Quilt Studio Archaeology and Purge, Part III

This post is a continuation of yesterday’s post: Quilt Studio Archeology and Purging, Part II.

How well do we know each other? Are we at the point that I can bare my soul and share with you my deepest secrets? Can we talk about “Fat Quarter Pathology” (and can you try not to judge…okay you can judge a little..I deserve it…)

But before I bare my fat quarter hoarding soul here’s a couple definitions so we are all on the same page:

Fat Quarter – a quarter yard of fabric cut into a rectangle that measures 18″ x 21″, commonly packaged with other fat quarters into a themed fat quarter pack.

Pathology – any deviation from a healthy, normal, or efficient condition (Dictionary.com)

Are you ready? Alright here is my darkest fabric hoarding secret…

Fat Quarter Pathology

When I started quilting around 1999/2000 and discovered the magic of fabric shopping, I also discovered my love of little “fabric samples”. I was not into collecting scraps yet (or making many scraps as I only had a quilt or two under my belt). I was intimidated to buy a bunch of yardage when I saw a fabric collection I liked, but I did like buying a fat quarter bundle of the fabric collection that gave me a sample of many of the different fabrics in a collection.

This attraction to fat quarter bundles (usually or 6 – 8 fabrics) morphed into an attraction of fat quarters in general, including individually fat quarters. Quilt shops would display baskets of individual fat quarters and sell them in “baker’s dozens” so if you bought 12 you got 1 free.

Perhaps I only need a couple fat quarters (or likely none) but how could I turn down getting ONE free. So I would buy 12 to get the 13th free (makes sense, huh?)

Fat quarter bundles for a future project, individual fat quarters, fat quarters given to me as gifts, fat quarters won at Quilter’s Bingo, fat quarter found at thrift shops, and more, and more and more fat quarters…

I kept them organized, I kept them…IN THE CLOSET:

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I knew as part of the Quilt Studio “Archaeological Dig” I needed to go beyond just looking through them in their containers, I needed to go through them, find the treasures I wanted to keep and let go of what I would never use. I always try to keep lessons from Marie Kondo’s book – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing in mind.

Marie Kondo says you have to actually look at and hold every single item you own in your hands and decide if it is brings you joy. Every single item.

I knew I needed to go through every fat quarter. Then I needed to create a better system to store them which encouraged me to use them, not just try to create the world’s first Fat Quarter Museum.

The big step first – go through every fat quarter – here is my secret revealed – it was all laid out in the huge pile on my floor:

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I am a fat quarter hoarder!

There it is, now you know. Watch for my story on a future episode of the American TV show Hoarders (there was a UK version of this show but I forgot the name of it). I will be the one sleeping in a mattress in the corner surrounded by piles and piles of fat quarters. The Health Department will send a public health worker for an intervention…

But seriously, I was shocked at the sheer volume of the amount of fat quarters I had in my collection. I just kept accumulating them. I had purged a little in the past but obviously not enough to make a dent.

The Intervention

Similar to what you might see on a reality show about hoarding, I had to get honest with myself, deal with this pile and then find a meaningful way to organize what I kept.

Previously I organized my scraps by color (see post When all else fails, reorganize your fabric scraps) and I tend to think in colors rather than in fabric lines or fabric collections when I am working on a textile project, so I decided to organize the fat quarters I was keeping into the following groups:

  • Black, white, black & white patterns, and gray
  • Creams and fabrics where cream to light beige is the predominant color
  • Browns
  • Yellows
  • Oranges
  • Reds
  • Purples
  • Greens
  • Blues
  • Teals & Turquoises (I struggle with sorting these into blues or greens so I decided to just let them be their own group)

Interesting, the colors I had the most of in fat quarters, also reflected the colors I had the most of in my fabric yardage:

  1. Green
  2. Blue
  3. Red & Orange (tied)

I cleared out another standing storage drawer set and arranged the fat quarters in drawer set so I could easily access them. I also had to use the bottom drawer of another drawer set for the Blues.

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When I dumped out the fat quarters from their previous containers, I pre-sorted them by color into piles on the floor (see photo above). When I put them away by color, I looked at EACH fat quarter and made a decision whether to keep or donate.

