Monthly Archives: January 2012

2012-4: Rail Fence Baby Quilt

This Rail Fence Baby Quilt was made from left-over blocks I had originally assembled for a border on a large Carpenter Star quilt.  After I put the border up on the design wall, I saw it did not have the right color balance to suit the center of the quilt.  The Carpenter Star quilt has been on the design wall for over a month.  Perhaps I was trying to convince myself that the border would work.  Once I accepted it would not, I pulled the Rail Fence border off the design wall, and the Carpenter Star quilt looked much better!

So what to do with 140 Rail Fence blocks?   On the weekend, I used the bulk of the blocks to make a set of sew-cut-sew blocks, which will be assembled into another quilt sometime soon.    Then only 35 remained.  I pondered bagging them up and putting them in my UFO cupboard, but resisted the urge to stash yet another set of blocks.

I was tired last night after a long day at work.  I figured these remaining blocks could be made up into a little top and suit my need for mindless sewing.   I started after supper last night and the flimsie made up quite quickly.   There was no backing ready for it, so I was tempted to put the flimsie away to quilt another day.    My UFO cupboard is already full, so I decided to forge ahead and piece a backing from some left over wide strips and have it ready for quilting the following day.

The backing went together quickly, so I decided to get the batting ready too.  I found a scrap of batting that was the exact size needed, so I proceeded to mount it on the long arm to have it ready for the next day.  Then I decided it would only take a few minutes to fill the bobbins needed and select the thread to complement the top.   After the thread was ready, I thought, why not take a few minutes to look at some design books for inspiration.  Within a minute or two, I had decided to try a circle meander.  Since everything was set up and ready to go, I thought I might try a bit of the design.  It was fun and went so fast, that before I realized, I was half done.  So of course, I carried on and finished it.

Telling myself it would only take a few minutes to trim it and bind it, I proceeded to do so.  I did not keep track of the time I spent, but I was surprised when the project was done.  When I worked in sales, I always followed the mantra of “just one more call today to make tomorrow easier”.  I think that habit was in full force during this project as I did just one more thing to make it easier tomorrow!  Each little step takes me further towards the finish.  In this case, all the way to the finish!

This baby quilt measures about 32″ by 43″ and is quilted with a light blue poly thread on top and Bottom Line in the bobbin.     I like it, it was fun and it is one more baby quilt for my stash!

Goal Status:  4 done and 48 more to go!

2012-3: Fleece Baby Quilts

These small quilts tops are made from fleece squares.  The fabric came from remnants of fleece clothing I had made for my children when they were in kindergarten and first grade.  My youngest has now graduated from university, so you can imagine how long these scraps have been around.  A few years ago, I cut the scraps into six inch squares and made 15 small tops to have on hand for teaching friends and relatives how to operate the longarm machine.   Thirteen were quilted, but these two lonely tops remained.

Tired of having them take up space in my cupboards, I put them on the longarm machine,  and  had then quilted up and trimmed within an hour.  I used a thick polyester batting scrap that I would never use on my quilts.    I will take them to my mother who will bind them and then give them to her favorite quilting charity, a group that sends quilts to children around the world.  I understand most of them are used as sleeping pallets, so these two quilts with their thick fleece tops and thick poly batting will be perfect for that use.

These two quilts were not on my goal list, but I am still glad to have them done and out of the way.  A good investment of an hour to get them finished and out of my house!

2012-2: Scrappy 9 Patch Quilt

Nine Patch QuiltMy mother brought this scrappy nine patch top to me at Christmas so I could quilt it for her.  It is the tenth of eleven quilts that we are preparing as future wedding gifts for her eleven grandchildren.  I heard a rumor at Christmas that  my niece might get engaged in the spring.   She would be the first of the eleven grandchildren to take that step.  She will be able to select her quilt from the eleven finished quilts.

Mom is a committed scrap quilter and she enjoys seeing the sparkle emerge in a quilt top.  She prefers a fluffy batting, so these are quilted  with a medium density meander.  The design is a trillium meander, from Darlene Epp’s little book on meanderings.

The top measures 50 inches by 70 inches and is quilted with a light blue poly thread.  I’ll deliver the quilt to my mother in early February and she will add the binding.

This is one of the quilts I had committed to do in 2012, which now can be checked off my list and counted as a goal completion.  I like to get the commitments out of the way to free me for creative play.  When something is pressing on my conscience, I find it hard to enjoy guilt-free creative expression.   I prefer to play without guilt, so I’m glad this one is done!

Goal Status:  2 done, 49 more to go!

Studio Spa Day

Ever treat yourself to a spa day of pampering?  When I indulge myself to special treatment, I feel wonderful.   Last week, I treated my sewing room to a spa day – a day to refresh and rejuvenate before beginning the production phase of my quilting year.

