Thinkin' about It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

  • How good it feels to have the "kids in college" thing behind us.
  • That moving another person's four years' worth of stuff back into the house is a challenge.
  • That I've now built enough shelves over the last few years that I no longer have to refer to directions.
  • how much bruises hurt.
  • that I bruise way too easily.
    • From carrying cartons...really?
    • But the one I got when I pinched my arm between two metal poles while building said shelves is pretty legit.
    • and it's a good thing no one was around to hear me immediately following the incident.
  • That it's nice to know PT is working.
  • How the downside to being more organized and capturing more tasks I need to do is that I've been spending so much time taking care of tasks I haven't spent much of any time in my sewing room.
    • How that sorta stinks.
    • But it's my own fault.
    • You can only put off household stuff for so long before it comes back to haunt you.
    • And it'll feel good getting it all done.
Photoedited with "smart splash" effect to remove color from all but the embroidery thread. 

Photoedited with "smart splash" effect to remove color from all but the embroidery thread. 

  • How, on the flip side, that means I've been doing a lot of embroidery.
  • That I'm once again going to be away for a weekend.
  • How this one will be very nice too, but for different reasons.
    • Vacay with my husband.
    • Relaxing.
    • Seeing plays.
    • Reading.
    • And probably more embroidery.

Craftsy Class Review: Painted Pictorial Quilts with Annette Kennedy

Craftsy

I've been working on Painted Pictorial Quilts with Annette Kennedy for awhile. Let me clarify that: I've been watching Painted Pictorial Quilts with Annette Kennedy for awhile. I've owned this class almost since I first joined Craftsy a couple of years ago. I'd started watching it back then but decided that I needed to have the time and space to commit to the project, so I set it aside. This time around, when I pulled it back into rotation again, I decided not to do the class project but, instead, to watch the lessons and apply techniques to my own projects.

Therefore, there are no pretty pictures of projects-in-progress on this review. That's not to say that the two class projects aren't really wonderful projects--I seriously debated one of them because it's of a calla lily that is gorgeous (and calla lilies are a personal fave). But ultimately, I determined that I didn't need one more project on my list that would distract me from other things already in my head, so I focused instead on watching the lessons and absorbing her techniques.

I had to debate how I was going to approach this review a little bit--I'm not able to be as completely enthusiastic about this class as I have been about most others, but the primary cause of my lesser-enthusiasm has to do with how Craftsy approached the class, not anything to do with the subject or teacher. So let's get that out of the way first...

You can tell this is a very early Craftsy class. They've definitely fine-tuned their methods over the years. To whit: There are some difficult patches in the earlier lessons where the camera was zoomed so close in on Annette's hands doing the painting that it was actually difficult to follow. She encourages you to move the fabric around so you can always be painting from a comfortable angle--great tip, but with a close-in-zoom it actually triggered my motion sickness a bit as the project was constantly flipping back and forth and often moving off-camera, so the camera had to zoom out quickly and then zoom back in to catch up with where she was positioned again. There were several periods in which I just had to close my eyes and wait until things settled down. You don't see that in more recent classes--they've gotten much more professional and polished in their video.

The other thing that Craftsy does much better now is fades/cuts during longer processes. In this class, you are watching every single stroke she makes with the paint brush. Annette does a great job "vamping," or talking while she's painting and occasionally giving additional tips or information, but this class could have been a whole lot tighter without losing any of the content if they'd shown her doing a particular technique for a couple of minutes, then either sped up or cut back in after she'd finished that section. There are a ton of lessons and they're all pretty long--I had to keep sort of gearing myself up to take on another lesson, and I watched most of them at double speed. I think the class could easily have been cut by about a third and we wouldn't have lost any value whatsoever.

It struck me that there are times in this class you are quite literally watching paint dry.

Now, those are my only knocks on this class and, again, it has everything to do with Craftsy getting better at what it does than anything having to do with the content or teacher. So let me get back to the more positive aspects.

Annette Kennedy is an excellent teacher. Earlier lessons talk about how to design a painted project, as well as all the supplies you'll need. She spends one lesson each on how to assemble the two class projects before starting in on the painting, so you pick up some good information about creating applique from photos and how to turn photos/drawings into pattern pieces, and so forth. She explains why different types of strokes are most appropriate for different parts of the painting; she spends a lot of time talking about blending colors and getting different values of a single color. There's a whole lesson devoted to color blending and another devoted to depth and dimension. Even with all the work I've done on color over the last few years, I still picked up some very useful information from these lessons as things work differently in paint than in fabric or other media. 

The class projects really are very cool. If you're looking for some guided projects to help you really have these techniques sink in, I would highly recommend doing the class projects. The class materials include all the patterns and painting guides you need to follow her techniques. As I was watching her paint (and watching, and watching), I did mentally design about five different painted quilts based on what she did. 

Even though I didn't do either of the projects, I did pick up a couple of additional supplies after I had the opportunity to watch how she used them. I've only just recently started playing with fabric paints and hadn't understood what a floating medium was for until I watched this class; I also realized that mixing colors with the brush was far less useful than using a palette knife as she does--so I now own a few inexpensive plastic palette knives, thanks to Joanns. This whole fabric painting thing will go much more smoothly in the future, I think, thanks to Annette Kennedy.

I'm very much looking forward to being able to put Annette's techniques into use in future projects. At the moment, I'm just debating whether my next journal quilt will involve textile paints (and her techniques) or colored pencils (and Lola Jenkins' techniques). Or it may, instead, be straight embroidery based on the crewel wool embroidery class I'm about to finish. So many options, so little time...

The Basics

  • 15 lessons, ranging from 12 1/2 minutes to 1 hour and 8 minutes. Several lessons are around an hour; several others are between 30-45 minutes. Only a small handful are about 15 minutes. You really get a huge volume of material, here.
  • The class materials (9 documents) are several pages long, mostly because of the patterns. There are some helpful reference pages among them.
  • The first lesson spends time on an introduction of Annette Kennedy and of the Craftsy platform, and then she talks a bit about the two class projects.
  • Lessons 2-4 give a nice foundation to what's to come: how to create visual depth, turning photos into designs (you don't need to know how to draw, BTW), and various brush strokes.
  • Lessons 5-7 focus on the calla lily project, which gives you a lot of experience in blending, shading, and creating dimension.
  • Lessons 8 and 9 are on color and depth and dimension, including selecting color schemes, how to achieve different color effects with paint, how to create distance and scale, and so forth.
  • Lessons 10-13 focus on the canyon project; this gives you the opportunity to take what you've learned on the calla lily even further.
  • Lesson 14 is on quilting and finishing, with useful tips about how to emphasize the focus of your project through quilting, and a little bit about painting after quilting as well.
  • Lesson 15 is a "bonus" lesson that describes how to do a sun print collage with fabric paints. If you've never seen how to do this, the lesson will introduce you to a very cool way to create fabric. 

I have sort of a one-thumb-up, one-thumb in the middle on Painted Pictorial Quilts with Annette Kennedy. I want to emphasize, though, that the thumb in the middle would be very much up if Craftsy had done this class using the parameters it has now worked it's way into: in other words, if it had been a bit tightened up and had better camera angles in the earlier lessons. If I only look at content and teacher, it's two thumbs up. 

Monday Musings: UFO Sightings, Part 1--Just What Is a UFO?

So it would seem that some of you appreciated the 5 Ss posts that I've done the last few weeks--maybe some of us are feeling the pinch of being a little less organized than we'd like. So I'm thinking I'd like to keep with that theme for a bit, but explore different facets of it. As usual, stuff I talk about on my podcast and blog are things I'm addressing (or feeling the need to address, anyway) in my own life, so I'm talking to myself as much as to anyone else.  

I've mentioned that I had a sudden alien invasion in my sewing room. What to my wondering eyes did appear but something like 17 UFOs. Really? When did that happen? Leave fabric alone for long enough and it gets up to shenanigans, apparently. 

So, based on that, and on comments some of you have made when I've been talking about my UFOs, I'm going to do a few posts on what I've learned about addressing those alien invasions in your own life. 

