Posted on January 10, 2013
Day Two of the Stitch Savvy blog tour! I asked the lovely ladies who are taking part of the tour to follow one “path” through the book and share it with you, and today Kathy Mack of Pink Chalk Fabrics and Pink Chalk Studio is doing just that. Stitch Savvy is meant to be an intermediate sewing book–not the super beginning skills, but not a niche book focused on very advanced or esoteric or obscure sewing, either. I designed the book with five “tracks” based on the idea that most of us gravitate toward one type of sewing (in this case, the five are home decor, sewing for kids, handbags, garments, and quilting). On top of that, to encourage us to try sewing projects we might not otherwise be drawn to attempt, each project leads you to “next steps,” other projects in the book that share skills or techniques with the one you’ve just done. So you can follow a track (do all the quilting projects) or do all the Level 1 projects (one in each of the five tracks) or you can skip between tracks and follow a path through the projects based on recommendations at the end of each one.
Kathy is sharing her path today, and I’m super excited not just to see how the book led her through a series of projects, but also to see how excited she was as each new project was “revealed”! How totally fun for me to observe someone going through this book that I’ve been nesting with for so long.
I’m sharing with you another version of a book project that didn’t make it into the pages of the book: the Ribboned Envelope Pillow.
This is the Level 1 project from the Home Dec section, the very first project in the book. It’s another approach to sewing a pillow, something to add to your toolbox on top of the pillow in Stitch by Stitch. On top of that, I like that this project asks you to think about what you can do to a pillow front before you assemble the pillow itself–once you recognize that you can embellish or quilt or stencil or bedazzle the front of any pillow, your whole house opens up!
It’s also a chance to work with pleats, which show up in a number of projects throughout the book. I like gathers, but I LOVE pleats, and tend to use them where patterns call for gathers. Something about the crisp structure of them really speaks to me.
This one sits in the playroom at our house, which I very recently stripped down and re-organized, spurred on by my success with the closets. I emptied all the cases and shelves of every toy and re-arranged and displayed them, so now sitting in this chair looking out the sunroom windows is a joy! And I’ve got a lovely pillow to rest against.
Take the time to tour Kathy’s excellent blog while you’re peeking in on her Stitch Savvy post. I had the great pleasure of visiting with her at Quilt Market in Houston this past October, and she is smart and thoughtful and very witty–plus she has exceptionally good taste in fabric and patterns, and genuinely loves not just sewing, but interacting with others who love it, too, and building a community. Plus she’s got real vision about how the interwebs can work for those of us who sew, and offers downloadble patterns right from her site, along with a fantastic selection of tools and notions that you don’t often see from online vendors. If you’re not already subscribed to Pink Chalk Studio, Kathy’s blog, or getting the Pink Chalk newsletter, I can’t encourage you enough to do so, like, today. You’ll thank me later.
See the rest of the Stitch Savvy blog tour in the next ten days, and on the final day, check back here for a giveaway and a surprise!
Posted on January 9, 2013
Today’s the first official day of the Stitch Savvy blog tour! I am delighted to let me friends take over most of the reveals and inside peeks on the book, and while they do, I’m going to take the chance to share with you some of the garments that didn’t make the pages!
As I was working on the patterns and designs for Stitch Savvy, I had such fun–I mean, really almost unnatural amounts of fun–picking out and investing in the fabrics I used to bring these projects to light. When I wrote Stitch by Stitch, I used fabrics that I had on hand or that were very popular at the time, and didn’t really give much thought to how they would photograph or even (I know, it’s shameful) to how they would show off a particular project. The ones that I chose because I just loved the fabric and wanted to use it–like Bari J’s fabric on the pillow that’s featured on the back cover of Stitch by Stitch–were the ones that got the biggest reaction and most compliments, and I learned something from that: choose the things that YOU love best, and they’ll show off the prettiest and brightest, because that’s where you will have put your heart and time and energy, as well.
So with Stitch Savvy, I worked hard to choose fabrics that I loooooved, for the reasons above and also because I learned after the first book that all these samples COME HOME, so if I made one in fabrics I wouldn’t ordinarily choose, thinking that someone else would like it and I should play to their tastes, I was just going to end up getting it back later–and not knowing what to do with it. These fabrics are ones I wanted to have and to wear and to use over and over.
That also meant I had a hard time editing the fabrics down, because I did love all of them so much. Which means that when it came time to photograph the projects for the book, I had two or three (and sometimes four) photo-worthy samples for each project. It was a LOT of sewing. Not all of them could be featured in the book’s pages, but I can show them off now!
Today on the blog tour, Amber of One Shabby Chick, one of the most talented and warm and aesthetically-minded bloggers I know, is sharing her impressions of Stitch Savvy. And I’m sharing with you the Wherever Jacket, one of the five women’s garment patterns featured in the book. I wanted a great unlined jacket that could be dressed up or down and could be made in a variety of fabrics to suit every season–there are two in the book, and then this third to share with you today!
Check out Amber’s blog and see her amazing sewing while you’re there reading about Stitch Savvy–she’s tremendously gifted at the machine and has the best eye for putting fabrics together and making what could be a simple project–like a camera strap or a zippered pouch–become something lovely to treasure through her stitching. See the rest of the stops on the blog tour in the coming two weeks, and I hope you love every glimpse these talented bloggers give you!
Posted on January 8, 2013
Hooray! My second book, Stitch Savvy, is out in the world and available. It was two years in the making, and quite honestly, a ton of work–but I think it’s just beautiful, and couldn’t be more grateful to my publishing and editorial team at F+W for making it such a joy to hold!
I’ve asked some of my very favorite people to help me introduce the book to you over the next two weeks, and I am so flattered and pleased that they’ve agreed–so over the coming days, I’ll be showing photos of some of the projects from the book, and then leading you over to their sites to see more from the inside, hear their impressions, and get excited about taking your sewing to the next level!
