Banned Books Week Challenge 2015

It's that time of year again!

Banned Books Week is September 27-October 3, 2015.

Tanesha of CraftyGardenMom Podcast/Blog and I are once again hosting our annual...

Banned Books Week Challenge! 

You may find information on the issue of censorship, lists of what books have been banned or challenged, and other resources on or the American Library Association website at You can find lists of Banned or Challenged Classics here, and the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009 here, and the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books 1990-1999 here.(Those dates, by the way, are when those books were banned/challenged, not when they were published.)

My 2014 challenge quilt "Subversion," based on the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

My 2014 challenge quilt "Subversion," based on the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

You are challenged to create a small wall quilt that somehow represents a book from the banned/challenged book list that you have read and particularly loved, found meaningful, or otherwise want to celebrate. How you choose to represent the book is up to you—it could be a scene from the book, words from the book, or just represents the book in some way.

            Please be aware that book cover images and illustrations in books are copyrighted art. You would need permission from the publisher/artist to depict those images exactly. You may, of course, use them as inspiration for your own artwork!

The Deets

  • Create a small wall quilt based on a book on a banned/challenged book list that you read and enjoyed. Really, the quilt can be any size, but thinking under 16" keeps it manageable. You can do a mug rug if you want! No specific sizes required. (See "Here's another idea" below, however.)
  • Use any type of quilt techniques you enjoy, any type of surface embellishment you choose--whatever flips your switch! 
  • Post pictures of your completed quilt(s) in the Flickr group for this challenge. We're using the same Flickr group as in years past, so please clearly label your post with "2015" in the title so we know what the new ones are!
  • Include your artist's statement in the description of your photo in the Flickr group. (Or, should you be a blogger, just include a link to your blog post about the quilt in the description.) The artist's statement should include the title and author of the book, why you chose that book, and anything else you want us to know about your mini-quilt.
  • If you finish your project before the week of September 27 and really can't wait to post it to the Flickr group, feel free. 

During Banned Books Week, Tanesha and I will be blogging/podcasting about the entries and there will be...yes!...prizes!  

Here's another idea: For the last several years that we've been doing this challenge, I've arranged for my local public library to display during Banned Books Week quilts from our any local artisans who participate. It's always wonderful to see how the library does the display. Why don't you ask your local library if you can display your finished project there? If so, you'll also want to check with them on a suggested maximum size to make the quilt easier to display in their space. Spread the word--get your local quilty friends to join in!

Tanesha and I are looking forward to seeing your work!

If you want to get some inspiration from previous challenges, here's the Flickr group link again. Beautiful work displayed!

A finish--woo!

Okay, so this completion isn't such a big deal as it only took me about 90 minutes start to finish; and it only took that long because I wanted to fussy cut a motif and had to keep checking back on the instructions to make sure I had it facing the right direction. 

Also--normally I wait to do a reveal on a class project until I do a review of the class. But since it may be awhile since I have another finish, I couldn't wait to crow just a little bit. 

I finished something! Woo woo woo woo! 



This is the Runaround Bag by Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs, as appears in her Craftsy class Zip It Up: Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags.  (The pattern is available elsewhere as well; you don't have to take the class to make this bag.) She calls her zipper technique "ziptastic" and I have to say--it was stinking easy, at least in this design. 

It gave me a nice way to use a couple of fat quarters from my stash--which was my main purpose for forcing myself to get more comfortable with purse-making in the first place.  

I misjudged the front fussy cutting just by a couple of inches; the print on the fabric was a little tricky in terms of isolating the motif easily. I had a sense I should adjust it a little bit but I wasn't totally convinced I knew where it was going to end up. Having done it once now, of course, I'd know better next time.


I did a lot better fussy cutting the back pocket.  

If I do this design again, I would probably put a little bit of velcro or something on that back pocket. It's a good place for a cell phone but I'd want it a little more secure if I used this regularly.  


By the way, the lining is the same fabric as the top accent (see last photo). I used an invisible zipper because that's what happened to be sitting in my drawer that was the right color and size for this project. I've decided I don't like working with invisible zippers. It was okay to sew, though I had to do a lot more by feel than sight, but mostly it was very difficult to unzip after the sewing was done in order to pull everything through right-side out. For some reason, that zipper was very stubborn--I finally resorted to pulling everything through a half-open pocket. Once it was right-side out, the zipper worked fine again. 

You can't really tell from these photos but it has fusible fleece on the back to give it just a little bit of structure.  

I do like this bag; I used it immediately last night going out for dinner with my husband. It's nice to do a simple design that's actually functional. It's a good little bag for times when you don't want to carry a lot around. 

Of course, the first thing I thought as I was putting my stuff in my bag to go out to dinner was, "I think I need to find a wallet design now." My usual wallet is too big and heavy to work in this bag well. So if you've got any favorite simple wallet designs that make a smaller, lightweight, but functional finished product, lay it on me! (Tip: I don't want to have to fold my money in half to put it in the wallet, so I've already nixed several possible patterns.) 

There are two more bags in the class, so stay tuned... 

(BTW, there's a Craftsy link in this post that will help support this podcast and blog if you use it--so thanks in advance if you do!) 

Progress and Goals--Week of July 18

One point of progress I made this week was finally finding a small armchair to fit in the corner of my office. Woo! $40 at Good Will. Double woo!  I buried my nose in the upholstery while in the store to make sure there weren't any lingering odors that would drive me nuts (just a bit of Attic Musty), and I inspected it carefully. Plus I hit it with a dose of Lysol when I got home to be sure, and to get rid of the Attic Musty. 

Yes, there are a couple of rips in the upholstery on the back, but as it's only in my office (read: I'm the only one who will really see it/use it) and the back is towards the wall most times, until I spin around to use my windowsill as a footrest, I'm good with that. If I ever decide I love this chair enough to make it have more aesthetic presence, I can get it reupholstered and it would likely still be less than buying a new armchair. It's now my official school-reading chair, as well as a place to take a short break when my back or shoulders start complaining about spending too much time at my sewing machine or cutting table. Not that "too much time sewing" will be an issue for the next few years, I suspect. 

In any case, back to the topic at hand:

Goals for Last Week

  •  Accessories: Small, fast project TBD. I didn't get this finished, but I did get myself organized for it, have all my supplies, and started cutting. I decided to do a new Craftsy class and, after doing the first half of Annie Unrein's class*, this one should feel like a breeze. By the end of the class, I'll have one small "run around" purse and two zippered bags. Good way to use up some more fat quarters from my stash, not to mention the random collection of zippers I own, based on going through a spate of doing Humbug Bags about 15 years ago. There: I do actually have bagmaking in my past. I made a bunch of those one year as Christmas gifts for my daughter and assorted nieces when they were all early elementary-school age. It's a great pattern, pretty easy to follow, and I don't recall having any difficulty with the zippers. Unfortunately, my next couple of forays into the whole bag-making adventure were dismal, horribly frustrating failures and set me off the genre for years. 

Shake it off...move on...

  • Quilt Project: Get pieces sub-cut for Jacob's Ladder. I made good progress on this yesterday, and hope to get the (420 of them, yikes) 4-patches done today. I guess I sort of mentally shifted this goal a little bit; Rather than subcutting all the pieces (4Ps and HSTs), I'm getting all the 4Ps done first, then I'll tackle the HSTs.

This is a nicely quiet week for me (fingers crossed it stays that way). No evening conference calls, no need to be anywhere other than at home. I'll have some more reading and writing assignments to work on as our online classroom is supposed to get set up sometime this week in preparation for our on-campus study session starting August 4. Hence, I'm still keeping my goals fairly small, but I should be able to manage this much this week...

