Something to Ponder…

This came up in my Facebook feed the other day….

I chuckled and moved on thinking of course we can’t have too much fabric.  But then my mind flipped back to the Tuesday I walked into the sewing room to see this….

Immediately my mind flipped.  Yes, yes I do think you can have too much fabric.  I think I often have too much of a lot of things…too many projects going, too many UFOs, too many everything.

This is not fun.  It is not relaxing.  It is too much!  Once I did sit down to sew, all I could see was another thing I “should” be sewing or another project that needed this or that or another project that I thought I would have finished a long time ago.  UGH.

I didn’t feel good at all.  I felt pulled seven different directions…and honestly, my heart really wasn’t in any project.  I was just “doing them” to get them done or for a deadline or for something to check off my list.

It’s odd though… as I thought well maybe you should just pass the projects on ….but that wasn’t it either.  Individually I was happy about each and every project.  I was happy to be finishing a quilt for the pet rescue and I really liked the quilt.  I was happy to be finishing my deadline project and I thought the project had real promise.  I liked my mystery quilt.  I especially love the colors!   I wanted to finish the baby quilt for the new baby in my life.

Collectively, it was all too much.

Years ago, I sat at a dining room table and sewed.  Part of me missed that.  Yes, I had to clean it up from time to time when we were having company or a special meal, but I stayed focused then.  There wasn’t room to spread out and take over a whole 14 x 20 room with projects.  I seriously miss that.

I felt more focused and not so overwhelmed….

I was part of a Facebook group years and years ago.  I lady had died and the family took pictures and showed her stash.  The garage walls were lined with large totes floor to ceiling full of fabric.  It was a double car garage….That would have done me in if I was the owner of that.  I could never have found what I was looking for.  I really think I would have simply quit sewing because I felt so overwhelmed.

It’s strange.  When I was younger, I always wanted more and more…now that I’m older, I feel like I want less and less.  I also feel like I want quality over quantity.  I want things I’m in love with and not just things and things and things.

So…I’m making a little rule for myself.  Only four projects out that I can see at the time.  Four projects, I almost need to have out as that allows one waiting for the long arm, one ready for binding, one UFO I’m sewing on, and one that is a deadline project.

So back to the original question was “Can a quilter have too much fabric?”.  I honestly think the answer is YES!  I think for people like me, too much fabric can all be overwhelming!  I know some of you might have a garage lined with totes of fabric from floor to ceiling and you might be okay with that….and not feel a single bit overwhelmed.  I applaud you!  I couldn’t do it.

I think it’s all a situation of needing to know ourselves.  People have different tolerance levels and different ideas of the “right amount”.  Some people thrive in excess…some people are overwhelmed by excess.

Blog readers have been asking me for a bit if I could do some tutorials on how to make free form ABC letters like I did for Georgia’s baby quilt…

I honestly will…but I’m not ready to add another thing to the fire right now.  I promise it’s on my list.

All I know is I felt so much better after I focused and finished some of those projects that were laying everywhere in the sewing room.  This whole next year I am focusing on trying to get caught up on UFOs and getting a stronger focus to my quilting room.

I am so blessed to have a big quilting room and I need to rein it back in and feel really good when I’m there.  Too many projects, for me, is just too overwhelming.

So where do you fit in?  Do you love lots…do you prefer a little?  How many projects can you juggle at a time?   There is obviously no right or wrong answer….I’d love to hear your method for taming the madness.

24 thoughts on “Something to Ponder…”

  1. I am so glad to read this post. I had been feeling much the same. I stop sewing and reorganized my sewing room because it was just too much. I put my projects in bins and bags. I have one project out now.

  2. Taming the madness?!?! You are SEW funny, Jo! There’s no taming the mess in my studio. Like you, I wanted one project at each stage of the process. It never worked out that way, for me. Here’s hoping it works for you!

