Tag Archives: Stash

Moving Toward the End of the Year

I was enjoying writing and posting more, and then got side-tracked for several days with a couple of things. Back now, with some unrelated thoughts.

  1. Do any of you other WordPress users look at your spam folder regularly? What kind of spam comments do you get? Most of mine are links (presumably — I’ve never checked them!) for lesbian porn. Why? Why any porn?
  2. Do you ever feel like no good deed goes unpunished? That’s not really fair, as I think I did a few good deeds over the last week and mostly they went great. Jim and I found a wallet and were able to return it to the owner; a young woman with a toddler in full-meltdown mode needed a kind word and an arm around her shoulder; I pulled together an ad hoc presentation on quilts and quilting for an adult English learners class, and they seemed to enjoy it, as did I. In truth, I need to get over my momentary annoyance and remember, “this is just something I don’t need to worry about.” That thinking helps me a lot, in a wide variety of circumstances!
  3. My guild had our last meeting of the calendar year last Monday, and it was fun. We had a special Christmas show & tell, so people could bring couch throws or tree skirts or baby quilts or whatever quilted holiday objects they want. I shared one, which I’ll tell you more about below. We also had cookies. I ate too many and remembered why I don’t eat a lot of sweets. ugh…
  4. I’m not making Christmas presents this year, unlike some others. No pillowcases, no throw quilts, no table runners, no placemats, no stockings. No. (Now I just need to keep reminding myself of that. I’m NOT making Christmas presents this year. I’m not making Christmas presents this year. I’m not…)
  5. My studio is a Mess. Yes, “mess” with a capital M. So many things out that need to be put away. So many pieces of paper, a lot of it quilt guild stuff, but a lot of it my own. Fabrics that need to be restashed, books that need to be reshelved… Maybe my next task needs to be cleaning, since I’m not making Christmas presents this year.
  6. Speaking of stash, I recently saw a post on the use of the word “stash.” I can’t find the post again or I’d link it. Anyway, the writer seemed to object to the word, because of the connotation that a stash is something to be hidden or to be ashamed of, like your stash of drugs. I don’t know about that. I have a stash of migraine drugs and I’m not ashamed to admit it! While i do think words are important, and certainly I have no shame about my fabric “collection,” (a word she seemed to prefer,) I think “stash” in terms of quilting is just part of quilting jargon and not something to get twisted about. Also, I DO NOT “collect” fabric. It is a raw material in my process, not something to display as a pretty thing on my shelves, like my rabbits. What do you think of the word “stash?”
  7. I’ve been thinking about my Word of the Year and will share about how that went in a later post.

This morning I finished a quilt, which I shared at my guild meeting on Monday. It’s a two-sided Christmas table runner.

Christmas Houses. 47.5″ x 21″. Modified pattern of Amish Houses by Monique (Dillard) Jacobs of Open Gate Quilts. Free pattern for the full lap-throw size. https://www.opengatequilts.com/pdf-patterns/free-amish-homes-pattern

I made an adaptation of Monique Jacobs’ Amish Houses quilt. Free pattern available at this link. She is a talented designer and my guild is hosting her in June. She’ll be teaching the pattern in a workshop. My version provides a sample for my guild-mates, and also shows that you can make this pattern in beautiful Amish-style solids, or in fabrics of your choice. The pattern instructions are clear and it went together beautifully.

Because it’s a table runner, when I quilted it I figured the backing fabric didn’t matter. I pulled a piece from my stash (YES, my stash, not collection!) that hasn’t been very useful to me. It is white with small, pale-pink roses on it. hmm. Well, it worked fine as a backing but frankly looked terrible. Plain muslin would have been better, but I didn’t have any pieces big enough. I decided to make a false back to cover the pink flowers. And since I rarely do things the simple way, I appliquéd big, simple snowflakes on it.

The snowflakes are just 60° diamonds that I cut out three at a time from white Kona Snow. I used a piece of freezer paper as the template for them, starting with the largest ones and then trimming the freezer paper smaller for the other two. I spritzed the white pieces with basting spray and arranged them, then appliquéd with a narrow zigzag. This morning I finished the binding, securing the false back to the rest of it.

Christmas Houses back. 47.5″ x 21″. My design.

Currently my dining room table is covered with presents that need to be wrapped and mailed. Once it is visible again, this runner will decorate it. Because it isn’t very specifically Christmasy, it will work well until Spring.

If you made it to the end of this long post, thanks so much for reading! I hope your December is going well. It certainly is going fast!

