Friday, January 30, 2015

End of January: 1. Finish Small Quilt. Check!

I finished my January small quilt challenge a few days ago, just under the wire! Remember, we were making small quilts using disappearing four-patch blocks in my Yahoo small quilt group? There's a tutorial I posted earlier this month for making the blocks, below. They're quick and easy and quite fun to make.

I don't know what possessed me to use a light print for the setting triangles since I often use a darker setting, but I think it turned out well and I like the contrast between the light print and the tan. First, I tried an indigo, then a poison green, and also a chrome yellow fabric (!) for the binding and I thought they all looked good with the blue but sort of bold for me. So I chickened out and went with red checks. Now I call it "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm." Somehow it fits. 

The quilting isn't perfect but it's always still fun to do. I'm a long, long way from being a master hand quilter but there's nothing more relaxing than sitting down with a cup of tea and doing some handiwork on a small project. We've been watching Grantchester, on Masterpiece Mystery, and enjoying it very much. About a crime-solving Anglican priest in a small English town, it puts me in the Hands to Work, Hearts to God sort of mode, LOL. Gotta love any show with a handsome vicar and the English countryside as a backdrop, even if there are murders (and romance, of course) very week. It's on Sundays after Downton Abbey. You should watch.



James Norton as Sydney Chambers, the Vicar of Grantchester, riding his bike all over town, solving mysteries and flirting with the ladies. (But it's okay, vicars can marry and he's a bachelor.)

On Instagram* today, Martha Stewart asked her followers to comment on what they'll be making for Superbowl Sunday. I ALMOST shot back:  "A Quilt!" but that's probably not what she had in mind so I didn't.  I'll be watching Episode 3 of Grantchester this Sunday, perhaps quilting another small quilt. I've only got, like, 15 tops that I still need to finish . . . . Hope there are enough good mysteries on PBS this year.

*I'm loving Instagram! There are so many talented, creative people out there and it's fun to connect with some of you in this way. Thanks for following me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Keeping Up

I am always just a little bit behind on social media. No, I do NOT keep up with the Kardashians. Took me years to get a blog, then a Facebook page, Pinterest page, long after everyone else was doing it. Everyone seems to be having fun on Instagram these days, however, showing off their photos of quilts they've made. I just made the jump to an Instagram account and hope you'll follow me if you are also on it. Or join so you can see some of my stuff.  

What is Instagram?

Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share with friends through a series of pictures captured with your mobile device. Snap a photo with your phone, add a comment, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory and upload it to your Instagram page. One more way to connect with the rest of the world. I have a lot of fun connecting with quilters from all over on Facebook, my Yahoo group and the blog so why not Instagram as well? 

You will discover that there are some awesome quilters and photos on Instagram and they have wonderful filters so you can enhance your pictures in many different ways. In order to "Like" someone or post a comment you do have to be a member by downloading the app free from the Apple App Store (for iPhones) or Google Play (or your android phone). 

I know, I know - what perfect timing I have. Instagram has been in the news lately because Taylor Swift's Instagram account was just hacked. Hacked! Oh, my goodness. Some hackers posted a message that did not come from her. But she survived and got her account back up. Clearly I am no Taylor Swift and there are no nude photos of me hiding out there in Internetland so I don't think I have anything to worry about. But why oh why didn't they go after the Kardashians and shut them down instead??

Hope to connect with some of you on Instagram. Keep in mind, you can't use this kind of phone . . . . (although, since I never had one as a teenager, I still would like a vintage Princess phone in blue someday.)

Visit me -  (or click the link on the blog sidebar). If you already have an account, just search for Kathleen Tracy. (But remember - I am not the Kathleen Tracy who sings or the Kathleen Tracy who writes celebrity biographies. It's a popular name, what can I say.). I'm sure I'll be #hashtagging "small quilts" all over the place as soon as I figure out exactly what that means . . . . 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie . . . .

Seriously.  Clutter is stress-inducing  ~  & not just in a house ...  in life too.

Yep, William Morris got it right and I am taking his words much more seriously this year. A new year, a new creative spirit. As a quilter, I'm visually oriented, and I like to surround myself with pretty things. It's good for my spirit.

From organizing my pins into cute containers came another good idea: Let's go to Ikea!

Don't go there if you have silly notions rattling around in your head about buying a couple of containers to organize your sewing things. By the time I was through it took 2 trips and quite a few hours and ended in an overhaul of my sewing space. 

Honest, I just bought a few things  : )  And I'm working hard to get it all together. I felt I needed to carry over the "beautiful things" from the other rooms in my house into my sewing space a little more. Wish I could afford Pottery Barn. No reason inexpensive and functional can't also be inspirational and pleasing to your creative spirit (and budget) though. 

At first, I just wanted a new sewing table that was longer and deeper. My old one was too short and small and I always felt cramped on either side. And I wanted it near a window for the natural light. Last year I had a plan and we started clearing out my son's old room (He's got an apartment now so he'll never come back, right? Hah!). But the window needed new curtains . . . . Then I also had to buy a few more pretty organizers for my things. And some shelves. A new cutting table too, perhaps? You get the picture. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie kind of thing. (If you give a quilter a pretty table she'll create something to go with it.) 