So what is a spa day for a Sewing Room/Quilting Studio?   This is the pampering list:

Each of my machines received a thorough cleaning and where appropriate, oiling.    Even though I regularly brush lint out of the bobbin area, this was an extra careful cleaning, damp wiping the exterior of the machines and their tables, removing throat plates, using tweezers, cotton swabs, brushes and picks to remove stubborn lint, wiping appropriate parts with an oil dampened rag, cleaning displays, and checking all fasteners for tightness.

The long arm table got a good cleaning with legs and tray wiped down, rails and wheels carefully cleaned and the pantograph acetate cover wiped clean.  The leaders had stretched on the right hand side, developing a small sag, so the leaders were misted to tighten them up.  Once shrunk tight, I mounted a straight narrow strip between the leaders and then misted again and ensured they were square.  Then I ran a seam using the horizontal lock to check the square.

Perhaps my imagination is overactive, but I sensed the machines seemed much happier and more content.   At least, I felt better!  I like knowing that my power tools are working well.  Dependability is a good quality in a machine!

The tile flooring is one of those patterns that hides everything, so with regular vacuuming, it never looks dirty or feels dirty.  Nevertheless, Spa Day included a damp mop, and wipe down of the baseboards where little cobwebs tend to hide.   It feels good to know my floor is clean and ready to greet me when I walk in to the studio!

Everything was removed from the counters to allow a full cleaning of the surface.  My studio has a long counter – 15 feet of uninterrupted space.  When I get busy with projects, it tends to collect things.   Conscious counter clean up allowed me to think about the value of each thing on my counter.   Anything placed back onto the counter is something regularly used and worth keeping within arm’s reach.

Basically the counter is divided into three work areas.  The left hand side holds my die cutter.  Dies are stored in the cupboards above and below.  The center area is shared by my CD/Audio book station, a scissors and rotary cutter rack and my bobbin winder.  On the right side is my design area and bulletin board.  Here I keep my rulers, markers, log book and calculator.  Until Spa Day, I also kept my pantograph patterns on the counter.   With conscious counter clean-up, I realized how infrequently I use pantographs now.   I am much more of a free-handler, so pantographs do not need to occupy high-value real-estate on my counter.  The counter is best used for items I want close at hand, those things I use regularly.  Rulers stay on the counter where I can easily reach them from my cutting table.   Pantographs are now stored in the cupboard!  The bulletin board looks refreshed after removal of block samples and design photos that are no longer current.

Visual clutter stresses me, so I tend to put things away in my cupboards.  Sometimes I stash it and forget I own it!  Out of sight, out of mind!  Spa day in the Studio included a review of what is in the cupboards.  Are the items stored in the cupboard things I use consistently?  Are the things I use frequently on the shelves that are easiest to reach?  Do my yoga DVDs really need to be in my sewing cupboards?   Are the things stored out of reach labelled for easy identification?  Reviewing and culling the cupboards makes it less likely that I will purchase duplicates of what I already own.  Now I can find things more easily too! When I recognize that I will never again use a tool or supply, I can pass it on to another quilter who can make use of it.  I gain storage space and someone else benefits!

I reviewed my thread supplies and made a list of the threads I need to replenish and those new ones I’d like to experiment with this year.  I ordered the thread and it is on its way.   After checking my needle supply, I ordered a quantity to see me through the year.  I replenished my supply of rotary blades too.  It feels good to know I have the supplies I will need on hand.  No last minute crisis required!

Tools were next.  I reviewed my tools, asking myself what would make quilting easier for me?  What would support my creativity and production?  This question sparked me to follow through on a plan to create a small pressing station to the right of my sewing machine.  I covered a piece of scrap plywood with several layers of a cotton corduroy remnant topped with a drapery cotton remnant, making a handy area to press blocks as I assemble.   Using a permanent magic marker and rulers, I  drew a square on the surface  to assist me in squaring blocks as I press.  Total cost – $0.00.  Everything was from scrap.
Throughout the year, when I heard mention of helpful tools in online groups, I made a note of them.   I reviewed this list and made decisions on which to purchase or order.  At the end of Spa Day, I placed the order and the tools are on their way.
Although I mostly use rotary cutter and dies for quilting, I still appreciate a good sharp pair of scissors.   I gathered up the scissors that could use a sharpening and they are now in my car, ready to be dropped off for sharpening the next time I go to town.
As I reviewed my tools, I tidied and culled as I went along.  Now my drawers are clean, organized and best of all, what I own is fresh in my mind.  I won’t make the mistake of ordering a duplicate item.