Goals for This Week

  • Accessories: Get the first class project done (small purse).
  • Quilt Project: Get 4-patches completed. Get half-square triangles sub-cut, if not completed. 
  • Embroidery: Go back to working on my crewel embroidery project that I'd started back in early June, now that the other project is completed. I had to give my neck a few days of rest but it's feeling better now. I still feel like I should whip off the heatable neck wrap pattern I've had saved in Pocket for months--that was my original thought for my fast accessory project last week. 

*I do have plans to finish Annie's class, which means making the cosmetics bag. I just need to attended to more time-constrained projects first.

(As always, using Craftsy links here helps support my podcast and blog. Thanks!)

Progress and Goals--Week of July 13

I warned you it would be a few weeks! I got home from my second trip on Friday and took the weekend regrouping, restocking the refrigerator, and finishing up a time-constrained project. Today I'm finally able to start looking at the next few weeks and figure out what I might be able to get done. 

Goals for This Week (from June 14)

  • Embroidery: Three butterflies. 

Okay, so my goals were minimal. I was apparently being very (and unusually) attuned to my schedule limitations.

So, that being said, I'm not even sure at this point if I got three butterflies done. I think I did my usual 1 1/2 before I left, but I honestly can't remember now. My primary focus was the gift project. And now, having spent the whole weekend polishing that off, I'm setting aside embroidery for at least a couple of days until my neck loosens up after being frozen in position staring at the hoop in my hands (and staring at the book and highlighter in my hands).

Strangely, that gift project didn't even make it onto the goals list, even though I knew that's what I'd have to be focusing on. So although I'm not sure I got my stated goal done, I did get another biggie goal completed. So there's that. 

I can't post pics of the completed project at this stage. Waiting until it's been duly gifted. I'm pretty sure none of the parties concerned read this blog or I wouldn't even be talking about gift projects but just to be on the safe side, my lips (and camera lens) are sealed. 

I'm in the mood to give myself a little change of pace and doing some sort of fast project. But my class reading has kicked up a notch and I'm still trying to figure out how to get exercise back into my schedule, so my goals will stay pretty, shall we say, realistic.

Goals for This Week

  •  Accessories: Small, fast project TBD. Maybe a microwaveable neck pillow, maybe a zipper pouch, maybe a tool holder...haven't settled yet. I won't get to my sewing machine for another couple of days anyway so I've got a little time to ponder. I'm looking for something I might reasonably get done in just two or three hours (one or two nights). I just want some instant gratification, and maybe a little minor stash-busting, before diving into my next more intense project.
  • Quilt Project: Get pieces sub-cut for Jacob's Ladder. I just realized that, when I did my initial list of categories for a short list, I left out any possibilities of ever doing straight-up new "standard" quilt projects. Hmmm. Shows you where my head has been at. Hence, a new category: generic "Quilt Project." I really need to get started on my Jacob's Ladder project. I don't have anything going on this weekend, so it's a good weekend to get a running headstart. I've already cut all the strips I need--my next step is doing some serious subcutting.  Using techniques from Debbie Caffrey's Craftsy class, Cut to It: Strategies for Smarter Quilting, I should be able to knock it out a little more quickly than usual. I'm also considering going to my guild sew-day on Saturday--what better way to deal with a fairly tedious task than to do it in the company of my peeps?

And that's it. Here's hoping I can get at least that much done! 

Home again, home again...

We had a great vacation in Nova Scotia last week. We spent a little time on Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton, and the Eastern/Northern shores of Nova Scotia--basically, Halifax area. Both my husband and I had been there on family vacations as kids (my family went twice that I recall), but we had never gone together. It's just a lovely as I remember and, of course, we both probably appreciated the scenic views a lot more as adults. ("Dad, when are we going to stop driving???")

Here's my Steller album of the trip. 

We got home around dinner time on Friday so we'd have all weekend to regroup before heading back to work. On Saturday, I spent about four hours straight doing embroidery. I'd taken my current project with me on both my work and vacation trips with the goal of having it finished by the time I got home--I didn't get as much embroidering time as I'd hoped, so now I'm doing a full-court press this weekend so I can take it to the shop for framing tomorrow or Tuesday.

This morning, my daughter and I decided to head to a big flea market about half an hour south of us. It opens at 6:30a. Neither of us is that dedicated. We got there around 8:30a and it was not really crowded at all, but by the time we left at 10:30a, I was thrilled to be heading out of the parking lot instead of into it.

She achieved her main goal: She's got a yen to try her hand at refinishing furniture, as well as knowing it may be the most cost-effective way for her to furnish an apartment whenever she gets to the point of being able to afford to move out. She picked up this very nice little cabinet--and didn't do too bad a job bargaining, although neither of us is that agressive about it.

It's got nice bones, and really interesting dove-tailed joints that are a dove-tail-esque design I'd never seen before. She's debating several options about how she'll redo this--I'm looking forward to seeing what she finally decides on. She's waiting until I head to my on-campus weeks at BU so she can take over my side of the garage for the refinishing process.

I didn't have any firm thoughts in mind about what I was looking for. I was just along for the fun. I did miss out on a little folding cabinet kind of thing--about the size of a small briefcase--that would've been great embroidery storage, something that looked nicer in the family room than my current collection of bins and bags. Since I'd have had to do some work to it for it to really look nice and I'm just not sure I have the time to do that these days, I decided I'd think about it instead, knowing it would likely not still be there when I went back (thereby making my decision for me). When we made our way back to that corner of the flea market again, sure 'nuff, a woman was looking at it. The only thing that burns me a bit is that I'm quite sure I heard the vendor tell her it was all of $2.00. Well, dang. I know the cardinal rule at flea markets is to pick it up when you see it because it's most likely not going to still be there later. I just wasn't 100% convinced it would really be all I was hoping it would be once I got it home. So I'm okay. But still. $2.00. Dang. 

I consoled myself with tchotchke. 

The citrus juicer in the handled bowl came home with me for $6. Saved a whole dollar--can't you stand it? My daughter and I immediately noted how much easier this will make my next margarita party, as I do margaritas from scratch with fresh-squeezed lime juice. I won't pony up for an electric juicer, but this will be a step up from my hand-held juicer. 

The four bracelets were from a jewelry designer vendor. I have a love-hate relationship with bracelets. Love the way they look, can't stand to wear them. They drive me nuts when they bounce all over the place or bang on my keyboard while I'm typing. I only manage to wear them for about 10 minutes before I yank them off in frustration. I have high hopes for these! They're actually elastic but done in such a way that you can't see any of the elastic between the beads when it's on (and my wrists aren't as small as they used to be). It fits very comfortably, but doesn't roll around on my wrist; they're also really light-weight. I was in love the first time I tried one on. I wore the blue one all morning and kept even forgetting I had it on--it was that comfortable! 

The other little bottle is just an aromatherapy blend named "Breathe," that smells better than the current "Breathe" blend I've been using. Sinuses, donchaknow.

Then I hit the vendor selling warehouse summer tops and dresses. 

The dress is of a fabric that would also be fine over a swimsuit, so good for poolside lounging. Not that I'll have a lot of time for that this summer, but a girl can dream. And it was only an $8 dream.

The silk wraparound skirt can supposedly be worn "100 different ways." I tried three of the ways demonstrated on the tag. Nope, it'll just be a skirt. It's two skirts layered over one another so if nothing else, it's reversible. And it was $10. So I don't mind the 98 other ways I won't be wearing it.

