Monday, September 2, 2019

Making a Plan to Finish a Small Quilt

We all love making small quilts and I know some of you have a dream to create a wall full of them. I post challenges from some of my books each month in my Facebook group to give you suggestions on what to make. It's fun stitching along with others in the group and seeing what they're doing with the pattern. Watching their progress. Every quilt is different, but the same design. 

Our challenge in my groups for September - October is Aunt Sarah's Scrap Baskets quilt from my book A Prairie Journey.  We've been working on some of these quilts for the past year and are now closing in on finishing them up by the end of this year. But the suggestions are all listed in the group Files and you can pick one and make it at any time. 

How do you get started? Every year I try to post my suggestions on how to finish some of the quilts we work on as challenges in my online groups. Give you a little nudge. If you're determined to make a quilt a month from one of these challenges (or pick others to work on) you have to discipline yourself and decide if you really really want to make them.

Great ideas for tackling procrastination and getting things done! Love this free printable to serve as a reminder!:

Some of you can put together a whole small quilt in one sitting. But I sure can't and I know it's not easy or practical for most of us to do it this way. Don't beat yourself up. Just begin. Here's what I know -  if you break up your quilting into manageable chunks of time, you can easily finish one little quilt every month. And, if you keep it up, at the end of a year you will have quite a few little quilts made. 

Here's what helps me - when I need to complete a number of projects (like for a book or something) I buy myself a pretty little notebook and keep track of my progress. This works well if you have a goal to make a few quilts and it's a good way to hold yourself accountable by writing down your quilting goals and doing your best to accomplish some of them. If you can do it all in your head, more power to you. I'm pretty old school at times (or maybe just plain old). Having something tangible, like a notebook, to hold in my hands works better for me. But you can use your phone or tablet if that works. I'm writing a book right now and there's so much to keep track of that I can't possibly keep it all in my head. I need that notebook with my lists of things I have to accomplish every day or week. It feels good to flip through it and check off small goals. The small goals often lead to bigger goals and a good feeling that you've actually done something.

Decide on a few projects you really want to make. If you have one of my books and would love to make some of the quilts in it, thumb through it and pick a few that speak to you, a few that seem manageable. We're talking 2 or 3 small quilts at first. If you overdo it and shoot for 10, you might not get anything finished. Write them down in that notebook. Create a separate page for each quilt.  Then below that, write down everything it would take to make that quilt -  choose fabrics, cut the pieces for the blocks, sew the blocks, pick the borders, sew the borders, do the quilting, put the binding on. Give yourself a month and break down the steps week by week. Take each step one at a time. Check off each step as you complete it. Make notes. Use the notebook as a record of your progress. Keep it for future projects too. 

Before you begin -  clean off your sewing table a bit to make sure you have some room to work. Don't stress about the mess in the whole room if that's a problem. It will only keep you from being focused. Take 15 minutes and move stuff off the table, clear some space and make a fresh start for a new project. Organize the fabric later when you have time.  (That's a whole other post!) 

1. First Week - Spend an hour to choose your fabrics and maybe another hour or two that week to cut the pieces. Put this somewhere in a zip lock bag and keep it where you can easily see it and return to it the next week. Don't pressure yourself to finish the whole quilt in one day unless you want to and have the time or energy. 

2. Second Week - Make your blocks. This also only takes a few hours (sometimes less, because remember, most of the quilts are small).

3. Third Week - Put the blocks together withe the setting pieces if necessary. Probably takes an hour or two. Maybe add the border if you have time or at least cut the fabric for it.

4. Fourth Week - Finish borders, layer your quilt with batting and backing and spend the rest of the time finishing/quilting. This often takes the most time, but if you like handwork it can go fast.

All it takes is a little discipline. I find I work best with a schedule and some of you may find that helpful too. Schedule a time to sew on Wednesday and Friday mornings or evenings, or Saturday afternoons, say. As each week begins, make a plan to sew on a certain day that week. Other things will always come up and you'll certainly have distractions. You just have to keep at it and make this YOUR time. Don't attempt to finish the whole thing in one session. Do a little bit every week. Even a bit of progress can make you feel pretty good.

Bottom line - You can do this!


Friday, August 23, 2019

Summer's Almost Gone

How has your summer been? Mine has gone by so fast. First we had a wet, wet spring and we thought summer would never get here and then after the heat wave laced with so much rain and humidity we're really starting to look forward to fall here in Chicago.

There were a few nice days where I could actually sit outside and do a little bit of applique. And enjoy my morning coffee. 

