The Cash in Your Stash



Take a look at your stash.

Go ahead. I’ll wait….

What did you see?  Is there more of one color than another?   Are you missing basics?  Do you know if  you’re missing basics?


Most sewing enthusiasts, regardless of what they like to sew, have some fabric put back for projects, and believe me, quilters are no exception to this rule.  I have quilting friends who have stashes that are literally floor-to-ceiling-come-to-Jesus stashes, and then I have friends whose stash literally fits into one or two drawers.  The first kind of quilter purchases fabric because they like it, it’s on sale, and they don’t mind having material that’s not pre-destined for a project.  This first kind also keeps nearly all the leftover scraps.  The second kind of quilter only buys fabric for a project they’re working on and may keep some of the bigger pieces of leftover material.

I’m somewhere in the middle.   I have a good-sized stash, but it’s manageable.  It all fits neatly (most of the time) in a bookcase and I have a few bolts of fabric stacked beside of it.  A 2014 survey taken by the National Quilting Association, stated that the average quilter has a fabric stash worth $6,000.


Six thousand dollars.  That’s a lot of money to have invested in material. If I’m investing $6,000 of my hard-earned money in anything, I want it to be worth my investment and give me a good return.  I don’t think fabric should be any different.  So what do you buy?

I mentioned earlier in the year, when I was bemoaning the fact that quilt shops seemed to be closing left and right and being eaten up by the internet monster, that we needed to not only buy from our LQS (both on line and store front), but that we also need to carefully cultivate our own stash.  What does that mean and does that make a difference in what you buy?


I have to admit, I’m as big of a sucker as anyone when it comes to a fabric sale.  And when my quilting peeps get together and we visit a quilt store, I know that I am going to purchase some fabric to take home with me.  It’s inevitable.  It’s like going to the grocery store – you know you’re going leave with  toilet paper.  When we go to a quilt shop, I’m going to buy fabric.


There are a few personal guidelines I adhere to:

  • If you see a fabric you absolutely fall in love with, buy five yards. The reason behind this is that once a fabric line is completely sold out with a manufacturer, they will not reprint it unless there is a HUGE (and I mean HUGE) demand for it.  Chances are five yards of that beloved fabric will take you nearly anywhere you need to go with any size quilt.
  • When you buy it, realize you have to manage it. It’s like bringing home a new puppy.  It may be cute and cuddly and has completely won over your heart, but you know you have to train it.  It’s the same way with fabric.  It’s lovely.  You love to pet it.  You have all kinds of ideas about what you want to do with it.  But you have to organize it in such a way that it protects the fabric, allows you to see it, and keeps your work area, well, workable.  And there are tons of ways to do this, but we’re not going there with this blog.
  • If I am buying for a particular quilt pattern, I generally purchase a quarter to half-yard more just in case I make a mistake. Any leftovers I can always add to my stash.
  • Buy quality fabric. It will make the sewing experience easier and your quilt will hold up longer.

Allow me to field some questions here:

If I am serious about making my stash something workable, where do I start?

I am a big proponent of shopping your own stash before making a trip to the store.  And as big of a thrill as I get when I purchase pretty fabric, I am overwhelmingly overjoyed when I find I have everything I need already in my studio.  This is how I go about making sure that I at least have a good backbone stash.

1).  Purchase solids in the primary and tertiary colors.  And this should really be yardage verses fat quarters or pre-cuts.  This is not extravagant spending.  Quilts generally use solids in their layout and most of these solids fall in either the primary and/or tertiary range.

2).  Make sure you have a range of prints in your stash.  Have small enough prints that can read solid from a distance.  Have medium-sized and large prints in there, too.  Nothing screams boring like a quilt made from the same sized prints and the same value-range of fabrics.  Which brings me to my next point…

3).  Make sure you have tints, hues, shades, and saturations of all levels.  These terms were explained in detail in earlier blogs.  Quilts should sing with not only different colors, but also with different saturation levels.  Otherwise it just kind of “grays” out.


Now let’s talk background fabrics.  And I’m talking “traditional” background fabrics – neutrals.  I realize that quilters can literately use any color as a background fabric, (as a matter of fact the last several best of show quilts at the Paducah AQS show had very colorful backgrounds), but let’s stay traditional at this point – whites, creams, ecrus, blacks, grays – if you find these on sale, purchase several yards.  You will always find a use for these fabrics.  And don’t be afraid of using a printed neutral as a background.  White on white, white on ecru, black on gray, etc., make for subtle movement and added interest in a background.  The only caution I would throw out here is be careful if you’re using the background for hand applique.  Often the tone-on-tone prints have a “rubbery” feel to then and are difficult to get a hand sewing needle through.