Beside each of my machines, I keep a small cafeteria style tray that serves as a home base for my heavily used tools – pins, seam ripper, thread nippers, small rulers etc.  They also attract buttons, bobbins and other homeless small items. Spa Day got the trays washed and  squatting homeless were returned to their proper abodes.

Spa Day included tidying my fabric stash.  It is always folded, but sometimes when I pull out fabrics to audition them, I do not always put them back in the same place.  Spa day allowed me to take the time to put my errant fabrics back into the color wheel order that I find so appealing.  Reviewing my fabrics also gives me a wonderful rush of creativity and generates an urge to start a new project – exactly the feeling I want when I have finished Studio Spa Day!

Setting up my environment to support my progress is an important element to helping me achieve my goals.   I often find that the little things are the ones that frustrate me and cause me to set a project aside.  Taking care of all those little things during my Studio Spa Day will pay big dividends with  less frustration and more progress.

A clean and tidy sewing room feels great – just as uplifting as if I had spent the day at a Health and Beauty Spa myself!

What do you do to support your creative progress?

Companion Quote:
“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”  – Zig Ziglar: Motivational author and speaker

Goal Setting for 2012

Goal-driven people tend to set goals to work towards throughout the year. I am definitely someone motivated by goals.   My habit has been to sit down on New Years Day to set my goals for the coming year.  This year, I decided to take a different approach.

For me, a new year is a clean slate. What do I want to do? There are so many possibilities, so many quilting projects I want to make.  Each time I look through a quilting magazine, I see something that catches my interest.  I look at my fabric stash and see the potential for hundreds..nay, thousands of projects.  I watch Show And Tell at my guild meeting and feel the inspiration of new ideas buzzing around my brain.

During 2011, I committed to tackling my UFOs, finishing one project per week throughout the year.  Being a goal-driven person, I did meet my goal of 52 completed projects.  That is a substantial number!  However, that number is only a small fraction of the many projects on my wish list.  The unfortunate reality is that I will never live long enough to make all of the quilts that are running around in my mind. With each passing year, I become ever more aware of the shortness of life.  I had better make the best of the years that I have remaining.  My family has great longevity genes, but it might be unrealistic to count on actively quilting until age 115.  Nope!  That won’t work!   Do I really want to spend my limited lifetime working on projects that someone else plans for me?  Or an orphaned project I bought at a yard sale?   Hmmm… Gives one food for thought, doesn’t it?   Perhaps a better use of my time would be to work on the projects that are important to me, to quilt my own legacy, to select projects that fit my personal goals.  A new year, a new beginning – a great time to take a new approach.

This year, I decided to focus my quilting efforts, considering my projects very carefully.   Deciding what projects to put on my list has been an exercise in both selection and elimination.  I took a two weeks to consider and set my goals for the year.   Then I allowed another week of reflection time to ensure the goals still sit comfortably in my soul.

My process for decision making included the following:

  1. Review the current status of my UFOs
  2. Review what commitments I have made
  3. Review what gifts I want to give this year
  4. Decide what new techniques I want to experiment with this year
  5. Decide what projects are important to me to complete

Here is my thought process and resulting goals:

I emptied my UFOs cupboard and carefully considered each of them. Which ones do I love?  Which ones are calling me loudly to finish them?   Last year, I made great strides whittling down the pile of flimsies and UFOs.  I finished 52 with another 38 remaining in the que. However, this year I will not pressure myself to finish UFOs.  I will commit to finishing five UFOs.   If inspiration calls and time allows, I might finish more, but they will be bonus.

I reviewed  the  commitments I have made to others:

  • Two more quilts tops that I have promised to quilt for my mother.
  • Table Runner for a cousin
  • I’d like to complete three donation quilts this year.  One will be a quilt donated to raise funds for the small rural fall fair at our cottage in Northern Ontario.  I will keep the other two quilts uncommitted at this point so that I can donate when I want to be generous to a particular cause.

I reviewed the gifts I want to make:

  • I owe one wedding quilt.  The bride is an interior designer and she is special to me.  I want to make a quilt to suit her decor and have it completed by spring 2012.
  • My best friend is getting married in late summer.  She is very dear soul and I want to make her something extra special, something that communicates to her how much I have valued our friendship.
  • Spontaneously giving baby quilts is something I enjoy.  I like to have a pile of finished quilts so I can select one that seems right for the mother and baby.  Right now, my stash of baby quilts is a bit low.   Making 15 baby quilts would give me sufficient to have on hand.  They make up more quickly than bed size quilts, so that amount is quite manageable.

