The Art of Being Resourceful with Amanda Nadig

By Amanda Nadig

The art of being resourceful means more to me than just saving money. This started early for me in my career as a public school art teacher when I watched things being thrown out daily. I wanted to teach my students to take notice of the materials around them that could be used in their artmaking.

Find Beauty in the Unexpected

I like the immediacy of sifting through my textile scraps to discover surprising combinations of fabric weights, textures, and colors to inspire a new quilt rather than choosing a quilt pattern and going shopping for fabric. I prefer to work improvisationally and allow the materials readily available in my home to guide my work.

These found-fabric polyester remnants were appliqued into this quilt in the same shape they were discovered. I love the subtle difference in the texture and the color of the pink fabrics.

Shop Secondhand

But don’t be mistaken, I love adding fresh fabrics to my stash! I’ve found vintage sheets, cloth napkins, shirts, flowy skirts, used super-soft pillowcases, and printed tablecloths in visits to garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. Spending more time at home and not being able to go out in recent months has prompted me to begin searching for fabrics available to me in my own big black clothing donation bags.

Sometimes pillowcases and cloth napkin edges have lovely delicate details that add surprising textures.

Be Resourceful at Home

I discovered a dress I wore on a family beach vacation the day my son rode on a Gokart for the first time. I found my husband’s maroon sweater that I had accidentally shrunk in the dyer. And, I found a favorite floral shirt from my early years of teaching that I wore to every open house and art show. These clothes were no longer worn, but using them in my handmade quilts tells a story.

When I met my husband 15 years ago, he had these red and white Ikea curtains in his studio apartment. We continued to use them in our first apartment and first home. We no longer use them, so this fabric appears in many of my quilts.

Enjoy the Process

Last month I purchased dyed linen and silk sari fabric scraps from makers selling remnants from their sewing projects online. I also recently received an awesome, (but stained) vintage tablecloth in the mail. I’m excited to cut it up to use in a new quilt. Recently, I’ve moved away from using my sewing machine. Now, when selecting fabrics I pay close attention to the way they feel on my lap and how comfortably I can guide a needle and thread through them. A finished quilt is great, but what I value most is the slow and relaxing artistic process and feeling good that I am giving second-hand fabrics a new life.

The small black and white shapes are from a shower curtain. My mom mailed me the bottoms of some pinstripe pants she cut off. I incorporated them into this same quilt.

The black and gray fabrics were from the front and reverse sides of a thrifted XL men’s dress shirt. The flower applique is from fabric that used to cover a pillow in our old house.

Using magazine pages as foundation paper, I was able to handpiece remnants of a wool sweater and favorite floral blouse. Both fabrics have very different weights and stretch, but foundation paper piecing made it possible.

Amanda, thank you so much for sharing this personal essay!  You’ve shown us accessible ways that we all can all be more resourceful in our sewing projects! For more of Amanda’s work, follow her on Instagram @amandanadigart.

For more ways to be resourceful with sewing, check out 4 Simple Questions to Ask When Buying Secondhand FabricHow to Be a Savvy Second-Hand Shopper in 4 Simple Steps, and 5 Ways to Incorporate Secondhand Into Your Lifestyle.

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