Helpful Hints From a Pinhead, Part 1

by melissa on January 7, 2013

By Vicki Tymczyszyn

January’s dates are still in the single digits , but already we hear some of you are feeling overwhelmed about your resolution to explore new frontiers in sewing. Probably because getting more happy needle time starts with an organized sew-space and a UFO clean-out (both top resolutions with quilters and sewists) and both of those goals can be problems. We’ve got your back on this, Q-bies. Here are a few tested tips on getting organized (and staying that way, we hope!). From what I’ve read in the comments to our recent posts on Stitchy New Year’s Resolutions, you and I are a lot alike. I have problems saying “no” to two things in my life:

  1. Fabric–It’s’ just so darn pretty!
  2. Friends–There always seems to be someone who needs a nudge, a kind word, a bit of help or a quilt.

So, I find time for everything except myself and my sewing room and the stuff just keeps on piling up. This past year I tried to be more like my friend, Beth, whom I totally admire. She never starts anything until she is done with her current project. I tried her strategy this year, and lo and behold, it works! By staying focused on ONE thing, it gets finished, and quickly, too, because that next great project is just there waiting for you, right? I have taken some slight liberties with this rule: I only stitch one project on the machine at a time, and I have only one hand project going at a time. (Well, I had started a Hawaiian applique project before I tried Beth’s strategy, so I have it and a hexie hand project in the works, but that’s all. Pinkie swear!) I have managed to finish more than 35 projects this way this year, and several of those are UFOs that are well over three years old. The UFOs have mostly been given away to friends, family and charities, and I still have about five in a pile (see above photo) because I haven’t had a chance to drop them off over the Christmas holiday with our guild chairman. (They are earmarked for the local NICU unit, A special spot in my heart exists for these families and their little ones.) Let me  also explain that the above rule doesn’t apply to quilts in the binding stage. Now, I happen to love binding, ‘cuz that means that a quilt is almost done and I can get to that next project. But because I rent space on a longarm, I sometimes have more than one quilt in the finish-me queue. (Right now there are three. They should all be done this week; that’s what evening TV time is for.) Another way I stay organized and in “sew mode” is to keep the blocks  I am working on placed to the left of my sewing machine in what might be the only clear space in my catastrophe of a sewing room.

Blocks staged for sewing in 'found' moments.

Everything is arranged just like I am going to piece it, so if I have five minutes or 30, I can sit down and sew away. You’d be amazed at how quickly things come together when you just keep plugging away at them! I try to sew a minimum of four blocks at a time because that usually means either one row or half a row, if you are making a 4 block X 6 block quilt. That amounts to six times sitting down at the machine during “found” time. For the hand projects, everything–and I do mean everything–I need for a project is in its own bag or tote.

close up of Vicki's tote-along hand sewing kit

All I have to do is grab it when I go out the door heading to a doctor appointment, a coffee or lunch date with a friend, or a meeting. (The other ladies in my Women’s Club are so used to seeing me sewing that they ask what’s wrong when I don’t have something to work on!) If I take something out of the bag to use, it goes right back in as soon as I’m done with it. Really!


Stay tuned next week, when Vicki shares more tips on how to actually accomplish some of your New Year’s sewing goals.

Leave a Comment

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole H. Identicon Icon Nicole H. January 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

Tell us more about the fan shaped pouch!!


quiltzyx/sue Identicon Icon quiltzyx/sue January 8, 2013 at 12:31 am

Congrats on 35 finishes last year! Before I can do anything, I need to un-pile all the stuff already on my sewing table – I’m tired of working in 2 1/2 inches of space….
I’m looking forward to the next installment of tips!


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