Let it go…

I make quilts because I can’t not make them. But, once finished, I am more in love with the next quilt. Finished quilts tend to end up in my closet. It seems that I am not finished with the urge to tidy up because I can no longer ignore the shelves stuffed with quilts.

It began with the need to take better photos of my quilts. As I unload the shelves, I’ve found quilts that I haven’t seen in years, like this Amish pinwheel. It’s one of the few that I kept from before Linda and I started Piece O’ Cake in 1994. I had time to hand quilt back in the day!

Amish Pinwheel

I gave away most of the quilts that I made before-POC. I’ve given quilts away since then, but I kept way too many made for books and patterns. I thought that I might need them in the future! Well, the future is here and I don’t need to keep them all. What to do with the quilts that need a new home?

Several are finding new homes with my friends. It’s easier than I thought it would be to choose the right quilt for a particular person — it’s a lot like the wand choosing the wizard. Giving quilts is one of the funnest things ever. I LOVE putting a quilt-smile on a friend’s face.

I know that I will run out of quilts before I run out of friends to give them to, but that’s OK. There will be more quilts. And there are quilts that don’t fit anyone I know — those are traveling with me and will be offered for sale. One this is for sure, I’m done stuffing the closet!



The Daisy quilt, above, was made for a magazine article for Rodale Press. Or maybe it was for inclusion in a book. 

Weeding tips…

anudge asked for tips on how I weeded out my stash. Here goes:

I used to keep my linen, vintage, hand-dyes, etc., in their own separate groups. I realized that I forgot about them when I was pulling fabrics for a quilt so I decided to merge all of my fabric.

I emptied the top shelf in my closet. I worked standing up at the long dresser in the bedroom where my fabric lives. I worked with one stack of at a time. I touched every fabric and decided to keep it, or not. The ‘nots’ went into bags.

The keepers were sorted into stacks of solids, lights, mediums, or darks. Where it made sense, I grouped similar shades of a color together. For example I have yellow-greens in one stack and blue-greens in another. I know that my stacks are going to eventually get messed up so I didn’t spend a huge amount of time on this.

Next I pulled my ‘special’ fabrics, sorted them and added them to the cottons in the closet. 1-yard big print pieces that will be used for backings are still separate.

Fabric Weeding 4

Let me show you how it works with a much smaller group of fabrics. The back story is that I have been inspired by friends to work on a quilt using Liberty of London fabric. My friend, Kathy (hi Kathy!) sent me a fat quarter bundle from the Liberty shop in London — how cool is that! I do love these fabrics from the bundle…

I don’t love these 4 fabrics. If they were just plain old fabrics in my stash, they’d be gone.

But I’m going to make a Liberty of London quilt and can’t afford to be picky! Plus all the fabrics in the bundle actually do play well together. (It goes to show that you can make just about any fabric work, but that’s another story.)

And the bundle fabrics look really good with my other Liberties…

So what does this mean? It means that there are some fabrics I like and some that I like less. When I have too much fabric, I have to decide what no longer fits. Making decisions is hard and it can wear you out if you over-think it. So I don’t think too much as I’m sorting. I put the cast-offs in a bag so that I’m not tempted to bring them back.

If you have more fabric than I do (and that’s a real possibility) I would suggest tackling one color at a time. If you start with yellow, pull all of your yellows, from everywhere. Put them on a big table or bed. Work through them. Put your tidy stacks on the shelves, ignore the cast-offs, move on to the next color. Don’t give up (you’ll be tempted). Power through it, you’ll be glad you did


Weeding out your stash…

My color lecture always includes the suggestion that it’s important to weed out your fabric stash. This idea is often met with skepticism, but it’s something I learned from Linda long ago and I stand by it. I usually weed out my stash once a year and/or when there is lots of fabric stacked on the floor.

Fabric Weeding 1

There’s more fabric on the floor than you can see here.

The shelves inside this closet are about 5′ wide — you can’t see the far ends of the shelves unless you are in the doorway. There are shallow shelves inside, to the left of the door that face the main shelves that also held fabric.

I arrange my fabric by color and value. Over time, however, the values get mixed up and the colors don’t always end up in the right place. The fabric is squeezed between the shelves so tightly in places that it was hard to get to it.

With the unicorn quilts finished last Friday, I turned my attention to this project. Over the course of 2 days, I removed 44 lbs of fabric from my stash.

Fabric Weeding 3

Here’s my newly-clean stash:

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I didn’t stop with the closet. I also cleaned out drawers with hand-dyed and hand painted fabric, vintage fabric, silks, and more. I found appliqué blocks that I don’t have any idea what to do with, and more. So much more that I’m going to have an online Studio Sale next Tuesday morning, January 10. I’ll send a newsletter* reminder. I’ll also put a Studio Sale link in the menu bar that Tuesday morning at pieceocake.com.

*If you aren’t on my newsletter list, go to pieceocake.com, scroll to the bottom of the page, and sign up in the newsletter box.

Now that this job is done, I get to think about what’s next. I’m excited!

Happy New Year!

I hope your new year is off to a dandy start. Mine has been good so far. I’m not walking as fast as usual, and I’m still in the boot, but otherwise my foot feels better than it did before surgery and I’m moving around normally. I’m even back to standing at my desk!

Steve is in Hawaii now, teaching Natural History of the Hawaiian Islands with Keith Kisselle, his colleague. I’m on my own for 3.5 weeks and since he left I have been overcome with the urge to tidy.

On Saturday Chris came over and helped me rearrange my studio. I moved my computer to the other side of the room so that I can look outside when I work. That meant stringing ethernet cable through the attic and down the wall. It took about 4 hours, but it’s done and I wish I had done this years ago. I ended up spending another many hours trying to connect my wireless printer to the computer. It never did so I got a faster, newer one that works better. (Printers are actually cheap—it’s the toner that’s expensive.)

