Category Archives: Mojo Pump

Quilting Log Book

My quilting log book is one of my best motivational tools.   Motivational?  Really?

At first glance, my quilting log book looks like an organization tool.  It is a just a three ring binder filled with lined note paper in which I note everything I accomplish each day in my sewing studio.  The types of things I note typically include:


  • The name of the current project
  • What I did on that project
  • Measurements or calculations made relating to that project
  • Block assembly diagrams
  • Pressing diagrams
  • Problems encountered and solved
  • Activity towards the next projects – cutting, pressing, washing fabrics, kitting


  • Cleaning machines
  • Oiling machines
  • Making work-flow adjustments that make production even better
  • Changing needles
  • Testing new tools and attachments


  • Vacuuming my floors  (Yes!  Even this!)
  • Wiping down the counters
  • Tidying one of the cupboards


  • Reviewing my UFO cupboard
  • Folding and fondling my stash
  • Ordering new supplies when needed
  • What I learned
  • Any Professional Development – reading or research work

When I list all of those things, it really does sound like an organization tool or at least a memory aid.  So why do I consider it to be effective motivation?

This logbook stays open on my counter with pen handy.  I note absolutely everything I accomplish.  I can see at a glance what I have completed and can see equally well when I have not done anything notable.  It is a good reality check to gauge my progress.  When I see the page empty, I feel the desire to write something on it.  So I get busy and get something done.  The more accomplishments I write down, the more I want to add to the list.  Success breeds success!

This simple, unassuming log book has been the most motivating tool I have used to keep myself working towards completion of my projects, WIPs and UFOs.  Anything that keeps me focused and productive is a wonderful addition to my sewing room and deserves its high-profile spot on my work counter.

“The Secret of Getting Ahead is Getting Started.” – Mark Twain

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier

Ten Minute Trays

I love quilting, but sometimes I don’t feel like doing it.  How wierd is that?   Why would someone who is passionate about quilting lack the motivation to get started on her quilting projects?  It could be that the pressure of life and the demands of others take a higher priority.  Perhaps I get too comfortable on the computer or just want to relax.  Maybe I just get distracted.  No matter what the reason, the end result is predictable.  When I don’t quilt, I am almost always regretful of wasting my time on activities that are less productive and less satisfying.  Overcoming inertia to to start is the key.  My mantra is that I only need to do a minimum of 10 minutes of work on my projects.  Ten minutes is not much, but small amounts add up.  Usually, once I get started, I find my mojo, start relishing my project and then keep sewing much longer than 10 minutes.

I play little games with myself jump-start my quilting sessions.  To make the 10 minutes more enticing and seemingly easier, I keep several “Ten Minute Trays” ready for action.

These trays ares simple cafeteria-style trays that I have purchased at thrift stores or garage sales.  I keep each tray ready with something equivalent to ten minutes of sewing.

Because the trays are ready, when I come into my sewing room, I do not have to make decisions on what to do.  The next step is prepared.  I just have to start sewing.  Not only does it make it easier to get started, it also acts as a warm up to more complex sewing.  When the prepared project is simple, it does not seem so onerous to get started.  If I have to start the day’s sewing by ripping a seam or fixing a problem, I will likely avoid starting.  Making it easy to get started helps me sew more and produce more quality results.  And the best part is that I enjoy the process more too.

I also use trays to organize projects at various stages.  One could hold fabrics pulled for a project, another organizes fabric pieces cut for blocks.  Another holds block parts in progress.  Then another tray is used for finished blocks and another tray for sashing strips and blocks.  The trays keep me organized and help me to break the projects down into small manageable chunks.

So each evening, as I do my clean-up in the sewing room, I allow some extra time to prepare trays for the next evening.  A project that is ready to go entices me to get into my sewing room as quickly as possible and gets me started on the enjoyable part of quilting.  What can I accomplish in ten minutes?  Quite a bit, when I do it consistently!

