Thursday, December 29, 2016

Planning for 2017 - Simply Specific

Before I could decide on what my quilting goals would be for 2017, I needed to look back and see how I did his past year. Not much changed since my mid-year review in July. In fact, the only thing that changed was some more home decor sewing.

It's only taken me 3 years now to realize that I've been I've been approaching my sewing and quilting goals all wrong. I am a detail-oriented person. When a director said "I want Peter Pan to fly across the stage..." it was my job as a stage manager to make sure all of the specific details happened (platforms in place backstage, regulation tested rigging, union stagehands trained specifically in actor flight, costume harnesses, etc.)  and not just leave it as a vague idea. In wanting to give myself creative flexibility I essentially left my goals too vague for me to take action on in a meaningful way.

So here is the 2017 strategy - Simplified goals that are much more specific:

Focus on Current WIPs (in order of importance):

  • BB-8 quilt - I really wanted this for Christmas for my son, but since he didn't know about it in the first place, I'm okay that I didn't finish it. The new deadline for this is for his birthday in March.
  • Stash Bee 2017 quilt - technically it's not a WIP yet - I have 1 block made but it won't be revealed until January 1st on the Stash Bee blog. The blocks I get from this bee are going to be made into a lap quilt for my cousin who is getting married in March.
  • Aspen Frost Jubilee Quilt - this was an orphan block project that I adopted a few months ago from  Libby at Life on the Hill. Between finishing up all the Pulse quilts I got the sashing started but still need to get those blocks put together. This project has been an orphan long enough.
  • Pinwheel Wedding Quilt - add outer border and quilt by the end of the year (actual wedding is still TBD so there is no rush on this finish). Possibly quilt this on my DSM, although it's a bit big. Could be good practice with ruler work.
  • Midnight Mystery Quilt - needs to be quilted on a long arm. This one is going to take more than 1 day since it's a large queen size so I need to find a friend that can allow me that much rental time. 
  • Plaid Picnic Scrap Quilt - while this is not a hard deadline quilt, I want to make this project my "in-between project" - the one that I'm pinning or sewing between the other priority projects, sort of like a leader-ender project. 

Selfish Sewing:  

These are projects that I really want to do for myself.
  • I'd like to make at least 1 block a month from the pattern Bubbles
  • Leanne from the Devoted Quilter posted this tutorial to make these adorable free motion quilted ornaments. I admit, I'm a bit intimidated to try flow quilting like this but I think it will be a good exercise for me. I'd like to try and make one or 2 a month. 
  • I'd like to make a quilt using my own block pattern Dutch Windmill - I'd like to make 1 block a month using all solids from my stash.

Sew from my Stash - with a focus on precuts:  

Yes, we all seem to say this at some point, and I'm no different. I seem to have plenty of fabric and I don't really go on large fabric buying binges. I'm really good about only buying something that I need but I did have a problem with buying precuts a few years back and a goal that was on my list last year was to use more of my precuts. Again, that was too vague so here is a more specific goal, and these are if I feel the need to start a new project!
  • Layer Cake Quilt - using existing layer cakes of solid navy and Bonnie & Camille with the pattern/layout that I planned earlier this year. This is going to be a gift for my brother and his wife for next Christmas.
  • Somerset Jelly Roll & White Jelly Roll -- I think I'd like to use Chelsea's Picnic Pinwheels pattern from Patch the Giraffe.
  • Make at least 1 quilt to donate to charity. After last year's huge Pulse initiative, it seems a bit ridiculous to only strive for 1 quilt but I'm being realistic. The goal, though, is to still use what is in my stash. 

It's Okay to Watch from the Sidelines & Still Be Inspired: 

There are still so many projects that I want to tackle but I have to be realistic and remind myself that it's okay to say no, and just soak up all the creative energy from my cozy chair in the corner. Having taken over Stash Bee this year, I think it's important to not over-commit myself this year. I also know that I'm going to be a bit more involved in my local guild and will be coordinating some long distance swaps in 2017. Last but not least, I think I'd like to try a mini swap of some sort through Instagram.

Monthly Goal Setting: 

Setting goals each month really helped to keep me accountable so this is something that I need to continue doing. It appeals to my organizational nature of getting to check something off of my to-do list each month.

So there it is, all laid out for 2017.  More specific than in previous years which will hopefully lead to more success. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Secret Sewing - Wedding Gift Revealed

Back in May, what seems like ages ago, I took a class with Mandy Leins in which you would make an abstract quilt from a photograph. Before I even signed up for the class, I knew what I wanted to make.

