Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Cleaning-- Magazines and other paper

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Spring Cleaning series!  I'm happy you're here!

Today we are tackling the paper monster--magazines, patterns, and other paper, like paper piecing templates and pattern pieces.  If you're like me, there is a lot of paper in a room that's all about fabric!  For me, this problem is much more about storage and organization than about volume.  It's not really that there's too much, but that we don't know what to do with all that we have.  We'd all rather sew than file paperwork, right?

Right up front I want to show you the number one thing that helped tame the paper monster in my sewing room.  It's this basket:

The basket is about 10 by 14 inches and a couple of inches deep. This gives me a place to pile up magazines, catalogs, and paper until I'm ready to deal with it.  That way it doesn't get strewn all over the room, and when I want to I can take the whole basket and deal with it at once.  Plus, I know where to find catalogs when I want to look at something pretty. I also admit to throwing patterns and templates I've been using in the basket instead of putting them back right away, because creativity doesn't stop to file paper.

With that, let's get started!

**Just a reminder--there are no rules except the ones you create for yourself!  Keep everything if you want to, or throw it all out--it's totally up to you!**  I was reading an organization book in preparation for this series, and the author kept saying, "you must. . ." do this or that.  That rubbed me the wrong way entirely.  The only thing you must do is pay your taxes.  Everything else is up to you.

Where did all of this even come from?

For this step you will definitely need some brown paper bags to recycle any paper you want to dispose of.  You may also want some organizational aids like magazine holders, binders, and plastic page pockets.


Who hasn't heard the siren call of magazines?  They're so pretty and colorful, and some of them have nice ideas.  The problem is that they just keep coming!  The key here is to decide what you want to do.  Do you want to keep whole magazines, or are you willing to tear them up to save individual patterns or ideas?  A mixture of the two is okay, too.  Or maybe you don't want to keep anything.  That's okay too!

If you are keeping whole magazines, it's absolutely worth it to go through them using the same methods described in the Books post.  At the very least, going through them lets you see what you have.  When you have the collection you want to keep, storage becomes the issue.  If you have a lot of magazines, the same storage methods as books apply--shelves, crates, baskets, or storage totes.  Anything where you can keep the magazines together works.  You might want to sort them to keep titles together so that you can find a specific issue quickly. 

With few exceptions, old magazines have little value, but if you want to try to sell them, some used bookstores will take magazines, and I have seen bundles of older magazines for sale on Ebay.  I don't know much about selling on Ebay.  I do know that there are some fees involved, but you may find it worth a try.  Otherwise, please recycle!

If you only have a few whole magazines to keep, or if you want to sort and separate a larger magazine stash, magazine holders will keep them together and allow you to store them on a shelf.  You can buy these, of course, but you can also make them fairly quickly from cereal boxes. (Family size cereal boxes might be needed for some magazines to fit.) There is a tutorial HERE, and a pretty entertaining video that shows how to make a larger one HERE.

Pretty pattern from 2008!  Probably why I still had a 9-year-old magazine!

If you are willing to tear out patterns and ideas and recycle the rest of the magazine, the best thing I've found to do is use three ring binders and plastic page pockets to save the paper you tear out.  Scanning them and storing them digitally is also a good option, but it does take some time. (Maybe you could bribe someone to do this for you.)  I've also found that I never look at scanned in papers, so I seldom do it. You could also use folders to store the pages (either manila folders or pocket folders) or shoe boxes, though I've found that paper doesn't survive well in those.  The binders and pockets are a small investment in a lot more happiness.  You can get these pretty inexpensively at big box stores.

Yes, I made quilted covers for some of the binders.  Don't judge me.

Then it's just a matter of going through the magazines and pulling out what you want to save!  This can take forever, but it can also be a lot of fun.  Stop when you get tired and pick it up later.  Breaks can save your sanity! Save all the pages for one pattern in separate pockets, and be sure to save any templates or extras that go with the pattern.  Then pop the pockets into a binder and you have a personal pattern book!

What I did:

I saved a few whole magazines, including my stash of Mark Lipinski's Quilter's World. (See above.) And I used a cereal box magazine holder, so I feel very virtuous.  I tore patterns out of the rest and recycled the remainder, saving the pages in pockets and binders.  I had separate binders for inspiration and different kinds of patterns, which is why I have several.  (They aren't all full!)

Printed Patterns:

Printed patterns are fun to have, if only for the inspiration.  It pays to dig out all of your patterns and decide what to keep and what not keep, using the same process as the books.  Recycle anything you don't want any more. Sadly, there is really no secondary market for printed patterns.  You could try selling them through your blog or Etsy, but you will be competing with the designers who are selling their own patterns, often the exact same ones.  Really, the only things to do with patterns you no longer want is offer them to friends, give them away on a guild table, or recycle them.

