My “New & Improved” Plan for Battling UFOs and Scraps

Last year I came up with a plan that would allow me to work through more UFOs, whittle down the overflowing scrap baskets in my craft room, and allow me to work, guilt-free, on some new projects.  In the past, I always start the new year with grandiose plans to blast through all of my UFOs, and the white-knuckle willpower would only last about six weeks because the textile world is constantly releasing new fabric, yarn, and pattern collections.  So, I came up with this project rotation:

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The Original Project Schedule

And it worked really well for about six months until I discovered a glitch with my system–I never chose fabric from my stash when it came around to make a “new” project, choosing instead to use new fabric from a new collection that excited me.  The stash was starting to grow faster than normal, and I had this weird reluctance to cut into any of it because it was dear to me.  You don’t buy fabric or yarn with no plan unless you’re really in love, which makes it hard to use said fabric or yarn.  But, as a wise homeschooling parent told me about art lessons with my kids, “Art supplies is meant to be consumed, not conserved.”  The same is true of fabric and yarn.  USE THEM.

Plus, I’ve been noticing a lot of my contemporaries breaking into the pattern market, and they are killin’ it, which made me start wondering if perhaps I should start at least trying to write my own patterns for my use?  I know how patterns work by this point in my creative “career,” and the challenge involved excited me as well.

And then we did some charity blocks in quilt guild and it just made me feel good to make those.

So my project rotation schedule needed a few tweaks:

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And it’s been working WONDERFULLY.  I love the challenge of coming up with my own patterns, and I really love the idea of #everytenthproject being a service project–it’s like paying tithing on my creative abilities, for which I am so grateful to possess.

I kept a spreadsheet detailing my projects for last year, and it really helped me with my stash management and with branching out of my comfort zone:

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(It also alerted me to the fact that I tend to only knit with new yarn, which led to the decision to stop stashing yarn completely…because once it goes into the stash, chances are high that I’ll not be interested in using it EVER after that.  Interesting.)

It worked extremely well until I started sewing again for Fat Quarter Shop–by the very nature of those projects, they are always “new” fabric projects, which very quickly started eating up the next available “new” slots in my plan.  I’ll have to watch out for that this year, and possibly come up with a plan to accommodate those projects–the turnaround time on them is tight, so it’s not possible to actually have a “plan” to include those projects into my schedule.  I might leave them out of the “rotation” altogether, actually, and just enjoy the ride when I’m asked to ride along…because, duh.

Oh, another important note: Babies and weddings don’t have to follow the schedule because they are also impossible to plan around.  I just plug them into the spreadsheet where they belong and then work around them as necessary because I LOVE BABIES AND WEDDINGS.  I’m a gift-crafter at my core.

What I find, though, is that this schedule greatly reduces the chances of acquiring more UFOs.  I’m horrendously distracted by the new-and-shiny, but when I’d start thinking about cutting for or casting on a new project, I’d consult my spreadsheet and see if it could fit into the next category up for grabs.  If it didn’t, I’d tentatively schedule it; but more often than not, when I came up to its turn in the rotation, my excitement for the new pattern would have waned and I could move on to something that had been on my bucket list and would truly bring me pleasure.  I started 2017 with thirty-eight UFOs, finished (or donated or frogged) nine UFOs, and am taking in two new UFOs–that means I now have thirty-one UFOs, which is totally an improvement!  I have never ended a year with less UFOs than I had at the beginning of it.  Feels good.

And now it’s onwards to a productive 2018!  Happy New Year, and may you find a little time each day to move forward on your projects.

clementine-qal-e1504126058289And if you’re looking for an idea for a service project, maybe you want to consider joining Fat Quarter Shop’s Clementine Quilt Along?  I’ve committed to it, and it would be lots of fun to have some more friends quilting along, too!

You can find more information about the Quilt Along by clicking here to visit the Fat Quarter Shop Blog.  Proceeds from this quilt along will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

 

The Nutcracker Mosaic Quilt Story

My mother and I adore decorating for the holidays, and we send each other new Christmas decorations most years, specially timed so that they arrive in the mail right about the day after Thanksgiving.  (Because it’s silly to give a Christmas decoration to someone to open ON Christmas–it just gets packed up the next day and you don’t get to use it for almost an entire year!)  My decoration theme is gingerbread men and woodsy greenery, and her decorating theme FOR YEARS has been snowmen.

But a few years ago she decided she was done with snowmen, and that she wanted to instead decorate with nutcrackers.

