Tag Archives: organization

Idiosyncratic sorting

Lest people get the wrong idea from yesterday’s discussion on mess, let me clarify.  I sort my fabric.  It is not heaped in any old way.

I have big bins sorted by color (eg. yellow, pales, blues, greens) and others that capture fabric types (eg. linen, upholstery, denim, gauze/nets/tulle) (actually a lot of my tulle and years-worth of collected onion-bag-netting live in a plastic, huge former pretzel jar).  I also maintain smaller boxes labeled by subject matter, such as:

** small geometrics;
** tropical prints (mostly palm leaf shapes, which I adore);
** creatures;
** farm (chickens, sunflowers, cheery ginghams);
** WIPs (currently I have a small suitcase for Global Warming fabrics; a basket for Ghost House);
** I Spy (prints with subjects suitable for children’s blankets – things like lighthouses, trains, frogs, maps, chopsticks).

To name a few.  Then there are drawers.  In March of 2010, my studio flooded with four inches of water and I used the ‘opportunity’ to buy six IKEA dressers, replacing saw horse supports with STORAGE, and also inserting a couple under the table where previously there had only been laundry bins.  Drawers are ALSO sorted, some by fabric type, others by how fabric was recently used, for example:

** Shirts — even though these could be sorted by color bin, I find it easiest to find them if they have their own drawer;
** Half-assembled little ‘sketch quilts’ along with landscape prints (you know, like the Capri pants with scenes of Paris?);
** Plaids and ticking;
** Felt scraps (actually there are TWO drawers of these and three large under-table bins)
** Silk scraps;
** Christmas fabrics (and two drawers of finished Christmas pillows);
** Christmas photo-transfers waiting for inclusion in a project;
** Sheers and gauze and PFD silk;
** Doll stuff.

To name a few.  And then there are the laundry bins.  Here’s where things can get a little out of control.  Laundry bins generally become catch-alls, in part because they are the links between upstairs/downstairs and stuff gets piled in.  I have a bin for batting (and a milk crate for batting scraps); another bin full of large pieces of upholstery fabric; another bin with recently-used or about-to-be-used teaching supplies.  But then there are at least four more that should be gone through.

Precious scraps generally live in clementine boxes, which I love because they can be stacked like Lincoln Logs, and transport easily for an upstairs sewing session.  I also spray painted the sides of some tray-like boxes from Costco, and labeled them.  What’s in these trays doesn’t necessarily correspond to their labels anymore, but they hold things like strips cut for string quilting or binding; pressed scraps; fabric with words printed on them.  I like ‘trays’ because they can be slid into the shelving above a fabric bin.

I just went to the cellar to take some pictures and I have to say – it is TIME to put some effort into sorting (again!).  Wow.

But here’s progress – I finally took the time (less than five minutes) to learn how to single space on wordpress between hard returns!!  Yes, progress.  (Part of why I wanted to make a few lists here).

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.

Five Things


My friend Sarah Goodman (author of Ferry Ride and other books) approaches her journal writing with this structure lately —

Write five things —

  1. The Weather
  2. One thing I did well today (or, since I write early, yesterday)
  3. One thing I could have done better, and
  4. and 5. Two things I commit to doing today (that I might not otherwise do).

The weather has always and naturally been noted on my pages, but the other four things are new and helpful.  The evaluation of things done is structured perfectly for a self-flagellant like me — notice, it does not say, “one thing I did well, one thing I did badly“!!!  This teeny exercise helps me note the things I am accomplishing, which I tend to skip over.  It also allows the discussion of things I am doing badly (mostly in the parenting department) to take a softer tone.

The last two things are also helpful and decidedly different from items on a To Do List.  Now, I am a big fan of having a To Do List, and when I can find mine, it is helpful (that speaks volumes, doesn’t it?!)  Lately, I have been housing my To Do List in a beautifully hardbound daily calendar — a strategy which helps with the location bit (the clip board didn’t work, the post its didn’t work, and it’s too much script to include in my weekly APPOINTMENT calendar).  The TO DO items occupy the entire seven days, without reference to particular days of the week.  This tends to encourage more Long Term Goals making the list.  I can easily refer back to earlier weeks and bring forward things which did not get done and which are still important.  I cross off items with enthusiasm.  This may be childish, but for instance, “Pay Sales Tax”, was on my list every week since Newton Open Studios in May, and when I finally did it a couple of weeks ago (Note to Self — it only took two minutes online), I got to cross off about 10 entries!!

But here’s the difference with the “Two Things I Commit To Do”:  To Do Lists tend to be lengthy and aspirational to some degree, whereas the Two Items are more like commitments.  Try it.  It’s different.

Yesterday one of my two items was to sort the bins under my studio desk and put more fabric on the curb.  I did not do it.  (I DID call the friend, though, which was the other item).  So, TODAY, again, I put that on my list and make myself even more accountable by posting the intention here!

The yarn pictured above was dumped out of a bin which we needed to take on our canoe camping trip.  Without this commitment, it might sit there for months!!  The other bins have been recently sorted, during my Big Sorting weeks, but have no where to go.  This poses an organizational challenge that is going to require many, many daily plugs of effort.


In keeping with the spirit of The Five Things, here is the commission for a boy’s baby blanket, finished!


The satin binding is a crucial element.  My two boys (and I) used the soft satin bindings of their (my) baby blankets for comfort, rubbing them while sucking a binky (in my case, my thumb).

