Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's Done! (Well, almost.)

Alrighty then. After much, much, much practice ripping out seams (at least 100 of those border rows got ripped and resewn), the top for the Kaffe Fassett scrappy quilt is done. It needs a name, and it needs to be sandwiched and quilted, but I think I have to do a little drawing for the quilting on the top before I sandwich it.

Not sure what I'm going to do, but I figure that, at the moment, there are 2 quilts ahead of this one in the quilting queue that also need to be sandwiched, so I've got plenty of time to mull this one over. I definitely want to enter it in the County Fair, which is mid-August, so that would mean I've got until the last week of July to figure it out (ha ha!)

As I was nearing the end of the massive undertaking of ripping out quarter inch seams to replace them with SCANT (tattoo reminder) seams, in order to match up those little squares with the larger squares of the inner border,  I did a little look-see through the stash to see if I had anything that would work for the #Aurifil Designer Block of the Month. I pulled these Shades of Black from Moda half yards from my gray stash and went through my 'red and white quilt of the future' stash and pulled out a few red with an orange cast half yards. For the background, I just happened to have 8 yards of Moda Bella Solid Bleached White (which is a light cream) that I was saving for the Esther Aliu BOM which I may opt out of (I haven't started it yet and it is some intense hand applique, not to mention I've got AT LEAST 5 other unfinished/in progress applique quilts to finish).

These are my first blocks for this quilt. Very modern, don't you think? I made two of the blocks because I really like spool blocks, and without knowing what the rest of the blocks look like, I can always duplicate blocks I like in the overall quilt instead of making blocks that don't appeal to me. And I wanted to use all 8 fabrics that I picked out on spools.

And since I'm hanging out on the Pat Sloan Facebook Page where this project is somewhat headquartered, I decided that I would also make Pat Sloan's BOM, Globetrotter. WTH! What's one more unfinished internet BOM project in the studio closet, I ask. :-)

I like working on a project with a hundred other quilters where you post photos and people comment, and ask questions, and make suggestions, and offer encouragement.  What really inspired me to join this project is that I have 'Make a Quilt of Valor' on my 2014 'Quilty Things I Want To Do' list, so if I used those random Patriotic FQs I had on this quilt's center medallion, I could kill two birds with one stone.

This will be my first Quilt of Valor. We'll have to see how it all comes together as not only do I have no idea what the next block will look like, but I'm fresh out of the fabrics I used in the block above. Should be interesting!

And finally, with Mardi Gras around the corner, I NEEDED a new pincushion. So in between ripping out seams on Sunday I whipped out this one. The crown is a metal votive holder. I thought the fabric (leftover from a Guild challenge from a few years ago) added a rather 'royal' touch.

Well, I've got a busy, busy day today. In addition to working both jobs, our houseguests are returning tomorrow afternoon (my motivator to wash floors and shampoo carpet today), so I'd better get to work.

Check back tomorrow evening. I need your help. I want to know what you think of my fabric choices for a workshop I'm attending on Sunday.

Enjoy your Thursday!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Charity for the Classroom - Check Out Donors Choose

 Classroom Photo

For this post, I just want to give a little shameless promotion to my daughter's fundraising efforts on behalf of her 4th grade classroom.

I thought it was pretty neat that there is a fundraising site on the web for teachers to put in requests for items they need to provide a better education for their students. Our schools across the country are underfunded and understaffed. My daughter has been teaching for 8 years now and she and her fellow teachers spend hundreds of unreimbursed dollars out of their own pocket for classroom items every year. is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Teachers ask. You choose. Oprah featured this organization last's a short video on the concept of the Donors Choose organization:

Speaking of my daughter's project, if she could just reach 1500 people and each one of those people donated a dollar, she could purchase 6 iPads to use in her classroom (because every one of those dollar donations would be matched if the donor uses the code INSPIRE when they donate through February 5th.) 

It was interesting looking at some of the other requests for funding on the site...there's a teacher looking to buy enough copies of a novel for his's a brilliant way for a teacher to obtain needed items when they're constrained by underfunded school budgets.

