Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Quilt Retreat report

A fabulous weekend away of sewing, supping, sitting, and not-much-sleeping has come and gone.  I feel refreshed and satisfied with what I accomplished. 

The To-Do list of potential projects was long (quite aspirational, as usual), but I knew I wouldn't get everything "done".  Here's what I did do:

** Made two 12-inch blocks for this year's challenge (Civil War fabrics)
Flying geese with stripes.

My own coffee-cup pattern, cute-i-fied with framing.

** Completed this month's Buck-a-block BOTM (I'll post more fully on that elsewhere).

** Finished the last three blocks for the 1930's reproduction quilt; I won 21 blocks in last year's challenge, but ended up needing 24 blocks to complete the design I had worked out.  One of the blocks I designed and patterned myself.  A paper-pieced design, rather complex in nature.  (And should I mention I have never done paper piecing before?  Yeah, I'm a crazy over-achiever like that.) 

After much color and placement consultation (the advantage of being at retreat is there is endless help making complicated design decisions), I was able to get the sashing done for the blocks.  I still have borders to add, and I'm leaning heavily toward a scrappy piano-key border, so that will take some time.  But I have something to show for my weekend away.  I think it is stunning--and I am very grateful for all the talented seamstresses who contributed the blocks that I won.

I learned some nifty things at retreat.  Hope to share them soon!  Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Quilt Retreat starts today!

I leave tonight for the annual Something To Crow About winter retreat.  Fondly known as Quilt Camp.  Three days of cutting, pinning, ironing, sewing; eating, talking, napping, getting inspiration.  If you're a quilter, you owe it to yourself to go to a retreat at least one time.

I go nearly every year.  It's my Christmas (and birthday).

Here's the list of projects I'm bringing.
There are 3 quilt-y things, one single block, and 3 back-up sewing projects.  Too much?  When I asked oldest daughter about it, she said, "Of course it's too much."  Without even hearing what was on my list.  She knows me so well.

I know, from prior experience, that I bring too much stuff to retreat.  But I also know that I crave variety.  Sometime on Saturday afternoon--after sewing for a day and a half--I will want a complete change of pace.  One year I even brought a knitting project to fill that "change of pace" piece.  I also need a sure-to-be-finished project (like the buck-a-block) so that I have something tangible to show that I *completed*. 

Excited to get there and get sewing!  Not worried right this minute about how much I can get done from this list...  I'll report progress when I get back.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Birthday present: sewing-room organization

My Sweetie surprised me with tools to organize and beautify my sewing room!  I can no longer call it a "cave" --it's too pretty, spacious and open for that.

Before: this table is where I do my cutting and pinning.  I have BOTM blocks up on the wall for inspiration and beauty.  My dear son bought me an ironing pad for Christmas, so I can do quick pressing here also.  White board has to-do list and other notes.

After: same-same, but better!  Let me take you on a tour of my more-organized sewing space.

Solution for making any table into cutting-height: bed risers!  Not originally my idea, but works great.  They are sturdy and stable, and raise the table just enough to make it a more comfortable height.  An inexpensive, reversible conversion.  Notice that my ironing pad (and travel cutting mat) got its own hook to hang on the wall. 

The centerpiece of my new organizational system: a pegboard!  I can now hang up (and find!) three pairs of scissors, two rotary cutters, a tape measure, various sizes of Omnigrid rulers (including a new rotating one), and still see recently-completed blocks.  The block-hanging system consists of using binder clips to attach individual blocks to straight pegs (see one in bottom left corner; I need to get more binder clips for other blocks).  Ordered pegboard baskets online, so more will be stored on this wall soon.  There's room to the right for hanging my white-board, but I'm not ready to commit yet.  Maybe after I get rid of one of those boxes in the corner...

And finally--a really large cutting mat!  It looks like I'll need a longer ruler.  Also showing off my thread-catcher hanging off the edge of the table (thanks to fellow quilt-buddy Dwynn Nichols for this adorable and useful design).

Oh my, I am a lucky Birthday Grrl.   Thank you, family, for supporting my hobby.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

UFO re-defined

(Confused by acronyms like UFO or WIP?  Want to learn fun new fabric-related acronyms like PIG or SABLE?  Cute list here.)

