kondo-style process and immediately begin refilling your space and life with unnecessary stuff, you didn’t actually fix anything.

Okay, well, my problem isn’t that bad.

Even so, I feel a need to get all the stuff in my rolling drawer units out in the open. To be clear, I will KEEP virtually all of it. But I need to see it, so I know what’s there and can decide where it goes, or how to proceed.

There are nine drawers. Let’s take a look.

Drawer 1: Maple leaf blocks of various sizes; freezer paper template for Garden Maze cornerstone block; crayon instructions plus crayon-colored muslin from family vacation 10 years ago; quick penciled outlines of family members hands, same vacation. Keeping for now: the maple leaf blocks, even with no plan or motivation to use them; Garden Maze template; crayon instructions. Getting rid of those muslin pieces. The fabric quality was poor, and the family has more grandkids and different adults. It was a good idea for a project but I never loved it enough to execute. Also recycled the penciled hand outlines, similar reasoning. I’m not sentimental enough to keep them just because.

Drawer 2: Stencils, paint brushes, relief forms, and oil Shiva Paintstiks; Painstiks instruction and design book; test designs from Painstiks workshop. Keeping it all. Putting the crayon-on-fabric instructions into this drawer. Will review how I store all my art supplies that aren’t quilt-specific.

Drawer 3: This drawerful began with intention to create an art quilt, a specific project that didn’t happen and probably won’t. I have moved fabric into it and out of it. Right now the majority of items living here are red scraps. A lot of red scraps! The rest is some red and white parts, a copy of the Constitution, and seven blocks that I didn’t quite finish. UGH. I read a thought this year about organizing that said if you can do something in two minutes or less, you should go ahead and do it, rather than put it on a list. UGH UGH UGH. It didn’t take only two minutes, but I did go ahead and finish those seven blocks, since they were just 9-patches. Then I pulled a piece from the red scraps big enough to make five more blocks. And I pulled from stash some blue and some beige, to make hourglass blocks. This will move toward being a quilt for the VA hospital.

Drawer 4: Bags, mostly plastic of various sizes, mostly with zip-tops, and a few paper bags. You never know when you might need a bag.

Drawer 5: Parts. These are orphan blocks of various types, and leftover pieces of binding. I dig through them now and then, and sometimes find something useful.

Drawer 6: Scraps. (Unfortunately, it’s not all the scraps. As noted, most of the red ones are in Drawer 3, there is another mighty pile of scraps on top of my cutting table, and I’m afraid of what I might find when I get to Drawers 7-9.) Most of them are roughly sorted by color and stuffed in zip bags, something I did this year to make my life better. I do use scraps in quilts, but at this point in my life, I’m not into making scrap quilts. That means they have a very long half-life. They stay as is.

Drawers 7 through 9, and some other things:Β These are the ones that scare me. I’ll tackle them next time.


19 thoughts on “Getting It Out in the Open

  1. tierneycreates

    Hmmmm…your drawers seem pretty yummy to me. I think your best strategy is to dump them out and mail the contents to me – ha!
    But seriously – at least you are looking in them – I have some quilter friends who only throw still in drawers, never to be seen again πŸ™‚

  2. audrey

    Good for you, getting into the drawers and trying to organize. It always feels so good after and it is all finished up! I did a major quilting room dump out and organize thing earlier in the year. Never regretted it for a minute and definitely haven’t missed anything from the 5-6 bags that I disposed of!:)

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Oh, my! That reminds me of a couple of years ago when I was guild president. I took it on myself to clean out the “president’s cabinet” at the church where we meet. It is one of those metal, 2-door cabinets about 5.5′ tall and 3′ wide. I pulled 5 or 6 bags of things out of there! Some went in trash, some got donated. Once I was done, you could actually see what was in there again. I didn’t guess it would take so much physical effort. πŸ™‚

  3. snarkyquilter

    For me the most disheartening aspect of organizing/reorganizing my creative raw materials is that I can only remember where I put the stuff last, not where I moved it to. Of course I’m sure the new location is more logical, but my brain is bad at clearing out old files. But, I still hope to find where I put the sequin laden paisley material I moved sometime last year.