This is a photo of Corkscrew, a rollercoaster at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky Ohio. The park holds a special fondness for my husband and me (we got engaged there) but it also happens to be the park where my husband's best friend, Kara worked as a ride operator for Corkscrew back in the late 1990's. Little did she know that more than a decade later, a chance sighting during a Disney marathon would lead to her reconnecting with one of her fellow Corkscrew coworkers, that they would fall in love and get married.

So, what better way to celebrate their marriage than with a quilted wallhanging of the ride where they first met. I wanted to keep it rather abstract, but I'll be honest, I really struggled on how to quilt this, especially the upper section. I had to resist the urge to just straight-line quilt the entire background but I wanted to keep it a bit more minimal. You'll have to forgive some of the wrinkles in the photo below. In truly rushed fashion, I forgot to take some good photos and my husband took this one with his phone in our hotel room before it was pressed one last time and wrapped.

Their wedding was last weekend and had a vintage resort vibe to it, set in a seaside Florida locale, and while there wasn't a rollercoaster anywhere to be seen, there was a beautiful carousel which provided a beautiful backdrop for some photos.

My husband and son were both in the wedding. They are the 2 on the right. I think they clean up well.  The couple loved the quilt and I look forward to seeing it hang in their new home that will be just a few miles from us.

This was my final project that I was able to get done this quarter for the 2016 Finish Along.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Cheery Holiday Wreaths

There's nothing more satisfying than finishing a quilt, but when it's a bee quilt that turns out even better than you hoped, it's the icing on the cake. And what's even better is that it's done in time to snuggle under this holiday season.


As with all of my quilts, I brought it to the performing arts center where I work for a fun little photo shoot. This week's production was the Nutcracker Ballet so it was fitting that I had a holiday quilt to photograph in the lobby.

I just love how we have a large glass circular grand staircase with stairs on both sides that wind their way up 5 stories high with balconies at each tier. The photo below is with me on the 2nd tier and the quilt hanging over the 3rd tier balcony. You can see the entrance to one of the theaters. (The quilt completely hides the doors on the 3rd tier.) I know the quilt looks rather small but I was determined to get the orchids into my photo.

This was my StashBee Quilt this year. It's done just in time for me to start on a new one for 2017! This finishes out my last one monthly goal for December and marks another item off my 4th quarter 2016 finish along list.

linking up to the December OMG linky party here.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

December's Monthly Goal

Man, I feel like my life got hijacked. I had everything in order. Plans were set for Thanksgiving, quilting projects were all on track, work and school schedules were under control, and then BAM! Out--Of--Nowhere, things just spun out of control.

First, I underestimated how much I thought I could continue to get done while I had family in town for the Thanksgiving holiday. Next, I started battling a bit of a cold, which didn't seem to help matters but luckily it subsided. What really got me was my headaches. For over 10 years I've battled vertigo problems and a few years ago my doctors finally figured out that a majority of my vertigo was actually migraines. Brains are funny things, especially when trying to figure out what medicines will work without too many adverse side effects. Seems that my most recent meds were giving me awful rebound headaches so they've had to wean me off that one and ramp me up onto a new one. Here's hoping that things level off soon.

I've also taken over Stash Bee for 2017 so there's been a lot of behind the scenes work getting things prepped and ready for new bee year to begin. It's a lot of work but I think it's going to be a great year. So with all that I've got going on this month, I'm keeping my One Monthly Goal for December one that I can hopefully follow through on! I've got my Holiday Wreath quilt all quilted, just waiting for the binding.

As you can see, my cat Oliver is enjoying the holiday decorations and is just waiting for that quilt to be finished too!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Operation: Resistance Droid

With Christmas less than 6 weeks away, I started piecing my son's gift. I'm making him a twin sized BB-8 quilt to go with his newly decorated Star Wars room. I was really good about cutting out all of my fabric and labeling each cut -- it's something I never do. I had everything organized and I got to sewing.  Here is my progress so far:

As you can see, I have his head done and have begun working on the body. It wasn't until I was editing this photo that I realized that something wasn't right. After another look at the piecing instructions, I realized that I skipped 2 steps so I'll be ripping out some seams and cutting more fabric.  So much for being super organized. On the bright side, I noticed my mistake before the quilt was bound! I'm already thinking about how I want to quilt this. There's going to be a lot of negative space to fill which is exciting and a bit daunting at the same time but it's going to be a fun challenge.

