Monday, January 30, 2017

Persistence Pays Off

I remember telling people in 2010 that I had made up my mind - I was going to try making a replica of Jane Stickle's 1863 quilt. Responses:  "Oh. Um, okay."  They were thinking:  "Sure you are. Good luck with that idea."  

It's been a strange journey. Hot and cold at times. In my own war with this quilt. I saved some of the more difficult blocks for last. If I'd tried to make them 5 or 6 years ago I know would have quit altogether. Here's what I learned: Persistence pays off. I'm a much better quilter now than I was then. I'm incredibly more patient with myself. I kept plugging away, learning as I went along. I'm congratulating myself this week because I made some good progress in January and have only FOUR more blocks left to go for the center of the quilt. Then 52 triangles and the 4 corners. 

Who knew I would make it this far?  I'm excited because there's a chance I will finish the top this year or next. Not pressuring myself too much because there are a lot of other things I'd like to do as well. If I do, I do.

Jane's extraordinary quilt displayed at the Bennington Museum. It's amazing that the colors are still so vibrant.

It will be such fun to pick through my old reproduction fabrics and carefully place my favorites in my quilt's border of triangles.  They sure don't look easy though. 

This post is for those of you who are still on your DJ journey or eager to begin one.  Just take it one block at a time. And, if you get discouraged, make an easy block and see how it goes. Don't give up. There's hope. If I can do it . . . .

                                           Can't wait until my crazy blocks look like this.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Getting Organized

Call me strange but I have a really hard time creating in a mess or sometimes creating at all if my house (or mind) is a mess. January is often organizing time for me. Fresh start, you know. Just like September. 

I haven't finished any Dear Jane blocks this week. I cleaned and organized instead. I'd gotten behind when I was working on the book and doll quilt club last year and never really caught up. I skimmed over things that needed to get done around the house and left them for another day. Every time I do this and then think about doing something creative, my mind switches to all the unrelated and unfinished things I still need to do.

I realize that the problem is that I get overwhelmed and try to do too many things at the same time. Then nothing gets accomplished. Ever notice that? If I do nothing about the messes that surround me, then that messes with my urge to create. I've found that if I make a list and finish just a few of these "things" that need to get done, I'm calmer and my creativity seems to flow better. So I'm trying to keep ahead and focus on doing maybe ONE thing instead of ALL things. 

When I'm organized and have gotten a few things off my list then I'm better able to immerse myself into a project without distractions. I know it's not the same for everyone, but keeping my sewing room organized is also crucial to my creativity. I hate wasting time looking for things I had a minute ago. That seems to happen more as I get older. Here are a few things that help me stay organized and creative. See if any of them work for you too.

A clean sewing table really seems to makes a difference. Even when I'm working, I try to keep the surface neat and use small baskets and pretty containers for holding things. I don't have a large or fancy sewing room with tons of storage and I have to make the best of the space that's available in my small house.

I like sewing in a space filled with natural light and I make sure my table is near a window.

This organizer tray is a great help. It's pretty and functional. Tools I use regularly go back where they belong when I'm finished sewing so I can find them again the next time.

A cutting table that sees the light of day helps me too. I keep a wire basket nearby to hold scraps of whatever fabric I've been using lately. If I need another piece of the same fabric, I can see it and pull it out instead of keeping all of it out to clutter up the mat.

After I've finished a few projects, I take 15 minutes to organize and store the leftovers according to color. My scraps can get out of control unless I find a way to stay on top of them. Throwing them into a large basket or box doesn't help me if I can never find anything when I need it. If you read the section in my new book about organizing your scraps then you know that I separate my larger cuts of fabric from the smaller pieces after they're cut. I place those leftover pieces in smaller drawers or bins according to color. 

This colored drawer system (Office Max) I use for my scraps seems to work better for me . . . 

. . . than this one. 

The really small scraps or strips get stored in zip lock bags (according to color, again) and placed in another bin. If I decide to make something using 2" squares or 1 1/2"  strips in certain colors I grab a bag or two (or three or more) and go at it.

For the past couple of years, I've kept  my Dear Jane supplies organized in an IKEA rolling cart so I can wheel it out whenever I have the urge to work on the blocks. Then, when I'm finished for the day, I put my book and tools away in the cart so I can find them the next time and wheel it right back in the corner. It seems to work for me and I have a feeling it's part of why I'm moving along on my blocks. The blocks, book and tools are always accessible if I have time.

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It feels good to be organized and know where everything is located when I need to find something and go with a certain flow. It also feels good to be creative and productive. As quilters, we're constantly struggling with fabric messes. If you can create this way, then more power to you. I seem to be missing the gene that filters out messes LOL. Buy less fabric I hear people say! To me, the solution is not to simply avoid purchasing fabric. Buying new and pretty fabric is inspiring and it's often what drives me to create pretty quilts. I need it. I think we also need to get a handle on all of it and find better ways of storing and organizing before it overwhelms us and keeps our creativity level down.  