Week 1: Define for yourself, "UFO" 

We all know what a UFO is, right? "Unfinished Object," or so they say. But what, exactly, is an unfinished object? Turns out there's as many definitions for what warrants the definition "unfinished" as there are quilters not finishing things. I once read an article or a blog awhile back--don't remember specifics anymore--written by someone who defined her UFOs to include quilts she'd even just  thought about doing. In other words, she may not have even bought fabric or designed it on EQ or sketched it in a notebook, but it was in her head as a quilt, therefore the fact she hadn't made it yet rendered that quilt as unfinished.

Technically, I suppose that would be true. But if I were to be held accountable for every quilty thought that passed through my mind, well...I'd just throw in the towel and call it a day right now.  

Some people include PIGS (or Projects in Grocery Sacks, an acronym which really geolocates it's users to those who live in parts of the country who call grocery bags "grocery sacks," as here in Western NY it would be PIGBs, which is virtually unpronounceable); these projects are those for which you have a pattern or design and you've collected all the fabrics for it--it's all sitting neatly in a bag or a bin awaiting your attention. And waiting. And waiting.

A very old photo of my storage for UFOs. I'm pleased to report all of these UFOs did get completed. They're now replaced with a new stack...

A very old photo of my storage for UFOs. I'm pleased to report all of these UFOs did get completed. They're now replaced with a new stack...

Some quilters include WIPS (or Works in Progress); these are projects you're currently working on. They've not yet started collecting dust on the shelf, but are still at least more or less in current rotation. 

For me, I made some judgment calls a few years back and came up with this working definition for myself: A UFO is any project in which I've already made the first cut, and which has dropped off my mental radar for any number of reasons.

In other words, I don't choose to count PIGS.  My rationale for that is that I can always repurpose the fabric if I lose interest, so just because I've thought about doing a particular design and put together a particular collection of fabric for it, doesn't make it a UFO. I haven't actually cut into that fabric yet, so I've never officially "worked on" the project to make it now be something I haven't worked on in awhile.

I also don't count WIPs because, by definition, those are still "in progress." It has to have been languishing on my shelf for some period of time.

I've never strictly defined how long a period of time it needs to have been out of rotation; it generally has more to do with whether it's fallen off my mental radar or not. If I look at something and think, "Oh, yeah, I really need to finish that," it means it's dropped off my radar, even if it was only waiting for me for about three weeks. That makes it a UFO. 

I don't count quilts I've dreamed up. That's just crazy talk. 

So this week, if you want to play along, work on your personal definition of what you actually, personally, consider a UFO, if you haven't already done it at some point in your quilting career. Don't just take someone else's definition for it--use a definition that works for you. You might even want to write it down, maybe hang it over your cutting table or something, live with it for a bit. Does it feel right to you? When you're ready, share your definition here!

Progress and Goals--Week of May 17

Baby girl. She's cleaned up her act a fraction since then.

Baby girl. She's cleaned up her act a fraction since then.

I'm writing this post ahead of time as I'll be spending Sunday morning watching my baby girl graduate from college. She's turned into an adult, but I haven't aged a bit.

I missed last week's progress and goals post as it was Mother's Day and my son came for breakfast (before having to scoot out for work), and my ILs came for an early dinner. I wasn't particularly busy on Sunday but enjoyed relaxing during the times I had between company. 

My goals for the week of May 3 were to:

  • Get my friend's block done.
  • Make progress on the mug rug. 
  • Complete two butterflies on butterfly project. 
  • Complete two Craftsy classes. 

Progress:

So you'd expect more given it's two weeks' worth of progress, but it was a catch-as-catch-can kind of two weeks.

Threaded chain stitch, if I recall the name properly.

Threaded chain stitch, if I recall the name properly.

  • Get my friend's block done. Done and mailed. More about this once the quilt is complete, I think.
  • Make progress on the mug rug. Done and mailed! Woo! Yes, upon my question on the topic, Sandi did confirm that I was probably the last one to get mine in the mail. Oops. But better late than never. And in a few previous swaps I was way ahead of the game so it all comes out in the wash. Fortunately Kerry, my swap partner, was extremely patient and understanding. Once again, I was teaching myself new techniques on this one, which is part of why it took longer to get done. I enjoyed the process and I like the result--I hope Kerry does too! I'll do a "reveal" on this one once I've got confirmation that Kerry has received it. 
  • Complete two butterflies on butterfly project. For once, I beat one of my own goals! I got three whole butterflies done! (Hey, I'll take celebrations where I can get them at this stage.) I'm finding myself repeating a lot of stitches now as the Crewel Wool embroidery class I'm doing on Craftsy is a lot of the same stitches I'd already done in Sue Spargo's class, although she has some different variations. I will have brought this one with me on my trip for graduation weekend so hopefully even by the time you're reading this I'll have made more progress.
  • Complete two Craftsy classes. One done, anyway. I still have to post the review to my blog but I did finish watching all the lessons; I even picked up one or two new supplies for fabric painting based on the class, and I'm now in the process of debating whether my May journal quilt will use paints, including techniques from this class, or colored pencils (recall the Thread Art class I did awhile back). I've moved a new class into rotation and am still plugging away at others.

Goals for This Week:

Okay, let's start putting into place the Short List concept I've borrowed from listener Donna at quiltpaintcreate. I debated the number of categories I want to have--I know fewer categories is better in terms of achievability. But I've decided that so many of my categories will actually have overlap projects--things I'll be working on that would fit into more than one category at a time--that I'm okay with the current number. Plus, I'm looking at my categories from a monthly perspective even if I'm doing weekly goals--so every one of these categories may not appear in every week's post, as long as I cover all of them in some way each month. Does that make sense? Anyway, here are my categories:

Everything In It's Place (aka EIIP) bag in process

Everything In It's Place (aka EIIP) bag in process

  • Accessories (read: Annie Unrein!)--I actually have several "accessories" I would like to try to make, even beyond the Annie Unrein Craftsy class. I have a tool holder thingie pattern I bought off Craftsy that would be handy, a halfway completed duffle bag that, as a UFO, would knock out two short list categories, and tons of totes and purse patterns that really are appealing to me as finished products, for as little as I like the process of actually making them. I am testing out the theory that part of why I hate doing these is that I'm not particularly experienced at fiddly things so, maybe, with practice will come less anger and frustration. This may be a short-lived category, though, if I decide I really do hate this process as much as I currently think I do. I may end up off-loading a whole lotta patterns.
  • Embroidery--Contrary to my experience with bag-making, I'm really seriously into the whole embroidery thing now, a la Sue Spargo style and the crewel embroidery look. I do want to keep having it in the rotation. There will be a lot of overlap between this short list category and the next one.
  • Art Quilt--this is what makes my soul sing. This category will most certainly include my monthly journal quilts, but will also periodically overlap with embroidery projects and UFOs. Mostly, though, I'm going to try to keep this category new, fluid, and open to whim.
  • UFO--it's just gotta happen. I think I'll start with "easy win" UFOs--those that I think I could finish more easily than others. My assessment process will also include strong consideration of UFOs I may just choose to ditch or give away. There will be a fair amount of overlap between this category and a lot of the other ones.
  • BOM--I do, after all, still have that Jinny Beyer Craftsy BOM that I'm now 3 1/2 months behind on. I need a week's vacation just to catch up! If it doesn't stay on my radar, it'll never get done and I'll just be kinda ticked at myself for the expenditure by the end of the year. So....It. Will. Get. Done.
  • Hand-Dyeing/Surface Design--I want to keep this on my radar. As often as not, this category will overlap with the art quilt category. This is unlikely to be a weekly goal but I want to make sure I do something about once a month.

