Thoughts from a fabriholic. No obsessions HERE!

“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?

– Mary

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;

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About thecuriousquilter

Quilter, sewer, writer, gardener, mother, sister, friend, always learning, always curious.
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37 Responses to Thoughts from a fabriholic. No obsessions HERE!

  1. Sarah Schultte says:

    How long does it actually take to piece 3000+ squares? I have always wanted to do this, but am afraid it would take me a lifetime. Thanks!

  2. I thought the same thing. Actually, sleeping on top of thousands of them, I was starting to have nightmares about it taking me a lifetime to sew them all together.

    However, I found once I started, it was pretty fast. I would say it maxed at about 40 minutes a square foot, including pressing time (sometimes less!) I did limit myself to only 2-4 a day, but at 2 square feet a day, that is 30 days to build enough 12.5″ blocks for a queen sized quilt.

    One nice thing is you do not have to be PERFECT with this project. I decided if some corners did not line up perfectly, I could easily live with that. It barely shows in the finished product.

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  4. Sarah Schultte says:

    Oh how neat! I want to win the 500 Two Inch Treasures! This would REALLY inspire me to try this type of quilt!

  5. Lynda says:

    I have seen some of your quilts and the fabric is wonderful! I would love to get some of it to make my own quilt.

  6. Judy Purman says:

    I too would love to win the 500 squares. In fact, I thought the whole idea of the squares was inspiring and have begun cutting 1″ and 2″ squares from scraps left over from piecing other blocks that aren’t big enough for anything else. Thanks!

  7. Donna says:

    This could be fun! Then again, these could just linger in my tubs. Oh heck, I want them anyway!

  8. Jill Harkins says:

    It would be lovely to win the 500 2 inch squares – I could put them to go use. I have seen a quilt Mary was making with the 2 inch square – it was beautiful!

  9. Alice Hamilton says:

    Of course, I’d like to win the treasures. I’ve caught the bug and am not ashamed! I have a little stash of Two Inch Treasures to begin my quilt, but not nearly enough for a finished one.
    Great job on the blog, Mary!

  10. Miss Nancy says:

    There is a bit of fabric history in those two inch squares. I would love to win some of those tidbits of fabric.
    Thank you for sharing and have a great day.

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  12. Tyia Huntsman says:

    I am so happy to know I’m not the only one that cuts up my old clothes still!!! I normally don’t create anything nearly as endearing as this. Thank you for the fantastic idea to justify my tendency to NEVER throw ANYTHING away!!!! 🙂 I hope your treasures give you the sweetest of dreams 🙂

  13. fleurette says:

    Wow! that is a lot of fabric. I would be happy to have just a small scrapbag.

  14. Teresa says:

    I have also been cutting up my scraps of fabric but not only in 2 inch squares but also in 3 and 5 inch. I keep them in plastic totes. I still have not made a quilt out of them. Although I have used my 2 inch squares for a watercolor wall hanging. I will post a photo of it on my blog today. I would love to win the 500 squares to add them to my collection. http://www.niftyfiftyquilters.blogspot.com

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  16. duff says:

    Amazing! I’m not really sure how I ended up at your blog but I’m happy I did! I have size 11 feet–I wonder how many squares my shoe boxes will hold!!

    • Well let’s see, my son’s size 10.5 boxes hold about 3000 in a standing rows one layer deep, could probably get 5000 in if I tried. 3,128 will make a 8×8 foot quilt! I am glad you found your way here, do come back sometime.

  17. Edna says:

    That is a real treasure for sure!

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  19. Dara says:

    Wow!!! Amazing, I would love to win.

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  22. Lydia says:

    I’m trying to figure out the arithmetic here. Yes, I’m a bit anal — but I can’t figure out how many squares by how many squares is equal to 3,128. 56×56=3,136; 56×55=3,080; 55×57=3,135; 54×58=3,132 — I can’t get to the number you say you used. So would you mind telling me how many squares you used in each direction?

    • Lydia is right about that , but here goes (pardon the math moment):

      The first two postage stamp quilts I made from ‘two inch treasures’ were 7×7 feet. I assemble them in 12.5 inch blocks, each block has 64 pieces. So 7×7=49×64=3136. HOWEVER, the very first one, pictured in my Gallery under Two Inch Treasures and shown on a clothesline, actually had 3,128 pieces! How? Well some were oversized to bring in wonderful photos of the owner’s grandchildren,

      So the first one WAS 3, 128 and that number stuck in my brain, and was carried forward.

      That said, the first quilt had 3,128 pieces, the second (7×7 feet) had 3,136, the third (6×6) had 2,304, and the latest one featured in my “another Big Hug” post (which is a full 8×8 feet) actually has 4,096 two inch squares! (Gulp.)

      And why do I sew them into blocks instead of long rows? A few reasons. One is that I find it easier to square up, and to at least attempt to match up corners, in the smaller units. I find no joy in sewing skinny strips of squares on to a larger, growing piece. It is also easier to press as you go , you can press each block into submission before assembling the whole quilt. And lastly, I can pick it up and work on one block at a time, and set it aside easily too.

      Thanks, Lydia, for pushing this question forward!

  23. Lydia says:

    Thanks, Mary, for settling that nagging question for me 😉 I confess, I’m one of “those” people, but that would have just sat in the back of my mind, poking at me. So thanks for the clarification. I agree with your reasons for making blocks first. Also, it seems to me like trying to make a 6, 7 or 8 foot long string of 2″ squares, and get them all sewn together with even edges is a tall order — much easier to do rows of 8 than rows of 64 little squares.

  24. Penny says:

    I’m IMPRESSED! I’ve put in a bid on one of your ebay offers…don’t think I want to make a WHOLE quilt with the 3000+..think I’ll make 4 square blocks & mix with solids….or something. But I admire your stamina on that kingsize quilt!!!

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  31. Sharon Camp says:

    That is an amazing amount a pieces. Doing the math just takes time, do the sewing and watching all the corners will take an eternity, but the end result will be a work of art.

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