Thursday, January 22, 2015

ME AND HERCULE...

Hercule Poirot


Poirot, that is.  Like one of my favorite Agatha Christie characters, I, too, am drawn to things that are symmetric, perfect, and precise.  As a child I can remember "playing school" with my friends and ripping out page after page of writing when I found too many "mistakes".  Even my play had to conform to my strict standards!  At age SIX!  While neatness and perfectionistic tendencies can be a good thing (and are probably the reason my "little gray cells" did so well in school), they can also prevent one from venturing outside of the perfect and precise.  Ahem...ME...to a "T".


 However...I wasn't always so stifled.  The revelation that necessity really is the mother of invention (and creativity) had once led me to transform a cold and empty house into a home!  As a newlywed, I busied myself making our new house a warm and comfortable place to live.  We were on a tight budget and couldn't afford to buy furniture for more than our bedroom, kitchen and family room...and the family room consisted of only a sofa and loveseat.  No tables, no lamps...nothing.  The other rooms sat empty.  But it was "ours" and we loved it.  If I wanted our home "decorated", I would have to do it myself.  I painted, added trim to plain bath and kitchen towels, sewed curtains, and handcrafted almost all of our Christmas gifts.  My sewing machine, glue gun and paint brushes were in constant use.  I was "crafty" (as my mom would say) and loved the way my "personal touches" made the house warm and inviting.  Everywhere I looked, I saw me...peeking out from items lovingly crafted for our home.  I never saw "mistakes", only the love I poured into each item. 


Fast forward QUITE a few years, lol.  Our income grew, we moved to a bigger house and my free time diminished.  Life got in the way.  LIFE, mind you...not living.  I stopped crafting things for our home, and turned to mass produced, store bought items instead.  The decor in our house was "picture perfect"...always symmetric, coordinated and precise.  And if something I bought didn't meet my "high standards"?  I sent it back.  Only the "perfect" came into our house.  Our house looked great, but "making a home" was lost in the shuffle.   

Then, a little over three years ago I retired.  I once again had time for crafting...and I really wanted to learn to make quilts...WELL.  Unfortunately, the perfectionism that had grown over the years made the learning curve tough to handle.  I cannot begin to count the projects that I tossed midway through because my technique wasn't up to par.  Every quilt I gifted to my family came with an explanation of each and every little mistake I saw glaring back at me.  They didn't see mistakes, only the love I poured into the quilt.  It was me who had the problem. 



While my first several projects were quilted using the embroidery module on my Baby Lock (perfect and precise, you know), I wanted a variety and personalization that I couldn't find in "canned" patterns.  Much like the decorating in my home over the last 20+ years, I was limited to the vision of the designer.  But I wanted the freedom to BE the designer!  I wanted the visions in my head to exist in reality like they had in our first home so many years ago.  However, to accomplish this variety, I needed to learn Free Motion Quilting!  I tried.  Oh, how I tried.  With my hands on the sandwich and my foot on the pedal, I felt like I was jumping from a bike to a Ferrari.  Everything was moving way too fast and nothing I did was symmetric, perfect or precise!  Ahhhhh... Palpitations!

With practice, my FMQ improved some and I began to look for new and interesting designs to add to my projects.  And you know what?  I realized something REALLY important as I surfed the net.  Not all of the quilts I was seeing online were a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y perfect!  I could see a wobble here, a long stitch there.  And the thread painting and raw edge applique I saw over and over again consisted of wobbly lines, crossovers and every other "mistake" that set my teeth on edge.  Yet these women and men seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed creating their projects and were proud enough of their work to post it online!!  And it was PRETTY!  Maybe perfection isn't always necessary?  Maybe it ISN'T the outcome that is as important as the enjoyment of the process?!?  Huzzah!  Finally, a fact that rang true!


SO...  A few weeks ago I pulled some charm squares from my stash and set about to have some FUN!  I limited myself to only stash fabrics, hoping that once again necessity would beget creativity.  And it did!  As my project progressed I was having more and more FUN and finding more and more satisfaction in the outcome.  Today I put on my FMQ gloves and tried my hand at the imbalanced, imprecise, imperfect FMQ I had seen on line.  And you know what (again, lol)???  I LOVE IT and can't wait to do more!!!!!!  Oh, and I'm hoping to add a little bit of "beady" bling to the center of each circle!

What have I learned?  Life isn't about "obtaining".  It's about "living".  It isn't always about the "outcome".  It's about the "PROCESS".  And...if we cut ourselves enough slack...we may have more fun than we ever thought possible.  Relax.  Live.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

ORGANIZING LEFTOVER BINDING...

