How you use it!!

As I was cleaning off my cutting table I thought and thought about a comment that one of the member of an online Facebook quilt related group that I belong to.  After many members posted pictures of their sewing studios, one member wrote, “After seeing everyone’s sewing room I have come to two conclusions-1) I don’t have nearly enough fabric  2) everyone has a Long arm except for me. ”


The comment truly made me sad.  I don’t want to bash anyone…I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I want to take a minute to say this….

Please don’t let fancy rooms, stashes and equipment discourage you. I know people with long arms that afraid to use them.  Last summer while I was shopping at a quilt shop, Hubby was outside in the parking lot talking to another shoppers husband.  He explained that about a two years ago his wife bought a long arm quilting machine.  She hadn’t touch it as she was afraid to touch it.  What use is it for her to have it??

I know people who have a long  arm yet take their quilt to a long armer as they don’t like their own work.

I personally know people who have stacks and stacks of fabric.  Yet they rarely finish a project.

I know people who have stacks and stacks of fabric that hate the fabric they have as it’s dated or not the look they want.  These people just add more and more to the stacks because they don’t want to sew with the old stuff-then what’s the use of having it?

I periodically go through my fabric and pass it on to people who are just learning to sew or charity groups just so I don’t become enslaved to a stash of fabric I no longer love.

I am not for a second telling anyone how to manage their sewing room, their sewing stash or the equipment that they buy…but I want to say this…

I know people who sew on their dining room table and make amazing quilts. I know people who sew on old machines that only straight stitch and are old…really old.  They still make amazing quilts.

Please, please, please, don’t ever become discouraged with what you have.  Make beautiful quilts with a cheap machine and tie your quilts bypassing a long arm all together.  Just enjoy what you do.  Sew from only scraps and recycled fabric…just enjoy what you do.

When I do to a guild event where I am teaching I am not impressed with the person who has every single odd gadget-the person who has the fanciest matchy poo-poo fabric.  I am impressed by the person who is having fun and enjoying themselves whether that’s the introvert in the back corner or the loud silly one in the front-regardless of their equipment.

It’s not the equipment and stash that you have…it’s honestly how you use it!!

44 thoughts on “How you use it!!”

  1. Hear, hear!!! I think we must belong to the same Facebook group. I’ve gotten a kick out of seeing the different sewing spaces, stashes, methods of organization, etc, but find I like mine just fine. It would be nice to have a two foot longer table for my longarm, but I don’t have the space and the quilts I CAN quilt are plenty big enough for me.

  2. I don’t normally comment, but this is so well stated. Yes, it is all about having fun and using what you have to it’s fullest. I know those people who have the fanciest of things and don’t use them, or the stash of the highest lush fabrics and just pet them – BUT where is the fun? I enjoy my small community quilt guild because these ladies enjoy what they do and they share what they have with those who need. That is the purest of passions.

  3. Well, said. What an encouraging message. Said like a true teacher. I am having fun and a lot of my quilting is with gifted scraps, and most of what I make goes out the door for others to enjoy.

  4. I love what you said and how you said it! As a society, I think we are losing the ability to be ‘comfortable in our skins’. I’m grateful for the sewing space I have. If it was any larger, I’d just have a bigger mess!! I used to have a smaller space, and I made that work too! This is a hobby for me and the way I make my quilts makes me happy. I think that’s what it’s all about. Thanks for this post!

  5. So well said. I used to sew on the dining room table after the kids went to bed. Not much time left for me after those long days of working and raising kids. Now I sew in a room that was a kids room. I love being in there as it reminds me of days gone by and I love it because my quilting brings me such peace. Make the best of what space you have and truly enjoy what you are doing.

  6. I so agree with what you just wrote. I have a little stash and a very humble scrap saving system just started because i want to use all my fabric and thanks to Bonnie Hunter i now know how to cut up my leftovers scraps into usable sizes. I have the smallest room in the house for my sewing and i am so happy and thankful that i have that. I love seeing other peoples set up and agree that that isnt what defines you as a quilter. Just wish people would be happy with what they got.

  7. Beautifully said! I agree! My “sewing space” right now is my kitchen table, so it’s likely that no one will ever see pictures of “my studio” on my blog. I quilt with a regular sewing machine, and my skills are improving with practice. (I find it ironic that, of my several sewing machines, the one that does the best free-motion quilting for me right now is the one I bought for $25.00 at a thrift store!) And, as Linda alluded to above, different seasons of life allow us different amounts of time for sewing. Quilt-making is one of my favorite spare-time activities, and I find the creative outlet refreshing. So I make time for it, even when I don’t “have time”. Because I love what I do! Thanks for the encouraging words!

  8. I was intrigued by that comment, too, Jo, and started my own status about it. I said if every quilter had a longarm, those of us who are in the longarm quilting business would not have a business!! We are part of the team of quilters and enable them to make more quilts. I enjoyed your comments about this here. My husband and I live in a house that was built in the 1850’s. It has lots of character to it, but after 42 years here, I have long since learned to make the best use of what I have!

