Drawers 8 and 9

I’ve slowed the drawer review (here and here) while working on other things. But it’s a useful exercise for me, uncovering some works in progress I’d stalled on, at the least, or forgotten completely at the worst.

One of the things I’d forgotten was a stack of 9-patch parts in red and light/neutral. They made up seven blocks, which is a difficult number to use by itself. Nine-patches are pretty easy to emulate, though, so last week I made another ten of them using different reds. I still had some of the light fabric, but not enough for ten more blocks, so I subbed in a couple of things that blend well. Besides the 9-patches, I made a set of 18 hourglass blocks. The hourglass blocks and 9-patches now alternate in a 5×7 block setting. With a border, they made up a perfect top for another VA hospital quilt. I’ll finish it in January for donation through my guild.

Besides the VA hospital quilt using those orphaned patches, I’m also working on an art quilt, which is also a medallion quilt. Or it’s a medallion quilt that also is an art quilt. No photos now, as I’m still feeling protective, but I’m quite pleased with it so far.

Back to the drawer review. As mentioned before, under my cutting table I have three plastic drawer units on casters. Each unit has three drawers. Over this past year when I’ve needed to mimic order in my studio, I’ve stuffed a lot of things in those drawers. It clears the surfaces, which helps me creatively! But truly it just moves the mess elsewhere, doesn’t it?

I already showed you Drawers 1 through 7. They held a broad range of things, from scraps and parts to plastic zip bags, to some intriguing projects in process.

Drawer 8 mostly holds faded intentions and motivations, along with a lot of fabric that needs to be sorted back into the stash bins. A friend of mine, Kristin, lived for several years in Wales. While there she fell in love with Welsh quilts. They are notable for the amazing hand quilting on both pieced and wholecloth quilts. Though often not made from solids, the pieced quilts are often compared to American Amish quilts, and it’s not clear, historically, to what extent designs were shared and in what direction. Many of the Welsh pieced quilts are in the medallion (or “frame”) format, so they hold extra attraction to me.

Kristin will be presenting to our local quilt guild soon about Welsh quilts. As she shared some of the information with me early in the year, I got inspired to try making quilts in the same style. I even bought this lovely book on making them. As you can see from the cover, many of the designs are for medallions. And while I love the rich, deep colors you see here, I also wondered about making them with brighter, cheerier colors.

A mixture, I thought, of greys with pinks and yellows would keep some of the traditional flavor, while also demonstrating that the format is beautiful regardless of colors used. But I also was taken with the Welsh tradition of using shirtings and suit woolens. I went to a local thrift shop and bought several shirts, including in pink gingham and yellow floral print, to use. I made one lovely little quilt (to show you another day) before losing energy and motivation. Now the fabrics, including some blacks and reds, need to be sorted back into stash.

Drawer 9 The final drawer is where I stuffed the Green Man drawings. This is another project I hope to return to in 2020. 

Now that I know what is in these drawer units, I can put some things in better places, and make a list of ongoing projects. Knowing what’s here will help me use my time better, so I can create in more satisfying ways.

Drawer 7

My last post, Getting It Out in the Open, surveyed six of nine plastic drawers in my studio. Over the past several months, the drawers have been victims of entropy. “Entropy” is a great word. Do you know what it means? It is a physics term, a noun. One of its more general meanings is “a gradual decline into disorder.” Life is often like that, isn’t it?

In fact, the first six drawers were just about as ordered as they ever are. It’s the last three that have suffered. Here is Drawer 7, and this is where things start to get interesting.

First up is a few tidbits cut from some beautiful African fabric I bought a few years ago at a quilt show. I have a basic plan for these but haven’t gotten to them yet. That’s a basic oatmeal-colored carpet underneath it. 