190e6f6925a9ba7931102d1122490416Last spring (think 2016) the fabulous “Nutcracker Christmas” fabric collection by Riley Blake came out, and the first time I saw it I thought, “Oh my goodness, that would be perfect for my mom!”  But money was tight, and it was softball season and I had no time to make anything anyway, so I told myself I’d revisit the idea at a later date.  Softball season came and went, and I kept catching glances of the collection and thinking every time that it really would be just perfect, but everything was working against me to buy the fabric.  But the pressure to make something with it kept hounding me.

Finally, one evening in July after having seen a whole bunch of mentions of the collection throughout the day, I had enough.  I was saying my evening prayers and I was so weighed down by thoughts of this fabric collection and really frustrated, so I decided to just be straight with God about my dilemma.  I told Him that I felt like He wanted me to make a nutcracker quilt for my mom for whatever reason, but that I just could not make the financial aspect of getting the fabric to work out, and if He really wanted me to make the quilt, then He needed to figure out how to get the fabric to me for free.  I was instantly washed over with a feeling of relief, and, thinking that the matter was settled and I was freed from the obligation, I crawled into bed, sighing with gratitude that I wouldn’t have to worry about the nutcracker quilt anymore.

The next day was quilt guild, and I set out for my meeting with a peaceful heart, settled into my seat on the front row, and chatted with my friends while waiting for the meeting to begin.  A member of my guild, Shannon, asked if she could make an announcement.  She walked up to the front of the room carrying a large basket and said that she had lots of scraps leftover from some quilts she’d made and that we could have anything we wanted that was in the basket.

Guess what was sitting on the very top of the pile?  Yep, a bundle of Nutcracker Christmas fabric.  I looked up at the ceiling and shook my head in humbled amazement.

il_340x270.1029714215_rds0Upon getting home, I measured the fabric in the bundle and I had roughly a fat eighth of every print in the collection, plus about a yard of all three colors of the border print.  That’s A LOT of fabric to get for free!

I decided to use the fabric with the “Mosaic” pattern found in Fat Quarter Style, and that I wanted to fussy cut the border fabric for the Christmas trees, gifts, and individual nutcrackers, using  the rest of the fabric to fill in the mosaic blocks.

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I chose to use Kona “Snow” for the borders and sashing, and ordered some more of my favorite print for the back.

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Utah Valley Quilting did the quilting; it’s “Christmas Pano 2009 SD,” using a light mint/seafoam-colored thread.  I went into the shop thinking white thread, but Kerri, the shop owner, talked me into a little bit of color and I’m so glad I listened to her!  The quilting really pops on this quilt!

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Last, but not least, the binding is made up of leftovers of the diamond section of the border print fabrics.

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I apologize for the photos–in my haste to make sure that the quilt got to my mom on the day after Thanksgiving, I rushed it to the post office and forgot to do a photo shoot!  “Draped over chair in living room so I could show the binding to my best friend in a Google Hangouts photo” is all I have of it in its completed state.  At least there’s that, right?

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I love how this quilt turned out, down to its cute little quilt label!  My mom phoned me half an hour after opening the box, apologizing that it took so long to contact me because she’d “been staring at it for twenty minutes” before remembering to give me a call.  She’s extremely pleased with her gift, and even more so after I told her the backstory of how this quilt came into existence.  Perhaps she just needed a reminder that God loves her?  It was fun to let Him work through me.  This has been a Christmas gift for both my mother and myself.

Jolly Braid Tote Bag

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I’ve been posting teasers on Instagram all week about a project I’ve been making for Fat Quarter Shop, and it’s finally time to show you the finished product!

Friends, meet the Jolly Braid Tote Bag, a super easy, very beginner-friendly bag made from Jolly Bar precuts.  I’d actually never made a structured bag before this, and I have no idea why I waited so long to get on the wagon!  SUPER easy, and totally satisfying to sew.

The pattern is available from Fat Quarter Shop.  You’ll need a Jolly Bar package, yardage of two other fabrics, some Annie’s Soft & Stable, one-inch polypro strapping for the handles, and a roll of “Fat Jelly Braid” Triangles on a Roll paper (seriously, I want to buy every available size of Triangles on a Roll because I love it so much).

I chose to make my bag from American Jane’s newest collection, “Merry Go Round,” and I’m really pleased with how cheerful it turned out.  When I first saw the dimensions of the pattern (12 x 11 x 5″), I thought it would make a great library book bag for my daughter, so I went with sunny prints to match her personality.

