Fabric Fast - The Home Stretch.

I did a little fabric swap with a friend of mine recently. She needed 4 yds of my solid bone fabric, and offered in return, a little fabric shopping online where she was putting in an order. Fabric shopping you say? I didn't look twice at my solid cotton in bone.

I have let myself look online a few times this year. I've even let myself put some things in a cart. And then I've closed my laptop. There's been times where all I felt like was some online shopping therapy, some seeing what's out there. And I'm glad to say I haven't folded. It's always actually renewed my resolved to keep my year long fast.

I opened up the fabric store site and started clicking things into my cart. I always use my cart as a wishlist first, and then start to cull. I started with the sale section and was glad to see Shelbourne Falls by Denyse Schmidt and some Sarah Jane and even some Hand Drawn Garden by Anna Maria. Note to self: if you wait, it will always go on special. I went looking for some text prints, some other basics...and soon I had about 20 yards in my cart. Well that was fun! Now to narrow it down to four.

I started with the easy ones. The "I'm only buying this because it's $5/yd" prints. Now I had about 15yds. Starting with the reminder that the end of the year would come around quick enough, I asked myself what I actually really like. I could have asked myself, "What will I use?" which also would have been a helpful way of narrowing it down. A simple dot print is one I usually pass up for something more elaborate, but always end up finishing first. But hey. I was shopping for fabric for the first time in months. What would I like? Here's what I chose:

The blue egg print for a quilt back I have planned and the rest just for fun. The text prints got shelved, along with the dots. There's always next year for those.
And what did I learn? (because there's always a lesson in experiences like this!)

- The whole psychology of sales totally works on me. It takes a bit of convincing to let go of something for $5 that I would never buy for 10.
- Because of this, I don't always take the time to really look at prints to decide if I like them or not. I am influenced by value, popularity, scarcity.
- Designs that I couldn't believe I was missing out on when they first came out this year, have faded in their desirability.
- When I have to choose only one or two prints, rather than get a whole bundle of a line, I become much more critical/aware of what I actually like. 


I've kind of been imagining this massive shopping spree in the new year. To have that delicious feeling again of ordering, waiting, arriving, washing, folding, putting away. The expense justified by all that money I've saved. But this little tiny shopping experience showed me that if I started the year that way, well, I haven't really learned anything from this fast. I just took a break, without actually changing my shopping habits. I did want them to change, for the sake of simplicity, but also to learn what I really loved and used. I will still enjoy that new year shopping spree (only 11 weeks away!!), but hopefully with eyes open to what's really me.

And these other fabric photos? They are my current stash. I was hoping I would get to October and I'd have to pull out some serious creativity to keep making with what's left of my meagre collection. But no. This could keep me going another year. And I'm not saying that out of shame for how much I have, but surprise at how far it goes! Turns out a small bookshelf of yardage and about 200 dresses worth of scraps can make a heck of a lot of quilts.

Fabric Fast Month 8 ~ Happy Mail

Well, I'm past the half way mark of my year long fabric fast, my challenge to myself to not buy any fabric for a year and to sort and use my scraps. I wrote a little while ago of my weariness of this challenge, especially with lots of delicious new fabric lines coming out, but my recent influx of happy mail has well and truely quenched my thirst for opening packages and any lacking I felt about my stash.

I was given the opportunity to write a tutorial for Lily's Quilts using two fat quarter bundles from Abakhan Fabrics. They arrived a couple of days ago and I immediately jumped in and started my fabric book. I'm really enjoying the flat solids and stripes compared to my usual scrappy look.

My next exciting bundle to arrive was a charm pack by Dear Stella, of their Spring 2013 lines. 125 squares of fabric that I don't already own. I have a friend who always buys a fat quarter or charm pack of lines she likes so she can see them in person, whereas I've always bought lots of a few prints. Since quilting more, longing for more variety in my stash, and being surprised by the kinds of prints I end up using all the time, I'm pretty sure my buying habits will be siginficantly different once I start shopping again (thought hopefully not increased!) In this load of prints, I've found plenty that I know I wouldn't have chosen online, but would end up using a lot.

While I was on holidays I found out I won this Collage 10" layer cake from Fabric Bubb! It's so fun! And it gives me my very first newspaper prints. One challenge with my fabric fast is the growing use of low volume and text prints replacing white in my sewing bee. I made sure I stocked up on white before embarking on my fast! But I didn't even think about the others. A year is a long time in the quilting world!

My wall of leaves is growing rapidly following my turn as queen bee in June for Scrappy? Sew Bee it! I love that this is going to be a quilt I could never make on my own. The range of prints and colours is so vast, it's going to have a character all of its own. I love it.