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My Favorite Fabric Purchase in 2018

You know those big dinner salads you can get at some restaurants? The greens cover a platter, and there are a variety of toppings, and at least two condiment containers for the dressing. You can eat and eat and eat and eat. Your dinner companions can finish their entree as you just keep eating, with little apparent progress on your meal. Using fabric stash is like that, with the added problem of the server coming ’round and putting more salad on your plate now and then.

Some people measure stash in and stash used over a period of time, a calculation that is not interesting to me. Since all my fabric collection is in a fairly small space, it’s easy to see when it’s increased or decreased. Most years in October, I do a “state of the stash” post to review it. This year I didn’t, but the text of the post would be similar: It changed! I have a bit more! or a bit less!

As I look at this quickly-passing year, I do notice how my stash has changed. It is a bit smaller than a year ago, and I didn’t buy a huge amount this year. As always, most of my projects relied heavily on stash rather than new purchases. And as always, my favorite fabric purchases are those I used right away. 

I did buy mostly new for two projects. Georgia’s graduation quilt is from white and light grey, at her request. I rarely use grey, and white is not typical, either, so this was a rather hard quilt to make. I don’t remember the size, but it covers her queen-sized bed nicely, so something like 96″ square.

Georgia’s graduation quilt. Queen-bed sized. May 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Almost all of the grey got used up in Georgia’s quilt. The leftover greys became the back of Heather’s baby quilt. Leftover white went on the front.

Another project that required new fabric was the wedding quilt for Son and his bride. To make Hands and Hearts, I needed to buy solid black Kona for the background, and a variety of batiks for the hands. The green batik in the wreath and corner Celtic knots was from stash, as were the components in the Claddagh ring and the fussy-cut hearts. The hearts actually came from something purchased in 2007, so it’s one of the older pieces in my cupboard.

Hands and Hearts. 29″ x 29″. July 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

It would be hard to pick a specific favorite fabric from 2018. Since I don’t think of myself as a fabric collector, the best fabrics are those that are most useful. Sometimes that means they’re quite ordinary. Solid white, solid black, pastel batiks, grey and white prints. None of these are exciting, but the quilts they made were gifts of love.

Five Quilts in Four Weeks

Between the middle of September and four weeks later, I started and finished four quilts, and I also put the binding on a fifth one. This isn’t my preferred way of working but deadlines piled up on me. Here is a quick run down:

When I returned home from a high school reunion, Jim informed me that brother-in-law Dan was granted an “honor flight.” According to the website, “Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices. We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials.” Dan’s trip to DC was scheduled for less than two weeks later. I wanted to make him a quilt. Coincidentally, another brother-in-law, Sonny, was also taking a flight in mid-October. One quilt wouldn’t do; I would make two of them.

When I need to  make a quilt in a hurry, I often design it using Electric Quilt software. Currently I’m using EQ8 (version 8.) I designed similar quilts for both men. The medallion format with which I’m so familiar uses block “borders” for these, making sizing simple.

Dan’s Honor Quilt. September 2018. About 66″ square. Photo by Jim Ruebush. Border blocks (hourglasses and puss-in-the-corner) finish at 8″.

Sonny’s Honor Quilt. October 2019. About 61″ square. Photo by Jim Ruebush. Border blocks (rail fences) finish at 6″.

Both quilts were easy to execute, but Sonny’s was actually much simpler. It uses all one block style, alternating blue and red, and solid white as the only background fabric. The only complexity in Sonny’s quilt, in terms of the block borders, is the blocks combining half-square triangles and rail fences. It took a bit for me to work it out, but in truth it was really easy to do. If I ever make them again, I’ll show you how.

I used all stash for both quilts, except borders and backs. Both used lots of smaller pieces for the blues and reds.

In the midst of making these, I realized my sweet neighbor Heather’s baby shower was in early October. I planned to make a quilt for the baby, but he isn’t due until December, so I wasn’t in a hurry. With the shower coming up, that changed things!

I used the same rail fence blocks that were so quick for Sonny’s quilt. Once the front was finished, I gleaned leftover parts from another project to make the back, turning the quilt into a two-sided quilt. All fabric was from stash.

Heather’s baby quilt, front. October 2018. About 46″ square. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Heather’s baby quilt, back. October 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The fourth quilt was a hostess gift. Jim and I went to Peru! (We’ll write about our trip soon, on Our View From Iowa.) One of the meals during our tour was at a family home. The tour company recommends bringing a small gift for the hostess. It’s a way to connect with the family, as well as show gratitude and have a way to say something about your own home.