What about that (ah-hem) questionable fabric on the sale table that has been marked down to $3 a yard?  Should I purchase any of that?


But maybe not yardage.  If you’re purchasing from a quality fabric establishment, the material, no matter how homely it looks, is good fabric.  People just haven’t thought out of the box about that material, so it’s been left to languish in the bargain bin.  If a stack and whack quilt is in your future, and there is fabric there with good repeats, grab it and march yourself to the cash register.  If applique is your thing,  and there is fabric with large flowers or leaves, you may be able to fussy cut some of those for a project.

Never pass a sales table without thinking out of the box.  If it has possibilities, buy a half yard.


I have an established stash.  How do I make sure it’s workable?

It’s no secret that my favorite color is purple.  Therefore, my stash has quite a few purple pieces of all tints, hues, values, and shades in it.  My least favorite color is brown.  Needless to say, I don’t have a lot of brown material.

Your favorite colors will always beckon you from across the room.  Some colors just make you feel happier or more serene than others and you gravitate towards them.  However, you have to look at a stash the same way a painter prepares his paint palate to create a landscape – there has to be a good range of all colors.  Quilts are no different.  So even though you may favor some colors more than others, make sure you have at least some of each to start with.

The color I have the most difficulty with?  Green.  Not because I don’t like it, I just never seem to have just the right green.  I think it’s a calculated ploy to make me have to buy more fabric.


What about precuts?  Should I have them?  And if so, how many?

To me, precuts are a personal decision.  If you’re working with a pattern that calls for 2 ½-inch strips, it makes the most sense to try to find a jelly roll that will work for you.  And there are tons of wonderful layer cakes.  The pre-cuts I work most with are fat quarters – they’re just the most versatile.

But all of the precuts can be limiting.  There are patterns out there just for them, but with yardage you can make any pattern.  So I do not tend to have a great deal of precuts in my stash, with the exception of fat quarters.  I really have to love them or find them on sale before I purchase them.  And that is a very personal, creative decision.  Folks feel differently about them and that’s fine.

I carry one of these with me when I shop.


If I find a fabric I want to use in a quilt, this does give some idea about how much to buy.

I hope this helps someone with their purchasing habits.  A fabric stash is an investment.  Purchase wisely and use it well.


Love and Stitches,


Sherri and Sam



Pinterest will be My Downfall….

This is one of those weeks where I didn’t get a lot of work done on my own things, but did get a lot of work completed for my little quilting world.  I’ve been so terribly busy with organizing my guild’s quilt and vendor show that I’ve had little time to devote to my quilting or piecing.  I’m thankful to say that most of the work is now complete.  I have to finalize the vendor layout, make the welcome packets, and print the quilt tags.  After that, it’s pretty much just wait until quilt take in day.




While I don’t mind working for my guild, I can honestly say I will be happy when the show is over and I have this off my shoulders.  This is the first time my guild has done a two-day show as well as a judged show, so the logistics on this one has been a little different and I’ve been scared to death that I’m going to forget something.  By nature I’m a list maker, so I have about half a dozen lists and then a list of my lists so I don’t forget anything.


However, the time and my circumstances have limited my sewing time.  I hope I can make up for the lost progress this weekend.  The next two days are ripe for some sewing progress.


I have come across a couple of really neat patterns and ideas this week that I want to share with you.  The first one came up on my Pinterest feed on Thursday.  It’s the Affairs of the Heart by Aie Rossman (her first name is pronounced like a long A).

Affairs of the heart quilt

I must ask, what’s not to love about this applique quilt?  Something about bright batiks shimmering against a deep, rich, black background just thrills me.  It catches my eye and my imagination.  So, when Pinterest threw it up on my feed, it took me all of 10 seconds to decide I had to get the book.  For those folks that have an embroidery machine, you can get the program to use your machine to sew on the pieces.  Personally, I’m going to go through all my batik scraps, pull from them, and do freezer paper applique.