For my two prints, I went with Merry Go Round “Yellow Large Floral” (SKU# 21720-14) for my accent print, and “Red Mono Floral” (SKU# 21723-11) for my lining.

And, because I intended for the bag to hold heavy books, I added two inches to each end of the nylon strapping for the handles and tacked them down inside the construction of the bag so I wouldn’t run into ripped handles in the future. (I have ripped A LOT of handles out of A LOT of book bags…we nerdy girls always carry too many books in our bags!)

DSC03594-2My little Miss Junebug wanted to help with the photoshoot so much, so I let her!  There’s nothing like spending a beautiful autumn afternoon following your kid around the neighborhood as she proudly shows off her “new bag” to everyone she meets on the street!  (Don’t you just love it when a finished project makes the recipient enthusiastically happy?!?!)

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Thank you so much, Fat Quarter Shop, for allowing me to sew along on this super cute bag!  It’s going to get a lot of use in our home!

Fat Quarter Shop also has a tutorial video to aid you in the construction of your own bag!

Disclaimer: In exchange for sewing up this project, Fat Quarter Shop provided me with the materials.
Link-ups:

Life’s Simple Pleasures

I was driving the Brookelets home from school the other day and noticed that a tree on the side of the street had a lot of its leaves twirling towards the ground, which prompted me to exclaim, “Oh!  Falling leaves!  One of life’s simple pleasures.”

Miss Junebug scrunched her nose at me and asked, “What does that mean, ‘life’s simple pleasures’?”  I explained that a simple pleasure was a rather ordinary occurrence that just made your heart happy, and generally didn’t cost any money, which made it all the more special because it reminds you that you don’t need to spend money to be happy.  My girl nodded and went back to reading her book.

What I thought was a quick little explanation of some random phrase has apparently been percolating in her mind because we were driving to the library today, and saw a maple tree whose leaves had all turned a brilliant scarlet, but hadn’t fallen off the tree.  Junebug saw it and said, “It’s too bad those leaves aren’t falling off the tree because then they could be a simple pleasure for Mom.”  I explained that, even though the leaves were still on the tree, it was still a simple pleasure for me because I liked how it looked.

She looked at me through narrowed eyes, “Does that mean that simple pleasures can happen even if you spend money on them?”

“What? How did you make that leap?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “you spend a lot of time just looking at your quilts and the things you knit, and it makes you really happy.  But you spent money on them, so I thought it was a complicated pleasure.”

I laughed, “A complicated pleasure?  No, spending money doesn’t take away the simple pleasure of admiring a job well done.  I’m proud of myself for finishing a big project, and I’m pleased with the good job that I’ve done on that project, so it makes me happy to look at it a lot and just be pleased.  It’s fun to make stuff.”

“Really?” she said, “Because it doesn’t seem like you have a lot of fun when you’re making stuff.  You yell a lot, and you breathe angrily when you run out of thread.  And sometimes you burn yourself on the iron or cut yourself with the circle blade…”

I studied her face for a moment, then turned away to stare at the traffic on the road while I thought about her statement.  Then I nodded, glanced over at her and said, “You’re right…it’s complicated.”

 

My Very Late Start to the Sweetie Pie Quilt Sew Along

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Image courtesy of Riley Blake Designs

When I first saw the pattern for Lori Holt’s Sweetie Pie Quilt last year, I literally gasped aloud, which, when in the context of creativity, is a sign I’ve recognized to mean that I should seriously consider committing to the project, yarn, fabric, etc.  I’ve learned that ignoring that first impression gasp aloud usually leads to serious regret.

But I’m an imperfect being, and told myself, “NO.  You may not commit to making this quilt.  You have a million UFOs, it has applique fer cryin’ out loud, and just…NO.”

And then the sew along was announced.  Oh, I dearly love a sew along.  “NO!”

Then the templates became available, and oh my goodness, the cuteness…”NO!”

Then I saw the quilt in real life, and it’s even better in person…”NO!  No, no, no!”

The sew along started, and I looked forward to Lori’s blog posts each Monday to see which block they were working on that week, and oh my goodness, the cuteness…”NO!  It’s birthday season!  You’re knitting a sweater, sewing up birthday dolls, and you need to make a flapper dress for the school play!  STAHP IT.  NO.”