Maybe I don't have as many UFOs as I once believed.  While looking online for a way to find new homes for my UFOs, I came across a UFO Challenge on stashbuster.com.  Their UFO's all had to be quilty--requiring some form of quilting in order to count.  But since I do other sewing, I have to broaden my category to include sewing projects, and the occasional knitting or crafting project (beading? rug hooking? paper-related scrappy-things?)

So that expands my list of UFO/projects.  Longer list, darn.  However, I don't have to include projects I am currently working on, making progress toward completing, no matter how slowly that goes.  (Those are WIPs, right?  They don't add to the UFO total count.)  I also don't have to include things that, at the moment, are just some fabric and an idea/pattern.  If I haven't actually started cutting, that idea is not a UFO.  This shortens my list dramatically.  Apparently, I already count my ideas as projects to which I am committed.  (I may need to unpack this "committed in my mind" idea; it could go a long way to describing how my mind attaches itself to things.)

Really, then, UFO's are those things that I've abandoned in some state of unfinished-ness: the sad sock knitting project that is stopped at the tricky heel-turn; the children's play quilt that requires actual quilting, and finishing of the many tiny stuffed-toy portions of the scene (originally started when my adult offspring were children); the wedding dress that has been disassembled and partially reassembled into a pillow. 

My UFOs:  alone and forlorn, like the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Using this definition, I want to go count/list my UFOs, so I know my "starting number" for 2012.  This year is about having less stuff, so that number should be *lower* at the end of the year than the beginning.  Whether through completing some UFOs, or sending them on to new and loving homes (or off into dark oblivion, in some cases) THEY MUST GO.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Declutter recipes

New Year's Resolution: have less stuff.  Although I have been lost in fabric-land of late, I have also been working slowly in various areas of the house on decluttering the excess stuff.  Lots of paperwork. In boxes, on shelves, in paper sacks under tables and beds.  Ugh.

So, it was time to tackle the recipes.  I have gotten rid of lots of cookbooks.  I have even ripped the two recipe pages that I actually use out of a cookbook and discarded the rest.  Yay: less stuff!  I bought index dividers for my recipe box, and inserted them in appropriate places this week. 

Last bit to tackle: recipes, collected since 1975 (ouch!) from magazines, newspapers, friends and neighbors.  Stored in a 3-ring binder, in labeled file folders, and in pocket-folders--with no rhyme or reason to their location.

Here is the "before" picture of this disorganized system.  Not that it takes up so much room (about 4" of shelf space), but I can't find the things I want when I want them.

I threw out more than 75% of the recipes, and arranged the remainder into labeled sections of the 3-ring binder.  It feels wonderfully organized.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Buck-a-block: January pattern

January's buck-a-block finally came around.  (It felt like so long since last month's block was completed--I was getting restless.)  As usual, I am less-than-thrilled with the fabrics provided (why did I sign up for Americana again?), but my creative juices are flowing with possibilities from my stash.

The pattern is "Four Winds" taken from The Farmer's Wife.
The red fabric is for the tulip shape; the navy stars for the pinwheel shape in the center; but the accent fabric of navy stars and colored pails (buckets?) will totally overwhelm the pinwheel--there isn't enough contrast to differentiate them.

This lack of contrast was evident in the shop sample as well, even though the colorway shown there was Civil War reproductions.  If I'm going to all the trouble of cutting and sewing tiny bits, I want the overall pattern to show up.  (This rule can be relaxed in scrappy quilts, but that's not what we're doing here.)

I was hoping to construct another red/pink/black block, but that would mean only using the red tulips.  So I auditioned blue fabrics for this block.
Navy stars will still form the pinwheel in the center; the turquoise star print will be the tulips; the cloud print will be either the background or accent fabric (those are the soft yellow and light blue in the pattern); I am currently undecided between the cream stars or the light blue french script for the final color.  I will have to play a bit to decide between them.

This is but one of my Quilt Camp planned projects.  Only four days to go!  It's like Christmas...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Clutter corner: one step forward

Spent big chunks of time in the garage this weekend, with the goal of getting long-term storage items (including Christmas) put *up* and out of the way.  I was able to get all the "memorabilia" boxes separated into bins, labeled for each child, out of the house and into new homes in the garage attic. 
 So the corner seen here should now be clean, right?  (This was the picture day after Christmas: four boxes of miscellaneous "memorabilia")

Well, that's where the one step forward comes into play.  In those bountiful hours in the garage, many bins were opened, examined, cataloged, and shifted about.  I got to visit most of my fabric-based UFOs and project boxes; put them all in one place.  (There are 9 bins, in case you are keeping count.  Year-long goal to have fewer of them by the end of 2012.)

