Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quilts From The Stash

I want to teach you how to plan well-designed quilts using the scraps of fabric you already have in your cupboards or closets. You know the fabric I'm talking about, your "stash", that fabric that is too big to throw away, and too small for most projects. Simply said it's your leftovers.

You will notice right away that all of these examples are using squares. For my needs, a 4" square was the perfect size. You might decide that you want squares that are a different size, depending upon the size of your scraps, or not use squares at all. The knowledge gained from these examples can be applied to any type of pieced quilt, any pattern, any shape.

To begin this discussion, I will introduce a new term to you, a term that I made up for my instructional purposes here. The term is "anchor fabric". It's the piece of fabric that you will want to coordinate everything else with. It is the "anchor" of your quilt.  The other term we will use is "coordinating fabric". I'm sure you have heard of that before. Simply said, it is a fabric that is different than the anchor fabric, but still looks good with it. If you are planning to purchase new fabric for a quilt, you can often find coordinating fabrics where someone else has chosen them for you and they will be clustered together on the rack. Since I wanted to use my stash fabric, I learned to look for coordinating fabrics in my stash.

In each of the following examples, the picture on the left is the quilt. The picture on the right is the individual squares, the center square being the anchor fabric, and the others being the coordinating fabrics. You will notice that coordinating fabrics do not necessarily look good with each other, but each one of them looks good with the anchor fabric. The quilt backing is one large piece of one of the coordinating fabrics, which one is dependent upon which I had a piece that large of.
Aqua Bears Baby Quilt
In this example, the square of fabric on the left is the yellow square in the picture. It actually has green dots, not black dots, just like the drum in the bear fabric. The blue stripe and solid blue are the same shade of blue. The pink check is the same color of pink as the bear fabric. The backing is the yellow with green dots.
Blue Bears Baby Quilt
In this example, I had fewer pieces of my anchor fabric, but found more options for my coordinating fabrics. Once again, the yellow in the quilt picture is the same yellow as in the close-up of the coordinating fabrics, and in fact, is the same fabric as the previous example. There is orange in the bear's hat and clothes like the solid orange I used. There is ivy/holly trimmings on bear's hat, thus, the two pieces of green/red leaf look great. The orange/blue plaid works well, as does the blue/white stripe,the bright blue abstract piece and the country blue with white dots. The backing is the blue abstract piece.
Country Bears Baby Quilt
In this example, the yellow print on the left of the squares close-up is the same shade of yellow as the yellow stripe in the anchor fabric. There is red and white in the anchor, so the red/white stripe matches well. The blue square on the right has a "denim" pattern which coordinates well with the bear's pants. The blue stripe with the hearts looks good with anything country, as does the green leafy calico print and the blue/white check. The backing is the red stripe.
Zoo Animal Baby Quilt
With this quilt, I found I didn't have enough pieces that coordinated with my anchor fabric. I had to go buy something! Surprisingly, the anchor fabric was still on the racks with all it's coordinating fabrics around it. The green/blue leafy piece with the elephant on the bottom was one of the coordinating fabrics so I did get some of it. I also bought the many colored dots to the right, but found it on the clearance racks for $1/yard, can't go wrong there, and it still looks good with the anchor. The anchor fabric has quite a lot of peach color to it, hence the peach plaid fabric, and of course the solid blue and solid green pieces are the same shades of blue and green in the anchor fabric. The backing is the many-colored dots fabric.

I bet you've already had your mind wander to your stash, and had several ideas pop into your head, haven't you? My examples are all baby quilts 40" x 40" square which I made for my son's Eagle Scout Project. This is a great size for a baby quilt, lap quilt for the elderly, wall hanging, etc. You could also use more coordinating fabric options for bed size quilts. The sky is the limit (or for me, the "square" is the limit)! And remember, if your stash isn't big enough to pull something together from it, holidays are great times to go to the fabric stores when they have all their clearance fabrics 50% off clearance price, and stock up! So get quilting!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Eagle Scout Projects

Life, as you know, goes on whether we have a business or not. I don't seem to be very good at juggling everything, so when something extra comes along, my business (hobby) gets put on hold for a little while. Oh, I still keep up with shipping out sold items (if there were any, but that's a story for another day). It's the fresh creativity that hangs in the balance... sort of.

