Saturday, February 8, 2014

Goals and Projects

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I keep a dry-erase board on the wall in my quilt studio where I make lists of projects I'm working on or wanting to make, usually on a monthly basis.

At the beginning of the year, I make a list of all my projects that need quilting, all that are WIPs, and specifically those that I want to complete during that year and haven't really started. I also try to break the larger projects down into some kind of a monthly format. Some of them are already done for me (Block of the Month projects) and some I have to set up myself, like making the pillows for my grandkids this year, doing a sewing (non-quilting) project each month, and doing a Christmas project each month.

Then each month, I'll decide which projects I'll tackle that month (the ones that are already in some kind of a monthly format are already decided--I just have to plug in that month's block or particular project.) I keep a list in a notebook (one of the ones I made covers for last month), but I also write it on the dry-erase board so I can easily see what I've done and what there is left to do.

I also mentioned before that I spend the first part of each month cutting out all my projects for the month. That REALLY makes everything go so much more quickly! As I cut out a project, I write a big "C" next to it on the dry-erase board. Then once the project is finished, I can cross it off my list. I LOVE being able to cross off finished projects!

One of the projects I decided to do this year is Shabby Fabrics Little Blessings Block of the Month--I love these little wall hangings! I've made the January and February ones and now I'm waiting for the March kit so I can get it finished before March begins.

My daughter and daughters-in-law fell in love with those wall hangings too and wanted to make them, so now they're coming over here every Tuesday and we're working on them together.

As you can see, we have lots of little helpers...

...and even littler helpers!

With her sister and sisters-in-law here sewing, Laura wanted to get back to sewing too. I found a stack of blocks she had made earlier in the year and pinned them together for her to sew. I guess she must be catching on to how to assemble a quilt because after she put all the blocks together, she asked me about adding borders. I suppose that will be next week's project!

Our small quilt group's project this month was these adorable little spool blocks--with hearts in the middle! I thought they were so cute that I made two of them!

And then I made one into a pincushion and one into a coaster. For the pincushion, I used the walnut shell filling that everyone likes so much. I do like how easy it is to work with, but after using the pincushion for a while, I realized that I missed the "heft" of my other, sand-filled pincushions. So I think from now on, when/if I make any pincushions, I'll fill them with sand instead of walnut shells.

This winter has been particularly cold and I have four doors leading to/from my quilt studio. Two of them are very cold and drafty--the one leading outside and the one to the unfinished closet. I'd been piling a large piece of fleece in front of each of them to keep the cold air out, but that wasn't a good long-term solution. So this week I made my own draft stoppers. This one, for the closet door, has a piece of foam pipe insulation encased in fleece on either side of the door. That way, it not only insulates, but it actually stays ON the door when it's opened and closed.

This one, in front of the exterior door, is also made of fleece, but it's filled with rice instead. This door really isn't used very often, but when it is, we'll have to move the draft stopper back into position once it's closed again.

Last month I showed the brown chevron quilt top that I've been working on for my son and his wife. I finished assembling the top, which is essentially king-size, and realized I had no king-size batting. I really didn't want to piece the batting, so I just ordered a king-size batt and I'm waiting for it to be delivered. Meanwhile, I squared up the backing and got it loaded on my longarm frame. I'll be glad when this quilt is finished because then all my children will have at least ONE quilt I have made (most of them have several) and I can take a break from making large quilts for a while!

I'm participating in the Bag of the Month Club at Sara Lawson's blog. This is the January bag, which I didn't think I would really like that much until I made it. It's a great size for short trips since it holds a LOT and the handles really do a great job of supporting extra weight. I LOVE the bag for February and I'm excited to get it made (of course, it's already cut out!) One of my daughters suggested I make it out of a different fabric, but I'm using this same purple fabric! This is one of my favorite fabrics and I'll be really sad when I've used it all. And I told her that since the February bag is small and this one is large, they actually would work together really well as a matching set. So that's what I'm doing!

Next week is Valentines Day and Laura and I will be busy making Valentines tomorrow for family and friends. Meanwhile, she made this picture of me which I believe is meant to be MY Valentine!

Happy Valentines and good luck at Getting More Done...Everyday!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

How to Get More Quilting Done...Everyday

Hi! It's been quite a while since I've posted here, and with good reason. I've been making some changes in my life and in order to accomplish all that I want to do and Get More Done, I've been trying to spend less time on the internet and more time working on my goals.

