My Latest Online Order and an Announcement!

Remember all the times I’ve shared recently that my area of Kalamazoo, Michigan is lacking in retailers who carry some of the most sought-after fabric lines and notions in today’s modern quilt market? What that has meant for most of us around here is that we have to travel to find what we’re looking for, or shop online.  Mostly, since I’m a bit of a homebody, let’s just say my mail carrier has come to expect me walking across the yard (so he doesn’t have to trudge to the door) on days he just happens to be delivering a package.  Isn’t online delivery tracking just a magical thing?  Anyway, in the mail today was my most recent order:

I've been dying to try these Clover Quilt Binding clips, fell in LOVE with these Little House Glass-headed pins, and also scooped up one yard of the most lovely Wrens and Friends fabric that was on sale at the same online retailer.

These Clover Quilt Binding clips I’ve been dying to try, some Little House Glass-headed pins I knew I would love (and I do!), and also one yard of the most lovely Wrens and Friends butterfly fabric that was on sale, all at the same online retailer.

Also in the mail today was another item which made me smile from my toes, and shriek a tiny, joyful noise (and made the mailman do a double take, just as he started to pull away):

The tax identification I applied for recently so I can become an online retailer of all the quilt fabrics, threads, and notions I've been talking about here!

The sales tax license I applied for recently so I can become an online retailer of all the quilt fabrics, threads, and notions I’ve been sharing about here!

As the details go, throughout this time since making the switch from my Serendipity Woods site to Charlotte Loves Henry, I’ve continued to learn and share about premium quilt fabrics and notions I now encounter every day.  So with support and encouragement from the peanut gallery (my family), I’m embarking upon a new venture: An online retail shop for all the aforementioned!

Lastly, my family’s cooperation is under one resounding condition: That my shop must still be called Serendipity Woods. I’ll share more about that later (it’s the sweetest story, really), and don’t worry – you’ll still find my blog right here at Charlotte Loves Henry, with a new Serendipity Woods website along with it.  I promise to keep you posted!

Cheers and Happy Quilting,

Pam

The Best Sewing Scissors Ever

Happy Monday, All. Though I had not planned it as such (since housework was totally on my docket instead) it’s been a sewing sort of weekend. As for bailing on the housework, all I can say is that sometimes being a mom is really hard, and sometimes housework isn’t what we need to give us the peace we need to ease the pain in our hearts. As I rise this morning to start my day, I’m especially grateful for so many things; my faith, my family, and quilting – because quilting is sometimes the one thing I can do successfully, regardless of my mood. When I quilt, I can be happy or sad; angry or anguished; joyful or relieved. It’s a solitary craft as well, so thinking time is automatically a part of it; but it’s also become for me a way to pull joy into the dreariness that may exist on any given day. That’s a pretty valuable gift and I’m awfully glad of its presence in my life.

Emotional prelude aside, I wanted to share a quilt-related tip about scissors that I thought you might find useful. As I continue to move toward building my quilt business, I’m always reaching for lists assembled by various crafters of what tools are their favorites and why.  Sewing scissors seem to be a bit of an all-over-the-map sort of tool, which seems be a good deal less about what works best, and more about what people just grab on the fly, hoping to cut threads effectively. If I’m being totally honest, I’ve used an awful lot of crappy sewing scissors. The most frustrating ones are those that wouldn’t cut hot butter from the moment I pull them out of the packaging. I could make a wind chime out of the amount of those I have lying around!

Late last week as I was cleaning out a little travel tote I had stuffed full of yarn at some point (likely enroute to another girls’ lacrosse game), I discovered a little pair of scissors I had obviously lost track of. They’d been my grandmother’s and as I think about it, she always kept them in her yarn basket alongside the ‘davenport’ (her fancy word for couch). She too, had lots of other sewing scissors lying around, but it occurred to me that these were the ones she used most and for good reason: They work miraculously well! Except they’re not sewing scissors at all…

Manicuring Scissors for Sewing

…they’re manicuring scissors!

Blunt-tip manicuring scissors are thin and bend upward at the end.

Blunt-tip manicuring scissors are thin and bend upward at the end.

blunt-tipped manifcuring scissors for sewing

The bend allows me to cut my thread nice and close to my fabric, while the blunt end keeps me from nicking my fabric in the process.

Lastly, I have recommended little 3m Command Hooks before – they’re darn handy!

Today's 3m Command Hook installation will hopefully ensure that I never lose my favorite sewing scissors again!

Today’s 3m Command Hook installation will hopefully ensure that I never lose my favorite sewing scissors again!

(note to self: Pick up another pair of manicuring scissors, just in case, the next time I’m at the grocery store…and more 3m hooks).

