Saturday, April 22, 2017

The loneliest number

Hi all!  How was your week?  I am still getting slammed and I'm really exhausted.  Feels like I've been really tired for weeks.  Maybe I should look into that or something.

Just a very short post today to show off my single, lonely RSC challenge block:


At least it has a pretty background!  That's the dogwood tree that grows next to our deck.  It's pretty, but sadly, it has to come down because it's just too close to the house.  Luckily, there is another one out front, so we'll still have flowers.  And there are tons of others in the neighborhood, too, all of them in bloom from all the rain we've been having.  (So you know I'm sneezing a lot, too!)

I really like this block.  I think the fabric for it is perfect and looks great with the greens.  I've also finally got a cutting chart and sewing order that makes these relatively fast and painless.  When I'm done with this quilt I'm half planning to write up an official pattern for it because I'm expecting it to be spectacular. (She said modestly.)


And that was the sum total of what I accomplished this week!  I feel like a slug.  I did do some cutting, though, including the cutting for two more multicolored Steps to the Garden blocks (like this one).  That will give me a dozen blocks, which makes me happy because even if I don't make any more blocks I'd still have enough for a quilt.


Before I go, I want to plug my Spring Cleaning series a little bit.  There is a post about books up right now, and Wednesday there will be a post about cleaning out magazines and other paper.  Hope you'll check it out!


Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend and that all your RSC projects are humming along.  I wish I could have a nap right now, but we have so much to do this weekend.  T.S. Eliot was right-- April really is the cruelest month!

Sharing at soscrappy for RSC 17.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring Cleaning--Books

Hi all, and welcome to the Spring Cleaning series!  This is a quest for a cleaner, better, and more fun sewing room.  The introduction to the series is HERE if you'd like to read some about the goals of this series of posts.  If you're ready to clean out some of your things, too, come on along!  I've found that an attitude of adventure really helps, along with just a bit of ruthlessness, so let's get started!


Today we are tackling books.  Who doesn't love a good quilt book?  They're colorful, fun, and helpful.  They're full of patterns, good advice, and new and interesting techniques. 


I know I've learned a ton from them, but I also know that they can become overwhelming, just sitting there taking up valuable space and (for some people) causing guilt and sadness.  Many of my books were just outdated, with patterns I no longer wanted or techniques I'd already mastered or given up.  But I still found it hard to get rid of them because they seem so permanent--and because many of them cost a pretty penny. 

**One thing before we start--there is no hard and fast rule about how many books you have to get rid of or a limit on the number you keep!  You make your own rules and decide what makes you comfortable.**

For this step you'll need a place outside your sewing area to sort through the books. Ideally, you should be able to leave the books there for a couple of days, even a week or more.  Don't expect this to be a super-fast process, especially if you have a lot of books.  You'll also need a box or two to put the books you no longer want.

A small portion of my books.

Start by pulling out every book, including the ones on the shelves, the ones in other areas of the house, and the ones in a box in the closet.  Don't forget the ones beside the bed (or under it).  Pile these up in your designated sorting area. Your goal is to get all of the books in one place so that you can deal with them all at once.

Once you've got them all in one place, take a break!  Books are heavy, and you're going to need some energy.

When you're ready, roll up your sleeves because it's time to sort.  Start by going through all the piles and pulling out the books you absolutely MUST keep.  There's no question at all in your mind that these books stay.  For me, these were my block books, the Brackman Encyclopedia, and my books on color theory.  I also kept my first quilt book and a couple of other sentimental books.  Gather these up and put them right back in your sewing area (or wherever you're keeping your books).  They need to be out of the way for the next step.  You'd hate to accidentally give one away!

Must keeps.

Next, take each of the remaining books and put it into one of three piles--"keep," "maybe," and "go."  Put the "go" books straight into a box so that they're out of the way, and separate the "keep" and "maybe" piles.  If you can't decide, put the book into the "maybe" pile.  If you're like me, this will be the biggest pile.

This is a good time to take a break, or even leave the books overnight.  You can change your mind on lots of things overnight!

Keepers on the left, giveaways on the right.

When you're ready to get back to it, go through the "keep" pile again.  Do you really want to keep each of these books?  Why are you keeping them?  What do they each bring to the party?  Its likely that several will migrate into the other piles.  When you're satisfied that you want to keep each of the "keep" books, it's time to put that pile away.  Move those back to wherever you're storing your books.