  3. I’m on the ‘too much’ end. But I enjoy everything I do!! Right now there are three more Halloween costumes, trying to finish a quilt that was started in 2011 and a block of the month that’s two years old! Then when that’s all done I’ll start over!! It definitely keeps me out of trouble and eases the idea of staying home more!! So I guess it’s a win win situation!!

  4. I can’t handle too many projects at once. My preference is 3 to 4. I don’t get too upset if I am waiting on quilting them, this year I had 4 unquilted. I was waiting on pantographs and I only purchase them when on sale. I don’t like having to get out the directions and figure out where I was in an UFO, that I hate. If feels like complete waste of time. I don’t want any fabric that will not fit neatly on my shelves in 2 bookcases. Backing fabrics, precuts and scraps not included, those are in totes. I don’t know, sometimes the pressure to keep trying new things can be overwhelming. I am learning to tune them out and follow my own desires.

  5. I try to stay focused on 1 project at a time of ‘each’, one piecing project, one hand quilting project and 1 applique project. When I get tired of one, I can just switch to a different one. That said, I do have 3 projects I’m working on for RSC but those a long term projects. I piece all the blocks in one week then put them away. I can’t stand a cluttered room, it is too overwhelming. Some people enjoy working that way though and that is their choice.

  6. I think I am in the middle. I have quite a bit of fabric, but then I see what a fabric stash really is, and then I don’t think so. I like more than one project going at a time, or I think it is really that I am working on one and then for some reason I “need” to make something different, maybe for a gift or such. I had one block of the month that I started in 2009 and it was put away after month 4 because we moved, then I needed quilts for grandkids, friends, etc., so after I retired at end of 2018, that BOM quilt was finished and I am actually using it – queen size, which is bigger than I usually tackle. I have finished several UFOs since Covid started. That is a good feeling. I have several that need quilting, but haven’t decided how I should quilt them. Maybe my descendants will. LOL!!

  7. I have been doing basic blankets/quilting for about 10 years, all as a volunteer with project Lineus. Actually started making blankets with fleece, got more creative with the fleece designs, got a whole room full of fleece. Ventured out into working with flannel. I have about four basic quilt tops I make with flannel and try to make 15 to 20 lap-sized quilts or blankets of flannel a month.
    I had been collecting fabric for years but not brave enough to get into it. I am now beginning to do what is for me my most complicated piecing with the broadcloth, batting and backing quilts for children. Sort of at the level of the cresco ladies but some of them do more complicated work than I do. All the fleece is gone but yards and yards of flannel.

    I do enjoy working in both mediums now and I necessarily have a fair amount of fabric in both flannel and broadcloth. So far not overwhelming and it certainly has been a blessing to have it all during this lockdown timE.

    I always look forward to your blog. You have addressed several life issues that I have shared with my children. I am in my early eighties and so some things needed to be talked about, understood, and the fears addressed. Thank you for helping us to do this through your sharing what your family has been and is going through. Take care.

  8. I have a small space which suits me. I try to keep on a budget and usually don’t buy much yardage or collections. I have some precuts which I bought on sale and I enjoy looking through remnant bins. Having said all that, I may, or may not, have nine sewing machines. Most of them pre 1960s. I might have a soft spot for them LOL.

  9. I usually work on two projects at once. Usually one I’m free-motion quilting and the other a piecing project

    I think, yes, we can have too much fabric. I don’t have much of a stash. I’ve heard quilt guild members say they don’t want to sew their “old” fabric anymore.

    I went to a garage sale yesterday with a garage full of fabric from a deceased quilter. Tables stuffed with yardage and pre-cuts. Thousands of dollars of fabric. Could that money have been spent more widely elsewhere? I wonder if she found it overwhelming.

    I think you’re too hard on yourself, Jo! You finish lots of projects. Remember to enjoy the process. By the way, love the scrap project!