Cheers and Happy Quilting,

Pam

How to Fall in Love with Every Fabric in Your Precut Bundle

Today, I had every intention of sharing with you a tutorial of this great little mini quilt I just finished.  I even spent a really loooong time putting it together, but to be truthful – it was so long (and still wasn’t done yet), I decided against finishing it, in exchange for just giving you the nuts and bolts of some things I learned as I made it, that are much more important than a tutorial would be in the first place.

For starters, I’ve been thinking a good deal about how attracted I am to so many little bundles when they’re all neat and tidy in their little roll or stack.

1 Moda Chirp Chirp By MoMo

Take the above little beauty I fell in love with recently and had to have. It’s called Chirp Chirp, designed by MoMo for Moda fabrics. So cute, so springy!

2 See How Pretty?!

I opened it and still loved it!

Invariably, however, as I began to sort through all the difference fabrics in the little collection, I started picking favorites. Then I started separating my favorites from my not-so-favorites.

Can I talk to you for a sec about this not-so-favorite fabric in my Chirp Chirp bundle? It reminds me of a 1978'sh shower curtain.

Can I talk to you for a sec about this not-so-favorite fabric in my Chirp Chirp bundle? All on it’s own, it reminds me of a shower curtain from 1982.

My point is, when I first started using precuts, I was tempted to only use the ones I loved, considering that maybe I could use the ones I didn’t love in some other project. Then I realized that I’d never use them with some other project. Why? Because they’re all meant to go together. What’s more, even the fabric above that reminds me of that dated shower curtain, is really a beautiful fabric on a larger scale!

So with the mini quilt I made this week, I decided to cut in half one fabric strip each of my Chirp Chirp jelly roll, ignoring my preferences, in exchange for just trusting the designer and manufacturer of the fabrics in the collection.

I put all my strips in a bowl and selected each strip blindly as I pieced.

I put all my half-strips in a bowl and selected each strip blindly as I pieced.

Incidentally, I also threw caution to the wind and didn’t press a single block until it was finished.

Look how awful it looks before I pressed it :/

I knew it was straight though, because I cut my strips perpendicular to the straght edge of the block, every time I cut, even if it looked uneven with the other edge of the block.

I knew it was straight though, because I cut my strips perpendicular to the straight edge of the block, every time I cut, even if it looked uneven with the other edges of the block. See how the top edge aligns with the backwards 9 measurement line? (it’s backwards because I’m a lefty, folks. I roll with backwards often. I consider it character building!)

Anyway – when I did get to pressing each block, one edge at a time, they all turned out straight.

...and hmmm. Those fabrics sort of look pretty darn good together, don't they?

…and hmmm. Those fabrics sort of look pretty darn good together, don’t they?

My finished Chirp Chirp Mini Quilt

Barn-Raising Mini Quilt Tutorial

Eureka…just as I suspected. Even though individually I wasn’t fond of every single fabric of my jelly roll on its own – I LOVE how each fabric plays it’s own role. See the shower curtain fabric in there?  Looks great doesn’t it?

My relatively recent love affair with Aurifil thread is also going strong! I pieced and machine quilted with Aurifil 50 wt, 2021 which is the perfect Natural White to match my background fabric.

My recently acquired love affair with Aurifil thread is still going strong too. I pieced and machine quilted with Aurifil 50 wt, 2021 which was the perfect Natural White to match my background fabric.

Even Sophie Bunny loves our new Chirp Chirp quilt!

Even Sophie Bunny loves our new Chirp Chirp quilt!

And there it is – my favorite quilt project to date with lots of good thing learned.

Happy chirpy, springy, quilty Friday, friends!

Pam

Farm Girl Fridays with Lori Holt!

Whew! This busy-ness of spring catches me by surprise every year.  Whether it’s the lingering athletic activities (and the potluck provisions they involve), garden prep, or another graduating senior (we’re on our 4th), I seem to forget the flurry of activity that goes on every year at this time.

That aside, I have been able to stay up to speed with an ongoing quilt-along I jumped into 2 weeks ago called Farm Girl Fridays (just haven’t had a moment to post about it yet!).

A great book together with my selected fabrics for the quilt along!

A great book together with my selected fabrics for the quilt along!

If you’re unfamiliar with Farm Girl Vintage, it’s what I would consider a distinct style of quilting, truly brought to life by the author and host of the quilt along, Lori Holt of http://beeinmybonnetco.blogspot.com. Lori’s quilting style has a specifically vintage/cheerful/farmy flair to it, whether throughout this book or any of her previous (of which I have 3 – all excellent).  In a word, they’re HAPPY, which is always my favorite.

Below are my first four blocks:

Block 1 Farm Girl Vintage

Block 1, Apron Strings.