My oldest daughter, Emily, plays the harp, which winds up with broken strings far more often than you would think, and the closest place that sells harp strings is the music store we where we rent her harp, which is in Salt Lake City, about an hour to the north of us.  During her last lesson in January she snapped THREE strings.  (It was pretty funny to watch–pretty, pretty harp music…*twang!*  Teacher and student grumble, regroup.  Pretty, pretty harp music…*twang!*  Teacher and student emit frustrated growls, then  *twang!* for no reason, teacher and student just give up on life.)  The broken strings were often-played strings, which meant that a trip to the music store was imperative or Emily would backslide into not practicing, and darn it, I’ve had to hound her and nag her to get her to the point where she’s getting somewhat consistent with practicing.  Must. go. to. music. store. fast.

Anytime I have to run an errand up in SLC, I totally have to make a day of it because it’s the big city and I live in a small city that still has that small-town feeling to it, so the lure of all the shops and dining establishments that we don’t have in my town…duh, ya need to give ’em a visit!  I made my way up to the music store, purchased the harp strings, and still had four hours before I needed to start on my return trip home.  I decided to do a yarn and quilt shop crawl.

Amidst the shop hopping, I discovered a new-to-me shop, and…*blissful sigh.*  Lots of modern fabrics, a room dedicated to batiks and Kaffe Fassett, a room for Civil War-era fabrics, and upstairs, at the top of the stairs so it’s all you see as you ascend to another eagerly-anticipated realm of fabric, they had Lori Holt’s entire Sew Cherry 2 fabric collection and the Sweetie Pie templates.  I gasped aloud AGAIN, despite having seen all of those things for months and completely knowing they already existed.  My fingers lovingly traced over the edges of the templates through the plastic packaging, and I remembered my “gasping aloud” rule.  I picked up the templates, and placed them amongst the fat quarters in my arms before turning to investigate the contents of the rest of the room.  I made it halfway through that upstairs room before putting the templates back on the table where I’d found them.  “NO.”

I headed back downstairs, poked about a bit, and then noticed that I was approaching the time where I had to start returning home.  I got in line, which was pretty long, and settled into checking my phone for any new emails and the like, but couldn’t concentrate because there was a pair of women right in front of me who hadn’t mastered the art of quietly conversing in a public space, and they kept trying to draw me into their personal conversation, so I eventually just gave up and smiled politely and nodded my head while they talked at each other and kept turning to me for…I don’t know, some sort of contribution, despite that their conversation was about which classes they should take at the shop.  (“Um, I don’t even live here…”)

Anyway, the line finally dwindled down to the ladies in front of me, who were there to sign up for a class, but, despite having come to the shop to sign up for a particular class, they had managed to befuddle themselves while standing in line as to whether or not they truly wanted to take *that* particular class, or perhaps a different class?  The dialogue continued at the shop counter, with the shop clerk casting sympathetic glances over their shoulders at me while trying to walk them towards a decision.

Finally, they decided to go with their original class decision.  Lady #1 whipped out her checkbook, and wrote the check out to the wrong shop.  This was very funny to the two women, who paused to have a glorious chuckle at the mistake.

Lady #1 flipped to the next check in her checkbook, and the two of them spelled out the name of the shop, letter-by-letter, together while she wrote.  Having accomplished the very impressive task of writing out the correct name of the shop on her check, they paused for a little victory cheer and dance before she proceeded to write the wrong amount of money to be paid to the shop onto the check.  More laughter.  The shop clerk shot me a look of extreme pity.

Check #3 was produced, they spelled out the name of the store together, had another dance, and then spelled out the correct amount of money, number-by-number, and then erupted into yet another victory dance upon completion.  A couple of high-fives later, and Lady #1 went to rip the check from the checkbook…and ripped the thing in half.

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Lady #2 straight-up exploded with hysterical laughter, and had to hold onto the counter to keep from collapsing to the floor.  Lady #1 wasn’t too far behind her friend, and the shop clerk looked at me with an “Oh my gosh, we are going to die here,” expression on her face.

Check #4.  Letter-by-letter, number-by-number, perforation-by-perforation.  A sloooow hand-over to the shop clerk.  EXPLOSION OF VICTORY DANCE, HIGH-FIVES, AND HUGGING WHILE JUMPING UP AND DOWN.  The shop clerk moved with superhuman speed to finish up the transaction, and, upon completion, turned to Lady #2…

…who pulled out a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of coins.

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I decided that it was a great time to wander through the shop once more to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.  Namely, that it was a great time to go back upstairs and have a little debate with my conscience regarding the feasibility of making my own Sweetie Pie quilt, because God was OBVIOUSLY STALLING my exit.