Therefore--this week's goals are:

  • Accessory category: Get back to the Annie Unrein bag. At this stage, I'll be happy to just get one more step in the process completed.
  • Embroidery category: three more butterflies. I can do it--I know I can!
  • Art Quilt Project: FMQ my "fire" project. I have a hand-dyed tapestry piece--one of my half-yard pieces that really needs to be used as a single piece--that I fused to some batting maybe a year ago, with the intent of doing some free-form FMQ on it. I need to find backing and then just go to town. It's unlikely to ever be more than a practice piece; I'm not expecting it to be a gorgeous finished product as it's still sort of an experimental piece for me, but it'll be fun to do and give me the chance to test out some techniques, as well as use gorgeous variegated threads. (Getting this done would actually also would be a "win" in the next category.)
  • UFO category: (in addition to the above goal) Assess my UFO list and make sure all of them are listed with all the steps required to complete them. I'm pretty sure I'm covered on this one but I feel the need to review my lists so I can make informed decisions about what to move into rotation at any given time.
  • BOM--not sure I'll get to this this week, although I do have Monday off to help my daughter get all her stuff organized in our basement, now that she's moved home from school. I'm not planning on spending the entire day in the basement, however, so I will get some sewing room time in. I'd probably feel world's better if I even just got the second February block done so I wouldn't be quite so far behind. I'm waffling on whether this one will surface this week or not.
  • No goals on the hand-dyeing this week, as I'm also out of town next weekend, and weekends are best for this process.

Ahem. Wish me luck.

Fight the Funk Friday

Still nothing stellar to report here. As you may have been able to deduce from my absence in the blogosphere of late, I've been a bit crammed up schedule-wise, and those times I have been home and had downtime, I pretty much just crashed. So not many goings-on going on. 

I've been keeping up with the physical therapy. Clearly there really was a problem given how much my knee aches every time my PT pokes around at it, but there has been improvement so that's a good thing. And the PT exercises are as good as going to the gym from a strength-training perspective, although only focused on certain areas. I did one of my Daily Burn videos this week, and I had to do a few modifications for the knee issue but mostly it went well so, again, I did see improvement in my knee from the PT--nice to have that confirmation. I've been trying to occasionally get out for walks with the Doofus, something both he and I appreciate. (He has his fan base on the canal trail--Goldens always make people smile.)

Love my little stretch of the canal...

Love my little stretch of the canal...

Today we leave for my daughter's college for her Graduation Weekend Extravaganza. Most of that extravaganza involves helping her move out of her dorm room on Saturday so I'm sure I'll be building up some steps that day! 

Eating-wise I haven't done too badly, although I'm really working hard to re-focus this week; a tricky proposition given that I'll be eating out all weekend. Still n' all, it's easier to eat light when it's warm out, and it's supposed to be a pretty warm weekend.  And I've only got a couple more weeks before my CSA kicks in--I can't wait!

 

Monday Musings: The 5 Ss--Stay the Course

It's the last of our Monday Musings in the 5S series, with thanks to Wegmans for the fodder. This one is sort of a wrap-up "S," to be sure: "Stay the Course." In other words, keep doing everything you've been doing for the last several weeks. 

I remember once hearing someone talking about weight loss efforts--they made the comment that we all mistakenly behave as if we have to cut calories rigorously and exercise the heck out of ourselves until we've reached our weight goals, and then somehow magically we'll be able to resume our old habits again while staying at the same weight. Well, of course, we know it doesn't work that way. To be successful at losing weight, one needs to embrace new habits that will last a life-time.

The same is true with keeping our quilt studio ready for us to run in with a sudden burst of inspiration and be able to actually accomplish something because we don't have to waste 20 minutes clearing off a surface or trying to find our rotary cutter.

It's a habit that needs to be developed, and it will always require a certain amount of effort and intention. Some of us are more naturally inclined towards organization than others (I remember watching my two-year-old son line up his Matchbox cars in neat little rows, although now that he's 24 I'm not convinced his apartment benefits from the same attention). However, even those of us who have a natural bent for it have lazy days, or get busy, or have the one room or set of drawers or closet that seems to capture all the chaos and disorder we've driven from the rest of the house.

Don't look in my bedroom closet right now. 

I know I have problems, like most people, getting into different habits. If something hasn't been in my consciousness for the last several years, it's unlikely to keep naturally appearing in my consciousness just because I want it to, or I know it would be good for me. I have to send myself constant reminders of this new habit I'm trying to develop. Lately, as you may recall, I've been working on upgrading my ability to track the myriad tasks I'm juggling between work and personal life, so that when I add school into the mix in a few months it doesn't all come crashing down like a house of cards. I'm working on developing some new task-tracking habits recommended in David Allen's Getting Things Done, such as doing a weekly review of all my projects, looking over my "waiting for someone" file every couple of days, and filing newsletters and such into a "read and review" file for those times I'm mentally fried but have a few minutes to kill. However, rather than trusting myself to remember I even have a "read and review" file or "waiting on someone" file, I added recurring tasks to my list: "Check Read and Review file," and "Review Waiting on Someone File." Usually I think about how much I've turned into my Mom, but in this instance, I've definitely become my Dad. We used to joke that if he didn't have us written down in his notebook, he'd forget he even had kids. He wrote everything down and checked his notebook several times a day. I've become the same way, although I rely on my digital version of Dad's notebook, my smartphone. If I don't write something down, I can nearly guarantee it won't get done. Once it's in my task list, I know I'll do it--even if I move it around a few times before it finally gets done.

And yes, I even have a recurring task: "Check your task list." Ahem. There's a reason for that one that we needn't get into just now.

My stash when I first set up this shelving system. It doesn't look all that different now 10 years later. In fact, I even still have a lot of those same fabrics!

My stash when I first set up this shelving system. It doesn't look all that different now 10 years later. In fact, I even still have a lot of those same fabrics!

Consequently, in terms of my quilt life, I've worked hard over the years to set myself up for organizational success in my quilt studio. I'm at probably 95% on the "everything has a place"-o-meter. IOW, things have a place where they belong, where it's easy to locate them, use them, and then put them away again to be easily found again next time. That being said, I can only stay at that 95% if I keep paying attention, if I stay the course. 

I still have some work to do on my bookshelves--they tend to get overrun and need their own little purging ceremony about once a year. But that's for another blog post.

This ends our 5S series. Anything in particular that's been useful or meaningful to you? Any new habit you've decided you need to develop? Anything else you'd like me to muse about? I've enjoyed reading your "talk-back"--your own thinking on this topic. In fact, the response to these posts has made me decide I'm going to keep going with Monday Musings for awhile, although not always focused on organization. I haven't really thought that far ahead. The task "plan Monday Musings" doesn't show up on my task list for another couple of days yet. 

 

 

Monday Musings: The 5 Ss--Systematize

Have you been following along? Have any of these posts spurred your thinking about the state of your quilting area (or other areas of your life) and what you may want to do differently?

This week, our "S" stands for systematize.

This one is tough for me only because of what I want my quilt life to be. I find myself resisting it a bit. So this post is longer than others as it's something I'm still working through myself.

You see, I keep my work life as highly systematized as possible. I live and breathe by my Outlook calendar, task list, Sharepoint task lists (with other staff), email organizational system, and synchronization with OneNote. My experience has been that the more systematized and organized I can keep everything I know I'll have to take care of, the better able I am to address those things that suddenly appear out of nowhere and demand immediate attention regardless of what else lurks on my task list. 

But as a reaction to that, I really, really want my quilt life to be as free-form as possible. Therapy, you might say. 

Still n' all, I believe it was that free-form approach in high gear these last couple of years that landed me where I am now: with a list of about 17 incomplete projects. If one wants to be free-form and still get stuff done, one probably needs to be more disciplined about it than I've been lately. There are people who aren't particularly bothered by UFOs. I'm someone, on the other hand, who really dislikes loose ends. I like to close my open loops, as David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, puts it. All those UFOs? They're open loops and therefore (again, paraphrased from Allen's book) dragging my mental energy away from being able to start and enjoy new projects. Somewhere, my mind is still working on all those UFOs, because they haven't been completed and knocked off my cognitive list. So, in order for me to feel more mentally free to be creative and experimental, I'm now refocusing on closing those open loops in as systematic a way as possible. I know myself, though--I'll also chafe under restrictions such as "Complete all my UFOs before starting any new projects," or whatever. I get ornery.