If you're looking for ways to help your local educators, ask a teacher. As a quilter, you've got a cashless resource that would be greatly appreciated. Art teachers would love to have your fabric scraps, yarn scraps and buttons and thread (and any craft supplies you no longer use). The arts are the first programs cut by every school system when funding is tight.

Another non-cash idea....instead of sending those ink cartridges from your office back to HP in their prepaid labeled box (for which you get nothing in return), sign up for a Staples Rewards acccount and drop them off at Staples. You can turn in 10-20 per month and Staples will give you $2 in store credit for each cartridge you recycle. Those credit vouchers are good for 2 months after issuing, so save up a couple and hand them to a teacher to purchase classroom supplies.

Every Fall I put together a box full of school supplies for each student in my daughter's class and donate it, as our County school system no longer allows teachers to send home a 'required' supply list each school year because so many parents just don't have the means to provide these items for multiple children. It's fun...I hit the 1 cent sales at the office supply stores through the summer, and the various sales at Walmart and Target right before school starts. I've found that I can outfit a class of 24 with pencils, gluesticks, rulers, crayons, spiral notebooks, scissors, notebook paper, folders, and red pens for less than $50 with some saavy shopping (and a bit of running around).

Now, it's been a very cold winter here and when the Polar Vortex first moved in, it became evident early on that many of the students at my daughter's school had no coats (they were coming to school in hoodies when the temperature outside was 14 degrees), one of the teachers took home the lost and found box, washed everything in it and stood at the door the next morning handing warm winter items to children without them as they arrived.  When I heard this, the lightbulb went on.

I've been in KMart at the end of winter, and they are virtually giving away kids coats for $5 and $10 each. I figured that my daughter has enough of my school supplies stockpiled in her classroom closet to get through the next year or so, so this year I'm going to scoop up some of those sale rack coats for the kids next winter. 

And I could even  pick up fleece from JoAnn when it's on clearance (with a coupon, of course), and make no-sew scarves.

Anyway, I'll step off my soapbox now. Heartfelt thanks for considering making a donation of some type to schools, be it to my daughter's or the one up the street from you. Not just me, but teachers (and their students) everywhere thank you.

Tomorrow I'll be back with lots to show of the projects I'm working on (the top of the scrappy quilt is finished....yay!)

Stay warm, and stay safe...and you Southerners who never see ice or snow...STAY OFF THE ROAD! :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Last of the Studio Pix

Here's some random shots from the studio that didn't make it into the last couple of posts.

Iron organization. One shelf in the armoire is dedicated to 'fabric care'. For a person who loathes to iron, I've certainly got some serious machinery. That's the Oliso on the left and next to it is a Reliable. Love them both, occasionally (twice a year) use them on clothes that need to come out of the bottomless pit I call my ironing basket. (If I heeded my own advice about ridding myself of 'things' that haven't been used for 2 years, I wouldn't even have an ironing basket!).

One of the shelves of pincushions on display.

Just some random (but well-coordinated) items I found to display in this small wall cube. That's a very old wooden spool of button thread, one of my needlepoint needles from the 1970s, and a little doll that my daughter played with when she was 2 (I plucked it out of an old typesetters case full of little trinkets that's lived under the armoire in our bedroom for the past 8 years or so (for safekeeping/lack of better place to put it). Funny how I knew exactly where to find that doll when I put that cube together.


While I would love to have the Ikea hexagon clock (I'm far too lazy to drive to the nearest Ikea just for that), I had this old wall clock (a promotional item from a pharmaceutical company) hanging in my workroom. I just opened it up, slipped in a piece of 'quilty' scrapbook paper cut into a circle, and wah la! spiffy studio clock.

Every once in a while I slip into eBay (also known as let's buy things we really don't need) mode. Somehow I tripped over these old 'Sewing Susan' needle kits. I bought a couple and displayed them in an inexpensive frame from Michaels--more studio 'art'.

