Books books and more books

June 22, 2018

In a bid to help me sort out my sewing space I watched a lot of youtube videos of craft room tours and declutterings. if you just leave youtube runnning it slowly wanders about and eventually it left me watching the Houston Clutter Fairy. Mostly I dislike the decluttering experts. Well to be frank I feel most are utterly insane and delusional. This lady was different. Very pragmatic and non judgemental. I can’t say every word she says works for me, but then she wouldn’t expect it to and a lot of them can help me.

She comes back to book people over and over in her videos (nearly as often as paper but thats another story). The clutter fairy is aware book people are not good at getting rid of books. When she works with book people she encourages them to check book by book if they want them. To clear the space to replace my windows i need to empty 4 smallish bookcases. So I figured nothing to lose by trying to dump some books and maybe it would help. I have hundreds for craft/quilting/sewing books. Had you asked me as a mass I would have said i love them all and need them. One by one things are very different. I was aiming to lose about 10%, in fact more like 30% are now boxed up to be sold or donated. It is amazing how many you grow out of and how with a more experienced eye you can see more overlap of information. Also with that many books I have managed to get quite a few duplicates. I won’t manage to empty all the book cases this way, but I will certainly make a massive dent in them.

Next step, magazines….

Plastic Drawers and engine fires

June 18, 2018

Sorry for the longer gap, but things have been getting interesting here. My clean out of the sewing room has been going well. So well I had filled the front garden with junk. This the Landrover decided was the perfect moment to catch fire. I wasn’t quite so convinced of this perfection as you may imagine. However you do what you have to and with the weather forecasters predicting gales I figured I had better get a rubbish collection service to pick it up. That is easier said than done. From past experience a lot like to arrive partially load then up the price. it seems to be the set scam. The one I booked went for trying to collect 2 hours early (when I was out at an appointment as I had told them) then denying I existed. The second I tried however were great. Clearabee will come the same day. They did quote a little higher than the first company but as they didn’t then drive up the price when they arrived (on time) I can live with that. So if you find yourself stuck and they operate in your area I would absolutely recommend them.

Now on to why there was so much junk in the front garden. When I put together my sewing room I tried to save money and used a lot of plastic drawer units. My cutting table was on 2 of the big colourful sets that are aimed at children’s rooms, and my big storage space had more similar in.  Had is the key word I have dumped them all.


“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms: The Play


This pretty much covers plastic drawers. Day 1 they are fine. They are cheap, they hold your stuff and the place looks tidy. Very quickly the drawers get hard to pull in and out. This encourages the less tidy to not put things away. It’s hard to put it away and you know it will be hard to get it back out, so you don’t do it. Over time they distort more, the stuff in them stays there mostly forgotten and partially replaced until the big purge hits and you discover that everything in the drawers is filthy because dust gets in just fine. I now have a huge pile of fabric to wash (don’t store fabric folded edge up in plastic drawers) and a fair amount of dead glue and duplicate items. I think the large plastic drawers were about 20 pounds each. The cube storage I have replaced them with is about 30 each and yes 2 would have done the job. So for half as much again as what I spent I could have had something that worked from day one and helped keep the room tidy. I have actually spent a bit more because I wanted to maximise storage and have it on wheels. I did look for a second hand sideboard. I actually think that might be the perfect cutting table if you can find one, but the thing with second hand furniture is it comes up when it comes up. You can’t predict it and I am on a deadline to sort this room out.  My lesson from this is if it is something you need to work cheap may be the wrong answer. A good item at a low price will work, or a new slightly more expensive item, but buying purely on cost is a way to get into a bigger mess later and ultimately spend more than was needed. On the upside the plastic drawers are destined for recycling not landfill, but still in use would have been even better.

Eeeep where did the holiday go?