Now for the hard part--the "maybe" pile.  Everyone will have their own decision-making process about these books, but I suggest making two piles from this one--"leaning keep" and "leaning go."  In the "leaning go" pile should be books that are outdated, those that you once intended to make a quilt from but never did, those where you've made all the patterns that you intend to, anything torn up, and books you've lost interest in.  "Leaning keep" should be those books that are still interesting, that showcase a technique you might need to refer to again, and books you just generally find useful (or pretty!).  When in doubt, lean toward letting it go.

Hmmm. . .tough choices.

**What about a book with one pattern that you want to keep?  Here's a radical idea: pull that pattern out of the book to save, then recycle the rest of the book.  What?!  You can do this!  It's yours, and it's not a first edition of Dostoevsky, it's a craft book.  It will be fine!**

It can take a long time to get through this pile, so give yourself time to think about it.  When you're satisfied that all of the "maybe" books have been through the wringer and are all either "keep" or "go," put the "go" books into a box and move the "keep" books back to the book space.

All of these are out of here!

Congratulations!  You've sorted out all your books!  This felt really momentous to me, like a real step forward.  I hope it does for you too.

Now, what to do with those books?  First, the keepers:

--A bookshelf is ideal for storing books!  Even a shelf in a closet or cabinet can store books well.  The key is to keep the books together so you can find what you want when you want it.

--No bookshelf?  Try a decorative crate or box that you can leave out and admire.  Some large baskets might also work, depending on how many books you have.

--How about a storage ottoman or other storage furniture? A deep dresser drawer?  Again, the key is to keep them together.

--If all else fails, you can store them in large clear tote boxes in a closet, under a table, or even under a bed.



What about the books you're getting rid of?  There are several options:

Selling:

Books are a bit like cars--they lose a lot of value once you bring them home.  Craft books are especially volatile as they become outdated very quickly.  If you want to sell them, you could list them on your blog or in an Etsy shop if you have one.  This is probably the cheapest option, but also very slow.  Other selling options:

--Become an Amazon Marketplace seller.  (Scroll all the way to the bottom to become an individual seller.) Some fees apply, but books are listed by title and author, so someone looking for that specific book will see your listing.

--Abebooks, a site just for selling books.  Much like Amazon, but fewer pictures and lower fees.

--Half-Price Books  and other used bookstores that buy books.  Be aware that these stores generally pay very little, but the books would be out of your home.

Donating:

--Your local library is a good bet.  Most have "Friends of the Library" book sales and gladly take donations for those.  You may have to store the boxes until a few weeks before the sale, then take them to the library.

     **If you're up for it, take a look at the library's quilt book offerings and consider making an appointment to have a conversation with a librarian about adding some of your books to the lending collection.  It's just a conversation, and they can say no, but they might say yes!  Many libraries are cash-strapped and take these kinds of donations.  They generally want new-looking books that are very gently used, perfect for the book that your wonderful aunt thought that you would just love but isn't your style at all.**

--If there is a technical school near you, they may be interested in some of the books for their library as well.  You could also ask at high schools that still have sewing classes.  (Some still do, including some private schools.)

--Your local 4H, Girl Scout troop, Boy Scout troop, or other youth organization may have some ideas about specific people who would be able to use some of the books.

--Ask your friends if they would like some of the books!  One person's trash is another's treasure!

As a last resort:

Your local Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul store, or Goodwill will take book donations, plus you will get a donation receipt for your taxes.

What I did:

I got rid of about two-thirds of the books I had.  I sold a few through the blog (very few), gave a few to friends, and donated the rest to the Friends of the Library.

My finished bookshelves!

This was a long post, but I hope it was helpful!  Next week we'll tackle the magazines and other paper.  I hope your sorting goes well!  Remember to be gentle with yourself.  No guilt allowed!  And if you have suggestions for others, please share in the comments!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sunny day

Hi everyone! Wow, am I glad last week is over!  It was just crazy from beginning to end, except for Sunday, when our daughter and son-in-law came up for Easter.  That was definitely worth all the crazy.  I knew April would be a hard month, but I'm definitely ready for it to let up a bit.  At least we are enjoying some lovely sunshine and blooming trees, too.

So I didn't sew for six whole days!  No wonder I'm losing it.  When I finally got to sew, I finished off the first quadrant of my scrappy strings quilt:


This is from a pattern in No Scrap Left Behind by Amanda Jean Nyberg and will be a donation quilt for the Hands to Help Challenge.  I originally had that peachy pink floral as the centers of the blocks, but when I put a bunch of them together I didn't like them.  I switched to a beautiful Kona color called Butter, and I think it complements the colors in the strings really well.  This does use a *ton* of scraps, and right now I'm just hoping I have enough to make it to the end of the blocks.  I say that like there aren't a bunch of pieces of fabric floating around here, but you know what I mean!

