The Free Motion Quilting Project: I Rather be a Quilter Than a...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Rather be a Quilter Than a...

It's the Sunday after the time change, which means everything feels off kilter and weird. No it's not 12 pm, it's 1 pm, no it's not 6 am, it's 7 am, and so on.

Yesterday I had a great day going to a local quilt guild show and wandering the rows of beautiful quilts and even more fantastic booths. I kept stopping to touch packets of embellishments, soft yarn in beautiful colors, dyed embroidery threads of varying thicknesses, buttons of every shape imaginable.

But as I wandered through, an unsettling feeling crept over me. Over and over I saw something that caught my eye, that drew me closer, only to realize I already have that thread, that fabric, that yarn, or that fiber in my stash. It's home on x shelf in Y bin, in z corner. I already own that beautiful thing. 

What was unsettling about this realization was not that I was attracted to these beautiful things, but the simple question - WHY am I not doing something with all this stuff? Why am I not USING these beautiful fibers? Why do I buy storage drawers and reorganize my space to hold more and more STUFF when I'm not using it at all?

It's an unfortunate fact that "Quilter" could easily be synonymous with "hoarder." I have bins of hand dyed fabrics, buckets of soft wool roving, a closet of beads and embellishments just waiting to play with. Why do I buy this stuff if I don't plan to use it?

But I DO want to use it! I love these rich decorative threads and packs of sparkling beads. They bring to mind hours of peaceful hand work where gorgeous fibers are stitched over more gorgeous fibers in a riot of color and texture - this is what I LOVE about quilting.

So why do I never do it? Why am I hoarding supplies for some magical free time in my future? Why am I not doing this NOW?

Tapping into this problem and trying to root out the underlying cause, I'm finding a deep seed of fear. If I use up that roving, I won't have any left! If I stitch that pretty thread, I might not be able to find more! If I use those beads in this necklace, they won't be available for the next necklace!

Is it just me, or is this completely irrational?! Leah, you buy that stuff SO YOU CAN USE IT!

So this Sunday I'm making a stand:

I'm not allowed to buy anything new: no fabric, batting, wool roving, beads, embroidery thread, or inspirational books until I actually USE the stuff I have on hand.

If I'm scared of running out of red thread, well damn, I'd better feel the fear and get over it and start stitching out the thread I have on hand!

No, I won't ever have an empty sewing room, free of every scrap of fabric. That isn't the point. I do believe that inspiration does come in part from having materials ready to hand, so I will always have a stock of supplies to work with.

But there is a balance with this stash. It needs to flow in, but it also needs to flow out in the form of finished projects, or at least some testing and sampling of new materials. If I don't know how to use something, stuffing it in a drawer isn't going to make it less mysterious, it's going to make it that much harder to pull it out and play with it.

So I'm off to play. I don't have anything to show for my efforts quite yet, but by this evening I should have SOMETHING to show for meeting the fear, then taking a rotary cutter to it's face and carving a new shape.

UPDATE!

It's one thing to talk a big game about busting out of this rut of hoarding nice materials, but quite another thing to actually step up and DO SOMETHING about it. I got off the computer today and sliced up yards of my hand dyed fabrics to do this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

What will this be? Another quilt featuring over 400 free motion quilting designs. I've been stalling out on this decision for months, but the fact is, I miss my little 4 inch squares because they're so easy to keep track of, photograph, and stitch through quickly. What stalled it mostly was the question - what to do with all of them???

Answer: design a quilt and make it. Easy peasy. What next? What else can I use up?

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I love hand spinning on a spindle, but for months I've wanted to "put a motor on it" so I finally broke down and bought a Hansen Minispinner back in January. I love this little thing, but it hasn't gotten nearly as much attention as it deserves, so I pulled out some green roving and spun some yarn.

But I also had these little soaps left over from my trip to Denver. Could I try covering the soap with felt like I'd been wanting to do for months?

free motion quilting | Leah Day

What's the risk here? Spinning the yarn didn't scare me, cutting up the hand dyed fabrics made me feel a bit of loss because they were pretty to look at in the bin, but that was fleeting because they were even more beautiful on the wall and will be even BETTER in a huge quilt, but covering this stupid little soap seemed super scary.

Why? Because I'm not good at it. I don't know what I'm doing. I have never felted anything in my life and I might actually mess it up.

But what is the RISK? What will I lose by trying something new? I can always dye more wool. I can always use another soap (I have 5 of them!)

