Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Minimalist Quilt Studio

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
- William Morris

“Where the hell are my scissors?” 
- Me

We live in an age of acquisitiveness. We have closets and dressers full of clothes that are never worn, collections of knick-knacks that gather dust, and many of us frankly have way too many cats. It’s not normal, all those cats. And for those of us who quilt, the desire to obtain, collect, and sometimes lick all the beautiful fabrics that comprise our craft borders on obsession. It certainly doesn’t help when fabric manufacturers routinely discontinue our favorite collections, only to release entirely new collections that subsequently become our favorites, until we are so numbed by novelty we stop noticing every single collection now has a deer print for no good reason.

We stuff our shelves with fat quarters and yardage and pre-cuts, most of which will sit for years, never knowing the joy of transforming into a painstakingly made wedding quilt that will eventually be used to line a dog crate. Collecting soon becomes hoarding, especially after we realize theTula Pink squirrel fabric now sells for $80 a yard on Instagram. Perhaps those ferret fabrics you dug out of the bargain bin at JoAnn’s will be worth just as much someday, who knows?

But are all those jelly rolls truly making us happy? Are the extra hours our spouses have to work in order to afford the Ikea furniture to store it all really worth it? Does stuffing our underpants to capacity with mini-charm packs really feel as good as we say it does? And just how much yardage can you really lick before you start to cough up fiber-balls? (Hint: It’s less than you think.)

What if I were to tell you that there is joy to be found in owning less fabric, in having fewer gadgets, in saying no to yet another pattern? Would you call me crazy? Try to run me out of town on a rail? Do you even know what a rail is or how to get one? No really, I’m asking, do you? It’s for a friend.

To help you on your journey towards a simpler sewing life, here are seven ways you can start to de-clutter your studio and begin your new stitching life free from the burdens of too many possessions:

1. Keep track.  Take note of every sewing-related purchase you make in a month. How quickly did you run out of paper? How many of those purchases were late-night sales on Instagram for Tula squirrels? Ask yourself this: Are you really in love with pink rodents, or are you just following the latest rodent trend? If naked mole rat fabric starts selling for twenty bucks a fat quarter, are you gonna want that too? Actually, naked mole rat fabric would be pretty cool. But, see, we didn’t know that before and now we do.

2. Get rid of duplicates. Just how many Wonder Clips do you really need? When you stop to think about it, do you even need more than one pin? You can just sew until you reach that one, pull it out, and put it in further down. And let’s talk about sewing machines, shall we? Be honest—how many do you own? Really? That many? Wow. Okay, well, maybe consider paring those down to just six or seven. Wouldn’t want to be hasty.

3. Clear off flat surfaces. Tables, desks, shelves, toilet seats—these are all magnets for clutter. Develop a zero-tolerance policy for storing things on all the flat surfaces in your studio, and you’ll find your creativity soaring as you can now probably walk past your cutting table without causing an avalanche. And where should you now keep all the stuff you took off your tables? I bet you have room where some of those sewing machines used to be.

4. Sell what you don’t need. When you noted all of your sewing-related spending, you were probably shocked to discover just how much capital you have tied up in squirrels. Get a return on your investment by re-selling those rodents for far more than you paid for them on Instagram. I know several people who have paid for college tuition by selling bags of the lint produced from sewing on Heather Ross Mendocino fabrics. And if you don’t have a lot of in-demand and out-of-print fabrics to sell? Just put together a “scrap bundle” full of random pieces with a tiny sliver of some Lizzy House hedgehogs hanging out—people will gladly pay top dollar for just the possibility of some good rodents.

5. Go paperless. Nearly every sewing and quilting book on the market today is also available in an e-book version, so there’s no need to cram your shelves full of tree-killing hard copies. Besides, how many quilts have you actually made from any of those books? If you really feel the need to get the full quilt book experience, just read something that makes your eyelids droop and then go look at a churn dash block and call it modern. I promise you, it’s exactly the same.

6. Practice mindful sewing. In order to truly appreciate the quilt you are making, you must become one with it. As you sew, honor the fabric by petting it gently, telling it how pretty it is, and assuring it that you love it even if it has no rodents on it. Slow down your machine and time your stitches to your breathing. Breathe in as the needle comes up, out as it descends. Keep a paper bag handy. Engage all your senses while sewing: feel the fabric; see it’s beauty; hear the gentle whir of the machine; smell and then taste the weird crusty spot that suddenly appeared in the middle of your block. Maybe it’s peanut butter and you could use the protein. Be grateful for this unexpected snack.

7. If you get discouraged, remember the reasons you are simplifying. When you’re having a hard time letting go of rodents or clearing away nine or ten of your sewing machines, just remember: this isn’t about you. This is all about sticking it to that one person in mini-group who thinks she’s soooo great just because her sewing room looks like magic elves clean it up every night. Yeah, right. Magic elves from the magic maid service company. Paid for by her magic trust fund. 

If you found these tips helpful, be sure to visit our store, quiltmorewithlesscrap.com, to pick up inspirational key chains, ash trays, t-shirts, throat lozenges, office supplies, toothpicks, feminine hygiene products, Lego sets, and novelty ice cube trays.

*Hey, if you liked this, and you'd like to read more, I have a whole book of this stuff! It's called Quilting Isn't Funny and you can get a paperback copy or a PDF right here! (If you prefer Kindle or Amazon Prime, you can also get them on Amazon.)