I'm enjoying the dogwood blossoms, too!

I also made this block, which is the latest in the Sewcial Bee Sampler from Maureen Cracknell and Sharon Holland:


If that doesn't say "spring," I don't know what does!  At one block a week this has been really enjoyable and manageable.  There's always time to join in, too!


This is the 11th block for the sampler, and I started to cut sashing to put the rows together.  You know, just so I don't end up with a lot of blocks sitting in a project box, which we all know is a real possibility.  I'm hung up, though, on whether I want cornerstones between the blocks or not.  The layout that they show for the final quilt doesn't have them, but I think I might like them.  Any opinions?

That's it from here for now.  I'm off to do more crazy-making things!  Hope you're having a good week!  Don't forget that tomorrow is the start of the Spring Cleaning series, and we'll be tackling books.  It will be festive!


Sharing at Linky Tuesday, Let's Bee Social, the Hands to Help linkup, and Oh Scrap!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spring Cleaning

Hi everyone! How is your week going?  Mine is crushing me! Right now I'm trying to cram 5 days work into 3 days and get ready for the upcoming holiday.  It's madness, I tell you!

Today I'm introducing a new short series, the Spring Cleaning series.


How happy are you with the state of your sewing area?  Do you have trouble finding things?  Are there some times when you just want to throw everything out and start over?  I totally get that!  When we moved, I boxed up about 20 years worth of sewing stuff and moved it.  We moved quickly, so there was no time to sort or ponder, just move it.  When I opened the boxes at our new house, I was happy, but quickly became overwhelmed.  What was all this stuff and where did it come from?  Why did I still have this?  What does this gadget even do? 


It took me 6 months to work through everything in the boxes and get to a sewing room that I like and enjoy using.  This series is an attempt to share some of the things I learned while doing this and maybe help a few people get to a better place in their sewing areas, too. 


This task is so big that it has to be broken down into smaller steps.  For the next few weeks, I'll take one topic at a time and share all my wisdom (which is meant ironically, of course!) along with tips and tricks from others, with lots of links to helpful articles, too. I'll also have suggestions for passing along treasures you no longer want and organizing the ones you keep.  And of course, lots of pictures!


When I started my epic cleanout, I made a few rules for myself.  These were very simple:

     1. Cleaning out was the goal, not reorganizing things that I would never use again.  I wanted a sewing space that was useful and full of things that made my limited sewing time easier and more fun. Plus I wanted to be able to find things when I needed them.

     2. Everything I kept had to be useful or pretty.  I wouldn't keep anything just because I had paid for it, no matter what it cost.

     3.  Anything that I was getting rid of had to go to someone (or someplace) who could either use it or appreciate it.  This meant that donations to Goodwill or other thrift shops were a last resort.  (I ended up not taking anything to Goodwill, which was a win for me.)

     4. If it didn't work for me, it didn't work, no matter how great it was for someone else.

I hope you'll come along and join the adventure!  Right now I'm thinking that the last day we'll have a linkup of some sort for you to show off if you've done any kind of organizing or cleaning out.  And it's possible that there will be some giveaways and other things too.  Here's the schedule of topics for this series:

          Today--Intro
          April 19-- Books
          April 26-- Magazines, patterns, and other paper
          May 3--  Notions, rulers, and thread
          May 10--Fabric and batting
          May 17-- Scraps
          May 24-- The Big Finish

If there's anything you'd like to see covered in this series, please let me know in the comments!  No promises, but I want this to be as useful as possible for everyone, and I always benefit from new ideas, too!.

 Hope you're having a good week, and I'll see you back here next Wednesday to get started!

Spring flowers, just because!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Ladies in waiting

Well, friends, yesterday was really awful in terms of the weather, which has delayed today's post considerably.  It poured like you would not believe, just sheets of rain, and tons of wind.  Enough to make you almost slide off the road, so you pull over into a parking lot to wait it out and literally cannot see the road from where you're parked.  It was pretty scary!  Then you get home and listen to the wind howling away and hope that the trees bend and don't break.  All of ours are okay, but one came down in our subdivision and took out the power and the Internet and blocked a bridge.  It's mostly gone this morning, but what a nightmare.

So, where are we on the current projects?  Well, nothing happened yesterday!  I had planned to work a little more on this quilt, the Paper Dolls:


I had hoped to have all the sashing done before I took a picture yesterday, but it's hard to stitch in the dark.  Yes, this was my One Monthly Goal for March, but I didn't make it.  I just do not do well with deadlines when it comes to stitching!  I have enough deadlines in the rest of my life, I think.