And this pretty embroidered shirt has ties in the back to give it a little more shape, but I like the looseness of it. 

I'm wearing the $8 dream now. I have hopes of lounging poolside later this evening. If the bugs don't drive me away.

So that's my adventure of the last few weeks. I'm actually going to be in a routine between now and August 4 when I head off to campus. Routine is good. You might hear from me a little bit more.

But for the moment, I'm off to pick up the embroidery needle again...




June Craftsy Class Update

I didn't burn up the track in Craftsy classes, but I did get one of the biggies done! I'm actually writing this a little over a week before it'll post because I can guaran-dang-tee I won't be finishing any more Craftsy classes before the end of this month. I'm about to head out of town for a work trip and there's no time for watching classes in that circumstance.


Interior shot of my EIIP bag from Annie's class

Interior shot of my EIIP bag from Annie's class

New Completions


Classes in Progress


Classes added this month--0

Classes To Be Completed

Current count: (12, down 1 from last month) 

Completed Classes

Current count: 60 (+1--and I hit a nice round number!0

Some other random finishes

My May journal quilt project was embroidery on one of my hand-painted silks. 

I talked about this in this week's podcast episode and all the difficulties I had with it, although I learned a lot in the process; so from a learning value perspective, this was a great project. I learned that silk requires a much different treatment as a background than other fabrics I've been embroidering on. I learned that certain threads don't really play nice with silk. (The spiral center was the Razzle thread and it was just way too slippery to combine with the slippery silk. No end of headaches with that one.) 

I learned how to do the "magic chain"--a chain stitch with two threads where you alternate the colors. Cool beans.

You can see I skipped a couple of stitches in this example--that petal was a very-late-night-can't-sleep attempt. I learned I shouldn't embroider after midnight.

I also learned I shouldn't use a chalk pencil for an embroidery design. Couldn't for the life of me see what I was supposed to be doing. Hence, some very whonky flowers.

After I finished this, I started doing some crewel embroidery on a piece of my hand-dyed cotton. Lookie so far! (Okay, I snuck a WIP in here. But one flower is finished, so it counts!)

I love crewel. I'm a crewel girl. 


And...on the spur of the moment...I decided I wanted an iPad case with a couple of pockets to hold my stylus and the little (very easily lose-able) packet of extra stylus tips during all my travels this summer. I talked about this on my podcast episode too--but the short story is that I decided felted wool would be the quickest approach, and I have a fair amount of wool. 

I actually took out my 3-in-1 color tool when I was choosing which wools to use; everything but the green flower button cover actually fall into a particular color scheme. Can you figure it out? (The green button cover is close, but I'm not super-keen on it. May change it later.)

I just took the "quick and dirty" approach in sewing these pieces together. The beauty of felted wool is that it doesn't really fray, so you can just stitch that puppy together. Depending on the type of wool, though, it can be a little stretchy. You can see where the chartreuse pocket got a little polygram-esque rather than rectangular as I stitched it on. It's a looser weave so had more stretch to it. Still, it works. I just need to figure out how I want to close the two pockets on the front so they're more secure. There's a patch of Velcro on the top under the little flower button cover. I may add Velcro to the larger pocket; would need to do more of a flap thing on the stylus pocket. Pondering. But, to all intents and purposes, it's done.

These may be my last finishes for awhile...

Product Review: Janome Free Motion Couching Foot

Recently I read an article from Quilting Arts Magazine when I was in a bit of a weak spot, I suppose, and I immediately bit and ordered the foot it spoke of, without reading any reviews of the foot first. Fortunately, I wasn't overly disappointed--I think I've probably used enough of these tools now to know none of them is perfect. The product in question is a free motion couching foot for Janome machines*. Couching is when you hold one larger cord or yarn down on fabric by crossing back and forth over it with a smaller thread--you can do it by hand, of course, or you can do it with a sewing machine by using a zig-zag stitch. I've done it by machine a handful of times; it works okay, but it's hard to do tight or really smooth curves by the standard methods. I thought this FMQ couching foot may be the answer. 

It is, partly. I give it maybe a 6 out of 10--possibly a 7 if I have more practice with it.

I talked about this foot on my podcast episode this week, so here are the photos that may help illustrate some of the drawbacks I talked about.

It comes with two sizes of feet in the package; one with a slightly larger hole and one slightly smaller. It would probably take some trial and error to figure out which foot you need for the yarn/cording you're trying to use.

Here's how you thread it--it was a little tricky to get the yarn up and over from the back of the foot. It involved lots of bending over and squinting, but I persevered.

You have to pay attention to the settings the package tells you to use for your needle. I broke my first needle. Oops. There's a very tight little hole for that needle to zig-zag over the couched thread so you've got to make sure the zig-zag settings are correct. 

The package suggests to allow the cording/yarn that you're couching to "pool" behind the foot. Believe them. It really needs a lot of slack to work right--every time it used up the pool and started feeding right off the little ball of yarn I had, it would start skipping stitches and missing the yarn altogether. This might be tricky if you were couching on a larger project that would limit the amount of space you have for pooling the yarn; I was just doing a small test piece so I didn't have any problem.


As long as you move slowly and work with the limitations, it does actually work. Here's some of what I was able to do. This is all free-hand; I didn't sketch anything out ahead so I was truly, truly free-motioning. 

Normally I'd probably use an invisible or matching thread so the thread wouldn't be visible; I used a beige thread because that's what happened to be in my machine at the time, and this was just a test. Plus, I thought it might be helpful to be able to see the stitches. (The metallic thread you see sticking out is actually part of the yarn.) 

The stitch tended to shred this particular yarn--it would work better with a tighter ply, or a cording. Still, this sort of "foamy" look could be cool if that's what you're going for. Just test any cording you're planning to couch with this foot first to make sure you're getting the results you expect.

The foot works remarkably well, really, given that the concept of couching and the concept of free motion quilting are sort of counter to one another. The only consistent time I had problems (other than when the yarn wasn't pooled loosely enough behind the foot) was when I moved left to right. It missed the yarn just about every time. That's where I'd have to do more experimenting to see if I could figure out a way to counterbalance that.

Anyway, using the free motion couching foot worked better than doing the same thing with a regular foot. It still has weaknesses, but with what I'm doing, they probably aren't huge weaknesses. The long and short of it is, I'm glad I got this foot; I think it'll be fun to play with in the future.

*There are also FMQ couching feet for other brands of machines. Just Google!

Craftsy Class Review: Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers with Annie Unrein


Once again, I'm doing the class review before I've finished all the projects from the class. I'm doing that in this case because it took me nearly 6 months to get the first of the two projects done for this class. Given my current schedule, it's likely to be another 6 months before I get the second project done. So, here's my review of Annie Unrein's Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers class. 

If you're a blog follower, you've already seen my reveal of the first project, an organizing bag she calls the "Everything In It's Place Bag," or as I abbreviated it, the EIIP bag. If you follow me on Twitter or listen to my podcast, you've heard me whine. A lot. With great passion and commitment to my whining.

This isn't a particularly easy project, especially for those of us quilters who didn't come at quilting out of garment sewing. I've only had limited experience doing bags or any type of accessories, and much of that experience hasn't been particularly positive. I'm not a fan, as I have pointed out on many an occasion, of fiddly bits. 

And boy, did this bag have more than it's fair share of fiddly bits. Namely, vinyl. More about that later.

