During the 1930s, Nancy wrote a column for the Chicago Daily Tribune featuring a new quilt pattern every single day. A diagram of the daily block was printed next to helpful tips and bits of quilt history. (The pattern could be purchased for “5 cents in stamps or coin.”)
Nancy’s column was chatty and casual, like a tea time conversation between friends. I think I would have loved her!
On January 27, 1933, Nancy highlighted a simple half-square triangle pattern called The Old Gray Goose. Of course, like all old-fashioned blocks, it had other names, too, including Double Z, Devil’s Claws, and Brown Goose.
98 years later, Jenny is whipping up this pretty, antique block using 10-inch squares of precut fabric. We’re calling it Brown Goose, and you won’t believe how quickly it comes together! Nancy Cabot would be proud!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had large quilting studios with plenty of space for cutting, designing, ironing, fabric storage, and multiple sewing machines? Yes, that would be ideal, but it just isn’t the reality for most of us. The truth is, many sewists are squeezing their hobby into tight spaces and we’re here to help you fit everything you love about quilting into whatever space you have to make creating a pleasure again.
Back to Basics
When you think about it, all you really need to sew is a place to set your machine and work with fabric. A sewing machine isn’t that big in and of itself. It could comfortably fit on a side table or a portion of your dining room table. If you’re struggling for cutting and ironing space, think about converting a folding tray table into a temporary cutting and pressing table that you can fold away when you’re through. You can even use a sturdy ironing board with a mat on top for cutting—and it’s height adjustable! As for supplies, they can be packed up into a tote with a handle that you can pick up and put away when you are finished sewing.
Finding space for a sewing machine is just the beginning. Quilters all know that maintaining a small (or large) fabric stash is key—it can be a source of inspiration, but it can also be a headache to manage all that fabric. So, where to start? Pull out every box and bin and literally gather up every piece of fabric you own. Make a HUGE pile! Once you’ve done that, the magic begins.
Sort your pile of fabric into three categories: keep, donate, or sell. This can be tough for many of us who love every piece of fabric that comes our way, but if we’re honest with ourselves, there is fabric in our stash that will never be used and it can be used by someone else.
Once you’ve whittled down your stash a bit, take the time to fold it neatly and store it once more. Chances are, you’ve already cleared up some space. Way to go!
When you go to put your fabric away again, consider how you like to access it and display it. Maybe you have a shelf for pretty precuts that you like to look at or deep bins for larger cuts. Be wise as you put your fabric away so you can easily access it later on.
Tips for Fabric Storage in Small Spaces
Below, you’ll find top storage tips from four of our favorite quilters. Of course, Jenny and Misty pitched in their favorite tips as well as our senior copywriter, Nichole, and our educational producer, Liz!
• Try a Dresser “I can fit tons of fabric and notions in my drawers without worrying about shelves getting messy. My dresser also doubles as my cutting table.” -Liz
• Keep It Visible “I keep scraps of the same color in clear bins so I can see what fabrics I have and use them up.” -Nichole
• Hang It Up Larger cuts of fabric or panels can be hung up in the closet on hangers for easy access later on.
• File It Away Put an old filing cabinet to use for more than old papers and fold your fabric so that it drapes neatly over the empty paper files. When you open up the drawers, you’ll be treated to an organized fabric stash!
• Shelve It Utilize shelf space for fabrics by either folding them up neatly and stacking them, or you can cut down pieces of cardboard and wrap fabric around the cardboard like mini bolts that can be stored vertically on the shelf like books.
• Organize by Project “I don’t have a lot of stash to organize, but I do have fabric with specific projects in mind. I have quite a few clear project bins that I use to keep all the needed fabric for each project together. It makes it easy to clean up and store when I want to work on something different for a little while. They’re only a few inches deep and about 12″ square, so they’re easy to stack up and store, but I can still tell quickly what’s in each bin.” -Misty
Sewing notions may be small, but they sure can pile up, too! Before you go to organize your notions, do a similar kind of whittling down like you did with your fabric. It’s easy to keep doubles and even triples of everything as quilters and those items may just be taking up space. Take a look at all your notions and decide what to keep or donate and then move on to setting up your space for success.
Because notions are easy to lose track of, it’s important to organize them in a way that is visually appealing and accessible. You know those neat peg boards that have been used as garage organization for tools? Why not use them for sewing! Storing notions vertically opens up space on your sewing table. You can also hang a couple shelves over your sewing table and arrange your notions up above your workstation to keep your table clear.
Jenny’s sewing studio is packed with everything she could need to create her next project and she says, “I like drawers for thread and rulers, although I prefer a hanging pegboard rack for the rulers I use often. I also like containers that are decorative and useful.” Like our cute little thimble containers! We just can’t get enough.
And don’t forget about pins! Jenny always says, “You can’t have too many pin cushions and we agree.” Liz mentioned that she likes to keep, “several pin cushions and put different kinds of pins in each—keeping them organized and being able to grab a whole pile of the ‘right’ ones for whatever I’m working on.” What a great idea!
Finally, when you’re organizing your workspace, think of the overall layout and how everything works together. If it’s a tight space, you may not have to walk far to your pressing station from your sewing machine, but do you prefer it on the right or on the left? Or are you always tripping over the iron cord? Keep these considerations in mind when setting up your space so that you’ll always feel comfortable and your creativity will flow easily. Another great tip from Liz is, “Think about laying out your ‘golden triangle’ of workspace. You can learn all about this on home improvement shows about kitchen layouts with an oven/sink/fridge, except our golden triangle of sewing is cut/press/sew—make that layout work for you and you’ll love even a tiny space!” Wise words indeed.