Even the tops of the bookshelves and studio furniture are display spaces. They are also the places I keep 'the poinsettias that won't die'.

This one is 3 or 4 years old. They won't die, and they don't flower. I have no idea why I've kept them. I will tell you this....the 11 poinsettias I acquired this season were not so fortunate.

I don't know about you, but I'm a sucker for decorative boxes. Always have been. This stack holds various fabrics and the 'carry all' at the top was something I bought to cart Vintage Rouge around while it was under construction. You can pick these up at Michaels, JoAnn, Tuesday Morning, Marshalls, Old Time Pottery.....they're all over, and always on sale. Colorful, decorative, stackable storage, that you can use anywhere in your home. And bonus...they keep your fabric away from the dust and the light.

You don't have to go out and spend money on 'fun' decorative boxes. Keep your eyes open for free ones. (Did you know that a lot of appliquers will ask their local pizza joint for a free clean pizza box or two---these are the perfect size for holding their Baltimore applique blocks). This large, sturdy box comes from one of our local Mexican restaurants. (They cater the occasional lunch at our office and this is what the food containers arrive in...I snag the clean boxes when I can).

It's the prefect storage space for my not quite started applique quilt called 'Fiesta'. (Seriously! How appropriate is that box!!)

And finally, no creative space is complete without a little fairy to add some magic. My disheveled fairy has an affinity for thread. (Who doesn't).

That about wraps it up for organization tips and studio pix. I hope I've entertained you, and I especially hope I was able to share a couple of tips that will work as well for you as they do for me.

I took vacation days today and tomorrow to clean the rest of the house, finish putting away Christmas, and welcome some out of town guests who are spending the night on Thursday. After that  it's nose to the grindstone and back to some serious sewing. I'll be back to share my progress once I've made some.

Enjoy your week, stay warm, and stay creative.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Love Where You Work

And you'll love what you do.

Your workspace doesn't have to be all about form and function. I like to think that if you surround yourself with pretty things, it's an inspiration to make pretty things.

One of my favorite (and most inspirational) 'decorations' in my studio is this Hawaiian applique pillow cover that I picked up on a business trip to Honolulu that the hubs had framed for me.

And I also enjoy the paper 'quilts' I created when I first became a quilter, to test out two quilt projects I wanted to undertake:
This one tested my theory about strip piecing on a foundation to create a false border.
And this one was what I thought Ricky Tims' 'Conversion quilting' might have been, before my book arrived (clearly it is not what Ricky had in mind, but I really liked the outcome of this and plan to put this to the fabric test in a Victoria Findlay Wolfe workshop next month).

It wasn't expensive to pick up a couple of matted frames from Michaels, use a piece of handmade paper for a background and turn them into wall art.

In addition to the many decorative accents I have filled my workspace with, I have also found a way to display some of my everyday items in an artful way.

I've put these little display cubes and some extra spice jars to use holding different types of interesting pins (which are mostly for use in my pincushion collection).

We've all got those hard to store items on hand....Wonder Under, 6 different types of stabilizers for embroidery, freezer paper, fusible grids, exam paper to free motion quilt through, clear plastic....the rolls are all different sizes and don't fit in any existing drawers, so what to do?
If you're me, you've scrounged up some cylindrical vases, swapped out their rubber bands for ribbons and tucked them into a corner. (And I'm tossing empty thread spools into the clear container as an additional decorative element--at least until some art or preschool teacher has a need for spools).

It's probably safe to say that we can all lay our hands on a basket or two, right? Especially now, after Christmas...from the pears Aunt Rose sent, or that the Hickory Farms cheese spread that came to the office. Instead of tossing them in the kitchen cabinet to use next time you serve bread for dinner, stuff them full of the fabrics and pattern for upcoming projects. Tuck them into empty spaces on bookshelves, or in the closet, or just set them on your sewing table.

Much prettier than random stacks of blocks, or plastic grocery bags of projects. And as a side benefit (trust me on this), it's a lot easier to keep your workspace clean and organized when you've got good (and pretty) places to keep your stuff.

