Friday, 21 October 2016

Scraps Happen: a guide to dealing with your fabric scraps!

Scraps. For quilters, this word can spark the same mixed emotions as ‘basting’ does. We have a love/hate relationship with our scraps – they’re happy little reminders of quilts and blocks gone by and the last morsels of delicious yardage. But as the scrap collection grows and grows (seriously, do they breed?) we begin to get the guilts about how to deal with them.

Most of us keep our scraps. Only the bravest few pass them on to friends or (gasp!) throw them out. While you don’t have to keep your scraps, bear in mind that you paid just as much for them as the yardage on your shelves. And some of the most interesting quilts feature a myriad of fabrics – which means you need lots of little bits of lots of different fabrics, which is where your scraps come into their own. And it is fabric (need we say more?). But many of us don’t actually use our scraps, and there are plenty of us who don’t have an effective way to store our scraps. I suspect these two facts are closely linked – if you can manage your scraps effectively, you’re more likely to use them. So it’s time to crank your favourite tunes, grab your favourite beverage, and tackle your scrap stash.

Step One: what should I keep?
The first step is to cull the scrap bin. Yes, I know we’ve just talked about how scraps are worth the same as yardage, but your scrap bins shouldn’t be full of ugly or unusable fabrics. So grab a garbage
bag, and be ruthless. Dump all your scraps out and sort the keepers out from the rubbish. It is okay to throw out fabric that is a) seriously ugly, b) seriously out of date, c) poor quality, d) too small to be useful, e) stained or damaged in some way.

Some people like to use ugly fabrics, cutting them small enough to hide the ugly – but it’s up to you to decide if you want to use them or dump them. Same goes for crumbs, those tiny, funny shaped
pieces. They can be great for small-scale improv piecing, but not a lot else. If you decide to keep your crumbs it may be useful to put them all together in one place (like a large zip lock bag).

It is preferable to keep your other (non-quilting) fabric scraps somewhere else so you know anything in the scrap bins can be used for a quilt.

Step Two: how big is a scrap?
How long is a piece of string? What is a reasonable serving size of chocolate? You need to decide what constitutes a scrap for Рsome people say anything smaller than a fat quarter is a scrap, but my stash includes a lot of fat quarters, so I choose to sort anything smaller than a fat eighth into my scrap bins. On the other end of the spectrum, I keep anything that is bigger than about two inches square (the more precious the fabric, the smaller the scrap). You need to decide what is useable to you based on how you use fabric Рif you do appliqu̩ you might keep tiny pieces, whereas someone else might deem anything smaller than a charm square as too small.

Step Three: how do I make my scraps useable?
Now you’ve got down to the fabric you want to keep, you need to get it useable again. Iron all your scraps (they’ll take up less space and they’re ready to go) and trim all the funny shapes and loose threads off them.

Step Four: how should I sort it?
I used to store all my scraps in a huge basket. Just tossed in all together, waiting for inspiration to strike. FYI: this system didn’t work at all and I’m pretty sure that it’s not one anybody would recommend, except maybe the cat who thought it was a good place to sleep. After extensive research, I discovered that most quilters with effective scrap storage systems either store by size or by colour, so we’ll look into those systems further.

Sorting by Colour
This is my preferred option, because it reflects how I quilt. I usually work by colour and I think in colour stories. I bought a bunch of cheap plastic storage containers and labelled them with each colour. I then sorted my scraps into each colour box.

Sorting by Size
Bonnie Hunter at has written extensively about storing scraps by size and it’s well worth checking out her website to see how she does it. The premise behind sorting scraps by size is that there are a few very common measurements in many quilt blocks and if you cut your scraps to these sizes then it’s very easy to start a scrap quilt using these pieces and you’ll make a huge dent in your scraps in the process. Here are some of the more common sizes to cut: squares in 1 ½”, 2”, 2 ½”, 3 ½” and bricks in 2” x 3 ½”, 2 ½” x 4 ½”, 3 ½” x 6 ½”. You can also keep strips in the same width as squares and then save them to cut down later – strips are great for blocks like log cabins. You can cut the same shapes as pre-cuts – 5” squares, 10” squares and 2 ½” strips and then you can use any pre-cut pattern.

Strings are strips of anything more than about an inch wide. Save all your strings together. It seems time consuming, but if you take time to cut your scraps to size at the end of every project, or in small blocks of time, it will get done and you’ll be left with a whole lot of useable pieces. Next time you have a project that requires a certain size of fabric, you simply go to that box and start with a whole pile of pre-cuts.