The second pattern that Pinterest had on my feed was this:

Vine and berries table runner

It’s the Vine and Berries table runner by Edyta Sitar.  I’ve been on the lookout for a small table runner for my kitchen table and fell in love with this the minute I saw it.  I really need to stay off Pinterest for another six weeks.


The third pattern that I ordered was one by a designer I’ve never heard of before – Ardie Skyjod. The pattern is Ardie’s Friendship Star.

Ardie's Frienship Star

The Friendship Stars are made of tiny half-square triangles.  Thankfully, these can be paper pieced, so all those tiny bias edges won’t drive me nuts.  I love the beautiful simplicity of this quilt and want to make it in blues, although it would be a great stash buster.


Anyway, as soon as the show is over, I have some new projects on the table as soon as the last bits of the three present ones are finished.  I have competed the flying geese curves for my Halo Medallion and am setting those in the Drunkard’s Path blocks.  I hope to complete those tonight and then work some more on Santa’s Loading Dock.


While my summer has slowed down with teaching, this fall is gearing up to be busy.  I will be teaching a hand applique group this fall that will cover several types of techniques.  I’m looking forward to that.  And there are three retreats on my schedule – always a good time!


For those of you that have asked about Mom, she is slowly recovering and feeling better.  We have an appointment with a hematologist on Wednesday to see if we can’t get her hemoglobin count boosted a little faster.  She’s tired of being tired, and is ready to get back to teaching her classes.  Please continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers.


There will be one more blog in July and another the first week of August.  The week of August  7th, there will be no blog as that is the week of the High Point Quilt Guild’s 2017 Reach for the Stars! Quilt Show.  If you’re in the area, the show is at the Hartley Drive YMCA on Saturday, August 12 from 9-5 and Sunday, August 13 from 10-4.  Please come by and visit us!

2017 raffle quilt

This is the HPQG 2017 Raffle Quilt

Until next week, quilt fearlessly!


Love and Stitches,


Sherri and Sam



Put a Label On It, Too!

So, your quilt is finished…it’s quilted and it’s bound and maybe you’ve even put a sleeve on it.  It’s ready to give away, display, or put on a bed.  You’re done.  Kaput.  Completely finished and ready to start on a new project, right?


Is there a label on it? If there isn’t, then no… you’re not done.  Every quilt you make deserves a label.


I’m a stickler about labels.  I don’t care if your label is fancy or plain, for heaven’s sake put a label on that thing.  Why?  Ask yourself where your quilt will be in 10, 20, or even 50 years.  I’ve purchased quilts from antique stores, thrift stores, estate sales, etc., that have spoken deeply to me and I have no idea who made them and where they came from.  And while they have a caring home with me, I would love to know the history of these beautiful things.  I’ve made each of my children several quilts and both of the granddarlings.  In 50 years, if the quilts hold up, I really want my future generation to know that I made them, the name of the pattern, who quilted it, why I made it, where I made it, and any other esoteric information that I think would be important.


Quilters that have access to an embroidery machine can make beautiful labels with that equipment.  I don’t have an embroidery machine, but I have found that I can create labels that are elaborate or to-the-point with some fabric, freezer paper, and an ink jet printer.  The printer needs to be an ink jet due to the fact you’re going to run freezer paper through it.  The wax on the freezer paper will melt and make a huge mess in an laser printer.  I will walk you through this process, but right now let’s consider what should go on that label.

The name of the quilt – name your quilt just like you name your children or your pet.  Sometimes this is simply the name of pattern.  Sometimes it’s not.  It may be something you derive from the fabric line, a specific time in your life, and idea…it varies. But after spending weeks and weeks with the quilt, please do give the thing a name.

The name of the quilt maker – that would be you and anyone who helped you pieced the top.

The name of the person who quilted the quilt – I’ve always thought this got short shrift with quilters who didn’t quilt their own quilt and it’s not fair to the long arm, mid arm, or domestic machine goddess who performs this art.  If you did quilt the quilt, then when you list your name as the quilt maker you can phrase that something like “Pieced and Quilted By______.”  If you didn’t quilt your own quilt, add another line to the label and state who quilted it.  In the future, I know quilt historians will be tracking quilting as much as they track piecing for individual styles.

