Sunday, May 23, 2021

Quilter's Last Will and Testament

Every day we get older. And no one gets to live forever. I don't want this to sound maudlin or creepy, but if I was gone tomorrow, my family has a BIG job ahead of them, dealing with all my quilt stuff.

My friends and I have seen what happens when a quilter passes away with a huge stash. I have written several times about the Quilter's Estate Sale of August 2020. Use the Search Box up in the upper left to find those posts.

My primary stash closets when they were looking neat and tidy:

Closet 1

Closet 2

Closet 3

I often say I have a "sinful amount of fabric" and that is true. As well as books, notions, supplies, patterns, magazine articles, projects under construction, etc.

For some time now, I have planned to help my family prepare for the day this all becomes theirs by creating a Quilter's Last Will and Testament. Here are 10 Top Tips on what I think your family  needs to know about your stuff:

1. Who to call? Which quilter friends are willing to help your family sort through and arrange to sell or give away all this stuff.? Name at least 3 good friends, provide their phone numbers. Discuss this with those friends in advance--are they willing to take on this task?

2. Sewing Machines: how many do you have, where are they, serial numbers, when did you buy them and for how much? I currently have two Singer Featherweights, a Bernina 765 in an expensive cabinet and my beloved Bernina Q20 sit-down longarm. When I bought that in 2015, I told my husband it was really "expensive". Note I was not asking his permission to buy it, my money as a professional quiltmaker and teacher did that. But he only understood what that word meant when he saw the credit card bill. Your family has no idea how much your very valuable machines cost or are worth today. The Featherweights are often thought to be "toy machines". One of mine I had painted so I have almost $700 invested in that baby--I want that to go to granddaughter Stella someday. 

3. Your Important Quilts: Which mean the most to you and are the ones you really want to stay with your family? Do you have some that have won major awards or been published that will increase their value? These "Best Quilts" need to be documented in writing, with photos, to help ensure that information stays with those quilts. Make a LIST--who do you want to get your favorite quilts? There are a few I want to go to my grandchildren, Stella and Sam, when they are old enough to appreciate them. Yes, I have given them baby quilts and kid quilts already. I mean the ones I want them to share with their children, long after I'm gone, when they talk about their "BB". 

4. Your Quilts You Would Like to Give to Someone: make a list of any quilts you want given to a specific friend or family member. The "quilt worthy" person who will be so happy to have a piece of  you in their life. If you are lucky enough to know when your end is near, add their name to those quilts in advance. Or, BETTER YET--give that special friend that special quilt while you are able to see them receive it. 

5. Your Quilts that can be Sold or Given Away: is there an organization you want to support?  Project Linus, Quilts of Valor, Guild Comfy/Charity Quilts all come to mind. But there are organizations that conduct fundraisers which might appreciate a quilt or two. Educational organizations and those that support  children in need are possible candidates. I easily have 50 small wall quilts laying around that have little value for sale but could raise a little money for charity. 

6. Put Labels on ALL your quilts. If you don't automatically put labels on ALL your quilts, start doing that today. Here is a Tutorial I wrote about Labels 4 years ago:  Quilt Labels

7. Important Quilts Still Under Construction--again, if you know your time is short, find those good friends and ask them if they would be willing to finish that really important quilt you are working on, as a gift for your family. Not every quilt you ever started--just that special one you ran out of time to finish. Someone will say "yes". 

8. Be aware that most of our stuff  has little value to others, even quilters. The books, patterns you plan to make "someday", magazine articles you saved for 30 years, the 200 pens/markers  in a box. even all your rulers, cutters and mats. People will be happy to take some of it off your hands, but not for money. Now is the best time to start purging that stuff. Have a "swap" or "giveaway" for close quilting friends. This takes work but you bought it all so you really ought to help your family by dealing with some of this stuff now, before it becomes their problem. The only special "things" I want saved for my family are my thimbles. Some are sterling silver, some are inexpensive brass topped thimbles I first learned to hand-quilt with. They are my most meaningful "tools" and take up very little room. I am looking for a special box I can store them in--I will include the story of those thimbles in the box. 

9. The Fabric: It has value, to a lot of quilters. But, again, it's a matter of quantity. I am really in the purge mode this year as I try to reduce some of the "sinful" amount I have. There is a sale/swap/giveaway in my future this year. Just as soon as I sort through those closets again. Do you LOVE all the fabric you currently own? 