I declare no coincidences in this experience–the moment I picked up the templates, some five or so minutes (or was it years?) later, with the intention to purchase them, Lady #2 let out a whoop downstairs, like my own cosmic cheering section.  I looked at the templates in my hand, heard the cha-ching of the cash register, and nodded.

The women were exiting the shop when I reached the main floor, the store clerk made eye contact with me from across the shop, and upon the closing of the door, stage whispered, “I am SO SORRY.”

So, four miswritten checks and a bag of coins later, I walked out of the shop, templates and fat quarters in bag, and a couple of pieces of candy from the store clerk’s under-the-counter stash tucked in with them.  Traffic was unusually light coming home, and I arrived at my kids’ school to pick them up with five minutes to spare.  Making this quilt is obviously an important part of my life story–I mean, HELLO, the stall of the century, cosmic cheering, and free candy…so I’ve given myself over to the will of the universe.

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Rachel Wishes She Had a Crafty Mother

I was in my craft room, trying to locate a pattern that I know I purchased this week, when my youngest daughter, Rachel, bounced into the room.  This was not ideal, as I was planning to commence sewing her birthday present once I found the missing pattern.

She’s a bit of a flit-on-by kind of girl, so I assumed she’d blast me with a bit of hurried chatter before continuing on her way to some other unsuspecting member of the family, but, of course, no.  She stopped next to me and watched me for a few seconds, then said, “I want to use the sewing machine.”

I looked over her, raised an eyebrow, and said, “Oh, really?  What for?”

She giggled, “To sew a quilt!”

“Oh,” I said, “what kind of quilt?”

She shrugged, “My usual, you know…the one I always make.”

“Why don’t you make a different one?”

“Because that’s the only one I know how to make…”

“Hmmm,” I said, “wouldn’t it be nice if you had a mother who could, like, I don’t know, TEACH YOU how to make other kinds of quilts?”

“Yeah, it really would,” she said, “I really wish…WAIT! I DO HAVE A MOM THAT CAN TEACH ME HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENT QUILT!”

And that, my friends, was how I came to start another quilt instead of working on my kid’s birthday present.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, there is some massive pattern perusal happening that I need to get back to…

Best of 2016, and Planning for 2017

I love reading everyone’s “wrapping up the year” and “plans for the next year” posts so much!  The online creative community is so interesting in that a lot of us are pretty transparent about what we do, which I really appreciate because online creativity *can* become an overly-staged, whirlwind-finishing sort of thing very easily…but then there’s those souls who refuse to get caught up in it all and just stay real, and I love reading their blogs.

Best of 2016

Trying to nail down my “best” projects of 2016 is really hard because almost every single one was a gift I made to be given away, and I don’t want anyone to think that I hated making the gift I gave them because it didn’t show up in this list…NO.  If I didn’t want to make a gift for you, I didn’t make you a gift, end of story.  I actually had four more gifts scheduled to make this year, but I quit one about 2/3 of the way through because I hated it so much, and with another one I just wasn’t feeling it, and will probably finish it up in 2017, and with the other two I just didn’t have time once all the crazy post-op stuff went down.

Oooh!  Categories!  Let’s see, five categories to round out the year:

Prettiest:  The baby quilt that my daughter and I made for her teacher who had a baby girl in May.  I loved working with Vintage Picnic, and the design of the quilt was just perfect.  For some weird reason, this quilt was blogged on our family blog, so if you want to see more pictures of it, you’ll have to head over there.

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Most Fun to Make:  The Dr. Seuss baby quilt.  It was a last-minute decision, so I picked a pattern that was on the wonky side and wouldn’t need perfect seams and the like, and I just had fun slapping it all together.  The fabrics were super fun and bright, and I really enjoyed the process of just making and not getting bogged down in the minutiae of perfection. I’ll have to remember to throw a wonky/improv project into the mix every now and then when I’m starting to feel a little stale.

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Biggest Skill Stretcher:  The Beehive Swarm swap blocks.  There was a lot of foundation paper piecing, which I tend to shy away from because I don’t like it, but there’s nothing like it for perfect piecing.  I still don’t like it, but I’m better at it now, and can grudgingly admit its superiority for certain qualities.  I also tackled curved seams for the first time with August’s block, and they are not as difficult as I psyched myself out to believe!

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Most Popular:  Within the walls of our home, it’s the Layers of Charm Flower Sugar Quilt.  It sits proudly on the back of a couch in our living room and it gets used pretty much every day.  The kids fight over it, and I’m always finding it snuck into one of their beds.

