Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mess Stress

Do you have mess stress? I certainly do. It seems like there's always so little time to do the things I need to do . . . . I can't even remember the last time I cleaned out my scrap basket. See what happens when you let stuff go? Now I have at least three or four of these, full of strips and scraps, all over the place. Piles on the cutting table, the sewing table; under the table, on the floor too. Oh my goodness. What happened here?

Could be we quilters have too many gadgets, tools and choices in everything, along with too darn much fabric. I have so many projects I want to make it's not funny. They all just keep building up. I think life would be simpler with less of everything. 

I've always had a hard time creating while surrounded by a mess and that's one reason (among many) I haven't felt motivated to sew too much lately I. Oh sure, I work on a Dear Jane block now and then but haven't felt like making anything larger because then I'd be forced to clean it all up a bit. I honestly used to be more organized but things have somehow fallen by the wayside. Know what I mean?  It's been a busy summer with constant distractions and it's particularly frustrating if, like me, you have more than one project going on and several different hobbies. There's always seems to be something more important to do than clean up my sewing clutter.

Both of my kids just moved into new apartments so we've done lots of shopping . . . .

Should I take the time to copy down a few more family recipes for my daughter? I promised I would.

Oh, joy, several new/old books. Forget about cleaning. Which one should I read next??

Okay, this is fun too - which DJ block should I challenge myself with next? I've made five this month, a very good thing, even if each one feels like it takes about 700 hours to complete.

I so love the fresh start a nice clean sewing area gives me. But the stress of cleaning everything up is not something I want to tackle just yet. It's a constant battle and I know I will feel better if I try. Possibly, I'll even get more sewing done if I can actually see the surface of the cutting table. But right now I get tired thinking about it so I've decided to take it slowly and not stress too much.  Baby steps. Be nice to myself during the process instead of feeling bad that I've been lazy. Clutter does that to me and it constantly reminds me that I am not as organized as I'd like to be. Granted, I had a busy summer and that set me back -  things were hurriedly tossed around and I worked on a few things here and there without bothering to clean up much. It made me put aside some quilting I thought I wanted to do though. Hopefully, I will have a productive fall. And, then, this is my plan:
  • Set aside 30 minutes a day—make a plan to just organize one drawer, bin or shelf. It's amazing what you can accomplish in a short time if you keep at it on a regular basis.
  • Organize some of the things I don't use very often (extra threads, scissors, rulers, other tools) and store them somewhere instead of keeping them out all the time. (Yes, I am guilty of doing this.)
  • Focus on one thing at a time. I go from thing to thing and then forget my original purpose and realize I have wasted a LOT of time. I read that this may because of my age, however, so it's not really my fault, LOL. 
  • Try not to get too sentimental about throwing things away. Get a big box and toss in the stuff I  really don't need to hang onto. Donate or just throw out. I'll live. 
  • Try to make a habit of cleaning off my work space after I've finished working on something. A tough one for me but it may make it easier to jump into a clean space the next time I feel like sewing.
Right now I get tired thinking about it. Let's see what happens if I let go of my "mess stress" and stick to the plan to deal with it later, in the fall. Not exactly a productive solution but September is my favorite organizing month anyway and when the weather becomes slightly cooler I always seem to have more energy to tackle things like this. Cross my heart, I really will get it done and then everything else will magically fall into place, right? Tell me you also struggle with this.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Remember Me

Wouldn't it be great if we knew more about the women who made some of the antique quilts we love so much? And wouldn't it be nice if we were also remembered through our quilts? You don't often see labels on old quilts. And, even when you do, they don't always offer much information. It's more common to see signatures.




Labeling my quilts is always an afterthought and something I know I need to do more often. Do all of you make labels for your quilts? I know some of you take the time to create wonderful labels. I labeled many of my early quilts very simply, usually because I was in a rush to meet a deadline for a book and felt lucky to get them finished at all, much less have time to make a  fancy label. I don't do it too often now and I'm embarrassed to say that my favorite method involves slapping a piece of fabric onto some Steam-A-Seam, cutting it out and writing my name and date on it with a permanent ink pen and then ironing it onto the back of a quilt. Well, I figure it's better than nothing. The thought of making pretty or fancy labels for almost two hundred small quilts now is a little overwhelming so if I ever do label the rest of them this may be the way I do it - simply.


