On Sewing Face Masks

Oh my goodness, I will never forget this year and a lot of those memories will revolve around all the face mask sewing I’ve done…and have yet to do.  It occurred to me last week, given that my kids are slated to return to school in the autumn for 2-4 days a week, depending on what school they attend, that I need to get my behind in gear in regards to mask production.  I’ve done some mathing and decided that I need to sew up fifty-two masks to comfortably outfit my family of six.

Here’s my reasoning:

#1: I’ve been out in public, wearing my mask like a good girl, and I’ve noticed that those things can get pretty damp, if not downright soggy, after 3-4 hours, so I’m going to send my kids to school with two masks each day and instruct them to swap them out at lunch.  Soggy masks are hot and make your skin itch, yuck. So, two masks for each day scheduled for on-campus learning per child = 4-8 masks per kid.

#2: I’m planning on doing a massive “mask washing” day once a week because I prize my sanity. You should wash your mask after each wearing, which means more masks because of the once-a-week laundry schedule. (Note to self: Set up a mask bucket to hold used masks in the laundry room.)

#3: We’ve had the problem of the kids forgetting to bring a mask with them when we go places and having to drive back home to get their masks, so I want a full family set of masks in each vehicle.

#4: I want a full family set of masks set up by the front door for all the reasons I can’t think of, and to serve as a replacement set for the inevitable losing of masks.

All in all, it works out to fifty-two masks, split amongst the six of us in their specific ways. Ughhhhhh.  But we had a fun time having a family fabric pull in the craft room:

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I broke down and bought the Creative Grids mask template, and it is awesome, I love it so much.  I was able to cut out all my family’s fabrics lickety-split and I’m almost done cutting out the linings when I find myself with free time.  If you’ve got lots of masks to make, it’s a good investment. (And an 18mm rotary cutter…)

Requests to sew masks for others are starting to trickle in, and I imagine that they’ll increase as we get closer to the start of school, but I’m saying no to them all until I get my family’s masks done.  I keep telling myself that that is the sane thing to do, but it still makes me sad to decline.  But it’d be terrible for me to say I’ll make them and then not get them done and those families having to scramble at the last minute to find masks for school.  I’m only one woman, and my first priority is my own family members.  It is my hope to make some extras to sell/give away later, but we’ll have to see how the rest of the summer shapes up for that aspiration.  Summer vacation with nowhere to go and most things closed is really testing my patience as a parent…sigh.  Some things you get through, and some things you just get dragged through until they’re done…

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…like sewing face masks.  😉  (Tula Pink Fairy Dust and rainbow top-stitching makes it a whole lot more fun to do, though.  Highly recommended.)

(And if I get these masks done and my school district decides to follow in San Diego’s footsteps and cancel anyway, I. will. not. be. O. K.)

Thursday, Week #1 of Covid-19 School Closures

I am not very uplifting today.

And I wrote a blog post detailing all the reasons as to why I’m in a terrible mood, but then I decided to delete it all.  You don’t need to read about my bad day or listen to my anxieties.  That’s not going to really help anyone here.

What I think is important about today is granting permission to the bad days to exist.

Which is not the same as granting bad days permission to ruin things later.  And it’s not  granting myself permission to feel like a failure because an unpleasant situation felt unpleasant.  It’s also not granting myself permission to use a bad day to justify being rude or mean to someone else.

Because bad days don’t take time off because a shiny new germ is tap-dancing its way across the globe.

If it’s not acceptable behavior when things are going well, then it’s not acceptable behavior when things are going bad, either.

The bad days are going to still happen, even amongst all this idyllic staying at home and having my family gathered around me all close.

And I still get to decide how I’m going to act and react, in spite of the anxiety I may have or the rudeness I may see other people using and justifying.  Turbulent times do not condone turbulent tempers.

The novelty of the situation is wearing off, as evidenced by the short words people have had with each other today.  As evidenced by the rumors that are going around.  It felt like conversations today, both online and in-person, have the slightest whiff of panic about them.  Which I guess is to be expected…but I’m not going to add to it.  I’m in charge of that decision.

I’m going to finish watching a movie, I’m going to say my prayers, and I’m going to get a good night’s sleep.