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Outside of our home, the Art Gallery Fabrics Blithe pillows have been the most popular, garnering 25% of the blog’s web traffic this year, and also being the only project about which I’ve received comments from my friends and neighbors when I’m out in the real world.  Pink and mint are hot, people.

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Project of the Year:  Not really a project, but 2016 was “The Year of All the Baby Quilts.”  There were a lot of baby quilts this year.  All good things, but man, I’m going to take a break for a while.  If you’re expecting, do not expect a quilt from me in 2017.  I’m just done for a little while.

Planning for 2017

First and foremost, my health.  If all I accomplish in 2017 is to raise my health to an enjoyable level, that will be enough for me.  It’s been three years of pain, almost two years since my back surgery, and I am simply to the point where nothing else really matters to me other than feeling good again.  Luckily, we found another source of some of the pain I was experiencing, hence the surgery in November, so I think I’ll be able to move along the path to better health a little easier, and hopefully a little faster.

When I woke up from my most recent surgery, I had no back pain, which we were hoping would be one of the side effects of that particular surgery.  Upon being cleared to do normal things again after six weeks of lying around with very little to no back pain, I ambled on down to the ol’ Craft Dungeon, and did a little sewing.  I felt some familiar discomfort in my back, decided that was enough sewing for the day, and stopped.  Unfortunately, the discomfort increased steadily throughout the evening until I was forced to give up, take some serious pain meds, and just go lay in bed.  I think using my sewing machine is needlessly adding to my back pain!  It’s happened a few more times, so I’m pretty sure I’m correct, which makes me incredibly hesitant to sew at all anymore.

It’s my hope that after a few months of consistent strength training (read: if I can manage not to injure myself for that long), that my back will be strong enough to handle sitting at the sewing machine.  Until then, I’m making a goal to just not worry about the crafty side of life, and to give it a go when I think I’ve gained some strength.  If I’m not strong enough at that point, then I’ll wait a few weeks and try again, rinse and repeat.

Of course, there are some projects that I would love to start, finish, adore…but I’m going to be patient, and when the time is right, I’ll resume my place in the Craft Dungeon.  A few months isn’t going to hurt anything.

Bread & Butter Quilt

SONY DSCMy roommate from freshman year of college just had her first baby, the third of my close friends from freshman year to procreate this year.  We’ve stayed in touch over the years; she’ll randomly send me a little email here and there and they just brighten my day so much.  She’s always been one of the nicest people I know.

So, of course, when she emailed me early on in the year to let me know that she was expecting, I wanted to go all out for her and her wee one.  I had plenty of notice, so I really sat down and thought about what to make.  I recalled a quilt pattern I’d seen in a book I borrowed from the library while we were living in Australia, and luckily, I remembered the name of the book, Two From One Jelly Roll Quilts, by Pam and Nicky Lintott, and even more luckily, the book was available on Amazon.com (so many Australian books cannot be obtained stateside, but this one was British!), so I ordered it, took a glance at the pattern, chuckled at its cleverness, and committed.

Her nursery has been decorated with an alphabet and storybook theme, and she said she was fond of polka dots, and then she found out she was having a girl, and the Bread & Butter fabric collection popped into my mind’s eye, and I knew we had a winner.

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I’ve been in a lot of pain for the past couple of months so progress on this quilt was very slow.  It was decided that I would have another surgery to help with the problem, and when I finally got a surgery date scheduled, I just had a feeling that I really needed to get this to the binding stage before I went under the knife.  I had to enlist the help of my bestie, Denise, to cheer me on and encourage me, and we hosted a couple weeks’ worth of “Epic Sewing Thursdays” where we’d text pictures back and forth to each other every hour or so to show our progress on our respective projects.  You sure can get a lot done when you’re working “alongside” friends!

My check-in for surgery was at 12:45pm on Election Tuesday, and I was finishing up the machine-stitching portion of the binding at 10:30am.  Why fret about surgery and politics when you can focus on making pretty things for babies?

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The hand binding took two days, and the quilt label took lots of minutes over lots of days because my surgery ended up being a little more invasive than originally planned, and I was put on bed rest for five weeks instead of “three days of resting” afterwards.  Bah.  (Which is also why you’re getting quilt photos in front of the Christmas Tree…I wasn’t allowed to leave the house, ha ha.)

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But in the end, the result was the same:  A beautiful baby quilt for a beautiful baby girl, who has a beautiful mother with one of the kindest hearts you’ve ever met.

