Mess – various outlooks

Yesterday, writing about this quilt (which is evolving through various stages of  ‘mess’), I erroneously typed that as I worked on it, it was becoming ‘less of a quilt’ (when I meant ‘less of a mess’).  It makes me wonder, if it was becoming LESS of a quilt, what WOULD it be on its way to becoming?

I was surprised at how receptive the velvet was to my needle.  Because I find velvet to be completely unruly at the machine, this was a nice surprise.

This image (one quilt on my lap; the other a WIP on the coffee table) shows you how favored fabrics like to show up again and again.  Here I refer to the paisley-esque black, brown, burnt umber cotton from Indonesia.  I wonder how many quilts it is in, exactly.  It must be at least eight.

How many boxes (or piles or drawers or envelopes or bins) of ‘precious scraps’ do YOU have?

I honestly don’t want to know how many I have nestled, stacked and waiting downstairs!!  Just like I really don’t want to know EXACTLY how many hours go into creating any given quilt.

Just as nations have favored statuses, so do many fabrics.  That yellow batik, above, is one, as is the rayon shirt underneath.  These upcycled garments have a way of lasting, lasting, lasting – like the magical pot of stew in the fairy tale.  Just when I think I MUST have used the last scrap, another little swatch will surface (one of the better benefits, I might add, of a ‘loosely organized’ studio).

How often have we heard about some slob (from delicate appellation to all-out condemnation!) that they can ‘lay their hands immediately’ on whatever it is they need?  Alas, I cannot.  Sometimes this drags.  You know, when I really want one of the gold spirals from an African print dress that I cut up and put who knows where?!!  But the silver lining of a less-tended approach is what I’ll call (not euphemistically, mind) – the pleasures of the archeological dig.

Taking time regularly (this is key) to root around in one’s stacks, piles, stacks of piles – is a process of discovery that invariably yields treasure.  I like to think that I put my hands on certain long forgotten half-cut or half-assembled scraps JUST as it is time to use it.  This happens more often than I can tell.

While we are on the subject of ORGANIZATION, though, this being my birthday week, and the time that I thought I might reflect a little on last year (New Year’s did not turn out to be the time to do so) — let me say that 2011 was a turning point.  I have a new hero whose name is Sandra Felton.  She has written numerous books about people like me, people she affectionately and without judgment refers to as ‘the Messies’.  Her tone is humorous and encourages acceptance.  Her tips can work magic.  Look her up.

There were many suggestions of hers that I implemented last year, but some of the most dramatic were: 1) organizing my closet by purchasing plastic hangars and ridding myself nearly completely of wire hangars; 2) organizing my clothes in that closet by color (an amazing time saver!!!);  3) upgrading containers in my closet from ugly, ill-fitting cardboard boxes to snazzy, bright green bins from The Christmas Tree shop; 4) purchasing containers for medical supplies (baking tins turned out to be the right size and price) and then organizing supplies by use (i.e. ‘travel supplies’, ‘cold and flu supplies’, ‘first aid’, and ‘muscle aches and pains’); and 5) making my bed.  I have NEVER been a bedmaker, and now I am (it helps that my iPhone App ‘Tap & Track’ gives a caloric discount for ‘making the bed’ – I kid you not!!).

The other big thing I have done this year (this time I need to thank my office job of 2010/11), is to create a series of excel lists that I keep shortcuts to on my desktop, one of which is a HOUSEHOLD INVENTORY.  You cannot believe what a helpful, time saver this is.  When a major run of the “where’s my?”s occured in advance of a hiking trip for C. recently, I knew where EVERYTHING was!!

Have a great Sunday!!  I will be making Buffalo Wings in a few hours and heading over to a neighbor’s for a SuperBowl Party… believe it or not, I can’t wait!  No Tarot Readings by Madame Mallon in the kitchen this year!  We will all be glued to the screen.


Fabric notes:

teal tatter from Deb Lacativa – More Whiffs, Glimmers & Left Oeuvres

Black and blue rayon in foreground – recycle shirt; as is blue, gold, black silk on right edge

Black and white poly in right corner came from Silk Road in Auburndale, Mass.

13 thoughts on “Mess – various outlooks

  1. deanna7trees

    i relate to so much of what you say here. first, velvet is just delicious to hand stitch through, as is silk and both are a hassle on the machine…don’t need any more reasons to hand stitch. i just love it. also i love that little piece of constellation fabric i see in that second image. and i will look up Sandra Felton. i love organizational tricks. i periodically go through my stash to see what i have forgotten that i have. a most enjoyable activity.

  2. Julie

    I will go and look at Sandra Felton as I am an incurable ‘messy’. I think my husband despairs of me. I know that life is smoother if you are organised with everything going back to its own place but I am incapable of doing it. Part of the problem is having several places to store the same kind of thing instead of one home, and it goes on from there. I have often said I need everything on a string round my neck but then I wouldn’t be able to move. Help! 😉 It is so lovely to see pieces of favourite fabrics turning up in different projects. A friend gave me a fat quarter of a batik and it seems to be lasting forever in one piece and another.