New Growth (i)


Today it is supposed to stay in the 40’s and rain, but I will make a point of noticing the beautiful work of spring unfolding….

Mini-daffodils bloom near our crumbling front steps… I make a point of seeing the yellow trumpets!

This morning, the taxes are done, a big luncheon is over, and it is time to ‘get back to it’ in the studio… I have many things to finish and so, even though spring is so much about new growth, I vow to make this a week of finishing things that have already sprouted!  Such as:

  • Worm Moon (last week’s Journal Quilt)
  • Zero Tolerance (yesterday’s Journal Quilt)
  • Gingko Ground
  • Adam & Eve IV
  • Global Warming IV
  • a pin cushion…

And that’s not even getting to the layers of stuff in the IN PROGRESS PILE!

The cleaning, also, must continue.





What you see above is only about 1/3 of my stash… the black board is a piece of 1/2″ insulation covered with black felt, which is WONDERFUL to use as a pin board… but is HUGE, because it is part of my booth.

Goals —

  • to redesign booth for shows so that we don’t have to cart around 8′ x 4′ pin boards
  • to redesign booth so that I could erect the damn thing by myself
  • to cut existing 8′ booth-boards into easily-moved pin boards for studio
  • to hammer triangular wedges on existing shelves, where boards can live while holding works-in-progress
  • to get rid of more fabric
  • to organize my patterns better

Victory list —

  • threw out at least 3 laundry bins full of fabric
  • instituted a 3-ring binder for holding ideas that I print off of computer (this is BIG!!)
  • a new table for cutting grid and rotary blade — it is low (the right height) and just needs light, now
  • felt all in one place
  • several boxes labeled ‘Precious Bits’ — for those chips of fabric I adore and will actually use
  • Christmas fabric and images and transfers are now congregating in ‘their area’!
  • sold my first quilt on etsy!!  (more on that later in week)
  • convinced my guild to take my quilts into the May show even though I was a month late (more on that later, too)
  • finished Schedule C (who knew I was a fantasy writer?)
  • tomorrow will mark the completion of 14 days of ‘Awakening Prologue’ with Holosync… (more on that soon!)

New Year

Below is a paper/fabric collage that has been scanned onto canvas (fed through my inkjet printer).  A digital image of a village quilt (printed on paper) has been stitched to the center.  I haven’t been able to figure out what to do with this and a sister scan.

A New Year begins.  Can I cultivate faith? The faith that things will improve?  That we all are growing, and on some sort of path?  I spit so contemptuously at the pervasiveness of certain words like, “dream”, “believe”, and yes, “faith” that I am shocked to be sharing this work in progress.  Perhaps I don’t finish it because of that very word.  Perhaps a lack of faith keeps it (me?) undone.  I used to want to be a spiritual person.  Now I just want to be someone who gets things done.

Combining old and new yearnings, then, Number One Consecration for this New Year: I shall finish the two faith quilts on my board and let the exercise provoke an inquiry, maybe even a return to some sort of practice (I have learned that one does not need faith for a practice to have benefits).  The sister scan below was shaping up nicely, paired with some beautiful silks, until I drew on it with sharpie and ruined it.  But you know what they say — any quilt you hate is simply one that isn’t finished.  (Come to think of it, what is that but a statement of faith?!)

“Lettuce Pray”

Consecration Number Two:  I have decided to join the many quilters who make weekly journal quilts.  The Dec/Jan 2009 Quilting Arts Magazine features an article by Jeanne Williamson, who made weekly quilts from 1999 to 2005 (this past year, she made needle-felted quilts exclusively).  My rules will be as follows (rules in italics, commentary in regular font):

1.  One quilt a week, even if away. Structure is good.  Finishing things needs emphasis and commitment.

2. Once begun, no starting over.  Variations of the thing are soooooo tempting and to be avoided until the thing is finished (this is really just to underscore rule No. 1).

3.   Materials will always include scraps from the floor.  Here, I am trying to trick myself into clean up.  Regularize it.  Avoid making it a deal.  Mess follows me around.  We have a complicated relationship.

4.  Quilts must be quilted, but not bound.— Alright, I’ll semi-finish things.  No need to go overboard, here.  Until I work out a canvas-frame-mounting system that works for me (again, I refer you to Jeanne Williamson’s blog), I am not going to worry about the edges of these little things.  I loathe binding quilts.

5.  Sizes need not be uniform, but will not be squares. Uniformity is too much of a challenge for me, esp. when it involves measuring.  This I know and accept about my style.  Even right angles are challenging for this quilter.  I don’t want squares, because of their resemblance to potholders.

6.  Journal Quilts must have a home.  Yes, I would like to be able to find these creations at some point and I don’t want them littering my work space, annoying me.  This rule probably only needs to be followed at the outset (but who wants to place bets that the home doesn’t change?  Even I am willing to wager that at some point I will have no f@$%^ing clue where 1/2 dozen or more quilts are… Could I really circumvent this problem with a little proactive rule-following?!  THIS would be worth knowing).

7.  Monthly themes are optional.   I do well with assignments.  he goal is not simply to experiment.  It is also to cement things that I have learned.

Consecration Number Three — If using scraps off the floor and making a place for the Journal Quilts to live don’t produce an appreciable difference in the slobbery downstairs by the Vernal Equinox, I will barter a couple of quilts for organizational services.


This is AFTER a little clean up, so I’m not kidding about the mess.