And then finally, a very special one. This half yard bundle of Briar Rose by Heather Ross, arrived a couple of days ago, my birthday gift from my mum. Thank you Mum! It was fun posting a photo on my Facebook page asking whether people would open it immediately or wait a week, till my birthday. I was surprised that most people couldn't have waited, those that would have loved the idea of opening it on the special day, loved the suspense, the ritual. Not being from a very gifty family (we all love that Mum gives us a set amount each year, in our bank account), and being terrible at gift giving myself (at least, the being organised and creative part), those things weren't as important to me as the fun of ripping into the envelope the moment I'd posted the photo, so I could see all these beautiful, happy prints. I will wait to cut into them, but only because I plan to use them for the Penny Sampler!

I do feel so very thankful for these additions to my sunny sewing room. It does feel a little bit like cheating! But I also know it's the encouragement I needed to get to the end of the year. It also feels like a reminder of why I chose this. I definitely love the choosing, the waiting, the receiving, just as much as the making. And I'm sure you can relate that it's much easier to put colours together on a computer screen with a glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed, than to sleepily make my way to my machine! But here I am nearly 8 months later and my buckets of scraps or shelves of fabric don't look significantly depleted. If I feel like I am lacking, it's because of changing trends, not because I'm running out. I am looking forward to that first shop in January 2014, but I hope this has set me on a more sustainable path.

Fabric Fast Challenge #2: scrap wadding and other existential questions.

How do you sew "yourself"? I've had this question ruminating in my head for sometime, partly sparked by this post, (in which it was just talked about in passing), and partly by my latest quilt. This quilt is number 2 on my Fabric Fast challenges that are distracting me from my burning desire to go fabric shopping. I loved the look of Maureen's Quilt as You Go quilt and followed her tutorial to use up my masses of scrap wadding. Using scrap wadding is SO satisfying because you can SEE that mountain shrink dramatically as you use it. Unlike my scrap buckets which are just as full as they were 6 months ago, just with much smaller scraps.

I cut my strips 2.5" wide, split them into 'warm' and 'cool', sewed them end to end, then cut them 8.5" long. Then I  made these little squares and spray glued them to my wadding.

Then I quilted them really finely (about a 1/4" apart), trimmed them and sewed them together. (check out Maureen's tutorial for more pics and details)
As I was sewing them together, I wasn't convinced I liked the colours together like this. I started to think of ways I could attach sashing (I thought my ideas were pretty clever!) but in the end decided to stick to my original plan so the quilt didn't become huge or take forever, and because maybe like my last scrappy quilt, it would look great, despite the odds. Now I'm not so sure of my decision.

I mean, I don't think it's ugly, or a disaster. I even think it's pretty. And my friend Jo who was holding it for me when we went to the park today (hurray, sun!), said it was her favourite. I just don't look at it and think, "Yes!" or "That's so me!"

I backed the quilt with these flannels and I love the weight and texture. I do think it would make a really fun, robust baby quilt. I used this Seaside print for the binding. It's my favourite binding stripe so I always love when it goes perfectly. This is the first quilt I've bound, unpicked completely and tried again. Ugh! I attached the binding too far away from the edge so whenever it came to the think quilted seams, I couldn't stretch it over. It's still not perfect but it's sturdy! And I did have to put it down for a week just to see if I could find the imperfections a week later. I couldn't find as many! :)

So back to my musings...I feel like I've done a great job using my scraps this year, and other parts of my stash that I bought for specific projects. But now I feel like I'm on the hunt for some kind of self expression, not just emptying those buckets or ticking off lists. I know I've made some quilts like that this year. My Quilt for Moving On is a favourite. And my last scrappy quilt. And both of those used such different formulas. So I'm keeping in mind it's a journey. Some of my very favourites are really early ones, before I read blogs or bought celebrity fabrics lines. I didn't even know what scrappy was, but I just used what I had and loved it how bright and rich and sometimes clashy it was, like my first drawstring quilt here. (I would never use that rare AMH Centerpiece for binding now but I loved it, and still do!)

I'm always glad for good authors like C.S Lewis when I'm stewing about these things. In a quote I happen to have next to my bathroom mirror, he says about individuality and personality,

"The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real self will not come as long as you are looking for it..."
                                                                             - Mere Christianity.

He says the same thing in other books about creativity and joy. The secret to finding myself is to give myself. So I will keep making, taking risks, trying new things, enjoying others' creativity, and my own. And when I'm buying fabric again, I want to think less about celebrity and fabric lines and what's on special, and more about prints and colours I like, and others I've learned I use a lot.

What about you? Do you feel like you've hit a groove and make 'yourself'. Do you know what you like and how to achieve it? Do you even care? (I know not everyone would think this very important.) And do you feel like there's a particular journey you take to get there? And how do you know you don't just like it because it's what everyone's making or selling?

 And look how short I am compared to my friend Jo! ;)

Fabric Fast Experiment #1: The Problem Prints Quilt.

I am having serious.fabricshopping.withdrawals. I am now very close to half way through my year long {new} fabric fast, and I'm wishing I allowed myself a little break at the 6 month mark. Sigh.

