Putting It All Together

There is something extremely satisfying about taking bits and pieces and putting them together to make something new. Something wonderful. Something unexpected.

It’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it. If Life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If the lemons are rotten, take out the seeds and plant them in order to grow new lemons.

Louise Hay

One thing I, like millions of other folks, have discovered is that while the Rest of the World may be chaotic, focus on simple things, simple steps can restore peace and order.

Quilters take big pieces of fabric, cut it unto small pieces and the sew it to other small pieces to make a big piece once again.

Cooks and bakers combine ingredients to make things that not only feed your body, but your soul.

Musicians take sounds, combine them with other sounds and magic happens.

For some, this process is a new and potentially scary endeavor. For others the process is not only a necessary way of basic survival, but a trusted ally in good and bad times.

Sending you warm thoughts and virtual hugs.

A Little of This

And A Little of That

For those of us who are staying put, sheltering at home can be a bit of an unexpected, not to mention unwelcome, opportunity to discover ways to keep ourselves busy.

Some folks will dive head first into a lot of binge watching. I know I have quite a few series I’m behind on.

Other folks will gather around the gaming table, or find ways to do their online gaming with friends.

Crafters will catch up or start projects that have been waiting in the wings.

Folks will head to the kitchen to see what miracles they can create from the cupboard and pantry.

There is a lot of Spring Cleaning going on.

My YouTubers have been working hard to provide content for their regulars.

All of these are attempts to provide a sense of “normal” in a world that is pretty much anything but.

There is no “Right Way” to find normal. Each person does certain things because it provides a way for him or her to focus away from stress and worry and relax.

I encourage all of us to take walks, check on those we love via phone or email, watch, read, do the things we do in a safe and thoughtful manner.

We all know the drill; wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Stay at least 6, if not 10, feet apart from other folks. Pay attention to the medical experts.

We will get through this. Together.

Need A Reason To Make?

As we are hunkering down at home (most of us) some have turned to their crafting as a way of passing the time, reducing stress and being productive.

Depending upon what your craft is, if you are looking for ways to be useful and to make use of what you make, have you checked with your local guilds, fellow crafters and friends?

Card makers can make use of their time, supplies and skill by making cards that can be sent to local hospitals, shelters, nursing homes, church memberships and such.

Card Ministries are often set up locally, but you can search “greeting card ministry” online or contact Maymaymadeit.com to ask about contributing to theirs.

Quilters who are part of guilds will probably already have a list of organizations that would accept their work, but you can also check online. Off hand I can think of Quilts of Valor that provide quilts for Veterans. I know there have been a variety of opportunities to work for/with shelters for women, kids and families.

Now is the time to take advantage of the opportunity to not only reduce your own stress, but provide a token of appreciation to someone who needs it. That’s a win/win if I ever heard of one.

Sending long distance hugs to you. Take care.

Are You A Follower or A Leader?

A few months ago I came across something unusual on YouTube. A young woman who was dressed in not so modern clothing who was reorganizing her small New York City apartment to be a sewing room.

The video quality was amazing. The background music was above par – obviously not cheap filler. The perspective and attention to detail was impressive.

I’m not a seamstress. I have no desire to make clothing – of any era. And yet, I was intrigued.

After a few months of following this woman, I was introduced to some of her costuming fellows. Turns out she is one of a cadre of people who, for a variety of reasons, makes clothing to replicate earlier eras. And they are all darn good at what they do.

Last week three of these women (including the original I talked about) made a video about their various preferred eras and why they dress the way they do. You see, each dresses within their own preferred era(s) to a degree each day of their lives. For some, the “costume” might be wearing regular 21st century dress not what they choose to wear on their own.

Mind boggling, isn’t it?

Over on another channel, I found myself watching a variety of manufactured home walk throughs. These are of relatively new homes that are being marketed at various home shows. All are quite nice sized, although the one prevailing thought I had was that it would require a lot of work to keep them clean and tidy. The other prevailing reaction was to the decor used by the various manufacturers.