Here was my criteria:

  1. Do I love this fabric and do I find it visually pleasing?
  2. Is it high quality quilting cotton (when I first started quilting, I would only buy inexpensive fabric at chain craft stores)?
  3. Would I use it in a future project and is it still my style (our tastes change over the years)?

Using this criteria I was able to pull out many fat quarters for donation:

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At one point I likely loved all the fat quarters shown in the donation pile above but not any longer – there is no joy for me in that pile!

Epilogue

Now that this project is over, I know I do not need to add any more fat quarters to my life (as I appear to have enough for several lifetimes!)

If you have followed my blog for a while you likely know a little about my minimalism journey and my quest to curate my life with only those items that bring me joy. I have removed and donated so much from my life such as household items, trinkets and kitsch and clothing (I probably own only 25% of the clothes I used to own).

The challenge with my craft supplies is that they BRING ME JOY and I think this is why I have saved this deeper dive into my crafting related supplies for last.

Another bit of Marie Kondo always in the back of my mind:

The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.

So fat quarters I no longer love – be gone! I am not going to worry about the money lost for bringing you into my life. I hope via my local thrift shop you will find your way into some other crafter’s life who will appreciate you (or perhaps hoard you in their collection, oh no….).

Thanks for letting me share with you my true confessions and my ongoing journey to curate my life to only the things that are useful and bring me joy.

26 thoughts on “Quilt Studio Archaeology and Purge, Part III

  1. feistyfroggy says:

    This was very interesting! I’m sure we all have collections of things we love that need culled. I love the connection to KonMari! Keep up the good work…and btw, you are a FORMER fat quarter hoarder! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. kelleysdiy says:

    THE SPACE IN WHICH WE LIVE SHOULD BE FOR THE PERSON WE ARE BECOMING NOW, NOT FOR THE PERSON WE WERE IN THE PAST.I agree with this so much. My bestest friend is moving…I have been helping her pack up…she has soooo much stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. marthaginn says:

    Good for you to tackle this condition of so many FQs. My yardage fabrics are color-arranged, but FQs tend to want to be their own little (or big) area, sometimes defying the sorting rule we have set up. I love to make scrap quilts–Log Cabin, strips/strings, and it seems NOTHING does not look good in these. The doggy fabrics allow the beautiful ones to shine. So every time I throw something into the doggy (discard) pile, I think how great that would look in a strip-pieced quilt. Good work, Tierney–carry on!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. knitnkwilt says:

    It is a dilemma–the desire to eliminate Vs. the desire to have just the right fabric at hand when we start a project, the desire to love all fabrics Vs. the desire to have the right dull (unloved) to show off a bright (loved). Add to that the knowledge that a shade/tine/tone now may not appear for years due to marketing decisions. The only thing easy for me to dump is the non-quilt-quality fabrics. I don’t know if I am cheering your purge or enabling your hoarding, but I do know I am agreeing that it isn’t easy.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. onecreativefamily says:

    Thank you for the wonderful post. I tend to look at what I have and think, “OHHHHHHH, what I can make with this.” This is a bad way to think. I will adopt your ideas and thought process. Much healthier.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Cindy Anderson says:

    I love the quote by Marie! It would make a wonderful little inspirational quilt. I think your confession about owning a stash that contains both liked and no longer liked fabrics could be echoed by many of us. Kudos to you for admitting it and for following through! Now stay strong in your mantra to not add to your collection. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  7. handmade habit says:

    Thanks for sharing the purging and organizing journey, and congrats on your new arrangement, Tierney. I like the Marie Kondo quote; a good reminder to live in the present. I’m sure the donated fat quarters will make plenty of quilters and crafters very, very happy!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tina Kercher says:

    I really enjoy your reading your blog and your KonMari transformation. My son purged so much he has had to repurchase, but that is also is part of the process since he is just starting out on his own.

    I wish more quilters around here would read that book! I love the challenge of making something new with nice thrifted fabrics. I must still be in the hoarding stage even though I just did a huge craft room purge and reorg.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tierneycreates says:

      Thanks so much Tina for your comments! That has happened to me where I got rid of something I had to repurchase but I do not mind as it was worth it. The Minimalists have a 20/20 rule that I like – http://www.theminimalists.com/jic/ – “Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location.”
      Yes I love working with recycled fabrics! Congrats on your purge and reorganization – I found so many cool and fun things and when I did this (and also so many things that I could not believed I purchased!) 🙂

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