Sorting Exceptions
You may decide you want to keep certain types of fabrics together, such as 1930s prints, low volumes, fussy cuts and novelties or Libertys. Many designers make ranges that coordinate well together, so you might want to keep all scraps from one designer together, like Heather Ross, Kate Spain or Bonnie & Camille.

Step Five: how should I store it?
There are plenty of storage options and they don’t need to be expensive. As I mentioned, I use cheap plastic boxes that fit neatly on my shelves. These work whether you sort by colour or by size. Plastic storage drawers or even the humble zip lock bag are also practical options. Jars or baskets or decorative boxes are also a great solution that double as craft room eye candy. In their book Sunday Morning Quilts, Amanda Jean Nyberg and Cheryl Arkison use scrap fabric to make supercute storage boxes for their scraps (this book is a fabulous resource for any scrap quilter) – the boxes shown here are made from this pattern.

Using your Scraps
Now you’ve got your scraps all beautifully sorted out, it’s critical you actually use them if you want to keep them under control. Even though it seems they multiply on their own, they don’t sew themselves!

Scraps are perfect for little projects like pin cushions and pouches, and they lend themselves beautifully to English paper piecing. They’re also great for bee blocks and paper piecing. Hit up your scrap bins often enough when you’re making these little projects and you’ll make a dent in your scrap stocks.

Of course, the obvious answer to keeping your scraps under control is to make scrap quilts. There are many amazing scrap quilts out there – take a look on Pinterest for endless inspiration. The trick is to think of your scraps as a mini stash, pull fabrics that you think will play nicely together and use them together.You may choose to work in one or two colours, or the whole rainbow and then some. It is effective to choose a simple block and repeat it, like a nine patch or a log cabin. You can make each block in a single colour, or make each one in many colours. Or you can improv piece sections of fabric together for a different look.

It is useful to pay attention to value when scrap quilting, separate your lights and darks and use this to create contrast. Low volumes are also a great asset in scrap quilting as they act as white space.

It is also very effective to tie your blocks together with a commonality, like solid white or grey. Remember you don’t have to make a quilt from scraps. When you’re doing a fabric pull for a new project, make sure you pull out your scrap bins too and utilise the fabrics in them. Constantly using scraps will keep them under control. Get them organised and make a conscious effort to use them and you’ll find your scraps stay under control all on their own.


Friday, 16 September 2016

Instagram for Quilters: a what, why and how guide

You’ve heard about it. Your favourite bloggers talk about it. Your quilty friends mention events happening on it. Not surprisingly, Instagram (or IG) is one of the most favoured social media platforms in the quiltosphere because it is photo-based and we’re all about sharing pictures of our work. But starting up on Instagram can be daunting, we know, which is why we’ve put together this guide to get you online and posting in no time!

Simply put, Instagram is an app that you download to your iPhone or smartphone. It allows you to take a quick photo and share it along with a brief comment. Sounds simple, right? But it’s a whole lot more than that. It’s a community! Plus it’s a bit fun. Okay, it’s a lot of fun. Please note: Make Modern takes no responsibility for any ensuing IG addictions.

Once you have the app installed, you need to set up a profile. It’s a good idea if you use a name that people might associate with you already – perhaps your blog or flickr name. That will help people to find you on IG. Fill out the description so people know what you’re about, it helps potential followers to ‘meet’ you. Don’t forget to add a profile pic! It doesn’t have to be you – it could be one of your favourite quilty projects, your blog logo or your cat. No pressure.

You can set your profile to public or private. If you’re going to be posting family photos and want to approve everyone who can see them, go for private. If want to enter challenges and competitions, and develop a presence within the online quilting community, make your feed public so you’re easier to follow.

Now you’re ready to start the fun! First, find some awesome people to follow. That way you can get started liking and commenting on pictures. If you have friends on IG, add them and then check out who they’re following to find followers you might also be interested in. Or you can use the ‘Search’ feature (click on the magnifying glass icon) to help you find particular people. The names of your favourite quilty bloggers, fabric stores and designers are a great place to start.

You might also notice throughout our magazine that we have included IG names. Right there are some great people to look up and follow! Just look at the end of each article on where to find the contributor and type that @name into your Instagram and voila! New awesome people to follow!

While you’re learning your way around Instagram, tap on that little magifying glass (explore) second from the left on your toolbar. That’s where you can search for names or hashtags. It’s also where IG puts photos it thinks you might like. Once you start following people and adding awesome quilt candy to your feed, you’ll soon find the Explore page fills with awesome quilt candy you haven’t seen yet but might like to check out. Clever, clever IG. (Okay, so you may also find some random what-the?! photos in your Explore but it’s okay, move right on back to those awesome quilt candy photos!).