Congratulations, Stephanie and Jon, on the start of your family.  Welcome to your life, Baby Sydney…look to your mother’s example and you’ll do well.

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Bed Rest, Weeks 1-3

Sooooo…

…had some surgery in November, which wasn’t supposed to take that long to recover from, but then, at the one-week follow-up appointment, my doctor broke the news that I needed to stay in bed for another five weeks.  So I went from expecting one week of lying around to SIX WEEKS.  DURING THE HOLIDAYS.

The six-week follow-up appointment happens during the week before Christmas, so I’m pretty much stuck in bed, drooling over all the gorgeous Instagram posts of beautiful Christmas quilts and lamenting that I can’t finish all the stuff that I promised myself that I was going to finally finish up this year.  2016 has not been a banner year for me, people.

BUT…I do not want to be one of those people who mopes about and whines about their difficulties, so that has meant trying to stay “busy” despite the bed rest.

Week #1:

I spent the days leading up to my surgery frantically finishing up a quilt to the point where I’d only have the hand stitching of the binding left to do.  During my first week post-op, I finished hand stitching the binding.  Then I designed some alterations for a dress I own that’s too short on me, and, inspired by the idea of sewing clothing, I read Couture Sewing Techniques, which then had me researching Christian Dior-everything for a few days.

Week #2:

After receiving the very unexpected news of another five weeks of bed rest, I panicked and decided to start a Christmas EPP quilt, but after finishing two of the blocks I realized that I didn’t actually want to make it and abandoned it.  I’ll keep the blocks for something else in the future.

Then I decided that the quilt label for the quilt I’d just finished binding could use a little extra pizazz, so I opted to embroider parts of it, which took the rest of the week and little of the next.  (There is a lot of napping happening during my day.)

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I also read The Art of Manipulating Fabric, and Draping: The Complete Course.  I’m seeing some garment construction in my future, and I’m excited.  I have three daughters who are about to embark upon their teenage years, and I’ve always thought that one of the funnest parts of having girls would be making their party and dance dresses, and it’s always good to practice a skill before you actually *need* it, so maybe next year will see me venture into that arena a bit.

Week #3:

Thanksgiving, which had to be delegated to my kids and they did a pretty great job of it.  A friend from my quilt guild saw my SOS Instagram post and brought me over a ton of books to read, so I spent most of my third week reading:

  1. A Curse Dark as Gold (very good retelling of “Rumpelstiltskin!”)
  2. Dragonfly (enjoyed very much!)
  3. Once Upon a Marigold (not sure I’ll finish it), and
  4. The Blue Sword (enjoying)

So here we are, amidst Week #4, and I was really hoping that my doctor’s “six weeks” prescription was just overly cautious, but I tried to sew up the swap block for November this week and it about killed me with pain and exhaustion to just do a fabric pull, so I had to send out an email apologizing for the block’s tardiness because it will not be getting finished anytime soon.  And, as a precaution, I wrote to December’s swap recipient as well and gave her a heads-up that her block could end up being late as well.  Sigh.

BUT…I woke up from this surgery with NO BACK PAIN for the first time in three years, so the future is looking mighty bright!  I can rest three more weeks if it means no back pain.

And, for Week #4, I’m feeling the knitting a-calling to me…especially:

  • Color-Tipped Italian Cashmere Beanie by Churchmouse Yarns (because it’s beautiful in that wonderfully elegant way that “simple” is beautiful)
  • Honeymoon Cowl by FitzBirch Crafts (learning double knit could be fun)
  • Botanical Yoke Pullover by Purl Soho (oh, that cabled yoke…will have to wait, but it’s sure fun to stare at it when I can)
  • St. Brendan by Kelbourne Woolens (I’m making this some day, but not now because it takes some planning), or
  • Socks! (Because I can do that…)

My son does need a new winter hat…I think my second daughter might need one, too…OH! And I was supposed to mend my youngest daughter’s Hello Kitty hat…bed rest or not, a mama’s work is never done.  I cannot wait to get back to making pancakes, and vacuuming, and cooking dinners that don’t come from a box.  Resting is a nice change, but it’s sucky to be forced to rest from taking care of the people you love.

Evolution of a Crafter: Gifts

We made it through Halloween.

And like a collective sigh, the online creative world shifted from maple leaf quilt blocks and fabric pumpkins to an overwhelming insistence that “YES, YOU HAVE TIME TO MAKE ALL YOUR CHRISTMAS GIFTS.”  Overnight.  I went to bed on October 31st proud of myself for getting my kids’ costumes done right, and woke up the next morning to an online frenzy of DIY gifts.

