Friday, February 21, 2020

Creative Decisions

Here's what I know: Quilters are creative people. Creative people are open to inspiration. Inspiration is all around us. We're always making creative decisions whether we know it or not.

Playing with fabric is inspiring. What should I make?? Decisions, decisions.

At times, most of us get overwhelmed by all these ideas that are swimming through our heads. We start something but pretty soon another idea pops up. We become distracted and move on to work on something else. I think this is pretty typical for many of us. With all of the inspiration available, who wouldn't want to create some of the beautiful things we see in patterns and books, quilt shops or on Instagram, Pinterest or other people's blogs?

But, when you lose interest or stop working on a project, ask yourself:  is it because you hate doing a particular task in order to complete it - like applique, quilting or binding? Or, did you lose interest because you don't really care for the project anymore?  This will blow your mind, but - I think it's actually okay if you do NOT finish something. I do this with books all the time (not finish reading them). I used to feel compelled to finish reading a book I started even if I wasn't sure I liked it. Persevere. Now, I don't waste my time on something I consider mediocre. Too many other good books to read.

(This book was one of my recent favorites. Got me started reading all of Ann Patchett's books.)

But, anyway, there will always be projects on hold that we come back to. For me, it's my Dear Jane. Yes, I always have many other things to work on and so it often gets pushed aside for a time. But I know I will always go back to it because I love it too much. Perhaps some of your projects are like this?

Here's that radical thought again: Not every project you start needs to be finished. Sometimes, I think projects come into our lives to inspire us to get sewing again if we've been feeling stuck or blah. A new project can be refreshing. Dwelling on all of the unfinished ones lying around only serves to make you feel guilty over something you started but didn't finish. That can be a heavy burden to carry around and a real drag on your creativity. Can you pass along an unfinished project to someone else who might be happy to finish something new (to her)? Maybe it's already served it's purpose for you.

This quilt is just a little off . . . . I have a feeling I probably won't ever finish it. I'm not crazy about the fabrics I used and I don't really care enough to spend the time. So, it will probably go in the "Eh" drawer of UFOs. Poof! It's already there. 

Occasionally, I sort through my projects and pull out the ones I really, really want to finish. Then I put the ones I'm not sure about or can't make a decision about yet in a drawer. If I can, I try to make a decision about the ones I haven't worked on for a long time and know I will probably never finish. Getting rid of the guilt over not finishing is kind of freeing. Try it.

Next time I'll show you some of the quilts I'm really really anxious to finish. I thought it would be this year but who knows. Working on a big project like a book takes up so much time and space in my brain that I just don't seem to get a lot of other stuff done. Especially around-the-home stuff. Right now we have bathroom issues from a roof leak last year. The roof was replaced but the damage to the bathroom wasn't fixed because I had no time to deal with it while I was working with deadlines. So fixing (and updating!) that room is what's on my plate right now.

Decisions, decisions.  My husband said: "I think I like the bluish ones best." Me, Blue Girl: "Oh, okay. If you say so." LOL 

And the winner is . . . Blue! But you already knew that.

Then there's that other bathroom that also needs work . . . . And now the rest of the house is looking a little sad and needs to be painted/updated . . . . It goes on and on. This stuff has taken a back seat to my work for way too long and now it's time to focus on doing some creative home stuff. Making some creative decisions about paint, de-cluttering and throwing out stuff.  This is creative too. Wish me luck!


Monday, February 3, 2020

Fun Little Things to Make in February

February always ends up being a busy but often creative month for me. The holiday crunch is over and I usually have more time so I get down to business. I often "think pink" around this time of year. Ever since the kids were little I loved decorating for Valentine's Day. It was always a very exciting time for school-age kids. "Secret" valentines, parties, candy, etc. Mine are all grown up now and so no more vinyl heart stickers on the windows but I still have fun displaying my pink or red quilts around the house and changing the wreath on the front door. Maybe getting a little chocolate . . . .

If you've been following my 2020 Mystery Quilt Sew Along you may have finished the blocks for January -

Well, we're moving right along. The blocks for February were posted a couple of day ago.

No photo description available.

These should keep you busy for awhile. You can find the patterns in my Facebook group files or on my website under the Mystery page. It's never too late to begin. If you haven't thought about starting the Mystery quilt yet, read more about it here.

If you're in the mood for more projects, join me in making some other things this month. My Facebook small quilt group also does monthly small quilt challenges. This month we're making a Valentine's Day themed quilt for the February Small Quilt Challenge.  Make a little quilt with a heart motif or make something using red or pink fabrics. The pattern is your choice but the file describing the challenge in our group files gives some suggestions. I hope some of you will join us. Here's the quilt I started and I really hope to get it quilted before too long. I designed it for the groups as a challenge idea a few years ago but never got around to making one of my own so this is the year. Just a simple four patch turned on point to make scrappy "hearts."

