Storage Ideas for Crazy Quilters

Sharon Boggon 2010

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An aspect that attracts crazy quilters to this type of stitching is that you can use all sorts of embroidery styles and techniques in a crazy quilt, including lace, buttons, beads and memorabilia too! Unfortunately this has a downside, as all the bits and pieces used in crazy quilting can be a storage nightmare.

I learned early that storage disasters can be a huge time waster. Since I spent many years in the workforce, wasting precious studio time was something I decided I did not want to do. For crazy quilters foraging for this or that special item to include on a block can really take time. How many times have you been working a block and thinking about what you will put in a particular area of the block stirs a memory of a bit of lace, a special button or a lace motif? Then we go to find it and it takes hours!

Whenever that happened to me, in the process of looking for item I would find six others that were forgotten but also suitable for use on the block. Once I had found these items I would then realize everything was pulled out of cupboards, taken off shelves and pulled out of containers, leaving me no actual workspace! This is very frustrating if you are constrained by time in any way.

Years ago one Sunday afternoon I realized that half of my stitching time was spent looking for things. So I decided to get organized.

First, I pulled everything out and sorted crazy quilting stash separate from regular sewing and costuming stash. Then I sorted all of my crazy quilting stash to colour. When I am piecing and embellishing a crazy quilt block I usually make my selection decision based on colour and tone. So I decided since I was likely to go looking for "an extra bit of blue" or "a more tarnished gold" on a particular block I would store all supplies by colour.

This habit started with my fabric. Fabrics are stored in these baskets.

In the baskets in zip locked bags are lace, ribbon braid and items such as doilies that I have dyed. I keep them with the fabrics because I include lace as I piece.

As I am piecing, I will often think of a particular colour of lace or braid to fit with what I am doing. If all trims are kept in a zip lock bag, it is easy to reach for the appropriate baggie that has the trims in it I need.

Once blocks are pieced then I start the embroidery. I am spoiled, as years ago Jerry custom built a storage/sewing box for me to hold my threads. This unit lives in the lounge next to my regular chair and is very practical.

Inside all threads are sorted to colour. With space dyed threads I take the dominant colour and put them with that group. They are wound on the commercial plastic bobbin cards. I do not bother to keep brands or fibre types separate. Since I use them by colour I store them by colour.

I use these small clear plastic containers with a tight clip on the lid; they are small and hold about two teaspoons of beads. Since they are clear I can immediately see the colour and size of bead they contain. This means I do not have to pull out things to see what I have (it wastes good stitching time).

These containers are sorted by colour and stored in trays. These containers have a clear base so they are simply stored upside down in the tray. I simply scan my eye across the tray to select what is needed for the block I am working on. I take out the container I need and return it when done.

For all that, I still have bead soup colour sorted bead soup, but bead soup nevertheless. Bead soup is great for quick little projects because you can select one container and away you go. You will notice that there are some empty ones purchased new from the same cheapie shop. I have learned to factor in stash expansion because just like waistlines, stashes grow as we grow older and it's no good having the perfect system that cannot expand.

Buttons are also sorted by colour and in storage containers that I purchased in a hardware store.

Charms too are kept in clear containers.

In general, I have found that if I have to search for something it means it does not get used. In other words, if I put things away in plastic bags or tins that hide their contents I forget they exist. I have found that if I see it, I use it. So everything is in clear containers.

Another lesson I have learned is that odd shaped containers never quite stack in the corner the way you need them to. Along the way I have tried those round stackable containers that screw one on top of another. I found they simply use space awkwardly, because they are round. Square containers take up less space, and uniform square containers take up less space still.

I also declutter. If something is really not suitable I get rid of it, as I have plenty of really nice stuff to use and my life will be too short to use it all.

This system has been serving me faithfully for a long time, and I hope you find some tips that you can apply to your own workspace.

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