Create a space you want to be in. Make it pretty, functional, and clutter-free. Keep it neat. When I'm done for the day, I tidy up. Scissors back in the spinner, rotary cutters in their storage box, project I'm working on back in the basket it came out of. I wouldn't leave the mess from tonight's dinner out on the counters, the table, the stove, and the dishes in the sink when I'm done, so why would I treat this workspace any differently?

It's a great feeling to open the door to my studio in the morning and see everything's in it's place, the sun is streaming in, and my favorite collectibles are on display. It makes me want to spend the day sewing. It's my favorite room in the house.

How about yours?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Practical Studio Storage

Let's start with some of my favorite practical storage ideas:

I subscribe to a half dozen or so of the quilt magazines. These inexpensive cardboard magazine files from Ikea keep the titles neat and close at hand on a bookshelf. You could cover these with scrapbook paper to make them pretty (I did that with my last set).

When I'm reading a magazine I use Post It flags to mark the pages for projects that I might want to make in the future. I'll write a brief description on the flag to make it easier to find what I'm in the mood to work on (modern, applique, table runner...).
My favorite way to store the rulers I use most often are the grooved wood ruler racks. These are inexpensive and can be found at JoAnn and most of the larger quilt shows. I've stored 20 of my most-used rulers (12 in the long rack and 8 in the small one on the corner of the table) in just 4" of space on my cutting table. The rulers I don't use as often (Dresden templates, Xblocks, Dear Jane... can be found, along with their instructions, in a zipper bag underneath the cutting table.

I like to work efficiently,  and to accomplish this I want my tools close at hand and located in the place I go to use them. Obviously the rulers will be found on the cutting table, as will the rotary cutters.

This unobtrusive little box is where I stash my 6 rotary cutters, a slew of replacement blades, an Xacto knife, and ...... a handful of bandages. It sits on the cutting table where these tools are used.

I'm fortunate to have a large sewing table, but it doesn't have any drawers. Not a fan of clutter, I found one storage solution that handles everything I need to sew with:

I found this spinning storage piece in the scrapbooking department at Michaels. It's got hooks for my small scissors, multiple compartments to hold my larger scissors, stilettos, seam rippers, sewing machine cleaning brushes, reading glasses, TV remotes, etc.  It's also got 3 drawers where I keep various sewing machine needles. Love it, and very reasonably priced--well under $20 (with a coupon).

I work so much more efficiently when I don't have all these little tools strewn all over my sewing surface, hidden under fabric and instruction sheets that I'm using. It's nice to be able to lay a hand on that seam ripper the minute I need it (which can be quite often on some of my projects ).

I'm a big fan of the concept of 'multipurpose', particularly as it applies to storage. Check back tomorrow and I'll share ways I've found to turn some of my storage into decorative accents in the studio.

A pretty workplace is a productive workplace!

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Day of RE -- Studio Organization Tips

Yesterday was my annual  'RE' day in the in REorganizing, REarranging, REvising, REviewing, REevaluating, REfolding, REsearching, REviving, REthinking, REflecting (you get the point). It's something I like to do when I clear out the Christmas decorations and start putting back the regular things I had packed away to make room for Christmas.

My tip for successful organization is to take the time to evaluate how you work/live/play and what you need to do so and then arrange your space and materials in the most productive and pleasing manner for your own personal needs.  A good mantra to adopt when doing this is 'cluttered space = cluttered mind'.

Don't be afraid to remove what you don't use on a regular basis. I'm not saying throw it out (though if you haven't used it for a couple of years you really need to seriously ask yourself if you will ever use this item), just clear it out of your space. Put it all in a box in the attic/basement--and write today's date on that box. After a year (or two),  realize that what's in that box clearly isn't something you need taking up space in your life. Get rid of it! (Donate it, have a yard sale, take the box to your next Guild meeting and write 'Freebies' on it--someone, somewhere wants, and will use and will appreciate what's in that box. Everyone wins.)
What's the worst that happens? You suddenly decide that now you have an immediate and urgent need for that safety pin closer that sat in your studio for 5 years and in the box in the basement for 2? Go buy a new one (and on your way to JoAnn, do yourself a huge favor, and ask yourself if you really do need to buy this item again.)