So, instead, I'm going to borrow a page from the book of Donna of quiltpaintcreate.wordpress.com. She does monthly goals based on what she calls her "Short List." She has a handful of categories in which she chooses one project for each category to focus on that month--those categories reflect her goals for her own development as a quilt artist as well as what she wants to accomplish. So, for example, she may have categories such as, "Something Old," "Something New," "Painting," "Handwork," and "Abstract." However, she feels free to change her categories as needed to reflect changing goals; her only "rule" to herself is to keep the number of categories limited, so she's only looking at a small handful of achievable goals rather than a laundry list that she could never hope to accomplish.

For me, having "Something Old" and "Something New" standing side-by-side is very appealing. In other words, I could focus on moving one UFO through the finishing process at the same time as I'm having fun with a new project; the "feel-good" energy of knowing I'm completing a UFO would release me to more happily focus on the new project. My categories may end up also including something like "Craftsy class," "Hand-dyeing," or "Embroidery." I'm still pondering what categories would both help me knock some of these 17 incomplete projects off the list as well as move forward in my goals as a quilt artist, but not over-burdening myself with a list of to-dos I could never possibly get to-done.

In a word, I'm systematizing.

Different people will be successful with different types of systems.

My LifeTopix check-list for a UFO I need to complete; I'm planning to send that one out for quilting to get it off my list faster!

My LifeTopix check-list for a UFO I need to complete; I'm planning to send that one out for quilting to get it off my list faster!

  • Some people do very well with the "10 minutes a day" system--making sure they spend a few minutes every day making progress on projects, even if it's only 10 minutes. That feels doable to them; after all, can't you almost always find 10 minutes in your day? To be clear, that system doesn't seem to work well for me--it starts feeling like another obligation and I don't want my quilt-making to feel obligatory. However, that's me. You may want to try it out to see how it fits you. (Obviously, this is more a method than a system--you can use this method to achieve goals you've systematized in another way.)
  • Some people create check-lists for every project as they're starting it, with each step in the project noted clearly. Extend this into putting target dates for every check list and putting those dates on your task list or calendar, and you've created an extremely organized system. I have done some of this--I have a check list for every project in my LifeTopix app on my smart phone/ipad (see photo at left; my check list could be broken down even future and probably will be once that particular UFO does surface on my current list). I don't, however, have every step keyed to a particular day on my calendar. I may add that to my system when I start setting weekly goals in categories. Obviously, I may not always be able to get something done on the day I say I want to do it as schedules are often fungible, but having one step in front of me at a time would at least keep it on my radar. 
  • Some people do work from the beginning of a project straight through to the end, one project at a time, no variance. This is clearly the best way to make sure you finish projects, for obvious reasons. However, I personally prefer to have projects at different stages, or different types of projects, so I've got something I can work on regardless of how much time I have, or that use different types of mental energy--something I can work on when I'm feeling "in the zone" versus something I can work on when I can't formulate a concrete sentence. It's just unusual for me to have so many projects going at once!
  • Generally, everyone sets goals. You may just not do it consciously or in writing. But every thought of "I really want/need/should get this done," well, that's a goal. It does really, really help to write it down, and to be specific. Rather than, "Get Annie Unrein bag done" (sigh), I have on my list, "Complete step from lesson...X" in the Craftsy class, or "sew zippers on pockets," or whatever the next very concrete action item is. It's far less mentally overwhelming to look at a single action step rather than the whole project.
  • And, for me, posting it on my blog is my system for holding myself accountable. Y'all may not care a whit if I don't get something done that I said I was going to do, but having to publicly admit, "Nope--didn't get it done," makes me really want to get it done instead. More importantly, it just keeps it on my radar. Part of setting goals is figuring out the consequences of not attaining those goals, and how you can hold yourself accountable to your plan.

There are lots of people willing to tell you their system--and several who will even tell you their system will work best for everyone. But the reality is, it all depends on your own personality and what works best for you. Are there areas of your life in which you really feel on top of things? What do you do to stay that way? Take those habits and adapt them to your sewing room.

Do you already have systems in place? Are they working well for you? Do they need tweaking? Do you feel the need to set up some sort of system from scratch? What have you found works well for you, or what hasn't worked well for you, in the past? 

 

 

Progress and Goals--Week of May 3

My goals for this week were to:

  • Make progress on the Annie Unrein bag
  • Complete mug rug for swap
  • Complete three butterflies on Sue Spargo project
  • Make block for friend's quilt

Progress:

Satin stitch with heavier thread--based on new Craftsy embroidery class I'll write about later

Satin stitch with heavier thread--based on new Craftsy embroidery class I'll write about later

  • Annie Unrein bag: This got completely back-burnered this week as I have two time-constrained projects on the docket so I focused completely on those.  
  • Complete mug rug for swap: I haven't completed it yet (sorry, Kerry!) but I've made progress! Unfortunately, what I chose to do is somewhat time-intensive. But I think it'll be fun when it's finished.
  • Complete three butterflies on Sue Spargo project: I'm now using stitches from a different Craftsy class (more on that in a future post), but haven't completed three butterflies yet. Again, those time-constrained projects made everything else take a back seat this week. I'll be bringing this with me on my work trip.
  • Make block for friend's quilt: I'm doing some embroidery on it so it's a long process. I'm writing this post on Saturday and scheduling it to post on Sunday, as I'll be driving most of the day Sunday (see afore-mentioned reference to a work trip). I'm actually hoping to get this block done before I leave; if not, it'll be coming on my trip with me.

Goals for This Week:

This is tricky this week as, when I get back into town from my trip, I'm immediately out two nights in a row, then having family over for dinner the following night. So I really only have next Saturday for any sort of quilting projects, I think. Therefore, my goals for this week revolve primarily around portable projects that I can easily poke away at with 10 minutes here and there. (Read: No Annie Unrein bags on this week's plan!)

  • Get my friend's block done.
  • Make progress on the mug rug. This will be my primary focus on Saturday if I haven't managed to get to it before that. I really want to get it done, Kerry!
  • Complete two butterflies on butterfly project. I knocked it down a butterfly due to my lack of time this week. Still, I think this could be within reach.
  • Complete two Craftsy classes. One is the second embroidery class I mentioned above--a few more stitches and I'll have completed the class, if not the butterfly project; the other class is one I'm just watching to get a feel for techniques, no class project involved. I've only got a couple of lessons left to watch and I'm planning on doing that while I'm in my hotel. I can be embroidering at the same time--way to do the two-birds-one-stone thing!

Fight the Funk Friday and Food Friday--on Saturday (oops)

I couldn't quite get it together enough yesterday to get my usual Friday post out. Oops. So I'm catching up today.

I'm still a bit of a slacker in terms of exercise--or, rather, I'm focusing on my physical therapy exercise and not so much getting to the gym. The PT exercises are increasing each session and lots to do at home so there is that. I guess it's a good sign when your PT exercises leave you a bit sore afterwards--yep, those muscles were pretty underdeveloped, clearly! So there's good progress being made there.

On the other hand, I did show a loss at my Weight Watchers meeting this week--yippee! First loss in a while, but then, it's also been awhile since I was consistently attending my meetings and really paying attention to what I was doing. Gee, funny how those things go hand-in-hand, isn't it? 

We were encouraged to share favorite healthy recipes at this week's WW meeting. One of the other members shared her recipe for Southwest Chicken Chili. I'm not generally a big fan of Southwest flavors but when I read through the ingredients to this one, it sounded pretty good. Even better? It's a "dump it all in the crockpot and walk away" recipe. It was simple enough that, when I discovered the recipe had fallen out of my purse somewhere in the grocery store, I could remember everything and recreate it easily in my kitchen. My son and his BFF were coming over for dinner and I'd heard rumor a few others may be joining us, but no actual count or ETA (life with young adults), so a simple crockpot recipe was the way to go. It was really, really good. My son, his friend, my nephew, and his girlfriend all came and, basically, licked the crockpot clean. 

So, here's the recipe (again, from memory, but I'm pretty sure it's very darn close. If not, it was good anyway!)

