Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bright and cheerful

Hi everyone, and welcome to the other side of Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer!  I hope you had a great holiday weekend.  The hubs and I spent ours doing a yard drainage project, which required us to hand dig a 65 foot trench, install drainage pipe, and haul (literally) 500 pounds of gravel.  I'd show you a picture, but it would literally be a picture of mud.  It was a nightmare from start to finish, but it actually works.  It really does carry the water away!

So now I am recovering from strained muscles and the first sunburn I've had in years.  You know what's really great for recovery?  Some time stitching.  True fact.  I've been catching up on my Sewcial Bee Sampler blocks:

I have a few more to make to catch up.  I also started on the sashing, mostly so I can keep track of my blocks.

Aren't those brights cheerful?  I think the white sashing works with all those colors.  I have indoor pictures today because it's pouring out again.  The little dog there is one of out "pets."  I'm allergic, so this is as close to a real dog that I can have.

I also finished all of the blocks for the Scrap Happy Rails quilt, though I haven't put them all together yet.  That's a good goal for the end of this week, don't you think?

And I am thisclose to finishing all the letters for the Paper Dolls quilt.  The free-pieced letters didn't work out, mostly because I had a real problem making them the right size.  I'm saving them for another project, though.  (It will be awesome.)

I also packed up the Hands to Help donation quilts and sent them off to their new homes, and I did a few drawings for a quilt using those letters.  All in all, I think that's a lot, what with all the digging and everything!

This week promises a ton of rain, so maybe I'll be able to do a bunch of stitching.  We also have a carpenter coming to start building a pantry, and the electrician is coming back.  By September we'll be a lot less like a construction site, I hope.  But I'm definitely finished with the digging!

Sharing at Linky Tuesday and Let's Bee Social.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spring Cleaning-- The Big Finale and Giveaway!

Hi everyone, and welcome to the last of the Spring Cleaning series!  I'm glad you're here to wrap this up!

Well, it has been a long haul, what with all the cleaning and tossing and organizing.  But I hope it's paid off for you in the same way it's paid off for me.  Today I want to talk about my organizing/ cleanout experience, show you some pictures of my sewing room, and say some final organizing things.  Plus at the end of this post is a celebratory giveaway!  Last month was the third anniversary of this blog, which I completely missed, so this is a sort of double celebration.

I should say right up front that my sewing room never looks like this.  NEVER.  It usually looks like a dozen preschoolers have abandoned an art project in the middle of the floor--and the tables, and the rug and everywhere else.  I cleaned up just for you!

I am lucky enough to have a 12 by 12 foot bedroom as a sewing room, and it's basically square, which made it pretty easy to set things up the way I wanted them.  This is the major sewing area, where I keep both machines set up and ready to use all the time.  I call this "the nest," and I love how it works for me. I have a small ironing table tucked under the longer table, and I use this while I'm sewing, which is really super-handy.

Although I seriously lust after one of those Koala cabinets and/or a Martelli table, I got these two tables at Ikea and they were really, really inexpensive.  Before we moved I had an old dining table and that worked well, too.  The best thing about these tables is that I can move them around pretty easily, so if I need more work area I can just swing one of them around.  I used to sew on a used dining room table, so I'm thrilled to have these, actually. 

The shelves behind the tables hold everything I need right at hand, including a little warmer for my tea, because sometimes I forget it's there and then it's cold.  Hey, sewing takes concentration!  This is where most of the notions live, and it also houses the one essential for every sewing area, the junk basket.  Nobody's perfect!

Next is this shelving unit, which I consider the centerpiece of this whole room:

This is a Kallax shelving unit from Ikea in the biggest size, and it houses just about everything.  This was really one of the best purchases ever. This is all my fabric except for the scraps.  The yardage is on comic book boards, and then the top cubbies hold precuts, half yards, and panels and other specialty pieces.  The books are on lower shelves, and then the bins at the bottom hold scraps of specialty fabrics (like flannel), bags of cut scraps, and other essentials with no other home, like some Insulbrite fabric, some felt, and a few pieces of wool.