Stitch Savvy is written as a kind of sequel to Stitch by Stitch, and is geared to the advanced-beginner-to-intermediate sewing level. I wrote Stitch by Stitch because I really wanted a go-to book for folks who were very first learning to sew, something that started at the very beginning and worked in a logical sequence from there. I love the book, and have been overwhelmed by how many people have really enjoyed using it, and even how many shops have designed beginning sewing classes using the projects I designed! Stitch Savvy will hopefully pick up where Stitch by Stitch left off, and is designed to allow each reader to choose their own sequence of projects as they work through the book. I’ll let the folks on the blog tour tell you more about that, but I’m really excited about the format of the book and the projects in it–I hope you love them!
For a sneak peek of the insides of the book and a little more about it while you wait for the blog tour to get rolling, check out this lovely mention on Sew, Mama, Sew from the holiday season.
Stitch Savvy blog tour
Wednesday, January 8: One Shabby Chick
Thursday, January 9: Pink Chalk Studio
Friday, January 10: Noodlehead
Monday, January 13: Fresh Lemons
Tuesday, January 14: This Mama Makes Stuff
Wednesday, January 15: I’m a Ginger Monkey
Thursday, January 16: MADE
Friday, January 17: Stitched in Color
Monday, January 20: The Long Thread
Tuesday, January 21: Creative Thursday
Wednesday, January 22: right here on Whipstitch, where I’ll be giving away a copy of the book PLUS two samples from it!
Posted on January 7, 2013
Good heavens. That Instagram. It’s a breeding ground for quilt viruses. And this one was a treasure to suffer through. Thanks to Katy, Rita and Brenda, the #scrappytripalong sprang up between Christmas and New Year’s, and within three days of watching everyone’s photos roll past, I was sunk. I’m may be a sucker, but I’m a sucker with a hot little quilt, y’all!
Rather than go in true scrappy fashion and throw fabrics in willy-nilly (because my particular constitution makes it near impossible for me to shut down my brain long enough to truly avoid editing my selections), I started with a fat quarter bundle of Honey Child and then added in bits and pieces from my scrap bag and my stash in colors that went with those bright and happy hues. Then, for good measure, I threw in a strip of Kona white every third fabric–I almost always choose a solid OTHER than white, but in this case, I thought it would look a bit like Granny squares in a good way, and figured, What’s the worst that can happen?
The hash tag folk on IG were all using the Scrappy Trips Around the World tutorial, which is strip-pieced. It makes these blocks insanely addictive an quick to stitch up–to the degree that I meant to stop at 30 blocks and do a quilt that measured 60″ x 72″, but FORGOT TO STOP PIECING and ended up with 36 blocks. At 72″ square, this is the largest quilt top I’ve made in a long while–I don’t think I’ve gone over 60″ x 60″ since I made the Chain Reaction quilt for our son. And that was years ago! Here are all the blocks laid out on the living room floor, just before I stitched the final one and plopped it in place. I love the bright cheerfulness of these colors–really looks like me!
When all the blocks go together, you can do any number of settings–I like the basic many trips setting, since I think it looks like those God’s Eye things we all made out of yarn at summer camp. Remember those? Can’t you totally see that in the center of each diamond here?
I did throw in some darker fabrics here and there, and wonder if I should have avoided that. They certainly stand out, but on the whole, don’t bother me–I just wonder if I would have liked the overall effect more with a more consistent value. Which is why I’ll be doing another in ALL YELLOW. Whipstitch rides again!
I confess that I used not a single pin anywhere in the making of this quilt top. Some of the seams don’t line up perfectly, but I don’t think any are off by more than 1/8″, if that much. The tutorial tells you to iron all your seams to the side, facing one another, which I did. I know a lot of my Instagram friends chose to press their seam allowances open, but with 1/4″ seams that always burns my fingers, and I love working with locking seams when it comes to putting a block together. Pressing to the side following the tutorial instructions worked really well for me, and the majority of these seams line right up, even without pins.
Before I can quilt it, I’ve got my two postage stamp quilts to finish. I’ve GOT to get on those, since we’re making the big out-of-the-crib-into-the-toddler-bed switch in the next six weeks (eek! no more baby in the crib!!), and I’d like to have matching quilts for the girls when we do that. But once those are finished, and my thread order arrives, I am so on quilting this–hopefully by Valentine’s Day or so? At which point I can make the yellow one. Oooh, I think I’ll call that one the Yellow Wonder. Just planning ahead.
Posted on January 4, 2013
Can you believe it?? The FOURTH year we have done Sewing Buddies. That’s crazy town! I can hardly even think about how much has happened in those four years, and I am so excited to see another round of Sewing Buddies get paired up. I very clearly remember sitting on a sofa we no longer have in a basement we no longer own reading through emails and matching up that very first group of Buddies–over 200 of them. And every year since, I have had the pleasure and privilege of going through the process again with a new batch of folks, and then seeing where those relationships bloom.
The Sewing Buddy Project began in 2010 in response to an informal survey I sent out, asking people to examine what it is that prevents us from reaching our sewing goals, and looking for ways to surmount those obstacles and achieve Sewing Greatness in 2010. Each year since then, we’ve worked on the same ideas and continued to build–and the most popular of those is the Sewing Buddy Project, the idea that a pen pal who loves sewing as much as you do will keep you motivated and on-task, and give you encouragement and inspiration to get the sewing done that you most want to do! The Sewing Buddy Project has always been FREE, and is largely a service I provide to match people up to one another–where you go with your Buddy after that is totally up to the two of you!