Farm Girl Vintage Block 2

Block 2, Autumn Star.

Farm Girl Vintage Block 3

Block 3, Baby Chick.

Farm Girl Vintage Block 4

Block 4, Baking Day.

If you’re interested in joining along with Farm Girl Fridays, it’s not too late! You can either scroooooll back up and click the image of Lori’s book (with my great fabric choices!) or visit Lori at http://beeinmybonnetco.blogspot.com .

Happy Quilting!

Pam

Studio Organization and Precut Storage

I’m one of those weird people that has a really hard time creating when things are cluttered. In fact, as I ponder the condition of the rest of my house as opposed to my studio, it’s a bit embarrassing to recognize out loud that this place, my world of creativity, is the neatest, tidiest, most organized spot in the house! I suppose that’s because the rest of the house belongs to ‘us,’ therefore I have this pie-in-the-sky idea that one of these days, my kids will start miraculously cleaning up after themselves!

At any rate, before I zip off to tackle that pile of laundry that’s overflowing atop the (very large) ottoman in the living room, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some tips on studio organization to help you stay motivated and creative!

For starters, I recommend you get to know my old, extraordinarily useful friend, the 3M command hook.

My most excellent Olfa Splash rotary cutter lives right here, alongside my cutting table.

My most excellent Olfa Splash rotary cutter lives right here, alongside my cutting table.

This is the side of what is now my 'new' fabric shelving unit, which houses all of the fabric I've collected since abandoning my 'old' fabric collection (as detailed in my 'First 4 Posts' Category here at the blog).

This is the side of what is now my ‘new’ fabric shelving unit, which houses all of the fabric I’ve collected since abandoning my ‘old’ fabric collection (as detailed in my ‘First 4 Posts’ Category here at the blog).

Call me an organizational loony, but I'm not a fan of stacking my precuts, especially after I've broken them open. I like to keep the usable bits together with its respective bundle as well, so I don't lose track of which fabric is part of which collection.

Call me an organizational loony, but I’m not a fan of stacking my precuts, especially after I’ve broken them open. I like to be able to see them and also keep the usable bits together with its respective bundle as well, so I don’t lose track of which fabric is part of which collection.

Lastly, see how the binder clips link together, so I can layer the precuts easily and flip through them to find just the right fabric for my project?

Lastly, see how the binder clips link together, so I can layer the precuts easily and flip through them to find just the right fabric for my project? And oh yeah…more 3m Command Hooks that I can easily move if necessary.

My actual shelves look admittedly scant at the moment, since I’ve only begun gathering fabric collections of mostly precuts.  That said, it is organized with purpose so I can find everything I need, when I need it, and it SPEAKS CREATIVELY to me. I think that is the key.

I do currently house some of my precuts in a stacked fashion, since I'm also a fan of cheery little bins and buckets. I found the rectangular wooden box as well as the 'Flowers & Garden' bucket at Target, in their little $3 or less section right in the front of the store.

I do currently house some of my unopened precuts in a stacked fashion, since I’m also a fan of cheery little bins and buckets. I found the rectangular wooden box as well as the ‘Flowers & Garden’ bucket at Target, in their little $3 or less section right in the front of the store.

Fabric Folding

I recently stumbled upon a rather lengthy video detailing how to fold your fabric neatly. I’ve been organizing my fabric the same way for years, with a few other purposeful practices in mind (and I’d rather show you in quick photos than link you to a long video that shows you the same thing):

Lay Each Piece Out Completely

No matter how long it is, lay in out lengthwise with selvedges lined up together. As long as the selvedges line up well, there’s no need to open it completely.

Then Fold it again, width-wise.

Then fold it again, width-wise. This will represent the width of all your stacks, about 12″, given that the majority of quilt fabrics are 42-44″ wide.

Then (no matter how loooong it is) bring your cut ends together.  This way, if you need to ever cut several strips at once, you can cut twice as many at a time, or just one strip, by just laying the top end back.

Then (no matter how loooong it is) bring your cut ends together. This way, if you need to ever cut several strips at once, you can cut twice as many at a time, or just one strip, by just laying the top end back.

As you continue to fold your yardage, try to utilize as much of your shelf depth as possible (so you have the most room for more fabric!). Sometimes that means your last fold will me in thirds rather than in half.

As you continue to fold your yardage, try to utilize as much of your shelf depth as possible (so you have the most room for more fabric!). Sometimes that means your last fold will be in thirds rather than in half.

And Presto. Tidy flat fold.

And Presto. Tidy flat fold.

The last series of photos I want to share are of my cutting table. They warrant sharing as a result of another video I watched recently about a how to make a certain block I’ve been interested in learning.  Though the instruction was excellent, the process throughout the construction of said block made me want to cringe, there were so many scraps flying and bits laying all over. As I said, I can’t create well if my space is a mess – so I reach for ways to keep it neat as I go along.