Disclaimer: If you prefer this style, great. It really isn’t my cup of anything.

The majority of the homes were presented in the current modern style. Predominately white, grey, charcoal with little to no actual other color. There were, however, one or two that had rooms with a focus wall with Color or a room that had Color on all the walls.

I found myself drawn to the homes that had color on the walls. The ones with architectural details. The ones that had some personality and didn’t look like a cookie cutter version of a Pinterest spread or the latest edition of some home decor magazine. In short, the homes where it looked like a real human being lived there, not just spent a weekend.

On top of all of that, one of my favorite home DIY vloggers posted this week about a project she is doing for a family member in a small apartment. Her taste is very different from that of the person whose apartment she is working on and she commented on the fact that she was looking forward to exploring that difference. One of the commenters remarked on how that would be great because while the rooms on Pinterest and in home decor magazines looked beautiful, most people don’t live like that.

It got me to thinking.

Human Beings tend to not only be tribal but followers. The majority are more inclined to follow the latest trends, be it in home decor, clothing, food, music, media or pretty much anything else, rather than step away from the tribe and decide for themselves what they prefer.

Granted there is a percentage of people who follow their own paths. We see it in pretty much any category, but even within those categories we can find leaders and followers.

When the three women were talking about their clothing choices, the comment that prevailed was one of comfort. One remarked that while it seemed a bit unusual to use natural fibers, it turns out that those fibers were more efficient at heat control, were easier to clean and maintain and were more sustainable. Above all, however, it was the way she felt wearing the garments. She felt comfortable in the them. More so than in any modern off the rack garment.

Self comfort is something that I think we don’t always consider when we choose what we wear or how we decorate our homes or even, to some degree, what we follow. The rest of the pack might not agree with those choices.

The irony of this idea is the lack of realization that the “rest of the pack” does not wear the clothes, live in the homes, or occupy the same space as the one making the choices.

I’ve been around long enough to remember when there was no cable TV let alone streaming. Some folks are shocked at the thought of that. They can’t imagine not having that monthly bill, let alone all those channels they don’t watch.

Some people can not consider not having a monthly loan payment on a vehicle. The idea of not having a brand new vehicle each year or so is so alien they can’t contemplate it.

Some folks come home to a house that may be Pinterest friendly but isn’t comfortable, let alone “homey” and don’t know what they can do to resolve that problem.

I think one of the reasons we have so many leaders in social media is that so many more people are looking for ways to resolve problems they feel unempowered to deal with on their own.

The problem is, making changes takes courage. Stepping away from the pack and going a different route can be frightening. It can also be strengthening.

There is a natural phase when you evolve from the way you were raised into the way you choose to live. That being said, there seems to always be carry over; family traditions, family recipes, for example.

When you choose not to make changes that you know (or at least ‘think’) will make your life more comfortable, you deprive yourself of self comfort. You deprive yourself of self expression. You deprive yourself of you.

When fear of the unknown stops you, you lose.

Now I’m not saying you need to jump out of an airplane or go cliff diving or swimming with sharks – unless, of course, that is what you really want to do. What I’m saying is that you can do little things to see if you really like something. If you do, keep going. If you don’t, stop. Re-evaluate. Reconsider. Try a different thing.

You do You.

The only way to know what “you” is, is to try. Experiment.

A sample sized can of paint is inexpensive. If you don’t like it, paint over it. And, by the way, painting as an activity can be very therapeutic. This can be applied either to a canvas, as in “Art” or on a wall, which, ironically, can also be “Art”.

Trying different clothing can mean a trip to a charity shop or a visit with a consignment shop. Or, if you are up to the challenge, a trip to a fabric store.

Exploring different music, books, and various media is a simple visit to the local library – which is usually free.

Speaking of free, check out the local museums in your area. You might be surprised at the treasures they hold.