    1. deedeemallon

      Fortunately my husband is super-tolerant or we never would have lasted this long! I also cleaned out several junk drawers in 2011 – speaking of things having ‘their place’ – S.Felton talks about this, too. But, I am also a big believer in multiples – for instance, I have four pairs of kitchen scissors, too many sewing scissors to count, at least ten pairs of reading glasses – you get the picture!

  3. deedeemallon

    I had no idea velvet would be that needle-friendly! the constellation fabric is silk, and a gift from a bow-tie-making friend of mine. I believe she orders it from China. I love, love it. you will see what I mean about how refreshing Sandra Felton is if you look her up.

  4. Lisa Eaton

    Junk drawer organization changed my life, Dee. Seriously. It was one of the very first projects that made me realize that our house, the one we live in EVERY SINGLE DAY, not only can but should be a high priority on my “needs my attention” list. We had done nothing to our house for many years, and it was looking like a really worn out spec house. About 5 years ago I organized our two kitchen junk/tool (garage-type tools) drawers. I bought what look like silverware organizers, but not the tray kind. Instead, I bought the individual vessels, each looks like a single knife vessel. I fit them into the junk drawers and organized them based on what the items are used for: one for things that hold things together>glue stick, crazy glue, epoxy, staple refills; one for things that cut things apart> scissors, box cutter, razor scraper. It has stayed organized! And when my life feels completely out of control, I sometimes will open one of the junk drawers and give a sigh of relief that at least THAT is under control. I even designed a fabric around it on spoonflower: This junk drawer is what inspired me to really push for home improvements, and it started a wonderful cascade of overdue home improvement projects that have decreased our clutter and increased our home-i-ness. I love our organized junk drawer!

  5. deedeemallon

    I did the same thing! Except, I bought little plastic bins with non-skid backs for the glue/cords/battery recharger/erasers drawer. The pencil and upstairs-tools drawer uses a conventional silverware plastic divided insert. It works great now that the drawer isn’t absolutely PACKED with stuff (including UNDERneath the silverware holder!). I can now give myself to be ruthless… i.e. I don’t have to preserve every pencil nub and sticky pen – I can throw them out!! I had no idea that the junk drawer exercise started all that work on your house… very impressive. ANYBODY can tackle a drawer.

  6. Lisa Eaton

    By the way, those two junk drawers are still organized to this day. I am the proud mother of 2 places of organization in my life: Left Junk Drawer and Right Junk Drawer.

  7. Lisa Eaton

    For about 6 months, I did one drawer or cabinet per week, including the linen closet, kitchen cabinets, down-the-stairs food pantry, wrapping paper storage, video cupboard-nothing was sacred. It was really effective and not overwhelming, and for the most part, have been able to maintain them. It’s made a huge difference, and yes, throwing out the pencils that John’s dad, Jack, gave us (because they were too short for Jack) was incredibly freeing. Don’t tell my borderline hoarding husband that I occasionally go through and throw out pens and pencils that still have even more than a scintilla of life in them.

    I have to admit that I have yet to touch my studio in regards to culling and purging. That day is coming, though. I will be more creative, as I have been in the living spaces, once it is cleaned of clutter and unfinished projects that just make me feel bad about myself and my abilities. But I’m giving myself an expectation break in this arena until I’m done with this class (which I am currently, as I type, trying to avoid studying for an exam which is at 8:00am tomorrow!).

  8. deedeemallon

    good luck on that exam, Lisa! You and I sound like we are on similar tracks… I have gone through most of the closets in the house; under the kitchen sink; partial clear out of three file cabinets; some of the garage. My work area downstairs is better than it used to be, but still needs a lot of work… sewing upstairs AND downstairs means that occasionally, after too many piles of things have accrued in the family room, dining room and living room, many trips to the basement are called for, and stuff ends up piled pretty much anywhere. That’s a bit of a problem.

    I also occasionally recycle old plastic containers rather than save them… as soon as the drawer becomes unmanageable, out a few go! To some this might seem ridiculously obvious, but for me it is a real departure.

  9. Chloe

    You know what Dee, I find it such hard work staying on top of ‘organising’: I feel so much more at peace when everything is in order and there is space to think and find things – but no matter how often I tidy my desk, within a week it’s exploding again and I can never work out quite how this happens?! I think I must have a Hyde-type slobby side of me that I’m not aware of who comes out and messes it all up! 🙂

    1. deedeemallon

      Paper is particularly difficult to manage, in my opinion… and always last on my To Do List for that reason. Too funny about the ‘slobby side’ – we often joke in this house that some ill-meaning gremlins are stealing in at night and moving things around – just out of malice! It sure feels that way sometimes.! Thanks for commenting.


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