The baskets on top of the storage unit are functional as well as pretty.  These hold all the "backstock"-- things that I need once in a while but not every day, like bias tape makers and the scrap bindings I've made, as well as a few things I couldn't bear to part with.  

I have this shelving unit because the closet in here is very small and fairly useless.  I added more shelves to it so that I could store project boxes (which are too big for the shelving unit) on one shelf and the scrap boxes on a shelf above them.  The top shelf is all the tops I have to quilt up, and the batting is stored down on the floor.  I keep intending to add another shelf, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

Finally, here is the cutting/ ironing area and the design wall:

This area is obviously still a work in progress.  Right now I'm using the card table, which is not ideal, but we are making some changes in the kitchen and I will eventually have an old kitchen cabinet here.  This can't happen soon enough for me.  I have an ironing blanket all ready to fit over it, too, so that I'll be able to press longer pieces more easily. The design wall is really working out for me, though!

So that's it!  It may not look like much, but I am so, so happy with it.  I feel lucky to have any space at all, but I'm really pleased with how my cleaning out and organizing turned out.  It took me more than six months to get it near the way I want it, but it was really time well spent, even though it was very tiring and some of it was emotionally draining.  I can tell you that I honestly had some serious jitters about the whole thing.  What if I got rid of things I actually wanted or needed later?  Would I be able to sew without worrying about everything?  Almost none of my fears came to pass, and I don't miss the vast majority of the things I got rid of. And I'm happy every time I walk into the room, even if it is usually messy.

Here's some last bits of advice from me (for what it's worth!):

--It can take a long time to clean out and sort many years worth of stuff.  Don't get discouraged!  Do a little at a time and it will start to come together.

--Go slowly and take frequent breaks.  Everything looks impossible when you're tired.  Small treats also help.

--A positive attitude is everything, and a sense of humor doesn't hurt, either.

--Don't know where to start?  Start anywhere, with the thing that is closest to where you are sitting.  Just getting started will raise your spirits. 

--Read and take the advice of others, but remember that you have to arrange things the way they work for you.  If somebody else's system seems great, it is-- for them.  Your way will be great for you.

--As always, whatever you decide to do with your own fabric and sewing materials is up to you!  It's yours, so you get to decide!

So that wraps up our series!  And now for the giveaway!  I am giving away this lovely small package of organizational pieces to help you in your organizing endeavors:

Included in this package is a decorative box that will hold a lot of goodies (sorry that you can't really see the box! But aren't the flowers pretty?), two apothecary-type jars for notions, a package of page protectors for all those papers, six comic book boards for you to try, and a book on creating a perfect space for you to enjoy.  (All of these things are new, not toss-aways from my cleanout!)  To enter, leave a comment on this post about your biggest cleaning/ organizational challenge.  I'll use the random number thingy on Monday morning, May 29, to pull one winner.  **Important--if you are no-reply, please leave your email also!  If I can't contact you, you can't win!**

Thanks so much to everyone for coming along on this journey with me.  I hope you got some good ideas, at least, and some encouragement to make your sewing area work well for you.  I can tell you that all the hard work is worth it!  And for future reference, I am collecting these posts on a tab at the top of the blog, so if you want to find them later it will be easy.

Okay, enough cleaning!  Let's go sew!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hot little finish

Hi everyone!  Wow, it's hot here! It was over 90 degrees here for most of this week.  I saw pictures of other parts of the country, though, and I can't believe it was snowing this late in May.  Looks like it's going to be a weird summer everywhere.  Maybe you could send some of that cooler air this way, though.

Since it was so hot, I got to stay inside instead of working on the garden outside. Probably good not to pass out in the flowers, don't you think?  So instead I finished up this happy quilt:

This one is destined for the Hands to Help Challenge at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.  I made it using some blocks I picked up as a part of a scrap bag at my favorite quilt shop in Wisconsin.  I think they made up into a cheerful little quilt, don't you? 