I've been busy, busy, busy - quilting and writing my next book. When fall gets here I'm sure I won't even notice. Time is flying by and I'm not finished with everything I still need to do. But I'm pretty close. You're going to love this one and I'll tell you more when we get closer to the release date (if you can wait until December 2020 - hah). Publishing takes a really long time. Not my fault. After I finish and send the manuscript and quilts to Martingale for photos and editing (that takes more than a few months), they send it off on a slow boat to China to be printed.

This may have to tide you over until then. If you love small quilts, you might want to pick up this new Martingale book - The Big Book of Little Quilts. There are two quilts from my book Small & Scrappy in it. Plus, lots of other great quilts from some of your favorite designers.

Does this quilt look familiar? It's the small quilt challenge some of my small quilt groupies are working on for August. Barn Raising, from my book A Prairie Journey.

Working on a book doesn't leave you much time for fun. You really have to focus every day and just hunker down at the computer or sewing machine for hours at a time and do stuff when you'd rather be outside playing.  For instance, I haven't been into the city much this year but one day a couple of weeks ago my son called and wanted to have lunch so I drove down there to meet him. After lunch we walked along the lakefront. We picked a beautiful day and now I really miss the lake and the city (and free time). No summer vacation this year.

On the way home I stopped at the International Market and this "little girl" was behind me in line, just begging me to snap her picture. What a sweetie. I guess it's okay to start bringing my own poodle along with me when I shop now??

If she's not too busy, that is . . . 

Oh yeah. I lucked out and got a dog who likes to read quilting books in her spare time. What are the chances??
(Sorry - the longer I work, the sillier I get . . . .)

Have a great weekend!

Monday, July 15, 2019

2019 Mystery Quilt - Finished!

I'll bet some of you wondered if I would ever blog again about the Mystery Quilt I started this year. Or if I'd even finish. Well here's your answer - it's done! The blocks we worked on each month earlier this year were posted in files in my Facebook Small Quilt Lovers group and on my website. And now it's time to put them all together.

I just got my quilt back from the quilter. She did a nice, simple, all-over stipple design. I'm not overly fond of heavily quilted quilts and like the quilting on mine to be very simple so I'm very happy with it. As you can see, it's not exactly a small quilt. (But I did use small blocks.) Originally, it was going to be a simple row quilt - set the blocks on point and use sashing in between the rows. Add a binding. You will often see this kind of finish on antique quilts. After I put mine together, I decided (or the quilt decided) it needed a border. Now it's a lap quilt. I've been busy working on something else right now and haven't had time to do the binding yet. But I'll get there.

The block patterns are still up in the files and on my website but they'll only be there for a few more months while I decide if I'm going to do another Mystery Quilt next year. Have fun if you begin this one. But hurry and get those patterns printed out while they're still available. 

I've seen some beautiful finished quilts in the Facebook group.  Here's Sue Bennett's finished quilt - 

I can't believe it's mid-July already. The monthly small quilt challenge for June AND July (because everyone gets busy during the summer) is also in the group files - 

I haven't had enough time to finish mine yet. And I'm still deciding if I like that blue border or if it's too darn busy. So I'm putting it off for now. (It's just too busy. Don't know what I was even thinking.) Some in the Facebook group have made this into a pillow and it looks really cute that way.

Recap: We had a Patriotic Pincushion Parade on July 4th in my Facebook and other group and I was happy to see so many of you join us. This is always so much fun. Once you start making them, you can't stop. Sometimes, making a simple little pincushion is just the thing to jump start a little creative sewing if you've been stalled or stuck.

Pins from last year.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Making Small Quilts, a Little at a Time

Making small quilts can be quick, fun and rewarding. They're easy to make and yet I know that it's often difficult for some of you to find the time or get motivated to do that. I understand completely. Life always gets in the way. We have good days (or weeks) and bad days (or weeks). Days we feel like sewing and days when everything (gosh darn it) seems to stand in the way of us making it into that room to sew. Roadblocks all over the place. What you need is a plan, my friends, to counteract the detours. Sometimes, quilting within a community of those who also love small quilts gives you that motivation. Try joining one of my quilting groups listed on the sidebar of this blog. We do small quilt challenges every month. No pressure. Just follow along best you can.