So last week I set myself 3 challenges. I want to make a serious dent in:
  • The 'too hard to sort' scrap bucket (multicoloured scraps)
  • The pink bucket (I never, ever bought pink fabric before making girls clothes. Now it's my most copious scrap.)
  • The overflowing cupboard of scrap batting/wadding.  
And somewhere along the line I was going to stop and write about them and show you my processes, but instead I've been on a wild, quilting, hormone induced frenzy. (Not the fun nesting kind, but the disappointing 'that time of month' kind.)

So here instead, I present to you a quilt I'm beside myself excited about. This is my collection (or about a quarter! It takes a lot of quilts to empty a scrap bucket!) of my 'too hard to sort' scraps. They have big prints, lots of colours, and some of them are loud and clashy. I do like loud and clashy, I just always seem to put them aside these days for flatter alternatives.

For this quilt I basically only set one colour limit - no grey. And I made sure I included my brown background prints to create some variation in value (and because I never use those either.) I chose 2.5" squares because I wanted to see the prints all broken up, and I thought bigger or more irregular pieces would look too much like mud. And then there's the reason that all my scraps are left over from necks and armholes. Much easier to cut little squares than charms! I also used the opportunity to throw in a stack of scraps won in giveaways which aren't really my style, but fit in well here.

And Hurray! It works, don't you think? While I still feel like scrolling through a screen of new fabrics, it does make me feel like I really can use anything in my stash, even if I regret buying it now, or I thought it would only work for clothing. And look at those apples on the back. Aren't they perfect?! Here I was trying to use them for pinafores and not really liking it, but it's been waiting all this time for a quilt like this.

Driving into the city to this park today, I was reminded of all the beautiful places in this city for taking photos. So that's my other challenge for the year: no more next door neighbour's grey house! It is SO convenient, but not nearly as interesting.

I used zig-zag stitch-in-the-ditch to sew on my binding again. A kind of mix between Rachel's and more traditional machine binding. I'm sold!

Well, I have to say, I'm not completely cured of my addiction. I do love the whole process of making a quilt, including the fabric buying. But I'm trusting like anything it will come and go. And I'm leaving ample hints for Tim for my birthday coming up in August. (That's not included, right?!)

This quilt is now available here

Stained Glass Little Folks.

So we live in a tiny 1940s workers cottage in an old coal port city. (The city is old - by Australian, not world, standards, the coal port is still active). And our house is a collection of small, enclosed boxes. Two bedrooms, a lounge room, dining room, all around 4x4 metres (yds) and a tiny sunroom, about 1.5 x 2.5m.

Our bedroom was the smallest in the house, in the darkest corner, right next to our neighbour's backyard, and their interesting choice of cigarettes. ;) And in the drama of the first few months of this year, and a moment of inspiration, I decided I wanted this season to be marked by rest, light and colour (and fresh air). And I couldn't get that in my old bedroom.

So we embarked on a (yet another, because a collection of boxes allows for change when the feeling hits) big rearrange. And we moved our bedroom into the light-filled loungeroom, our lounge into the old dining room and our dining room onto the back deck. My new sewing room now comes off our bedroom, and we put Tim's office and a guest bed in our old bedroom.

So that's our new lounge, or family, room through the glass doors from our bedroom. After wondering for a month or so, whether to make curtains or not, Tim and I had a flash of inspiration. Voile is practically 'two-sided', and glueing the fabric on would be a flat (space-saving), easy, removable solution to create privacy for our new room! So I measured the glass panels, cut this Little Folks Voile, by Anna Maria Horner, to size and started painting the windows with glue and fabric.

I chose only a few prints, in a limited colour palette, built mostly around the Diamond Mine prints. You can see the glass doors not only limited privacy, but made both rooms feel busier. The view through the doors was reflective and muddy. And if there was mess in the other room (which is often in our house!) it made both spaces feel untidy.

I used PVA (craft) glue and just lightly patted the voile over the glass. If I pushed too much, it would bunch, and was hard to rescue. The finished result has made both rooms feel smaller, yet brighter and calmer. I think I just sat and admired it for about three days!

On the other side, the kids have their little table, where they eat meals or do craft if it's too cold outside. I love that the 'back' of the fabric is still so clear, and the glass protects it from hands and food and wandering crayons. And the light from the front of the house still comes through and plays through the colour in different lines and shapes all day.

And at night, when Tim stays up longer than me (or vice versa) we get our own beautiful stained glass windows, instead of the harsh, direct light from the ceiling.
Last weekend, Tim's folks came and stayed and we all deemed the new layout a great success. We're using our huge backyard more as a big open-plan play room, we loved having a guest room instead of them sleeping on the lounge room floor, and on Sunday morning, when my introverted self needed a break from the 'crowds', I was able to hide away in my girl cave and sew for an hour and regain my sense of self. And I love to be in my large, light bedroom.
Even though this layout is untraditional, I think it's the most suited to our goals and personalities. And it's drawn our attention to what we do have rather than what our house lacks. A bit like what I was talking about here for my Fabric Fast.

I think next up is some brighter fabric art?