  10. Katherine Gourley

    For years and years with a ridiculous work schedule, I barely sewed. But, I kept on accumulating fabric and notions. Finally in late August I retired and thought I would be quilting up a storm. Along came a communion dress to sew and then a 1st birthday dress to sew. A minor amount of wool applique including a lot of tracing and cutting. My sewing space looks like several bombs have gone off in it and a considerable stash and kits galore. I am moving forward and at the same time feeling overwhelmed. I hope that I can settle in during the winter and get some serious quilting done. I work slowly, so when a pattern says the blocks take only 10 minutes I know it will take me an hour.

    Jo, I enjoy your posts so much. You help me to keep perspective on things in my life.

  11. Lol love this post… it depends who in the family you ask. Who pays for it. And who has to move it… When I first started sewing my girls were very young. Fabric was very expensive to me. It was a treat to buy it. I would make Daisy Kingdom dresses for underprivileged girls in our town. Then after we moved from East coast to mid west – I would make blankets for a woman and children’s shelter in Las Vegas. When the war broke out in the Middle East I got involved making fleece blankets to send to military members – I called them “hugs”. I worked 15 yrs for Walmart and 3 in fabric dept….I love being able to go to my stash and have what I need -on hand. I moved to NY and the moving company misplaced some of my fabric boxes. And that was devastating as it was special fabric – threads and rulers etc. I never keep fabric in my bedroom- my one rule. I have yet to be able to buy good shelves to be able to keep my fabric in view. Today I worked on a fleece blanket for an elderly lady who hates the cold and I’m not sure if she has money for electric heat. I’ve probably spent $12.00 this yr for fabric since Covid struck and used up my stash to make masks. I love my fabric and truly use it up. I don’t buy gifts- I make them. Wish I could just sit and sew but with disabled husband – I work and dream of creating…only thing I wish is that I had a sewing buddy as I only can learn on line or from books. Nobody in my family shares my love of fabric unless they want something made …lol

  12. Susan the Farm Quilter

    The first 3 years I quilted, I stuck with one project until it was finished. Then I spent 10 months across the country from my longarm, just piecing quilt tops and that was the end of that. Those quilts were made in 2011 and I still haven’t gotten them quilted. I’ve spent the last 5 years 750 miles from my longarm taking care of my dad and made a few more quilt tops!! I hate quilting on my DSM and hand quilting is torture to me, so…when I finally get back home, I’ll be sewing only to make backings from my SABLE stash and getting those tops into quilts!!

  13. I have done a good job of containing my projects and my collection of textiles but this past year a friend has been downsizing her collection and I have been her recipient. I usually gravitate to civil war fabrics but seeing all of her lovely fabrics has me wanting to keep more of her selection. I have been able to move many of them along to other organizations but its hard to not keep it all. So happy that my sewing room is small and space is limited. Good luck with your selection. Love your finish and all those half square triangles.

  14. My problem is that I love starting a new project, especially the gathering of the fabric stage. I also have so many projects that are in various stages. I think I have enough fabric, probably a little on the excess side but what happens is when working on something new I invariably go look for that perfect piece of fabric to complete the job. And then I get home and that perfect piece doesn’t work as well as I think it should and I might go look for more. I’m trying to get under better control though and am also trying to work on projects that are the closest to finishing so I feel like I’m making progress..

  15. Jo, I am so glad to see this post. My husband would probably tell you I am on the excess side of the stash as people have given me material and when I go to the thrift stores I always pick up yardage or go to yard sales I will pick it up as well. A lot of the material is vintage and I will probably cut it up and put it into my scrap system bins as it is not good for squares or anything else. But I did come across some vintage flour sacks and those are a keeper for sure. Not sure what to do with those yet. I might just send those to you to auction off, not just sure yet.
    My sewing room is still under construction as the gentleman working on it injured his shoulder and had to have surgery. We enclosed the back porch, a 16×30 room for my sewing room and I am so eager to have it finished. I have several sewing machines (5) most vintage, nothing expensive, but they all work great. One was my dad’s that he bought from Fingerhut back in the early 70’s as he liked to make quilts as well. It is a cabinet style with a stool. It is out in the shed at the moment and I can hardly wait to open it up to look at it as I have not seen it since the 80’s. When I got it from Daddy, he said it still worked.
    We shall see. My dream is to get the longarm that you have. The Millenium. I guess in time.
    Thanks Jo for your wonderful blog and time into your family. I am sure sometimes it must be rough sharing so much with readers, but we sure enjoy spending time with you and your family.
    Have a great weekend! (((Hugs))) from SC