For the patterns you keep, there are many storage options.  You could scan them into the computer and store them digitally, which would get rid of the paper entirely.  If you don't want to do that, clear plastic shoe boxes stored in the closet work well.  Some stores also sell decorative shoebox-sized boxes for storing photos that would look nice on a shelf.  If you have only a few patterns, a smaller magazine holder on a shelf would work well, too. What worked best for me was the binder and pockets, just like the magazine patterns.  Just pop the whole pattern into a pocket and store the pockets in a binder.  It fits nicely on a shelf and keeps everything together.

Paper templates of all types also fit in these page pockets and can be stored in binders, either with the patterns or in a separate binder of their own.  Remember the alphabet letters I made for my grandson's birthday? (HERE)  I stored the paper letter templates in a page pocket to keep them together and protected in case I want to use them again.  Even thin plastic templates can be stored in these pockets and binders.

What I did:

I got rid of a lot of paper patterns that I know I'll never make and recycled most of them.  Some went to friends.  The patterns I kept went into pockets in a binder separate from the magazine patterns.  Scanning them in to the computer would have been a good option, but I didn't want to spend all the time to do it only to have to print it out again if I ever make the quilt.

Triangle paper, English paper piecing templates, and other specialty papers:

Many handy things for creative pursuits are made of paper!  The important thing for these papers is keeping like things together.  That is, all the EPP paper templates should be kept together, for example, and all of the various other specialty papers should be kept with others of the same kind.  If like things are kept together they're easier to find.  Baskets, magazine holders, shoe boxes, etc., all make good storage options.  Can I suggest some pretty baskets or decorative boxes?  Just because you have to store them doesn't mean they have to look bad.

Quilting designs and longarm pantographs on rolls should also be kept together.  I gather that the big problem with the pantos is keeping them from getting crushed.  I don't have any of these, but I will suggest saving the cardboard tubes from paper towels or wrapping paper to roll them up on (these can be trimmed to size), then either storing them upright in a basket or on something like a wine rack or shoe rack.  If you have a lot of them you could also stand them up in a decorative crate or box where they'll hold each other upright.

What I did:

I put all of my triangle paper packets in a magazine holder, and put all of the EPP papers I have (that I seldom use, to be honest, but I don't want to get rid of) in this pretty box that I got cheap from a big box store.  I don't have many other specialty papers, but I did also store some scrapbook paper in another magazine holder.

Miscellaneous other paper:

Somehow we accumulate a lot more paper!  There are the free patterns from guild meetings, paper templates, inspirational photos, and various other bits that you just don't want to get rid of, like business cards, layout drawings you've done, or cutting size charts.

The solution here is to separate them into categories.  Inspirational photos, layout drawings, and other things you want to see right away should go on a cork board or other pin board somewhere in the sewing space where you can actually see them.  Free patterns can go in with the other patterns, either in a binder or a box.  Paper templates and the like can go in separate plastic bags (the ones from the paper patterns you recycle are great for this) and then in with the rest of the patterns.  If you have a lot of paper templates, you might consider a separate binder or storage box just for them.

What I did:

I have some things pinned up, and others got sorted and stored in the binders with similar papers.

Whew, that was a lot to sort through!  I hope you made some progress on your paper. Remember--no guilt!  You get to have as many papers, magazines, and patterns around as you want.  Just keep them in a way that makes you happy and lets you sew in peace.

Thanks for stopping by the Spring Cleaning series! Next week's topic is notions, rulers, and thread, which means sorting out lots of little things.  I hope you're up for it!  As always, if you have suggestions for other people, share them in the comments!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The loneliest number

Hi all!  How was your week?  I am still getting slammed and I'm really exhausted.  Feels like I've been really tired for weeks.  Maybe I should look into that or something.

Just a very short post today to show off my single, lonely RSC challenge block:

At least it has a pretty background!  That's the dogwood tree that grows next to our deck.  It's pretty, but sadly, it has to come down because it's just too close to the house.  Luckily, there is another one out front, so we'll still have flowers.  And there are tons of others in the neighborhood, too, all of them in bloom from all the rain we've been having.  (So you know I'm sneezing a lot, too!)

I really like this block.  I think the fabric for it is perfect and looks great with the greens.  I've also finally got a cutting chart and sewing order that makes these relatively fast and painless.  When I'm done with this quilt I'm half planning to write up an official pattern for it because I'm expecting it to be spectacular. (She said modestly.)