Last year was the first year we did Sewing Buddy Challenges. The idea behind the Sewing Buddy Challenges was that once each quarter, every three months, I would present a sewing task for Buddies to accept, using a theme or concept. I wanted a way for us to build community that had a time frame and a deadline–there are lots of ways to jump in and get to know one another, but something that’s got a firm end date tends to get our creative juices going, right? And what better way to get to know someone than by working with them! The entries were posted to Flickr, and winners were chosen with prizes and everything. This year, I had planned three, but we ended up doing only two–the first was amazingly awesome with tons of participation and excitement.
The second was a little more subdued, as we got into the summer months and our days got busy and sewing wasn’t always a top priority. Which is a shame, because I loved the idea behind it, and loved seeing the Sewing Buddy projects come in–all the sewn projects in the photos in this post were made by Sewing Buddies in 2012! Something wasn’t quite gelling, though, which is fine–I think in any endeavor, the most important thing is to listen to feedback and work to make it better. Sewing Buddies is a project that I truly believe is worth tweaking and making better.
So this year, I’m asking for those of you who want to sign up to be a Sewing Buddy in 2013 to suggest ideas for how we can all interact with one another this year. As part of your comment, you’ll include ONE suggestion for a project, outreach, bee, challenge, ______along, or what-have-you that might be appropriate for the Sewing Buddies for this year! See the two challenges from 2012 for ideas, but keep in mind that I’m looking for three really GREAT suggestions for the later months of 2013–I already have an idea for the first quarter, which we’ll roll out in February once all the Buddies are matched up. I’ll select three suggestions from all the Buddy comments, and we’ll be on our way into a new year with new Buddies to inspire our sewing!
Additionally, I’m bringing back the Sewing Buddy Inspiration e-mails! That’s right: all my 2013 Sewing Buddies will be added to the list to receive my Sewing Inspiration emails, and will receive a monthly message of stitchy motivation, right in their inbox, complete with ideas and techniques to help you really bring your A-game to the current quarter’s sewing challenge. You have to participate to get the email, though. Doesn’t that totally make you want to play along??
As in the past, it all begins with you throwing your name in the hat, so let’s get started!
Guidelines for 2013 Sewing Buddy Project participation:
That’s it! I’ll begin matching names in the magic whirly-bin of Sewing Buddy Science on January 15, 2013. Sign-ups will close February 1, 2013 at midnight. Pairs will be notified no later than February 2, 2013 and the first Sewing Buddy activity will be announced the same day!
To participate in the 2013 Sewing Buddy Project:
That’s it! I’m really looking forward to hearing more from all of you this year, can am so pleased so many of you are looking to continue the Sewing Buddy love. Hooray!
Posted on January 3, 2013
Hooray!! A whole new year has begun. And I have an overwhelming sense of optimism this year. I’m excited to see what comes and where it goes, and how I will fit into that picture. Are you feeling it, too? Because I keep hearing, from people close to me and from strangers, that we’re all ready for brighter days, and that this winter, we’re taking our cue from the world outside our windows: resting and rejuvenating and renewing ourselves beneath the surface, so that as the sun returns and the air becomes warm again, we can burst forth in the most vibrant and electric version of ourselves.
I think that’s what taking a class and learning something new is all about–truly, I don’t just say that from some cliche sales place. The most marvelous thing about the internet is the way in which it has given us the means to explore and discover and learn on a near-constant basis, if we’re only looking for it. Your teachers might be folks who are learning alongside you, or folks who have been experts longer than you’ve been alive, or something in between. But always, I think, most of what it means to be human is to be looking for a place where we can grow and explore.
I’m beyond excited about my 2013 e-courses. I’ve been teaching online since early 2010, and it has been such an incredibly rewarding and challenging and inspiring experience for me, so each year when I compile the list of classes I’d like to offer, I get a little bit buzzy about it! I really sit down and look at what I’ve taught before and what I’ve been asked to offer, plus what else is available online and in person, and how my online classes can be a part of that but add something new. I really think I’ve been able to do that in 2013 in a way that I haven’t in years past, and I’m so excited to share it all with you today!
Announcing: the 2013 Whipstitch Sewing E-courses class list! Read details and background below, and visit the e-course page for more details on dates and registration for the classes that interest you. Feel free to leave a comment or email me directly if you have questions by writing deborah (at) whipstitchfabrics (dot) com!
Essential Sewing and Essential Quilting
In past years, I have offered an Essential Sewing course–designed for those new to sewing or the self-taught looking for a more formal class–and an Essential Quilting class–a similar course to Essential Sewing, but focused on quilting and quilt-making skills from start to finish. Because I limit how many classes I teach to seven per year, and because I liked to offer Essential Sewing twice each year plus Essential Quilting, that meant I could only offer four other e-course titles each year. But I LOVE coming up with new classes and new projects and inviting back students who have taken courses with me before to learn something they haven’t tried before. So this year, I’m mixing it up: Essential Sewing and Essential Quilting are going year-round!
Both of these classes are now going to be offered on an a la carte, on-going basis rather than as a six-week series. That means you can start whenever you like, take as long as you like, review the lessons as often as you like, and STILL be able to join any of my other online classes throughout the year as your skills catch up. I really think this is going to be such a great option for so many folks who felt they needed to start with the Essential Sewing class, but found that the scheduling didn’t line up with their lives. Same with Essential Quilting, where students really wanted to review lessons again and again as they became more skilled, seeking to really cement those foundational skills as they developed new ones–this option will allow you permanent access that never expires to all the content of these classes!
Plus, not only do you get to access ALL the lessons forever, but you don’t lose the one-on-one element of the classes that I always loved the most. The number of spaces available in each class for new students per quarter will be limited, allowing me to answer each of your questions and comments individually, so you’ll still get the attention you need and the answers you’re looking for, just for you. And with a live chat every quarter for each class, you can even have real-time interaction with me and your classmates! It’s the community that gets built in these classes that’s my favorite part, and I didn’t want to lose that–I think that the new format will enhance it, and I’m so excited to see new faces there!
