“Hey, I am cleaning out my mom’s house, and she has old fabric in drawers. Could you use it, Mary?” Quilters all know the correct answer to that question!
Between 1980 and a couple of years ago, I worked off and on in fabric stores. I watched the resurgence of interest in quilting, as people flocked in with patterns in hand, carefully selecting the exact yardage of color A, B, C and so on, to recreate the example. While many lovely creations came back to visit, something in me just wanted to see people draw from the “reuse” attitude that stemmed from earlier generations. I suspect that we are the first era of quilters with an entire industry catering to us and creating lovely matched sets of fabrics in quantities that boggle the mind.
“Excuse me, miss. I am new to quilting. When I finish my quilt, what do I do with the leftover scraps?” Save them, silly!
Being a sewer from age 7, who loved fabrics, I saved scraps of everything, and inherited my mom’s and a few friends’ stashes well. I have bought my share of lovely new pieces, but have grown very attached to making scrappy things using bits of leftover blouse fabrics from my childhood.
“Is it worth saving a piece less than, say, an eighth of a yard?” Well, duh, yes. Or you could give it to me!
At some point, I started chopping scraps into two-inch “treasures” and storing them in shoe boxes. Did you know that a men’s size 11 shoe box can hold about 4,000 two-inch treasures? Like a true fabriholic, I tucked away boxes in the back of my closet. Now, I live in a house that is over 90 years old, so closets are laughably small. Soon I started “storing” boxes in the basement pantry. But my kids noticed, and commented that perhaps I was getting carried away.
“Can I return my leftovers?” No comment.
Clearly I needed to be more discreet in managing my “collection.” The next logical spot was under my bed. Now no lectures, please. I realize that stress experts and Feng Shui practitioners frown on storing things under your bed. But we aren’t talking old tax returns here! As a lover of cloth, SURELY a few shoe boxes of fabric tidbits would not interfere with my beauty rest. Now firmly known as Two Inch Treasures, more valuable than a Mickey Mantle rookie card in MY world, boxes began to replace dust bunnies. I knew in my heart that I would soon be dreaming about the wonderful possibilities with all that potential under the bed!
“This is in the dress fabric section. Can I use it in a quilt?” Of course! And didn’t quilters of generations past actually recycle USED clothing that way?
Suddenly, after losing a job and kids growing up, I had some TIME on my hands and could sew something with all those tenderly stored tidbits. I wondered how many unique fabrics I had, and how many squares of each. I will spare you the tales of hours spent sorting, counting, taking over the dining room table for weeks. In the end, I had boxes converted to ‘kits’ of no duplicates! So Two Inch Treasure quilt #1 was born, resplendent in its 3,128 squares, from over 2,500 unique fabrics!
“Mom! I have more shoe boxes. Do you want them? Or should I recycle them?” Hmm, perhaps my little secret is not hidden so well after all.
Granted, I have enough for over a dozen king size quilts. But really, why would I say no to four lovely empty boxes that could be filled with Two Inch Treasures?
I do not want to put risers on my bed. Being conscientious, I am paring down my shoe box collection a bit. Watch my eBay auctions (seller: marye-originals) as they show there up in batches sometimes.
I keep writing about these fun quilts! check out these posts;