As quilters, we ALL have leftover scraps of binding after we complete a project!  I hate to admit it, but up until recently I had simply thrown away the leftovers, figuring I would never have a use for such small amounts of binding.  I know...I'm sorry  :o(

Then I learned about mug rugs, mini quilts, pieced bindings, etc.  There are so many uses for these tiny leftover bits!   So, I began to collect my leftovers in a small jar...but they were so MESSY LOOKING!  Anyone who knows me well knows that I. CAN'T. STAND. MESS!  What to do? 


A really CUTE solution was waiting for me at the Sizzix website!

After Christmas I began buying quilting supplies and fabric to use up the money left on numerous gift cards (set to expire in early 2015).  When I saw this shape cutting die I knew it would be PERFECT to corral all of my binding scraps, and my leftover pieces of ribbon!  I popped it into my shopping cart, paid using a free gift card and waited anxiously for my package to arrive.


This morning I used my die to cut a handful of "spools" out of card stock, and began measuring and winding my bindings.  I wrote all of the measurements in pencil so it would be easy to reuse my spools a few times before they became dogeared.


I secured the binding ends with a safety pin and dropped the spools into a large metal clasped container.   My bindings will stay safe, dust-free and, most importantly, AVAILABLE whenever I need just a small amount of binding to finish a sewing or quilting project.


Because I have more spools cut than binding leftovers, I used two large paperclips to secure the spools together and taped them to the underside of the container...without taping directly to the card stock.  I could have dropped the paper-clipped spools into the container with the bindings, but I don't want to have to go digging through my nicely wrapped binding every time I need another spool.  Had there been more leftover spools I probably would have placed them in a small clear bag and taped it to the lid.  Time will tell which method works best, but for now I have organized yet one more small item in my sewing room.  Another 2015 goal gets checked off the list!!!   




Tuesday, January 20, 2015

PERKY PETAL PROJECT PIECED...


Say that three times fast, lol.  This quirky little pillow/mini quilt was begun as a way to try out the new Sizzix die that my parents bought me for Christmas.  I was determined to complete this project with absolutely no money spent on fabric!  It's time to shop my stash! 

The next step will be to quilt this little beauty with lots of happy colored threads and maybe even a few embellishments to pump up the funky fun!  Then I'll add an envelope back just in case this "Perky Petal Project" is destined to cover a pillow in my Expanded Sewing Room.  OR, I can add a few 3M hangers to the back of the pillow cover, turning it into a mini quilt to bring some pizazz to my sewing room wall!  Multi-function means more bang for my buck...er...stash!  No matter where it ends up, I know it will turn my frown upside down!   

Saturday, January 17, 2015

FREEBIES LEAD TO PROGRESS...


At the end of December I took stock of my numerous gift cards.  I had quite a few that were set to expire in early 2015; so in January I began purchasing various quilting supplies to keep from "losing" money to ridiculously short expiration dates.  Of course, since all of my purchases were being made online, I was left with "small" amounts of money on numerous cards.  My goal is to get all of my cards down to $0.00, but the minimum I am willing to lose is less than $1 on a card.  If I can, I will use the tiny bit of change left on a card toward in-store purchases (though we all know how much I hate to shop in brick and mortar stores!)

One of my cards was down to $4 and change.  By the time you include tax and shipping, there isn't very much you can buy in the world of quilting for under $5.  Then I remembered Judi Madsen's shop, Green Fairy Quilts.  Judi offers free shipping within the US and carries a good number of "mini" charm packs...32 at last count...for under $4 each! My fingers flew over the keys and within seconds I was "ooo-ing" and "ahh-ing" over the selection.  BUT, I could only buy one!  It was a very unusual (for me) half hour of indecision before I finally put a single pack of "Best Day Ever" in my cart.  I have three or four mini-charm packs in my stash and they are all in bright primary colors.  Hopefully I can combine pieces from multiple lines to make a truly unique project.  "Best Day Ever" seemed like it would fit right in.

A few days ago I received my mini charm pack and it DIDN'T make it into my stash with all of the other mini-charms...it stopped right on my craft table!  Amazingly, a large number of the charms were a perfect match for my "petal" pillow/mini!  I had stopped working on my pillow/mini because nothing in my stash was quite "right" for the pieced border I had in mind...and I was DETERMINED to use only fabrics I had on hand to finish the project. 

Yesterday I began the cutting and piecing and I'm REALLY happy with the way "Best Day Ever" is adding such a pop of color against the first border.  Thanks to Judi I was able to add to my stash for free and find the solution to my problem at the same time!  Kudos, Judi...I LOVE YOUR SHOP! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A TINY FINISH...

With J moving back home, and space at a premium, Dear Hubby has had to consolidate both his work computer and home computer onto one tiny desk.  Believe me, it is a tight squeeze...but we are more than happy to do anything we can to help J reach his goals. 



A few years ago I had made a rug mug to match the color scheme in my Expanded Sewing Room, now Dear Hubby's Man Cave/My Expanded Sewing Room.  Unfortunately, it is too large to fit on the desk.  So, Dear Hubby asked me to make a tiny "coaster" that will take up minimal room on the desk, but keep the condensation from his ice water from getting all over his paperwork. 