Many years ago I stumbled across the advice to get your handmade Christmas gifts done before Thanksgiving so you didn’t spend December in a state of anxiety over whether or not you’d finish your gifts.  For the most part, I adhere to this wisdom because it’s the only way that Christmas baking is happening–I dearly love Christmas baking, and I don’t have time for it if I’m struggling to also finish knitting and quilting projects.

So I tried something different this year.  On January 1, 2016 I drew up a list of the people I generally give gifts to at Christmas and concocted an rotation of various categories that I like to make, assigned them to a ten year schedule, and then plugged my gift list people into the categories based upon what age they were turning this year.

Example:  If your age on your birthday in 2016 had you turning something ending with a 5 (ie. 5, 15, 25, 35, etc.), then you were assigned a hat because I assigned hats to 5.

Other categories included: Pillow (1), Socks (2), EPP (3), Apron (4), Scarf (6), Mittens (7), Choice (8), Bag (9), and Quilt (0).

After spending my New Year’s Day happily ensconced in pattern searching and stash diving, I woke up on January 2nd with  optimism and excitement.  I decided to start with the big items first and work my way down to the smaller things, and first on my list was a quilt to make for a special girl who celebrated her tenth birthday in 2016.  (Understandably, I can’t show you a picture of it until after Christmas…)

And it was glorious for a few weeks–oh, the pace was exhilarating, and I patted myself on the back for my excellent plan.

But then, in March, I had to start a project that just wasn’t interesting to me, mostly because of the colors.  I lagged behind my schedule as I grit my teeth each morning and forced myself into my studio to continue plodding along towards the completion of that project.  The next gift on the list was once again in a color palette that failed to excite.  My life started to look like one long, endless road of projects I didn’t really want to make.

And on top of all that, so many people had babies this year.  To date, I’ve completed six baby quilts, with another 1-3 possibly in the works.

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People, I am gifted out.  I have spent this entire year making gifts for people. THE ENTIRE YEAR.

I don’t regret it at all, but I’m also just. done.

I think I’m evolving.

Have you noticed that so many people, when learning a new skill, give away their projects?  It’s like they make that first project to figure out how to work the new skill, and then start cranking out projects and just give them all away?  I’ve touched on this idea before in a previous post, but it seems that we go through a phase of “Look at what I can do!” with any newfound skill, gifting any living being with the works of our hands.  I think it’s part excitement and pride in a job well done, and the other part love.  All good things.

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Some of the swap blocks I’ve made this year. I’ve actually been able to do a lot growing with The Beehive Swap!  New techniques and skills galore!

But there comes a point when you look around and know that you’ve spent most of your time creating beautiful works of art, and realize that your personal life is quite devoid of any of that particular beauty because you’ve given it all away.  There is beauty in service and giving, definitely; but…that moment when you realize that your dwelling is practically ascetic causes a big pause and an even larger moment of reflection.

Giving gifts is good.  Improving one’s skills while working on said gifts is also good.  There has been a lot of good this year.  (Please no one who received a gift from me this year think that I’m upset or regret making something for you.  That is totally NOT the case AT ALL.  I’m quite proud of all the nice things I made for you all this year.)

But…

…it’s falling short.  There are new techniques to try, new skills to learn, and they don’t fit into gifting categories, so I’ve been slow to start working on them, despite my heart being pulled in that direction.

So, I think it’s time for a Gifting Decommission.

Less time spinning my wheels creating more of the same, and a new focus on learning new techniques and stretching my abilities.  I can’t do that with the pressure of gift lists on my shoulders; with the thoughts of “Now who would like this?  Maybe I should change that color to match their decor a little better.  Hmm, I know that so-and-so really loved that appliqued one, so maybe I’ll put this pattern aside and do something with more applique because then I can give it to her for Christmas…” in the back of my mind.  A shift to making art for the sake of art.  “What is best for this project?” instead of “What is best for this person?”

My creativity needs to be mine, and I also need the time to tackle new techniques that will allow me to progress.

I’ve a few gift projects that are near completion that I’ll see through to the end, but after they’re done, that’s it for a while.

It’s time to build a cocoon and do a little bit of growing.

This is what I will tell myself in two weeks when I snap and think that, yes, I SHOULD MAKE ALL THE GIFTS.

I am not an elf in Santa’s workshop.  It is not my job to make gifts, nor does my livelihood depend upon my ability to supply others with gifts.

Now to get going on that cocoon…