Southwest Chicken Chili

Southwest Chicken Chili

Southwest Chicken Chili 

  • 1 1/2 lbs of chicken breast (she suggested, and I used, frozen grilled chicken strips for simplicity--worked fine)
  • 2 cups medium salsa 
  • 3 @ 14.5 oz cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 @ 15.5 oz cans black beans
  • 1 @ 15.25 oz can corn (could also easily use frozen or fresh, of course)
  • 1 package taco seasoning (I didn't have any on hand, so I used chili seasoning instead)
  • 1 package Ranch dressing mix

Put all ingredients in slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, etc.

Clearly, it's a chili so all the amounts are fungible. Chilis are pretty flexible. I would say you probably don't want to go any more on the tomato products as it would quickly get too soupy.

When I put this into my Recipe Builder in WW etools it comes out to something like 5 points per serving (not including toppings), assuming you're getting about 12 servings out of the total. I didn't measure but I went by the number of people eating and the number of times they refilled their bowls.

It's finally really spring! And that really does help me fight the funk.

It's finally really spring! And that really does help me fight the funk.

I have another tricky week coming up, although in a different way, as I have a work trip for the early part of the week. However, in the grand scheme of work travel this is one of the easiest for me to continue healthy habits: I have a fairly normal schedule, time to use the work-out room in the hotel, and the ability to choose what I'm eating. (Most trips aren't quite that straight-forward!) So I'm not overly worried.

Meanwhile, Sammy and I are warming up our fetch muscles again, now that it's far more consistently warm and dry out. My pitching arm was a bit rusty last week, but I'm giving him more of a run for his money now--and boy, does he need the run! 

April 2015 Craftsy Class Update

Craftsy Logo

Oopsie. Missed April by a day. The week sort of got away from me.

It was a good month for Craftsy class completions, but not a great month. I'd have liked to get one more done. (Don't even say the words "travel organizer" to me!) But still, poking away. 

New Completions

(+2)

Classes in Progress

(6)

Note: I removed Fabric Patterning with Wax Resist at the moment as it's not going anywhere until I have a bit more time available. It'll reappear on "in progress" again soon, I hope.

Classes added this month

(+1)

Classes To Be Completed

Current count: (15, -1 from last month due to completing two but adding one)  

Completed Classes

Current count: 55 (+2)

Craftsy Class Review: Embroidering Texture and Dimension by Hand--with Sue Spargo

Oops. I wanted to get this review done in April. When did it suddenly become May? I think when part of April suddenly became winter again it threw my whole sense of the calendar off. 

If you've been listening to my podcast or following my blog at all in the last few weeks, you'll know that I've just completed a Craftsy class that probably had just as much impact upon me as Jane Dunnewold's The Art of Cloth Dyeing did a couple of years ago. This time it was Embroidering Texture and Dimension by Hand with Sue Spargo. I am off and running with this embroidering thing now! Woo--just watch me go!

I have been a fan of Sue Spargo's designs for years, starting back when I went through my first felted wool stage probably a decade ago or so. I enjoy Spargo's slightly more bright and fun primitive style. She can do the Americana/country thing (popular in the felted wool world), but she also does straight-up funky, which I love. I had bought her Creative Stitching book a year or two ago; it's pricey, but especially after doing this class* it's also become my go-to. Love that book. I'd tried teaching myself some embroidery from books before but there's absolutely no substitute for watching someone do it, so when I saw she had a class on Craftsy, I bit.

I decided to, for once, do the class project. It's been awhile since I've done that, as I usually use techniques on things I've already got going or had already planned to do. But as I looked at her design, I realized it would be a great way to use some of my stash of felted wool that was languishing. Plus, her "project" is more a lot of design suggestions that you can put together any way you want--which suits my "independent cuss" nature. When I started working with her suggestions for building a layered background, I ended up with something I really kind of dig. I went an entirely different colorway than she has (she used brights), based on the wool I already had in my collection. It took me so long to pull fabrics for this that I took some short-cuts on building the background--I fused, rather than needle-turn applique like she does, and later I learned why a standard applique technique would've been far preferable. But that's why we take classes, isn't it? Now I know.

She suggests 15 butterflies for the project, so 15 butterflies I did. I ended up ordering just a little more felted wool for the butterflies because I didn't have quite enough in a color range that really worked together. As a point of interest here, I bought my wool fabrics from Erin Rissberger of Quilting Acres on Etsy. She'd sent me some samples years ago when I interviewed her for the podcast (Episode 45)  and I just love her colors, so I was thrilled to be able to use them in this project.

The butterflies took a long time to put together too, as you layer those as well. I'd approach how I did all that layering very differently next time, so I really should've payed better attention to Sue's advice in the class (and in class discussion). Here's a tip: watch and read before doing! Another note--I also ended up buying her book Creative Texturing to help me make some decisions here. This book walks through the process of fabric selection and layering to create more visual interest on your projects. I'll be referencing that book a lot more in the future too.

Finally, I got to the embroidery. This class walks through several stitches, generally in order of complexity, which often means in order of difficulty. However, I did find stitches in later episodes that were actually easier for me to manage than ones in earlier episodes, so it's not entirely a progressive thing. 

Some stitches I took to like a duck to water. Others took a little more trial-and-error. One was my Waterloo--just couldn't quite get that Rosette Chain stitch down. I'll go back to it again after I've got more experience to see if I can't conquer that darn thing. (She does say it's the hardest one she teaches in the class, so there is that.)

 
And this ain't the half of it...

And this ain't the half of it...

Mostly, I had a ball taking Spargo's advice to heart--play with as many threads as possible! There is so much more to the world of embroidery than DMC embroidery floss and a #8 perle cotton, for as much as both of those are quite nice. Still a fan of the perle cotton, especially hand-dyed types. Yums.

I've used a huge variety of threads in this project so far, and still have more to try. Fair warning: It easily becomes a new addiction. It does also make learning embroidery slightly more complex because threads behave differently and require different needles, so every new stitch I tried was a test of trial-and-error before I finally found the right combination for what I wanted to do. But that's also just practice and experience--after just a few weeks of this I already have a better eye for what types of threads are likely going to give me more immediate (read: stress-free) success for certain stitches. 

 

I also got into adding beads to my embroidery based on one of her lessons. Another dangerous addiction.

So, can you tell I loved this class? It's definitely two thumbs up! If you're brand new to embroidery (like I was, for the most part), I advise making liberal use of the "30-second repeat" button and changing the speed of the video to go more slowly for certain stitches. (I had to watch the cast-on stitch technique a few times since I'm not a knitter.)

Sue Spargo is an excellent teacher, by the way. I really feel like this class gave me a very firm foundation in embroidery, even if I never took another class again. That being said, I'm now working on my second Craftsy embroidery class, already bought a third, and the fourth is sitting in my wishlist for later. I haven't finished the butterflies yet, so I'm currently using it as the project for these additional embroidery classes--meanwhile, I'm already mentally designing my next embroidery project.

The Basics

  • 7 lessons ranging from about 17 minutes to 30 minutes.
  • The first lesson is about creating the project you'll later be embroidering. I could've done with a little more information here, I think. I suspect the issue is that she's not giving directions for a specific pattern but, rather, making suggestions for things you may want to do; I think, since it was a new technique for me, I'd have preferred seeing her walk through a specific project first, and then talking about how to launch off from that to whatever you wanted to do yourself. In any case, I did figure it out and, of course, you don't have to do a specific class project at all, if you don't want to.
  • The second lesson talks about tools--needles and threads. I found this very helpful the first time, but even more helpful when I went back later after I'd done a lot of embroidery and watched it again. That time I had a better frame of reference for what she was talking about. The second lesson also gives the first couple of stitches--the Pekinese stitch (one of my faves!), and couching.
  • Lesson three is decorative edging stitches, including the fly stitch--which quickly became one of my go-to stitches, crested chain--another great one, and the aforementioned Waterloo stitch, the Rosette chain.
  • Lesson four is dimensional stitches and I had great fun here--bullion knots, drizzle stitches, bullion cast-on stitch, and double cast-on stitch (which I skipped because by then it had taken me so long to circumnavigate a butterfly with bullion knots I wasn't inclined to take on the even-longer-term double cast-on).
  • Lesson five is woven stitches--loved doing the circle with a gorgeous thread on this one.
  • Lesson six is beaded stitches. "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!" I now have a storage container specifically for the beads that somehow magically appeared in my house after doing this lesson.
  • Lesson 7 is finishing touches, with another couple of slight more extensive stitches, plus a lot of really cool ideas for using embroidery in bindings. Can't wait to get my butterfly project finished so I can revisit this lesson.
  • The class materials are so-so; 6 pages, three of which are templates for the suggested project. There's an extensive supply list that felt overwhelming at first--and you don't actually need all of it to do the project, but you're likely to want all of it and more if you really get into this! The second page gives some hints and tips, which were partially useful.