June 1, 2018



How is it that plans never survive reality? As you can see I have managed to get in a little sewing for fun. Not as much as I had hoped though. Nor as much longarm quilting, life got in the way rather badly. Still progress has been made on all fronts so I can’t really complain. I managed to get up to the drag strip for one day of the Main Event, and only got slightly singed :) Not quite sure how I was more burned on the side away from the sun. I guess I must have special talents. I have also managed to get a lot more junk to the tip and I have another pile to head to the charity shops. I seem to be getting better at this cleaning decluttering thing.

I am going to leave this short as I do want to try to finish this Elizabeth Heartman pattern before classes start again. I don’t really think I have much hope but the sooner I get back to it the better the odds right :)

The fun stuff

May 26, 2018

During the winter holiday from teaching I worked hard on trying to build myself a new routine. I had a plan to make sure I got some me seeing time every day. It worked great to mid January then life got in the way and I was back to work firefight sleep, rinse repeat. As things are now calming down again I have been having another go at stopping work at a reasonable time and then doing my own stuff. I am not quite up to really creative things yet, I am trying to have a huge declutter and reorganize too and that takes a lot of time. I am however getting some of my kits and patterns done, which for me is wonderful relaxation.


Last year I bought a craft space that folds into a large cupboard. It has a lot of boxes that I have stored projects in. Each evening I can grab the project that fits the amount of brain power I have left. Recently it has been an Elizabeth Hartman pattern. I have several and I really enjoy making them. So far I have just been using solid fabrics, maybe my next will be using some of the fabrics I have been rediscovering in my stash :)

For this quilt I am working in sets of 25 blocks. There will be 4 different blocks each block will be made in 5 shades each of 5 colours. It was actually to use up scraps from another quilt, I was expecting to make a few blocks and put them in the corner of a mostly wholecloth. Instead I will be making a super king quilt with almost no background colour. Oh, and the leftovers from this quilt will also make another quilt too. There are lots of flip and sew corners and I have been turning all the offcuts into half square triangle block so those will get sewn together as well. Who knows there may be some crumbs even after that.


Still chugging along

May 23, 2018


Next in my fabric sorting task has been “scraps”. As I think I said before I never understood how big a piece of fabric some people called a scrap until I tried to fold them all neatly. Once it is smaller than a fat quarter it becomes really problematic to make lookk nice. True looking nice isn’t everything, but messy crumpled bits also take up more room and I am pressed for space so I needed to change my outlook. I have taken on board two concepts, smaller than a fat quarter is a scrap, and scraps are best stored precut. For my precuts I am trying to only cut strips (for really small pieces I may cut squares too). I have chosen eight types of scrap,

  1. Crumbs
  2. 1.5 inch strips
  3. 2.5 inch strips
  4. 3.5 inch strips
  5. 4.5 inch strips
  6. 5 inch strips
  7. 10 inch strips
  8. Specials and sets


I did look at a lot of differnt people ideas before settling on these. I have 8 steps becasue the new storage I bought has 8 compartments. 2.5″, 5″ and 10″ are all common precut sizes. They seemed a good thing to have on hand to let me play with patterns that will work for commercial precuts. Crumbs have been on my to do list a while. I have 2 crumb quilt ideas I am really keen to work on. The specials are mostly Swedens fault. I have lots of metric sets of fabrics from certain ranges. I don’t want to lose any as they are pretty small cuts to start with so they are staying as is until I know what they are going to become. The other sizes are useful numbers that come up fairly often in patterns and will play well with each other. Although I have left them as strips they can easily be cut into squares if I want say half square triangles, or I can go ahead as they are and make log cabins or perhaps asymeteric log cabins. The main thing is it lets me sort my small pieces and store them much more efficiently.

The downside of this cunning plan is there is a lot of pressing and cutting to do. I know it will get easier once I clear the backlog, but the backlog may take me a while. It is at least very satisfying.

Longarm Studio

May 21, 2018


OK the title sounds good, but I am far from convinced my space lives up to the name. Still it is what I have and I seem to manage to work and create here so it does fulfill the role. The picture does show the whole space, and this is as tidy as it ever gets. The guitar on the far left is hung on one wall the shelves on the right are on the oposite wall. The end “wall” is entirely glass which means in the summer it is a green house and in the winter it is a freezer. People often say to me “I don’t have a big house so I can’t have a longarm” to which I always reply neither do I. My house is a small 1930s terraced house, but where there’s a will there’s a way.