Sewing with Knits
Back by popular demand! Sewing Knits without the Serger is a great class for working with these amazing fabrics that we all love to live in, but so few of us regularly sew. I taught this class first in 2010 and again in 2011, but didn’t have room in my schedule in 2012–and so many of you let me know that you’d been eagerly waiting to see it appear on the schedule! So after making arrangements to have the Essential Sewing & Essential Quilting classes go year-round, I’ve got time to add Sewing Knits back in, and I’m so excited to teach it FIRST this year. I adore knit fabrics and love introducing folks to working with them, leading them to build their confidence. We go over where to buy them–and what to buy–along with what needles, what thread, how to work with the pattern, how to adjust fit, and then make four projects that you’ll love to wear and make over and over again. Patterns are included in the class, and are staples for any wardrobe! Winter is such a great time to be thinking about working with soft knit fabrics, and the skills will be a delight in the summer when you’re looking for a quick project to satisfy.
For more details on the lessons, the projects and to register for the class, visit the Sewing Knits page! This class begins January 28, 2013–spaces are limited, and it’s only offered once this year. Just so you know, and stuff.
Sewing Clothing for Kids
The Sewing Clothing for Kids e-course has been such a fun, fun class to teach over the past few years. It really appeals not just to moms and folks who want to sew for the little ones in their lives, but also to stitchers who don’t sew a lot of clothing and are looking for a place to get their feet wet with apparel that has a little less pressure than making a fitted dress for ourselves. Because kids sizing and fit can be more forgiving, you’ve got a little more margin for error here, and that has made this class such a great place to cut your teeth on making garments! Even if you’ve sewn clothing in the past, the class comes with piles of ideas for altering patterns to use them in new ways–like turning a button-front bodice into a button-back bodice on a girls dress, or swapping out buttons for a zipper on a reversible jacket–that there is plenty of inspiration for someone who is beyond the beginner level. With eight great patterns for girls and boys in sizes 12 months through 6, there is something here for you no matter what your sewing goals might be!
For more information on the patterns and skills included in this class, including pictures of the projects, check out the Sewing Clothing for Kids e-course page.
A new class this year, I am beyond excited about Everyday Handbags! When I was writing Stitch Savvy, I really spent a lot of time thinking about what it is that we’re all looking for in the perfect bag, and what makes a hand-made bag go from simple to stupendous. I think I’ve really put together a fantastic selection of go-anywhere bags for all occasions, from totable to danceable and plenty in between. None of us is just a mom or just a worker or just a dreamer or just a woman–we’re a lot of things rolled together, and we want to be able to be all those things with the perfect handbag. This five-week class is designed to walk you through making FIVE such bags, in fabrics from classic to fancy, so that you’re ready to tackle every day with the most appropriate accessory.
Everyday Handbags will begin registration in early March 2013. Keep an eye on the e-courses page for more details!
Of all the classes I’m teaching online this year, Summer Dresses might be the one about which I am most excited. Probably because I live in dresses in the summer–they’re so simple, just put it on and you’re dressed! Mix up the fabric, the trim, and the details, and BAM! You can take just a handful of patterns and you’ll be set for an entire season and beyond. And if you’re living in a climate like mine, here in the Deep South, a handful of dresses can last you from April through October, no question. So Summer Dresses is a class I’ve been dreaming of for a while, and I’m over the moon to offer it in 2013! This five-week class comes with three original patterns and guides you through making the basic design PLUS plenty of variations along the way to make a really exciting wardrobe for the warmer months. Won’t be warm where you when the class is offered? Join us anyway, and sharpen your skills for the coming summer!
Summer Dresses will begin registration in early May 2013. Keep an eye on the e-courses page for more details!
The Four-Piece Wardrobe e-course is such a great class to teach, and to take. It’s based on the Patterns classes I’ve taught in person in Atlanta, and is designed to be an introduction to working with and mastering a commerical printed pattern for garment sewing. That means we really walk through what pattern companies are out there, how they differ, how to choose a pattern, how to prepare it and work with it, and THEN we sew up four awesome garments, tackling lots of pattern-sewing skills along the way. It’s always exciting to develop this skill alongside other folks who are learning the same thing, and this class has consistently been one of the best communities and experiences I could have asked for. If you’ve finished Essential Sewing and are looking to make garments for adults, I can’t recommend highly enough taking this class next!
To learn more about the patterns we’re using in this class, and see images of the projects, check out the Four-Piece Wardrobe e-course page.
Last year, I taught a Home Decor e-course. Of all the projects we did in the class, the ones I loved the best were the slip covers, and I felt almost sad that we couldn’t do more of them. Then I realized: we can! This e-course is all about how to create slip covers from very, very simple–covering a pillow–to much more complex–covering a chair. We go over how to plan your project, how to avoid as much math as possible, how to create a template or pattern for your fabric, and how to make your slip cover look as professional as possible. By walking through covering pillows, an ottoman, a shaped stool, and two styles of chair, you’ll have the skills you need to tackle the furniture that’s been begging for new fabric–without a trip to the upholsterers! Plenty of techniques and instruction on adding those little details that make a project look really professional, and lots of eye candy along the way. Hooray for slip covers!
Slip Covers will begin registering in early August 2013. Keep an eye on the e-courses page for more details!
Happy Handmade Holidays
We have offered a Christmas Camp in years past at the shop, but most years I was so underwater with all the other things I felt hadtohadtohadto get done that I didn’t get to make all the projects the ladies were teaching. This year, I resolved to change all that, and designed a Happy Handmade Holidays class, where we could ALL get our Christmas sewing done well before the holiday season took over our days. And you know what? It was SO MUCH FUN. I had my holiday sewing done AND my shopping done by the week of Thanksgiving, and the entire holiday experience was a zillion times more enjoyable as a result. As the class drew to a close, it occurred to me that “holidays” is a pretty broad term, and there are lots of other holidays throughout the year that aren’t Christmas. Wouldn’t it be cool if this online class evolved and expanded to include those, too? Yes, yes it would.