A long review, I know. But I. Loved. This. Class. Remember, embroidery doesn't need to just be for embroidery projects and crazy quilts. It's easily done as an accent on any quilt or quilted project. I'll definitely be using a lot more of it in my art quilts. If you think you may even vaguely be thinking about adding embroidery to your quilting repertoire, you really need Embroidering Texture and Dimension by Hand with Sue Spargo.

*You don't need the book to do the class, but it was quite helpful to have on hand when I was practicing the stitches she demonstrated.

(Using Craftsy links and banners on this page helps support my podcast and blog. Thank you!)

Thinkin' about It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking... 

  • That I really am loving me some embroidery. 
  • That all those wonderful, funky threads are like candy. 
    • I can't resist. 
    • Give me more. 
  • That adding some beads is a dangerous thing. 
    • Addictive. 
    • Another collection. 
  • How getting fiber art books out of the library can seem like a penny-wise move. 
    • Until I realize I really want to own the book. 
    • Ahem.
  • How nice it was to be able to start playing fetch with Doofus in the backyard this week. 
  • That he and I both need to get into better fetch shape.  
    • Winter was rough on both of us.
  • How I'm sorta looking forward to my work trip next week because I know I can take my embroidery with me. 
    • It's a sickness. 

2015 Quilty Resolutions: April Journal Quilt

Okay, Sandy here, once again cutting myself some slack.

I realized that the prayer flag I've been working on is all one big experiment, so I'm now counting it as April's journal quilt, even though it's not 8"x10" or even, arguably, a quilt. It has two layers, not three, and it's embroidered but not quilted.

Work with me, here.

I present to you my April Journal Quilt project: a prayer flag.

The front is a piece of cotton batting I had experimented on in my dye studio--it was originally a normal cotton batting-cream color; I dyed it black. You can see how mottled it came out. Kinda cool.

I then did some needle felting on it with some dyed wool rovings I'd had in my stash for about a year (not dyed by me). I had fun blending the colors. I've done a little needle-felting here and there but nothing really terribly extensive, so I'm still getting the knack of it. Not hard at all, of course, but now I probably should start actually reading up on it and really figure out what I'm doing.

I also wanted to play around with beading, and I'd picked up some really wonderful beads at a bead shop recently. Dropped a bundle in that bead shop, so you'll be seeing a lot of beads on future projects. That bird (which is likely a swallow given the tail feathers but I'm choosing to call it a peace dove) is one of my faves.

I started working on this prayer flag shortly after I'd received word that I'd been accepted into the D.Min. program (listen to episode 180 if you'd like to hear more about that). At the time I started working on this project, I hadn't really decided what my prayer flag would be about--but then I ran across this great quote from William Shakespeare and it just seemed to completely fit where I am in my life right now: "To unpathed waters, undreamed shores...." Now, to be clear, the quotation is from A Winter's Tale which is one of the few Shakespeare plays I haven't seen or read so I don't know the storyline; it's actually taken from a speech in which the speaker is advising others NOT to go off in unpathed waters but to stay on a more known course. But I choose to rip it heartlessly out of context and cast it in a much more positive light. I'm rather enjoying, for the moment, being in unpathed waters and heading towards undreamed shores.

So there, nyah. It's my prayer flag. I'll do what I want.

I finished it off with a little embroidery accent in the swirls (yummy variegated Razzle thread from Sue Spargo's website), and then put a black felt backing on it and did a blanket stitch around the outside. The stitching isn't nearly as visible in person as it is in this picture; it's largely buried in the felted sections--you really almost can't see it. This picture does demonstrate the great lighting I have in my sewing room, I guess. 

My April Journal Quilt/Prayer Flag is now hanging near my office desk to help me remember this positive attitude when the blood, sweat, and tears start.

 

2015 Quilty Resolutions: March Journal Quilt

It's been awhile since I've posted about a journal quilt, so let me recap: My 2015 Quilty Resolution was to do one journal quilt per month. In my definition, a journal quilt is a small project (approximately 8"x10") that allows me to experiment with a technique, a theme, a color scheme, or whatever. My main focus is on experimentation (my 2015 word of the year).

January's journal quilt was Sunset in Bagan, in which I was experimenting with netting. 

 

I had to cut myself some slack on defining February's journal quilt. That whole month was experimentation! I was playing around with a lot of different design experiments based on having taken the art quilt class as well as some other things that caught my creative eye, as it were. So I decided that, rather than getting all legalistic on my own butt about how I was defining "journal quilt," I'd focus on the "quilt project that involved experimentation" concept, and thus declared Neumes my February journal quilt, despite the fact that it's quite a bit bigger than 8"x10".

March was a very busy month, and I wasn't home much. But I was still experimenting. I did Cindy Walter's fabric painting class on Craftsy in March, and was just having all sorts of fun messing around with all the different types of fabric paints and inks I've amassed over the last couple of years. In her class, she showed a way to do an abstract paint design that brought back to mind my favorite way of coloring when I was in high school--basically just sketching random lines and shapes that connect together and then going to town with the color. I used to do a lot of this when I was a kid!

March Journal Quilt--just named "March Journal Quilt"

March Journal Quilt--just named "March Journal Quilt"

So, my nostalgic painting experiment became March's journal quilt. I'm pleased to announce it's finished! It measures out to 8 1/2" x 10" but that was happenstance--I was just using a spare piece of muslin I had on hand to do the painting and it happened to be almost journal quilt size--phew.

Please note that I did this without any concern for color scheme. My goal was simply to use every paint or ink I had on hand (except my Tsukeniko inks--those remain for another day). Thus: almost every one of the sections in this piece is a different paint. I had a couple of spaces more than I had paints on hand so I did repeat a couple, but probably not as many as look repeated in this photo; some were two different types of paint in basically the same color; another one or two were experimenting with a Pearl-X powder mixed into paint (the Pearl-X isn't showing up well on the photo); I started by mixing one of the purples and, when I was unhappy with the result, I went out and bought a pre-mixed purple that I liked much better so I also painted over the original yuckier one, and so forth. Still working on mixing colors--Joen Wolfrom is very helpful on that!

It took me until the end of April to finish this because (1) you have to let the paint dry and (2) you have to let it cure. All that can take 2-3 weeks, depending on how thick a layer of paint you have. Mine's pretty thick in some places. I sat down this past weekend to add the finishing touches: I used invisible thread to quilt along all the lines to make it look a little more like it was pieced or appliqued. For the most part, I was able to stay in the lines but don't look too closely at the yellow. (Besides, the yellow ended up having the stiffest hand when dried so the needle just poked holes right through it.) I just did a fast fused border using the remainder of my hand-dyed black fabric that I'd used for the backing. This will never go in a show so I didn't want to spend much time on binding.

I learned an absolute ton on this project. I've got a much better feel for what different types of paint are good for, things to consider when approaching a paint project, and so forth. 

April's journal quilt may end up being another "cutting myself some slack" project as I'm still doing a lot of experimenting but not specifically on a journal quilt project. I suppose I could say that my journal quilt resolution has already served its purpose: I wanted to do it to encourage myself to experiment. So far, in 2015 I've been doing very little other than experimenting!