And then I’m going to wake up tomorrow and do the things that I know make for a good day.  And hopefully it is a good day.  We shall see…

…I wish you a good night’s sleep and very good day tomorrow. Because tomorrow has the potential to be a very, very good day.

Wednesday, Week #1 of Covid-19 School Closure

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The kids gathered around the dining room table for their first formal day of “online learning” this morning.  The girls were left to their own devices (and I only had to reprimand one of them during the course of the day for goofing off before they were done with their schoolwork) and I had Nathaniel work on his stuff in my craft room so I could keep an eye on him, which was needed a few times.

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00100sportrait_00100_burst20200318095105345_coverBecause I was waiting to see if I’d get a package from Jaftex today, I didn’t want to start cutting out a dress or anything big, so I whipped up a couple of hair scarves from a pattern I bought when I went to Sew Expo a couple of weeks ago.  (And I have no idea why my hair looks so short in that photo, but it’s definitely making me think that a chop-off would look super cute!)

The kids were all pretty much done with their work by the time the “school bus lunch” alarm went off at 10:35am.  Our district is making sure all the kids eat during this break by delivering breakfasts and lunches via the bus routes, so we headed over to the bus stop and the kids were happy to say hi to their bus driver when she came ’round.

While we were waiting for the lunches to arrive, the FedEx truck rolled on up to my house and I had to wait a whole ten minutes before the bus came and I was able to retrieve my package from the front porch!  The agony!

 

Because, yep, that package contained fabric.  Adorable farm animal fabric that will work spectacularly well for a baby gift for a friend and her impending arrival:

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So. cute.  I love those little sheep, and that green print that just begs for some fussy cutting.  I think I’ve settled on a pattern, which won’t be as involved as I would like; but, I wasn’t planning on making a quilt in the next six weeks, so it’s got to be a bit of a quick sew so I can still fit in all my spring clothing sewing.  Whew!  Busy hands leave little time for wandering thoughts, so I’m thankful for the plethora of projects at this anxiety-provoking time!  It’s going to be a cute little quilt.  Plus, this collection–“Best Friends Farm”–has both a quilt panel and a soft book panel to sew up, too.  Lots of cute little projects to share with you over the next little while!

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Well, good night, dear readers.  I hope this is a peaceful time for you; a time to reconnect with family and a time to spend in a little bit of self-reflection.

And if it can’t be that, then I wish you wonderful success with whatever it is you choose to use to diffuse your stress.  Lucky me, I’ve got a kid who stress bakes, and she made some absolutely delicious soft pretzels this afternoon.  I wish you the kind of happiness that comes from eating a soft pretzel on a sunny day with your family.  Whatever that is for you, I hope it’s happening.  Stay healthy and safe!

 

Tuesday, Week #1 of Covid-19 School Closure

Last week, the State of Washington announced that it would be shutting down the schools in Snohomish, King, and Pierce Counties for six weeks.  Guess where we live?  😉

Our school district has been absolutely awesome though–all students in grades 2-12 have a Chromebook to use at home, AND the district will be delivering breakfasts and lunches for free via the school bus routes.  How amazing is all that?!?!  I’m so, so happy for everyone who depends on school breakfasts and lunches for their kids.  One less thing to worry about during a time where there’s lots about which to worry.

Online learning begins in earnest tomorrow morning, so we’ll start getting an idea of what to expect in our daily lives pretty quick.  With my kids being on the older side, I’m really hoping that it will be painless.  It’d be great if I could just weather this whole thing out with just a lot of sewing, but schoolwork help is the top priority if I truly do have to make a decision about how to spend my time.  (Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that…)

I might also receive a package from Blank Quilting/Jaftex tomorrow–they sent out an email today saying that, because they’re releasing so many new collections in the month of April, they’re sending fabric to everyone, even if it’s not your month to receive fabric.  I’m scheduled for odd months, and I actually just sent off my March quilt to the quilter, so this is an appreciated surprise for me.  It looks like April is *the* month for their Halloween collections, so the odds are in favor of Halloween fabric.