  16. Yes, too much isn’t good. I used to go to thrift stores and buy fabric cheap, really cheap. My sewing room is small but was filled with fabric. About 5 years I went through it and mailed 3 huge boxes to a South Dakota reservation. I have since cleaned it out twice more and mailed it to the Navajo Reservation. Next spring I will hopefully be able to drive there and deliver sewing machines and more fabric. I do not have totes of fabrics anywhere else, just now in smaller boxes in the closet. I try to finish piecing one quilt at a time as I don’t have room to start multiple quilts. However I pieced and pieced and ended up with 30 full to Queen size tops to long arm. And about 15 lap size. Now I’m trying to finish the long arm work and the binding pile is huge. I’m older now and realized I have enough fabric to last my lifetime. I have a bucket list of what I want to make and this winter I will finally start on them. Quilting is a joy to me, but it’s not my whole life. Having too much of anything isn’t good, it becomes a burden, even fabric.

  17. Jo, I could have written this post (IF I had the gift of words like you do!). It was like you slipped into my mind and said what I have been thinking for months! I sew in the dinning room because I cannot get into my sewing room! I WANT to clean it out, but honestly do not know where to start it is so bad! I do believe I have too much fabric just waiting to be used. Most of it because I liked it, and still like it for that matter. It’s just it did not have a purpose and therefore is just sitting around being moved around and waiting for it’s purpose! I really want to get a handle on it before my kids have to deal with it! Thanks for your awesome posts that always hit the mark dead on. I really believe we could be twins/related we have such similar thoughts and feelings about everything! Looking forward to seeing what you do in your room. As always, thanks for everything you do! Hugs,

  18. Barbara Schamell

    First of all, I love, love, love the Hawk’s Nest Quilt! You do such beautiful work. Since following you I have started to open up to doing more scrappy quilts. Scrappiness does give quilts so much movement, interest and texture.
    As to the question of having too much fabric, I agree that it can become overwhelming unless one is extremely organized. I tend to be organized but like all things in life my intensity tends to wax and wane. I currently have several quilts cut, several tops completed, quilting one, fabric pulled for others. I only keep out the one I am actively working on. The others are put in their own packages and shelved where I can see them. I keep a very simple spiral notebook where each project gets a page or two for me to make progress notes. Nothing fancy. It is enough that if I don’t pick up a project for 6 months I will know exactly it’s status and I can easily pick up where I stopped. This way my sewing room is not cluttered and the only mess is the mess created while actually working. My sewing room is not large and part of it is my husband’s workout room. I do all my cutting and piecing there. My quilting is done in my dining room table.

  19. I have a LOT of fabric. I have a large metal shelving unit with large bins of fabric by color, a heavy-duty wall-length built-in shelf above the door that holds many smaller bins of fabric by color or type, three of those plastic three-drawer units underneath a table, two vintage large 4-drawer card catalog units that hold some of my scraps, and 2 cabinets that hold some fabric among other things. Some of my fabric was bought new, some was given to me (I have some from both grandmas), and some was from thrift stores or estate/yard sales. Again, it’s a LOT of fabric, but I do use it. I LOVE to be able to “shop my stash,” and pull everything I could need for countless quilts without buying new fabric.