So it is. The Happy Handmade Holidays class currently hosts fourteen original Christmas projects, complete with video, audio, images and downloadable patterns. You can register at any time to join in on the winter wonderland magic. In October 2013, I’ll be ADDING to that content, and teaching a five-week series of fall holiday projects, including Harvest, Halloween and Thanksgiving! The Christmas content will be there forever, we’ll add fall this coming fall, and each year after that, we’ll add another holiday “season” to the mix. One registration gets you FOREVER access to this content, and you can join in the fun any time! If you missed taking Happy Handmade Holidays this year, or if you just love yourself some Christmas, register now and you’ll get all the fall sewing projects when they roll out in October–along with the company and daily interaction of a five-week class full of other stitchers who love the holidays, too.
To see more details on this class or to register, visit the Happy Handmade Holidays e-course page!
Thanks for making 2012 so amazing, all of you. I’m looking forward to seeing both new and familiar faces in my e-courses this year–with hopes that we’ll all get a little closer to our sewing dreams in 2013!
Posted on January 2, 2013
OK, for those of you who haven’t fallen asleep while I chronicle the scintillating closet cleaning project upon which I’ve embarked, another project complete! I didn’t think I’d be this excited about getting this task done, but I honestly spent part of our New Year’s Eve celebration telling friends about it. Which is completely lame. And then they were all impressed, so the question is: not lame, or friends lame like me? I’m actually hoping for the latter, because the thing we should all wish for this year is to find Our People, the ones who Get Us. And I am nerdily enthusiastic about this geeky closet adventure.
Step 1: Assess and evaluate
This seemed like the worst of all the closets, by far. I have arranged and re-arranged this one at least three times that I can think of since we moved into this house a year ago, and because of the alarming rate at which we go through sheets an towels, plus the disturbing number of linens we have, it always got out of control. Look:
Just way too much stuff. Plus, I mentioned before that there is space for another shelf on the upper level, but no shelf to fit there. So my assessment of this space was that we needed to add a shelf and get rid of some things, and then arrange everything in a way that made sense–towels at eye level, sheets all together, pool towels tucked out of the way until pool season, spare pillows up high for when guests come. Nothing too major, but it was going to take some time.
Step 2: Purge and empty
This wasn’t hard, but it took well over an hour to pull everything out, sort it into stacks (sheets, towels, non-sheet blankets, quilts, pillows, and non-linen things that still go in the linen closet, like footstool slip covers and kitchen towels).
I JUST DID THIS when we moved out of our old house, and again when we moved out of our rental house–how can it be that I needed to do it again? I think going in slightly hungry and a little impatient made me less tolerant than I would have been otherwise. I was pretty ruthless, even getting rid of a quilt or two that I had never really loved.
I drafted my oldest in to help me by sorting through the things that we tossed out, and bagging those up. She made the list that we used to itemize our donation, and the added side-effect was that I only really saw things one or two times, so no chance for pity or second thoughts. Once I’d let it go, it was GONE.
I don’t own a table saw, so I couldn’t cut down the shelf we have that could go on the upper brackets if it fit. Instead, I figured I’d go ahead and start putting things away, and we’d burn that bridge when we got to it. Having the whole thing empty for the first time in a long time was pretty nice, though, I won’t lie. Since it’s situated along a narrow hall, anytime it overflows it’s pretty inconvenient. See:
It’s bad enough that the trim is still PINK. ROSE PINK. Circa 1984 rose pink. But because the linen closet (on the right) and the coat closet (on the left) face one another and BOTH have bi-fold doors (that are PINK), if the linen closet isn’t tidy and there are towels and sheets spilling all over the floor, it’s a giant pain in the behind. Plus, since this is our powder room, it means that any time the doorbell rings, I’m on my hands and knees shoving things into the shelves, making the whole situation that much worse. Clearing this whole thing out was necessary.
All told, we purged FOUR garbage bags full of linens from this closet, and moved a giant stack of kitchen things to the kitchen, where they belonged. I think we ended up with about half of the original volume once we finished this job.
Step 3: Re-design
If I had my druthers, I would paint the trim yesterday. But we’re waiting until later in the spring to get that done throughout the entire house, so it wasn’t on my to-do list at this point. Ditto the interior of the closet, which is the same dingy not-quite-white as the kids’ closets. Plus, I have a bone-deep aversion to the bi-fold doors, in general. In Fantasy House, I’d swap these out for the kind that are also bookshelves, like a secret passageway, because how cool are those?? In the real world here, where I’m cleaning on a schedule rather than doing major construction projects, we’re just going to re-load the shelves with whatever linens survived the Great Purge and call it a day. I’ll tackle the other ideas another time.
Step 4: Organize and store
Nothing terribly exciting here, just putting stuff away. You know, no biggie.
Can you tell that we ended up not needing the top shelf, after all? Yeah. Cutting down to half your original pile of linens will do that. Top shelf: pillows for guests, spare blankets (almost ALL of the baby blankets are gone, with the exception of the ones we got as gifts, and a couple I made), and random non-linen things, like footstool covers (both from my new book, as it happens, and an electric heating pad I didn’t know we owned). Second shelf: towels, including pool towels at the far right and then bath towels, sorted by color and stacked with their matching washcloths and hand towels. I don’t think I’ve ever done that successfully before. Third shelf, sheets, all sorted out with their pillowcases. I thought about doing that thing Martha does, where she stores the sheets inside the pillowcase so they all stay together, but we have a number of sets where the pillowcases aren’t identical to the sheets, and it didn’t seem to make sense for us. Plus, since we now have three sets or fewer for each bed (so at any time we can have one on the bed, one in the wash, and one in the closet), sorting and keeping them together is pretty easy! Bottom level, spare quilts and smaller throw pillows, in a basket on the far left.