Perhaps there's a pattern you've always meant to make but never found the time? Maybe this is the year. Pick out some pretty fabric. Sew some squares or triangles together. Make something just for yourself. Put your heart into it.

Here are a few other suggestions. The Be My Little Valentine quilt from my book Small & Scrappy is a really easy project. 

My popular Vintage Valentine quilt that I designed last year is still available as a pattern on my website or in my Etsy shop. Many of you bought the kit from me and so perhaps that's another good idea.

This Little Sweethearts runner from a few years ago is also available as a pattern. I don't typically use novelty fabrics much but this one with all the little heart prints was fun and easy to make. Many of you bought this kit too so now may be the time to finally make it. 

Last year's February challenge pattern is also available in the online group files. 

As a little extra this month, I thought it might be fun to have a Valentine's Day pincushion challenge - make a sweet little pincushion with a Valentine's Day theme and post a picture in the group. These are usually really simple and fun and take hardly any time at all to complete. The fun part is always playing around with pretty red or pink fabrics. I know we could all use some little decorative things around the house for February so grab some of your scraps and make a little something. A few simple pinnies displayed in a bowl would be fun. We often get busy and always think we have so much to do but sometimes taking a little time for yourself to make something small and cute can be just what you need to perk you up in the winter. 

Making even a little something can motivate and energize you and just plain make you feel good. Or, here's a better idea - make a small gift for someone else.

"The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart."   ~Helen Keller

Happy St. Valentine's Month!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Monthly Small Quilts Update - Where to Buy the Book

Some of you have e-mailed me asking where to find the book we'll be using for the monthly small quilt challenges - The Civil War Sewing Circle. Last fall, we talked about it in our Facebook group and decided to work on quilts from this one.  And then shortly after I sold out of any copies I had left.  It's out of print now but you can still find some copies floating around on the internet. Unfortunately, the price is often marked up drastically by some who are selling copies (Not me - And I wouldn't buy from someone who charges more than the retail price.)

A good alternative to a hard copy of the book is to get an e-book from Martingale, my publisher. You simply purchase the book for $16.99 and download instantly to your computer or iPad. A good (and relatively affordable) solution for international members of the Facebook group as well. You can purchase all of my books this way and save on shipping.

Here's the link to buying an e-book

Print out the specific pages for each quilt as we work on them. We'll be making six quilts from the book this year and that comes to about $3.00 per pattern. Cheap, if you ask me.

Here are a few tips on downloading the e-books

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Monthly Small Quilt Challenges for 2020

Kick off this year with a bang by making one of my favorite small quilts for the January 2020 small groups, small quilt challenge. Civil War Stars. Yes, it's an oldie but still a good one. There are many who are new to my groups, my blog and my books who haven't made any of the quilts that were made in the earlier challenges. (We've been doing these challenges in groups since about 2008.) Since my next book won't be out until later this year, some asked to make quilts from a different, earlier book and the suggestion was The Civil War Sewing Circle.  If you have the book, follow along and make the quilt why don't you?  If you make it now it'll be ready to display on the Fourth of July. If you'd like to join in and need a book, I have a few copies available on my website.

Here are some of the other quilts from The Civil War Sewing Circle book that we might be making this year -

We'll be alternating projects every month. Odd-numbered months will be a quilt from the book and even months will be a small themed quilt that will be a free pattern or perhaps just a suggestion to be creative in some way without using a pattern. Stay tuned for the quilt for February. I'll bet it will be something like - "Use red or pink fabric to make a quilt . . . ."  Ha ha.  Okay, maybe I'll try to be a little more specific than that. 

Have a good weekend! If you haven't started the first block of my Mystery quilt yet, time's a wasting.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Mystery Quilt Sew Along 2020

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a good Christmas. The holidays were hectic, as usual, but very nice.

Good news - Today I started a new Mystery Quilt Sew Along for 2020 in my small quilt groups. Here are the first couple of blocks. You'll find the pattern in Files in the Facebook group or on the Mystery page on my website (see links below) -

Every month I'll post a free pattern for a block (or blocks) to make another part of the quilt. I'll be sewing along with all of you and, if you keep up, all the parts of the quilt should be finished by summer 2020. When the "Mystery" is finally revealed,  you can spend the rest of the year putting it together and finishing it up. Sew along with us! Just go to the Facebook group files or the Mystery Quilt page on my website to download the patterns. Join in the fun. Details and block directions can be found in the first step -  Welcome to the 2020 Mystery Quilt..

We'll still be working on making small quilt challenges this year as well. Some in the group have decided that they wanted to make quilts from one of my books - The Civil War Sewing Circle - and so we'll be using that book for our projects during the odd-numbered months. You will need the book for the patterns if you wish to join in these challenges. I'll post the name of that first quilt in the Files on January 2. During even-numbered months, we'll try making small quilts with a theme. Still working on how we'll do that.