The new incarnation of the pile in the corner is two bins of paperwork and office-like items that I discovered in the garage re-vamp. 

Baby steps: those papers didn't accumulate in a day, and they won't get cleaned up in a day either.  There's still a pile in the corner, but it is part of my overall decluttering process.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

1930s reproduction quilt: progress!

Went to "late night" (aka stitch-n-bitch) this week at Something to Crow About.  Finished one more block for the 1930s reproduction quilt I am making.

Before:  the original block was awkwardly bordered.  There was a sister block of the same Friendship Star, so I wanted to make them more matchy-matchy.  (The 21 challenge blocks I received were made by many hands, with many fabrics.  I feel justified in trying to unify things a bit by tweaking.)
After: it matches the sister Friendship Star block, and has enough of a border to not look out-of-place with the other blocks.

And, along the way, made some decisions about the overall layout of the quilt.  (We'll see how many times I change my mind before now and Quilt Camp/Retreat at the end of the month.)

This was one of my attempts to lay things out with the one block on-point, some green sashing and some of the smaller block pieces put in.  I had been totally hooked on having a central medallion from the one Basket block.  I played and played with ideas of how to do this single on-point setting.  A couple months ago, I referred to books for help with this:  Smashing Sets- Exciting ways to arrange quilt blocks by Margaret Miller; Setting Solutions by Sharyn Craig; Sensational Settings- Over 80 ways to arrange your quilt blocks by Joan Hanson (all available from my local library).  I really wanted the central area to be very white, as I love the crisp white areas of 1930s quilt designs.

Had an AHA! moment when explaining my desire for "lots of white" in the central area: several of the blocks feature white backgrounds.  How about, instead of agonizing about the Basket block and its need for an on-point setting, I just place all the blocks with white backgrounds in the center, and all the more colorful blocks around the outside, like a picture frame?  Eureka!

Shift in focus: smaller, partial block pieces need to be made into full-size blocks.  I only need one more white-background block, so the coffee cup blocks (my own design!) will be put into more colorful settings.  I have a game plan!

So ready for Quilt Camp.  Two weeks to go.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spoonflower: my newest obsession

OK, I don't know whether being obsessed with things is a true ADD trait, but I certainly can waste some time/brain energy/internet bandwidth on whatever my latest obsession-of-the-moment is.

Discovered while reading the Sew Mama Sew blog: Spoonflower, a site that lets you design your own fabric!  They print it out for you.  They will even offer your custom-designed fabric up for sale to others.  Immediately got sucked into browsing the "cut-and-sew patterns" section--which contains over 1,000 designs. 

Caught my eye:
  • "My very first time traveler book" - a Dr. Who inspired fabric children's alphabet book
  • "Baby's book of computer science" - omg cute-&-nerdy! fabric book with flaps to illustrate binary numbers and other elementary computer programming concepts
  • "Vintage camera bag" - fabric sews into a small purse that looks just like an old-fashioned camera
And... after many oohs and aahs, I got started thinking about what fabric I might design.  (In my non-existent free time...)  Two projects came to mind, projects I have wanted to piece myself, but which could be "cut-and-sew".

"Hurry Up, Pizza Man" - an interactive children's book and activity kit

"pepperoni" made out of plastic bottle caps

Three Wise Men dolls made out of Kente cloth.

Not to worry, I'm not currently planning to start a new career as a fabric designer.  I just get a little excited/obsessed about new and creative things.  I'll keep Spoonflower in mind if I get to the place of truly wanting this particular vision to become a reality.

As always, so many ideas, so little time

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Resolution (short version)

My New Year's Resolution for 2012

Well, after much over-thinking, I have decided to just follow FlyLady's decluttering plan for the year.  Fifteen minutes per day of decluttering in my house, zone by zone, will definitely result in less stuff in my life.