It also had zippers which were a bit tricky at first. I've done a small handful of zippers in the past, but this was the first time I'd used zippers-by-the-yard, which raises the quotient of fiddly-bit in the zipper equation. I'll say, though, that by the end of doing this bag which had a grand total of 12 zippers and 16 zipper pulls, zippers no longer give me pause. I can also see the beauty of using the zippers-by-the-yard that Annie sells on her website; I'll advise, however, that you wait to watch where she talks about using those zippers before making your first zipper, which actually comes in the lesson before.

That's on my one knock on this class. It's not Annie's fault that I don't enjoy making bags. And it's not Annie's fault that I still don't enjoy making bags after taking her class. She helped me become more comfortable with certain things, but becoming more comfortable with something doesn't necessarily mean I'll start loving to do it. In any case, the one thing I will knock the class on is that once in awhile things are a hair out of order. You make the first zipper in one lesson, and then in the next lesson she explains how to work with the zippers. I was watching and working my way through the lessons so when I got to the one making the first zipper and didn't know how to put a zipper pull on a zipper, I spent 20 minutes on YouTube trying to figure it out. Then I get to the next lesson, and there she is, talking about how to put on a zipper pull. There are a couple of places like that, so just do what I didn't do:

Watch all the lessons all the way through, before starting the first step in the first lesson. 

The only thing that I really struggled with was the vinyl. That was brutal. I spent a lot of time reading through the class discussions to see if others were having some of the same problems I was having and what the suggested remedies were; I found some helpful things there, so be sure to read the class discussions as well. (I talk about that in the previous blog post about this project.) Mostly, I was being stubborn and refusing to buy a Teflon foot when I wasn't committed to the idea of ever using vinyl again. That Teflon foot probably would've been helpful. I used Scotch Tape instead. It was okay.

Annie is clearly very experienced at teaching. I had no complaints about her style. Her instructions are very thorough as well. I kept the class material print-outs in front of me while watching the related steps on video--the two pair well. Her website is great--she has great bag designs and very helpful kits for making many of them, plus she sells all the bag-making supplies separately. More helpful, though, are her YouTube tutorials (also on her website). So if you're into making bags, she's the one to get to know: I do really like her supplies--I like how the finished bag feels, using her stabilizer and such. So if I am inclined to make bags in the future, I'll definitely be going back to her site. 

So, to try to objectify this and review the class as a class, my personal feelings about bag-making aside, I'd say two thumbs up. She really takes you through a complicated process by breaking it down into very small, pretty manageable tasks. She explains and demonstrates pretty much everything; there are a couple of steps that she talked about but didn't demonstrate, and it would've been helpful to have those on video as well, but they weren't deal-breakers. I do feel pretty confident that I'd be successful at the cosmetics bag as well, whenever my schedule allows me to work on that again. And that's more than I'd have said when I started the first step of the first bag, so that's a mark in the plus column. 

The Basics

  • 7 lessons, ranging from about 18 to 52 minutes, mostly in the 30-minute range
  • The first lesson offers a short introduction, but then gets right into making the Everything In Its Place Bag.
  • Lessons 1-4 are for the EIIP bag, lessons 5-7 are the cosmetics bag.
  • Class materials are extensive--very clear, step-by-step instructions for each bag. In fact, at the start I found her instructions a little confusing because they are so complete; I'm not used to that. Once I figured out her approach, I did find them really well done. 

Annie's bag designs in Annie Unrein's Sew Sturdy Travel Organizers class are great. Can't beat the functionality. So here's to my perseverance sticking with me to get the second of the two bags done sometime before I retire. 

(Using Craftsy links in this post helps support my podcast and blog. Thanks!)



Thinkin' about It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

This little critter has been joining me for morning coffee every morning this week. (Taken through my living room window. The dogs have, so far, remained oblivious.)

This little critter has been joining me for morning coffee every morning this week. (Taken through my living room window. The dogs have, so far, remained oblivious.)

  • that it's nice to feel definite improvement in my knee after roughly three months of PT
  • how I've now "graduated" from PT 
  • that I need to figure out some way to keep myself going on the PT exercises without that weekly appointment I'm working towards
  • that I'm not burning up the track on exercise in general
  • how I really need to fix that at some poin
    • but it won't be anytime soon
    • because I'm getting on a plane again in a few days
    • and then another plane a few days after that
    • but the second trip is vacation and we usually do a lot of walking
    • so we'll see how well this PT thing really worked
  • how I got my syllabus this week for my first doctoral studies residency session in August
  • that I immediately stressed out when reading it
  • how my response to stress is to go into task-oriented-mode
  • how that works well in this situation, at least, because I therefore scheduled out all the readings and papers on my task list with deadlines n' all
    • and immediately felt better
    • as long as I only thought about it in one day increments
    • because there's a boatload I'm supposed to get done before even showing up on campus in August.
  • that this is likely going to be my last Thinkin' about It Thursday post for awhile
    • See above

CSA Tuesday--Week 2

Remember how I said it seemed like an awful lot of food for our first week compared to other CSAs? Yep, it was. Turns out there was a mix-up at our pick-up location around half-shares compared to full-shares and some of us half-share folks (like myself) ended up with a full-share, meaning, sadly, some of the full-share people got short-changed. I'm sure the CSA made it up to them somehow. That's the risk of a CSA dropping food off at a location and not having someone from the CSA physically present to manage the pick-ups. On the flip side, live and learn--I suspect they'll send out more information ahead of time to avoid that happen again. And, I'm happy to say, this week's delivery feels far more manageable for me!

So, what happened with last week's (full-share) delivery? 

Roasted kohlrabi

Roasted kohlrabi

Out of the 4 kohlrabi, I've used two so far. They keep well, so I'll be able to use the second two sometime in the next couple of days and be fine. I peeled and diced the kohlrabi, then tossed them in a flavored olive oil I have named "Tuscan Garden," with some salt and pepper, and roasted them in a 400 (or was it 425?) oven for about 25 minutes.  

They were quite good. It's somewhere between a potato and a turnip, I'd say--most of the flavor comes from the seasonings. I'm thinking I'll roast the other two, but then maybe puree them into a soup. On the other hand, what you see in the picture is both kohlrabi, so I'm not quite sure it's enough for a soup--or, at least, not enough to bother with the extra work soup would involve. (That's a turkey burger with goat cheese and roasted red pepper on the right--nummy.) I will say, however, the whole peeling process is a bit tricky as it's a thick skin with pokey things so, forasmuch as I enjoyed the kohlrabi, I'm not sure I'll be out buying them at farmers markets every wek or anything.

I missed the window of opportunity on using the kohlrabi leaves; I'd have had to use them in the first couple of days and just couldn't pull it together to do that. So I can't report on them. 


My daughter used some of the snap peas and garlic scapes in a very tasty fried rice. She also added some red bell pepper we had kicking around. I hadn't added any soy sauce yet when I took this picture--I thought the colors were too pretty to ruin yet. I did, however, add it later; glad my daughter learned how to make fried rice, although I was eating it for a week. (She has the same problem I do of not really knowing how to scale certain dishes for any less than an army.) 

The rhubarb is still sitting in my refrigerator. I'm hoping it's still good; it's just been a lot busier lately than I thought it would be.  

We also still have a lot of snap peas and garlic scapes left, but they're also lasting well. We gave about a third of the snap peas to my mother-in-law, and about half of our apples. I'm still eating apples too. Makes me glad that I'd decided to only pay for the half share this year; if we got that amount of produce every week, we'd be turning green!