Tool for Wayward Pins

Sometimes a great tool can make a big difference to both operator attitude and productivity.  When I recently bought this tool, I thought it was a bit frivolous, but it has turned out to be a tool I use several times a day.

This Telescoping Magnetic Pickup Tool is fantastic for someone like me who tends to scatter pins and drop bobbins and seam rippers.

Pins on the floor like to play hide and seek.  I used to get down on my hands and knees looking for pins while wondering how they can become so invisible when they are on the floor.

I hate crawling on the floor, but it does works to find most of the dropped pins. Sweeping the floor finds a few more. Vacuuming the floor is guaranteed to find the missed pins.  Unfortunately, the pins also lodge themselves very nicely in the pipes of the central vacuum, where they catch dust bunnies and threads and eventually clog the line.  My hubby, a laid-back sort of guy, does not say too much, but I assure you, I can tell he is not thrilled about having to take apart the central vac pipes again.  Sometimes when he hears me vacuuming, he reminds me, Make sure you don’t vacuum up any pins!

This telescoping magnetic pickup tool is fantastic for picking up pins.  It is like magic!   When I hear one drop, I simply wave my magic  magnetic wand over the area and the pins snap onto the magnet.  A dropped metal bobbin always rolls to the furthest possible corner underneath the sewing table.  The magnetic wand retrieves it in a flash.  I love this tool!

So this is my wonder tool:  It picks up pins, bobbins, seam rippers.  It keeps pins out of feet and vacuums and promotes marital harmony.  It was inexpensive too!  I bought it at Harbor Freight on sale for $4.99.  I keep this This nifty tool right beside my sewing machine on my tool tray so it is handy whenever I need it.  I still get a little thrill every time I use it.  It sure beats crawling around on my hands and knees!

These two photos show the tool closed and the tool extended.  My rotary cutter gives you size perspective for comparison.

Indulging My Impulses: Sewing Progress

At the end of 2011, my cupboard of unquilted flimsies was blissfully empty.  I worked hard at completing all of the tops I had on hand and was pumped that I completed my goal.  In fact, I was so proud of my accomplishment, I took a photo of my empty flimsie cupboard.



Getting all those tops quilted felt great.  The little quilting angel on my shoulder kept cheering “You go, girl!”  Mind you, I still had quite a few projects in process UFOs (Unfinished Objects) and WIPs (Works in Progress) in another cupboard that still needed my attention.  Because I cleaned up so many projects in 2011, I decided for 2012 to lighten the focus on unfinished projects and allow myself to create new quilts.      I took some time to ponder the many possibilities and while pondering, kept working on the UFOs.  The trouble is, I like the feeling of cleaning up the old projects so much that I just keep working on the UFOs.

I have not started a single new project, but I do have finished tops and several sets of blocks.  For some unknown reason, I have been in a sewing and piecing mood for the last two months and have not felt much like quilting.   I am not sure why.  Perhaps I just  enjoyed the feeling of ticking another UFO off the list.  I have no pressing deadlines for finished quilts, so I decided to simply indulge my desire to sew and piece.  Quilting and binding can wait for another day.  Maybe I’ll feel more like quilting in April.

Over the years, I have learned that it is better for me to wait until I am completely finished the project before I show it publicly.  When I take an unfinished top to quilt guild for Show and Tell, invariably it will take several months longer to get it quilted.  So , knowing myself, I won’t let myself post a project until it is done-done.   Sigh!  That means I have not had any finished projects to show you.

So what can I do to show you how productive I have been?  Wait… I can give you a peek into my flimsie cupboard!  The roll-out tray that was empty on December 31st now contains 10 flimsies waiting for quilting.  Six are large quilts, three are baby or lap sized and one small table runner sits on top.  I have another quilt top on the design wall that I hope will be finished by Tuesday evening.

Hmmm…  Sounds like I might need to turn my attention to the quilting.