10. Antique Quilts and Tops:  I almost forgot this category--I have about a dozen antique quilts and tops, some cost me a good bit of money. some I lucked into for very little. They are stored away from my quilts, in a closet. I must take time to create a LIST of these, what I know about them, what I paid and where I bought them. Sure don't want my kids to think these are just junky old rags...

11. Lastly, write a note to the future about what quilting has meant to you. It has been my most important passion for more than 35 years, more dear to me than anything other than my family. It has gotten me through tough times, brought more joy than I could have imagined, and added dear friends to my life that mean so much--you know who you are. Over the years I have saved a lot of notes I have received from friends and students--they are in a beautiful basket for my kids to find someday. That is a good place for my "letter to the future" to reside. 

These quilts all have to go somewhere. My kids appreciate them but they don't want them all:

The Extra Guest Bed, with several layers

Working quilts--a lot of these are class projects that travel with me

The Rack holds works being quilted or waiting to be quilted

The Living Room--quilts everywhere you look


So, what have I left out? Can you think of more steps we should take to deal with all our stuff? Any of these things can be done now, in bits of time. It doesn't have to take a month of hard work. Just get started. Take one of these ideas a month and do just that. In less than a year you'll be done. Your family will thank you. 

And, let's quilt.

Barbara



45 comments:

  1. I have been purging the last couple of weeks. My stash is also sinful!
    Donna Wells (now working on your red and white quilt.)

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  2. Thank you for all the great tips! I've been purging, but need to do more.

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  3. I so love the colors in the quilt on the guestroom wall! Beautiful! I have been thinking about this very topic lately and realize I have been remiss in the history of my quilts. Thanks for the tips and reminders!

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  4. Guilty, guilty, guilty. 20 yrs+ and I'm still dealing with my parents 'stuff'.

    How do I send you a personal note instead of public comment? Thanks.

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  5. Such a timely post as I just turned 75 last week. A few years ago I gathered photos of all the quilts I've made other then a handful of the earliest ones, and had a photo book printed. Have made smaller books each year since the first one. Have had duplicate copies made so each of my children will have a set when I'm gone. Do still need to make labels for a few, though sometimes the back is nice enough that I'll display it on the bed and not really want a label interfering with the vibe. How do you address that issue?

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    1. Great idea! It is my intention to have a book printed from my Special Exhibit in Houston this Fall, for my kids to have as documentation of that event.

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    2. perhaps put a pocket in a back corner of the quilt using the same fabric and matching the pattern if possible.

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    3. What a wonderful idea this is!

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  6. My word for the year is "Prepared". You would think I would have a pillow or wall hanging with that statement but I don't. LOL But my kids to know that this is my year to get it together. While my plethora (yes) of quilting "essentials" are very important, my finances and family heirlooms and pics are the most important. I have most of my affairs in order but I still need to make a few decisions on that. I am also trying to make sure all of my sewing items are together in the same place. I just plan to leave instructions for how to handle them. Fortunately, all of my kids want all of my quilts! What it takes to get there is another story. LOL

    Thanks for sharing this. It is really important for us to be mindful of what we leave behind and how we leave it.

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    1. So true. We think we have our affairs in order with the usual things, medical care, financial things, but what about all the rest of our stuff, especially for me, the quilting things. I will work on this over the next 12 months for my family.

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  7. This year I have been trying to bring all of my fabric and yarn together at least in the same location. There are many plastic tubs of both which hopefully will be given to someone who can use all of it if I no longer can.

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  8. I too have an abundance of sewing and needlework things, but relatively few quilts, at least so far. I've given DS a verbal heads-up that some of the machines and vintage attachments are not $5 garage sale items, but really should put it in writing with the other official paperwork. In the stress of dealing with estate stuff, who's to say anyone would remember correctly, something said years earlier. At least I hope it will be years. Once as he was looking around the sewing room I quipped "just think - all this will be yours someday!". His stunned "oh sh..." look was simultaneously hilarious and sobering.