I started off the summer thinking I should finish my to-do list before the holiday rush set in. On my birthday in early July, I took the day off of the shop and motherhood and recovered the cushions for my living room set. Next on my list was the rag rugs for my sister-in-law. (I'm still working on those. It took several false starts before I was happy with my results.)

I have two handsome sons who have been working on their Eagle Scout Projects this summer. Joshua's project (on the left)is a Food Drive for the Salvation Army. There isn't too much I've had to do there except count cans of food. Jacob's project however (on the right), is collecting baby items for Newborns in Need. Since they love handmade things, I decided to clear out my "fabric stache" and make baby quilts. Now, as I sit here writing this, I realize I've done 30 baby quilts and blankets with four more quilts ready to be tied. I guess I got a little carried away there.

As you recall, when this post started out, I was bemoaning the lack of fresh creativity. It turns out this summer has been very creative, just in unexpected ways. I've found several different ways to use scraps of fabric by learning to do the rag rugs, and by doing the baby quilts. I'm planning a future "How-To" series of posts about "how-to" make rag rugs, complete with planning how much fabric you need, and how to use scraps for quilts and still have it look completely planned. So, as they say, "stay tuned" for more updates.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Relevancy...The New Buzz Word

As you know, I have a craft shop on Etsy called CalliesCraftCottage. Recently, Etsy has changed how they do their default search. To really understand why this is such a big deal, you need to understand how searches used to work.

The Old Search
The old search default used something called "Most Recent", meaning most recently listed. If I searched for the terms "pink glass", for example, at the top of the list I would find the item that was most recently listed, or relisted, that was made from pink glass. This wasn't a bad way to run the search, but it assumed that the most important item to you, the buyer, was the one most recently listed. When putting together a treasury, sometimes I would scroll through pages and pages of items just to find something that wasn't listed "today" because I purposely wanted to find something that had been listed a little longer. I suppose I'm just contrary that way sometimes.

Having come from an accounting background, that type of search makes me think of a LIFO, or "last in, first out" type of inventory management, which from a search standpoint makes no sense at all. It only makes any sense whatsoever if all inventory items are indistinguishable from each other. In the handmade craft world, it is totally senseless,  and I for one am very glad that Etsy has changed for the better.

The "Most Recent" type of default search contributed to "renew fever", that contagious little bug that made us all want to keep our products at the top of the lists, rather than buried down in the pages and pages of stuff. A listing stays active for four months before it dissappears or must be renewed, but you can renew at any time. To stay at the top of the searches, sellers would renew often, sometimes daily.

The New Search
The new default search uses something called "Most Relevant". Relevancy is defined as the relation of something to the matter at hand. So, today I searched for "pink glass" and search returned 65,272 items. The first ten things shown all said "pink glass" somewhere in their titles, but their listings were really varied in age: 8/5/11, 8/16/11, 8/21/11, 8/24,11/ 7/25/11, 8/10/11, 7 hours ago, 8/1/11, 57 minutes ago, 8/7/11, respectively. As a seller, I find that very encouraging. It means I don't have to renew my listings before they are due to be renewed, just to get them seen. I just have to title and tag them with words that are meaningful to a buyer.

Is "relevancy", therefore, a new strategy? I think not. We should have been using titles and tags that were relevant to start with. Does it mean sellers need to do business differently? Maybe. We need to look at our marketing strategies with new eyes. Those who were relying heavily on renewing daily to be seen can save their pennies to be used in different ways for their businesses. Those who, like me, didn't feel successful enough to waste our pennies on renewing, just might be seeing an increase in shop traffic, I know I am. Is it because of "relevancy", or because I joined a new team, or because I started a blog? I won't ever have the answer to that question, but I'm just grateful that for whatever serendipitous reason, my shop has more traffic. Now I just hope that traffic will translate that into more sales.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


It is with great pleasure and humility that I present IlzesCreations as my first featured artisan. Ilze is from Riga, Latvia and recently featured me in her blog. She uses a variety of techniques for a variety of crafts. Ilze makes hats, socks, shawls, and jewelry using felting, embroidery, sewing, crochet, and knitting techniques. She opened her shop in April of 2011, and it has matured greatly just in the short time since I first met her. Ilze is running a 20% off sale through the end of August in her Etsy shop, the code is ICSALE.