And that was the sum total of what I accomplished this week!  I feel like a slug.  I did do some cutting, though, including the cutting for two more multicolored Steps to the Garden blocks (like this one).  That will give me a dozen blocks, which makes me happy because even if I don't make any more blocks I'd still have enough for a quilt.

Before I go, I want to plug my Spring Cleaning series a little bit.  There is a post about books up right now, and Wednesday there will be a post about cleaning out magazines and other paper.  Hope you'll check it out!

Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend and that all your RSC projects are humming along.  I wish I could have a nap right now, but we have so much to do this weekend.  T.S. Eliot was right-- April really is the cruelest month!

Sharing at soscrappy for RSC 17.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring Cleaning--Books

Hi all, and welcome to the Spring Cleaning series!  This is a quest for a cleaner, better, and more fun sewing room.  The introduction to the series is HERE if you'd like to read some about the goals of this series of posts.  If you're ready to clean out some of your things, too, come on along!  I've found that an attitude of adventure really helps, along with just a bit of ruthlessness, so let's get started!

Today we are tackling books.  Who doesn't love a good quilt book?  They're colorful, fun, and helpful.  They're full of patterns, good advice, and new and interesting techniques. 

I know I've learned a ton from them, but I also know that they can become overwhelming, just sitting there taking up valuable space and (for some people) causing guilt and sadness.  Many of my books were just outdated, with patterns I no longer wanted or techniques I'd already mastered or given up.  But I still found it hard to get rid of them because they seem so permanent--and because many of them cost a pretty penny. 

**One thing before we start--there is no hard and fast rule about how many books you have to get rid of or a limit on the number you keep!  You make your own rules and decide what makes you comfortable.**

For this step you'll need a place outside your sewing area to sort through the books. Ideally, you should be able to leave the books there for a couple of days, even a week or more.  Don't expect this to be a super-fast process, especially if you have a lot of books.  You'll also need a box or two to put the books you no longer want.

A small portion of my books.

Start by pulling out every book, including the ones on the shelves, the ones in other areas of the house, and the ones in a box in the closet.  Don't forget the ones beside the bed (or under it).  Pile these up in your designated sorting area. Your goal is to get all of the books in one place so that you can deal with them all at once.

Once you've got them all in one place, take a break!  Books are heavy, and you're going to need some energy.

When you're ready, roll up your sleeves because it's time to sort.  Start by going through all the piles and pulling out the books you absolutely MUST keep.  There's no question at all in your mind that these books stay.  For me, these were my block books, the Brackman Encyclopedia, and my books on color theory.  I also kept my first quilt book and a couple of other sentimental books.  Gather these up and put them right back in your sewing area (or wherever you're keeping your books).  They need to be out of the way for the next step.  You'd hate to accidentally give one away!

Must keeps.

Next, take each of the remaining books and put it into one of three piles--"keep," "maybe," and "go."  Put the "go" books straight into a box so that they're out of the way, and separate the "keep" and "maybe" piles.  If you can't decide, put the book into the "maybe" pile.  If you're like me, this will be the biggest pile.

This is a good time to take a break, or even leave the books overnight.  You can change your mind on lots of things overnight!

Keepers on the left, giveaways on the right.

When you're ready to get back to it, go through the "keep" pile again.  Do you really want to keep each of these books?  Why are you keeping them?  What do they each bring to the party?  Its likely that several will migrate into the other piles.  When you're satisfied that you want to keep each of the "keep" books, it's time to put that pile away.  Move those back to wherever you're storing your books.

Now for the hard part--the "maybe" pile.  Everyone will have their own decision-making process about these books, but I suggest making two piles from this one--"leaning keep" and "leaning go."  In the "leaning go" pile should be books that are outdated, those that you once intended to make a quilt from but never did, those where you've made all the patterns that you intend to, anything torn up, and books you've lost interest in.  "Leaning keep" should be those books that are still interesting, that showcase a technique you might need to refer to again, and books you just generally find useful (or pretty!).  When in doubt, lean toward letting it go.

Hmmm. . .tough choices.

**What about a book with one pattern that you want to keep?  Here's a radical idea: pull that pattern out of the book to save, then recycle the rest of the book.  What?!  You can do this!  It's yours, and it's not a first edition of Dostoevsky, it's a craft book.  It will be fine!**

It can take a long time to get through this pile, so give yourself time to think about it.  When you're satisfied that all of the "maybe" books have been through the wringer and are all either "keep" or "go," put the "go" books into a box and move the "keep" books back to the book space.

All of these are out of here!

Congratulations!  You've sorted out all your books!  This felt really momentous to me, like a real step forward.  I hope it does for you too.