Primitive, yes, but at least it's something. Some of these were made for trunk show quilts I sent to shops across the country and Canada. They needed something on the backs in case they got misplaced or lost. This will sound crazy but, after making the original quilts for a book, and after a book was published, I would go on to make 3-4 copies of several of them to send to quilt shops so they could display them with my books. That's 16-20 additional quilts I had to make when I was promoting a book. Sheesh. Sometimes I had a little help. So pretty labels were not necessarily a priority when making quilt samples for shops. But it helped to have even a primitive label when I needed the quilts returned to me. With the exception of one, I got all the quilts back intact that I sent out. It's never fun to lose a quilt you put so much time and thought into creating, even if it was a small quilt I could easily create again. Thankfully, I had labels. 

I'm really impressed by those of you who take the time to make pretty labels for the backs of your quilts and would love to see the really special ones that many of you put so much time into designing and creating. If you have any that you're willing to show me, send me a photo and I may do a Show and Tell here. I'm sure this is something many of us struggle with when we make things.  I would love to be inspired so show me your labels! I vow to do better with mine in the future.

I could always just sign some of this ribbon tape . . . .

Here's an article I found that you may find interesting - it gives tips and encourages quilters to make labels for their quilts. We all want [our quilts] to be remembered.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Farm to Fabric Challenge

Clothworks Textiles and Quilts, Inc. are sponsoring a quilt challenge using Clothworks’ American Made Brand cotton solids. See details here.

The deadline to enter is coming up soon but there's still time to make a quilt and enter into the competition. Quilts have to be at least 25"  x  25". That's something many of us "small quilters" can handle. Clothworks started this movement in hopes of restoring the proud tradition of American textiles and has produced a fabric entirely sourced and manufactured in the United States. Check out their gorgeous American Made Brand fabrics and see if you can come up with an idea for a quilt.

Winning quilts will be displayed in a special exhibit that will premiere at International Quilt Market and Festival, October 25 - November 2, 2014.

The theme of the exhibit is:  “Celebrating Farm to Fabric.” What does it mean to you, your family or your community to bring fabric production back to the United States to use in your American made quilts?  American-made fabric for American quilts. What a great way to express our American spirit. I hope some of you will decide to take the challenge.

In conjunction  with this exhibit was the Illinois license plate block I made for the AMB Blog Tour 50-state quilt this past spring. Well, all of the state blocks are now in and the quilt is being sewn together. See if you can find mine. It's a little inconspicuous, so good luck . . . .

Quilters, I know you like a challenge so put your sewing skills to work and enter!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Staying Motivated

I'm a wonderful goal setter. Always looking to improve something, somewhere. Goal finisher? Ehhh. Making a Dear Jane® quilt is one of my bigger goals but it's been awhile since I made any blocks. Finding motivation to continue working on a big project can be a huge issue for me. 

I finished 6 blocks in April, 2 in May, 0 in June and only 1 in July. You can see the trend . . . . I became worried it would continue spiraling downward. Like many of you, I plod along making this quilt. Some years I'm good and some not so good. 2013 was not a great year for working on them until I decided I needed a little push to keep going and formed a Yahoo  Dear Jane®  Support  group for some of us working on the blocks (see sidebar for info).  So I challenged myself and some in the group by putting my name on a list for all to see and committed to making at least one block per month. Nothing like accountability. The idea was that one block would get the ball rolling for me and then perhaps I'd become motivated to make more. One block a month may not sound like much, but, you have to admit, it's still a lot better than NONE per month, which is where I was heading. 

Baby Janes??

I find I spend the longest time just going through and picking out the fabric I want to use for a block. Do you do this too?  A long time ago I pulled some of my favorite fabrics (some new, some very old) that I thought I'd like to use in the quilt. I set it all aside and now keep it in a separate DJ basket. If I buy a new print and want to use it, then I cut some off and place it in the basket. So at least that's somewhat organized and I don't have to go through all of it every time I begin a block.