My original plan was to take a small wall-hanging that’s already finished, but it wouldn’t fit nicely in our carry-on suitcases. Instead I started a new one, with the primary design being a map of Iowa. The fabrics chosen represented the corn and soybeans grown here, as well as the broad blue skies. Using a quickly-traced outline of Iowa, I cut the assembled cloth to size and appliquéd it to a background fabric. On the left (west) and right (east) sides of the map, the blue stitching represents the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Hand-stitching through the map, and machine-quilting through the background, completed the design. On the back I adhered a label, written in Spanish, to explain what the image is and how it represents Iowa.

Un Mapa de Iowa. October 2018. About 15″ wide.

Last but not least, I also put a binding on a VA hospital quilt, which was finished except for that. It will be donated at my next guild meeting. No photo of the finished quilt.

It was a busy month for quilting, and as you may or may not have noticed, I didn’t write here at all during that time. As soon as the Iowa map quilt was finished, we left for Peru, giving another two week gap. One thing to note is, the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to get started again. Hopefully this will break the ice and I can shift into semi-regular posts again.

Thanks as always for reading.

The Kitty Economy Block Quilt

More than four years ago, I published a post on making an economy block. One aspect of quilting many struggle with is the math. The linked post outlines all the math in steps, and also provides a cheat sheet for a number of block sizes.

To show the steps, I fussy-cut a kitty from a bit of fabric and surrounded her with corners of a lively pink and yellow print. Those were set again with a bright pink and white gingham.

This block measures 7″ finished! Just as I wanted.

Cute block, huh? But with the quilts I make, not very easy to use. After all, the finished size is only 7″. For a block quilt, I’d need a lot more blocks (in pinks! or other pastels!) to make it useful. For a medallion quilt, 7″ is pretty small for a center.

When I started prepping for my February retreat, I dug through my drawer with orphan blocks and other parts. This block called to me, so I pulled it out and considered how to use it. By framing it with the yellow floral print, I enlarged the center, and the striped border extended it visually even more.

As I said in the linked retreat post, “One thing I enjoyed while cutting these pieces is completely finishing a few of these fabrics, aside from small scraps. That amazing stripe? That’s all there is of it. And the dainty but whimsical floral on yellow background? Gone. I’ve loved having them and using them, but as mentioned, I don’t make many quilts in pastels and twee prints. It won’t hurt to use them up.”

And use them up I did. Here is the finished quilt.

A Kitty for Charlotte. 39″ x 39″. Finished April 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

From a design standpoint, the small center block is okay, given the size of the quilt. One reason it works is because the 4-patches with pink gingham point at the center, directing the eye there. Also, there is not a lot of other “design” to distract from it.

Using the powder blue frames and other blue patches helps moderate the warmth (and monotony) of the pinks and yellows. The dark pink gingham repeats the dark pink in the kitty’s dress and bonnet. Also it provides some value contrast to the paler pastels. Spreading the gingham out across the quilt, and binding it with the same, helps provide balance.

Jim and I have friends with a baby girl named Charlotte, whom we have not yet met. The family lives just around the corner from us. This quilt seems like a good way to welcome Charlotte to the neighborhood.

Green Quilting

In honor of Spring, and to celebrate five years since Jim and I opened our first WordPress account (Our View From Iowa,) I am recycling a previous post. (Recycling, get it?) All the links work but I haven’t reviewed them for relevance, nor updated the data in my writing. The original post was published 8/3/16.  


Over the years Jim and I have changed our living style to reduce our ecological footprint. We’ve made small changes over time, incrementally improving as we learn how to do things better. It’s meant buying less, recycling more, and upgrading to lower-energy lights and appliances, among other things.

Aside from basic daily living, my biggest environmental impact may be created by my quilting. Quilting has a cozy, natural image that belies the modern truth. From cotton production and fabric distribution, to all the steps we consumers take to complete a quilt, we make our mark when we quilt.

Cotton production uses enormous quantities of highly toxic chemicals, vast areas of land with undiversified agriculture, and fuel-guzzling machinery to plant and harvest. Post-harvest, only about 20% of US-grown cotton is processed by US textile mills. About 65% of US cotton is shipped overseas to be processed and made into something like clothing, bedding, or quilting fabric. One cargo ship, fully loaded, can carry about a million bales of cotton. The equivalent of about 11 fully loaded cargo ships will cross the seas with cotton from the US every year, one way. Much of that will be shipped back as finished products. A loaded cargo ship uses 86,000 gallons or more of highly-polluting fuel per day at sea. Then the cotton goes through incredibly toxic processing, sometimes in countries that have minimal worker-safety standards and poverty-level wages. Then it gets shipped back to me.