The picture above is me on the inside of a guard rail. I had come up with the idea of having a word to focus on for this year (well, actually, the word sort of found me!) and that word is LIMITS. When I began pondering what LIMITS mean to me, I realized that they are really a type of guard rail--a fence or a protection. This year, I'm trying to set (and RESPECT) limits on my time, my spending, my eating and my spaces. So with that in mind, I'm LIMITing how much time I'm online, but also how much time I spend sewing/quilting, since there are many other things I want to accomplish.

But...I'm still quilting a-plenty! I've scheduled about 3 hours, each day, Monday through Friday that I can sew. And I'm amazed at how MUCH I can get done with that amount of time! 

I've also been pondering my "niche" in the online quilting blogging world. There are already so many people out there posting tutorials, that I figured anything I might add would just be redundant. So I've decided that my purpose in creating blog posts will be more along the lines of how to Get More quilting Done, in the time available. Does kind of go along with my title, doesn't it?!

So to jumpstart my posting for this year, I thought I would reveal what "I" do to try and accomplish as much as possible. The first thing I did was to make some lists. I wrote down all the projects that I had either started or wanted to start and FINISH this year.

I've done something quite radical and most people reading this will probably not want to make such a radical change, but what I did was to stop reading almost all of the quilting blogs that I had been reading. There are still a small handful that I read and even then, I usually just skim the posts, only stopping to read more closely if I see something really interesting. 

The reason I've done this is because we all tend to be in "information overload." There is SO MUCH information on the internet that we can become paralyzed by all that's out there and then we never get much of anything done ourselves. When you combine the internet with books, magazines, quilt guilds, shops, etc., it truly becomes absolutely overwhelming. So I've decided to turn off the "faucet" of ideas to just a small trickle. I have more ideas now than I will ever accomplish in several lifetimes, so I don't believe I will suffer from a lack.

Now, with that being said, there IS some value in participating with a group project, like a quilt-along because of some of the camaraderie involved. But only if you're doing something that you really choose and want to do. I participate in the Yahoo Small Quilt group run by Kathy Tracy. It's a fun group with lots of wonderful people. The group makes a small quilt each month and each month, I make the decision of whether or not that's one I want to do. It's MY choice and it's MY time, so I'm careful how I spend it. This month's small quilt was a bear's paw. I made it, but instead of hanging it, I made it into a pillow for my bed. It was just the right size and I needed a pillow, so it was a win-win.

Sorry about the soap box! Back to making time for quilting--I made my list of what I wanted to accomplish and I broke some of the projects down into sort of personal monthly "quilt-alongs." This is part of a block of the month project I had saved and started some years ago. It's called "Pushin' Up Spring"  and came from Apple Blossom Quilts by Connie Sue Haidle. She has some wonderful projects for anyone interested in applique. I've decided to do one of these blocks each month and finally get this quilt made!

This past Christmas I REALLY wanted to make a tree skirt and I just didn't have the time. There are blogs out there that do a Christmas post once a month, so I've sort of taken that idea and decided I would make one Christmas project of my own each month. I also decided I would do one project that's more of a sewing project and less of a quilting one (like curtains or clothing. This month I started with these journal covers. 

This is how they look on the inside. I love how they turned out! I use one for my quilt projects and one for my herbal/bodycare recipes.

One of the most important things that I think I did to increase my productivity was after I made my list of all the projects I wanted to accomplish this month. I gathered together my patterns, fabrics and supplies and began cutting. I spent a WHOLE week, simply cutting out everything I possibly could for this month's projects. This is actually a reduced pile of projects because I've already made several of them. But I've found that the decision-making and cutting out are the most critical steps to Getting More Done. When I'm done with one project, I can just pick up the next one and start sewing! And the project almost seems to make itself!

I have 12 grandchildren and I was wondering what to do for them for their birthdays this year. Last year I made triple zip pouches for most of them. Then I found an idea for pajama pillows and I plan to make one of these each month. This was the first one and it's obviously not quite perfect--the name isn't centered and I inserted an invisible zipper in the bottom that will need to be done differently on the next pillow. 

There's a pocket in the back (you can't see it very well--that's another flaw) where the child will stash his pajamas during the day. I thought it was a great idea and works for all age levels.

My big project for this month is an almost king-size quilt for my son and his wife. She found instructions online for a crib-size chevron quilt and I had to adjust and alter it to have it be the right size for their bed. I've gotten this far on it and now they need to choose fabric for the border and backing. It's getting close to the finish line!