The city and state where you made the quilt

The year and month the quilt was completed and what (if any) occasion it made for

That’s the minimal you want on the label.  You also may want to add a favorite quote or Bible verse or anything else you think is important concerning this quilt.  Several of my quilts are inspired by songs, so I also put the song title, date it was released, and the artists involved.  Tula Pink does something really wonderful with her labels.  She will add the average cost of an everyday item (such as a loaf of bread) on the label to give some historical perspective.  I think this is such a cool idea!


So how do you go about making the ink jet labels?  It’s really simple.  I use a word processing program (Word) to make my labels.  I open a blank document and then set my page size to the size I want my labels.  Then I chose my font and the size I want it.  It’s good to bold face the type so that it can be easily seen.  You may want to get a little fancy and drop in some clip art. I play around with this until I get what I want.  Then I print it out on plain paper so I can see how it will look and hold it underneath the fabric I’m using for the label to get an idea of how will it will show up.

Sometimes I get really fancy….


Let’s park it here for just a minute and talk about the fabric for the label.  I’ve used scraps left over from my quilt, Moda white fabric, Kona white fabric, and other fabric brands.  I can honestly say the type of fabric I’ve had the best luck with is quilting quality white muslin.  It goes through the printer easier and has had few mishaps.  Whatever fabric you do chose to use, be sure to wash it and get the finish out of it.  The chemicals that are used to finish the fabric before it’s shipped can impair the ink adhering to the material.


Once you’re satisfied with the way your label looks on paper, then it’s time to get it on the fabric.  The freezer paper that works best is the 8 ½-inch by 11 inch kind that can easily go through the ink jet bed.  Cut the label fabric a little wider than 8 1/2 inches and then cut it to fit the paper exactly.  It doesn’t have to be 11-inches long, but I’ve found that if you cut your fabric smaller than the width of the freezer paper, it may peel slightly off during the process and jam your printer.  Press the fabric free of wrinkles and then press it firmly onto the shiny side of your freezer paper.  Load the freezer paper into your printer so that it will print on the fabric side.



After the label has printed, it’s very important to heat set the ink.  Peel the label off the freezer paper and use a dry, hot iron to press the label. If you think that the quilt will be washed a lot or you’ve used colored ink, you will want to use a product called Bubble Ink Jet Set to prevent the ink from fading and/or running.


Now trim the label to the size you need it and technically you’re finished with the label.  You can press the edges under ¼-inch and then slip stitch it to the back of our quilt.  However, this is the point where a lot of quilters get creative.  The will use an orphan block and insert the label in the middle of that.  They will use applique on the label that repeats and idea on the front of the quilt.  The sky is the limit here and I’ve seen labels that are just as pretty as the top and the quilting.  It can be whatever you want it to be – just let your creativity, imagination, and time schedule be your guide.


My favorite thing to do with labels is to take the left over bias binding I used on my quilt and sew it on the label to frame it.


Do allow me to add this consideration.  The above process was outlined with the idea that the label is the last thing you’ve put on your quilt.  The quilt is already quilted and the label is hand stitched on the back.

If you want to ensure that the label does not ever come off, add the label to the back and then quilt the quilt.  The label will never come off if you handle it this way.


Give this method a try.  Just for heaven’s sake…put a label on it!


Love and Stitches,


Sherri and Sam







If You Like It, Then You Need to Put a Sleeve on It….

I am in quilt show mode…


My guild’s bi-annual quilt and vendor show is August 12 – 13, 2017.  I’m not only busy with vendors and layouts and quilt in-take issues, but I’m also working like a mad woman with my own quilts.  They are finished, but if you’ve planned to put a quilt in a show, there are a few additional steps you must make sure you’ve completed.  The label is a given, but you must always attach a sleeve to the quilt so that it can be hung on a quilt rack.  The exception to the sleeve may be a miniature quilt, home dec items, and quilted wearables. Just be sure to read the rules on entry procedures carefully.


I had three quilts that needed sleeves, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many quilters actually knew how to make a show-ready sleeve.  So, here’s how I do it.  The directions aren’t mine, but are based on Libby Lehman’s 1992 instructions.  These sleeves are the type that AQS require for its shows and it’s the type that fit most quilt racks – a 4-inch deep pocket.


First of all, measure the width of the top of your quilt and cut a piece of fabric 9-inches by the width measurement.  I use quilting muslin for this.  It works wonderfully.



Fold the 9-inch ends under twice.  I generally just eye ball this measurement and try to make the folds a half-inch. Press and sew close to the folded end.