No matter what size space you sew in, you can make it work for you with some careful consideration about your fabric stash, sewing supplies, and overall layout. Share your beautifully organized sewing spaces with us at #msqcshowandtell. We can’t wait to see what you’ve done with the place!
After months of planning, sewing, and wrapping, you’ve created real magic this holiday season. I’m so proud of you!
Now it’s time to kick up your feet and rest. Treat yourself to a cup of peppermint cocoa and a warm soak in the tub.
You know, quilters love to give and serve. But sometimes we forget to take time for ourselves. So every Christmas, Jenny plans a special project meant just for YOU.
This year, she is using Shannon’s Cuddle® Cuts Minky 2-Yard Cuts to make a quick and easy throw blanket that is so luxuriously soft, you can wrap it around your shoulders and relax like the quilting royalty you truly are!
If you’re interested in learning about the basics of quilting, then you’re in the right place!
Getting started with something new is usually the hardest part. Quilting can be a laborious process — it requires many steps that can seem really overwhelming when you’re new to it all! Many beginner quilters can get stuck when thinking about piecing together their first blocks, but we’re here to help! Today we’re going to be talking about the steps before you start piecing. A good foundation is the key to success, so before you dive in and start stitching up your first creation, let’s learn about the very first steps in your quilting journey!
Jenny Doan always says “finished is better than perfect” and we can’t agree more! No one will notice if you lost a point or if you had to add back fabric with an extra seam after a cutting mistake or if you had to rip out the stitches in your block one too many times with your handy seam ripper (we’ll learn more about this tool soon!). Finishing a quilt or project is a huge accomplishment and you should never let your fear of imperfection get in the way of creating! So, let’s start with the basics and build our foundation and you’ll be sewing confidently in no time!
When it comes to buying fabric for your first quilt, pre-cuts are a good place to start! They come ready to go in various sizes in bundles of fabrics that coordinate with one another. If you haven’t had the chance, you can learn more about pre-cuts in our previous Building Blocks blog post. If you aren’t ready to take the leap into buying pre-cuts yet or you have other fabrics in mind for your project, have no worries! Virtually any fabric can be used for a quilting project.
The Memory quilt, for example, utilizes old neckties and shirts to create a quilt to honor a dear one’s existence. These materials are not designed for quilting projects, but with a little creative energy and ingenuity they come together to make a fantastic project that makes a truly powerful gift to honor the memory of a loved one. Old denim jeans, fabric scraps, recycled materials, t-shirts, and more can be materials used in your projects! So the next time you open your closet, keep in mind what you can repurpose to add a unique and modern touch to your quilting project.
You have many options for materials to use in your projects, but keep in mind that some materials are trickier to use than others. If you are just entering the world of sewing, we recommend choosing a material that is 100% cotton!
Cutting & Measuring
Now that you are getting comfortable with choosing fabric and learning about all the choices you have, let’s talk cutting that fabric! The old adage “measure twice, cut once” has never been so pertinent. In many projects, the fabric measurements are very important to get right, so that the rest of the work goes by smoothly! Quilting can be a precise art form, so it’s best to get used to measuring out your fabrics and cutting as accurately as possible in order to get the best results. There are a few handy tools that can aid in making this process the easiest it can be!
You’ll need a rotary cutter, a cutting mat, and a ruler. Scissors are very helpful in the sewing process, but when cutting up fabric as accurately and quickly as possible, rotary cutters are our go to — especially when paired with a gridded cutting mat. These mats come blocked out in one inch squares to assist in your fabric measuring and cutting! By learning how to sandwich your fabric between your mat and ruler and using the marked, premeasured guides on those tools, you can soon become comfortable with using your rotary cutter and making as accurate cuts as you can! It takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if you make mistakes along the way. No one is a master in the beginning!
The last item that we suggest getting familiar with that will help in the quilting process is something that you likely already have in your house – an iron! Irons are an integral part of the entire quilting process — they are with us almost every step of the way! You may already be comfortable with the iron you have at home and if you are not, don’t fret! They usually are pretty quick to learn and may just take a little studying and practice to find the settings that work best for you. Ironing makes many steps of the quilting process easier and soon you’ll figure out how much or how little ironing you like to do during your quilting process! Everyone is a little different — some people utilize the steam feature on their iron often, some people iron every little piece, and some iron rarely. It’s all personal and a part of the learning process!
Remember to always iron on a safe surface — an ironing board is great if you have one, but if you want a space closer to your sewing area, you can always purchase an ironing mat or even make your own! You’ll be ready to press in no time and create beautiful smooth fabric that’s ready for the next step, piecing!
In our next segment, we will be talking all about piecing. Take this time to familiarize yourself with your quilting tools and measuring and cutting fabric. Remember, these basic steps, although simple, will make all the difference when creating your first quilt project. We can’t wait to see what you create!
I’ll always remember 2020 as the year we stayed home. We wore stretchy pants. We watched movies. We sewed and sewed and sewed (and sewed). And, we baked A LOT of banana bread.
Some days were boring; some were lonely. But through it all, I’ve felt grateful for the peace and safety of these four old walls. Dorothy was right, there’s no place like home.
For this month’s Triple Play tutorial, Jenny and the gals used Daisy & Grace’s tiny house quilt-as-you-go templates to make a garland, a pillow, and two different table runners.
These sweet little houses can be sewn by hand or machine, and they come together easy-as-pie. Best of all, the quilt top, batting, backing, and binding are all completed in one fell swoop. Once you’re done, you’re done! Click HERE to watch the tutorial!