In the end, this turned out great! Taking a risk, pulling out these materials, using something UP feels great. Now what else can I play with today?

Let's go quilt,

Leah

43 comments:

  1. Amen to this! Thanks Leah for your timely post! I've been telling myself to do the same thing!

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  2. I have been feeling the same way, only pretty much confined to fabric. It is almost automatic that if there is a good sale on a fabric that appeals to me I have an urge to buy it. I have to remind myself that there will always be lovely fabric. I am trying to at least use up more than I buy, but it is much harder than I expected...

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  3. I do the same thing Leah! But my rationaltion for it, as I'm much older is, "I must buy it now because I might not be able to afford it later!" LOL.

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  4. Ahh, this very epiphanic thought occured to me earlier this year and I have tried to incorporate projects to use what I have on hand. Good luck! It's a work in progress.

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  5. Leah, I feel your pain or maybe I should say disappointment. I've hoarded books, yarn and cloth. I had a spinner that i just had to have and roving to go with it. I tried to spin for a short time and didn't get the hang of it. So, my spinner sat in the corner of my bedroom for years. Just recently I said to myself, if your not using it, sell it to someone that will. I did and im not sad about it. Since August my goal has been to finish projects already started. I'm making some head way. I plan to sew down the binding of my daughters quilt I started in the 90's. now that's sad, but I'm happy that I've made a goal to finish and give my first big quilt to her. I'll try to get a pic posted. Hope your having a great day!

    Pam

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  6. You have expressed what lurks in the dark, shadowed, quiet but unsettled recesses of my thoughts, also! You are so correct....they ARE irrational! (and, possibly, could lead to "hoarding" if not recognized and acted upon, which I, too, intend to do!!! ) The thought that if I used something I have (that I love or I wouldn't have it!!) and had no more of it.....AND couldn't replace it (really???? not replace it??? in this country of retail madness???) I would find something else that I love equally and go forth stitching happily! Also, maybe there is a "fellow" quilter out there who is financially 'strapped' at the moment who could use a "fabric pick-me-up"!!! We must keep our eyes and hearts open to such! Hugs and blessings from my over-crowded sewing space, Doreen

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  7. Guilty here too! I have it all and more. One reason is I live in a rural area and I can't always run out and buy what I need. So I have to stock up. I have slowed down with the buying--I'm out of room. :)

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  8. I'm jumping aboard the "I feel the same way!" wagon. I'm so afraid to use the fabric I love because I might want it even more for something else. But then that actually just happened - I had forgotten why I was saving a scrap of green and so I used it to make a stuffed "turtle" for my nephew and then just days later remembered that it was for the quilt I was just finishing - but you know what? It was OKAY! I lived!

    I can't wait to use more fabric!

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  9. I keep saving fabric and such for that one perfect project. I know I will never have a project 'perfect' enough for these things. It's like saving your china for 'good'. Who is better than my husband and children? I was raised to be a hoarder it seems. Where's the shrink to fix this issue, LOL.

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  10. Leah you always make me smile.. I think many of us are of the same train of thought. I have a storage unit only slightly smaller than a single car garage and it's full of fabrics and sewing/ quilting supplies. My rationale was that I purchased all of it when I was still working as 'I could afford it''. Finding your site has given me the encouragement to start quilting again as I am now retired. Thanks so much for sharing so much with us. Your a real angel. Hugs..

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  11. This is just what I needed!! I have so much "stuff" and not much to show for it...I am going to cut it up and make SOMETHING!! Thanks!!

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  12. Just what I needed today. I too have too much "stuff" and not enough to show for it...I am going to get that rotary cutter busy....Thanks !!!

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  13. I am re-entering the quilting world after a 2 year funk. If I gathered all the boxes of fabric I have, I am pretty sure people would call it a hoard. As I was reading quilting blogs lately, so many are all about the fabrics. This made me really start feeling like I had to get these new "modern" fabrics. I decided that I was not going to do that though, I need to use what I already have, no matter if someone might look down their nose and call it dated.

    The other problem with overbuying- by the time you get time for the fabric you just had to have, it is "out".

    Also, I made a set of blocks from some hand dyes I had been saving forever, and I hardly made a dent!