But I might not receive a package?  I cut off the tip of my finger a couple of weeks ago, and had to send an email saying that I might fall behind on my March quilt, so there’s also a chance that they don’t send me anything because of that?  I don’t know.  There are many questions in my life at the moment and I’m doing my best to just roll with the punches.  (Finger is almost all healed up, thank you for your concern.)

I’m hoping to get a lot of spring clothing sewing done in the next few weeks as well.  I just finished up a dress for Ren, but still need to photograph it.  She was supposed to wear it when she sang with the youth choir for stake conference, but that was cancelled.  So I said she should wear it when she played a flute solo in church this coming Sunday, but then all church was cancelled.  So she wore it last Sunday for our first “church at home.”  I’d like to sew up two more dresses for her, plus a dress or two or three for me, a skirt for Emily, some Easter ties for my guys, and a hoodie or t-shirt for Rachel.  Truthfully, I’ll be lucky to get more than one of those things done, but I like big to-do-lists, so there you go.

Perhaps I’ll try to blog a little more during all this craziness–I find that I’m checking in online a whole lot more than usual these days, and it’s nice when a new post or the like pops up.  I assume it’s the same for you, dear readers, and that you especially appreciate posts that aren’t politically-divisive, religiously overbearing, or some obviously-not-true “cure” for Coronavirus.  (Spoiler alert: Gargling saltwater will not kill the virus…)

I wish you all a good evening, and hope that you’re finding uplifting ways to fill your days.  I also wish you good health, peace, and full bobbins.  Good night!

Autumn Update

Hello friends!

Because I’m quite sure you wouldn’t get all giddy over a post that chronicled which boxes I unpacked and where I put the stuff that was in them, I figured it was better to not update you until I had something creative to show you.

I’ve had no inclination to sew, knit, whatever, AT ALL, and I’ve been OK with it because the more I look back on the past twelve months, the more I realize that we went through A LOT of stressful stuff, and it takes energy to deal with all that stress, which came from my creative reserves.  Happy moment, though: This last week I had a brilliant little moment where I wanted to make something.  That feeling has been absent for months, so I’m grateful that things are calming down enough that my interest in crafting is starting to come back.

201811117370910250702226081I did grit my teeth and make my youngest daughter a Little Red Riding Hood costume for Halloween because I did have time for it, and her little brother decided to be a wolf so he could match her, and I think they were adorable!  Her costume was an exercise in frustration–I could not locate the pattern in her size ANYWHERE.  And my best friend rode in for the rescue and bought the pattern* at her local JoAnn Store, not realizing that it came in adult OR child size, and sent me the adult size.  (Oh gosh, we laughed…)  So the costume ended up being the Adult Small skirt, minus five inches around the waist; a plain white t-shirt with aspects of the original costume appliqued onto the shirt; and I tracked down a different pattern** for the cape/hood.  She was so pleased with it all, and totally didn’t care that it was a crazy hodge-podge costume.  A woman stopped me at the school Halloween party to liberally compliment me on the costume, so I’m pretty pleased with the experiment.  (And totally want to make more things edged with eyelet lace!  Such a sweet look!)

20181103_145518-01And right now I am eyeballs-deep in making linen napkins for my Thanksgiving table because I’ve always wanted linen napkins and I have no crafty deadlines on my plate at the moment.  It’s been so. much. fun. researching hemstitching and heirloom sewing, and oh my goodness, do I love me some beautiful heirloom sewing.  So much drooling.

BUT…I massively underestimated how long these napkins were going to take, mostly because I didn’t think ironing the hem allowances was going to take twenty minutes PER NAPKIN.  Four more napkins to press before I actually get to meet needle to fabric!  Ugh!

But look at this gorgeous view from my new craft room’s window…it’s so nice to have something besides a window well to look at!

The napkins are going to be lovely, with mitered corners and hemstitching.  I’m seriously in love with them.  That bit of brown fabric and thread in my craft-room-view photo is the start of one of them.  It’s a gorgeous chocolate brown.  So pleased!