This is my cutting table. Aside from when I am actively working on something, it almost always looks like this, or not far from it at least.

This is my cutting table. Aside from when I am actively working on something, it almost always looks like this, or not far from it at least.

Ever single time I cut anything, the waste goes directly in here. I think primarily the reason I am so relentless about keeping my cutting area clutter free is that I don't want to cut anything that isn't supposed to be cut, nor do I want anything beneath what I AM cutting, which can affect the precision with which I cut it.

Every single time I cut anything, the waste goes directly in here, immediately. It’s just a good habit I got into in the early days of my sewing experience. I think primarily the reason I am so relentless about keeping my cutting area clutter free is that I don’t want to cut anything that isn’t supposed to be cut, nor do I want anything beneath what I AM cutting, which can affect the precision with which I cut it.

Admittedly small, given that because I'm starting with a new fabric stash, I intend to also have the scraps from said stash, all together and uncluttered by my retired stash.

Admittedly small, this is my scrap basket, which sits right on the other upper corner of my cutting mat. Essentially, if it doesn’t go into my waste bin, it either goes in here, or if it’s a larger piece, along with the fabric or bundle it belongs with. When it gets full, it goes in a larger bin.

I tend to keep my most used books handy, along with whatever background fabric I'm using at the time as well.  The little box? Well, doesn't that just work perfectly for my little 6

This is the other half of my cutting table. I tend to keep my most used books handy, along with whatever background fabric I’m using at the time as well. The little box? Well, doesn’t that just work perfectly for my little 6″ Farm Girl Vintage Blocks, while I make them?

Happy Organized Quilting!

Pam

Next Up:

An update on my Farm Girl Vintage Quilt Along progress, and hopefully a tutorial (if my darn 3.5″ rolie polie would get a move on and show up in the mail already!)

Why (and how) I Made the Switch to Premium Quilt Fabrics

Happy Monday! I’ve been posting quite a lot about ‘quality fabric buying,’ and up until now (without necessarily meaning to) – I think I’ve been a little cryptic. What I want to share today is what I mean by quality fabric. What I’m really talking about is Premium quilt fabric, but what does that mean and why does it make a difference?

For starters, I’ve been making quilts for a long time. As I’ve said before, I’ve used fabrics that run the gamut, including those that I look at now (from beneath a quilt I spent hours and hours making), and I cringe. The truth is that mostly, I bought what I could afford at the time, and as a young mom of six growing children, it wasn’t a lot. Rarely did I have time to even go to an actual fabric store, so oftentimes it meant strolling through the craft aisle with a cart full of kids, in whatever store I was in for another purpose, being pulled in by a fabric that caught my eye based on pattern, and buying 2 or 3 yards. That fabric was then added to my ‘stash’ for later use and coordination with some fabric (or two or five) I intended to find later (but often never did), once I fell in love with some pattern I’d find in a book. All well and good, right? Not really because half the time I didn’t have that fabric with me the next time I was at the store, which then only meant another one-hit-wonder would catch my attention in the same fashion. So what I wound up with was a bunch of fabric whose patterns I loved, but really didn’t coordinate together.

That said, I certainly had plenty of success over the years at coordinating fabrics together to make quilts. However, the process became about matching colors, which then opened me up to the dilemma of ignoring my discerning eye for quality fabric in exchange for a color or pattern that matched perfectly. Are you beginning to follow me, here? In a word:

Hodgepodge.

Moving on. Let me now share an image of one such fabric that caught my eye in the store a year or two ago:

Cute FabricCute, right? It’s good quality too; 100% cotton, nice dense thread count, very soft, like any good quality fabric should be. And it has lots of colors I like for the purpose of creating a whole quilt, beaming with lively colors! Now let me show you the selvedge edge:

SelvedgeAre you getting where I’m going with this? No pattern name, design collection, nothin.’ What if I need more of this fabric? What if I’m trying to match it perfectly with the same quality, same exact color match, same everything? I could call around and explain what it looks like or search online, but odds are – I wouldn’t find it.

About the time all this started occurring to me, I began learning more about Premium fabric brands and the thoughtful collections they assemble. I fell in love with Moda’s Little Apples, April Showers and Color Me Happy. Then I discovered Riley Blake. Have you SEEN Country Girls? To Norway with Love? EVERYTHING designed by Lori Holt? These are fabrics that a) have a recognizable name I can seek out, b) are great quality so there is no guesswork to be done in terms of even feeling the fabric, because I already know it’s great, and c) are part of collections of several different fabrics intended to coordinate together. There are several premium manufacturers out there; these are just the two I love most.