I pondered what new techniques I want to learn:
Recently I have been itching to play with metallic threads.  I want to try couching with specialty threads and experiment with thread painting and specialty needles.  While I was working on my UFOs in 2011, I encouraged myself to completion by promising myself the playtime in 2012.   So my reward will be to indulge myself with time to both experiment and master specialty threads.

I considered what projects are important to me:
I really enjoy fall fairs, both participating in them and seeing the exhibits entered by other people.  I want to support my fall fairs – at home and at the cottage by entering as much as possible into the fair.  Fairs are healthy and vibrant when they have many entries.  The cottage fair has been a source of great joy and fun for our family.  Because I want to ensure the fair is still active when I eventually have grandchildren, I need to contribute to the fairs now by entering and volunteering.  With this in mind, I went through the fall fair lists and made note of the entries that interested me.  This year, I am committed to make items specifically for entry into the fall fair.  There are many options for small quilted projects such as tote bags, pot holders, table toppers, place mats, casserole carriers, wall hangings, etc, in addition to the larger standard quilts.  In the past, I have mostly entered bed-sized quilts, but this year, I will make a conscious effort to also make 20 smaller projects.

One of the original goals of fall fairs was to encourage the development of skills.  With that in mind, I make it a point of ensuring that my entries are better each year.   With every year of experience, I learn more about what judges are looking for in a quilt, and in turn, I work on developing my own skills.  I have never worried whether or not I won a prize.  I just like the fair experience.  It gives me incentive to finish projects for entry.  Done is good!   I have won best of show a few times, and admit to being quite surprised each time, because the quilts were just normal quilts – nothing special.  However, I really liked the experience of winning best of show with the accompanying rosette and better yet, the gift certificate to my favorite quilt store.  When one of my quilts went on to win first prize at district level too, I began to think perhaps I ought to try to produce a quilt I also believe is worthy of Best of Show.    In fact, setting out to make my best possible quilt, would meet the original intention of fall fairs – encouraging a participant  to develop more skill and raising the overall quality of quilting and needlework in the community.  So in addition to the small projects, I intend to make a quilt year that I consider to be a masterpiece.    This might end up being the wedding quilt for my best friend, but she will have to wait till after fall fair season is over before she gets it!   If it wins, she will have to wait longer till it after the district competition in late fall and then if it wins there, till after provincial competition in February 2013.   Waiting is hard, but she is the best kind of friend and I know she would wish me good luck anyway!  LOL!

Goal Summary:
5 UFOs
3 Previously committed projects
3 Donation Quilts
15 Baby Quilts
1Wedding quilt
1 Masterpiece Wedding Quilt
20 Small Quilted items for Fall Fair
4 Large Quilts for Fall Fair
Total – 52 projects

When I totaled the list,  I was surprised to see the same target number as in 2011.  This tells me the number is within reason – a stretch, but not so much that it becomes discouraging.  The big difference in 2012 is that they will have to be finished much earlier in the year, given that I will need many of them ready for the fall fair season.

Next Steps:
Setting a goal is making a commitment to myself and I want to keep my promises to myself.  When my promises are realistic, achievable and congruent with my personal goals, I am setting myself up for success.   Taking the time to figure out what is important to me has helped me to clarify what I really want to do and more importantly, what I don’t want to do.  It gives me focus for the meaningful and eliminates the less important distractions that could keep me from accomplishing my goals.    Projects that do not fit these goals can be set aside until 2013.   When inspiration inevitably comes and my natural enthusiasm wants to jump into a new project, I will make notes and diagrams in my log book on a page titled “Projects to consider in 2013”.       That is not too long to wait – only 49 weeks away!

Companion Quote:
“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”  Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of United States.

2012-1: Loon Country Placemats

Our cousin Stephany, an avid birder, bought this fabric in April 2001 with the plan to have them made into place mats and a table runner.  Ten years later,  still in original yardage format, I convinced her to let me quilt  and bind them for her.    She told me the quilt store where she found the fabric, Village Fabrics and Crafts in Paradise, Michigan near where she lives, specializes in nature fabrics and is a real treat to visit.  The loon print is by Timeless Treasures.  The backing and binding fabric is Natures Glory by Moda.

The binding matches the backing, making the place mats reversible too.

The quilting is a dense freehand that resembles water ripples .  The thread is a light blue poly with a dark Bottom Line thread in the bobbin.  I made a point to avoid the heads of the loons, so the design is not obstructed.  The placemats look good and I am pleased with how they turned out.  The set of 8 placemats measure 13″ by 18″ each.

Goal Progress:  This is the first project of the year.  Even though I do not have my quilting goals set yet for 2012, I do know that fulfilling commitments will be high on the list.   So finishing these placemats gives me a headstart on goal completion for 2012 and buys me a little pondering time as I figure out which of my own quilting projects are the highest priority.