 Photos posted by the people you follow can be found in your Newsfeed(the home icon). What next?! Show your fellow IGers some love. If you’re in a hurry, you can simply double tap the picture to ‘like’ it, or click the heart button. If you absolutely love something and want to let the poster know, click the speech bubble icon and leave a comment. Everyone loves comments! If you want to reply to someone else’s comment on a photo, or tag a friend in it you can type the @ symbol and the other person’s IG name so they receive a notification to let them know you’re talking to them.

Now we’ve got you sorted to check out other people’s awesomeness it’s time to set up your own! Take some photos! You can muck around with cropping, different filters or effects until you’re happy with how your photo looks. Add a caption then share it with the world! Or at least with your new IG followers. Congratulate yourself because you are well on your way to IG fun!

Want to be more involved? You can be with those magic things called hashtags. By adding a hashtag (#) in your caption, your photo gets filed under that name. Click on the hashtag and you can see all the other pictures tagged with that hashtag. For example, if you’d like to check out other projects that people have made, look up #makemodern. Quilt eye candy!

We do hope that you’ll share photos of your own MM projects using the hashtag. Checking out hashtags is also a great way to find people to follow. Keep an eye out for different hashtags to join in on – #greataussiedestash and #honestcraftroom are just two of many! Or go ahead – create your own and invite everyone to join in!

Often you’ll see competitions on IG where you’re instructed to regram the photo for a chance to win. What the?! Don’t freak out! Regramming is simply copying the photo and putting it on your own feed. You can use a reposting app like Repost, which do the hard work for you and also credit the original poster. It’s always good etiquette to give credit where it’s due. Alternatively you can take a screenshot on your phone (on an iPhone you hold down the power button and home button simultaneously, Android phones have various methods depending on your phone) then crop it and share it to your own feed. Put your post in the centre of your crop box and make sure you include the
username of the original poster. Also tag the original poster in your comment so they can pop by and see. Once you have the power to regram, remember the importance of doing it right – photos on Instagram belong to the original poster and are protected by copyright, so share with care.

There are other apps you can use outside of Instagram to enhance your whole IG experience. Instacollage lets you collage multiple images into one picture. Over lets you write on your photos. Apps like Canva and Snapseed offer photo editing right from your phone.

IG is a wonderful way to share a little glimpse of what you’re currently working on, or a shot of a finished project. Perhaps you’re doubting yourself and need a bit of instant feedback (should I go with the grey solid or the green? Help!). That’s the beauty of IG. You can get feedback rather quickly and be back to sewing in a flash.

You can also tag people who you think might be interested in seeing your photo. For example, you’ve just made a drop dead gorgeous, super-duper eye catching quilt with the newest line of fabric from your favourite designer. Why not tag the designer so they can see what you’ve created? They might surprise you and even comment on it! Don’t feel dejected if they don’t comment though – can you imagine how many notifications quilt celebrities get each day?!

To see what’s been happening on your own IG between visits, click on the Following button (the little heart icon). This tells you who has started following you – you might want to follow them back – who has liked your pictures, who has commented on your pictures and if you’ve been tagged in other pictures.

In the end, how much you get out of IG depends on how much you put in. You might simply enjoy looking at the pretty pictures but rather not post your own. You’re likely to find plenty of inspiration! Or perhaps you’ll post a photo most days and start to interact with followers, meet new people and even join in block swaps or quilt-alongs. The most important thing is to have fun! We look forward to seeing you there!

- KL

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Find the Make Modern team on Instagram
Kristy @quietplay

Stash Happens: building and maintaining a workable fabric stash

Let’s talk about something near and dear to every quilter’s heart – fabric. Regardless of our personal style or favourite colour, we all seem to be inexplicably drawn to cotton fibres the minute we take up quilting. And as soon as we become dedicated quilters we express our dedication to the craft by buying fabric. And more fabric, and more fabric, and a little more fabric, until we’re looking for new storage options and pushing STABLE – stash totally above and beyond life expectancy.

All this is well and good and keeps the industry going (which means they’ll keep making more
fabric, woohoo!), but if you buy random fabric with no particular plan in mind, you may find that
you end up with an unmanageable stash that’s creatively stifling and totally overwhelming, and that wasn’t the intention at all.

Take a moment to think about how you quilt – that is, your personal style. For example, I like scrappy quilts with tons of different prints mixed in, but I tend to stick to one or two colours in each quilt. Kristy, on the other hand, will find a fabric line she loves and a pattern she loves, and marry up the two. And Lara, swings a little both ways. Each of these are perfectly valid ways to work with fabric, but they require different approaches to purchasing and storing.