Monday Musings: The 5 Ss--S-3 Set Locations and Visual Cues

How did you do with week two? Personally, I'm pleased to report that I now have bright, shiny, sharp and unbent pins on my magnetic pincushion. Yep, I ponied up for that new pack of pins. As Maureen pointed out in a recent comment on a previous blog post, if I keep this pack of pins for 15 years like the old one, I'm only spending 80 cents a year. I think I can live with that.

 

S-3 Set Locations and Visual Cues

This week, we're supposed to set locations and visual cues. 

Do you have set locations for things, or do they tend to wander about your sewing room? My biggest issue was my glasses. I don't wear glasses all the time, but the older I get, the more I rely on readers. I have several pairs with the intention of having a pair near anywhere I may need to do anything. The problem is that I tend to wear them to another area and leave them there, with the end result being a pile of 5 pairs of glasses next to one chair and none to be found anywhere else. In my sewing room, it wasn't quite as big a deal because my one pair of actual prescription glasses lives on my office desk--so if I didn't have a pair of readers at my sewing machine or cutting table, I could just walk a few steps and use my "real" glasses. However, then I'd wear them out of the room and the next morning when I started work, well, let's just say I wouldn't be a happy camper.

One day at Target, I noticed a couple of handy-dandy 3M wall storage units. I immediately thought, "Those are great for keeping track of my readers!"

So now one pair lives next to my cutting table. I can honestly say this pair has never wandered out of my sewing room. Other pairs have periodically wandered in to visit for a time, but for the most part, knowing I already have glasses here, I'm less inclined to keep downstairs glasses on my head when going upstairs.

 

The glasses-holder near my sewing machine also doubles as a place to keep spools of thread when I have to change colors out in mid-project but know I'm going to want to use the one I'm removing again. Another problem solved. 

To be honest, I rarely wear these glasses because I'm usually wearing the other pair from the wall or my desk. But they still come in handy if I decide to grab 10 minutes at my machine on the spur of the moment and don't already have a pair of glasses on.

And then I picked up a third cpntainer to hold my rotary cutters and various other need-to-have-right-at-hand tools at my cutting table. This one sticks to the side of one of the cabinets that makes up my cutting table. Yes, usually my main rotary cutter is just sitting on my cutting mat but if I'm clearing the decks to do something that doesn't involve cutting, my cutter takes a snooze in this container.

I don't like having my rotary cutters, marking pens, and such, in a mug or canister on the surface because those always tip over on me--plus, they become one more thing to have to move out of the way if I'm cutting big pieces of fabric. I really prefer to keep my cutting table surface as clear a possible, although my bluetooth speakers are a must-have for listening to podcasts while I'm sewing. So I do make exceptions. Still, if I can eventually find a 3M shelf the right size to hold those speakers up and out of the way, golden.

I'm pretty good at having set places for things. What about you? Do you have some wanderers that you need to settle down?

For me, visual cues are the answer to "out of sight, out of mind." I know lots of people keep WIPs in grocery bags or boxes or opaque bins. I can't do that. I need to be able to see at a glance what I've got going on. If I stuff something in a bin or a box that I can't see through, it's like it never existed in my life. I suppose, in that regard, I never quite outgrew the infant's perception that if they can't see your face, you've actually disappeared. Poof--it's gone! So for me to remember I've got projects waiting for my attention, they need to be all up in my grill. I've got everything on open shelves and in transparent bins so they catch my eye and remind me they exist.

I also leave myself visual cues when I'm in mid-project. For example, if I finished quilting in the middle of the quilt, I'll leave something unusual (not a tool I was working with at the time, something that would stand out to me) laying on top of the quilt right where I left off--this not only reminds me where I left off, but it reminds me at a glance that hey, I still need to finish quilting that thing! 

Finally, the biggest visual cue I leave myself is my to-do list, or my "next step" list. I talked about this on a recent podcast episode. I've been using a post-it note system for a couple of years now, listing on each post-it one next step for each project I had going on and lining those post-its up on the edge of my cutting table. That way, I could see at a glance what next steps I had to do to move various projects forward, and quickly choose whatever one I was in the mood for or had the time to do. I also had the visual satisfaction of seeing the post-it notes disappear.

Ahem. Yep, there's a lot of post-its languishing on the side of my cutting table these days. I'm slowly taking care of that.

I'm now trying a white board instead, but we'll see if it has that same impact as a visual cue. I'm kind of partial to my post-it system, but see previous comments about trying to lessen the amount of stuff on the surface of my cutting table. 

I feel like I'm already in pretty good shape with S-3, although I'm still trying to find a good home for certain things so I guess I can still use some work on the "set locations" end of things. What about you? What do you feel you do well, and where do you feel you could improve?

Progress and Goals--Week of April 26, 2015

My goals for this week were to:

  • Learn two more stitches for Sue Spargo class project
  • Finish prayer flag
  • Finish Anne Unrein's Everything in Its Place bag from Craftsy class
  • Make a solid list of my UFOs

Progress:

Wing Bling

Wing Bling

  • Stitching: Wheee! Boy, did I have fun this week. I did some woven circles, which (once I got the hang of it) were a beautiful way to showcase some particularly yummy threads. I also got into some wing bling (thanks to @Scooquilt, aka Valerie, for the phraseology). The photo at left is my first beading attempt. Here I was using a fly stitch and attaching the bead to the "leg" of the fly, keeping my stitches pretty small so all you'd see was the bead. I chose that stitch because it also helped hold the edge of the appliqued fabric down, which was showing an alarming tendency to pull away from the machine applique stitches I'd originally used on it. A few extra hand stitches, some beads to distract your eye from the fraying edges of the fabric, and bingo-bango, a finished look. Can you tell I was enjoying myself? I've got more plans for beads--Sue Spargo shows several in the final lesson of the class that I can't wait to try out. 
  • Finish prayer flag: Pret' near done. I've completed the design: I just need to figure out how I'm backing it and such. I'm going to take a few minutes on it as soon as I'm done with this post so my plan is that it'll be done before the end of the afternoon.
Vinyl pockets for bag. 'Nuff said.

Vinyl pockets for bag. 'Nuff said.

  • Anne Unrein class project bag: Well, I did make some progress. So there is that. 
  • Solid list of UFOs: Done. Note that on the top of this blog page (if you're on my website), there's a link for another page that used to be pictures of my WIPs. I never kept it updated so I repurposed the page--it now has a complete list of all my WIPs, UFOs, and projects I've decided to "disappear" in one way or the other. I'll do my best to keep this updated. I know y'all will be far less interested in reading it than I am, but maybe knowing it's out there for all the world to see will keep me on track!

Goals for This Week:

  • Do I even say I want to finish the Annie Unrein bag, or should I be more realistic and just say "Make progress on....?"
  • Complete mug rug for swap. (I'm starting that this afternoon too--not sure how long it'll take me as the design keeps getting more complex in my head every time I think about it, LOL.)
  • Complete three butterflies on Sue Spargo project. I'm actually pretty much done with the class. I've watched all the lessons and if I didn't use every single stitch she demonstrates, I used at least one or two from each "group" of stitches. There's one stitch she shows in one of the last lessons that I want to practice, but after that, it's really just a matter of finishing the project. To do that, I'll be re-using a lot of stitches I've already done in other areas; so instead of focusing on numbers of new stitches, now I'll be setting goals towards completion of the project. I've got 15 butterflies in total, plus background. I've done bits and pieces of several of the butterflies as I was choosing where I wanted to practice each stitch, so now I'm going back and looking at each butterfly as a unit to determine what it needs to be finished. I'd like to finish off at least three butterflies this week.
  • Make block. I'm doing a block for a quilt for a friend, so I need to get my block done this week. 

(I'm not including finishing the prayer flag on this list as in my head, it's really already done.)

Fight the Funk Friday

Fightthefunk.jpg

I'm home! I've had a whole week home! Woo woo!

Don't get me wrong--my trip last weekend was a great one. I just had a string of travel that prevented me from being in any sort of decent exercise routine at all. In fact, the two most recent trips involved hours spent in planes or cars--so they were even more sedentary than usual.

And then, just when we had a beautiful weekend and I was out walking for the first time in weeks, my knee started whining at me again.