Aren’t premium fabric brands really expensive?

The answer is yes and no. In general, premium quilt fabrics are of better quality and yes – tend to be more expensive than your average ‘Printed Exclusively for Hobby Lobby Stores’ fabric. There are, however, ways to conquer the price difference from what you or I may have bought previously (see how I plopped you right into my happy little sand pile of Premium quality goodness? That’s because if you are not already basking in my sand pile by your own choice already, I want you to join me!). Here’s how I did it:

  • Once I figured out which collections I was in love with, I started shopping around. I can tell you that some brick-and-mortar quilt stores will carry part of a collection, but not all. I have found that to be true with my local Field’s Fabrics. If you can catch a good sale, you’re in with at least some. That said, I have all of ONE real quilt store in my area (that isn’t a ‘big box’ store like Field’s). I stopped in about six months ago, for the first time, delighted to meet the owner and share my new status as a lover of premium quilt fabric. She then cheerfully walked me around the store, showed me where to find all the different brands and lines (as the energy of this fabric heaven welled up inside me), then told me on the slide that they customarily DO NOT HAVE SALES. What? For a few moments I thought, well, it’s premium fabric; I guess that’s the trade off. Then reality spoke and I left the store, never to return. I suspect that this ‘No Sales’ policy is not universal, so do visit your local merchants and ask questions. If we can support local, I think it’s right to do so, as long as they meet us halfway.
  • I started shopping online. After leaving the aforementioned ‘No Sales’ store, I began to really delve into the online world of fabric shopping. Because I now had names of fabric lines I loved, I could search and compare prices. Craftsy.com is a great source, and they have amazing sales! FatQuarterShop.com is also on the up and up. Lastly, since I have an Etsy shop myself (where I used to sell my recycled animal friends, but am on hiatus for now), I seek to support my comrades. There are some great little sellers out there whose prices are more than fair.
  • Consider last season’s fabric lines. Like fashion, manufacturers are always introducing new lines. If you have to have the new lines right when they come out, you’ll simply have to be comfortable with the MSRP – manufacturer’s suggested retail price (but there are sales to be had – so find them). Otherwise, I find that I’m still discovering some of the retired lines are fabulous enough that I want to grab them before they’re really gone. As a warning, you WILL encounter sellers (on etsy, in particular) that treat retired fabric lines like out of print books, by pricing them sky high because they are out of print. I guess it’s just a matter of how badly you want the fabric as it relates to how much you’ll pay.
  • As previously (perhaps relentlessly) mentioned, I discovered PRECUTS.
    • 2.5″ or 5″ Charm Packs, of the entire line
    • Jelly Rolls or Rolie Polies (depending upon the brand) in either 2.5″ strips or 3.5″ strips, of the entire line
    • 10″ Layer Cakes, of the entire line
    • Fat Eighth, Fat Quarter, or Half Yard Bundles, of the entire line
Charlotte's favorite activity:  Playing with my fabrics. She's quite a little coordinator!

Charlotte’s favorite activity: Playing with my fabrics. She’s quite a little coordinator!

The thing about precuts is that although if you really add it up, they are a bit more costly by volume than yardage, I believe it’s worth the trade-off. They allow me to incorporate a variety of fabrics into my quilt projects, especially when combined with solids like white or ecru, to really accentuate the patterned fabrics. I recommend either Moda Bella Solids or Robert Kaufman Kona Solids. They tend to be more reasonable in price than the printed fabrics created by these same premium manufacturers, yet still the same great quality. The best part is that most big box stores sell the entire collection of solid colors, so I can find them locally.

Next Up:

Storing your Precuts: My Eureka Technique

Flashback Post: Happy (Gram) Mother’s Day and Facing Out

In honor of Mother’s Day, today seems like the perfect time to begin the process of sharing some now and again ‘flashback posts’ I’ve written over the years at my former site, Serendipity Woods. As we get to know one another here, I want to share with you that though my childhood was not what I would consider terribly remarkable, it did involve a fair bit more instability than I think is average. That instability was stabilized, however, by two people that made a most incredible impression upon this young girl and her big sis: Our grandparents.

Peanut butter toast with cinnamon and orange juice in the big bed, ca. 1972.

Peanut butter toast with cinnamon and orange juice in the big bed, ca. 1972.

Though I’ll surely share some flashback posts about the awesome guy that was my granch (our word for grandpa, which originated with my sister), today I want to share this one about my gram, which I hope will distract her (in heaven) from rearranging furniture, relentlessly cleaning what is already spotless, and uttering the words (for the fifty-millionth time), “Tom, the telly is too loud, can’t you just turn it down?”