It seems so far from a perfect Resolution that I'm embarrassed.  Can I maintain this decluttering for an entire year?  What counts as "success"?  If I only delcutter for 10 minutes a day?  If I declutter 2 days a week, instead of 5?  Is it the process, establishing the habit, or the end result of a cleaner, emptier house that is the goal?

I just have to get over my perfectionist self.  It is what it is.  We'll see how it plays out over the year.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Resolution (long version)

New Year's eve passed me by.  I worked on New Year's Day.  But I've been thinking about resolutions and new beginnings since about the middle of last week.  As much thought as I've given this topic, I felt like I should have been able to synthesize and summarize all my New Year's musings into a brief post.  Too bad: that's my perfectionist self; the one that only wants to present the polished, finished version of things to the world.  That thinking has kept me from posting about this topic, for fear of airing an unkempt heap of random thoughts to the world.  But no more.

If you want the shortened version, choose the other post. 

I love the itch I get this time of year--as newscasters and commentators do end-of-year recap and wrap-up shows, there is momentum to sum up the recent past and think ahead to what the next year will bring.  It seems like a natural process to me, and thus I've been thinking about what I want my next year to look like.

I started by reviewing previous Resolutions that have (and have not) worked.  Some successes:
  • Always bring a reusable shopping bag
  • Buy nothing new (except food and essential necessities) - this is a movement known as The Compact
  • Send everyone (family and friends) a birthday card in time for their birthday (not my success; I borrowed from my Sweetie)
  • Write a letter (as in hand-written) to the grandparents once a month (again, not mine; borrowed from my talented and much-loved daughter)
What do these have in common?  How were we able to succeed in these endeavors for an entire year, while other things, like "walk the dogs every other day" or "floss daily" or "write in journal three times a week" have bit the dust?  And why does picking one small thing that might actually succeed seem like not enough to count as a Resolution?  (Oh, there's a whole blog post buried in that last sentence.)

This year's big idea: I want to have less stuff at the end of next year than I have right now.

Doesn't sound too daunting of a big idea.  It certainly beats years when I wished desperately to pretty much wake up a different person than I had been the day before (or the year before, in the currency of Resolutions).  My laundry list included getting in shape, eating better, staying in touch with family and friends, tackling every To Do item I've ever written on a list, getting organized, restructuring my finances, rethinking my career, etc.  You name it, and I wanted a New Year's Resolution to make it come true. 

Thank goodness I have come to terms with my lack of Super Powers.  I'm satisfied enough with who I am that I no longer want to change everything.  (Of course I don't mind tweaking.  But I am more realistic about what I can actually achieve.)  But still... there remains the basic problem with me and New Year's resolutions: narrowing my focus.  (Reminder to self: I can do anything, I just can't do everything.) 

Here are possible Resolutions to go with the big idea

  • Do 15 minutes of decluttering per day.  Follow FlyLady's zones for which area of the house to accomplish this in.
  • Make a list of all my fabric projects, and work to eliminate half the items on the list (whether through completing them or sending them away into the Universe) by the end of the year.
  • Resolve to complete one fabric project each month.  (Make a list of what counts as a completed project, so you can't cheat and sew on a button.)  For any month in which a project is not completed, must get rid of *two* UFOs as penance.
  • Commit to bi-monthly clutter-busting sessions with my clutter buddy.  (She, of course, would have to agree to this also; can't say as I've asked her, but we have had successes in the past by working together.)

I read an article about New Year's resolutions (How to choose a real resolution that you can stick with, on WeightWatchers.com) that reminded me about making SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding, time-limited) from my vague "be better in the new year" ponderings.  The declutter ideas above have at least the beginnings of being SMART tested.  They have all tried to put some specificity behind "have less stuff".  So... good for me.  Even before I read the article!

And yet.
And yet--I am not satisfied with the idea of only picking one Resolution.  In the back of my mind, I am adding to the mental list.  I am throwing some other, hidden resolution-like logs onto the fire.  Things like "finances" and "get organized" and "call your mother".  Aargh.  If I keep this up, I will be holding myself responsible for keeping (or breaking) resolutions I haven't even admitted to others.  I just want to be satisfied with a simple choice.  One small change.  Do-able.  Something to focus on, instead of my constant battle with the ADD-fueled next-thing, next-thing, next-thing.

What was I doing again?  Oh yeah, picking a New Year's Resolution. 

January 3rd.  And counting.