Friday, April 23, 2010

Challenge Yourself

I have a secret I haven't told anyone because I wasn't sure I could keep to it myself. Earlier this year, in addition to my typical New Year's resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, read more, be a nicer person, mother, sister, friend, wife, I made a secret pact with myself to try to be more creative on a daily basis--a challenge. Long ago I noticed a definite link between feeling good and making things. When life is stressful, it's even more important to do things that make you feel good.

When I was working on the book it was easy keeping to this challenge. I was forced to be creative every single day--creativity under pressure I called it. After it was finished and I was completely drained, that became more of a challenge. So I started working on a Dear Jane quilt as another challenge for a little bit. Fun! But then somehow life got in the way and some of the things I neglected while I was so busy working needed to take center stage. Quilting took a little dive for a few weeks.

But I've still kept up with my personal challenge for more than a few weeks now. Some days I write something creative on the blog. Sometimes I'll try to get creative and take photos. Both of those count as creative efforts, believe me. Or maybe I'll make a bracelet from my vast bead collection, write a poem, or listen to my daughter and fix my hair a different way--that last one's a REAL creative challenge for me. Sometimes if I'm desperate I'll go out and just browse through a few stores and perhaps buy a small vase and fill it with flowers and plop it on the shelf. Or change the wreath on the door. All of these count as little creative efforts, I think. And they make you feel so good.

It's fun to connect your creativity to other quilters too. A little while ago I started a yahoo group for quilters interested in connecting with others who also love making doll quilts or small quilts--SmallQuiltTalk. We're a very friendly bunch and we love to talk about the quilts we're making and inspire each other. Every couple of months I design a pattern for a small block and introduce a Challenge for quilters to make a small quilt out of that block.

Pinwheels block--the current challenge

I keep the rules for the challenge simple--there's no need for anyone to create a masterpiece if they don't feel like it, we're not competing with each other. It's just a simple incentive to challenge quilters to make a quilt of their own design from a simple block. We play around with fabric, colors, block layout, borders, etc. to come up with quilts that are unique. Everyone who participates follows the same guidelines and uses the recommended fabric colors if given, but the choices of fabric and block setting will vary from individual to individual. Seeing what each one of us comes up with is the fun part! We'd love to have you join us.

One time last year we had a challenge for a little Scottie dog quilt inspired by this quilt. I'm still working on mine . . .

I think the fun thing about making these small quilts is that there's such an immediate satisfaction when you actually finish your project. There's not a lot of pressure, many in the group don't participate at all, while some participate every time. It's fun to see the creations of those who do make a little quilt and you have to give them all credit for sticking to a commitment to make a little something.

Since I've been feeling a little stressed lately with all sorts of typical family things (teenagers anyone?), I thought it would be fun to jump into the challenge myself. When I give the Challenge I'm often too busy to make it myself. I've made a couple of the challenge quilts but not all of them. Seeing what everyone else had made for this one--Pinwheels--really inspired me. So two mornings ago I cut some new fabric I bought recently, sat down and sewed the blocks. Not too hard. Thought about the layout for a little bit, tried out a few different prints for the borders, and made a little quilt! How easy was that?

I typically don't use brights or contemporay prints in my quilts--I'm more of a 19th-century girl--so this was another challenge for me--to use fabric I liked that wasn't my style. I like it! My daughter loves it and I see her looking at it slowly, taking in all the unusual prints and hope she's thinking "I could do that."

I decided to quilt it by hand because I love the look and the slowness of it all is very relaxing.

I know some think that hand quilting is difficult and say, Oh no, I can't do that! Try it. It really doesn't have to be perfect--you'll get better with practice. Or maybe, like me, you'll find that it won't matter if your stitches aren't perfect. Quirky, childlike stitches are just fine, thank you very much . . . .

A couple of new stencils I bought for little borders.

Use a water soluable marking pen to mark your lines. When you're finished quilting, wash out the lines with a damp cloth.

My all-time favorite quilting thread--YLI.

My favorite is the Light Brown--not too dark, not too light. Almost finished a spool already working on the book quilts so I bought another just in case.

Oh yeah, I needed some new "Springtime" scissors, LOL, so picked them up at the Quilt Fest last week.

I'm loving those polka dots!!