What can I do to get started?  Something small would not be too difficult.  Okay, I can do something small.  I will make a commitment to cut batting and prepare backings for the four small projects by Thursday evening this week.  These smaller quilts would be good warm-up projects to generate quilting momentum and enthusiasm.  And that is the first step to getting and keeping my mojo – just getting started!  I know that once I get moving on a project, I will enjoy every moment and soon I will have some finished projects to show you.

In the meantime, over the next couple of weeks, I am going post a series of tools and techniques that keep me progressing on my quilt goals.   That, too, will nudge me towards finishing my current projects.

Mindless Sewing: Prescription for Emotional Fatigue

We recently bade a final farewell to a close friend who fought the good fight.  His battle with pancreatic cancer took him far too young.  The weeks leading up to the end, the visitation and funeral all consumed great reserves of my energy.  The week after, I would have expected to be ready to get back into my sewing room.  Not so.  I was tired, both physically and emotionally.  My mind was distracted and I felt unable to generate the effort needed to work on any of my key projects.

Despite my fatigue, I know that for me, quilting is both therapeutic  and restorative.  I decided to start on a mindless sewing project – something that did not require a lot of decisions nor exact measuring.   Inspired by Cheryl in Iowa’s version of crumb blocks, I pulled out my box of pre-cut strips, a stash of little squares and some random scraps to begin a set of strip-pieced crumb blocks.  The attraction of this method is no seam matching and very little measuring.  Just what I needed  – very little thinking!  Hardly any chance of boo-boos due to distraction!  I  had absolutely no energy for ripping seams.

To begin, I cut 14″ foundation squares of a light-weight fabric.  This is easy to do with my large square ruler.

Then I sewed my pre-cut width-of-fabric strips together in random lengths that could cover the block diagonally.   After pressing them flat, using my ruler, I rotary cut the strips into random widths – mostly 2.5″, but sometimes 2″ or 1.5″.

I laid the strips out in order of graduated lengths on one of the many cafeteria trays I use for my quilting projects.

Assembling the blocks was fairly simple.  I selected a strip that fit the area I wanted to cover, and sewed it to the foundation block.  One could choose to sew them horizontally, but I prefer to lay them out diagonally, as it gives more energy to the layout of the blocks.  Horizontal reads static, diagonal reads dynamic!

As you can see, the strip has varying widths of fabrics and no pattern in the arrangement of color.  It is completely random.  The next strip was added to the edge of the first strip, sewn, folded over and pressed flat.  Often I take two or three smaller strips and join them in a different order so I have more variety in my strips.

I continued on in this manner until the whole foundation block was covered.  The blocks go together very quickly since there is no need to match, measure or worry about color placement.  The only thing to watch for is that the strip is long enough to cover the block from side to side.

Once covered, I turned it over and them sewed around all four sides to anchor the strip edges.  This is probably not necessary, but I like to have the strips attached on the sides.  My thought is that it will make attaching the sashing smoother and that seam will be less likely to cause a small pucker.

Then, using my square ruler, I trimmed the block to 14″ square.  I find the foundation shrinks up a bit during the sewing and flipping, so it is important to square to the ruler, not to the edge of the foundation.  You can see in the next photo a bit of the block that is trimmed beyond the foundation.

Flip it over and the block is done!

The blocks are simple to put together and require very little thinking – the perfect mindless sewing project!  It looks much more complex than the amount of work actually involved.

Now I have 20 blocks complete and an empty box that used to hold pre-cut strips.  That feels good!

To make the blocks pop and to act as a foil to their brightness, I plan to  sash the blocks with solid black – probably about 4″ wide.   Next, I will add a scrappy inner border to define the center section and then finish with a solid black outer border.  The binding will likely be a red print that reads solid.

The value of this exercise for me was to allow myself time to grieve without pressuring myself to perform normally.  Sometimes we need mindless work.  This project gave my hands something to do while giving my head the time to  process the things already on my mind.  This project (and a few other easy UFOs) gave me the time needed to regain my normal pace of life.  None of these projects is finished yet, but that is okay.  They will get finished in due time.

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