But here's the good news: Because I'm home, I finally had time to deal with insurance referrals and back-and-forth with my doctor and...yay...had an appointment with a physical therapist yesterday. She did things. Painful things. I cried a little tear inside.

Actually, it wasn't bad, but my knee was quite ticked off with me by the time I got home so there was more Advil and ice in my life. That being said, it turns out it's not my knee muscles I need to be focusing on, but my hip muscles. Who'd-a thunk it? I'm now armed with a series of hip-focused exercises and a resistance band. I'm planning on trying to get some gym action in again this weekend; basically, she gave me the go-ahead to do anything "unless it hurts." Words to live by.

So, exercise--not so much, unless you count physical therapy. Which it does count, I suppose. But it's not really racking up the FitBit steps. I hope for better this weekend, though I'm going to keep reminding myself to take it slow for a bit. But just you wait until my knee is fully back in working order. The dust will be flying behind me!

A CSA delivery from 2013

A CSA delivery from 2013

On the food front, I'm back to planning and tracking pretty well, and getting lots of fresh produce in the house. I'm counting down the days until my CSA deliveries start--June 9 can't come fast enough! Yep, for those of you in warmer climes, early June is the first we can really expect to start seeing any harvest in these parts, and even that's pretty early--I imagine it'll be mostly greenhouse stuff at that stage. Most of our gardens start producing for real at the end of June or early July. Then we get swamped. But that's a zucchini story for another day.

Oh, and I also got my temporary crown put on this week, in the continuing saga of the broken tooth that started last 4th of July. The final crown is May 7. Can't wait to have it completely done--and I'll be pretty vigilant the rest of my life to make sure I never break a freakin' tooth again. What a pill.

All that means is this week's Fight the Funk post is mostly about preventative medicine and getting myself back into shape for making good progress later. This is a more "reactive funk-fighting" at the moment, but I'll be back to proactive mode shortly!

Thinkin' about It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

Doofus with a little spring fever

Doofus with a little spring fever

  • how absolutely, fantastically, great it feels to be home for a prolonged period of time and in a routine again.
    • (The doggies agree.)
  • how, on the other hand, being hither and yon for so long means a backlog of appointments that all landed on this week so I'm not entirely feeling in routine yet.
  • that, however, all that means is I'm finally getting some stuff taken care of that should've been dealt with weeks ago.
    • so it's all good.
  • how new furniture is both fun and stressful at the same time.
  • that the words "oh, we'll just use this for now" should never be spoken.
    • Is 10 years later still "for now?" 
  • that, in the time it's taken us to choose a new coffee table for our family room, other people would have redecorated that same family room twice over.
  • how that should make me remember that every decorating choice doesn't have to be a forever-choice.
    • less stress?
    • faster decisions?
    • no more naked windows or cheap, folding, very unsteady TV-trays as end tables?
  • that our highest priority in choosing new end tables was, "Which one will the Doofus not be able to knock over as he runs by?"
  • how the store clerk was looking a bit askance at us as we leaned on the top of every table and wiggled it to check for sturdiness.
    • but it's a thing.
    • and I'd rather not have it be a thing anymore.
    • Dang Doofus.
  • how nice it is to see green grass.
    • and growing things.
    • and hear birds.
    • and sneeze.
    • because sneezing means spring.
    • Hurray.

WIP Wednesday

I think I've done a WIP Wednesday post maybe twice in my blogging life. But here it is. I have something to say this week!

Vinyl pockets with gussets

Vinyl pockets with gussets

I'm pleased to announce I finally conquered the whole "sewing on vinyl" thing with the Anne Unrein Everything in It's Place bag.

(For those of you who haven't been playing along recently, I'm doing Annie's Craftsy class, "Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers,"* in a last-ditch effort to see if I could ever learn to love doing this kind of sewing.)

In my last podcast episode--I think, or maybe it was a recent blog post, can't recall exactly--I was grousing about the trouble I was having with thread breaking when I was trying to sew gussets in strips of vinyl that will eventually become the pockets.

After reading some blogs on the topic, and then a little trial-and-error myself, I finally hit on the combination that worked for me: Leather sewing machine needles and thinner polyester thread. Using a 90/14 Schmetz leather needle with a Superior Threads Bottom Line (bobbin weight) poly thread in my top and bobbin, I finally got all the vinyl pocket gussets sewn with nary another break. I think the bobbin weight thread will be strong enough, but it all gets sewn again anyway when you install the pockets on the pocket pages, and I'll be using a 50-weight thread for that, so it'll be fine.

Zipper-by-the-yard with pulls installed

Zipper-by-the-yard with pulls installed

And then I had to install umpteen-million zipper pulls on a zipper-by-the-yard. This was a struggle I'd already had to conquer back when I had to do the mesh pocket a couple of weeks ago. Now that I know how to get that stinkin' zipper pull on...I can't say it got a whole lot easier. But at least I got it done without throwing a single one across the room. I measure success a little differently these days.

That being said, I really should've watched the lesson all the way through before I hauled off and got started on the zippers this time around--I only saw after the fact her very helpful tip about putting all the zipper pulls on first and then measuring it out, sewing and cutting the zipper lengths needed with the pulls already installed. Probably would've gone a lot faster, as it's easier to put the zipper pull on using the fabric tail of the zipper rather than on the cut end.

Yes, the jury is still out. Her instructions are great, the class is great, the design is great--but I still think I'd happily pay someone else to make this dang thing for me. Still, I soldier on...

(*Using this Craftsy link helps support this podcast and blog. Thank you!)

 

Craftsy Class Review: Clever Cuts for Efficient Quilting with Debbie Caffrey

I don't have this ebook from Craftsy yet but it looks interesting, doesn't it? I think I'll grab it as soon as I'm done writing this blog post. 

So, in the name of finding more efficient ways to make progress on quilts as my time grows ever-more-limited, I once again looked to Debbie Caffrey. Well, to be clear, I bought this class primarily because I'd enjoyed her other one so much. Clever Cuts for Efficient Quilting, like her first class (Cut To It: Strategies for Smarter Quilting), is an excellent reference class that you'll want to keep referring back to for years to come!

Like Cut to It, this class doesn't have one specific project for you to do in order to practice techniques, but there are several patterns included in the class materials if you do want to put one of her cutting methods immediately to use. For me, however, I was just watching the lessons to see what was there so I'd know where to go for future reference. Hence, no pretty pictures to go with this review--sorry.

For my general thoughts on Debbie Caffrey as a teacher and the usefulness of the techniques she teaches, see my review of her first class. I can just keep saying "Ditto, ditto, ditto." I can't say it enough--these are both excellent classes to have. 

Do you need to do the other class before doing this one? Not really. However, I do think they build on each other to a degree, and she does reference the other class periodically in this one. However, you could easily do this class as a stand-alone and be just fine, I think.

This class includes a few more tips on organization, accurate cutting and piecing, and general ideas about when these techniques would be useful. She then discusses tube piecing, diamonds and set-in seams, lots of information about working with Tri-Rec rulers, and then some ideas and tips for piecing borders. 

The Basics

  • Seven lessons, ranging from 24 to 38 minutes
  • Lesson 1 is fundamentals of cutting and piecing, including tips for accuracy; lesson 2 focuses on organization, as well as tips for sewing, pressing, and cutting; lesson 3 is strip-tubing (I've done that before and it's fun, fun, fun!); and she demonstrates a fish block that would make a very cute baby or child's quilt; lesson 4 is all about diamonds and set-in seams, as well as a bit of drafting of templates; then lessons 5 and 6 focus on Tri-Recs in a variety of ways. Finally, lesson 7 gives several ideas and demonstrations of different types of borders; I really liked one of those and could see it on one of my UFOs, so I'll be referring back to that lesson again in the next few weeks.
  • She addresses left-handed cutting considerations, too, for all you lefties out there!

Once again, as with her other class, I highly recommend Clever Cuts for Efficient Quilting with Debbie Caffrey. If she does a third one, she'd have a hat trick! For now, it's just an excellent pair.

(Using Craftsy links on this post helps support my podcast and blog. Thank you so much!)