Last month's challenge

Struggle with applique much? Does it make your stomach churn just thinking about doing it? Watch, amazed, as some members get chills at the "A" word (you know who I'm talking about) then suddenly take the leap, rise to the challenge, find support in our little community of quilters and conquer their fears. Finally realizing -  Yes! Applique can be fun! LOL

Most of us love the idea of having a nice stack or wall of small quilts to display. The problem is to stop dreaming about this and actually create the time to get them made. I try to encourage quilters to follow along in my groups to make the challenge quilt that's posted every month. Do a little each week. You'd be surprised at how much can be accomplished in a single month if you're surrounded by supportive quilters who are trying to do the same thing. It's also fun to see the different varieties of styles and interpretations of my patterns that people make. 

So here's the good news for April: beginning this month, my Facebook Small Quilt Lovers group is having a sweet sew along. Some have decided that now is the right time to start (or finish) my Peony Star quilt from my book Remembering Adelia. It's an oldie but a goodie. 

If this is something you've had on your list for awhile, now is the time to join in. Get 'er done! Follow along in the Facebook group with our hostesses Ann and Sue and they'll help keep you motivated to make the blocks on a timely basis and finish this lovely quilt. It's one of my favorite spring-like quilts and so maybe if we work hard, together,  it will encourage spring to finally show up, who knows? It's been pretty dreary here in Chicagoland for too long and I am anxiously awaiting to see those peonies show up in my garden. 

The Sew Along (SAL) officially begins on April 15. Right now they're focusing on picking fabrics for the blocks. Because these blocks are a tad bigger than the ones we small quilt lovers are used to making, you'll want to experiment a little. Pick the colors and prints you love and see how they blend together. Maybe add a few larger prints for some nice, scrappy contrast among the blocks.

If you don't have my book Remembering Adelia, I have limited (signed) copies available on my website. On sale right now just for the sew along. 

*  *  *

In other news -  we're also still working on our 2019 Mystery Quilt. You can find the monthly patterns in the group files or on my website under the Mystery Quilt page. A few more months to go and then all will be revealed in July.

April's block is called Baby Bunting.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

National Quilting Day - Celebrate!

It's National Quilting Day! Let's celebrate. Sew along with me and make this cute little mug quilt

You know I love making small projects and sometimes it's just the thing to get my creativity going. This little pinwheel block is left over from a different project (still unfinished, ugh.) and I decided to use it to make a mug quilt. Isn't it sweet? A mug quilt is something I'll always use and it's always nice to have a few extra lying around just in case. What fun to serve someone a cup of tea with a cute mug rug and see them smile and say "Oh, how cute!"  I am calling this "Whirlwind" because that's the name of the block and also my sewing room right now looks like a tornado hit it because I'm working on many things at once. I know most of you know exactly what I mean . . . .

To make this little project, cut -

2 squares, 2 7/8"  x  2 7/8" from a dark blue print
-        Cut each square once on the diagonal for 4 triangles
1 square, 3 1/4" x 3 1/4" from a pink print
-        Cut twice on the diagonal for 4 triangles
1 square, 3 1/4"  x 3 1/4" from a checked fabric
-        Cut twice on the diagonal for 4 triangles
2 squares, 3 3/4"  x 3 3/4" from a light print
-        Cut each square once on the diagonal for 4 triangles
2 strips, 2" x  6" from a medium blue print
1 rectangle  7"  x 10"  from a backing fabric 
1 strip, 1 1/4" wide, from a pink print for binding
7"  x  10"  piece of thin cotton batting

1.  Sew the pink and checked triangles together as shown.  Make four units like this.

2.  Sew each pink and checked unit together with a dark blue triangle. They finished units should measure 2 1/2".  Make four.

3.  Sew the four units together as shown, two at a time. Then, sew the two rows together, pinning the center as you stitch to make sure your points meet. Your block should measure 4 1/2".

4.  Add the light print triangles to the sides of the block.

5.  Sew the medium blue strips to the sides of your block.

6.  Layer the quilt top with batting and backing and then add the pink binding.  I like to use a 1 1/4" single-fold binding strip in my little quilts to avoid too much bulk.

There are all sorts of fun ways to honor your quilty self today - visit a quilt shop, teach someone to quilt, finish a UFO, organize your scraps. Tell a friend how much you love their quilts. You get the idea. Hope whatever you do today involves at least a little bit of quilting.

Why not treat yourself to a book? My book Remembering Adelia is on sale on my website for a short time -

Also, check out my publisher Martingale's semi-annual Warehouse sale - some great quilting books by your favorite authors. Here's one of my favorites that has several of my quilts in it. (Already published ones but if you don't have all my books you may want to get some of these patterns.) More about that Peony quilt next week . . . .

Happy St. Patrick's Day too