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Long Time Gone Quilt: Organisation & Storage

The Long Time Gone Quilt by Jen Kingwell is not the kind of quilt that you make overnight. You’re going to need a way to store your fabrics and blocks as you work, as well as a plan for how you’ll make sure your quilt is cohesive as you work. To help you make the most of your Long Time Gone adventure I’ve pulled together some information about how to be organised and prepared while you work.

Step 1: Preparation

The first thing I did was sit down and read the pattern from cover to cover and then back again. I wanted to know what I was in for so I could start thinking about how to prepare for things as I worked through it. For example, those pineapple blocks are going to need a lot of strips could I start cutting them at the start? Colour placement was another thing that I wanted to think about – would I approach it in a haphazard manner or would I spend some time thinking about it.

I also wanted to take the time to read the carefully considered instructions that Jen Kingwell provides in her pattern introduction. It always pays to read these instructions. It’s a bit like flying on an aeroplane, you may have done it before but you still need to pay attention to the safety instructions at the start.

Step 2: Fabric Pull

My favourite bit. For this quilt I’m using all Alison Glass so I just raided my stash and pulled anything and everything Alison Glass. I then had to work out how to store it while I worked on this pattern and at least 4 others at the same time. I use a combination of clear plastic bins (with lids) to store and stack my projects as I work. I’ve got a soft spot for the longer thinner bins (often referred to as under bed storage) at the moment because they allow me to sort everything into stacks of colour and they fit under my work table easily and a few at a time.

I also really like these bins because I can keep all my fabrics in them while I work and just pull from the piles as I need them. I often just put them on top of a stool beside my cutting table and sort and cut at the same time. It’s like a fabric lucky dip where there’s no dud prizes!

Step 3: Mid-Project Shuffle

When it comes to managing the block to quilt top stage I like to use the clear plastic shoe box storage that are available all over the place. You can get some great deals on lots of 10 so they work out quite economical. I like them in this size because they’re great for storing blocks before they become quilt tops and you can store the pattern with them at the same time.

I love using Alphabitties from Fat Quarter Shop for keeping track of my block pieces while I switch between projects. I use a combination of Wonder Clips and Plastic Ziploc bags to keep them altogether.

I also use a tracker of some sort to help keep me on the straight and narrow. Most of the times it’s just a clip board with a plain piece of paper where I’ve scrawled everything down, but then sometimes I get fancy and make a tracker.

Side note: Clip boards on hooks are an awesome way to keep things organised, off your work space and visible if you’re managing a lot of projects at once. I use them both in my office and my sewing space. I just put blank copy paper on them and scrawl what I need as I think of it.

Step 4: Finalising the Quilt Top

With this project this is going to be the part of the process that keeps you on your toes. I highly recommend reading the pattern. (This is also where having read the pattern at the beginning comes in handy because you’re not going to be as surprised by how it all comes together.) This is the magic in a Jen Kingwell pattern – you’re about to take all those beautiful blocks and meld them together to make a stunning quilt top.

I am truly lucky and I have a rather large design wall (holds an 80″ square quilt top without a problem) so for me I like to put all the blocks on the wall, step back and have a look at how they’re all playing together before deciding on my final tweaks and moves. If you’re not as lucky to have a design wall I’d suggest some of the following strategies for getting your blocks laid out:

  • Use the biggest bed you have and lay them out in order, then get up high and take a photo with your phone. This is handy because it’ll show you where things will lay when you put your finished quilt on the bed.
  • Clear a space on a floor and get up high and take a photo.
  • Ask your Local Quilt Shop if you can borrow their design wall. You’ll find many quilt shops have a design wall in their teaching area, ask them if you can hire it for an hour or two to get your layout worked out. You might even find they have a sit and stitch session happening that you can crash (then you’ll get the added benefit of having others to talk to for hours on end about colour placement, value and did you see what happened in the latest episode of <insert current trendy show name here>.)

Once you’ve worked out the layout and it comes time to take it off the wall – LABEL the pieces. Work left to right and as you take them off the wall number them (another great use for Alphabitties) and then draw a rough diagram on a piece of paper and record the number and placement on the paper. (Then make sure you keep the paper with the blocks! Another good use for those clear plastic shoe box storage!)

I hope this has helped you get ready for your Long Time Gone adventure!

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