                                 If you Give a Mouse a Cookie.jpg 

(The book both my kids loved when they were toddlers -  A boy gives a cookie to a mouse. The mouse asks for a glass of milk. He then requests a straw (to drink the milk), a mirror (to avoid a milk mustache), nail scissors (to trim his hair in the mirror), and a broom (to sweep up his hair trimmings). Next he wants to take a nap, to have a story read to him, to draw a picture, and to hang the drawing on the refrigerator. Looking at the refrigerator makes him thirsty, so the mouse asks for a glass of milk. The circle is complete when he wants a cookie to go with it.)

I'm not nearly finished yet but now everything is prettier (and lighter) than it used to be and I really am feeling more creative. That can't be bad. I'm taking my time - I'll get some quilts up on the walls and organize my fabric a little better. Find some pretty, cheap bins at Target. And because I just can't create in a messy space, I'll keep it nice and clean. (Please don't think that when my space gets too messy, I just create another new one, somewhere else, LOL.) 

No reason you can't have a pretty container for your snipped threads. This pink basket makes me smile  : )

When I'm finished with my needles, pins, scissors they'll go back into the organizer tray. So I can find things again.

*  *  *  *

You gotta love Ikea -  where else can you find a robin's egg blue dresser?

Wonder if I can talk my husband into painting the furniture in our bedroom robin's egg blue?? Better yet, maybe I'll do it myself someday and see if he even notices anything's changed . . . . .

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pins and Needles

Well, friends,  it had to happen - my nine-day  Dear Jane sewing streak ended over the weekend. It felt so good to finish a nice stack of blocks. But these streaks never last for me and I knew I needed to move on to something else. Something that involved being able to find things I kept losing. Yes, I needed to do some - here's that dreaded word - ORGANIZING.

“The way to find a needle in a haystack is to sit down.” 
  ― Beryl Markham

We took the tree down and put all the Christmas decorations away and rearranged boxes. While I was at it I decided to get rid of some old things in the basement. After doing that, the organizing bug bit me and I moved into my sewing space. I started small and the first thing I did was organize my pins. This may not sound like much organizing to you but I swear I've always got pins and needles all over the house and it drives me nuts because I can never find the ones I need. They're in this room, that room, in assorted pincushions, boxes, drawers, under the desk, behind and under the sewing machine, etc., etc, etc. Ugh. Not one bit organized. And yes, it affects how I work on a project if I need to use different pins. I have a hard time sewing if everything is too unorganized and when I cannot find anything I get cranky and then give up and don't want to do anything. 

For months, I hadn't been putting things back where they belonged. I was going to do it in the fall but fall got away from me and before I knew it it was Christmas and I still was not organized one tiny bit. I really felt I needed to clean up before I could go on to make more projects. 

What was driving me crazy was the fact that no matter where I looked, I could NOT find my special pretty Clover clear as the sea, blue glass-head pins I love to use when I piece. Yes, the kind that's so fine you can actually sew over them (Shhh).  They're especially wonderful for making small blocks with tiny pieces  like my Dear Janes. I was desperate and ready to go out and buy more. They're not cheap though, and I know I used to have about a hundred of them. But instead of going out I decided to take the time yesterday and just go "shopping" in the house. Ever do that? Once I got started I did good and went through more drawers, pincushions and things and sorted all my scattered needles as well. That's as far as I got though. 

I organized some of my pins in this Fons & Porter pin box with 4 compartments I've had for years and the needles went into a little blue candy tin for now. Someday soon I'll organize those too. You have to start somewhere. 

Ladies, I'm a pinner and I can't tell you how much I love these superfine pins (made by Clover). Along with using a 70/10 needle in my machine and 50 wt Aurifil cotton thread, they make piecing small blocks that much easier. 

For fun - here's a tutorial I found for a cute needle case pattern. It's perfect for sorting some of the needles I use most often. Maybe if I make one like this I'll actually keep track of them a little better. "Put it back where it belongs" should be my motto for 2015.
                                    Diary of a Crafty Lady: Fold-up Fabric Needle Holder

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I'm 7 for 7

Jane is still on my brain. I've made seven blocks in seven days. Seven. Can you believe it? I find this amusing and so unlike me. I had no intention of making more than one block, maybe 2 ,  in January. I guess when you have some free time and the mood strikes you you have to go with it. And perhaps by the end of today (Jan 8)  I'll be 8 for 8. Who can say when my winning streak will end? I'd like to think I can go until January 12. Then I'll have achieved my goal of completing 12 blocks for this year and won't feel bad if I miss a few weeks or months here and there when I get busy. Wouldn't that be something? Anything else will be gravy. 

See those tiny appliqued triangles? Arrrgh!  Not fun. I thought of omitting them - just for a moment.  Who would know? But a small voice in my head said - "Go on. Pfffft - you can do this. Jane did it." 