For this one, I had planned to try out some free motion patterns, but in the end I just did the free motion cross-hatching again.  That is, I just did a cross hatch pattern freehand, without a walking foot or anything.  What should I call that?  Organic crosshatching?  Freeform?  Whatever we call it, it's very easy, which is what I liked most.

In any case, it worked great!  I'm really pleased with it.  It didn't take that long to do and it was pretty mindless, which is good because I also had a movie on at the same time.  I was listening to the movie more than watching it, but at least I didn't miss any plot points.  I needed to keep that quilt moving through the machine, though, because it was awfully hot sitting on my lap.  And there are no wrinkles in the backing!  I am seriously happy.  This little beauty was finished off with Susie's Magic Binding, which looks a little wavy in the pictures but is actually just fine. 

Sadly, I did not finish the Scrap Happy Rails top.  Looks like that one is going to have to wait for the next donation round.  Why force it?  I'd rather slow down and enjoy it.  Not to worry, though, the charities will get some other quilts that I've been saving up, so they still win.  I hope whoever gets them really enjoys them, because I certainly put a lot of fun into making them.

And that's the news from here!  It's supposed to rain and then be a lot cooler, so I may be forced to work outside this weekend.  Also, our big project for the summer is the kitchen, so there will be a lot of work to do there starting really soon.  I get to destroy some things, which I'm really kind of looking forward to!

Everybody have a great weekend!

Sharing at crazymomquilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Finished or Not Friday, and Oh Scrap!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Spring Cleaning-- Scraps

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Spring Cleaning series!  We're almost at the end, and I'm really glad you're here!

Our topic for today is scraps, those precious little pieces left after the main project is complete.   Maybe you save your own, maybe you get them from friends, maybe you buy them in thrift shops and quilt stores--wherever they come from, storing them can be a problem.  So many pieces floating around, so many colors, so many possibilities.  Let's see if we can't tame that scrap monster!

First, some good news for some of you--you don't have to save scraps if you don't want to! Really!  It's your fabric, you can do whatever you want to with it.  Toss those little pieces in the trash if you'd like, or use them as fire starters or pet bed stuffing.  It would be kind to save them and give them away to someone who can use them, but you don't even have to do that.  If you do want to save scraps for someone, keep a box by your cutting area.  When it's full, seal it up and send it off.  No mess in your sewing room, happiness for the recipient.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

If you do save scraps, there are a lot of ways to organize and store your scraps, but--as always--whatever you decide to do with your own fabric and scraps is the right thing to do.  Find a system that works for you.  It may take a few tries, but eventually you *will* get a handle on the scraps.

Decisions, decisions:

There has been a lot written about scraps, with many, many blog posts and even entire books dedicated to this subject.  These all boil down to two basic choices:  you can save pieces and bits sorted roughly by color (or theme, or mood, or collection) or cut your leftovers into specific sizes and store the pieces by size.  This is the basic choice, and the one thing that you really should decide before you start.  You could also cut some pieces into sizes and save some pieces intact, which is what I do.

If you decide to cut up all your scraps, there are a number of different systems and philosophies.  Decide if one of these works for you, or if you want to make your own system.  A couple of really popular "cutting" systems are Bonnie Hunter's Scrap User's System  and Quilter Pat Sloan's Scrap BustingJoan Ford also has a couple of Scrap Therapy books that include patterns for how to use the scraps you cut up.  If you do decide to use one of these systems, don't overwhelm yourself with the cutting.  Go slowly and cut just a handful of scraps at a time.  It could take a while to cut everything up.

If you aren't cutting them up for now, the main problem with scraps is storing them.  The first thing to do--before you start sorting!-- is to decide which sizes of pieces are "scraps."  Some people think of fat quarters as scraps, others think a scrap is anything smaller than a 5-inch square.  You decide!  This is going to have an impact on the types of containers you want to consider for storing your scraps.  If the fat quarters are really scraps, then you're probably going to want to use larger containers, like baskets or bins.