Next, a semi-secret project I’ve had kicking around in my head for a few years. The photo did bizarre things to the color here, which I wasn’t able to correct. Nor was I motivated to try taking the picture again. The background fabric is a lovely blue ombre I purchased maybe last year. Not terribly long ago, but this year is quite a blur, so I’m not sure. It is intended to look like the sky at just past sunset, so if you can push that color into your brain, you’ll get what I see. Most of the images on the background will be darkened, not quite to silhouette, with a house or shed on the left and windmill on the right. The central image is the secret part, so you might not see it until someday rolls around and it is done.

Also in this drawer is my mask man. I still don’t have a good plan for it. 

Finally, the rest of the stuff in the drawer is various leftovers from the Wind River Beauty project. 

I really need to sort through it. The bigger pieces can be restashed and the little ones go to scraps. I finished the top in February and had it on the frame to quilt before the end of the month. Here it is, loaded and ready to go.

I wasn’t happy with how it was going, and I hated the backing fabric. (Note to self: don’t use backing fabric you hate just because it’s big enough and you don’t want to buy something new. It’s a false economy.) Also I needed to move along to the new grandbaby’s quilt, so I took it off and unstitched the quilting. When we got back from the baby trip, I loaded it again with a new back. Again I was unhappy with the stitching, so removed it and unstitched it again.

Right now, Wind RIver Beauty is the only unquilted top I have left from the year.

Two more drawers, and a few other things, left to review.


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: These are the ones that scare me. I’ll tackle them next time.

How Much Does It Cost?

Two things quilters often hear are “how long did it take you?” and “you should sell those!” Of course, the two thoughts are related, as we often place value on things (consciously or not) based on how long they take. What is the value of having your furnace repaired? Do you determine that based on how long it took the furnace tech to fix it, or on whether or not your home gets increasingly colder?

Time has value, and expertise has value.

I’m in a Facebook group focused on longarm quilting. The members range from experienced professionals to raw rookies, quilting for their own pleasure. From both ends of the spectrum, questions arise about how to value their work. Recently a member asked how to price a queen-sized quilt, which someone had asked her to make as a commission. Another member suggested using a simple formula of charging three times the cost of materials. In other words, if materials cost $100, you should charge $300 for the quilt.

Let’s do that math and see how that works out.

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Where Were We?

What do you see when you look around your studio? Are your tools and materials where you want them? Are your current projects easy to advance? Do you like a feeling of creative chaos, or do you work better with things neatly in place?

Some people like open shelving and pegboard tool racks, while others prefer things behind closed doors, or tucked into drawers.

My studio has rather gotten away from me this year. I prefer fabrics sorted by color, stowed in plastic boxes within the stash armoire. I like having my rolling drawer units organized by project, so I can quickly find all the components when I need them.

Alas, I can still find things fairly quickly, but as I search, I push through layers of things that aren’t quite where they belong. I don’t like that. 😦

But when you keep your space fairly neat most of the time, putting it back in order doesn’t take a huge amount of work. For me, spending a few minutes at a time, over several sessions, takes care of most of it.

The thing that will slow me down this time is the projects. Usually I have a small number of open projects. However, this year was different! I did what I could, and when motivation or energy failed me, I stopped. When I did feel like working on something, I worked on whatever pleased me at the moment, instead of pushing through something to completion before starting something new. (And in truth, maybe I’ll just keep with that process. I’m not obligated to finish anything for anyone else. I quilt for my own pleasure. If it makes me happy to move on, that’s exactly what I should do, yes? Of course, there is pleasure in finishing, too…)

Projects. So there are a number of projects in process, more than I usually have. To enumerate them all, I actually have to dig through those drawers. (And while digging, I will put things back where they belong. It’s procrastination on that task that has slowed my assessment of progress.)

In the last few weeks, I got my longarm up and running again. I started with a small child’s disappearing 9-patch, featuring some Thomas the Tank novelty fabric. I had a yard of it left, after making a pillowcase with the remainder a couple of years ago. I rarely use novelty fabric! But this simple quilt seemed like a good option. I could cut the feature fabric minimally, and make a donation quilt without breaking a sweat.

With a simple meander, I warmed up the quilting machine, reminding myself of the steps in the process. This afternoon I put the binding on it, taking this project off the unfinished list.