Week 2 Delivery

Week 2 delivery

Week 2 delivery

This week, we got (our half-share) delivery that includes: 

1 red leaf lettuce

1 green leaf lettuce

1 bunch radishes

2 zucchini (and so it begins) 

More snap peas

1 basil plant (in a pot) 

2 celtuces

Right. That's not a typo. Celtuces. Never heard of them before. Even the CSA folks said they were new to them too. Apparently they're big in Asia, though (they're also known as "Chinese lettuce"), which means it's quite possible I ate them somewhere along the way and just didn't know it. Here's a link to a description. Apparently you don't eat the leaves so much as the stem. When I looked at them, my first thought was, "I wonder if I could shave this lengthwise and cook it up as shavings?" Sure enough, check out this article from Huffington Post. I really am getting the hang of this cooking thing--woo! So that'll be fun to play with.

The radishes are going straight to my MIL as none of us are radish fans; the basil plant is also going to my MIL because I just put four basils in the ground about three weeks ago here, so I'll be awash in basil in no time. Everything else is going to be used up quite easily, though. Love me some red and green leaf lettuce, and you already know how we feel about snap peas. Although, frankly, we'll probably be glad to see the last of them with all the snap peas we've gotten the last couple of week. 





Monday Musings--UFO Sightings Complete

Actually, I'm not really sure I have anything more to say on this subject. Well, maybe just a little.

First, to recap: Whenever you find yourself thinking of something as a UFO, first make sure it fits your definition of a UFO. Then make sure it's something you really need to finish. Then list out the exact steps, especially the very next action of what you need to do to make progress on completing it. Finally, motivate yourself however you need to motivate yourself to finish it. Does that summarize the last several weeks of posts well enough?

Now, here's the thing: I've done every step of these posts with the exception of deciding which UFO I'm going to tackle next. You see, I just got the first syllabus for my coursework today and, yep, I'm pretty much not going to have time for much else than reading and writing for the next, well, several years. And I'm okay with that. That's simply where my life is at the moment and I choose to accept it gracefully, knowing that I have other focii right now. Could I do the 10-minutes-a-day thing just to get something done? Probably, but do I want to add one more obligatory task to my list just to achieve some sort of fictional finish-count? Nope. I'll be quilty-creative when I need to be for therapy, and I'll finish the couple of giftie things I've mentally committed myself to, but I'm not going to worry about achieving some sort of quantity goal at all.

So, in my long-standing tradition of giving my readers the advice I most need to hear: My last post on the topic of UFOs will be, cut yourself some slack. 

Who says you need to finish all those UFOs in a given time frame? In general, whether we're talking UFOs or new projects or whatever, just cut yourself slack. I too often hear quilters apologize for little they're getting done quilty-wise. What? Apologizing? They look at super-productive quilters and somehow think we're all supposed to measure up. Yes, I've even been guilty of that myself--more than a few times. But here's what I've also had to remind myself: It's not about quantity. You're getting done what you're able to get done or what you want to get done. If you're not getting more done, who cares? There's no Great Big Tally Board in the Sky that you'll be measured against after you're gone. 

If, however, you're feeling sad that you've not gotten enough of a quilty fix in your life, now THAT you need to listen to. Look at your schedule and see if there's a little sliver of time in there somewhere. Or see if there's some other way to be creative that you can more easily fit into your current realities of life (like me and embroidery--it works better for me right now than quilt projects do, so it's what I'm focusing on). 

I'm sure, at several junctures in the next few years of my new phase of life, I'm going to be feeling sad that I don't have the time to get my quilty on. But I'm not going to feel guilty about a lack of productivity. And I want you to hold me to that statement. If you hear me starting to apologize for not getting quilty stuff done, I give you permission to give me the metaphorical cuff upside the head. Just like I'll do for you. Say it with me: I'm cutting myself some slack. Again, louder: I'm cutting myself some slack. One more time, with gusto: I'm cutting myself some slack!

As a side note, cutting myself slack may well mean I'm posting far fewer blog posts in the foreseeable future--well, after this week, anyway; I've got a couple I need to get out given a big finish I just had this weekend! But I'll still be around and likely still as active as ever on Twitter, so keep talking to me!

Progress and Goals--Week of June 14


Last Sunday was my daughter's graduation party and although I kept saying I was keeping it casual, somehow I still ended up on my feet all day. So, no progress and goals post. However, I also have to confess that I hadn't made much progress and I hadn't really achieved many goals, so it's probably not a bad thing I ended up with an extra week to report. 

My goals for the week of May 23* were:

  • Accessories: EIIP Bag--next step.
  • Embroidery: Three butterflies. 
  • Art Quilt: May journal quilt. 
  • UFO: UFO list.
  • Hand-Dyeing/Surface Design: whatever I could do.

*and following, apparently


  • Accessory category: Annie Unrein Bag. Done! Done done done done done done done done! (I'll be doing a blog post with the reveal in another day or two.)
  • Embroidery category: Three butterflies. I got one done, maybe two (difficult to remember now since it's been over a week since I worked on it). Then I got distracted by a new crewel project, which I'm loving. I'm refocusing on the butterflies this week, though. I really do need to finish that project so I can mentally move on.
  • Art Quilt: May Journal Quilt. Technically, this is done. At least, I finished the main point of the project, although I didn't fully finish it. It's not fully finished because I can't really figure out how to do that at the moment, and don't have time to think about it. So it'll be on the "experiment/possible UFO" pile--IOW, I may finish it or not.  I learned what I wanted to learn from it, so we'll see whether I finish it just to have a finish or not.
  • UFO: List is all done, but everything's on hold for a bit since I'm heading into a spate of travel. I'll decide what I want to tackle next once I'm home again.
  • Hand-dyes: Not. I would really like to get back in the dye studio, I just haven't had the time. Possibly in July.

Goals for This Week:

  • Accessories: No goals--putting the other Annie Unrein bag from the class on hold until after travel is done.
  • Embroidery: Three butterflies. Really. Plus, I'm prepping an embroidery project to take with me on my back-to-back road trips; this project has a deadline so I need to ignore other projects for awhile. So this week I need to get the design traced, the ground fabric prepped, and everything packed for travel. (I bought a cosmetics bag at Target to use as an embroidery travel bag--the Annie Unrein EIIP bag is too big to pack easily on my upcoming trips.)
  • Art Quilt: My June journal quilt is the crewel embroidery project, but that's unlikely to get done any time soon, so I probably won't have a June journal quilt. I think I'm okay with that. So, no goals on the art quilt front.
  • UFO: No goals here for this week.
  • Hand-Dyeing/Surface Design: no goals for this week.

This may actually be my last progress and goals post for a few weeks; next week is Father's Day, the week after I'm out of town for work, and the week after I'm out of town again for vacation. So the goals for this week are probably the goals for the better part of the next month!

CSA Tuesday Week 1

Woot! It's the first week of our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) season. This always feels a bit like Christmas every week--I never know what I'm going to get until I go to pick it up.

This week, we received:

  • Four kohlrabi with leaves attached
  • A bundle of rhubarb
  • Some very pretty garlic scapes 
  • A boatload of snap peas
  • A boatload of apples

I was a bit surprised by how much there was in the box: This is only a half share or, as they suggested, enough for 2-3 people. The three of us in our house will be sharing it with a couple of other people as well, I think--I'm sending my daughter over to her grandparents' house tomorrow to share a bit of the bounty. Since I don't have time to can and my freezer's pretty small to start with, it's hard for us to prep things for long-term storage. I have yet to buy the vacuum sealer I keep talking about getting. Maybe this weekend I'll finally get out to take care of that.