This post is a lot wordier than usual, and maybe I've said more than I should. But I've expressed how I feel, and more importantly, what I've done that's enabled me to accomplish many of my goals. Everyone has to make their own choices, based on what they want to do with their lives. As for me, I plan to Get More Done, everyday!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gifts in the Mail, Pianos and Dolls

My birthday was this past weekend and I usually don't get gifts from anyone, so I was really surprised when a package came for me in the mail. Even more surprising was the fact that the return address showed that it was from a very dear friend of mine who I haven't seen in some years! When I saw what was in it, I quickly sealed the package back up until Laura came home. She was visiting at her sister's and she's the "official package opener" around here. Normally, however, the packages don't contain anything for her--but THIS one was different!

Kim had discovered my blog and my love of quilting. Her sister-in-law, Geralyn Powers has written and published a quilt book (Patchwork Plus) and Kim sent me a copy. I LOVE the book--it has a combination of both patchwork and applique and the projects in the book are just wonderful! I'm looking forward to making some of them. But look at what else Kim included--lots of little goodies for Laura!

Actually, I think the chocolate was meant for me and Charles, but you notice that that was the first thing Laura grabbed! We DID share with her!

And how did Kim know?! Laura has a real thing for watches, so that was her second choice among all the goodies! That and the bracelet even match her shirt! We've had lots of fun playing with and exploring all the fun little things--it was the best birthday surprise EVER!!

On a different note, but still birthday related: Last year I decided that I wanted to get serious and learn how to really play the piano well, so even though I knew the basics, I began taking lessons. I've been carrying my various music books back and forth to my teacher's house each week in a canvas tote, but quilter and bagmaker that I am, I knew I had to have/make something with a little more class.

Then  months ago I discovered this paper-pieced piano by Soma Acharya of Whims and Fancies and just fell in love with it. I decided that I would make my own version of the pattern and incorporate it into a tote bag for piano. As time marched on, I knew I needed a deadline to get me moving on this project. So I decided that I would make myself a piano tote bag for my birthday...

I looked the pattern over carefully and realized that I could easily divide it into 4 major sections. In September, I put together one section each week. That actually ended up being a good plan because I think I would have gotten totally burned out on paper piecing if I'd tried doing it more quickly. I also didn't want to get tired and sloppy by doing too much at a time and that part of my plan worked very well--by the end of September I had a completed paper-pieced piano!

The next challenge was to incorporate my block into a bag. I had been collecting various music and piano themed fabrics for a while and I carefully cut some of them up and sewed them as borders to my block. And then the whole thing sat on my design wall for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I was scheming and planning how I might make this into a bag and not make a complete flop of it.

Last week, I decided it was time to get busy and started putting things together. I thought the front was pretty good as it was, but I needed to do something for the back of the bag. I decided to continue the top and bottom borders around the bag to the back and then just use plain black fabric between them, since the emphasis was meant to be on the piano on the front. However, I found I had a treble clef stencil, so I quilted a few of those onto the back, along with a few lines.

On the front, I just quilted a 1/4-inch outline around the piano and left it like that. I added two thickly-padded handles and boxed the bottom.

I left the top of the bag open, but I did add a zippered pocket in the lining to hold my wallet and a few essentials. The lining is another music print I had found. The whole bag is quite sturdy and holds my books perfectly--I LOVE how it turned out! Happy Birthday to Me!!

This weekend Laura and I went to a quilt shop with my mom and discovered some fabric panels printed with clothing patterns for American Girl-sized dolls. Laura has one of those dolls and even though she doesn't actually play with it, she does like to change her clothes occasionally. Needless to say, we left the store with a couple of panels. I was afraid Laura might think she could sew them herself, so I bought a back-up set in case they ended up getting ruined. Fortunately, she let me sew them while she "supervised!"

The little slippers were the most challenging part to make, mostly because they were so small. I goofed on the second one, which Laura wasn't too happy about, but I wasn't about to take it apart and re-sew it!

We have one other set of doll clothes to make, which I've actually hidden from Laura for now. I bought fabric that matches it and I plan to make the doll and Laura matching pajamas for Christmas. She'll be just thrilled!

It's rather late, so there won't be any more done today, but we'll definitely Get More Done...tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Missing In Action

To anyone who actually takes the time to read my blog, I owe a sincere apology. During the summer when life was busier than normal and I was unable to write any blog post, I sort of got out of the habit of doing it. I thought about it many times, especially as I would complete a project and family and friends asked for pictures. I even added a reminder to myself to "write a blog post" on my weekly to-do list, but then just kept putting it off. So now the stars have finally aligned themselves in proper order and I'm back!