Fold the sleeve in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press.  This press line will serve as a guide.


Open the sleeve and fold the edges to the middle and press again, wrong sides together.  Press firmly (I also use a little spray starch at this point).  These new fold lines will serve as your hand sewing guides.

Now take the sleeve to your machine and with the wrong sides together, sew a ¼-inch lengthwise seam.  Begin the seam about a half-inch from the end and backstitch.  Continue sewing the length of the seam, stopping about a half-inch from the other end and backstitching again.


Take the sleeve back to the ironing board and carefully press the seam to one side.  Be very, very careful not to press over the previously pressed edges that are your hand sewing guides.  The sleeve will be convex on the side without the seam and this is how it should be.  If it were flat, the horizontal quilt rack rod would not fit in correctly and your quilt would hang catawampus.



Pin the sleeve along the pressed edges to the quilt back.  The top of the sleeve should be about a half-inch from the top of the quilt – this usually hits just below the binding.  Hand sew both sides of the sleeve down, just be careful not to stitch through the front.


And there you go. A nice sleeve for your show-bound quilt or any quilt you’d like to hang on a wall.  Since the sleeve is hand sewn, it can easily be removed after a show without damaging your quilt.  It’s also a good idea, if you’re making a quilt you anticipate entering in a show, to go ahead and put the sleeve on it as you are binding the quilt.  It will just save you time in the long run.


Have a great weekend and quilt fearlessly!


Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam




Tip Toe Through the Tulips….

Tulip Needles text

I am always excited when I find a new product that makes my sewing life a little easier.  And I discovered a new needle a few months ago that really has helped my hand sewing — Tulip Needles.  While this is not a new product in the needle market, it is a new product to me and I’ve only just begun to see these needles in some local quilt shops.


Tulip needles (also called Hiroshima Needles), have been manufactured for almost 300 years in Japan.  Originally produced for the Samurai’s piecework, they were made from the tatara (iron sand) in the Kake region.  I’m sure all of that is very interesting, but I know you’re now asking what makes this needle so much better than any other needle in your sewing box?


First of all, in the manufacturing process, needles must be polished.  The Tulip Needles are polished lengthwise. This means that they will glide through fabric easier – the needle, thread, and fabric are moving in the same direction.  If a needle is polished cross-wise, there will be additional pull when moving the needle and the thread through the fabric.  You may not feel this pull initially, but your hand and fingers will tire from it.  That lengthwise polish on the Tulip will add some additional time to your hand sewing without the fatigue that may set in earlier with another needle brand.


The eyes of these needles are also larger.  This means, depending on your eyesight, you may not need a needle threader.  And the eyes are polished both inside and out so the chances of your thread snagging in the eye are few.


These needles are flexible; however, they are thicker than other needle brands.  This is the part that took me the longest to get used to.  I’ve always used a thinner brand of needle, so this took a while for me to adapt to.  But those thinner needles were prone to bending after a while.  I don’t find this to be true with the Tulips.  They are flexible and the points are sharp, again due to Tulip’s polishing process.


In short, I am in love with these needles.


There are a couple of drawbacks to them.  They can be difficult to find in local quilt shops.  I have found that Find X Designs in Sanford carries a wide selection (and they have a brick and mortar shop on Carthage Street in Sanford and a web page for ordering on line, too).  They are a little more costly than the John James or Clover brands.  Six Tulip needles ran me $8.50 plus tax.  They do come in tiny tubes with stoppers so they are easy to keep up with.


If you hand applique or hand piece, you may want to give these needles a try the next time you need to replenish your supply.


I apologize that there was not a blog last week.  Life has a way of happening sometimes and situations are snatched from your control.  My mom was hospitalized last week.  There were a lot of sleepless nights spent at Wesley Long, but the doctors have diagnosed what was wrong and thankfully, thankfully, thankfully it was nothing too serious.  She’s back home and I’m back home and we’re both trying to get caught up on our sleep (because no one really sleeps in the hospital).  Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.  She will be fine, but it’s going to take some time.


I took my hexies with me to work on while sitting with her.  And Mom has decided she wants to give them a try.  So, this afternoon I am getting out my Cindy Blackberg stamps and making her a hexie package to send to her.  Another hand piecing convert! And yes, there is a pack of Tulip Needles in that box!


Keep Quilting Fearlessly!


Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam