the chaos theory

the chaos theory

By Patricia Belyea

WAUCONDA WA. There’s lots of information available about how to organize your sewing room. For me, I’ve made a conscious choice to allow one area of my studio to be in complete disarray—my collection of solids.

Seattle quilting studio of Patricia Belyea

In many of my compositions, I pair contemporary solids with luscious yukata cotton. So I like to have lots of solids on hand to make decisions on the fly when I’m designing.

The Art of Flowers quilt by Patricia Belyea of Okan ArtsSince I’m a textile importer, you’d think that I’d never need to purchase more fabrics. Not so. I love to go into quilt shops filled with colorful cottons, clever notions, and my kind of people. 

And while I’m visiting, I peruse the solids section and buy one, two, or three yards of any color that catches my fancy. I will buy any brand of solid as long as the color and hand of the fabric suits me.

Below: Ashley Portilla of District Fabrics in Port Townsend WAAshley Portilla of District Fabrics

When I get home, the first thing I do is pre-wash my haul. After that, my organizational self-discipline ends.

Pre-washing solids for my quilting fabric stash at Okan Arts

I give the colored cottons a quick press and throw them into a bin. No special folding. No wrapping the fabric around little boards. No chromatic organization. Nope.

The fabric yardage goes into one of six bins—Yellow/Orange, Red/Purple, Blue, Green, Whites, or Neutrals. A seventh bin is labeled Scraps.

Bins of solid fabrics at Okan Arts

The disorganized bins are stacked on top of one another and tucked into a closet, out of sight.

When I need some color, I pull out a bin and dig through my rainbows of fabric. It’s a visceral experience—handling color with my eyes and hands at the same time. 

Baby quilt in progress by Patricia Belyea of Okan Arts

Most times I make do nicely with my collection. Occasionally a colored cotton I have on hand inspires me but I feel compelled to search for a slightly different hue for my project. 

Quilting is my pleasure. Having oodles of colors in my stash fulfills my goal of having lots of fun. And spending less time organizing my solids means more time cutting up fabric and sewing it back together!

Seattle quilting studio of Patricia Belyea

NOTE: A version of this post is included in Create Whimsy’s Best Fabric Storage Ideas article +read here

ABOUT US: Okan Arts, a petite family business, is co-owned by mother-daughter duo Patricia Belyea and Victoria Stone. Patricia and Victoria sell Japanese textiles online, host creative quilting experiences, and lead quilting & textile tours to Japan.