For the sake of painting a picture of her, I called her gram because as I grew older, I began to realize that the moniker ‘grandma’ made her feel elderly – which until she was well into her nineties, she was definitely not.

Without further adieu folks, Happy Mother’s Day to all you amazing, crafty moms and grams out there, and to my gram especially, who gave bouancy to my imagination without even knowing she was doing it.

Facing Out

My grandmother was a neatnik. She had this incredible ability to whip up a room, sparkly fresh, organized to the hilt, in a matter of moments. Yet I grew to know her processes were not always  just about neatness. One of the fondest memories I have of her is how she neatened my stuffed animal friends. One would think with her inability to tolerate clutter, a bin with a cover in the corner would be her first choice for a little girl’s stuffed animals; but no. She arranged them upon my bed, every day, in comfortable positions, facing out. Particularly, their faces were directed toward the door, where I would inevitably enter to see them all, happy and joyful together, waiting just for me to come home.  It was that she felt them needing her to respect their identities and spirits, as if they were real. More than that, I think she did it because she wanted me to feel them REAL. I did, and still do.

Fabrics inspire me in serendipitous ways, but clothing items especially grab me in a unique way because there’s something so meaningful to me in making something new out of something that’s almost never too old to just toss away. Beyond that, giving that item a face, an identity, a REALness, matters deeply to me. In fact, as I finish each face, I’m always seeking one common elocution to bloom in my mind:  ‘There you are!’  

(it’s like my own personal endorphin…)

About a six year old photo of some of the recycled animal friends I've made over the years.  In the center is Sophie - my very first t-shirt bunny creation.

About a six year old photo of some of the recycled animal friends I’ve made over the years. In the center is Sophie – my very first t-shirt bunny creation.

Post 4: Rainy Days, Cheer-Up Bundles, and Precut Storage

For the second day in a row, I awakened to dreary, rainy weather. I like rain, I do – especially when I imagine how fat the little baby robins atop my porch post must be getting as their parents busily harvest the plentiful worms from our yard.  Spring is my favorite for all the reasons that make me loathe winter.  It’s fresh, it’s comfortable, and there is just something magical about witnessing the coming alive of things, year after year. So I get it…rain is necessary and rain is good; but it makes me have to seek out things to brighten my mood rather than just looking out a window or smelling the fresh breeze.  Fortunately, my growing stash of precuts was just the place to look!

Of course I forgot to snap a before-I-cut-it photo of the first precut bundle I bought after finally ditching my 'No-Fabric-Buying-for-a-Year Resolution'; but isn't it just heavenly?!

Of course I forgot to snap a before-I-cut-it photo of the first precut bundle I bought after finally ditching my ‘No-Fabric-Buying-for-a-Year Resolution’; but isn’t it just heavenly?!

I have to say, of all the persistent nudges – the Moda April Showers Collection by Bonnie and Camille was probably the one that made me rethink my resolution the most. I love everything about it, especially the way it makes rainy weather feel joyful instead of gloomy.  So I started cutting…and sewing, and cutting some more…

April Showers & Daysail Aurifil

Of note (surprisingly), the Aurifil thread collection that coordinates with Daysail (also for Moda by Bonnie and Camille) matches April Showers quite nicely!

While I was moving about my studio, I noticed Charlotte busying herself too, collecting scraps.

Charlotte's Favorite Scraps

Oddly enough, Charlie’s favorite scraps are mine too.

Well, leave it to a little studio bunny to give me a great idea about what to do with those too-tiny-to-really-make-anything-with scraps…

'Need More of These' list

Our list of fabrics we love and warrant the purchase of yardage, beyond just the precuts we own (and *gasp* might run out of!)

Which now brings me to what surrounds our little list, which is posted on the side of our ‘New Fabrics’ shelving unit.

Organizing PrecutsWe’re using these handy (and also quite cheerful) little binder clips, which come in varying sizes, colors, and patterns, if you know were to look.

Binder Clips for Precut Bundle Storage

We found ours at Office Depot, but Target has some lovely ones too.

Outside of keeping all the fabrics for each bundle together, I find the binder clips handy for the purpose of keeping the manufacturer and collection name tag right with the fabrics so I can easily keep track in case I want to seek out more.

April Showers Bundle with Handy Binder Clip

The binder clips allow me to keep all my scraps and the accompanying informational tag right with the bundle so they don’t get mixed up. I can even hang it up on a 3m hook (which are also one of my favorite studio supplies).

Oh. and YES – I made something with my April Showers layer cake: A 5″ quilt.

It's the umbrellas in this collection that sucked me in, but also the fabric I used for the binding. LOVE.

It’s the umbrellas in this collection that sucked me in, but also the fabric I used for the binding. LOVE.