  9. Im so glad someone has addressed this issue! Where would any of us be without the generous souls who tired of their old fabric and pass it on? I’ve got some “rejects” of my own and am planning to use it to teach 2 friends how to quilt. After purchasing a “top of the line” machine, I see that tools make a difference but quilting can be done with a simple needle and thread! Piecing can too, and someof the most beautiful, timeless quilts were! Please don’t get discouraged, people, use what you have and do your best, and have fun! THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT!

  10. I belong to that facebook page also that you spoke about. Even though I enjoy seeing others sewing space I realize everyone is different in what they have according to space and finances. I am sharing my sewing room with my little grandaughters doll bed and kitchen set (the only place I have room for it) & they enjoy being with me as I sew. And the large upstairs bedroom I would use for sewing is home for my oldest grandaughter who lives with us while going to college. I know one day I will have all that room back as they grow or move on with their lives but enjoy the time spent with them. I agree with all you said. Its not what you don’t have, but how you use what you do have to get the finish product, that beautiful gorgeous quilt.

  11. Thanks for saying what you did. My sewing area is small, but after many years of sewing on the dining room table, I am happy just to have a separate designated sewing area. And as far as the fabric goes, scrap quilts are my favorite, and most days, I need to just forget about buying all the latest and greatest fabric!

  12. Amen! Well said! If you are not enjoying what you are doing then find a way to change things so that you find it fulfilling. Even if that means giving it all away so you can find a new hobby. Don’t become a prisoner of your machines or your stash or what you have or don’t have . Life is too short not to enjoy what you do, especially if it is something you supposedly do for pleasure. You will be more creative and productive when you take pleasure in whatever it is you do.

  13. Good points well stated. Don’t let the quilt police dictate your enjoyment. (Who are those people anyway?) Read a variety of blogs and you’ll find your niche.

  14. I’m familiar with a group where people have been posting pictures of their sewing spaces. There are over 6000 members in the group I’m thinking of. There have been perhaps a 100 pictures of spaces posted. Think about the 5900 of us who haven’t posted perfect pictures. Don’t be discouraged by comparing yourself to anyone but yourself .

  15. Well said Jo. A woman in our guild keeps asking me to do her charity quilts. She has a longarm, but says it has “tension issues”!! We all have those. She needs to get our her manual and READ it!

  16. Ilene at Kitchener Quilter

    I’m so glad you posted about this. I sew in my less than pretty basement. Nobody is invited down there! And there certainly won’t be any picture sharing!! I decided some time back that there wouldn’t be anything holding me back from sewing. Do I pine for a new sewing machine? Yes, but I do quite well on my old short arm. I admit to having lots of fabric, though, and it actually gets made into quilts. I stopped buying more fabric, though. I don’t really care about current fabric trends. I have enough to make quilts probably for the rest of my life.

  17. Thank you for your heartfelt and very wise words! it’s a good reminder to be grateful for our own gifts and our own lives. thank you!

  18. Well said! I have a relatively small stash but I’m sure it will last for as long as I am able to quilt. I sew and quilt on a 20+-year machine and my late mom’s 15-91, which is over 65 years old! I made 10 memory quilts using my mom’s fabric remnants, not particularly quilting fabrics, and those fabrics were old but will last at least as long as the recipients are alive. New is not necessarily a good thing! Enjoy the process. Thank you, Jo, for voicing what so many of us feel.

  19. What a great post. Do what you can with what you have and enjoy. There are sooooo many beautiful quilts that can be made with basics. Stashes soon grow and equipment is acquired quicker than you realise.

  20. Janet from WI

    What a great topic! I started following blogs last year as I’m getting into quilting more. I have to say I love following the blogs and seeing what people are making and enjoy the small look into their lives that they share with us. I wish the ones who blog the most would share not only the good, but problems, time management, etc. (Jo, you do a good job with this aspect) so those of us reading don’t feel “less than” because all of their lives seem so perfect. I know they aren’t but when they share a bit more reality, I don’t feel like I can’t keep up. I know you shouldn’t keep up with the Jones but we all have a little of that tendency I think. And some of these people bang out a quilt each day it seems. I just don’t know how they do it with kids, families, etc. I’m grateful for what I have and am trying new things because of the blogs I read but I need to keep my feet on the ground and reality in my pocket!

  21. You are so right in all that you said. I have found that my large stash is more of a hindrance that a help when it comes to deciding what to make. So I am in the process of purging and giving a lot of my fabric to groups that make charity quilts. I also am purging all of gadgets that I just had to have and have maybe used once. I have decided that there are much better ways to spend my money than stacking up all of the material things that my children will just have to sort thru when I am gone. There are too many people in this world going hungry that my money could be used to help! There are lots of missionaries that are spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ that could use my funds as well. So from now on, when I want to make a quilt I will purchase what I need, make the quilt, send it to my long arm quilter if I don’t feel comfortable quilting it myself and then enjoy the fruits of my labor rather than adding to my stash!

