So I Have These Little Nine-Patch Blocks…

So I Have These Little Nine-Patch Blocks...

I live in a wonderful small city, with a few fabric sources – WalMart has some fabrics, and JoAnn is only ten miles away. And, of course, I have enough fabric living in my attic and studio to keep me sewing for a very long time. There is a Hobby Lobby 25 miles from here, and a sewing machine repair shop that carries some quiltshop-quality fabrics in that same city. There were two quilt shops there, but they have both closed within the last ten years. There used to be a quilt shop right here in our town, where I taught classes, but it closed, too.

The problem with quilt shops and most other fabric stores/departments is that they carry what is trendy. And you know… I am seldom trendy. My tastes are eclectic, and my quilt-spiration even more so. I have works-in-progress in several different styles: batik, flannel, very modern, romantic, youthful, primitive, brights, darks, monochromatic, Civil War reproduction prints, Depression Era reproduction prints, Christmas, autumn, polka dot, plaid, traditional, contemporary, art quilts, bed quilts…. You name it, I’ve probably got it sitting half-finished on my sewing room shelves.

So once I had exhausted all of my local resources and found just four different fabrics appropriate for setting those unfashionable “lodge look” Nine-Patch blocks, I started scrounging. My husband didn’t have any tan plaid shirts in his closet, so we made a trip to the Salvation Army. Our Salvation Army isn’t particularly large, but it is crammed full of clothing. There were probably 500 shirts! The “tan stripe/plaid” section had about 30 shirts. The first thing I did was weed out any that weren’t 100% cotton. Then I eliminated any that had too much texture, like seersucker. A few of them looked as if they had been well-worn. Ugh. In the end, I collected three nearly-new shirts. I found another one in the women’s department, with some pretty beaded embroidery on the front.

Just a note here – buying these items does not deprive some poor low-income person of the opportunity to get clothing at bargain prices. I left nearly 500 shirts there. And our Salvation Army isn’t all that cheap. And I recycle! All of the buttons will be cut off and strung together so I have a full set ready when I need one. Anything I can’t use for these blocks will be used for household rags or cut into 2” strips for my stash! There is nothing wrong with buying clothing at the thrift store to cut up for quilts.

The next and very important step: I took them home and laundered them. Thoroughly! No matter how nice the fabric is, that thrift store smell is nasty.

I love scrap quilts. They look so natural! I wish I had another four or five fabrics for these quilts, but this will have to do until I can make a trip into the big city. And I will probably have moved on to something different by then.
LOOK! A squirrel!

Scrap Quilts


I have been working from my bountiful supply of 2″ strips this week. I always enjoy that feeling of getting “free” quilts from my stash. Sometimes I have to buy more fabric for setting blocks, background or borders (and backings, usually), but it still makes me happy to get something for nothing and I feel less guilty about the embarrassing volume of fabric I possess.

I’ve been making scrappy 9 Patch blocks in two different but related color themes. There are 18 blue and brown blocks and 34 blocks in red/blue/gold/green/brown. I am planning to make some wall quilts and maybe a lap quilt, but I need to buy some more tan fabrics to use as alternate blocks before I can continue.

There are also two string-pieced table runner tops. One is cottage-y, shabby chic pastel colors, and the other is cobalt blue. I can not seem to capture the blue color. Take my word for it… it’s beautiful, clear, pure true blue.

Log Cabin variations are next!

Stash Reduction Project Part One – I’m not really throwing anything away.