April Showers 5‘It’s awfully small for a mini quilt, and kind of too big for a coaster, isn’t it?’  Yep. That’s because it’s neither.

It's meant to live here, beneath my presser foot when I'm not using my machine, so that every time I sit down to my machine, it makes me feel cheery :)

It’s meant to live here, beneath my presser foot when I’m not using my machine, so that every time I sit down to sew, it makes me feel cheery.

I wish you a happy (now sunny here) quilting day!

Pam

Post 3: What I’ve learned about Fabric, Precuts, and How to Bail on a New Year’s Resolution with Class

Up until now here at Charlotte Loves Henry, I’ve been a bit vague about my intended purposes for this blog, in exchange for just laying out the general feel and idea of the site itself. Beyond that, however, what started with a now defunct New Year’s resolution has evolved to bring me to a very new place as an experienced quilter. I think is worth sharing and as I’ve said, I don’t want to figure all sorts of things out and then start blogging about it; I want to share as I go along.

It starts like this – I’ve been quilting for about 20 years. I’ve learned lots about piecing and cutting and precision. Though every day is, and should be, a learning day, I’m not a quilting newby. Still, no matter how experienced I’d become, there was always something with which I struggled to streamline:

How to buy fabric I loved and could truly use effectively all the time,

without just looking at on my shelf in a befuddled stupor 50% of the time

while muddling through and making due the other 50%.

As of January 1, 2015 - this was my fabric stash. Lovingly gathered throughout 20+ years of quilting (and many quite dear to my heart), but frankly, a jumbled collection of unstructured nonsense as I look at it today.

As of January 1, 2015 – this was my fabric stash; lovingly gathered throughout 20+ years of quilting (and many patterns quite dear to my heart), but frankly, a jumbled collection of unstructured, frustrating nonsense as I look at it today.

Over the years, this is what my fabric-buying tendencies resembled (and I suspect I’m not alone):

  • I’d get sucked into any fabric department that existed in any store (including actual big-box fabric stores like Field’s and JoAnn’s, but also craft stores like Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, my local Meijer store and yes even Walmart on occasion. (hey, the first step toward reconciliation is honesty, or so my 7-year-once-catholic-school-girl self was led to believe…I beg you not to judge). Moving on…
  • Once in the clutches of said fabric/craft department, at least one bolt, remnant, or fat quarter leapt somewhat uninvited into my hands, subsequently forcing me to begin the following lengthy, multi-step process that starts with…
    •  Oooooh…PRETTY! (and evolves to…)
    •  Will this match that ONE fabric I’ve had in my stash for eons, such that I can finally use it?
    • If it’s a fat quarter or remnant, are there more if this same pattern in this bottomless bin (which then evolved toward the digging/sifting process of pulling out each one that matched what was in my hand, deciding that if there are 20, I’d have to buy all of them just in case, since Lord knows I’d never find this fabric again)?
    • If so (or no – since the wrestling still ensued), I then began to rub the fabric between my fingers for an undetermined amount of time, while squinting at it up close to ascertain the thread count and overall fabric quality

Okay – since I suspect you get my point, I’ll stop there. What I’m really trying to express is this one thing:

Fabric shopping shouldn’t be that hard.

Regardless, I went about collecting fabrics over the years, becoming pretty proficient as a quilter, yet still never really feeling like my fabric stash was working for me.  It wasn’t until after I set a New Year’s Resolution goal to resist buying fabric for 2015 (so I’d be forced to use up my stash) that I truly began to appreciate just how little useful fabric I had IN my stash. The reality was this – I had nice fabric of good quality and no argument could be made to the contrary, but:

  • If I wanted to match anything with it, at least 50% of it bore no design or manufacturer name along the selvedge edge. So even if there had been a grouping of coordinated fabrics along with it when I bought it, I had no way of going about finding what they were.
  • Some of my fabric I had several yards of, which I didn’t really need, but had bought for the simple fear I might want or need more but would never be able to find it again. Know what I figured out? Just because I love a fabric at first sight, doesn’t mean I’ll want to use it for the next twelve quilts.

Simultaneously, as all these things were occurring to me, I was still committed to NOT buying fabric. I started following fabric and notions manufacturers on social media, and also other quilters who seemed to have such a miraculously easy time assembling gorgeous quilts that I knew I was just as capable of creating. I began to recognize fabric collections by name and manufacturer, all assembled into large groupings of fabrics that coordinated together. Then I started shopping around online (without buying, mind you), seeking out fabric specifically by name. I could even find some fabric collections that were out of print if I looked in the right place, because I knew their name. Lastly, and most importantly, I’d done my research, I knew I could depend upon the quality of the fabric, so no squinting, fabric-feeling or guesswork would be needed!  So I bought a Moda 5″ square charm pack online and tried it…and that was THAT.