Totally boring way to spend your New Year’s Eve day, but what a relief to have it done! Anyone else in dire need of sorting their linen closet? Help me feel like I’m not alone, everyone!
Posted on January 1, 2013
Here’s to a great start to a new year, everyone!
Posted on December 31, 2012
I’ve got TWO for you today, because I was on a roll….and because I didn’t think either of these seemed that impressive on its own, so I figured I’d pump up the closet cleaning excitement by doing BOTH today, here at the end of the year. It’s basically the opposite of what I did last week, but I’m high on a deadline. Yeah, that’s right–I’m a rock-n-roll rebel. You heard me.
Step 1: Evaluate and assess
Both of these closets suffered from the same issue: they had become dumping grounds for things that didn’t belong there. In our boy’s closet, we were storing bits and pieces of puzzles and toys along with leftover supplies from painting his room and renovating the bathroom (old door handle, anyone?). In the girls’ shared closet, our 6-year-old squirrel had filled empty boxes with bits and pieces of….good heavens, EVERYTHING from around the house. In both cases, no major renovations were needed, just come emptying and organizing.
For the girls, the biggest issues were the floor (covered on the right here with edge-to-edge cardboard boxes stuffed with random junk) and the top shelf, which was literally overflowing with clothing–some of it outgrown, some of it not yet grown-into, and some of it “heirloom,” but not stored. And I had no idea what was what. I used to have a system where things were stored by size to hand down, so that each clear plastic bin had two sizes in it, and I could always find just what I needed when one of the children was ready to go “shopping” for the next round of clothes. After the move, when things had been packed away with an eye toward efficiency rather than organization, that whole system broke down, and it turned into a shelf of piles.
For the boy, it’s those darn puzzles, mostly, but also the fact that he loooooooves to shove things into the corners of his closet (he’s a shover, too!), usually dirty clothes, random toys he’s trying to prevent his sisters from playing with, and assorted boxes and books. Generally, if you’re looking for anything–his winter coat, his other shoe, his pajamas from last night–the best place to look is on the floor under the pile in the corner of his closet. Because we also stored buckets of blocks and some of his train set on the floor, too, on either side of the toy box, it was hard to convince him that we didn’t want to keep things on the floor as a permanent storage solution.
Step 2: Purge and empty
Purging was the fun part. In our boy’s room, it only took about 45 minutes to take things off the shelf, sort through them somewhat vaguely to determine where they actually belonged–the playroom or the garage or the trash–and then start all over. He doesn’t have a ton of hanging garments, so this was a pretty quick clean-out. We did generate a full garbage bag of donation items AND a full garbage bag of trash from just his closet, though, so looks can be deceiving.
In the girls’ closet, purging was mostly about sorting through outgrown clothing. We still have a very few things from my oldest that were worth saving for our 6-year-old to grow into, and of course we have plenty of things from the 6-year-old to pass along to the 2.5-year-old. Plus, there were things here that weren’t worth keeping or had become redundant as they were passed down, and others that I thought were too precious to donate, but when faced with a task like this in a short timeframe and working slightly hungry and fending off the children with one foot while on a stool, you have far less pity and sentimentality. Which helped me pack up TWO full garbage bags of donation items from this closet.
The biggest purging task in this closet was the floor, with its wall-to-wall boxes of junk. Most of the things in these boxes are the missing pieces from toys that are stored in other parts of the house. Things we’ve been hunting for. Toys we’ve tossed out because we didn’t have that one essential piece which we now have, because it was squirreled away in the closet. Most of these things got moved–boxes and all–to the playroom, where they’ll be a whole other task of sorting and organizing and donating. The boxes I’m planning to cover with fabric and use to organize the toys that survive that purge; I thought I’d need them in this closet, but as it turns out, I had plenty of storage solutions!
Along the way, I purged items from the kids’ existing wardrobes, both their hanging things and the drawers in their dressers. Note if you’re considering your own closet cleaning-a-thon: it spreads, the cleaning does. Now I’ve added not just their dressers but the playroom to the list. Stop me before I organize the Tupperware.
Anyway, the littlest one especially had a ton of things that she had outgrown, and since she’s Number Last of our children, those all went to Goodwill. All the kids had things in their dressers that they no longer wore or fit or needed, though, so we had another bag of things from there. If you’re counting, that’s FOUR donated bags just from the three younger children:
Step 3: Re-design
I would lovelovelove to paint the interiors of these closets, like NOBODY’S business. They’re still the original builder’s-crappy-not-quite-white-icky-browny-yellowy color they must have been for the past 50 years, and it makes me cringe. But I’m making choices here, people, and I knew that if I committed to painting these closets AND clearing them out, that there was no way on Earth it was getting done this week. So let’s just diagnose that they NEED to be painted (and that the bar arrangement in the girls’ closet is ridiculous, I swear I think whoever designed these closets was a novice), and we’ll have to add that to the To Do list. I made no other changes to the overall closet than purging and replacing. I re-used baskets and storage containers from other places in the house to contain the kids’ things, and that was that.
Step 4: Organize and store
So, this is the fun part. The boy’s closet, after clearing and re-organizing:
New rule: NOTHING GOES ON THE FLOOR. It was the old old rule, from before we had four kids and it was easier to enforce, and now it’s the NEW old rule, because nothing makes a closet feel roomier and cleaner than having nothing on the floor to clutter it up. So the bucket of blocks that used to be to the left of his toy box is now on the shelf above. All the puzzles have moved out to the playroom. The Barbie car is actually his sister’s, but it makes frequent appearances in Thomas the Train epics in this room, so it’s on the closet shelf, too, along with some small nylon baskets we picked up at Ikea for smaller toys.