Yesterday I tackled some shelves in the garage that have bothered me for months. If I never saw them I could have ignored them, but I walk past them numerous times every day. It may not look that tidy to you, but it’s so much better than before!


I didn’t waste a lot of time dusting the shelves off because, why? They’ll be dusty again in a few days.


I was all done and congratulating myself on a job well done when the garage door decided not to work. What happened was that one of the sensors was out of alignment. It’s had a problem ever since I hit it with the car months ago. I’ve had to tweak its position in the past but this time that didn’t work. So I had to take the thing apart, re-bend the metal bracket, and wire it in place on the back side of the bracket. It works!


What I’m really doing is practicing work avoidance. I should be doing so many other things but I can’t seem to concentrate on anything until I feel like my space is in order. I’ve about run out of projects so perhaps the work will commence this afternoon :-).

I’m tidy!

Have you read ‘the life-changing magic of tidying up‘ by Marie Kondo yet? It’s a best seller, and for good reason. Ms. Kondo has been tidying since she was 5. In her book, she writes clearly about all of the systems she has tried over the years and the insights that she has had. It’s a small and tidy book—a quick read. She does repeat herself a little but that’s OK. By the time I was finished I was motivated to tidy.

I have always considered myself to be a tidy person and in the past several years I have weeded out my possessions several times. But I still was aware of an underlying sensation that there was just too much stuff around me. I read this book and realized that I have always gone about the weeding out process the wrong way. Rather than deciding what to make go away, it works better to consciously decide what to keep.

She recommends starting with your clothes. Take everything out of the closet, out of your drawers. Pile them on the floor or bed. Don’t do this room by room. If you can’t tackle all of your clothes at once, work in categories: pants, shirts, dresses, etc. I decided to tidy all of my clothes at once. I share a small-ish closet with Steve (who was not remotely interested in tidying his clothes). You can see my empty shelves…


And the empty rod. There’s another empty rod on the other side of the closet. I get/need more closet space than Steve**.


Here’s almost everything on the bed. I emptied drawers from the dresser onto the bed after I took this photo.


One of the best parts of the book is the way the author makes you understand that you really only want to keep what gives you joy. Those clothes that I bought and maybe only wore once gave me joy back in the day, but not any more. Holding onto them is not doing me (or the clothes) any good at all. Once you accept that and get the hang of deciding, it actually goes very quickly.

She also explains the logic of how to fold and place your clothes in drawers. I was skeptical until I tried it. I am now a true believer and will never fold and stack clothes in a pile again. I promise.


Ms. Kondo likes storing things, standing up (not stacked) in simple boxes on shelves.


I have a lot fewer clothes in my closet. No more hanging t-shirts, they are all folded now. I realized that what remains is truly what I was wearing all the time. The rest was just in the way.


It took me about 6 hours to tidy my clothes, fewer hours than I thought it would take. Everything was touched and either bagged to go away, folded neatly to go into a drawer, or rehung and placed in the closet. After the clothes I moved on to purses and bags, shoes, books, and bathroom stuff. As I said earlier, I have been un-cluttering for the last few years and that helped this process go faster.

I still have categories of things to tidy but I’m taking a short break. What I can tell you is that I feel mentally lighter. I am finding it easier to concentrate. If you are feeling a similar urge to tidy, I strongly recommend this book. Everyone I know who has read it, has the same feelings about it.

**I did try to encourage Steve to read the book. He is beyond not interested—and he gave me a look that make me think that I was perhaps going overboard with the tidying ideas. That got me to thinking.

I realized (again) that our house is full of my stuff (that his salary helped to buy). Steve has never been a shopper, or a collector of stuff. He is interested in tools, but only the tools he needs. He has to be forced to buy clothes. He is not into knick-knacks. He is particular about what goes into the kitchen but he does not over-stock it.

He likes the way our house looks and functions, and he likes it tidy, but he doesn’t feel the weight of our possessions in the same way I do. So I have given up trying to get him to read the book and am instead being thankful that he has always loved me enough to put up with my acquisition, and de-acquisition, of things.

Tidy is good.

I went to a lovely open house event recently. The house was was perfectly decorated and almost zen-like in its overall lack of clutter. There was art on the walls but very few objects on surfaces. What was on display was more interesting because there was not much competing eye candy.

Then I found this article by Penelope Green from the NY Times about Marie Kondo, a 33-year-old professional ‘tidier’. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, sounds like a good read.

To quote from the article:

Ms. Kondo’s decluttering theories are unique, and can be reduced to two basic tenets: Discard everything that does not “spark joy,” after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service; and do not buy organizing equipment — your home already has all the storage you need.

I was in the mood to de-clutter anyway but all of this sent me over the edge. For the last many days I have given away, boxed up, and thrown out extraneous objects that no longer make me happy. Elanor and Jack claimed some things, which was nice. The house feels happier—for sure, I feel happier :-).

Steve is slightly mystified by all of this tidying activity because he was around for the years when I enjoyed acquiring stuff. Thankfully, he’s happy with less clutter. And, in the spirit of being tidy, we are not leaving stuff out on the kitchen counters. The kitchen is his space so this is a team effort. Dishes are washed (not left in the sink) and put up rather than being left to dry on a towel on the counter. The kitchen wasn’t a big mess before, but it’s so very nice now!


In addition to all of the this, I watched the video that was linked to in the NY Times article.

I have vowed to be a better folder. The sock drawers came first:


The closet shelves were next:


Everyday, I’m refolding a little bit more, and it feels so very good! We can’t control much in our lives, but being tidy gives me a sense of control, and orderliness, that calms my spirit.