Single Ranges
If you fall in love with a range of fabric, buying a quarter or half yard bundle is a very convenient way to get the whole range. You’ve got the makings of a perfectly coordinated quilt right there, ready to go. One thing to note: only buy fabric ranges you’re totally in love with. Trends come and go in the online quilting world and particular designers get hyped up – but it is totally okay to decide you don’t like whatever the current big thing is and pass it over. Don’t succumb to peer pressure or you’ll most likely wind up with a stack of fabric you’ll never use.

Pre-cuts are very useful and time-saving if you like to make patterns that require certain sizes of fabric, and they are a fantastic way to get a tiny taste of an entire fabric range. However, they can be limiting, so fat quarters are usually a more economical and versatile way to buy unless you’ve got a specific pattern in mind. It’s no surprise that Moda named their pre-cuts after sweet treats; they’re the quilt shop version of candy at the supermarket checkout.

Single Colours
This is my personal preference, I look at the blenders in each line and if I fall in love with a print I’m likely to buy it in every colour possible. This means that when I decide I want to make a quilt in a particular colour, I already have plenty on hand and I’m not relying on sourcing what’s in the market right now. I made a quilt last year in blues, aquas and greens and I don’t know if I should be proud or embarrassed that I didn’t have to shop outside my stash for the 100 prints required.

Remember to only buy the colours you know you will use. Hate orange? Don’t buy it. Love hard-to-find shades? Snap them up when you see them. Your stash doesn’t have to represent every colour of the rainbow if there are colours you never use. Just remember if you’re involved in bees or block swaps you may have to use colours you hate, so you can choose whether or not to keep a few of those
colours on hand or to just buy them as you need them.

Note that those multi-coloured prints that feature all your favourite colours in them and look very useful usually aren’t useful if you work by colour. They will end up shoved at one end of your stash. Look for prints that are a single colour plus white, or have very small amounts of other colours in them. Because I keep a large variety, I prefer to buy small cuts – a quarter to half a yard – of each print.

If you aren’t colour confident but want to build up a colour stash, look for blogger or shop curated colour bundles in lots of online stores – this takes the guesswork out of choosing particular fabrics.

Solids are a staple in most modern quilter’s stashes. If you make a lot of scrappy solid quilts you may like to keep small yardage of a variety of colours on hand. It is useful to label your solids with the manufacturer and colour name so you can order more of the same later on.

Because solids are always available, you don’t need to stash in the fear you won’t be able to get that fabric later on – this is why it’s often more economical to buy solids for a specific project in the exact quantities you need. It is worthwhile investing in a colour card by your preferred solids manufacturer so that you can match colours.

You may want to keep a bolt of white and grey, or other colours you use often, in your studio – if nothing else, owning entire bolts of fabric makes you look like a serious quilter.

Low Volume
Low volumes fabrics are prints with very little colour in them, usually they have white, cream, grey, beige or pastel backgrounds and they are very useful as neutrals. They’ve become increasingly popular with modern quilters in the last couple of years. If you like the low volume look it’s useful to buy them in half yard quantities and build up a stash that you can use in lots of different projects. Again, lots of quilt shops put together low volume bundles to make finding them easier.

Novelty Prints
These are a bit of a love-them or hate-them type of fabric. They are brilliant in small projects like pouches, and lend themselves perfectly to fussy cutting, but they are harder to work with in scrappier quilts as they love to steal the limelight. Only buy novelty prints you absolutely love and only buy them in small quantities unless you have a specific plan for them.

Storing Fabrics
I will admit to being very fussy about how my fabrics are stored. They are folded uniformly by colour and it is very easy to see what I’ve got. I started using the ruler fold method where you fold over a 6 ½” wide ruler, which works brilliantly. I’ve had to modify and now I fold over cardboard so that I can fit two piles of fabric on my IKEA Expedit shelves. Some people like to use comic book boards as mini bolts, which is beyond cute. You can store your fabrics on bookshelves (not in direct sunlight), in plastic tubs, in drawers – whatever works for you. As long as your fabric is easily accessible and you can maintain your storage system, it will work.

Again, store fabrics the same way you quilt. If you choose fabrics based on colour, sort by colour. If
you know you want to use a whole bundle together, store it together.

Scraps can be wonderful reminders of quilts past,or a perpetual challenge. They are like bunnies, multiplying when you turn your back. To tame your scraps you need to use them, and to use them you need to know what you’ve got. Throwing them all in a basket is the equivalent of storing your clothes in a pile on your wardrobe floor – totally impractical. I discovered that when I stored my scraps by colour in small plastic tubs that I started using them much more. I also recommend pressing scraps before you store them as they take up less space that way.