Curious about craft projects? Visit your local hobby shop and see if they hold classes.

Ditto regarding home do it yourself projects. Many local hardware stores either hold classes or will know where to direct you.

The point is simply to take baby steps. Dip your toe in the water to see if it is something you want to explore or not. It doesn’t have to be expensive or drastic.

What it does have to be is something that allows you to be come more comfortable living your life.

One step at a time.

Project Bucket List

Or should that read “Bucket List Project”?

A friend and I were chatting the other day and I mentioned I have enough crafting supplies to keep me occupied for at least the next year or so. Sadly. 🙂

New catalogs are coming, new stuff is being released. You know the drill.

For those who are thinking ahead, however, it might be a good time to look at merchandise that is being discontinued and/or is on sale. You can get a head start on next year’s cards, tags, pages, sewing, decorating, etc.

The sad part of this is with the usual holiday gift buying insanity, there is less in the bank (or on the plastic) to devote to craft items/ideas. Unless, of course, you planned ahead on that, too.

For myself, I’m looking at some smaller projects.

A few years ago, I lucked out and bought a well loved, but no longer needed buffet that is the perfect height and size for my TV. Sadly, as often happens when one is not prepared, when I put the buffet in the right place and started to put the TV on it, I had to grab the first thing I could get my hands on to put under the TV so it wouldn’t scratch the buffet.

As I look at it now, I am seeing the beginnings of an idea for a table runner type project that might have pockets on the ends for remote controls. (That way they don’t get up and hide…)

Maybe I could include the pocket into the design for the blocks at the ends of the runner? Since the TV actually covers a bit of space in the middle, it makes little sense to make blocks that no one will see.

Will have to consider that further.

I have had two Accuquilt dies on my desk for at least a month now. One is the original Bow Tie Block designed by Alex Anderson and the other is the original multipurpose die that was part of the accessories with the Go! cutter. Both make 4 inch blocks.

Every once in a while I pull them out and look at the enclosed patterns (always included with Accuquilt dies) thinking about possibilities.

As the year winds down, I am less inclined to think big. I’m contemplating smaller, more manageable projects that can be finished quickly. That way I feel like I’ve accomplished something, right?

Tell me what you have on your Project Bucket List. Maybe we can share notes?

Thinking About: Quilting?

My Quilting Journey

Someone recently reached out wanting to learn how to quilt and asked for help &/or advice.

I had never really thought about it before. 🙂

Disclaimer: I am not a teacher. What follows is my particular journey into the craft of quilting.

I’m a life long viewer of crafting shows. I’ve spent years watching Fons and Porter on PBS, not to mention a host of other, well, hosts. Nancy Zieman (Sewing with Nancy) was probably my tipping point, although I couldn’t really say what gave me that push.

You see, up until That Point, I had never owned a sewing machine, could do Very Basic hand sewing; sewing a button or a hem, and had Absolutely No Interest in anything related. Period.

My mom was a seamstress. She made my sister’s prom dresses and a suit that was fully lined. She made my clothes and most of hers, too. Heck, at the time she passed she was attempting to learn to make shirts for my dad.

Looking back, I really don’t know if it was a Necessary Skill or one she really enjoyed. Mom did a lot of crafting, but she never made a quilt. There was one summer she spent making aprons out of fabric scraps…

Back in 2011 I came across Mary Fons on YouTube with her Quilty videos and was intrigued. Here was a young(er) person who was interested in the craft, not surprising considering her background, but learning/teaching it in a way that was not like anything I’d ever seen before. Hmm.

Somewhere along that time I caught an episode of Sewing With Nancy where she was putting together a strip quilt. In my mind, the light bulb came on when she talked about sewing. “If you can drive a straight line, you can sew one.” I believe she said. At least, that is what I remember.

Me, being me, I bought my first sewing machine, along with a crafting table, ordered a copy of Nancy’s book on the lessons and dove in. Head first.

But that’s me.

