Sneak Peek…. another 2″ strip scrap quilt!

I actually made this one for myself, for a special space in my home. But when I did some measuring (AFTER the quilt was quilted), I realized the quilt is 2″ too big to hang in that space. So I will probably finish it up and sell it on etsy. It’s all done except the hand stitching of the binding and sleeve, and I will do that next time my hubby and I have time to sit down and watch a movie!


I am mature enough to not feel guilty about this…


I spent some time feeling horrified and embarrassed by my piles of quilt tops yesterday, until I stepped back and realized that most of them are class samples or pattern prototypes I have created over 28 years of quiltmaking. There are only a few that I made “just because.”

My excuses:

  • I don’t have backing fabric and batting for all of them. I couldn’t afford it for many of those years, and I can’t afford to buy it all now.
  • I don’t have time, or at least I didn’t have time for the quilting when I finished the quilt top. It’s only been in the last 15-20 years that machine quilting has been an acceptable option. I had to move on to new things for new classes.
  • I don’t particularly like some of them. I actively dislike a couple of them. Some were made with the fabric provided by the owner of the shop at which I was teaching the class. It wasn’t my choice and I didn’t like it enough to spend time quilting it. Some were trendy 10 or 15 years ago but look dated now. At least two of them are just hideous color combinations. I don’t know what I was thinking.

My disclaimer:

I finished many quilts during this time. At a guess, I have finished 250 quilts, table runners, quilted garments (yes, they were in fashion for a while), and other quilted items over the past 28 years. That doesn’t include these unfinished ones, and it’s a conservative estimate.

My confession, to spur me to work:

  • Bed quilts I am willing to sell: 6
  • Bed quilts I want to keep: 10
  • Large lap-size quilts I am willing to sell: 7
  • Large lap-size quilts I want to keep: 5
  • Wall quilts I am willing to sell: 4
  • Wall quilts I want to keep: 2
  • Table runners I am willing to sell: 2
  • Baby Quilts I am willing to sell: 2

My progress:

  • I made an honest assessment of what I actually have to do, getting all of the tops out and placing them in the appropriate piles on my cutting table.
  • I went through the attic and sewing room stashes and pulled out the larger pieces of fabric and then started pairing up quilt tops and backings. I won’t use backings that don’t complement the quilt tops, so I will not be able to match all of them.


  • I will finish pairing as many as I can and fold them together with the tops.
  • I will clean the fabric off my sewing room shelves and replace it with the the paired and single quilt tops – in sight, where I can’t ignore them forever. ( I wonder where I can put all that fabric…)
  • I will make a list of what backings I still need, and put it in my purse, so I have it when I am shopping
  • If I have time, I will start piecing quilt backs.

To Do:

  • Baste
  • Quilt – it’s possible I will tie some of the simpler bed quilts
  • Bind
  • List some for sale

I am not saying I won’t start new projects during this time. I need to sell quilts  – that’s an important part of our income – and I will probably find things I want to make for myself or gifts, especially with Christmas coming up. I hope to promote my Bridal Quilting Bees and other quilting retreats, so I might even make some new bed quilts, for a portfolio of bridal quilt options. But I am making this project a priority. I feel burdened when I look at those piles, which means I don’t enjoy my quiltmaking. I want to feel good about myself and my work!

Just a little more folksy

You may recall (scroll down if you don’t) that I was having trouble finding a good variety of rustic beige prints and plaids for my scrappy 9-Patch quilts. Some of the shirts and fabrics I picked up were a little more white than I wanted, so I used a good old fashioned tannin bath for darkening them. It wasn’t complicated: I put 8 or 9 tea bags into a pot full of water, tossed in the fabrics and let it simmer. Then I rinsed the fabrics. And rinsed them. And then I threw them into the washing machine and dryer. After that, I ironed them. I assure you.. that color is set.

I did not dye every piece of those fabrics; I will use some of each fabric in its original condition and some of it dyed.

Yes, I have heard that the tea will cause my fabrics to start to deteriorate in 35 or 40 years. I also read that coffee won’t cause any problems for at least 75 years, but now that I have a Keurig coffee maker, I didn’t have any coffee grounds available for experimentation.

Efficiency in Upcycling

After reading yesterday’s blog article, a friend asked me how to get the most fabric from a shirt. She knows this is a particular skill of mine: pinching pennies until they turn into dollars. I may not have grown up during the Depression, but I’ve always been attracted to stories about the Westward Expansion period and other tales of resourceful survival. In the book “Five Little Peppers and How They Grew,” the mother saved and re-used basting threads. That has stuck with me for 40 years.

NO, I am not a hoarder. YES, I do use it all eventually, or I pass it on to someone who will. NO, I do not save basting threads.

The process of harvesting usable fabric from a shirt is the reverse of sewing it together. You disassemble it so you have the largest possible flat pieces of fabric. You can cut the shirt apart with scissors, but I prefer to use the rotary cutter.


The last step of sewing a shirt is the sewing on of the buttons, so they come off first. I like to use a sharp seam ripper to remove them quickly, sliding the point between the button and the fabric and cutting the threads there.


Don’t forget that some shirts have collar buttons, buttons in the sleeve plackets, and a spare button or two sewn on the inside of the shirt, at the bottom edge of the front placket or side seam. You don’t want to miss any of them, especially if you are using a rotary cutter and might run into them while you are cutting!


I save the buttons, looped together so I have a full set when I need one.

5-21-2014 shirts b

Lay the shirt on the cutting mat and cut off each sleeve along the armhole sleeve. It’s okay if you don’t get it perfectly on the seam all the way around.

5-21-2014 shirts d

Cut up the side seams and open up the shirt as shown. Cut off the collar first, and then cut along each shoulder seam and the back yoke seam.

5-21-2014 shirts c

Lay the sleeves out as shown and cut off the cuffs. Don’t worry about the cuff placket, if there is one. Then cut the sleeves open by slicing off the seam. You don’t need to reach inside to cut it open; just cut the seam off as shown. Cut the front plackets off of the two front pieces.

You now have the pieces you originally used to make the shirt – two fronts, one back, two sleeves, a yoke (actually two layers), front placket(s), one collar (and maybe a band), and two cuffs (and maybe cuff plackets). I toss out the collar and front plackets, but I can cut strips from the cuffs and yoke.

If the shirt has a pocket, you may be able to pick it off neatly with a seam ripper and use the fabric underneath. I was able to do that with this shirt, but it doesn’t always come off without leaving marks.

5-21-2014 shirts f

This shirt – Eddie Bauer size Medium – yielded 14 -8” squares for my Nine-Patch quilt and plenty of 2” and 1.5” strips for my strip stash. The actual waste is minimal. I am sure a creative person with more spare time would come up with a use for it!

Mrs. Pepper would approve!