If you don’t like making scrap quilts and you don’t use your scraps, give them to friends who will use them. It. Is. Okay. They are not your children.

Backings, Borders and Bindings
You will always need larger quantities of fabric for backings and borders. If you are making a quilt from one fabric range it is worth buying the exact quantities you need for borders and backings while the fabric is still available. But otherwise, unless the fabric is an absolute steal, keeping large quantities of fabric on hand can be expensive and take up heaps of space. If you prefer scrappy quilts it’s better to buy backing fabric as you need it.

It is well worth spending the time organising and maintaining the organisation of your stash. Doing this makes it easy to discover what you need and prevents unnecessary purchases. Be willing to play around with your stash management until you find the perfect solution to your needs.

What our Facebook friends say
We polled our FB likers and discovered heaps of methods of buying fabrics – this is why you need to match your stash storage to the way you buy fabric and how you quilt.

Jenny: I buy fabric I love. I usually buy a whole range in either FQ bundles or half yards.
Alyce: I've done a lot of different things over the years! But I've settled into half yards of colours/blenders as my standard purchase method.
Janine: I buy what catches my eye; usually I get fat quarters or a 25 cm strip.
Kathy: I buy much less now than 15 years ago. I love FQ bundles and pre-cuts. My stash is ridiculous but oh sew fun!
Emily: I like bundles – FQ or 1/2 yard bundles.

- JK

Got a stash photo you’d like to share with us? Use #makemodernstash on Instagram!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Being Aussie

Here at Make Modern, we are a team of three Aussie girls who happen to be passionate about quilting and sharing that love. As it’s Australia Day (oh, and Angie of GnomeAngel suggested it), we thought we might share a bit about why the ‘Aussie’ part of Make Modern is important to us.

We love all quilters – modern, traditional, art. We love quilters from everywhere, whether they’re up the road or across the globe. We love you all – you quilt, you’re cool. And we really appreciate that quilters from Australia and around the world have given us so much support – thank you.

Because we all get so much input from the internet and social media, quilting influences come from everywhere. But one thing we love about being Australian quilters is that our inspiration is so unique. The colours of the outback or the beaches inspire us, the forms of our natural flora and fauna serve as design inspiration. We’re not as caught up in the holidays or seasons as some parts of the world, so create quilts a little more freely. We like to infuse a bit of humour, fun or larrikinism into our quilts too – after all, that’s the Australian way.

As Australians, we are quilting at the right time. We are lucky enough to have the global (US based) quilt industry at our fingertips via the internet – information and hard to find materials are accessible like they’ve never been before. But we’ve also got a thriving Australian quilt industry, with Australian designers, shops, classes and shows that has been built over many years of Australian quilting. While it is easy to get caught up in the global scene, we think it’s important to also continue to reach out to our Australian friends to keep the Aussie quilting scene strong.   

 In the digital world, boundaries get blurred as we share so much information. But being an Australian magazine, we do like to have a good amount of Australian content – we very much want to promote quilting in this fabulous country. Our approach is to highlight some amazing Aussie designers and makers in each issue of our magazine, whether it be sharing their patterns, profiling them, local MQGs or feature articles. We love to go “Hey, check out this awesome Aussie who makes great stuff!”. We love that people from all over the world are reading our magazine and can see that quilting is so strong in Australia. 

By the way, if you know of a great Aussie quilter or quilting related business you think we should consider including in the magazine, why not drop us a line? ( Because while we do love everything quality, it’s only fair to admit that we do heart our Aussie quilters just a teeny bit more. Can you blame us?

Pop over to Angie's blog and find out a bit more about some other Aussie bloggers and their thoughts on being Aussie!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

MM Says...

We've created some quilting memes we're sure you can relate to - look out for them every Tuesday for a bit of mid-week inspiration.

You're welcome to save/share/pin/print this - it might help your non-quilty friends and family understand you a little better! And we're sure your quilting friends will understand!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

MM Says...

We've created some quilting memes we're sure you can relate to - look out for them every Tuesday for a bit of mid-week inspiration.

You're welcome to save/share/pin/print this - it might help your non-quilty friends and family understand you a little better! And we're sure your quilting friends will understand!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

MM Says...

We've created some quilting memes we're sure you can relate to - look out for them every Tuesday for a bit of mid-week inspiration.

You're welcome to save/share/pin/print this - it might help your non-quilty friends and family understand you a little better! And we're sure your quilting friends will understand!