I'll decide on the binding tomorrow and then won't it be nice to have my little quilt finished? Oh my, it feels good already. It matches my kitchen colors too and I have the perfect place to hang it. Where I can look at it and feel good every day.


chook said...

Kathleen your little quilt is just beautiful thankyou for the inspiration I think I will go and try some hand quilting myself
big hugs Beth

Elyte said...

Thank you for the inspiring visit. Have been feeling a little flat lately and it was a good pick me up. I am going off to finish my chores and then I can sew!

Anonymous said...

Your little quilt is adorable. Thanks for sharing.


Kristy said...

Adorable little quilt...and a very inspirational post...thank you. Kristy in Ohio

Michelle said...

I need to give myself that same challenge! It really does keep my mood up to play with creative things.

bettyp said...

Love the positive attitude!!
Your goals are very much the same things I need to do daily!!
And!! What a darling little quilt!!

Quiet Quilter said...

What a quiet and inspirational post! I handquilt also, but I have a long way to go before I can match you. Thanks for the tips about water soluable pens...I will have to try those.

Jennifer said...

Oh, how sweet. And the quilting sure makes the quilt. Polka dots and waves---swoon!

Karen said...

First off, your little quilt is adorable. I like the polka dots too. Your hand quilting is very inspirational and I will have to try that on my next little quilt.
I am so glad you shared your yahoo group with us. Ok, see you later. I'm off to join your group.
Have a great weekend.

Kathie said...

great post, as usual!
I just bought YLI hand quilting thread, bought 003 and 002 I agree 003 is perfect!
I love their machine embroidery thread for all my hand applique and decided it was time to try the hand quilting thread, why did it take me this long???
I love your pinwheel quilt, it is hard working outside our comfort zone but its fun! glad you have the perfect spot for this little quilt, you will enjoy seeing it everyday.
those stencils are great for little quilts, going to have to see if I can find them!
have a great weekend....want to compare notes on raising teenagers?

Kathleen Tracy said...

Kathie, I'm kicking myself because I only bought 2 of those stencils at the Quilt Fest last week. I wish I had bought 12!

As far as teenagers go, a friend of mine who has already raised hers said it's like they're in a tunnel and while they're still in there somewhere you don't recognize them until they come out a few years later. We'll be laughing in a few years, right?

smacdonald said...

What a great post! Because I quilt for others as a business, I find my own quilting often gets put aside. Doing these little quilts has really given me back my quilting mojo! I also find handwork (piecing or applique) so relaxing and enjoyable. I think I will challenge myself to always have a project ready and work on it 15 minutes a day

Heidi said...

You already know how much I am loving doing your challenge quilts Kathy! I think being creative each and every day is my very breath. I cannot live without needle and thread. We share a love for YLI and light brown. Guess it is the Goldie Locks in us that needs that color just I find I use it more than any other color in my thread collection.

Thanks and keep those challenges coming...

Hugs from Holland ~

Lori said...

What a sweet quilt! It is fun to work with different colors than we are used to.
The wavy stencils are so cute. I've never seen any like that.

Annemieke said...

Hi Kathy,
I'm Annemieke from Holland, and want to thank you for the inspiration! I'm starting to handquilt a quilt today, it is a civil war diairy quilt. It stayed unquilted for too long. I tried to join your small quilt Yahoo group. I hope I did all the right things to join it. It will be the first time I joined a group at Yahoo.

Beth said...

Great post and a great goal. I try to work on something creative everyday, but you reminded me that creativity doesn't need to stop at the sewing room door.

Wendy said...

Very inspirational post, I need to be creative everyday to keep my sanity. I love little quilts for all the reasons you stated.

Kaaren said...

I too just joined your group, Cathi. I just made three minis and completed one yesterday. It will be a birthday gift for a friend. The other two are sandwiched and are waiting to be quilted. I posted about them on my blog if you'd like to see them.

Thanks for the inspiration. At this moment, minis are the way to go for me and I love the idea of your challenges.

Kaaren said...

Sorry for misspelling your name, Kathy. My girlfriend's name is Cathi and I think my hands just typed those letters automatically.

Daniƫlle said...

Sigh sighn, how right you are, on all topics hihi, about the creativity, the teenagers, YLI. Too bad I have so much more projects that this time I think it's better to pass hihi!!
Enjoy your little quilt!! happy sewing, Daniƫlle


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