I started putting this one together with a yellow sashing in a "dancing" layout, where there were no real rows.  It looked pretty bad.  I could have pushed on and had a finish, but instead I took heart from Julie's story about her barn quilt and just took it all apart.  Sometimes it's just not right and you know it. 


I have a good idea where it's going now, and I like the blue much better than the yellow.  I tried a black and white print, but I thought it was bad, too.  I thought it clashed too much with the beige backgrounds of the blocks. (And now I'm having doubts again!) 


See those big, blank blocks?  Those are for a (long) saying that fits this quilt so well.  That means letters.  I know!  There are a lot of ways to do letters, but I don't want fusible applique, so I'm trying free-pieced letters.  The challenge will be making them fit.


So, no finish today, but at least I know where I'm going!  And all the girls made it into the quilt, so that's a happy thing.

Last week I went to the Lancaster quilt show with Preeti from Sew Preeti Quilts.  We had a great time!  The show was okay (it's possible that Preeti sold an intricate sewing table to a customer), and we got to go shopping and pick up some real bargains, and we had some really good Indian food in Lancaster.  And I got to see Lynne Tyler's chicken quilt in person, which was awesome:


And Preeti brought me these:


These are I Spy cuts for a quilt for my tiny grandson!  Wasn't that nice of her?  Totally unexpected, but really nice.  Thanks Preeti!  I'm thinking maybe churn dash blocks.  What do you think?

Everybody have a great weekend!  I plan to stay dry and comfy, and maybe have a glass of wine or something.  But not before stitching these dolls, because that could lead to more troubles!

Sharing at Finished or not Friday and Confessions of a Fabric Addict.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Constellations--Multicolor

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Constellations quilt! It's a very exciting month, because this month's color is somewhat different--it's multicolored. All those oddball scraps that don't fit anywhere else will fit here.  Don't know about you, but I've got a bunch of scraps that I never know what to do with because they're odd colors or too many colors with nothing really dominant.  This month's block will use those up, and would also be nice to use up some novelties, especially if you have something you'd like to fussy cut for the center, or the dots and stripes that you never know how to use.

Here's what we're making this month:


This is a Double Star variation, attributed to Nancy Cabot from the 1930s.  These blocks are easy to make and go pretty fast.  They use scrap pieces that are no bigger than 3 inches square, and for the purposes of our quilt, a wide variety of scraps will work best, rather than all matching stars.  These are 6-inch finished stars, and we need 8 of them for this quilt (see "This quilt section" for an explanation of how these will be used.)


Let's make some blocks!

Cutting:

For each star, you will need a background and scraps of two contrasting fabrics.  The contrast can be in pattern or color, but there should be a separation between the fabrics.  Designate one of the fabrics the "main" and the other the "accent."


From the background, cut:

1 3-1/4 inch square*
4 2-1/2 inch squares

From the main fabric, cut:

1 2-1/2 inch square
2 2-7/8 inch squares*

From the accent, cut:

1 3-1/4 inch square*

*These pieces can be oversized a bit if you're more comfortable trimming things down.

That's really it for the cutting--on to construction!

Construction:

Take the 3-1/4 inch squares of the background and the accent fabric and cut them twice corner to corner to make 4 pieces.  Cut the 2-7/8 inch squares in half once to make two triangles each:


Stack the triangles from the 3-1/4 inch squares as shown and stitch them together along the center. Press toward the background fabric.


Add the triangles cut from the 2-7/8 inch squares of the main fabric as shown.  Press toward the main fabric.


These units should measure 2-1/2 inches square, so square them up if necessary.


Assembly:

Believe it or not, that's the only unit to make for these blocks.  All that's left is to put the star together!  Lay out the units as shown, paying attention to the direction of the main fabric triangles.


Join the units into rows and the rows together into a block.

That's it! This block should measure 6-1/2 by 6-1/2 to finish at 6 inches in the quilt.   Make 8 stars for the Constellations quilt.


This quilt section:

The 8 Double Stars will be used in two sections of the quilt, section 4 and section 6.  Both of these sections also include a 12-inch star.  The 12-inch star to complete section 4 will be made in May and the star for section 6 in July.  This will give the quilt a lot of variation and spread the work over several months.  Plus, it will make those sections easy to construct, since most of the pieces will be finished!

That's it for this month!  Eight blocks seems like a lot, but really only 4 are needed for next month, so there's time to gather more scraps with a good variety. 

Have fun using up those oddball scraps, and be sure to come back May 2 for the next installment, including the exciting construction of section 4, sure to be a winner!


Sharing at Linky Tuesday, Let's Bee Social, and soscrappy for RSC17.