  4. zippyquilts

    Well, this is a little frightening. I’ve tried various methods for getting some of my stuff finished and out of the studio; so far the best is to finish 2 projects before I start a new one–I’ve actually made some progress!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, my projects have backed up a bit on me, too. But usually I don’t have many going at once, so I don’t have to set rules for new starts. You always get a lot done, regardless of your method!

  5. Kit Dunsmore

    I’m gearing up for a major studio organization and realized one of the reasons I haven’t been able to work on it is that I have no idea where to begin! I am going to start with an inventory and find out what’s where so that I can then start figuring out what to get rid of and where to put the things I keep. Thanks for sharing your journey. It’s inspiring!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, how to begin? An inventory sounds like a good idea, but then there are also choices of what to count? For me, it was this storage area that got most away from me, so it was an easy choice. Other choices are stash, projects in process, gadgets/tools, etc. !!! Even that decision can be hard. Good luck with this.

      1. Kit Dunsmore

        I am still thinking about the best way to approach this. I don’t think I will count every button, but it would be nice to know what’s in the boxes and drawers.

        1. Melanie McNeil Post author

          You might start with photos of all your spaces. That would give you a chance to see what’s in the boxes and drawers, and to think about how you want to approach changes. I dunno. Just a thought! πŸ™‚

  6. Kerry

    Have to admit that I am normally an untidy person, but there comes a point when you say enough is enough! I’m happier when things are organised though. We’ve had so much bad weather that it has been quite the year for reorganising my fabric with different folding methods and placements and I’m really pleased with the way it has gone. I don’t do Mary Kondo as I don’t follow trends – I do what I feel is best for me. I’ve tried different methods over the years and now I think this is the one I will stick to. I do like scrappy fabric quilts, but not all the time, so those scraps have built up since I’ve been making more quilts – surprisingly quickly! Birthday money went towards an Accuquilt – so all the smaller pieces have been put through that and now I have ready to sew parts in their respective drawers (well in bags in drawers according to shape and sizes) and the pile has shrunk. I now have many empty boxes, plus the rule of no more fabric – unless it’s for backing or background – has been working to an extent! Small bits of leftovers go in a bag to take to my quilt retreat lady who uses them, so nothing wasted. There is a point where I say I’m not making anything out of that, although someone else might, so that also goes in the same bag.

    Plus seeing an empty worktop is inspiring – to get fabric out and cover it again! Revisiting older tucked away things is also good for you. You had a trip down memory lane with one of those drawers! LOL!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      You’ve really hit on something — the opportunity to revisit previous projects when you sort through scraps and parts. Frankly, I think that’s the worst part of having my scraps separated by color into bags. Before, if looking for something, I would almost literally touch each piece of fabric. Now I won’t. πŸ™‚

  7. katechiconi

    I have a hard time believing that anything fabric scares you, but then, I’m in awe of you and your quilt-math brain. But I have dived recently into my dressmaking fabrics box, with a resulting upturn in my summer clothing options. Why on earth didn’t I do it sooner? Most of what I’ve made took far less time than I imagined. Oh, except when I had to completely unpick a very great deal of very small stitches because I’d told myself it wouldn’t show. Oh, it showed….

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Maybe “scares” isn’t quite accurate, but I’ve definitely put it off because I don’t want to face it! “Why on earth didn’t I do it sooner?” Good question! Partly, maybe mostly, because there are always plenty of other things to do, even without that. I know you are rarely bored!

  8. piecefulwendy

    I did a similar organization when we repainted my sewing room and did a little renovation. I like to do this from time to time; it’s amazing what you forget when you can’t see it. Having more of my projects and fabric visible has made a big difference.


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