Monday, November 14, 2016

We've Graduated to the Grown-up Table

Earlier this fall, we pulled the trigger on a new dining room table. It was long overdue and it's certainly a step up from our 14-year-old Ikea table. My husband and I kept joking that with this purchase we can finally be called grown-ups. When it's fully extended it seats 12 which is perfect for a family of 3. :)  But in all seriousness, it's exactly what we need since we've hosted Christmas every year since moving to Florida. And this year we're hosting Thanksgiving too.

The moment this table was delivered, I slapped some old and tattered placemats on it. It's really nice wood, and while it has that distressed rustic look, I want to protect it. Hence my desire to make some nice placemats that coordinate with the turquoise window treatments.

I wanted them to be durable so I used decor weight fabric and did some basic 1/2-inch straight line quilting. I've made 4 placemats so far and think I have enough fabric to make 2 more.

This is project #4 that was on my 2016 Finish Along for this quarter!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Finally Motivated

Isn't it amazing how quickly you can finish a project when you finally dedicate the time to it? I had only just posted about my November goal on Sunday and it was finished Monday evening. I'd been procrastinating on making the last window treatment in our living room for months and I'm not even sure why. Maybe it was because it required a trip to the hardware store, maybe because I was going to have to match up the pattern on the fabric. Whatever the underlying reason for putting it off, I finally decided to tackle it because we're hosting Thanksgiving in a few short weeks.

Unlike the mini windows, where I only used foam core for the structure, I needed to use a piece of 1" x 3"  lumber to accommodate the 7-foot length. As you can see in the photo above, we get a lot of great sunlight into this room. I considered adding some sheer curtains with it but my husband really, really, really hates curtains in front of a sliding door, so this is how it will stay.

I think my biggest win on this project is matching up the pattern when sewing the fabric. It ended up being easier than I thought (I used this video tutorial if you're interested in doing this yourself). Here is a close-up, standing on a chair right in front of it. You can't tell at all when you're anywhere in the room.

Now I feel accomplished for the week. Now if we could just get motivated enough to paint and finish decorating the rest of the house...

I can mark this project off of my 2016 4th Quarter Finish Along list, too!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

November's One Monthly Goal

November is one of my all-time favorite months. Nature's color palette of orange, rust, deep red, and brown always makes me smile. I think that is why orange is one of my favorite colors. I love decorating the house for fall, with bright orange mums and pumpkins everywhere. Unfortunately, here in Florida, we don't see all of those brilliant colors in nature. Lucky for me, though, when it comes to decorating for autumn nobody does it better than Disney.

Of course, this is also when I go into holiday prep mode, trying to finish all those handmade Christmas gifts and any holiday decorating projects that I want to complete. Since we are hosting Thanksgiving this year, I'd like to finish up some of those decor projects on my to-do list. An autumn table runner would be nice, but my priority is to get the last pelmet box made for our sliding glass patio door.

I purchased the rest of the fabric for this project but it's going to require a trip to the hardware store for some supplies. Here is a finished pelmet box over one of our narrow dining room windows.

If you recall, I made these boxes using foam core. The slider doorway is more than twice the size of these windows so I need to make it sturdier with a wooden frame. I also need to get clever and match up the pattern since the fabric width is only 60" wide. I've been procrastinating on this project for months, but now's the time for me to just suck it up and get it done.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Wishing everyone a safe and spooky Halloween! I'll be out trick-or-treating with this handsome guy tonight --

And don't forget, 2017 Stash Bee sign-ups begin tomorrow!

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Cat's Meow - A Friday Finish

My local modern quilt guild adopts a charity each year to whom we gift handmade quilts. This year's charity is The House Next Door, an organization that counsels children who have been abused. At their first counseling appointment, they receive a quilt. Here is my contribution (and the first of my 4th quarter finishes) --

The cats were part of a much smaller panel so I decided to cut out the squares and sash them to make it a bigger quilt. When I first started quilting, back in 2013, I purchased a few yards of an adorable fish print. It was one of those impulse buys that just sat in my sewing room until now. I thought it was the purr-fect backing for this quilt.

It's hard to see any of the quilting detail in the orange border but I promise you, it's there. I photographed this quilt at my workplace and it was really sunny when I did it. The front of the building is floor to ceiling windows. Next time I need to try an overcast day or in the evening.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How to Mail a Quilt Block without Breaking the Bank

More and more I find myself making quilt blocks and sending them to other people. Oftentimes it's for an online quilting bee, other times it's for a charity drive, and sometimes it's just a surprise gift. The rising costs to ship blocks around the world has been a recent topic over at The Stash Bee. I wrote the following blog post on that site initially, but thought it was helpful information that I could share here, too.