I know: apples aren't exactly in season in these parts; I believe they're from the farm's cold storage. I already ate one--very yummy. Not sure what type they are--not an Empire or Macintosh, but somewhere in between, sweetness-wise. My daughter and I also dove into the snap peas pretty fast--we both love to eat them raw. 

What I'm thinking I may do:

  • Kohlrabi:
    • Kohlrabi and apple slaw: I have a few different recipes in various CSA-related cookbooks I bought in previous years, but I've never tried it. Since I have both kohlrabi and apples, seems like a great way to use two CSA products at once. 
    • Roasted kohlrabi: I'm proud of myself because I'd already been thinking, "I bet that would roast up nicely," and then I saw it in one of my cookbooks. Bingo! Guess I'm figuring out some stuff about this cooking gig.
    • Haven't decided about the leaves yet--maybe a soup?
  • Garlic scapes:
    • Garlic scape and potato soup: I'm a big fan of potato soup anyway, so it's not at all a stretch to throw some garlic scapes in there.
    • Stir-fries, of course. 
  • Snap peas:
    • Stir-fries, if any of them make it past my daughter and I munching them raw. I'll also probably be sharing these with my MIL--we really do have a lot.
  • Rhubarb:
    • I'm pondering a cold strawberry-rhubarb soup. The tough one on this is that I'm the only person in the house that likes rhubarb at all, and I really only like it when it's combined with strawberry and baked into a pie. I cannot be eating pie all by myself. Ahem. I'm thinking I may keep a couple of stalks to play with and then share the rest with my MIL. She loves it.
  • Apples:
    • These are easy--we'll mostly just eat them raw although see above reference to the kohlrabi slaw.

Stay tuned to see what actually happens!

If you're curious, here are the cookbooks I got a few years ago when I first started down the CSA road:

(Using these Amazon links does help support this blog, so thanks if you do!)


Monday Musings: UFO Sightings Part 4--Where to Start?

So you've made your list and checked it twice, right?

I know at least some of you have--I've been hearing the reports! Love getting the feedback. I've also gone through my own list and, although I was prepared for this week's post (I do have a bit of an "in" with the blog writer), I still haven't done a bang-up job of attending to this week's assignment in my own life. So we're all in this one together for sure!

Now that you know what your UFOs are, and now that you know which ones you're actually going to commit to finishing (you did knock one or two, if not more, off the list, right?), now it's time to make a plan for finishing!

Rather than just starting at the top of the list and working your way down, I'd suggest you figure out which one you want to finish next using the following criteria:

1. Look for UFOs with built-in deadlines. For example, were you working on a wedding quilt that got set aside, but now the wedding is only a couple of months (or weeks--yikes!) away? This first sub-category--imminent first-run deadlines--is pretty easy to figure out and calendarize, so go there first. The second sub-category is "deadlines that have already been blown." But a deadline can always be reworked in a meaningful way: For example, is that baby who you were working on that baby quilt for about to have their own baby, so maybe that UFO can be repurposed for the next generation? Or could the unfinished high school graduation quilt now perhaps be a wedding or a housewarming gift? I'm not always an advocate of going with deadline-driven UFOs first (see the following categories) but let's face it--some of us work best to a deadline, so if you're that kind of person, give yourself a deadline or two!

2. Look for "Easy Wins." This is actually my favorite category, but it only goes so far. In this category, you find those UFOs that would take you so little work to finish it's actually pretty ridiculous it's still sitting on that dang shelf. Ahem. Sorry--I just let you in on a personal between-me-and-my-UFOs conversation. In any case, if you don't have any seriously imminent deadlines from category 1, this would always be the first place I'd suggest starting. An Easy Win makes you feel great and gets the buzz going. Once you knock out a fast UFO finish, you're gung-ho for the next one. You may not want to knock out all your Easy Wins in a row, though, as you'll then be left with the ones you have to slog through a little more and you'll just stop dead again. Depending on how many EW's you have, maybe you want to knock out one or two, then a longer one, then an other EW, then a longer one...rewarding yourself, as it were. Pretty soon, however, it's likely you'll run out of Easy Wins and you'll only have longer finishes facing you. Which leads me to the next category...

3. Look for the most interesting. Which UFOs still interest or intrigue you in some way? Is there a UFO you really did enjoy working on, but it was just taking longer than you thought so it got set aside, or it got sidelined by other projects that fall under #1 above and just fell off your radar? We're always more motivated to work on projects that keep our interest, so these UFOs are more likely to get finished, even if they're going to take us a little longer. 

4. Look at what's left: The frustrating projects or those that we've just lost interest in. Once again, I'd say that the first step here is to really be sure you actually have to finish these UFOs (see my last blog post). But if they're still on your list for whatever reason, and they don't fit into any of the other three categories above, you may have to really get creative with your own personal mind-games to get yourself to finish UFOS in this category. 

  • Consider revamping your plans. Maybe just considering a different setting or border treatment or embellishment will bump this UFO into category #3. Or simplifying your design will bump it into #2. Or mentally designating it as a gift for someone on your Christmas list will bump it into #1. Look at that UFO and ask yourself, "What gift can I give myself in terms of this UFO? Is there something I could do differently that would make me gung-ho about finishing it?"
  • Turn it into a friendly competition with a friend. Does your BQF (Best Quilty Friend) have a UFO that's working her very last nerve too? Challenge each other to finish your UFO by a certain date, and have the winner take the loser out to lunch. You both got it done? Pay for each other's meal, or take a third friend out and both treat her! Or run a UFO challenge in your guild as I've done a few different years: To join the challenge, each participant gives one fat quarter as a "registration fee" and a list of 10 UFOs they plan to finish in the year. The fat quarters go into a "kitty." I created a spreadsheet with everyone's name and the list, and then we have quarterly check-ins. Anyone who has finished one or more of their UFOs during that quarter gets their name put in for a drawing and the winner gets to pick one fat quarter from the kitty. At the end of the year, anyone who has finished all of their 10 UFOs gets their name put in a drawing of the grand prize--all the remaining fat quarters in the kitty. (I also had a set of sparkly antennae the winner got to wear through the rest of the meeting.) It's great fun, and every time we've done it just about everyone has finished at least half of their UFO list--several people finished all of them!
  • Reward yourself. Figure out a treat you can give yourself when the UFO is completed--beyond just being able to mark it as done on your list. Get a pedicure or massage, make your significant other take you to dinner and a movie, go for a really long walk in a beautiful park, spend a lazy afternoon with a good novel...I suppose your reward could even be buying more fabric, although most of us are trying to finish up UFOs as part of an overall stash-busting scheme so if that's your reward, on your own head be it.

So, using these categories, your challenge this week is to choose which UFO you're going to work on next. (If you're already working on a UFO, great! Decide which one you're going to tackle after this one.) 

The problem I've been having lately is that I've been bouncing around a bit in terms of which UFOs I want to finish next. I've probably had three or four rotate on and off my design wall as I'm pondering one or the other. I think doing the Annie Unrein bag is scattering my brain in other places. Fortunately, this week and the coming weekend are fairly clear so I have hopes of once again making some progress... to me!

Fight the Funk Friday

Sorry, I missed Thinkin' about It Thursday again. When I've got stuff happening on Wednesday evening I'm in trouble. Sorry about that!

Meanwhile, not a whole lot to post about today on the fitness front. I'm still doing PT and, in fact, we had a bit of a set-back this week. We think we may have figured out what happened, but suffice it to say that my knee had felt pretty good going into PT and then we did something during my appointment that angered it. Oops.


My PT decided to use this ultrasound thingie on my knee to try to keep it from swelling up or something (still not entirely sure what it was doing, but it felt good, so okay), and then a honkin' big mother-of-an-ice pack for the last 10 minutes of the appointment. 

