Saturday, January 15, 2011


I have been quilting since I was an exchange student in High School in Charlotte, NC in 1982/83.

Back then I started with remnants from my mother’s attempts at tailoring the odd dress or night-gown for herself or me. When she had finished with one project, all the parts that had been cut off were rolled up together, tied into a little bundle with a piece of string or even a very narrow strip of that fabric, and stored together with all the other little rolls from previous projects. Over the years quite a fabric stash had accumulated that way, even though my mother was not the most productive tailor around. For me, these little bundled rolls of fabric were a promise, and they fascinated me in a way that I can still feel these days, for example when I get to dig into a box of odd and unassorted buttons (but that’s a different story altogether).

So when I returned home to Germany – with my minimalistic basic patchwork supplies of a narrow cutting mat, a small rotary cutter and metal-guides in inch-measurement and started doing patchwork, believing I was the only person in Germany who did this – these remnants of earlier tailoring projects were a welcome stash to dig into. Every once in a while I was allowed to by a piece of fabric to match whatever I was making, but overall I used up leftovers and things that were already there. (How serious a patchwork-identity I am can be seen in the fact that, for years and years, I saved the knit pattern samples of my knitting projects, with the intention of assembling them into a patchwork-knit-sample-blanket some day. I have also knitted several cardigans out of leftover wool, but again, that is a totally different story altogether…)
When I left home to go to university I did not own a sewing machine, nor did I have a enough money or room to collect fabric (remnants). But I knew that I would return to patchwork the first real chance I got.

The real take-off came several years later when I returned to my parents’ house with a broken heart and my mother had been signed up for a patchwork weekend class with the local community college. On the spur of the moment she enrolled me, too, I took the sewing machine which I had inherited meanwhile and which was waiting for me at my parents, and off we went together. That’s when I succumbed, totally and completely. The class was a ‚modern’ Crazy-Class (no hand-stitching and embroidery), and my mother allowed me to take a part of her fabric stash with me to finish the quilt I had started.
Here you can see a detail from that quilt, which constituted not only my return to patchwork, but at the same time led me onto a path that would let me leave traditional patterns behind and explore modern quiltmaking.

Detail from "Crazy Beginning"

At that time I had a part-time position at the university and was living alone in a city where I knew hardly anybody. There was a big fabric store, though, and I started collecting fabrics. When I was promoted to a full-time position (living in an apartment for which I paid only a moderate rent) I could really indulge in buying fabrics. For several years I was a member of the Sweet Treats fabric club, which brought me regular packages of assorted fat quarters. Every shipment was a little bit like Christmas: the unpacking, the surprise, the delight. (From this I eventually derived my own „Stoff-Abo“, the subscription of hand-dyed fabrics which is currently going into its very first real instalment.) Although some of the fabrics were definitely not to my liking on first sight, this arrangement led to the fact that over the years I accumulated lots of different fabrics, many of which I would have never bought in a fabric store – and which I might end up using at some point after all.
All this led to quite an impressive fabric collection. When we moved house the last time the guys from the moving company were rather surprised. They’d had experiences with lots of book cases, yes. But over thirty plastic boxes full of fabrics? No, they had never seen that before!

However, once I took up hand-dyeing my own fabrics, I eventually stopped using commercial or printed fabrics in my quilts. Over the years I have donated a box or two for the German Patchwork Guild’s Youth Program (Patch Kids) or sold some bundles on E-Bay, but there still remained quite a few pieces of fabric in my storage of which I knew by now that I would most likely never use them anymore.
So when I started the Stoff-Abo and took up preparing fabrics for the patchwork market in Erding in the beginning of April, where I will have a little stall, it was clear that I would have to make room. But throw out fabrics that could well be used by somebody? I just couldn’t do that. But how should I go about?

Last Thursday evening I invited five former participants in my local patchwork classes to a nice get-together, under the condition that they bring a large bag. I had pulled enough fabrics from my stash to fill two large moving boxes. And I would not let them leave the premises if even one of the fabrics remained in the house.
What a fabric party that was! I had the best time watching the jubilation when my guests were touching the various fabrics, showing them to each other and making sure that each of them got her proper share. We spent almost an hour dividing the contents of the boxes between the five, and they were excultant when they finally left. I didn’t take a picture of the whole thing, but it is a memory that will remain dear to my heart!
For me, it was a wonderful experience to see all these fabrics move on to somebody else’s storage, although I probably could have told a story about many of the pieces. And it was a lot of fun to see the excitement of my former students when they could reap from this abundance! Now I am curious to see what they will make from these fabrics which once were mine.

Thinking about the whole party now, I would say that this is a wonderful way of cleansing or refilling your own fabric stash. Why don’t you invite a few of your patchwork friends over, tell them to bring a few pieces of fabric which they are willing to part with – and you will see, you’re bound to end up with exactly that one piece of fabric you have been needing to fill that one spot in your stash!
Enjoy the party!

No comments:

Post a Comment