And then it’s on to Christmas crafting, which I was really hoping to not do this year, but something went wonky with my bank transfers to my Christmas savings account when we moved, and there is much less in that account than there should be, so I’ma gonna have to get creative with supplies already on-hand.  Boo/yay

I’ll probably start writing a bit more, now that things have started to settle.  It was such a mistake to think I’d be able to paint everything upon moving in–I’ve come to the decision that I’m going to tackle the house room-by-room, because it’s driving me batty to not have a single “finished” room in this house.  I’ve been working on my youngest daughter’s room, and it’s looking pretty cute.  I’m excited to share that when we finally reach the finish line!  (You can have a housewarming party five years after you move in, right?)  😉

But I am hosting Thanksgiving this year, and there could be as many as twenty people attending, so it’s all about the napkins and the cleaning and the cooking for the next two weeks.  (And my dining room table that was supposed to be delivered in August?  And then October?  They changed the delivery date AGAIN…to December.  Fan-freakin’-tastic.  We’re eating Thanksgiving dinner on folding tables this year.  So classy.)

I hope the onslaught of the holiday season is treating you all well!  I look forward to seeing your posts and photos of what you’re working on in these next weeks!

*Red Riding Hood Costume: McCall Pattern #M6187
**Substitute Cape/Hood: Simplicity Pattern #8729

There is a House in Washington

So, yes, our family made it safely to Washington almost two weeks ago.  We rolled into town just as the fireworks for the Fourth of July started going off, and it felt like the state was welcoming us with gusto.  (And added the much-appreciated side effect of lighting up the heavily-treed highway that was tough to navigate…but the cats weren’t big fans of the fireworks and may have peed…a lot…in their carriers.)

 

We signed the papers for our Washington home the next morning and officially had the keys by lunch.  My aunt made a beeline for us and helped us unload our truck and trailer, and our ward helped us finish the huge task later that evening.  We’ve been screeching, “Where is the [insert a million different items here]?!?!” ever since.

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20180713_131255Where we’re living is *lovely.*  It’s a little removed from Suburbia-proper, but only by a little bit, so running to the grocery store/Costco/Home Depot takes minutes, and the drive is lush and green and has a crazy spectacular view of Mt. Rainier the entire way.  Sometimes I have to sit and wait for the dairy’s cows to cross the road to get to their next milking, and there’s rivers, and hydrangea, and four different types of purple or pink flowers in bloom by the roadsides right now (Fireweed, Sweet Pea, Foxglove, and a plant that looks like Butterfly Bush) and I just…get so happy to see familiar plants again.  I figured out plants in Utah, but these are what I grew up with and can name without thinking because my dad taught them to me when I was in preschool.

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We’ve had family over TWICE in one week for dinner, which is crazy amazing and as fun as you’d expect, and we get to attend a family wedding this weekend because we don’t live fourteen hours away anymore.

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The house is bigger than our last house, which I’m loving a lot–six people in our old house got old about six years ago, so the extra space is much-appreciated by all of our family’s members.  Unfortunately, though, this house is painted in a very warm and earthy color palette, and I lean toward the cool and ocean-inspired color palette.  And the ceilings are painted the same color as the walls…the same, sand-brown light-absorbing color…even the twenty-feet-up ceilings in the front room.  Yep, I gotta paint ’em all…and that sand-brown color is just dark enough to warrant two coats of primer every. time.

So I’m busy for the rest of the month, and probably for most of August as well.

But it’s OK, because at the end of all the painting my kids will all have bedrooms with fully-finished walls painted the colors of their choosing, and everything will be just as lovely inside as it is outside.

We went and got our library cards today, which really does make you feel like you truly “belong” in your town.  And I forgot to turn on Google Maps for the drive home, but it didn’t matter because I got home just fine, with no special mental gymnastics.  I pulled up to this house in this new state without help, and my kids clambered out of the van like they always do, helped by dumping our purchases onto the kitchen table before running off to binge-read their library books like they always do, and in that moment it was clear: This house in Washington is now our home.

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Probably still a bit of time before Happy Crafting Times can recommence, but with each newly-unpacked box and newly-painted wall, I’m getting closer to reopening the fun conversations I get to have with my crafty friends!  I’ve missed you!

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.

 

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.”

 

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.

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.

picmonkey-collagepicmonkey-collage2

 

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.

picmonkey-collage

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…