Today I laid out all of the blue blocks I've made. Didn't realize there were so many. I'm going to set some of these in a secondary blue Trip Around the World arrangement. After the pink row and the yellow row. Everything else is more or less random and I hope to God it actually looks okay when the blocks are all put together. I think I probably have to start filling in with some more browns to tone down the pinks, blues, reds and greens. But I have so many beautiful, favorite fabrics I'm longing to sew into this quilt! 

Speaking of blue - Good news! Blue Blog has been resurrected for the time being. (Who knows how long that will last?) Some of you have been wondering why I stopped. No reason, just that blogging takes time and I ran out of inspiration. But I think I've gotten my blue "mojo" back now, at least for a little while.  And speaking of mojo - such a silly word but I kind of love it. Makes me want to dance. Have you lost yours? Winter, post-holiday letdown feelings and cabin fever will do that to you. The reason I've finished so many blocks is that, because it's been so cold here (-5 this morning, not including wind chill), I've stayed home and haven't gone out in a few days. Read this or this to try and get your mojo back. Then go off and make something pretty. Always works for me. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year Challenges, Goals

Happy New Year, late. I hope you all had some wonderful holidays and now are sufficiently rested up and ready to take on 2015 and all the goals and challenges we often feel compelled to tackle when a new year rolls around. A clean slate sure feels good. I hardly ever make resolutions anymore (too much pressure) but every year I still "set goals" for myself. Honestly, I know it's the same thing but just the different wording makes me feel better and if I don't complete all of them within a certain time frame I don't feel like I'm breaking a promise, just pushing the deadline a bit. The other day I set a few personal, business and quilting goals for myself for this year. I wrote them down in a notebook and every now and then in the coming months will check the list and ask myself - "How're you doing on those?" 

In 2015, I plan to repeat one of my quilting goals - which is to make at least one Dear Jane block a month. Since I have many other goals to keep me busy, yes, it's a very small goal but one that still manages to motivate me. I often end up making make more than one block each month.

So far, in January, I've made 4 blocks in 4 days. Not a huge accomplishment, I'll admit, but this makes me feel great. One block I actually had to make twice, so really I completed 5. I say "had to" because to tell the truth the first one turned out pretty awful and I knew it would always bother me if I left it. As much as I try, my blocks are not expertly pieced and when I say one turns out awful, trust me.  I had the time to redo it and the second one came out much better after I found a different way to make it. 

I'm not especially good at curved piecing and the first version of the green block above turned out more sloppy than I expected (you're never going to see it, LOL). In doing the second one, probably because I had been thinking about disappearing four-patch blocks lately, I appliqued a large green circle on the background square, added corner triangles and then sliced the whole thing into quarters, rotated the pieces and Viola! Much easier for me than piecing those curves. Sometimes you just need to find a path you can follow.

Anyway, I know I will not be able to keep up the daily pace for very long but even if I become motivated to make more than one block every month I'll still be ahead. 

A little over a year ago, I started an online DJ group so that some of us could help each other remain motivated to press on, move forward and work on finishing our DJ quilts. (See sidebar for info on joining us.) 

Can't believe how much fun this is for me. To see the blocks grow month by month, year by year and know I have not given up is very gratifying.

One of the highlights of last year for me - visiting the Queen of Quilts on her throne.

I began my DJ quilt journey in January 2010. Stop me if you've heard this one before, LOL- it's a favorite topic of mine and one I never get tired of writing about here.  In 2013, after a few years of not accomplishing very much on it, I figured I needed to determine how important this goal still was to me. I looked at all the work I had already put into making some of the blocks and decided that Yes, it was still an important goal and then committed to making an attempt to complete a certain number of blocks by the end of that year. Despite a difficult (if not downright hellish at times) 3-4 year stretch in my life, it felt pretty good to be able to complete that goal of 50 blocks. I probably would not have been able to get even that far if I did not have the support of many of you who always say such nice things when I post photos of my progress. Along with some of my online DJ quilting friends who are also plugging away on it. Misery sure loves company and a kind word often goes a long way. 

In 2014, not wanting to stress too much about it, my only goal for working on my Jane quilt was to just. keep. going. With all of the other things I always need or want to find time for it's often difficult to keep this long-term project from slipping off the list, you know? I decided I would try to make at least one block per month, not a difficult goal, and, instead of becoming disappointed with myself for not working harder on it, I'd just try to feel pleased with myself for getting at least 12 blocks completed every year. Better than putting it away in a drawer, am I right? Still moving forward instead of just standing still. 

Some months I became busy and did not get very much done but other months were more productive and all in all I was able to complete an additional 35 blocks in 2014. Wow. Gosh, excuse me - but I'm VERY pleased with myself for this because there were times I'd see others' finished DJ quilts and think "I'll never in a million years be able to do that." I've made 88 blocks in all and hope to finish 90 by tomorrow. Who knew I'd actually get this far without giving up? I realized that this is what happens when I set reasonable goals and write them down. 

Have some goals of your own for the new year? Try putting them into a notebook and then make a plan to revisit them every month. Ask yourself which goals are the most important and doable. Don't give up - just break them down into smaller goals. See if you can keep your hands and feet moving (hands for sewing and feet for moving if you have goals to exercise more, like I always do) and ignore those thoughts in your head when your brain says you can't.