Beginners are welcome to join the Mystery. Most of the blocks are fairly simple. This is a no-pressure, do-it-at-your-own-pace project. There will be plenty of time. Pick your own colors and fabrics from your stash or scraps. I am making mine scrappy using some of my favorite colors, like BLUE, red, black and tan but you are welcome to make your quilt any way you please.

This is our fourth annual Mystery. So far it's been great fun to see everyone's progress posted in my Facebook group. Here are some of the quilts from our previous Mysteries -


2018  (uh oh, mine is still in progress . . . )


Hope you are able to get some quilting done this year. Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and productive new year!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Merry Making

"It's coming on Christmas. They're cutting down trees. They're putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace." - Joni Mitchell

We bought the tree and all the lights are on. We'll get it trimmed later tonight. A small portion of the house is decorated. I've brought out the Christmas dishes and the Christmas cds. I'm a little late. Seems like I should have been doing this weeks ago and here I'm just getting started.

I love Christmas. I love all the craziness, the shopping, the decorating, the cooking, the snow - if we're lucky.  If I choose to, I can make all of that stressful. But long ago I decided that what I need to focus on is actually enjoying and reflecting on the holiday, slowing down, taking time for myself and being with family and friends, doing the things I love the most around this time -  making things, baking a little, listening to music, not worrying about buying gazillions of presents or finding the perfect ones and just stressing out in general about the small stuff. If something doesn't get done, then it doesn't get done. 

Do you get the bug to make things right before Christmas? It's a good way to de-stress and get into the holiday spirit. Try a little simple stitching. This is a Gail Pan design from her book Christmas Patchwork Loves Embroidery. It's a sweet little book full of Christmas projects.

Here's my wool tree skirt for a mini tree. The pattern is on my website. I've got some other cute Christmas things there and in my Etsy shop .

How about a simple little present pincushion? Free pattern on my website.

Making things is good. Helps you slow down and enjoy the holiday a little bit.

Have you made any little trees yet? EVERYONE seems to be making these. There's a free paper-pieced pattern in Files in my Facebook group and I think it's also on my website. There's another one using flying geese.

"It's coming on Christmas, I'm cutting up trees . . . "

I often put things off until the last minute and then usually stay up late at night the week before Christmas, struggling to finish last minute things. Sometimes that's part of the fun. The house is quiet and I can relax and sew. These trees don't take long at all. 

If you're new to my blog and haven't seen my little redwork stitcheries, try visiting my website (link above) or my Etsy shop for the pattern. They're also pretty quick. 

Merry Making!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Controlled Scrappy or Wild Scrappy?

Unlike some quilters, I hardly ever create a scrap quilt at random, grabbing pieces here and there and sewing them together without a plan. This scares me. I usually prefer to play around and carefully arrange the scrap pieces in a way that is pleasing to my eye, paying attention to color, contrast and value. I think it's a control thing. I'm always amazed when quilters tell me they don't plan their scrap quilts. I hesitate to just throw fabrics together and assume it will all work out because it usually doesn't for me. I always need to plan a bit. How do you make your scrappy quilts?

Treasure boxes from my book Small & Scrappy. This may look like a random scrap quilt made with lots and lots of small scraps but look closely and you can see I used a definite color theme of pink, blue and brown with a few small kicks of color. 

Same here. Scrappy blocks yet with a tan and blue theme.

Here's one of my least favorite scrap quilts, below. It's my Civil War Soldier's Cot quilt from my book The Civil War Sewing Circle. I challenged myself to create this one at random - no planning, pulling fabrics from who knows where, not caring if they went together while I made the blocks. It's definitely scrappy. The only thing I planned was to make it as I thought a woman from that era might have used up her scraps to quickly sew a quilt for a soldier who desperately needed bedding in the camps. To me, it's just meh - too much brown, green and gold, not my favorite colors. I like the pattern though and may even make another one someday, definitely with  more blue in it, LOL. 

I like my planned scrap quilts much better because I often try to at least use a certain color theme throughout. Still scrappy.

If you're a beginner at making scrap quilts, you may want to try a planned one at first. There's not always a need to throw caution to the wind. I know that can be scary. Make a plan and just try throwing in a few scraps of a few different colors here and there. It gets easier after you've made a few quilts. This is where small quilts come in. It's so much easier to try this in a small quilt before you spend time making make something large and end up not liking it. It just takes practice.

See what I mean about controlled scrappy?  At first, try using several different prints in the same color and mix them up in your blocks for a scrappy look. This is a good way to ease into the scrappy look if you're afraid of your colors going all over the place and the quilt becoming too wild. Then, perhaps, gradually introduce a random little piece of a different color in a block or two and step back. You'll know when it's too much for your taste.

Moderately scrappy - not crazy, wild scrappy. Just use different shades of the same colors in your backgrounds.

Here's a blog post I wrote awhile ago to help you choose and buy fabric to build a nice collection for making scrap quilts.

Have a good weekend!