The black basket of threads to the right is overflow and waiting to be put away. I am not good at putting threads straight back in their colour sorted drawers (just off to the right hand side)  so I added a catch basket. I will at least sling them in there and keep them off my very limited working spaces. When it is full (about 4 more cones I think) I sort the whole lot at once. It makes me happier to do it that way, and I have learned that working with my natural tendancies works far better than fighting them.

The glass fronted cupboard above my threads is still used to store glasses. Once upon a time this was a dining room and that is the last trace of it. There is nowhere else for them to live so they will be staying there.

You will notice there are a lot of CDs in here. I listen to audio books as I work. I have cordless headphones so I can block the noise of the machine and listen to the book at a lower volume. I found working to music distracting. I start moving to the beat of the music not the machine and that is terrible for my stitch consistency. So instead I read, well listen.


The floor doesn’t usually look that good. I am in the process of changing the strorage under the longarm so I have taken up my foam floor tiles. This room has a concrete floor and as well as getting very cold to stand on it is hard. So I usually have 3 layers of foam lock together tiles. They are comfortable but horrible to try and keep clean as stuff gets in around the edges of them. I am going to tape the joints this time when I re-lay them in the hopes that will reduce what falls through. I may also tape the layers together but I am worred that will make them very hard to remove next time I need to do anything.

The shelves are deep enough that I can get in a row of either quilting books or fabric wound onto comic book boards and then have a row of cd’s in front. My desk space is one shelf where I don’t have a row of cd’s. That is enough to keep the threads for the current project to hand.

At the moment the bottom 2 shelves look very empty. They have just been cleaned out and I am refilling their back sections with fabric. I don’t expect them to stay that clear for long.

Still cleaning

May 13, 2018

Not only am I still cleaning I predict I will be for quite some time yet. However I am making progress. Today I wanted a solution for the short cut half yards and all fat quarters. These are too small to be wound onto the comic boards.

I have had a cunning plan to repaint a chest of drawers that live near my longarm. They are plywood painted off white atm. In time I will paint the carcass gloss black and the drawers shades of grey. First however I am modifying the inside of the drawers. They are currently unfinished ply wood, not ideal to put fabric on. They are also a wide open space which encourages me to just chuck stuff in. Also not good for fabric.


Having done some measuring I have worked out a way to fold fat quarters so they fill the drawer height and I can fit 6 columns across the drawers. This meant I needed to add 5 dividers. After a quick raid of Homebase I have a couple of long thin planks and some Fablon. I think I need 2 more planks if I am goingto convert all 4 drawers but the 2 rolls of Fablon will be enough.


Before you ask her I did consider a colour other than black for the drawer lining. I couldn’t live with plain white it will always look grubby. Both the pale wood effects had grain patterns that looked weird to me and I really didn’t want a bright colour or pattern as it may distort the way I see the fabrics. So black marble was the winner. Not that I can see much of it with the fabric in the drawer.


I am very pleased with the way this is working out. It was fiddly working out how I needed to fold my fabrics for my drawers, and that will be different for each drawer size, but you only need to work it out once. After that every piece is folded the same way. This system seems to be very space efficient. Certainly a lot is vanishing into this drawer, and it is all visible once in there.


I also got some paper clips while I was out to try on the fabric on the boards. I like them much better than the Bobby clips. So tomorrow I may need to go and get more paper clips as I only bought 100. Yes I am seriously hoping to have 200 pieces of fabric wound and stored by then. So far the biggest piece on a comic backing board is 184 inches. It works but it is getting quite bulky by that size.

Cleaning and organizing

May 11, 2018


The last year has seen me doing a lot of cleaning and reorganising. I certainly had plenty to do but things are now moving forward. As the weather has improved I have felt more urgency to try and get the house empty enough to have the windows replaced (also a long time coming).Having done most of the normal house areas I am now working on fabric spaces.

