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.

 

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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.

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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Scrapping Happy

My family and I just moved back stateside after a five month stay in Queensland, Australia.  All the boxes we packed up were stored in my craft room, which means I haven’t been able to get to my sewing machine until today, almost a month after getting back into our home.  With the task of unpacking, I’ve taken the opportunity to re-organize my craft room and make it a little more user-friendly, which included finally finding a permanent eye-pleasing way to store my fabric:

Oh, I like rainbow order.  The two big bins on the bottom of each cart hold a specific color each, with the pieces being larger than fat quarter-sized.  I’ve organized the bins into pink, red, orange/yellow, green, aqua/turquoise, blue, purple, multi-colored, gray/black, and brown/white.  The middle bins hold fat quarters in any combination of the two lower colors (i.e. orange, yellow and green in the second cart), and the upper bins hold scraps–the top holds anything 2.5 inches or thinner, and the second from the top holds anything larger than 2.5 inches and smaller than a fat quarter.  The carts used to hold construction paper for my kids, but I’m taking a sabbatical from homeschooling this year and decided to re-purpose the bins for my own personal use.

One bin won’t close easily:  the “larger than 2.5 inches” aqua/turquoise & blue bin.  This tells me that I need to start working from that bin, and it turns out that a large portion of that bin is a bunch of snowman prints from a epic failure of a project many years ago.

What a great place to start!  I decided to whip something up out of the snowman fabric to give away, partly because I know someone who decorates heavily with snowmen during the winter months, and also because just seeing the fabric reminds of my epic failure, which isn’t a whole lot of happy-making for me.  Take the failure and make it into something that blesses the life of another!

Since Sherri McConnell over at A Quilting Life inspired me to start working with my scraps with her “Scraps Monday” series, I decided to take a quick look through her book, Fresh Family Traditions, and came across her “Sugar Pine” pillow pattern, which I think will work smashingly for this fabric.

I’ve got the first bit of sewing done, and I’ll work on turning these HSTs into some QSTs in the upcoming week.

I did go ahead and turn one of the HSTs into a QST, just because I wanted to see how it would look.  They’re at the top of this next picture:

I think it’s going to turn out rather well.  I’m planning on making two pillows, because I’m a “pillow set” kind of gal, and I’m rather certain that the recipient is as well.  Or maybe I’ll end up liking them and being able to overlook the “epic failure” memories, and just keep them for myself.  We’ll see…

Linking up with:
Scraps Monday @ A Quilting Life
Sew Cute Tuesday @ Blossom Hearts
WIP Wednesday @ Freshly Pieced
Let’s Bee Social @ Sew Fresh Quilts
WIPs on Wednesdays @ Esther’s Blog
Needle & Thread Thursday @ My Quilt Infatuation
Scrap Happy Saturday @ SoScrappy