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  14. Leah and Ellie, you have expressed something that has been lurking in my mind also--fear of using something only to find it was JUST the thing to make the next quilt perfect--only I used it in a practice FMQ thing. But nothing gets made and I shop for stuff that I want when lovely stuff is in my stash. Is there some kind of "use-along" you can start, Leah? I am doing Pile O'Fabrics BOM and using stash (but also buying for it, I am ashamed to say), but a monthly challenge might get us to weild the cutter and MAKE those wanna-dos.
    Sally in Seattle aka kooikermom

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  15. Leah, you are not alone in this way of thinking, as you can see by all the replies. I'm thrilled to know that I'm not alone in this, either! Like Ellie here, I too tend to hesitate to use certain fabrics, etc. for fear I'll need them more for something else later. But I've also noticed that if I go ahead and create with abandon, using whatever in my stash strikes my fancy, the universe has a funny way of replacing what I've used with something even more suitable for any future project I might have used that item for. Another thing I've noticed is that if I think on the 'lack' side, worrying that I won't be able to afford something later, then sure enough, I won't. However if I think on the 'abundance' side, things seem to show up just when I need them and can afford them (and sometimes even before I need them!). And since my hoarding is coming from a sense of lack--fear of not having what I'll need later--it's all the more reason for me to get busy and use what the universe has already provided, hence changing my 'lack' mindset to one of abundance. That way, there will always be more!

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  16. I also have the same problem! I am so afraid of using something I just love and not being able to get more. Part of this I blame on the fabric companies for making so many limited lines. ( I rather see less but have it available longer) I am trying to use all my "special" fabrics but the down side to this is that it takes me forever to find just the right project for it! I cant seem to win. I am working towards finishing alot of projects with what I have and I hope that you have much luck doing the same :)

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  17. As I read your post, it felt like you were writing about me...I feel guilty and embarrassed about my stash sometimes. It makes me wonder if there is something wrong with me, because when I see something new and beautiful, I buy it....As I read these blogs, I realize that I am not the only quilter that does this. It is just what quilters do. It is part of our love for quilting, and the anticipation of all the wonderful things that we can make...Thanks for the timely blog, and I am trying to use more of what I have, but if I am not careful, I will end up with more UFO's. What a dilemma! lol!

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  18. I am doing the same...I am not buying any more fabric this year. I have tons of fabric..I am not even using my stash for now...I am using up a huge box of craps...I also am making dog toys with my small batting scraps that I could not see throwing out. It feels great to finish projects using my scraps..though I feel like I am not getting very far. I made two king tops, three baby quilts, two runners, a bath rug and a kitchen floor rug. I still have many more projects to go before I can buy anything new....I may not even have to buy any next year LOL

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  19. I got rid of a lot of my 'some day' fabrics when I moved across the country. Anytime I purchased fabric it was for something specific that I was working on. My rule was that I couldn't buy something unless I had a specific plan for it. Over the years I have fallen off of that mantra and I am swimming in 'some day' fabrics again. I finally decided to use some of my fabric and I didn't have enough for the project- and it isn't available anymore. I've got tons of fabric to use for quilt sandwiches to practice FMQ on now. Thanks for the inspiration to stop hoarding!

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  20. Thank goodness you are a hoarder. You are fortunate to have the materials you need to satisfy your creative spirit when it moves you. Sounds like today is the day!

    Had you used up all that good stuff, what would you do with this need to be create something wonderful? I believe that today, your yin simply met your yang. Hurray for your ability to act on this perfect moment in time.

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  21. I have yarn in baskets all over my house. I have an entire wall in my sewing room covered with thread. I have a 6' by 6' closet that is floor to ceiling fabric. I have beads and buttons that fill another closet. But best of all I have quilts that are stacked on chairs in corners of rooms, layered on beds in extra bedrooms, and hanging over the railing at the top of the stairs. I know that I will need to stop accumulating at some point, but for a while more, I plan to keep my stashes growing. I enjoy all the completed quilts, and knitted and woven creations that adorn every room in my home. The best thing is that I have something special to gift when a special occasion arrives and I know that what I have created will be loved as much by the person who receives it as it was by me while I was making it and keeping it until the right person came along to receive it. I want to thank you for sharing your wonderful talent and time with us all.

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  22. Ha, we will see how long your resolution not to buy lasts. Mine lasted about a month, then there were things i mysteriously "needed"!

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  23. I have only started rebuilding my fabric stash, but I can see it happening. I have a bead stash. I have a yarn stash, although it isn't a great one. And I have decided that I need to start using it all up.

    Time to actually make some of those projects I have dreamed over.