Face it, we all buy notions that purport to be the next best quilting tool, only to get them home, and try them out and find that they just don't work for our needs. Maybe we prefer to make our HST's the old-fashioned way and not with Thangles....or we're perfectly happy folding our squares in half and stitching and don't need those special tools we bought that are used to draw the fold line and then draw the stitching lines.  It's okay to let them go. Really.

But sometimes, we need/want/collect multiples of notions that we just can't see letting go of...buttons, pins, scissors. Obviously, I have an affinity for marking pencils (among other items). Clearly, I could evaluate this collection gathered from various drawers, tool caddies, baskets throughout the studio and toss out a few, but rather than 'sweat the small stuff', I've repurposed a small storage box and tossed them all together in one place. 

They all fit into my container of choice, so it's okay that I didn't spend an hour testing them out and 'culling the herd'. The next time I'm marking something and find that one of these pencils doesn't erase, or has dried up, or just doesn't show up on fabric, I'll toss it out. In the meantime, when I need to mark something I need to check one space for all of my options. And most importantly, when I'm finished marking, I will put that marker back where I found it.

(While we're on the subject of marking pencils, let me give you a helpful tip regarding the type that contain a liquid ink. Leave them in their original packaging until you are ready to use them. And once you do use them, store them in an air-tight zip storage bag. It will prolong the ink from drying up.)

As you look around your space and think that organizing it would be an overwhelming and impossible task, remember that small steps will get you where you need to go. Empty a drawer, or clear off a closet shelf. 'Cull the herd', so to speak. (Place an empty box in the corner for what's not going back into the studio, along with a trash can for what's not short-term storage/donation worthy) Now evaluate that empty space and decide what will be the best use for it. If it's a drawer in your sewing table, you'll want to use it to store the items you use regularly. If it's a shelf in a dark closet it's a perfect place for fabric--shielding it from light and dust. Gather those items, 'cull the herd', containerize them (a must if they are small and numerous), and place them in their new home. One small step for you to undertake, and a giant leap toward studio organization. 

Stand back and admire your efforts. Tomorrow is another day. Check back for more tips.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

For your entertainment

They used this song in a presentation about preparing your quilts for long-arm quilting at our Guild meeting last night.


Monday, January 6, 2014

More 'Loose Guidelines'

As part of 2014's 'Loose Guidelines' for a Happy Life, I've also been thinking that it's time to start to deplete some of the stash I've been laying in, like a squirrel hoarding nuts.

Yes, I have a 'good deal' of fabric, but I'm sure there are lots of you that have WAY more fabric than I have (don't lie, I've seen your blogs). My problem is that with so much great fabric coming on the market every season, I can't keep up. I buy it with the best intentions, and it gets stashed here

And there

If it's not earmarked for one of those quilts I've seen in a magazine that I HAVE TO MAKE (note flagged pages)

it's stashed with a pattern in little baskets all over the studio, wherever I can find space--in this case hanging from a closet rod.

Let's not forget the projects that have already been started and pushed aside when I grew bored of them (some days I have the attention span of a 4-year old).

(Oooh....that's my Gylene Fitzgerald Pineapple quilt....I should finish that one!)

Taking a look around, I'm thinking that 2014 is a good year to finish up one or two projects already started, and to use some of my existing stash on one or two of those flagged magazine pages.

I'm sure I'll still manage to acquire some fabulous new fabric--after all, I do consider my stash as my fabric 401K (for my future retirement), --but I'm going to make a conscious effort to empty a couple of those cubbies under the cutting table this year to make room for some of those irresistible new fabrics coming out this year.

And I'm gonna start by emptying this box first...

Let's see how many 'preemie' quilts I can make out of these flannels for the local hospital's neonatal unit. Care to wager a guess?