I love my sewing machines – yes, plural. Both my machines are Brother, the second was designed with the extra bells and whistles for quilters. Both are excellent beginner machines and perfect for me. I might have drooled over the more expensive brands, but bank balance has always had an impact on reality.

When I started out, I followed what I was seeing from the teachers I watched. I bought rulers and tools that I knew would help me do the job. I subscribed to a couple of magazines and online classes that helped teach me basics.

What I discovered is that my tendency to jump into the deep end of the pool, while not always a bad thing, was not a great way to start out. My first attempt at a quilt is still in the UFO pile, and likely to be recut to be used elsewhere. If at all.

UFO = Unfinished Object

On the other hand, I discovered precuts and my life got measurably better. Quilting precuts are bundles of fabric cut into standard shapes and sizes. Each precut fabric bundle features coordinating fabrics from a designer’s collection.

Each collection is designed to work together, so I don’t have to spend hours fussing and fretting choosing each individual fabric. They are cost effective, too. Depending upon the quilting pattern you are working with, there can be zero waste.

You see, somewhere along the line, I discovered that I hate cutting fabric. Well, maybe “hate” is a bit too strong, but for me to put rotary cutter to fabric is an exercise in fearlessness.

I can not stand and lean over a table for very long, my lower back can’t handle it. Cutting yard goods over time is, frankly, painful. Add into that the occasional whim of the ruler or template to move creating a bad cut, which can lead to a fabric shortage, and you start to see where I had to find an alternative.

Accurate cuts make accurate quilt blocks.

Accuquilt to the rescue!

I love my Accuquilt Go cutter and dies. That investment changed the way I quilt and made my quilting life so much easier and less stressful.

Why: The dies are already set up with the 1/4 inch seam allowance and the dog ears have been removed during the cutting process so all I have to do is maintain my 1/4 inch seam when I sew. No trimming dog ears! My blocks are ALWAYS accurate as long as my sewing isn’t sloppy.

Yes, I use my Accuquilt to further cut my precuts.

While I could go out and buy yard goods, I do prefer my precuts and have been known to get some fat quarters

Fat Quarter = One quarter of a yard of fabric. For quilters, it is usually cut in a square shape, rather than a strip off the end of a bolt.

The Quilting Police

Let’s take a minute to touch on a bit of reality here.

There are all sorts of ways to go about the process to create a quilt. Some folks like to make their own plastic templates. Some like to use rulers. Some love their machines, while others prefer to do a lot of hand work.

Pretty much, you can find a way to create that quilt you are dreaming about in a variety of methods and there will always be someone out there who is more than happy to provide help and guidance on how to do it.

The trick is to realize that not everyone is good at, or wants to do, someone else’s method.

Personally, I’ve never come across anyone who would pick apart my work to point out a flaw. Not that there haven’t been quite a few…

Most people will look at a quilt and be caught up in the pattern and the colors – and most of them won’t have a clue about a missed seam or a badly pressed block (unless it is Really Badly Pressed), they will just be wowed at the end product.

Which is as it should be.

Quilting is not an inexpensive hobby. Depending upon the way you choose to do yours, there is the investment in tools and equipment. Fabric is also not inexpensive. Good quality quilting fabric can set you back quite a bit depending upon the project. Like, $100.00 plus for a bed sized quilt. And we won’t begin to discuss the cost per hour to actually do the process of making the quilt.

There is also the need for space to put the quilt together: Top, batting and backing.

Longarmer = Longarm quilting is the process by which a longarm sewing machine is used to sew together a quilt top, quilt batting and quilt backing into a finished quilt.

Once that is done, you will either need to quilt it yourself or send it out to be quilted. Not inexpensive, but a great option once you find a good longarmer.

Some folks get stuck doing bindings. If you find a longarmer who will do that for you, fantastic!

Quilting can be a long term project. Very few people can spend entire days doing just quilting, so if you are embarking on a bed sized quilt, you can reasonably expect to spend a few months at the very least.