Having watched a lot of youtube videos I decided to have a go at winding my fabric onto boards to try and make it easier to see and store. There are several companies making custom boards for quilters, some of which I absolutely love, but I can’t afford them. I have a lot of fabric. No more than that a LOT!

Of the cheap option the lowest effort looked to be the comic book boards. More exactly the Magazine size backing boards. 100 of these costs 10 to 15 pounds so it isn’t a massive investment even for me. Having wrapped my first 100 boards ( I said I have a lot of fabric) I really like this system. I like that I am getting to see every piece of fabric I own. I like how they stand on shelves and I love that I can write the size of the piece of fabric on the board where I can see it without having to unwrap the fabric. There are some limitations to this system, the fabric needs to be over half a yard. I think this is why you see people on youtube claiming anything smaller than that is a ‘scrap’. At the other end of the scale I think much over 5m is going to be too much on one of these boards. As most pieces I own are within those ranges I think I have the winning solution for me. I will be changing how I secure the fabric on the boards though. This set are held on with bobby pins, I think I will try paper clips for the next round.

First day back

January 10, 2018

First week of term is always a bit interesting. Getting out of holiday mode and back into full work mode is a shock to the system and requires some organization and planning. This year was going to be better. I was going to be fully organized and on top of it. That was great till Monday morning when my car decided it wanted a new ignition lock right NOW. Fortunately a mobile locksmith had time and could fit it in Tuesday and expected to do the job there and then. Expected is the key word when he arrived the lock was past repair and would need to have a new barrel, but there was probably one at the depot and they could do it overnight. Leaving me no car to get to class.

I am lucky to have a really great bunch of students, and one that is local to me. She picked me up, with all my junk, I mean fine and valuable items needed to run a class and delivered me to the community center in Bennetts End. She also helped me set up and bought the class milk, what a star right? At the end of last term several students couldn’t make the last class of term so today was Christmas party day, with presents, food and fun. Fat quarters were swapped and much food eaten. I have a big win, having tried on every pair of gloves I could find locally and found none that came close to fitting I am pleased to announce I have Canadian hands. Well their mittens fit me at least. Maybe I need to head over there again to shop for winter clothes :)

After class my same student not only brought me home but took me to check out the damaged door at my storage unit. Fortunately it wasn’t serious. Nothing harmed and the door is now fixed, though I would love to know how it happened in the first place. I would have said trolley but the damage was below the height of them. It did also give me a chance to show off my fabric stocks, including the wide backings. I still need to figure out a good way to display those in my mobile shop. They are too wide to take a full width strip off each. Maybe I can sneak a small corner. I need to come up with something.

All in all an amazing start to the term. It was fun as much as work and that makes such a huge difference. If any of you are in the Hemel area I have spaces in this class, and you would be most welcome to join us for patchwork and quilting, and general fun.

Listen to your body

January 3, 2018

I am sure we have all done it. We have got engrossed in a hobby then tried to move and found things weren’t working as well as we might like. I am assured that as we age it will only get worse. Apparently regular breaks and changes in task will help, but most of all we should listen to our bodies. As I am fed up with injuries and illness I thought I would give this advice a go and I am now prepared to share my conclusions. The problem isn’t listening to my body, the problem is my body is a lousy conversationalist. It never has anything interesting too say. Some days it just says ouch no matter what I say or do. Come on even tiny people just learning to speak manage better variety than that. Why would I want to listen to that? Or you might get the day when it is like an over protective parent. Constantly tells you to stop doing something you enjoy. So my conclusion is bodies need more variety of conversation, they need to get out and broaden their interests. If they had something interesting to say about something they were passionate about I am sure we would all be much better about listening to them.

In other news, customer quilts are getting quilted and my piecing is coming on well. I am actually enjoying being back in a routine after Christmas. All being well I might finally have some new show quilts this year, and maybe some new class projects.