My knee was pretty stiff the rest of the day. I iced it two more times.

That was yesterday. Today it's feeling much better though I'm still being a little careful. I'm about to leave for a canal walk with the Doofus; I'll reserve judgment on whether I want to just stick to a walk or do my Zombies 5K training. I'm still only on week 1 so it's pretty low-key. It also depends on what it feels like when I leave the house. We had thunderstorms move through earlier and, although it's now bright and sunny, I suspect it'll be a steam bath out there. Blech.

I'm not upset about having triggered my knee at PT. In fact, if you're going to trigger it, that's the place to do it. Since I've had what felt like random flare-ups periodically over the last few months, we're now starting to narrow in what causes those flare-ups, which will help me either avoid the position/motion that triggers it or we'll be able to fine-tune my strengthening exercises, or both. I've now got about a half-hour of PT exercises to do every day. Who needs the gym?

Another "good for me move" was that I went to my WW meeting this week even though I'd done so little in the past week to warrant even bothering to get on the scale. Stayed the same, which was only indicative that I truly am in eating habits, even if not the healthiest ones. It's a new week, though--already planned out as many of my meals as I can (I have a couple of unpredictable random events going on this week). Tonight DD and I are hauling out the refrigerator and pantry--partly to make room for stuff for her grad party we're throwing on Sunday, and partly because they're both driving me nuts. I had them organized once. Then other people got involved. Sigh. Once it's cleaned out, I'm planning on setting it up for the best health success possible. (To whit: DD asked me to buy her bagels this week--I got her ones I dislike so I won't be tempted. She likes all those weird flavors, go figure.)

By the way, DD's Oreos are now gone. Best not to talk about it.

On a happy note: My CSA starts next week! Woot! First pick-up is Tuesday. I'll have to figure out how I'm going to do the CSA posts this year now that "Food Friday" has been replaced with "Fight the Funk Friday." Maybe Harvest Wednesday? Any ideas, folks? 


Monday Musings: UFO Sightings Part 3--Stitch It or Ditch It?

Sorry, couldn't resist tossing a little gimmicky rhyme in there. 

Okay, some of you have been whining...I mean...commenting about the fact that I made you face up to your UFOs this past week. It's rarely fun to make the list, right? Sometimes we're in for some unpleasant surprises when we really pull all those bins off our shelves or turn the light on in the corner closet. But still--really!--it's a liberating moment. The first step to solving the problem is admitting you have one, right? Tee hee. 

But I kept reassuring y'all--just wait until Monday. Today we make it all better. Or, at least, we start making it more sane.

This week, we're going to look at our UFO lists, I mean really look at them, and make some judgment calls.  This post is a little on the long side because we have to deal with some real baggage here. So, let's just start by saying...

You know, it is permissible not to finish a UFO.

I know, I know--trust me. I've heard it. "But that's a waste of time and fabric!" "But I spent so much on the supplies for that!" "But I just don't feel right if I have a loose end!"

I'm a loose-end kinda gal, myself. I like things to be completed, I like to get to the end of the story. However, there are a couple of things I've had to teach myself the last few years:

1. Is this my story, or someone else's story?

2. What is the story that needs to be finished?

3. Who needs to finish the story?

4. And what about the trash can?

Let's take #1 first: Is this my story, or someone else's story?

I'm talking here about obligation quilt projects. We probably all know what these are: the quilts someone has asked us to make--that someone having no idea whatsoever what it actually takes to make a quilt. They have no concept of the amount of work or expense that goes into them. This does not make them bad or inconsiderate people. It just makes them non-quilters. (We create this atmosphere ourselves, by the way, when we pass off a compliment on a quilt with, "Oh, it's nothing special," or "just something I whipped together." We're better off saying, "yeah, that puppy just about killed me but I persevered!" Don't be afraid of letting people know how much work goes into these things!)

There are also the obligation quilt projects we put on ourselves. We intend to make a baby quilt for our co-worker's son and his wife--we've never met them, but we really like our co-worker, so we want to do something nice for the new grandma. We start the quilt, and now said baby is starting kindergarten and the quilt is still half-done on our shelves. Or we start a quilt for a donation project and lose steam, or for a fundraiser, or for whatever.

One of the last projects I did for someone else on request: It was fun, but boy did it stress me out!

One of the last projects I did for someone else on request: It was fun, but boy did it stress me out!

I have more difficulty with the second category than the first, only for the reason that I rarely agree to make a quilt for anyone at their request anymore. I did it a few times in my earlier years. I enjoyed doing those projects at some level, but I also stressed out about them far more than any other quilts I'd made for my own enjoyment. I felt perpetually guilty about how long it was taking me because of my work/travel schedule; those projects hung over my head like anvils until I could finally get them done. Fortunately in my case, all the recipients seemed to really appreciate their projects (I know one is still hanging in her living room since I see it every time I go over there). I know for a lot of quilters, however, that's not always the case--there are definitely some horror stories out there of what's happened when a quilter has gifted something to someone and it's not received in the way we'd all hope. In any case, I'm currently working under different guidelines--it may make me sound like Bad Quilter Lady, but I no longer offer/agree to make anything for anyone, unless it's contributing a block to a group project; and even then, I take a careful look at my schedule before saying yes. I just have to face reality--I just don't have the time right now.

An example of one of my "mental obligation" UFOs

An example of one of my "mental obligation" UFOs

My difficulty tends to be more when I mentally connect a project with a particular person--they don't know I've done so, they've not asked for it, they have no idea I'm working on anything for them--it's just me in my head, thinking, "Oh, this would be great for so and so." That makes it almost as binding a commitment to me as if I had told them I was making it, or they'd asked me for it. This is the type of story I need to learn to release. If they have no idea it's coming, and if I get to the point where it's just unreasonable for me to feel like I can finish it, what's the harm in letting it go? I just need to get over myself.

So--the question to ask ourselves here is, "is this my story" (in other words, something I really want to do myself), or "is this someone else's story" (in other words, something someone else has asked me to do). If the answer is the first, the corollary question is, "do I still want to be part of this story or am I ready to move on?" If the answer is the second, the corollary question is, "if I didn't finish this, what would be the worst that would happen?" My guess is, if someone has asked you to make a quilt and you go back to them and say, "You know, my schedule/responsibilities are different now than when I agreed to do this, and I just don't think I can finish it," they may be a little disappointed, of course, but they're not going to open a can of whup-*ss on you. In fact, they may completely understand and actually feel a little badly if they knew it was causing you so much angst in the first place and be happy to release you from the obligation.

Yes, most of the quilts in this category you may still choose to finish, and that's absolutely fine. I'm not saying not to! I'm just saying, as in all things, assess the need carefully. 

#2: What is the story that needs to be finished?

Several of my UFOs fall into the category of class projects or homework projects I worked on in my design study group; some are simply things I started on my own. They were projects I undertook to learn something new, to experiment with a concept, or to push my own envelope. They were incomplete because (1) I learned what I wanted to learn, (2) my experiment didn't turn out the way I'd hoped, or (3) my envelope, duly pushed, now sent me in other directions and other projects.

These are not projects I really need to finish. Their "story" was to teach me something, and I learned that something. There's no additional learning to be gained from finishing these projects. I may keep them around as reference, but I don't need to keep them around as UFOs. I can now mentally re-categorize them and move on.

Do you have projects kicking around from that class you took five years ago that you've never finished? Ask yourself: Do you really need to? Do you really want to? Or are you feeling like you should finish it just because we're supposed to finish things?