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  24. I am glad to read this as I feel less alone. I was thinking it was just me and I could not sort out why I was doing this. I don't have as much fabric or supplies as many others, but I know I have 'enough' and yet, when I find a quilt pattern I like and think, let's make this, and look at my stash, I will pick up a jelly roll I have or some fabrics that look nice togehter and then immediately think 'but what if I use them for this and then when I find the next project, I won't have them. And at that very same time, I KNOW that I won't use them for this project or the next because I will keep on waiting for the 'right' project. I actually hate how this feels and wish I understood what drives it.

    I have thought of pushing through and using them, with the promise to myself that I can buy a half yard of 3 or 4 other fabrics as a reward, and to show myself that there IS more. I know, for me, it has to do with a fear of having what I need. And there was a significant 'lack' in my early life. But I KNOW that the way to shift this is to stop collecting and begin using, not wildly, but just using and enjoying. And yet it is hard to tip the pendulum. Here goes.........

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  25. "Here's My Sign". I can't believe the timing. For me, my fear is "how to get started". So I distract myself by shopping for inspiration or diretion then end up buying more and working less on starting or completing a project. It's a crazy, vicious cycle that has to end today!

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  26. I've always wanted to try felting, but no local shops carry wool roving. Would love to see more of your projects in this vein!

    I have a rule to not buy any fabric/notion unless I have an actual concrete project for it, and not start a new project before the previous one is finished. I stick to this rule pretty strictly (or at least i think I do) and yet somehow I still have a whole cupboard of unused fabric...

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  27. I'm so excited about your new quilt! I hope you share the end result. I feel the same way about my stash a lot. Every time I try to use an older fabric I feel guilty. Guilty!!! I totally know where you're coming from and you're such an inspiration to me! I think I'm going to go through my stash tonight!

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  28. You put into words what a lot of us feel, that the act of creation will destroy the beauty of the materials. It's another irrational fear, but it puts the stop on many a project.

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  29. Leah, you said it beautifully!
    I also like to get it out and touch it and gaze at it.

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  30. I share that same "irrational" thought! If I don't get it today maybe I'll never be able to have it, then if I use it, I won't have it anymore. What a crazy cycle! But yet it happens. That is why this year I searched out a "stash busters" challenge instead of a UFO challenge. I need to use my stuff and not add more to it. The urge is hard to control and sometimes I loose (usually with fabric!), but yesterday I avoided the urge to buy a new rolling tote for my machine (I have many) so I am one up for the week and it feels good in some ways but I am still "missing" the tote. Odd, but I can live with it.

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  31. Well, Ladies, I felt badly about asking Leah to host a finish-a-long when she has so many projects and great things going on, so googled "finish a long" and found this one that even has prizes! http://shecanquilt.blogspot.com/p/2013-finish-long.html

    It doesn't say anything about USING STASH instead of buying stuff, but it does say that it has to be a WIP so presumably we already have the fabric/beads/yarn, etc. and just need to DO IT!! I don't have a blog but am tempted to because of this (but you can use flickr if you don't blog.) See you there!
    Sally in Seattle

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  32. The rainbow quilt looks great on your design wall!

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  33. Now, that is very clever. We should all think like that. I am trying hard not to buy any more stuff. But I am weak when it comes to books - but no space anymore in the shelves. But books are so great to have and to browse when looking for ideas. So they are heaping up on my work table - no good solution.
    Thanks for your encouragement.

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  34. We all do this, regardless of craft. I make myself buy two of the same thing, and not one of each colour option. Otherwise there is the issue of the item being too precious to use, or not having enough to do a project. But I've bought and come home to find I already have. Its gets more scary if you start to tot up the cost of the stash in cupboards. Going round shows though, after a while you do reach saturation point, both in terms of the stash available or new products, which aren't new at all, just labelled a new name, or from another genre but targetted at say, quilters or embroiderers. I have set myself a general life rule, if one bag comes into the house, then one bag must go out, be it charity shop, recycling.

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  35. It seems the more I cut fabric to try to use it the more it multiplies because then I have scraps I must use as well. A few years ago I got into buying the 1920's fabric. I didn't buy much just some yard pieces of 10 to 15 fabrics -- I made 5 or 6 baby quilts and it seemed I couldn't use it all up! There for a while a piece or two of it seemed to go into everything I made! The more I tried to use it the more I had! If only money worked that way!