His clothes have been purged and arranged, with short sleeve shirts together, long sleeve shirts together, jackets on the end where he can get to them and put them away on his own. You’ll notice there’s nothing on the floor! I also kept the spare hangers to an absolute minimum–we have a lifetime’s supply of extra hangers in another room, and most of those will be donated, as well. No one needs 6000+ hangers, and since we now have a fraction of the clothing, we sure as heck don’t want to keep them.
Because he has the fewest things in his closet and doesn’t share it with anyone, he gets to store the “heirloom” things that have been handed down by my mother-in-law, like the sweater from my husband’s kindergarten or the children’s Christening gown. He’ll get over it.
In the girls’ closet, there’s a similar subtle-but-exciting effect–if you’re a raging dork like me and spend your New Year’s Eve getting excited about organizing your kids’ closets:
The giant pile of clothing from the shelf is gone, and has been replaced by the OLD system, which is back, baby! One bin for each girl, labeled with her initial and the sizes in the bin–sizes 4-6 for the little one, and sizes 8-10 for the elder. Bonus! I had been lamenting that the littlest didn’t have ANY winter pants, and score! I found FIVE pair for her in the pile while I was sorting clothing out. So not only did I clean off the shelf, I saved myself some money AND time by not needing to get her new things. Woot! A double-double-whammy, y’all.
On the other shelf, which I realize is totally jacked up because it’s balanced on top of this one, and one of the brackets has come a little loose and you can see the original un-primed wallboard beneath it, we’ve stored the puppets and the puppet theatre. The kids play with it on a semi-regular basis, especially when they’re all home from school for vacation, but that means a lot of the puppets get mixed in with the other stuffed animals and we have trouble finding them when they want to put on a show. Now they’re all back in the basket that was purchased for that purpose, and up on the shelf where we can keep track of them. Above that are some of my vintage (as in, from when I was a kid) toys that are a bit too fragile to be played with, but that make nice eye candy.
I’m delighted to have found so many clothes for the girls to grow into. And like the other closets, this one was a nice lesson in knowing what you have so you don’t duplicate it. I can look at a glance now and tell where the gaps are in their wardrobes, what things get worn to shreds and what gets neglected, and how to better arrange their things to rotate through the stuff they like best. It’s pretty clear they both love dresses and skirts, and that I prefer them in pants–I guess we’ll all work that out later in therapy.
And look! Nothing on the floor!! All the boxes are gone, off to the playroom to wait being recovered in fabric and filled with toys that have all their pieces. It’s like closet heaven.
Step 5: Maintain
This will be tough, since they’re KIDS. I think we’re going to have some kind of training seminar about where toys go to help them out. On the bright side, my 6-year-old is actually a little anal about things like that, so she’ll be a big help. And the two littler ones don’t mind doing anything so long as they’re not the only ones doing it. Once again I am reminded that the children are always watching, and that our biggest challenge as parents is to MODEL behavior for them. Because they’re going to do just what we do, whether it’s what we say we want them to do or not–like at the end of Lord of the Flies, where the kid says, “What went wrong? We just did what the grown-ups would have done. What went wrong?” Sigh.
Happy New Year, y’all! I don’t think I’ll meet my goal of getting the coat closet done before tonight, like I’d planned, but I’ll carry through and finish it on New Year’s Day, just so I can have this whole task accomplished. It feels GOOD, I can tell you that. Has anyone else tackled cleaning out part of the house here at the turn of the year? I’d love to hear about it! And if you see places where I could make improvements, seriously, I’m not sensitive–fire away, I’ll take all the help I can get!
Posted on December 28, 2012
Alright, picking up where we left off! This is Day 1.5, because I pulled a double on the first day and it nearly killed me, so I’m pacing myself in an effort to make it through these five spaces–the master closets (2), the girls’ closet, the boy’s closet, the linen closet and the coat closet in the hall–by New Year’s Day. I’ve already got a massive pile of things to donate waiting in the (freeeeezing cold) garage, and I want to make one enormous trip and be done with the whole thing at once. (Funny story: you know how I know I’m not the only doing this? Last year, on December 31, the local Goodwill wasn’t taking donations inside like they usually do–they had ordered a tractor trailer to be pulled up out front of the store, and were hosting a drive-through donations line, because they had too many coming in on New Year’s Eve to take them the usual way. Totally true.)
The Larger Master Closet
Step 1: Evaluate and assess
Let me begin by pointing out that it is insanely difficult to take photos inside a closet. I’ve done my best on these, but give me some rope on my photos skillz today. Had to bust out the fish-eye lens on a couple just to get some perspective that was useful for you.
This closet was installed by one of the former owner’s many wives (he had five, not at the same time). I love that it has so many nooks and so much space, but the shelves themselves aren’t terribly high quality–in fact, on the left, you can see that these are organizer shelves plopped on top of the original shelving installed in 1968. Beggars and choosers, though, and unless we gut the master bathroom and closet (which is on the fantasy list but won’t be happening any time soon), we’re delighted to have the chance to make the best of this one.
The issue in here was really that we moved in on a rainy day, and had big boxes and piles of things that we didn’t really know what to do with. Because this closet had so many shelves, a lot of those things got shoved on shelves and left there–for a YEAR. We never adjusted the shelving, or quite frankly even considered that it needed adjusting–we simply slapped our hangers on the rods and called it a day.
You can see in this “before” photo that a lot of electronics–including baby monitors, cases, extension cords and the like–got pushed into these shallow shelves and left to get dusty. Below those, I have my skirts and pants, because the rod was low and that’s what was most logical to put there. Then the tall shelves got our knits (if you are hanging up your knits, including Polo shirts, sweater dresses or dressy knit tops, STOP IT NOW–Martha would be furious), plus my growing collection of scarves. The highest hang rod, to the left here, gets my husband’s suits for work.