See my previous posts about cotton fabric production.
Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Frankly, this is very disheartening to know. I have long realized that my need to quilt is a luxury that the world might not be able to afford. For now I will continue. But I will choose to find ways to reduce my footprint on the consumer end.

Here are some tips on reducing your carbon footprint of quilting.

Fabric acquisition and use:
* Use stash you already have before heading to the store or ordering online — save on delivery costs of fuel, road and vehicle use, gasoline, etc. If you need help with that, unsubscribe to all the ad emails you get. If you want something, you know where to find it anyway, right?
* Trade yardage and scraps with friends or guild members.
* Consider acquiring fabric in the form of used clothing, rather than as new yardage.
* Use your scraps in projects. More variety lends more richness and interest, anyway. Consider piecing same-fabric scraps together if you need somewhat bigger pieces. I’ve done this in a number of projects and believe me, it’s not like anyone will ever see the seams.
* Save selvage edges to use as you would heavy string or twine. I give mine to my husband, and he uses them in the garden to tie plants up.
* Consider buying American-made quilting fabric (assuming you are in the US.) There are only two brands that pop out. One is American Made Brand fabric, in 75 solids. One is Made In America cotton from JoAnn Fabrics. For all I know, they may be the same company.
* Consider buying fabric made from organically-grown cotton. These will have lower environmental impact because of less pesticide and herbicide use on the crop. In addition, other parts of fabric production have strict standards for impact. See this article on sewmamasew for more details.
* Use your own tote bags for shopping; decline plastic bags, or any bags, at the quilt shop or the chain fabric/craft store.

Books, magazines, paper patterns, and other stuff:
* Buy new (to you) books and stuff thoughtfully. Is it something you already have but can’t find? Is there a different solution than buying new? Most of my book purchases the last few years have been used ones. Can you borrow the specialty tool from a friend?
* Subscribe to digital editions of magazines.
* Unsubscribe from paper catalogs; ask all the junk mailers to take you off their lists.
* Download patterns when you have a choice. Store the pdf on your computer or a back-up drive rather than printing out.
* Recycle quilty stuff by first seeing if others will use them — donations, free table at guild meeting, friends and those in your small group, free-cycle, craigslist, paperback exchange, consignment stores, used book stores, your library. Only then recycle by putting in the bin. Last resort is to throw these items in the trash.

In your studio:
* Unplug your iron so it doesn’t continue to draw current while you’re out of the room.
* Turn off lights and TVs and audiobooks and other electrical devices when you walk away.
* Switch to LEDs. An LED lightbulb will last about 20 times as long as an incandescent and about three times as long as a CFL. They also are less expensive to operate, meaning their energy use (and your cost for it) is much lower. See the interesting chart on this page to compare. I’ve added LED lighting in my studio and am so glad I did. I have an enormous amount of light at a bare increase in energy used.
* Put your computer to sleep when you walk away for awhile. Power usage drops to about a third while in stand-by or sleep mode.
*Prewashing fabrics? I can’t tell you the impact there. I prewash, not post, so I am not washing and drying batting. On the other hand, I do iron my fabrics before use. My habits on this won’t change, regardless. I prewash partly because the sizing and other chemicals in new fabric bother me.

And what about batting?
Wow, this is a tough one, too. Polyester has the benefit of not being cotton; instead it is made from petroleum. Cotton has the benefit of not being polyester… Wool requires sheep, at about one sheep per twin-bed batt, depending on breed. And sheep require acreage, too, up to a half acre each. Compare that to cotton output of about 249 sheets per bale of cotton, and depending on location, about one bale per acre. So the number of cotton battings per acre must be many times the number of wool battings per acre, though otherwise the environmental damage is different, as well.

We also have other options. Bamboo is environmentally friendly and can grow prolifically without fertilizers or pesticides. Quilters Dream Green batting is made from recycled plastic bottles.

Without being able to do a more granular analysis, I’m not able to tell you what kind is a winner. I haven’t tried Quilters Dream Green, but it sounds like it’s worth trying. Other than that, I’ll probably continue to choose batting for each project based on that project’s needs and what I have easily available.

Do you have tips or ideas for green quilting? Please share in comments.