Hello, and thank you so much for visiting my site! It’s always a leap of faith when you follow directions from an author you have never sewn with before, so let me give a bit of background on my sewing journey! First of all, my name is Janellea Macbeth, but I only use my full name when I really want to catch your attention. (If you sing my first name to the tune of the Hallelujah chorus, you should get the pronunciation and the tone inflection right.) My friends all call me Jan, and you are certainly welcome to, as well! The (Very) Early Years Apparently, I was a fussy baby who never slept. The closest thing to a nap my mom could coax me into trying was to watch her sew. Some of my earliest memories are watching the blue sparks inside the motor of my mom’s Singer. I can’t think of a time when I didn’t have my own sewing scissors, and I spent my toddler years carving up fabric scraps into no-sew doll clothes. By the time I was three, my mom let me use her sewing machine unsupervised. Believe it or not, I still have all of my fingers, and, knock on wood, have never caught a finger in the machine. I progressed very quickly from drawstring bags, aprons, and handkerchiefs to scrunchies, shorts, and dresses. By the time I was nine, I had moved on to tailoring wool and linen suits. I also started hand piecing 1930’s quilt patterns as a hobby. (I loved the 80’s pastel calicos and went to town with 8-point stars, Dresden plates, and grandmother’s flower garden.) I was still, however, primarily a garment sewer. By middle school, suits were not impressive enough to use in competition any longer, and so I switched to sewing high end costumes, similar to the costumes that are used in cosplay today. ('Cosplay' is like Halloween all year-round. Cosplay events allow fans to role-play as their favorite characters, and often involve movie-quality costumes.) By the time I was an underclassmen in high school, I began making and designing formal wear. At 17, I became a Civil War Re-enactor, and my interests shifted to historically accurate construction. In two years, I made a complete wardrobe, including undergarments and constructed corset. It was at this point that quilting became more than a passing hobby between sewing competitions. I switched to machine piecing and rotary cutting (unless I was doing piecework at a re-enactment), and all of my quilts were reproductions of quilts from the 1860's or earlier. I hand quilted everything. I occasionally used a hoop, but mostly used a trestle and rails quilt frame. By the time I went to college, there was no room in my 1860’s wardrobe for any more pieces. So, while at school, I joined a renaissance ensemble with a costume closet that hadn’t been updated since the 1960’s. I was promptly dubbed the costume mistress, of course. Between my junior and senior year in college, I replaced 90% of the costumes that were being used in performances. The Dark Years I had spent the last 20 years sewing for fame and fortune. (Well, mostly for envy and praise, but who’s counting?) And, I came to the conclusion that I am not a nice person when I compete. I was tired of being that not-nice-person, and so I walked away from sewing. Cold Turkey. I went from making 30-50 high end, high skill garments a year to making one or two slapped together outfits, including an improvised dress to wear to chaperon prom, a set of tailored wizard robes for a Harry Potter book release party, my wedding dress, the bridesmaid’s dresses, and the groomsmen’s suits. Admittedly, the wedding stuff wasn’t slapped together; that was a year of sweatshop sewing on every weekend and school holiday. (Being a teacher gave me lovely holidays to dedicate to sewing, but no time to sew in the evenings after work.) Meanwhile, my mom treated her empty nest syndrome with fabric therapy, and plunged head first into the quilting world with gusto. She joined guilds and went to workshops, bought every book under the sun, and traveled to exotic quilt stores. She went to conventions, and tried every technique ever. But of course, if she was learning about it, I had to as well, whether I wanted to or not. At my mom's insistence, I learned fussy cutting, paper piecing, one-block-wonder, puzzle balls, bargello, double wedding ring, split nine patch, needle turn appliqué, quilt-in-a-day, stitch-and-flip, crazy quilting, couching, whole cloth quilting, signature quilts, red work, art quilting, circular piecing, Baltimore album quilts, William Morris repros, hand dying, crayoning, stenciling, free motion machine quilting, quilting on a domestic machine, using the Flynn frame, water color quilts…. The list goes on and on. I learned it all, quietly kicking and screaming, but politely storing the wealth of knowledge and skill because it might be useful. Someday. (Yeah, sure, Mom….) My Renaissance, and My Rules And then one day, when I was a new stay-at-home mom, my mom dragged me to a quilt show to show off her new granddaughter to all of her friends. I hadn’t been in a fabric store in YEARS, and I was amazed by the changes in the quilt fabric industry since I had last tumbled down the rabbit hole. But what stopped me dead in my tracks, and made me fall off the fabric-free-wagon was a charm pack. A cute, harmless little 2 ½” x 2 ½” set of 42 different squares… all from the same line of fabric. It found its way into my hand, and I couldn’t put it down. The attraction was magnetic, the fabric was compelling. And as I stood there, teetering on the brink of falling back into addiction, I made myself a few promises: -> I would never buy more fabric than I could use in a reasonable amount of time. -> I would keep my tools and supplies to a minimum so that my house didn’t disappear under a pile of fabric. -> I would ONLY sew for fun, and not get crazy about being neat. -> I would NEVER compete again. (Remember? I’m not nice when I compete.) As you can imagine, not all of those rules have lasted as I have plunged deeper and deeper into the quilting world, but I do still adhere to the essence of them. I never compete, and I still view neatness as a side effect of skill, rather than an end goal. I sew 2-15 hours a day in the winter, so it must still be fun, and if I tried really hard, I could sew away all of my fabric in six months. Rule number two is where I often fall short, as my collection of rulers and books has grown tremendously, and I do still occasionally binge on buying fabric. But, for the most part, I am very happy with the way that I sew, the way that I interact with my fabric, and the relationship I have with my stash. It has taken some challenging, internal work to figure out how I most enjoy sewing. I have learned the hard way that keeping my fabric stash from taking over my sewing room (and subsequently my life) is an absolutely essential part of that enjoyment. My sewing room is one of the smallest in my house, but as long as my stash grows no larger than its designated storage, it is always my favorite room. I wrote ScrapStashtic to share what I've learned about managing my fabric stash, in order to help you make your sewing room your favorite, too.
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