Eureka.

That’s when I gave myself permission to bail (the rest of the way) on my resolution and try out some other quality manufacturer brands, and while I was at it – I veered away from my forever good quality thread, and tried some Aurifil; an Italian brand of thread I’d heard of and simply thought, ‘Heck. As if it will kill me to try?’ I promise I didn’t spontaneously explode (obviously), and my seams lay flatter too.

The photo below I’m calling:

Did you know that Precuts are brilliant?

(and see my little thread bowl beneath Henry’s left foot? That’s my collection of awesome Aurifil threads.)

This is my new (heavenly) fabric stash, most notably, a good many precuts.

I’ll talk more about precuts in my next post – why their so great, and especially a cool new way I’ve figured out for storing them.  Perhaps I’ll whip up a fun little tutorial to share too.

Cheers and Happy Quilting,

Pam

PS. Remind me to bridge the topic of this business of ‘scant 1/4″ seam allowances too. I’d like to share about the crummy 1/4″ foot I’ve been using on my Pfaff for years, which, let’s just say, wasn’t terribly accurate to 1/4″, let alone a scant one.

Post 2: Launch Day; Better Late Than Tomorrow!

Whew! By my clock, it’s 9:44pm and doggone it – I said I was going to get this site launched on May 1st, and I’m doing it!  Though it has been an exhausting day, it’s been extraordinarily productive!

For starters, in my last (first) post (which nobody’s read, since I haven’t yet technically launched my site…maybe it wouldn’t hurt for you to read that first…scroll down…yep, that’s it), I mentioned something about there not being any quilts here at my site (which I also explained). Pish. Noble of you to consider waiting (as if you read the post, which you didn’t, so now not only am I explaining the quilt you see at the top of the page, I’m also explaining why it’s there when I said it wouldn’t be).

Plain and simple, I couldn’t launch this, a quilting site, without at least one quilt, no matter how much I may want to take you along on my journey from the very beginning.  So aside from a Women’s Varsity Lacrosse game, a trip to Menard’s with my sweetie, and relentlessly walking two much-too-old-to-still-be-having-accidents-in-the-house puppies, I finished my first Charlotte Loves Henry Quiltworks quilt.

SAMSUNG CSCSAMSUNG CSCI feel like it sort of looks like a full sized quilt when all laid out on the grass on this beautiful day. But it isn’t.

SAMSUNG CSCAs alluded to in my previous post, this is a bunny-sized quilt created at the request of Charlotte and Henry, so they could play cards in the yard without having to sit in the itchy grass.  It measures 24″ x 30″ and was created with my very first little bundle of Moda precuts, which came along with my very first set of (heavenly) Aurifil 50w threads.

IMG_4897A Daysail mini charm pack of 2 1/2″ squares which I combined with some El Gallo yardage (which as you might notice, matches Charlotte’s ears), and some Kona Solid White.  Plain and simple, my goal was to start with plain and simple. Well, it doesn’t get much simpler than 20 – 9-patch blocks!

IMG_4902Oh Gosh – it’s already pushing 10:30 (I’m still launching today, I really am!). Let me just wrap up with a few more photos I just have to share before I drop like a rock onto my pillow.

Charlotte may just be the most photogenic bunny I have ever had the pleasure of creating.

Charlotte may just be the most photogenic bunny I have ever had the pleasure of creating (and she plays a mean game of Rummy to boot).

SAMSUNG CSC

Henry actually won the game, but that’s only because it was his turn to deal and he forgot to shuffle the cards first.

Okay. So that’s that, at 11pm on the nose. Hi and welcome to Charlotte Loves Henry Quiltworks!

Next Post: My first stab at Quilt Along participation. Admittedly, I missed the kickoff for Lori Holt’s Farm Girl Vintage: Farm girl Fridays Quilt Along today in order to get things wrapped up here with my kickoff.  I’m thrilled to say the results of my Monday shopping spree at Sew for a Song’s Etsy Shop to prepare resulted in a happy little (heavy!) package of fabric in the post yesterday.

Mostly Riley Blake Fabrics and a good many from Lori Holt's gorgeous stash of various vintage-y designs, I spent all morning shopping at Sew for A Song's great Etsy Shop.

Mostly Riley Blake Fabrics and a good many from Lori Holt’s gorgeous stash of various vintage-y designs, I spent all morning shopping at Sew for A Song’s great Etsy Shop.

I’ll post a better link tomorrow too, but for now it’s below, in case you’d like to check it out and/or join as well. It’s really awesome. I can’t wait to get started!

http://beeinmybonnetco.blogspot.com/

Cheers and Happy Quilting,

Pam

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