    I feel like my fabric could be organized a bit better, but it works. I have gone through a few times and weeded out things I don’t care about, and it would probably be helpful to do that again, reorganize what’s left, and maybe make a list of the categories with notes about what’s there. However, that’s a big job, and first I need to finish up my active projects and clean the sewing room! It definitely looks way worse than yours does right now! I’m less bothered by the amount of fabric and more bothered by the rest of the stuff — notions and whatever that I might only need in a blue moon, etc.

    I’m very fortunate to have a dedicated sewing room, but it’s small — only about 8.5 feet by 13.5 feet, so it’s CROWDED as soon as the sewing is happening! The overhead shelf really helps with space, and the metal shelf is actually in our bedroom instead of the sewing room, but still — once I’m working on some projects, it can look like a fabric store exploded! It seems like there’s never enough time in a day to do everything I need to (and want to) do.

    I probably need to look at the Before and After pics of the last time I totally cleaned up my sewing room for the impetus to do it all again and maybe try harder to keep it that way. The Before pictures evoke anxiety; the After pics are incredibly calming. I need to get back to the calm. :)

  20. I agree with you, too much is overwhelming. I have enough so am trying to finish up projects and use up what I already have. It has become so easy to start new projects without finishing older ones. There are some projects that I need to start if they are a gift for someone but other than that I am working on finishing up my partially finished projects. It does seem that as we get older we realize that we don’t need so much stuff in our lives it can bog us down.

  21. You said it perfectly! This is my story too. I met with 3 of my quilter friends last Wednesday. First time since Covid. We met in a garage, 6′ apart and masks. We showed and told our projects. Three hours zoomed by. I called my friend ahead of time and asked if I could bring 4 bins full of quilt fabric to her garage. Then the other girls that come to her house can dig through and take it. She said yes. We have a new name now. Garage Girls. The more I dug in my garage I saw 4 more fabric bins marked give from 2 years ago. My husband filled the back end of our truck with 8 – 18 gallon totes filled to the bin. When I got there her husband came out and said he was ready to get the bins out. I said sheeplessly, that I have 8 not 4. I told him I can take 4 back but my friend said no, don’t do that! So I left them. I did feel a little sad the next day just thinking about all the money but I got over it and am happy to see a corner of my garage empty! It really didn’t make a dent. I have been collecting fabric for over 50 years! It’s time to let go. I bet I have 20 more bins in garage, a stuffed 8x 10′ sewing room and now in half of my bedroom. It’s got to stop! I just bought a stack of fat quarters in mail today. WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME ????????

    1. Linda, consider a “fabric diet.” The rules of the diet are up to you, but it’s often a list of rules like:

      – I can’t buy any new fabric unless nothing in my stash will work. Examples of things I could buy: backing fabric if I don’t have time to piece a backing or a pieced backing won’t do for this project; notions for a specific project (like buttons or a color of thread I’m out of); and special fabric for a specific project (like my grandson REALLY wants a tractor quilt and I don’t want to make a tractor shape out of other fabrics — I want tractor fabric).

      – I can buy fabric from the thrift store or a garage sale, but I have to LOVE it or see a real need for it, and it should be inexpensive.

      – I can accept free fabric if I LOVE it, see a real need for it, or know that I can pass it on to someone who will use it.

      I love your “garage girls” story! My quilt guild is meeting by Zoom now, but I also have a friend that’s only a half mile away from me so I walk to her house and we both work on something — outside, well-distanced, and sometimes masked depending on how anxious we’re feeling — and we chat and chat. It’s such a nice thing to be able to do in this time of COVID.

  22. I’m one project out. I have several unfinished projects stored, and it bothers me tremendously that they are not finished. Not sure now that I want to finish them. One project was a sampler that I began when I first started quilting again, and the blocks I made are not uniform. I half way want to send them to the Crisco ladies, because I really don’t want to finish the rest of them. Then on top of that, there’s the sashing sand borders to cut. Ugh.

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