In this “before” shot, you can see my dresses, which are stuffed into the slightly higher hang rod toward the back–this is one of those spots where the closet design breaks down, because we have lots of “lost” corners that don’t make a ton of sense. But my task wasn’t to re-design the whole closet system, since we’re still hoping one day it won’t be ours any longer, but rather to use it more wisely. This weird little corner is actually what gave me the most inspiration–because one day, I realized it was ADJUSTABLE. I know, right? Why did I have my dresses shoved in a corner, some of them trailing the ground, off where I don’t see them (and consequently don’t wear them), but there’s a bizarre enormous SPACE above them that could totally be put to other use?
The evaluation was that the closet needed to be emptied, the shelves and rods adjusted to reflect OUR things (rather than the belongings of the people who used to live here), and then some storage solutions found for the itty-bitty stuff, like scarves and belts. Plus, the random boxes and piles needed to GO.
Step 2: Purge and empty
Emptying this closet was actually kinda fun, because as I was taking things out, I kept getting ideas for how we could re-arrange things and make it prettier and more useful. Here, I’ve emptied most of the knits from the shelves, putting all those things on the bed to sort and re-fold, and you can see I have already moved the bar for the dresses and shifted those over. Because once I realized I could, it was like an itch that hadtohadtohadto be scratched. The laundry–which often as not isn’t in a basket, because the basket is busy holding all the socks that haven’t been matched up–is still on the floor, but I’ve already brought in a thrifted basket that I picked up sure it would be perfect for something. And wouldn’t you know? It’s a perfect fit! And a great solution for belts and scarves, where it can work like a drawer right in the center of those shelves without us having to do a major construction project.
Step 3: Re-design
Lots of the shelves got re-arranged in here, to make more sense for us. Rods got adjusted and moved around, and ALL the things on top of the shelving were removed to other homes (like the basement or hall coat closet, which is where they really belonged to begin with). The left hand side of the closet didn’t get much attention in the re-design stage–it’s mostly a long, low hang rod which is used for my husband’s shirts and pants, and a shoe organizer above. I’m not convinced it’s the most efficient use of the space–that’s a lot of shoe storage–but it seems to work for our belongings. So that side got left alone, and my attention was focused on shifting things on the right side, instead.
Over the long haul, I think we’d love to have someone else’s eyes come in and tell us how to use this space more efficiently–like that corner back where the one tall shoe organizer meets the hang rod, making about 24″ of rod totally inaccessible and wasting a whole chunk of square footage. You can see it in the image above–see how the shelving is at right angles to the shelf supporting the shoes, at the left? And how the depth of the shelving creates a weird pocket of wasted space there? Rubbermaid has a virtual closet design tool, but it doesn’t really make suggestions for how to organize the space better than it already is. Ikea has a series of room planners, but none of them seem to make much in the way of innovative suggestions, either. Does anyone know of a better closet design tool that might offer inspiration and ideas for HOW to use the space, rather than simply what products to put there?
Step 4: Organize and store
Putting things back in was tedious, but not hard–I did stop halfway through and make an emergency trip to Target for a basket, but other than that, everything we needed was on hand.
My husband’s Polo shirts are folded, along with his sweaters–in categories like Dressy Casual and Weekend and Sporty. My scarves and belts are in their new basket-drawer. My sweaters are all folded, in categories like Cardigan, Not Cardigan and Dressy Date Night.
My husband got a new basket for his belts and shoe horn, along with the shoe bags he keeps around for…travel, I guess? I’ve never actually seen him use them, but he sure does like them, so they’re in the basket, too. Shoe shelves got re-arranged to make room for the basket, as well as to make space for boots–no reason to have one of my pairs of boots lying on its side when the shelves can just be moved, and yet they’d been like that for months. The art is on trial display–I don’t love this piece here, but I think there should be some piece of art in that spot. Just have to find the right one.
Below my sweaters, I incorporated a vintage train case in which I store my stockings and tights (in order to make room for my undies and socks in my dresser drawer), along with slips and things. These shelves also got moved around, to make sure that not only was there space for everything but that it also looked pretty and planned, and not as though I’d just shoved things places.
The four shelves above the hang rod that used to be stuffed with wires and plugs are now two shelves, with a basket for costume jewelry and a wooden box for keepsakes and nicer jewelry.
My husband’s suits stayed where they were, but the weird open wasted shelf above the hang rod in the corner went away, and the two shelves there now house his hats and outdoor gear. My skirts are in a higher position than they were before, but still lower than the dresses, giving a nice sense of levels on this side. And I happened to have a bunch of matching wooden skirt hangers leftover from when I used to manufacture clothing, and it makes all the difference–sort of a boutique feel over in the skirt department now, which I really like.
Not a ton of changes on the left, except that I ditched piles of clothing I didn’t wear, including some things I’d made but never hemmed or finished–and realistically never would. I did put my short-rod garments back into order according to my length-of-garment-length-of-sleeve-weight-of-fabric system, which gave me enormous nerd joy. And I rotated my shoes so that my summery shoes are higher up and my wintery shoes are lower down, which makes a lot more sense seasonally.
Step 5: Maintain
I’ve got to break my shoving ways, dude. That’s the only way this closet will stay looking as pretty as it does now. If I can avoid that, I’m golden. The other nice benefit from doing this space, along with my dresser drawers, is realizing where I have gaps in my wardrobe and where I should devote my sewing time. For example, I have over half a dozen A-line skirts in various fabrics, but only one winter dress. No need to waste fabric making another skirt–but I should probably bust out some wool and get to work on some nicer dresses with sleeves.
I think the boldest lesson from these two spaces is that less really CAN be more–although that is frequently contrary to my overly-verbal philosophy. We reduced the number of shelves in this closet by 5 and eliminated dozens of garments, and yet we’re likely to use and wear more of these things than we would have previously. Totally worth the time and effort.
Next up: either the linen closet or the girls’ closet, depending on how strong I feel after naptime is over. Brace yourselves.