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  9. Good food for thought, Barbara--and many good ideas here. My Mom decided when she turned 85 that she would make one more quilt and then be done. After she had the quilt in the frames she gave away all of her fabric, allowing family first picking and then opening it up to neighbors and friends. My younger sister (who wants to quilt more when her life slows down a bit) received Mom's machine and all of her quilting implements and tools. Mom had assigned quilts to us as she made them, so it was never a question as to who got which ones. Mom is still with us at 91, but none of her quilting stuff remains. She still crocheted afghans until last year, when the tremors in her hands made it too frustrating.
    I need to seriously think about how I want to handle the distribution of my quilting stuff before the time comes.

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  10. That all sounds good but I gotta be honest..I won't ever get around to doing that. My DH passed nearly 9 years ago and the kids don't give a flip so whatever happens to this when I'm gone...happens. But if you ever get a chance, I'd LOVE to see that patriotic looking quilt (under the pineapple quilt) in the extra guest BR. I'm currently making lots of quilts for donation (to use up the stash) and QOVs are a big part of that. Thanks!

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    1. Most wont' get around to this, even when we know it's a good idea.
      That quilt of valor is featured in two posts: https://bbquiltmaker.blogspot.com/2020/11/first-quilt-of-valor.html
      and https://bbquiltmaker.blogspot.com/2020/04/red-white-and-blue-all-set.html

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    2. Search for Quilts of Valor or go to April 2020 and November 2020 archives--I couldn't get those to be hyperlinks.

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  11. My daughter has a plan to clear out all my fabric, tools and art materials. She says she will pack it all in huge bags and take it to work and tip it out down the main corridor. Mind you she does work at Central St Martins Art School! She says students are always desperate for supplies. Maybe an Art School could be the resting place for others stashes too.

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  12. #12. Sew like a mad woman in the meantime .... At 75 all this is too close for comfort but I REALLY want to use as much of my creative supply as I can myself! Am thinking of hiring an apprentice to help on all these fronts since I don't need to use any of my budget on fabric any more but I want to see the designs created and enjoyed by others. When my time comes I hope it is with fabric in my hand and a pattern in my head.

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    1. Wow, love this idea! We should be eager to share our knowledge and excess supplies with beginners—each one, teach one!

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  13. This was well done, Barbara, thank you for sharing. After benefiting so much from the estate sale last year, this has been on my mind a lot. :)

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  14. Ah yes, I just moved across the country and did a lot of purging. As family visited, I let them pick which 1 or 2 spoke to them. A couple of course, I wouldn't part with and some old early ones no one else wanted. But I like the idea of labeling. Did they know this quilt was made for grandma on her bed until she passed? She even picked out the colors. Or that this other was made in a quilting class? Yes, I will start labeling those quilts I have left. Thank you.

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  15. What a timely post. I signed my will last week. I have made a vow to myself I will not leave a mess behind for someone else to clean up. So quilts have been gifted, WIP's are being finished and I'm finding a home for the inventory. Am also learning my passion is not someone's passion

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  16. I appreciate your insight. I now know what I have to do. Thank you.

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  17. I've been trying to chronicle the process of each quilt I complete. I take a picture of the quilt, then on another sheet of paper I type who I made the quilt for, how I chose that particular pattern and fabric, any difficulties I had, or modifications made, or if this is an original pattern, where my inspiration came from - just any little detail that will help me remember the process. Then I have a complete record of that quilt even after I've gifted it to someone. I keep all these pages in their own plastic sleeves in a 3-ring binder. I have absolutely no idea how to distribute my stash, nor the 7 machines I have, three of which are antique!

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  18. What a great post! We owe it to our families to do something NOW! I recently made a digital collection of as many quilt/project photos as I could find - I searched my phone, computer, Facebook page, etc. By looking at file info I was able to get the year for most. I plan to make a hard copy photo album (or more) and then write notes on the pages. This will be a memory book for family taking up less space than the quilts, and give me an ego boost when I need to look over my legacy

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  19. Absolutely give those quilts NOW to friends you'd like to have them. They will love them...you will enjoy the giving, which you cannot (besides having no control over...!) once you are gone.

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  20. Great article! I joined a guild and my family knows they are the ones to contact, but I will also work on the rest of your list! Purging and Purchasing are too connected. The more I purge (share with charity quilters) the more reason I have to buy. Help!