(And to answer your question -- No, you're not going crazy. I originally had a short post here linking to that Stash Bee post!)

Being the daughter of a lifelong USPS employee, I've learned a thing or two about mailing letters and packages. For example, did you know that there is such a thing as a book rate (formally known as media mail)? Yep! Of course, some restrictions apply but it's often a rate that many people don't know about.

So let's talk about mailing out your blocks and how to get the cheapest rate possible. Here are my 2 not-so-secret weapons: Glad Press'n Seal and 6"x9" manilla envelopes.

The key to cheaper postage is getting your package as flat as possible. The envelope shouldn't be padded. What's important about this envelope is the size. A 6"x9" envelope is considered a standard letter size, according to the US Postal Service (see this handy chart).

Now in order for it to ship at the letter rate, it cannot be thicker than 1/4" and it should not be completely rigid. It needs to be a bit flexible so that it can go through the automated sorting machine. If you add in a rigid piece of cardboard it might have to be sorted by hand and that increases the postage. The best product I've found to protect my block during shipping is Press'n Seal. Not only does it protect your block, it aids in getting it as flat as possible. Unfortunately, I don't think that this product readily available outside the US.

So here are the steps I take:

First, I rip off a fairly large piece of it and lay it sticky side up. I include a small note that has the name and address of the recipient, face down.

Next, I fold up my block to a size that will fit in the envelope. I find that you can get it flatter by folding it with the seams on the outside.

I carefully fold the block up in the Press'n Seal, pushing out as much air as possible. I then use tape to secure it.

And here is how thin I was able to get it:

I don't live near a post office, so I always mail my domestic blocks from home. How do I know how many stamps to put on it? I use my kitchen scale to determine the weight of the envelope and go to this USPS site to calculate the postage. Typically, it will require 2 stamps to send a block.

International blocks require a trip to the post office, but I still package the envelopes the exact same way and if you keep it to the letter size, you shouldn't be paying more than $6 to send it overseas.

And there you have it! I hope this helps to reduce your shipping costs the next time you need to mail a quilt block somewhere.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Stash Bee 2017

It may seem quiet on the blog these last few weeks, but I can assure you I am a busy bee right now. Why? Because I am happy to announce that I am the new Bee Mama for The Stash Bee! If you've not heard of it before, I recommend that you check it out. It's a great opportunity to connect with quilters from around the world, make a different block each month, and end up with a great quilt at the end of the year!

Sign-ups will begin on November 1st on the Stash Bee blog. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Weekend in the Mountains

My favorite time of year is now in full swing and what better way to celebrate than to deal with a hurricane. Okay, maybe not. Hurricane Matthew threw a few punches our way last weekend and made traveling up to North Carolina for my Dad's wedding challenging but nothing we couldn't handle. I love autumn with the array of colors on the trees and the pumpkins everywhere. We don't get to experience that very much in Florida which is why it was all that more special heading up to Maggie Valley.

This was a local church that was near my parents' home (not where they were married). Every inch of the property was literally covered with pumpkins! I couldn't help but smile each time we saw it. On our way out of town, my husband snapped a drive-by photo with his phone.

As for the wedding, it was a wonderful time spent with family and I couldn't be happier for my Dad and Step-mom. The church was nestled in the mountains up on a steep cliff with some breathtaking views. While it rained all morning and before the ceremony, things cleared up for us to take some family photos.

I feel like we have so few formal photos of my little family that I just had to share this one. Now if we could just get my son to smile without gritting his teeth!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

4th Quarter To-Do List

It's hard to believe it, but we're in the last few months of 2016 and there are still so many projects that I want to get done before we ring in 2017. Will I get to them all? Probably not, but it can't hurt to try. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. My Holiday Wreath Quilt -- this one rolled over from last quarter.I have the layout planned and the blocks back up on my design wall. I'm just waiting to finish a few other projects first.

2. The Cat's Meow Charity Quilt -- this one was so close to being finished for Q3! All that I have left to do is quilt the orange border and bind it.

3. Mystery Project - I've obscured a bit of this photo on purpose, but this is ready to be quilted and is my top priority this quarter.

4. Placemats for our new dining table - I'm hoping to make a total of 8.

5. Final Pelmet Box for our sliding glass door - this one is going to take a bit of work due to the length of the slider. I think some wood shop tools will be involved this time around, instead of just foam core and staples.