I love playing with my fabric but if my table looks like this all the time my mind gets too distracted and doesn't know where to go from here. I need to sort it.

Are there things that are holding you back from creating? I hope some of the organizing methods I've listed here help you or at least get you thinking about what's good for your own creativity. There are lots more tips in my Small & Scrappy book on storing and organizing your fabric. 

Read this if you're having trouble getting organized in general. I enjoyed reading the part about taking care of negative emotional frenzy. Here's another link to stopping the frenzy.  Have a great week!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Dear Jane from a Galloping Horse

The quilter's motto: If it looks okay as you're riding by on a galloping horse, then it's good enough.

I am trying to make my Dear Jane quilt a priority this year. Wish me luck. It's slow going. Also doesn't look like much but I finished three blocks last week and two this week so I'm happy -

That one with the 16 peels (set in a 4 1/2" block) took me sooo long. I'd sew a couple of peels, get frustrated, then stop, pick it up the next day, repeat. I wanted those peels to line up perfectly. When applique is this small it's frustrating.

The perfect view of my block from a galloping horse, no? Or a plane. Can't see any mistakes if I squint just a little either.

 Sure looks good enough to me although I know I'm going to get into trouble when I sew those 1/4" seams since I didn't leave enough room. Oh well. It is what it is and I will just have to fudge it.

Looks like Jane had some trouble with this one too. This is what keeps me going - some of Jane's blocks from the original quilt (dated 1863) are far from perfect but the entire quilt itself is still so incredibly beautiful. Perhaps mine will be beautiful too?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Book Giveaway Winner

Thanks so much for entering my recent giveaway and for all of your nice comments. The winner of my book Small & Scrappy is - 

Peg F. in NJ   -  Congratulations, Peg!  Send me your mailing address and I will mail your book to you. I hope you enjoy making some of the projects.

I appreciate the time some of you put into your comments to tell me what you'd like to see in future books. Believe it or not, I have already begun making a few quilts that incorporate some of your ideas.  It's nice to see we are on the same page - many of you want to see the exact same things I want to make! So, we'll just have to see what the future holds. 

In the meantime, I hope all of you who have the book have fun making some of the quilts.  Don't forget to join in our small quilt challenges every other month in my Facebook and Yahoo groups. You can order a signed copy of the book on my website. Did you also know that my publisher, Martingale, has an e-book (in .pdf format) of Small & Scrappy available that you can download instantly to your computer? This might be a good option for some of you since it's a little cheaper than the hard copy of the book. You can just print out the pattern pages as you need them.  See details here.  

Keep on making small quilts, my friends. In February, I will announce a new project in my groups that I am sure will get your heart singing . . . .

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Small & Scrappy Book Giveaway

Can you stand yet another post about my new book? How about if it involves a free copy? This week I'm giving away a signed copy of the book -

I know some of you may have already bought a copy but, if you win, give it away to a needy friend. 

To enter your name, leave me a comment here telling me what you would like to see in my next book (not sure there will even BE a next one but what the heck . . . I'd still like to hear). Also, please leave an e-mail address or way for me to contact you.  

I'll announce the winner on Sunday. 

Good luck!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Here's to a Happy and Healthy 2017

Happy New Year, Quilting friends (and others)! 2017 will be another year of fun projects and events related to small quilting if I have anything to say about it. In my small quilt groups, we'll have challenges to make more small quilts every other month (there'll be other fun stuff for the in-between months). We'll make new friends and encourage each other to keep going on our projects and dreams. We'll host fun swaps and other events. I'll keep you posted - but, if you are not a member of either the Facebook or Yahoo group, you're missing out. See the sidebar for info on joining. (You can also sign up to receive updates of my blog through e-mail if you like. Just click on the follow by e-mail or subscribe through e-mail gadgets on the blog sidebar to do this and you will be notified each time I write a new post.)  

For our January 2017 small quilt challenge in my groups, we'll be making the "Be My Little Valentine" doll quilt for January. Why January? To give you more time to finish it so you can display it in time for the February holiday. Clever, huh?   It's a very simple quilt using lots of pink, red and cream scraps and the pattern is in my book Small & Scrappy on page 12. 

A lot of you probably have it already (I hope), but I will be giving away a copy of my new book later this week so make sure you come back here for that. If nothing else, the comments are usually fun to read.

We definitely have to fit in this quilt for one of our challenges.

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Some of you joined my Papa's Shirts and Mama's Dresses doll quilt club last summer and had fun getting the patterns in the mail and making those quilts (or at least dreaming about making them SOMEDAY). That club ended in November but I am now running it again for those who may have missed out - so here's your last chance to order the patterns before I retire them this year. Find out more here. The first pattern will ship in mid-January.  

Know that I am wishing all of you all the best for the coming year and hope that your dreams and aspirations for 2017 will be achieved. No real resolutions here, but one of my goals is to get back to working on more of my Dear Jane blocks. And make some more quilts for my family (and the sofa) . . . . I love small quilts but I decided I just need a few more large quilts too!