I am sure most of you already know how to make a tiny coaster, but for any newcomers to the sewing/quilting world I thought I would show a quick step by step tutorial of how it is done. 


I figured since Dear Hubby wanted it "tiny" I would look through my assorted 5" charm squares for two coordinating fabrics.  The room is black and gray with bright happy colors throughout.  For this project I picked two charms and a scrap of Warm and Natural batting from my scrap bucket.



I placed the batting on the bottom with one charm square facing right side up and the other charm square facing right side down on top of it. 


I then used my rotary cutter and a small ruler to trim the batting flush with the edges of the charm squares.


I pinned all around the charm square packet, leaving about a 2" opening for turning.


Using about a 1/4" seam I sewed all the way around the coaster, backstitching at the beginning and end of my opening.


I then trimmed all four corners, being careful not to cut into the stitching.


I then turned the coaster inside out and sewed a scant seam all the way around, being sure to catch the opening in the fabrics, which had been turned under and finger pressed in place.


See the wad of black thread at the corner?  Not good.  I could have avoided that by beginning my stitching more toward the center of the side so that my machine did not get caught up at the edge of the fabric when I began sewing.  But, since this is simply a small coaster for Dear Hubby's drinks...perfection isn't required, lol.  


Using a contrasting marking pencil I drew lines from corner to corner to secure the batting to the charm squares.


Ta-Da!...a "tiny coaster" for Dear Hubby's desk.

Sometimes a "tiny" finish is just what I need to get my mojo flowing again.  Next week I hope to get back to working on J's quilt!

Toodles...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

CH...CH...CH...CHANGES...

http://thegraphicsfairy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Vintage-Snowy-Window-Image-GraphicsFairy.jpg 

J is tired of paying ridiculous amounts of money to a landlord each month and getting nothing for his hard earned cash...not even sufficient maintenance of his apartment.  SOOOooo...he has decided to move back home and save up for a down payment on a house.  Dear Hubby and I agree that his best way to save up is to reduce his cash outlay, and living here will do that (dramatically)!  Plus, secretly, we are thrilled to have him around again!

So today he is moving back home.  Please excuse any absences over the next week or two as we try to fit his 832 sqf apartment into our home.  And, NO, I am NOT giving up my Expanded Sewing Room so he can have his bedroom back, lol.  Instead he will be moving into our finished basement.  But, since it is a "finished" basement it is going to be "FUN" trying to fit all of his stuff into an already decorated room!  Oh how I wish his stuff was made of shrinky-dink!

Be back soon...

STUCK...


Did you ever reach a point in your project where you just weren't liking ANYTHING you considered as the "next step"?  I am at that point...and I have to say it is really frustrating for me.  Mostly, because I am usually SUPER decisive, know exactly what I want in my head and hit the ground running.  This time I have limited myself to ONLY using the fabrics that are in my stash (cheaper and challenging!).  Therein lies the problem!  I thought I loved a challenge, but now I'm not so sure, lol.  I am really happy with the fabrics I have chosen so far.  But, NOTHING from my stash seems to be a good "fit" for the pieced border that I planned next!

Okay, time to focus on the positives.  
  1. I love the fabrics so far.  They are so bright and HAPPY!  Check.  
  2. I absolutely LOVE the zig-zag stitch I used to attach my raw edge flower petals.  Check.  I wish I could get a better picture (it blurs every time I try to get a close-up of the stitching).  I usually use Satin Stitch or Blanket Stitch to applique, but played around with one of the zig-zag stitches on my machine.  It will be my go-to for many projects I am sure...if I can recreate it, that is!  Usually when I find a stitch setting that I like I take a picture of the project (as close up as I can get) and take a picture of the settings on my machine.  I tape them both to the same page in my Project Book.  Wellllll...I forgot!  Grrrr!  Can you tell that my mind is frozen in frustration??  Deep cleansing breath...  There are only a few zig-zag options on my machine and only so far I can change the size, so I am sure EVENTUALLY I will find it again.  But, geeeezzz...  Sigh.  As Scarlett would say, "I'll think about it tomorrow!"
  3. I know EXACTLY what I am doing for the center of the flower.  I can SEE it in my head!  Check.  
  4. Ummmmm...STUCK!
Solution...dare I say it?  WIP.  I think my only work in progress is J's quilt and a quilt I started MANY moons ago and honestly will probably never finish.  HEY...if I remember correctly it was sorta, kinda teal-ish blue!  Maybe those fabrics will work!  I just KNEW there was a silver lining in there somewhere!  If not, I may just hang this little block on my pin board until a new solution pops into my head. 

Aaahhh...peace.  Now I can go back to sleep...

Toodles...