6. BB-8 Quilt - This is going to be a Christmas gift for my son, so I really need to get crackin' on this!

I think that's plenty to keep me busy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

All Bound Up

During the last week of September, I'd spent countless hours in my sewing room trying to get as many Pulse quilts done as possible.  I've lost count of the number of quilts that I've bound, but here was my latest stack.

I also quilted the one with the aqua binding on Ruby, my Babylock Symphony. It's such a quick and easy free motion pattern for me and adds a lot of texture. I think I quilted it in just over an hour.

Next week we start delivering the quilts so I expect a few more Pulse posts and a lot more tears in the upcoming month.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Fun Little Photo Shoot

For quite a while now, I've wanted to do a photoshoot of some of my quilts at the theatre where I work. But during a typical work shift there are usually hundreds of patrons in the lobby. This past week was a bit different, though. We had morning performances with young students from our local public schools. Since we had a bit of downtime in the lobby before they arrived, I enlisted the help of a coworker to photograph a few quilts on our grand staircase.

First up is my cathedral window bed runner that I just blogged about. It looks so much better on this staircase than the one in my home. The other quilt that I brought that morning was my Turquoise Facets quilt. I just wasn't pleased with my original photo.

Our broadway season kicks off this week so I'll be spending more time at work. My plan is to photograph all of my quilts somewhere inside the building.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Finish Fit for a Queen (bed, that is)

It was the struggle of struggles but in the end, I came out the winner. I've been working on this project for the better part of a year now. My Dad will be getting married again, in just a few weeks, and when I asked my Stepmom what she would like for a gift she said she really wanted a queen-sized bed runner. You know - those things you see on the end of the bed in hotels.

On a small scale, this pattern is pretty easy but with a project of this size, I wasn't prepared for how heavy it was. It measures 84" x 24" -- I can't even imagine how heavy it would be if it were a standard quilt size.

Despite all of my meticulous calculations on paper, I made a mistake and cut too many squares. But hey, glass half full, right? I should have enough to make some coordinating throw pillows!

Trying to photograph this also proved to be a challenge so I finally decided to hoist it over our 2nd-floor bannister and get a shot of it from the landing stairs.

This was a true labor of love and I'm happy that it's finally done with almost 2 weeks to spare before the wedding. This project was on my list for the 3rd quarter of the 2016 Finish Along and  my September goal. It's definitely one goal that I am happy to cross off my list.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Quilting with Christa

This past Saturday my local quilt guild held a machine quilting class with Christa Watson. She is every bit as delightful in person as you would expect.

Thanks to my friend Ede for taking this photo

Even though I've done quite a bit of machine quilting, it was still great to hear her take on various techniques and practices. I used my time in her class to focus on a few designs and motifs that I've not really done.  It's always nice to just play without the pressure of a finished project.

I enjoyed doing some straight line quilting and definitely want to incorporate more of it in my projects. I also explored some free motion line quilting to be used as an all-over filler. I used my old test block for my Dutch Windmill pattern as a practice piece and turned it into a mini for my sewing room. It also happens to be one of the projects that I wanted to finish this quarter for the 2016 Finish Along.

One motif that I definitely want to try in the near future is this yummy triangle pattern that Christa showed us.

One of Christa's quilting samples.

I have a charity top and a pulse top that I need to quilt this week. Maybe I'll try quilting something different and new to me.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Playing with EQ7

Back in August the National MQG hosted a webinar with Amy Ellis on using EQ7 (only members of the MQG will be able to access the replay). I've had the software for a few years now and have used it for 90% of the quilts I've made but I still fumble my way along. For me, one of the a-ha moments of this webinar was when Amy said that when she first starts a project, she deletes the existing fabrics and uploads or saves only the fabrics that she plans to use. First, this just never occurred to me. Second, I had no idea that Moda and Andover had free images of their fabric lines that you can import into EQ7! This made me so excited and I couldn't wait to try it out.

It just so happens that I was recently summoned for jury duty. What better way to pass the time than to play with some virtual fabric! I've been wanting to make a quilt using my Bonnie & Camille layer cake of April Showers. Here are 3 layouts that I'm considering:

Layout 1 - centered radiating diamond
Layout 2 - offset radiating diamond
Layout 3 - centered radiating swirl
I paired the prints with a solid gray, with the intention of using Kona graphite yardage that I had on hand, but that was before BB-8 came into my life. So now I'm considering using a navy blue instead. I'm leaning heavily to one of these layouts but what do you think? Which layout would you choose?