Studio clean up

I took a blogging break for the summer… and I’ve been reminded that it is now late autumn!  I’ve been busy with fiber adventures, so buckle your seat belts– I’ve got a lot to share!

First up, a confession of sorts.  Hi, my name is Susan (and like every other quilter on the planet) I am a fabric-aholic.  I have a stash.  A BIG honking stash.

I have a large 200 square foot studio, that got so crammed full of stuff that you had to walk through it on cleared paths.  I’m not saying that it was as bad as the people you see on Hoarders, but it wasn’t good.  It wasn’t creative.  It was just a mess; it felt chaotic and uncreative.  Even though I adopted an online friend’s mantra “don’t put it down, put it away”, that was kind of hard to do when there wasn’t space to put “it” away.

Clearly, a clean up was in order.

Long-time readers know that every August, DH goes away to Burning Man.  This leaves me a week free to pile things here and there in the house or on the patio without getting the stink eye.  3 Augusts ago, I decided to use the time to organize.  I should put quotation marks around “organize”– it feels more truthful with the ironic quotation marks.  I did pull piles out of the studio, so that I could sort and clean.  And it looked better.  I put myself on a fiber diet– no new fabric came into my studio unless it was necessary to the completion of a current project.

Soon afterwards, the mess returned.  From watching shows like “Clean House”, where professional organizers offer pearls of wisdom, I learned that these organizer people measure “stuff” to see what would fit into the available space.  From this, my fiber-obsessed brain realized that you cannot fit 20 inches of “stuff” into say, 12 inches of space.  Yes, I have a large space.  I also have a 14 foot x 4 foot longarm machine, another sewing machine with a table, a free-standing closet for customer quilts.  So I don’t have a ton of storage space for a ton and a half of stuff.  And I have (had) lots of stash stuff.  Stuff stuff stuff.  It all has to fit.

The floor does not count as a storage unit.

August #2:  more clean up, this time with a new twist:  some fabric had to be culled.  The fabric diet could only go so far with helping me clean up, and existing fabric had to go farther (as in, farther away from my studio!).  I spent time clearing and cleaning, and going through fabric.  I agonized– every quilter knows that the minute you get rid of fabric, you NEED it for the next quilt!  How could I get rid of this beautiful fabric?  I love it!!  I want it!!  I need it!!

Out went a few bags.

Hmm.  Not so bad.  Didn’t hurt, don’t miss it.  Teacher on the receiving end is thrilled.

Over the course of the last year, I pulled more and more out of my cupboards to give to the teacher (she sews bears for her second-graders, then they “buy” clothes and accessories with pretend money they earn over the year– this is her way of teaching them about currency, addition, and subtraction.  Plus, the bears are really really cute!)  I was showing up at her door with 2 or 3 garbage bags full of fabric every few months.  Oh yes, I have stash.  Hey, I’ve been quilting for over 20 years!  (ooooh.  touchy touchy!  I think I hit my own nerve!)

Soon, I realized that I liked the breathing room, and I didn’t miss the fabric.  Everyone goes through taste shifts, and 20 year old fabric doesn’t really float my boat, or suit my needs anymore.  I looked around the studio…

August #3 (this past summer):  out out out!!  4 shelves each 4 ft wide, full of Civil War reproduction fabric.  Yes, I love it.  No, it doesn’t really suit the Southern California lifestyle I’ve got going on here.  I also pulled every single shelf of fabric out, and went through it all, piece by piece.  It was such a nice walk down memory lane.  It still amazes me that I can’t remember what I did last week, but I do remember where I bought each piece of fabric.  With a smile and a nod– out it went.  Sold or donated, it had to leave my studio!

Thanks to an online group over at Machine Quilters Resource, I was able to keep track of this year’s fabric ins and outs.  So far in 2010, the tally is:  zero in.  Hold on to your hats for the “out” number:  410 yards.  Oh yes.  You read that right.  I told you at the beginning that this was a confession!

Note:  I offer you your own eye-opener:  weigh a yard of fabric on a kitchen scale.  If you only have a bathroom scale, you will have to weigh several yards to get closer to accurate.  Now weigh a few piles of your own stash.  Shocking how much YOU have, isn’t it?!

With all that has left my studio, I still have plenty of fabric (I say this in case you were getting weepy at the thought of a sister quilter without a stash of her own).  However, I went from 3 6′ bookcases stuffed  full, plus 14 large plastic tubs, plus all the other piles on the floor, down to 2 bookcases and 3 large plastic tubs.  My studio looks better.  Waaaaay better.  I still have a lot of work to do (next August?)  I still have a lot of stuff.  I still teach, and write patterns, and exhibit my own fiber art, and quilt for customers.  So I have various tubs full of samples for my lectures, and patterns that I sell, and hand dyed fabric for my own work, and all the sundry tools I need for my longarm business.  And paints and stencils and supplies.

But my out of control stash?  Not so bad anymore.

Next time:  how I got my mind set for this difficult, boring, hurtful task!






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3 responses to “Studio clean up

  1. Susan wrote: Ha ha. Very funny. If you saw what it looked like, you would faint. It’s getting better but it’s not quite ready for prime-time viewing!

    • Ginny

      Ohhh but think of how inspirational before, during and after photos would have been.

      Folks, believe me – I SAW IT BEFORE! An’ she’s not kiddin’ when she says that studio was FULL. You had to turn sideways and suck in your tummy to move around in there (forgive me S3 for betraying you!) All I can say in response to “My name is Susan and I’m a fabrahaulic.” is this……. Hi Susan (from the audience!)

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