Now, what to do with those books?  First, the keepers:

--A bookshelf is ideal for storing books!  Even a shelf in a closet or cabinet can store books well.  The key is to keep the books together so you can find what you want when you want it.

--No bookshelf?  Try a decorative crate or box that you can leave out and admire.  Some large baskets might also work, depending on how many books you have.

--How about a storage ottoman or other storage furniture? A deep dresser drawer?  Again, the key is to keep them together.

--If all else fails, you can store them in large clear tote boxes in a closet, under a table, or even under a bed.

What about the books you're getting rid of?  There are several options:


Books are a bit like cars--they lose a lot of value once you bring them home.  Craft books are especially volatile as they become outdated very quickly.  If you want to sell them, you could list them on your blog or in an Etsy shop if you have one.  This is probably the cheapest option, but also very slow.  Other selling options:

--Become an Amazon Marketplace seller.  (Scroll all the way to the bottom to become an individual seller.) Some fees apply, but books are listed by title and author, so someone looking for that specific book will see your listing.

--Abebooks, a site just for selling books.  Much like Amazon, but fewer pictures and lower fees.

--Half-Price Books  and other used bookstores that buy books.  Be aware that these stores generally pay very little, but the books would be out of your home.


--Your local library is a good bet.  Most have "Friends of the Library" book sales and gladly take donations for those.  You may have to store the boxes until a few weeks before the sale, then take them to the library.

     **If you're up for it, take a look at the library's quilt book offerings and consider making an appointment to have a conversation with a librarian about adding some of your books to the lending collection.  It's just a conversation, and they can say no, but they might say yes!  Many libraries are cash-strapped and take these kinds of donations.  They generally want new-looking books that are very gently used, perfect for the book that your wonderful aunt thought that you would just love but isn't your style at all.**

--If there is a technical school near you, they may be interested in some of the books for their library as well.  You could also ask at high schools that still have sewing classes.  (Some still do, including some private schools.)

--Your local 4H, Girl Scout troop, Boy Scout troop, or other youth organization may have some ideas about specific people who would be able to use some of the books.

--Ask your friends if they would like some of the books!  One person's trash is another's treasure!

As a last resort:

Your local Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul store, or Goodwill will take book donations, plus you will get a donation receipt for your taxes.

What I did:

I got rid of about two-thirds of the books I had.  I sold a few through the blog (very few), gave a few to friends, and donated the rest to the Friends of the Library.

My finished bookshelves!

This was a long post, but I hope it was helpful!  Next week we'll tackle the magazines and other paper.  I hope your sorting goes well!  Remember to be gentle with yourself.  No guilt allowed!  And if you have suggestions for others, please share in the comments!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sunny day

Hi everyone! Wow, am I glad last week is over!  It was just crazy from beginning to end, except for Sunday, when our daughter and son-in-law came up for Easter.  That was definitely worth all the crazy.  I knew April would be a hard month, but I'm definitely ready for it to let up a bit.  At least we are enjoying some lovely sunshine and blooming trees, too.

So I didn't sew for six whole days!  No wonder I'm losing it.  When I finally got to sew, I finished off the first quadrant of my scrappy strings quilt:

This is from a pattern in No Scrap Left Behind by Amanda Jean Nyberg and will be a donation quilt for the Hands to Help Challenge.  I originally had that peachy pink floral as the centers of the blocks, but when I put a bunch of them together I didn't like them.  I switched to a beautiful Kona color called Butter, and I think it complements the colors in the strings really well.  This does use a *ton* of scraps, and right now I'm just hoping I have enough to make it to the end of the blocks.  I say that like there aren't a bunch of pieces of fabric floating around here, but you know what I mean!

I'm enjoying the dogwood blossoms, too!

I also made this block, which is the latest in the Sewcial Bee Sampler from Maureen Cracknell and Sharon Holland:

If that doesn't say "spring," I don't know what does!  At one block a week this has been really enjoyable and manageable.  There's always time to join in, too!

This is the 11th block for the sampler, and I started to cut sashing to put the rows together.  You know, just so I don't end up with a lot of blocks sitting in a project box, which we all know is a real possibility.  I'm hung up, though, on whether I want cornerstones between the blocks or not.  The layout that they show for the final quilt doesn't have them, but I think I might like them.  Any opinions?

That's it from here for now.  I'm off to do more crazy-making things!  Hope you're having a good week!  Don't forget that tomorrow is the start of the Spring Cleaning series, and we'll be tackling books.  It will be festive!

Sharing at Linky Tuesday, Let's Bee Social, the Hands to Help linkup, and Oh Scrap!