#3: Who needs to finish this story?

So you have a UFO that needs to be finished--who says you're the one that has to finish it? There are some people who get a big kick out of finishing other people's UFOs. By passing one of your UFOs along, you may well be providing someone else with hours of entertainment. You may be providing someone else with something they can practice their own techniques on: For example, maybe they want a "low commitment" project to practice their free motion quilting skills; if they haven't put all the time into making the quilt top, they're likely to feel more free to mess up the quilting. Or, maybe they want to play around with over-dyeing and surface design techniques and turn it all sorts of interesting colors. 

Of course, that means you need to give up all control about how it's finished. That queen-sized UFO may end up being several totebags and placemats by the end. But at least it's no longer on your list and someone else has had a great time playing with it. 

One of Mom's UFOs I did finish

One of Mom's UFOs I did finish

When my mother passed away, I went through all her UFOs to decide which I was actually going to take on myself; I was pretty careful, but I still ended up with a sizable number. (I did get those all done!) I let her friends go through the rest, and they each took a couple. I then took the remainder into my guild and put them up for grabs--I didn't go home with anything left in my bag.* My guild buddies were pleased to have this new opportunity for fun and games! As for my own UFOs, I'm fortunate that I do have a couple of friends who enjoy completing UFOs, so I recently handed off a couple. I pulled them out of my totebag with an apologetic look and mumbled words of, "If you don't want it, that's fine, I'll figure something else out." Their eyes lit up and they practically grabbed them out of my hands. "Ooh--this'll be fun!" So next time I know to be less apologetic about it.

Look at your UFOs--are there some that you may be willing to release to the wild? Maybe you could even make a game of it: Put each one in a brown paper bag and challenge your guild friends to each take a bag and convert the UFO into something different--if it was originally a wallhanging, turn it into a totebag; if it was originally a totebag, repurpose it into a tea cozy...etc. Set a deadline and let the fun begin!

#4: That Oft-Maligned Trash Can

Some of you just shuddered, I can feel it from my house. There's a rule in the quilt world that it's Terribly Wasteful to Throw Out Fabric. I might as well be thrown in quilt jail for even suggesting such a thing.

All I can say is, there are some projects I've tossed and then danced a happy dance around the trash can. There's something completely liberating about demolishing a UFO. I reserve this for those projects that caused me unwarranted frustration and angst, that I'd be embarrassed to have anyone else be witness to, or that just cause my stomach to twist whenever I look at them. I just have to purge them from my life. 

It's cleansing. Try it.

Assignment for this week

So, this week, I want you to assess each one of your UFOs and honestly--completely and totally honestly--determine if you actually (1) want or (2) need to finish it. If it's a project for someone else, why isn't it done yet? Could you talk to that person about the consequences of not finishing it? If it's a project for you, does it really need to be finished or, at least, does it need to be finished by you? 

I'd actually already gone through my list a couple of months ago and found two projects to give away to others, and trashed a couple of other ones. I still plan on going through the list again to see if there are others I could "off." So I'm with you in this!

See if you can't decrease your list by at least one UFO--maybe more!

*One of Mom's UFOs did come back home to live with me. One of my BFF/BQFs, Lori, finished it and gave it back to me as a gift a couple of years after I'd done the UFO-giveaway. Mom's original UFO was actually round--or hexagonal or whatever. I think she intended to complete it as a table cover. Lori finished it as a wallhanging and gifted it to me; it now hangs over the bed in my guest room. So, see? There is a happy ending for UFOs sent off to live in other people's houses!

Progress and Goals--Week of May 31, 2015

Can you see all the cotton from the trees on the surface of the canal? What doesn't show in this picture is the massive amounts of it also floating in the air like snow. We've officially entered one of my two worst allergy seasons of the year (the other one is the end of August). Getting in two solid canal walks on Friday and Saturday felled me today. Consequently, the super-productive weekend I was looking forward to was only half as productive as I'd hoped. Still n' all, I did get some stuff done.

My goals for the week of May 23 were:

  • Accessories: EIIP Bag: at least the next step done.
  • Embroidery: Three butterflies.
  • Art Quilt: May journal quilt
  • UFO: UFO list
  • Hand-Dyeing/Surface Design: Maybe.


It's the vinyl that's gettin' me down...

It's the vinyl that's gettin' me down...

  • Accessory category: Annie Unrein Bag. If you listened to last night's podcast episode, you know where I stand on this. If you didn't listen to it, you nicely avoided a bit of a rant. This project is still working my very last nerve, but I did complete the next step yesterday, which was a fairly hefty one. Actually, this time around I avoided breaking out in not-so-pleasant-language, which is probably about the best I can hope for at this point. I think I still have three or four steps left to go. Unfortunately, I spent my best sewing-room-time this afternoon in bed with a swimmy-head. I knew I shouldn't tackle the bag when I was already feeling stupid. So this project is still a WIP, but I did achieve my goal for the week. So there's that.
Mountmellick Stitch (outline) and Lazy Daisy.

Mountmellick Stitch (outline) and Lazy Daisy.

  • Embroidery category: Three butterflies. I got about 1 1/2 done again, although embroidery is the perfect project for a swimmy head. Slow and repetitious is about all I can handle today, so I got a couple more outlines done earlier today when I wasn't feeling up to much else, and will be working on it again this evening. I may actually get those three butterflies done today. Part of what's taking me so long is I'm tending to now choose more complicated stitches. You can't see it too well in this photo, but the outline stitch here is a variation on a buttonhole stitch that makes more of a triangle shape to each stitch--it's the Mountmellick stitch (I picked it up from Mary Corbet's website It's  beautiful, but it has five steps to each stitch. Doing it on both wings of one butterfly took me through two episodes of a Netflix original series. This ain't speedy work.
  • Art Quilt: May Journal Quilt. I got more done on this, although it's yet to be finished because I ran into hooping issues. For some unknown reason, I have a couple of 8" embroidery hoops in my house--no idea when or why I got them, but they're what I've been using. It hadn't entirely sunk in yet that there may be other sizes. When I get to the edges of this design (which I sketched way too close to the edge--there's a learning moment for you), I was having problems figuring out how to keep a fairly delicate fabric in place when it no longer fit the hoop. Going without the hoop wasn't working with this fabric, either. After watching a lesson in Jessica Marquez's Craftsy class (see my review here), I realized I could get a smaller hoop, so I had to pause until I could run to Joanns. I now own several more sizes of hoops and am back to work on this project. I'm still too close to the edge, but at least now I can fudge it better.
  • UFO: Double-check UFO list. Done. It was already complete, which was good to confirm.
  • Hand-dyes: Maybe. Or maybe not. 

Goals for This Week:

  • Accessories: EIIP Bag. Pft.
  • Embroidery: Two butterflies. I'm knocking it down by a 'fly this week because I've got two evening conference calls and a third night I'm out at a meeting. I may be able to do a little embroidery while on one of the calls, but not on the other; I doubt I'll haul all my stuff to my meeting. Plus, since I'm doing Myra Wood's Bead Embroidery class on Craftsy now, I'm starting to incorporate yet more steps into some of the butterflies. I just can't leave well enough alone.
  • Art Quilt: May journal quilt. This will get finished this week. And now I have to start thinking about June's journal quilt.
  • UFO: This week's goal is related to my Monday Musings post for tomorrow, so stay tuned.
  • Hand-Dyeing/Surface Design: no goals this week. I've got a quilt class on Saturday and my daughter's grad party on Sunday next weekend, so it's no time to dye. (Ar ar ar.)