Although I haven't been reporting it, I've really been very busy and sewing almost daily. One of the things that I've done is taken the idea of the "quilt along" and used it to my advantage. On my dry-erase board, I keep a list of "Works-In-Progress" (WIPs) and assign each one a day, Monday through Friday, that I will work on them. Some of the projects are already broken down for me, but some of them I've broken down into sections to make them easier to accomplish. For example, I've been working on Judy Laquidera's "Road to Llano" quilt. She wrote it as a quilt-along a few months ago and posted steps three times a week. I'm doing one step each week (on Mondays) and I'm about halfway through. But this particular process has really helped give some definition to my time and deciding what I should be working on.

With that thought in mind, one of the projects that I have been working on this year is the "And Sew On" Block of the Month over at Quiet Play. I kept up with it all year until June. Then, for some reason, I just stopped...and stayed stopped (kind of like my blogging!) So in September I decided that I would add the "And Sew On" blocks to my weekly WIP list and it worked like a charm! I made one block each week and on Friday I completed the last one!  I had a lot of fun making it and choosing all the different fabrics to fussy cut. I like things to be realistic, and I was able to find just the right fabric depicting a scene I would love to see out my sewing window.

This is the final block--"Sewing Sanctuary"

The first week of September, I finished the block for June, "A Stitch in Time." That was where I had originally stalled, so I was relieved to get it done and then move forward.

June's Block--"A Stitch in Time"

Once I got June's block done, I was on a roll and continued to get one of the blocks made each week. Of course, they got more complicated and more time-consuming as I progressed, but I was determined to complete them. The second week saw me finishing the July block:

"Cut it Out"--July's Block

The third week's block was a bit more challenging, than the others had been and took longer to do, but I got it finished in one day.

August Block--"I Like Big Stash"

Now that all the "And Sew On" blocks are finished, the next challenge will be to come up with a way to put them all together. I'm thinking of maybe a dark green sashing but I'll have to audition a few fabrics and see how it looks. I'll be SURE to post a picture of it here when it's all done!

Not to leave Laura out, she made a pillow this summer using some of the hot air balloon fabric from our friend in New Mexico. The pillow stays in her room and sometimes even on her bed! She also finished her quilt she had been working on:

I had thought that this quilt would be great to donate to a charitable cause, but Laura had other plans:

When it was finished, she immediately took it upstairs to her room and put it on her bed! So I guess we'll have to do something else for charity!

I'm glad to be back and hope that everyone can forgive me for my absence. I'm going to try and be a better blogger from now on! And today...there's still time to Get More Done!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jumping onto the Bloglovin Bandwagon

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

In order to have your blog on Bloglovin, you have to "claim" your blog. I guess this is sort of like in the early days of the U.S. when squatters would move onto a piece of land to claim it. So I'm now claiming my little part of blog land!

Secret Tote Bag Swap

Laura and I (and Dad who joined us yesterday) just got back from a busy week of camping with a couple of Laura's sisters and some nieces and nephews. Laura has discovered a new love--fishing! She learned how to cast and reel in and spent HOURS doing it! She was only slightly disappointed she didn't catch anything (we actually didn't even bait her hook!), but just as with sewing, it was the PROCESS that she was enjoying!

And as usual, Laura made several new friends at the pool--it seems there are always some girls around who are just fascinated by learning to communicate with someone in sign language. And with swimming and playing in the pool, you really don't have to communicate much to have fun together!
That's Laura in the middle
Before we left, I finished the tote bag I had made for someone who wanted "anything pink or cute." Charles mailed it for me while we were gone, so I hope my swap partner has gotten it by now.

For some reason, it had never occurred to me to involve Laura in the swap too. She would have loved making a tote to send to someone and then getting one herself in the mail. The lady who made a tote for me had her daughters make and swap totes and I thought that was such a great idea. So the next time there's an opportunity to participate in something like that online that Laura can do too, I'll have her do it. I know she'll be thrilled!

Before we left, I made myself a new stitchery case. It wasn't difficult to make, although it was rather time-consuming with the piecing and quilting on the front and then having to hand-sew the lining in it.

But I love how it turned out and how deep it is--that way I can cram lots of stuff in it and nothing will fall out!

The top folds back and you can see that it's deep enough that those spools of thread can stand up inside it. It was very handy for taking to the pool and doing some applique work while watching Laura and the grandkids from the sidelines.

I'm working on my June Small Quilt group's project for this month. I'm almost done with all the leaves and stems and then I'll add the flowers. It doesn't look like much here, but I think it will be just lovely when it's done.