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  36. I too, have "stash" for multiple crafts. Now, unexpectedly, we are moving to a new house in 6 weeks(!). (We stumbled across the perfect house on the perfect lot in the perfect neighborhood for a really awesome price. The universe was speaking to us.)Soooo, now is the time to confront my craft hoard. Maybe the universe is speaking to me, too. Time to decide the fate of all those beads, yarns, fabrics, rulers, etc I HAD to have over the last 20 years. Maybe I'll fall in love all over again with some of it, maybe some of it will just need to be set free. I WILL NOT just close my eyes and move it ALL like I did the last time. Wish me luck!

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  37. Hi! Leah and all those who've left a comment
    I fear using something and then wishing I'd made something 'better' with it. But my biggest fear is experimenting with a new technique and it not working to my satisfaction. And then it becomes a 'waste of time' and I so fear wasting time on something that doesn't work! I need to get my head around experimentation not being a waste of time but being an opportunity to develop creativity!
    Allison

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  38. Allison, That is also a problem for me. I'm afraid
    To do any FMQ on a project. I just keep practicing
    And feel I'm not good enough to do it on my
    Projects I'm working on. I so need to get over this
    And just jump in. Fear is so limiting and freezes you.
    I have to make my mantra, if you don't try you won't
    Accomplish anything.

    Pam

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  39. Well, I've seen my quilter friends fabric rooms and I don't ever want to be like that! I have a lot of fabric, and late last year, I decided to just START USING IT. I realized if I saved all of it for quilts, it would likely ROT before I got to it, so I started branching out....I learned how to install zippers, I blog hopped, I followed tutorials for smaller projects....and I think I like them better than quilting! Oh, I love FMQ for sure, but who says I need to do a 90X90 quilt to FMQ...I can do a nice 17 inch square with very artsy FMQ and make a throw pillow or a tote bag....and you know what? After just 17 inches, I'm not dreading finishing....like some quilts that I can't wait to finish just to stop looking at them! Quilts can be very time consuming and while I enjoy them, by and large, I'm NOT paying someone else to quilt it, so they take a very long time....these smaller projects, I'm in total love. My oldest fabric? I have some Kaye Wood, matter of the heart I've been hoarding almost 15 years!!! Yeah, I'm soooooo ready to make a nice Two Zip Hipster by Erin Erickson out of it!
    If I find a special fabric I just HAVE to have, no problem, I'll,buy it, but no more JUST TO HAVE until some of WHAT I'VE GOT is GONE.

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  40. Leah, as a result of this post of yours, I have not only joined the Finish-a-long at She Can Quilt (as previously commented) but I also photographed my projects awaiting finishing and started a blog to facilitate finishing them with a time line. I have also been thinking about why things don't get finished (like you did in your post) and specifically why *I* don't finish them. Thanks a lot for lighting a fire under and within me to get this done.
    Sally in Seattle

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  41. Leah,
    I'm also in the same boat as you are - with plastic bins overflowing with fabric, projects that have been "in process" for years, quilt projects I've purchased but never started...I hate it.
    To keep me remembering that I must use these things I have to tell you about a woman in my quilting guild. She died. She was also a "hoarder" and her son had to organize her stash, her tools, her patterns, everything and couldn't sell her house until he sold everything. It took him over 2 months and eventually he donated a bunch of things that he couldn't sell. I was late to the game but I went down the basement where he said so much had already been sold and I saw 40 huge plastic bins of fabric, tables of fabric, quilt patterns complete with fabric all packaged up neatly, so much thread, etc. etc...I was quite overwhelmed and I still refer to these things as "the dead woman's fabric"...I'd like to know I'll die someday without leaving such a burden..how I'll do it, I'm not sure, but I think just being conscious of what you have is a start.

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  42. I totally understand where you are coming from. My goal is to do 12 quilts this year, one each month, and have at least 6 of those be from my stash. So far I have completed 3, two from my stash and a tshirt quilt. The four is in the works and is from my stash. My fear isn't running out, but what if after I cut it I want to make it into something else. But I am finding joy in getting them done. Good luck on your quest.

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  43. Not only do I have more incoming fabric than finished projects, I seem to have quilter's block (similar to writer's block). It's not that I'm afraid that if I use a certain fabric up I may wish I had it for a later project, I can't even decide what pattern to use, fearing that the pattern won't show off the beautiful fabic. I just realized I need to start making things from fabric in my stash that I don't love to get past my block. I keep buying gorgeous pre-cuts by incredible designers and then I'm afraid to use them. That the project I pick will be a waste of fabric I love. Thanks for the therapy session Leah! I now know what's going on :)

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