Along with this, decide what the smallest piece you'll save will be.  I know quilters who save every little tiny bit and ones who toss anything smaller than 4 inches square.  What do you want to save?  If you save the smallest bits, will you actually use them?  If not, why save them?  If you won't use them but can't bring yourself to throw them out, save them separately for a friend who will use them.  Your friend gets infusions of new fabrics occasionally and you get to get rid of those bits guilt free.  Winners all around!

So many decisions before we even touch the fabric!  Just one more thing to decide-- what containers will you use to save your scraps?  There are a lot of possibilities, and none of them have to be expensive!  Some possibilities:

--Jars of any size or shape, though bigger is usually better, or any kind of glassware that will hold the scraps

--Baskets of any size

--Plastic bins or boxes (see-through!)

--Zipper bags of many sizes

--Fabric bins, either inexpensive ones you purchase or ones you've made yourself

--Plastic food containers, after they've been washed in hot soapy water, make amazing scrap containers, too

There are a lot of possibilities, and you don't have to choose just one.  I'm a big proponent of using what you have.  All of the pictures above are actually from my sewing room.  I mostly use the plastic bins, which are Gladware Entree size that came in packages of three, and I plan to make some of my own bins to replace the cheap brown ones. Someday!

One place to find a lot of really cheap, interesting, and useful containers is your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or St Vincent de Paul thrift store.  These are especially good places to go if you want to find jars or other glassware, including mason jars in many sizes.  They also usually have a bunch of different kinds of baskets and bins, equally inexpensive. 

Sorting at last:

Now that all of these decisions have been made, it's finally time to sort some scraps!  The key to success is not to try to do it all at once.  Definitely get all the scraps in one place--pull out every box, bin, and plastic grocery bag and keep them all together in one spot while you're sorting, but only sort one handful at a time.  Be good to yourself and take frequent breaks, and allow yourself plenty of time to get it finished.  Keep a box nearby, too, for anything that you want to give away.  Though some people can sell their scraps by the pound or by the bag, I'm not sure how much market there is for this.  You could always try, if that's your thing.  You can also donate most scraps at the same places you donate fabric.  And friends usually gratefully take scraps of all kinds!

Most people probably sort by color family, but you can use any sorting principle that works for you-- warm colors and cool colors, darks and lights, prints and solids, batiks and cottons, dots and stripes, dogs and cats. . .whatever works for you!  You can also mix different types of containers, and even choose to cut some scraps into standard sizes and keep others in chunks or irregular bits.  The most important thing is that you find a way that makes sense to you.  Just like with anything else, if it doesn't work for you--it doesn't work!

Just to illustrate how a system unique to you can work, let me tell you about my scrap "system."  I save most of my scraps sorted by color in the plastic Gladware bins, which are stacked on a shelf in the closet.  I don't usually cut scraps into smaller pieces until I have nothing but little bits of that fabric left.  Then I will cut those pieces into 2-1/2, 2-inch, or 1-1/2 inch squares.  These squares get stored in plastic zipper bags, which are kept in those ugly brown bins.  I also have some scraps from particular collections that I've wanted to keep together stored in plastic zipper bags in those bins.  The basket holds scraps of flannel and specialty fabrics.  The strings--which to me are strips that are less than 1-1/2 inches wide--are in the large jar, mainly because they look pretty in there.  Hey, it works for me!

Keep the system going:

The problem with scraps is that they just keep building up!  The way to keep ahead of it is to keep a box or basket near your cutting area.  Toss the scraps in there as you cut and sort them when the basket or box is full.  I know myself that this is easier said than done!  Eventually they do get sorted out, but that's usually after I've stuffed them down in the basket quite a bit.

Of course, the best thing to do with scraps is make some scrap quilts, but that's a topic for someone else!  I hope you got some good ideas here and can make a dent in those scraps, even if it's just to box them up and send them away.

This brings us to the end of our spring cleaning topics!  Next week is the big finale, with a little discussion of furniture, some pictures of my sewing room, and I have it on good authority that there is also a giveaway involved.  Meet back here next Wednesday for the exciting conclusion!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social.