I am making huge progress in my stash reduction process. I have an obscene amount of quilting fabric, but not a lot of yardage. It’s mostly remnants and scraps. And it’s not disorganized; the fabric is already sorted by color or style into Rubbermaid totes, and the totes are neatly labeled on both ends. I have separated all of the dressmaking and other fabrics, and those are stored in other parts of the attic, so the “quilting” area of the attic contains only cotton fabric, batting, a few file boxes of quilt class patterns and paperwork, various class supply/visual aid boxes, quilt frames, and other quilt-related stuff tools and supplies. It looks good up there, but those totes are whited sepulchers. They appear nice and clean on the outside, but in reality they are crammed so full of fabric that it’s hard to find and use the pieces I want. It’s a wadded-up mess. Every time I want to do a project, I have to dig through tangles of unusable little pieces and strips, and it’s all so stubbornly wrinkled that I have to wet it down before I can press it smooth. I want my fabric supply to be accessible and usable.

I do have a system, but I have not previously applied it to the entire stash. It’s a big project, and time-consuming, but it works for me. One box at a time, I am sorting through every bit of the fabric. Any pieces smaller than a fat quarter or odd shapes are pressed and cut into 2″ strips. If they are too small for that, I cut them into 1 1/2″ strips. Anything too small for that DOES get thrown away. The remaining fabric pieces get pressed, folded, and put back in their tub. If a larger piece is not square/rectangular, I cut off the odd ends and strip those, replacing the tidied-up larger piece in the tote.

I really do use these strips. OFTEN. It’s a very convenient system for me, because I like scrap quilts. I enjoy rummaging through the ready-to-use strips. The problem is that they multiply. In their nice dark totes, up there in the attic at night, some kind of reproductive process is happening. I currently have three 18-gallon Rubbermaid totes packed full of 2″ strips and two of 1 1/2″ strips, and they are all full.

Last winter, I sewed seven tablerunners and two baby quilts from the 1 1/2″ strip tote without making a noticeable dent in the stash. Over the years, I have made innumerable large and small quilts from these boxes, but they never get emptier. Sometimes I get low on one specific color, but sooner or later they reproduce themselves and I once again have enough to make more quilts.

I have dressmaking friends who sometimes send me big boxes of their scraps. When I am organized like this, all of their gift eventually gets used. Efficient organization and storage prevents waste.

Now if only I could apply that concept to my kitchen…

VIP Cranston


I was seriously disappointed today to learn that Cranston is moving their fabric printing plants out of the United States. For many years, I have promoted their fabrics because they were made domestically. It’s always a good thing to provide employment locally. Their fabric has been inexpensive and of a reliable quality. Primarily, however, I endorsed the company because they were extraordinary supporters of their military employees. Reservists are protected by federal law, but Cranston exceeded those minimum requirements. As a military wife and mother, that blesses me even when it’s not my own family.

I am working on an article about fabric selection, and I called their customer service number today to ask some questions. The man on the phone didn’t speak English very clearly, he didn’t know anything about their military reservist support program, and when I got to my questions about the specific “Made in the USA” issues, I was shocked to learn that after June 30, Cranston/VIP/Quilting Treasures fabrics will no longer be printed in the Unted States. They have been printing fabrics in the Unites States since 1824.

From their website: Cranston Print Works Company is a large, diversified corporation with operations in textile consumer goods, transportation, and specialty chemicals. The textile operation began in 1824, at the very beginning of America’s Industrial Revolution, and is distinguished as the oldest textile printing operation in the United States, as well as the largest supplier of printed fabric to the home sewing market. The company’s outstanding reputation for quality, service, versatility, and manufacturing expertise is a direct credit to the employees that work here. We continue to believe that our employees are our strength, and remain committed to employee development. Cranston Print Works is an employee-owned company, wherein the ownership philosophy coupled with the company’s excellence in manufacturing, product design, sales, and marketing, create a culture which encourages achievement and innovation.

I firmly believe in the right of every private business to make their own decisions, but I am personally saddened. I am now on a quest to find new sources of affordable American-made fabric. At the beginning of this war, I made a new quilt for my bed. A very special quilt, made mostly of Cranston/VIP fabrics because I was so grateful for their military support. My husband was no longer in the Air Force, having just finished his reservist commitment, but our oldest son was in the army, stationed in Korea.