“Quilt in a day!” is a great concept, but even Eleanor Burns acknowledges that the process usually takes more than a day.

Speaking of Eleanor, she was also one of my teachers. I learned a lot from her.

I enjoy the process of quilting. It can be very zen-like. I enjoy the geometry of it. As Mary Fons talked about, it is a great way to create order when the world around you is in chaos.

I love watching Missouri Star Quilt Company and The Midnight Quilter videos on YouTube and Bluprint. Stuart Hillard has expanded his online presence beyond Create and Craft and his patterns and teaching methods are very calming.

If you are interested in learning the craft, why not check those references I mentioned, but also your local quilt guilds. Your local quilt shop, or sewing shop, will more than likely have a few contacts to help you along.

For myself, I don’t know if I will make a bed sized quilt again. I have a couple of lap sized or twin sized tops ready to be quilted. At this point, I’m thinking I might be more inclined towards small projects like wall hangings or table toppers. Time will tell.

My fabric stash will keep me busy for a while yet. 🙂

A Few Thoughts

  • If you can drive a straight line, you can sew one.
  • You don’t need to spend a lot of money in the beginning.
  • Find teachers who communicate with you. If what they say makes sense, it is worth the time you’ve spent listening.
  • Start small at the beginning.
  • Fabric comes is a huge variety of colors, patterns, designs, etc. There is a lot to play with there.
  • Plan on spending a lot of time doing the process. “Quick” is relative.

A quilt is a gift of love. It doesn’t matter how professional it looks or if it wins any prizes, the simple act of creating a warm space for someone is an act of love.

Enjoy the process.

Tackling UFOs

R U Stuck Creatively?

In the crafting world “UFO” means Unfinished Objects. Usually a quilt or large project that has been left to sit for various reasons.

In the rest of the world, I think UFO refers to those things on a seemingly unending To Do List that never seem to get done.

I’m guilty of this. Big (or maybe not so big) projects that I really need to do simply to answer a question or two, let alone resolve a cleaning issue. Cleaning out and inventorying my pantry, for example.

I can have a better handle on meal planning when I know what I have on hand and what I need to purchase.

Recharge your creative batteries!

I’m beginning to think that one of the biggest hurdles to moving forward with Change is tackling the left overs and clearing the decks.

There are always the general day-to-day things that we do simply to keep moving; food, dishes, laundry, trash, etc. But even within those tasks are tasks that keep being pushed to the “I’ll do it later” stack.

More than just clearing the decks, however, tackling UFOs opens up space to be creative. It gets rid of those things that are preventing you from trying new things.

Lots of us get stuck in the rut of “I can’t start anything new until I finish all my pending stuff.” or some such.

Could this be considered self-sabotage?

Can’t start the New Eating Plan until all the old food is eaten.

Can’t start the New Craft Project until all the old projects are done.

Can’t find a New Series to Watch until I’ve caught up with all the old ones.

A few years ago I spent a couple of weeks away from home recovering from surgery. As such, my regular TV schedule was put by the wayside and I lost momentum with several series. Turns out, I had the opportunity to catch up, but didn’t.

Recently, for various reasons, my TV viewing schedule has been put on the sidelines, not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to keep up.

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know how dedicated I can be to those few shows I keep up with. This change has been unsettling and interesting.

I’ve spent time focusing on classes, checking out new videographers, exploring topics I had previously had only a passing interest in.

As a result of this, I’ve rekindled an interest in a craft I’d put aside and am now contemplating tackling again. I gathered new material to use when I’m ready. I’ve added information that I can use later.

By clearing out my “I have to do this” list, I made room for the “I might want to do this” list.

To put it another way, by cleaning out the closet, I’ve made room for new things.

If you are stuck, in whatever version of “creativity” you prefer, maybe you need to consider that not all projects left unfinished need to be “finished” and that you can give yourself permission to either hand them off or leave them be and go on to the next.