Well, so far  my plan has worked pretty well. I finished the block for August in no time at all. Sure, it was an easy block, but sometimes that's just what I need to get back into it, you know? Once I decided to do this I didn't want to let myself down (or anyone else on the list. This was my idea so I'm supposed to be inspiring everyone else too, right?) 

I found I was able to become motivated to finish another block -

This one was a more difficult block for me -  I could not get those teensy pieces to line up right. Even after ripping it apart and trying again. Enough I said and decided to go with The Galloping Horse Theory on this one - If you can't see a mistake while riding past it on a galloping horse, then it doesn't matter. Looks okay to me from a distance. Up close? Don't go there.
So now I've finished two for August and the month isn't even over yet.  (Yes, patting myself on the back here. Completing even a small goal makes me feel good.) 

Here are some ways I try to stay motivated: I bring out the DJ chart I made from poster board with pictures of the blocks I've completed so I can see my progress. It's fun to fill in the spaces.

Here's how I made my chart - I drew a grid of squares to represent the blocks in the quilt on poster board, numbered the rows, then printed out pictures of my blocks in a small size and cut and pasted them onto the poster board.  Primitive, yes, but it really works for me and allows me to see how far I've come. (I cannot get the digital one that comes with the DJ software to work with my computer.)

Then I attempt to fill in some of the rows or work on the trip around the world motif in my quilt. I keep a list of the blocks I've finished by date and then also check them off on another list according to difficulty. I've finished quite a few of the easy blocks and need to work on some difficult ones now. Yes, applique and paper piecing. Easy for some of you, not so easy for me. 
Here's my main problem, though: I've been so  lazy  busy this summer that my sewing space is quite a mess. I drop things on the table and don't clean it up. Can you imagine? : )  The weather's been so nice and it's so much fun to do other things instead. I'm going to miss going to the beach when it gets colder but I'll be more productive, that's for sure.

I tend to not want to create in a messy space, however, so that's the real hurdle I have to face pretty soon or I won't get anything done. On the list for next month - CLEAN up the mess! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Quilts sur le Table

My apologies to our French-speaking friends. I am trying to say Quilts on the Table, or "Table Quilts," our blog topic for today. But first I am going to tell you about my "productive" day so you will see how I got there from here.

I had nothing special planned today, for a change - a doctor's appointment this morning. When I came home I had breakfast with the dog (literally, since she was sitting patiently at my left side, waiting for me to drop something. She had been fed her first breakfast before I left.). Then I walked the dog. After that, I finished some e-mails, cleaned up the kitchen, vacuumed and mopped the floors and picked up a little.  My, how time flies.

The house was clean, which made me feel pretty good and motivated me to plan a nice dinner with my favorite salad on the side (recipe later). I climbed up onto the kitchen counter to get a better look inside one of the high cabinets for the glass cruet I like to use for the special dressing I was going to make. (You are probably thinking that I fell or something disastrous happened, but it did not. I just thought the image of me climbing onto the kitchen counter at my age would be good for a laugh . . . .) I couldn't find the cruet so I'll have to think of something else to use for the dressing, but look at the pretty little vase I found instead.

I bought this years ago and forgot I had it. It was shoved into a cabinet.

I stopped to go outside and pick a flower to put in the vase. I know, I should post a photo on Facebook just because it's so pretty. Then, since the camera was out, I thought I'd take a picture of the vase on a quilt. Then I thought I should take another picture of another quilt with the vase. Then I decided to take a picture of another quilt with another vase, and so on and so on and so on. By the time I was finished it was 3:00 and I hadn't really accomplished much else at all other than fooling around with quilts, the vase and the camera. I sort of just puttered around but it felt good instead of rushing around. Pretty productive day, huh? I like to have a day like this every now and then.

People ask me this question all the time - what do I do with small quilts? Easy. You can put them on a table. Here are some of my Quilts sur le Table -

 Patterns for some of my table quilts can be found on my website

*   *   *   *

Dinner tonight will be Pasta Primavera accompanied by a salad with oranges and candied almonds with an orange vinagrette dressing. It's similar to this but I also add 1 -2 Tbs of frozen orange juice concentrate (from a can).

The missing cruet looks something like this.


If you happen to see it, let me know. Or, better yet, maybe this is the excuse I need to go visit a Home Goods store and shop for a new one . . . .