We had a WONDERFUL time this week while camping, but we're worn out and happy to be home again. I'm looking forward to being back in my quilting studio next week to....Get More Done!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bags and other Fun Stuff

Why is that most of the bag/purse/pouch patterns out there all seem to be named after girls? This week I made the Tammy bag and the Susie pouch and a couple of weeks ago I made the Belle bag for my granddaughter...and there's so many others There's nothing wrong with naming bags after girls--after all, it's usually girls who carry bags and who obsess over bags and even who make bags! Just a curious trend right now, I guess.

On that note, I thought I would present my bags of the week:

Here's my version of the Tammy bag. When I saw the one that Madame Samm made, I just fell in love! I thought it was so cute! So I bought the pattern, ordered a couple of purse frames and chose my fabrics and cut them out. Then this week I finally sewed them together. It really was a very easy to bag to make. I added ruffles below the pocket binding and cut the binding on the bias. Sewing the bag to the frame was a bit challenging, but mostly because my thread kept wanting to break!

Here's the inside of the Tammy bag. The interior pockets actually go all the way to the bottom center--see those gingham triangles at the bottom? Those are the pockets! This bag is incredibly roomy--the sides expand so it can really hold a LOT of stuff. Because of that, it's more of a challenge to keep things organized inside it. I'm not sure what I'll use it for, maybe just to store some things. But I still think it's just adorable and looks absolutely lovely just sitting on a shelf being pretty. Hey...maybe that's why bags are being given girls' names--they look so beautiful that they don't even have to be useful!

Today I spent a few hours working on this bag--the Susie pouch. What's unique about this bag are the pleats in the front and back that give you a little peek at a contrasting fabric. I used a green and yellow stripe inside my pleats. The challenge with this bag is that you have to watch a video with English subtitles to know how to make it, since the original instructions are all in German. I didn't mind that, the problem was that my internet kept quitting on me! I really wanted to have the instructions written down so I could refer to them at any time, so once the internet began functioning, I would sew along with the video and take notes on each step. That made the whole process take much longer than it normally would.

Here's the inside of the bag. It's really a cute little bag--with the emphasis on "little." I had thought I would use it as a makeup bag, but it's so small that it won't hold much (and I actually use very little makeup!) I started drafting a larger version, when I found that someone else had already done it! And she also gave instructions for adding pockets. I like this bag enough that I want to make another one, just larger.

In our SmallQuilt Group swap, my partner sent me a kit for making these potholders (in addition to the lovely quilt and other goodies she sent!) On Monday I got busy and cut out the pieces and started sewing them together. In less than an hour and a half (and many, MANY interruptions!) later, I had made both potholders (they're both exactly the same). I don't think you can really tell from the photo, but the green peppers in the center are a square of fabric underneath the others. The other 4 fabrics around the sides are actually squares that have been folded on the diagonal and then sort of woven together around the square. Then each folded edge is turned back on itself and stitched down around all sides. I think it turned out really cute and I anticipate making lots of these for Christmas presents this year. So easy and quick too!

Last week I showed the three different quilt options I had made for my granddaughter, Jennifer to choose from for her 12th birthday quilt. Saturday morning we were all at the church for another granddaughter's baptism and I showed Jennifer the quilt samples I had made. After looking them over, Jennifer chose the "Bali Sea Star" which is also my favorite (and I didn't influence her choice because it's also the most time-consuming)! Jennifer's birthday is July 15th, so I have exactly one month to get this quilt finished. I cut out many of the pieces yesterday, but I really need some more pinks and purples to give it a little more variety. I also need some more background fabric. I guess I'll just have to go shopping!

Laura did a LOT of sewing this week. She had previously made 16 blocks of the fabric line that the block on the left is made of. Then this week she made 16 more blocks using a different but coordinating line of fabrics. My plan is to have her make a twin-size quilt to donate for charity. Next week I'm going to have her start adding sashing and putting the blocks together.

We made a quick trip to our LQS where Laura picked out this kit and pattern to make a table topper. She set everything up, hoping I would help her start sewing on it! But I was ready to work on my own projects for a change and wouldn't help her, so she just went and jumped in the pool with all her clothes on! It's just a 4-foot above-ground pool and Laura can swim, so I wasn't too concerned. And fortunately we live in the country because eventually she stripped down to just her underclothing!! There's never a dull day with Laura around!

I've sewn together a couple of quilt blocks this week and planned lots more stuff. I also cut out a sewing kit that I'm really excited to make. It's been a good week and I plan to Get More Done...Next Week!