  22. Cindy King Parker

    So now my Quiltville post has made it to a blog! I also said “That said, I love my room! And if it is ever straightened enough to see it I will post a photo. Thanks for this group! It’s awesome!!”

    I wish you had read where I said this in the comments as soon as I realized people were not taking my post as “tongue in cheek” as I had intended.

    “I hope I haven’t given the impression I’m not grateful for what I have, I am!! I have a dedicated sewing room, a bunch of sewing machines – 9 or 10 -enough fabric to make spur of the moment projects, a light table and everything else I truly need. I was impressed with the amount of fabric shown in peoples rooms and it really did seem most of the rooms had a longarm in them. I hope someday to learn to quilt on one of my machines, until then I’ll quilt by hand or check. I learned a long time ago to be grateful for what I have. And honestly, do any of us have “enough” fabric?”

    Please don’t feel sad for me!! I am not discouraged, nor am I envious of what others have. I am perfectly happy with what I have and realize I am much more fortunate than many out there in many ways. As a cancer survivor, every day I wake up the best gift of all, everything else is inconsequential…..even longarms and fabric! <3

  23. Thanks so much for saying what needed to be said…..I quilt in a corner or on the dining room table—I am happy and make beautiful quilts….

  24. I enjoyed this post and agree so much. Reading some of the comments of the fb post were a bit disturbing – especially the ones where ladies were apologizing for not having such pretty rooms, alot of fabric, or were messy or whatever. Why in the world are they apologizing for what they have?? Really?? I am so very grateful for my little room. I have no longarm and likely never will – I have no big desire to own one as quilting does not excite me. I love the piecing portion. Binding just annoys the crap out of me – I wish I could find someone to do that too.
    The point is like you said – be happy with what you have and enjoy it. Share it if you can.

  25. Well said, Jo.

    While I don’t believe that a quilt has to be “quilted uphill both ways in the snow” to be authentic, I think it doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that our foremothers lived “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” This was reflected in their quilts and we think it’s part of the charm, not a flaw, in their quilts today.

    The worst thing thing I ever heard is someone who was asked to make a memory quilt using a deceased gentleman’s shirts. She wasn’t sure she could do so because some of the shirts were *gasp* cotton poly, and was that alright? To me, cotton poly and love beats quilt shop fabric any day of the week. (The funny part of this story was that people commented that cotton poly smells when ironed. i guess that means I’m old, because it never smelled when i used the cotton poly setting when i ironed.)

  26. I think I must belong to the same group and you stated it well! Have fun!!!! Mine isn’t the biggest or the neatest or the latest and greatest. It is what it is and I love every minute I spend in my space. Yes I do have a longarm but I have it because it’s my business, my income. I wouldn’t have it if I didn’t do it for hire. I would still sew and probably still quilt my own smaller ones but only if I was enjoying what I was doing.

  27. Luv what you say. It’s sew true.
    I have a great sewing room & I use it all the time.
    I have my own sewing frame & table which I don’t like using . I prefer to quilt on my old machine on the table.
    As for fabric, I too was hung up with always buying. This year I am using what I have.
    Using scraps which I have not done before, making do with my UFO’s & all those kits & BOM’s that are just sitting on the shelf.
    I am enjoying sitting with my friends and just sewing….

  28. AMEN! I know I am blessed to have my small sewing room and plenty of fabrics, sewing machines and toys to use! All I need to show my family and friends love with gifts and share with others!

  29. I often think that making quilts is a bit like cooking. We all cook in kitchens of varying sizes and with different equipment – does that make the resulting meal any less nutritious or delicious? When I was making a meal and following a recipe for my family of five – why would I buy enough ingredients to feed a restaurant full of people?? I would buy what was needed for the recipe I wanted to make. Sometimes that meant I had something in the larder afterwards that I could use to add to another recipe – (perhaps a certain oil or sauce) and sometimes there were “leftovers” that could be used to make a tasty soup and provide another meal “free”. Our tastes in food change – a few years ago who would have thought that sushi would become so popular? It’s the same with fabric designs and I do not want piles of fabric I no longer like. I only buy fabric for the ideas and patterns I wish to make in the immediate future but in no time at all I find I have enough delicious “leftovers” to use one of Bonnie Hunter’s “recipes” for a free quilt!

  30. So true. I stay with my elderly mother and the only place I have to sew is on a card table in her living room. My stash is mostly at my own house, so I’m trying to use some of the older fabric that mom has in her store room. I work full time, so I enjoy every minute I get to sew even though my space is very limited..

  31. Well said Jo. Uniqueness is what makes us each individuals. And as individuals we create in different was based on our surroundings, experiences, etc. Having everything doesn’t necessarily make you complete.

  32. In this as in so much of life – be happy with what you have. Whether it be sewing, family, or house related, be happy with what you have, make the most of what you have and don’t look at others who seem to have more.

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