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  21. Great post. I had covid in December and ended up in the hospital Christmas Day in total respiratory failure and pneumonia among other things. Having that close brush with death made me start thinking about all my craft supplies. I started a "how to" book for my son with names and phone numbers of people to call for help with each craft. I also intend to keep purging so there won't be so much. I donated over 300 quilting books to the library.

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  22. It has been only 2 months since my husband passed. I have a lot of hobbies and we were together 64 years. My job now is to finish the quilts I started and put away when our son was on chemo for over 4 years. When he passed it took me 5 years to get them out and start working on them this January. I will not wait 5 more years so finishing and documenting my projects is what keeps me going now. Thanks for the info and list. I belong to a quilt guild with over 275 members so have an outlet to give to. Now to purge, limit and get on with it.

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    1. I am so sorry for your losses. Glad you will be able to finish those early quilts. May the memory of your wonderful husband give you comfort.

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  23. Thank you for reminding us that you can't take anything material into the next life with you. My daughter suggested that when I die, she will gather my quilts and put them on the pews in church during the service to add to the grand celebration of my art created over many years. Thank for all your tips.

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  24. Thank you for giving me another set of things to do before I take my needle, thread & fabric when I "go". I have started the process but it is a job to liquidate my 73 years of quilting, teaching and collecting. What I have done is spent this past winter writing my memoirs ..."Rambling Thoughts of My Quilting Life", a book. It may not be a best seller, but I feel such a sense of pride in finishing it. Well, except for giving away my 'stuff'. Thanks again for letting me realize I have not been alone in my quilting journey.

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    1. Writing your memoirs IS a big accomplishment, congratulations!

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  25. MY daughter told me she is just going to bring in a dumpster and haul it all away. She is a minimalist and has no tolerance for excess. Hmmmm.... I told her that there is a LOT of money in my sewing room, and she'd be a fool to do that! Since then, she has changed her tune. I mean, she does want her inheritance after all! I loved this article. It is sobering to say the least, but I don't want my family coming in and saying, "oh no!" I have begun with the paper work... cleaning out my office. Keeping the important documents. The furnishings in my sewing room alone are worth some serious money. But as I sit here and think about others' comments, I am reminded that it would be a great gift to those who do needlework, and artwork if there was given on those items intentionally. Such great ideas!

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  26. Insert word name.... if their name was given on those intentionally...

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  27. I have a daughter who sews, so I expect she will get the sewing supplies. She has always wanted the treadle machine and the other machine in my sewing room is hers anyway. If she doesn't want some of the stuff she can give it to the quilting group at church. I have never had a lot to spend on fabric so my stash is actually quite small and much of it was given to me. She will likely throw out a lot of the scraps, but I have been trying to use them even though they never seem to go away. I have been making charity quilts for a while. there seems to me to be no reason to make more quilts for family, unless it was for a marriage or baby. I have received back 6 quilts after family members have passed and that is plenty for my daughters to divide up. Plus, there will be quilts from my in-laws, too, since there is no one else to give them to.

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  28. Information to take seriously. Thanks so much for the insight.

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  29. One category, that won't apply to everyone, are quilts that have been passed on through the family.
    When I got married in 1981, my husband's Grandma died 6 months later, and all her quilts came to me. She did not make them, her MOTHER did, so that are quite old. My husband's Grandmother kept them carefully stored, obviously meant to be passed on through the family. I gave one to each of his brothers, and the rest are kept here. They were made with no labels, so each now has a note saying who made them, and approximately when.

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  30. Thank you for your post!
    I just posted a link to our Guild Website
    http://www.kelownaquilts.com/
    We are in Kelowna, British Colombia Canada
    Sadly we have not been able to meet in person since November, but the province is reopening carefully!
    Have a great summer!

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  31. What great words of wisdom. I'm single, retired, child-less, and a avid quilter with a stash that will outlast my lifetime. This gives me some great ideas to suggest how things are to be handled when I'm gone.

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  32. I have given a lot of thought to this also...but mainly, your post makes me feel better about my HUGE stash which takes up literally two bedrooms in our house...over 40 years of quilting and lots of stuff (and that's after pairing down when we moved four years ago!)...we all need to think about this because no quilter wants her "stuff" thrown in a dumpster! THanks for this timely reminder (I turn 70 in Sept!)

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