Progress Report a.k.a Work in Progress Wednesday

The beginning of something

The beginning of something

I really surprised myself over the weekend. I started a new project and felt like I made significant progress. During a recent retreat my new friend Jennilee and I started chatting about my new made up hashtag/challenge to myself called Use It or Lose It. She asked what it was and I said I was challenging myself to use my fabric, not just my scraps but the yardage I have on my shelves. Even to the point of using my favorite fabric too. She thought it was a great idea so we decided to challenge each other to make a quilt top using some sort of square pattern in the month of August.  Given that this girl finished something ridiculous like 3 or 4 quilts over the course of the weekend I may have been a little too excited to challenge her. I’m pretty lucky if I finish an entire quilt in one year.

Well, then Kim (owner of Honey Hill Retreat center) went and showed me her Trip Around the World quilt made with 30s prints and I realized that would be the perfect pattern! It’s so fast, the cutting is uber simple and it really does use up a lot of fabric.  So on Saturday I spent every free minute cutting my blues, reds and some low volume into strips.

Everything is still laying out on my sewing/dining room table, I have a little work station set up and I keep all the sharp and pointy objects out of reach but this way I can go over and sew for a short burst of time when the kid is distracted and I feel like I’m really making progress!

scrappytrip1_4

In fact, I’ve finished 5 blocks since Sunday! This is blocks 1-4 (of course) As you can see, I’m using reds, aquas and trying to use some low volume to create a secondary pattern but it’s not quite working out. I’m OK with that though. The point was to get a quilt top finished in the month of August. I may need two extra weeks to work on it but I think I might meet the challenge! And Jennilee is on a work trip out of town this week so I get a head start on her, haha!

If you want to follow along with this progress, check out my tag #useitorloseitstash and also check out #sewtake20 which is a tag created by a few of my Late Night Quilter buddies who are trying to break projects down into 20 minute bites and sew every day. So far this week I’ve managed to Sew on Monday and Wednesday! It feels great! Although I think tonight I need to start everything even earlier. Staying up past midnight is killing me.

Happy Stitches,

Anna

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Tutorial Tuesday: Pinterest

Tutorial Tuesday

Do you know which website I adore almost as much as I love Instagram (and you know how much I love Instagram)?  Pinterest.  If I’m looking for ideas for decorating or parties,  I’ll search there before I search Google.  Why? Probably because of the visual nature of the site and the ease in which I can find items and save them for reference later by pinning them to a virtual cork board. If I need inspiration for a mini quilt or color ideas, Pinterest, it’s so easy to create a new board and save every item that catches my eye.

How does it work?

I think Pinterest is the best tool for nursing moms who are holding the new baby in one arm and only have one free arm. To use Pinterest you only need to have one hand free for clicking the mouse. In fact when I was nursing my son I think my pins probably doubled in that time. The pins come from everywhere around the interwebs. When you sign up you can install a widget in your browser tool bar that is the little “p” logo, that allows you to find content all around the Web and pin it to whatever board makes the most sense to you. I have at least 10 boards that are only quilt related posts. I have 3 or 4 that are about different types of organizing, I have inspirational sayings boards, and some for recipes that I may or may not ever make (but they sure look good). I even have a board of items that I’d NEVER make in 100 years, it’s called Not in 100 Years!  (If you want more of that, look up @pinterestyouredrunk on Instagram, hilarious!)

Following Boards vs Following People

When you join pinterest you’ll be prompted to follow people you know who are on there, it really is just another form of social media after all, depending on how you sign in it will pull from your Facebook friends or your email (I think it pulls from FB because I noticed my profile picture is always the same as my FB picture). You can visit the boards your friends have created and pin from their boards OR choose to follow their boards.  I’d highly recommend you follow specific boards instead of following people because even though you love your sister and you may be interested in her quilt board and her ideas for fast recipes, you may not have any interested in her newly created board about hiking the Appalachian mountains. Anytime she pins something to the boards you are following,  those items will show up in your feed on your home page. So only following the boards you are interested in will keep your feed less cluttered. I made the mistake when I first joined of following people and ended up with 30 or so pins about wedding plans and tropical plants in my feed and realized I needed to be more selective.

A recent addition is that Pinterest will show related posts which are not from people you follow and promoted posts from people who are paying to get their content in front of your eyes. Recently, I’ve started seeing pins in completely different languages show up as related posts, which is rather annoying but I’ll talk more about what to do about that next week.

I hope this quick Pinterest overview has piqued your curiosity and you’ll consider checking it out. The Android app is really user friendly but the website is great too (they started out just before Smart Phones became the thing). If you decide to sign up, look for me, my name is craftygirlanna and I have something like 3500 pins for your entertainment (although most of them are quilt related).

Fair Warning

Oh and fair warning: Pinterest is the best way to waste time since Spider Solitaire (the computer version). When you start pinning you may get sucked into the time vortex and look up thinking a couple of minutes have passed and it has been two hours. So don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If I can figure out how, I’m going to link this up with Late Night Quilter (Stephanie) Tutorial Tuesday round up.

Happy Stitches!

Anna

Make Beautiful Things

Found on Pinterest

Found on Pinterest

I think I’ve always had some sort of entrepreneurial spirit. I think it runs in my family. I’ve been told that my grandmother (the one who was a quilter) used to pick up old furniture off the side of the road and paint it to sell (this was way before chalk paint and Pinterest), she also had a ceramics shop and a restaurant at one time. I’m sure she was super resourceful, being the mother of 10 children.

When I was growing up, I had the typical lemonade stand (plus popcorn) at my parents’ garage sale.  I was always searching for another way to sell things to make some money. It was a fun way to pass the time. As I got older I would offer to scrub the bathrooms for some cash and take my parents’ car and hand wash it at the car wash. Our agreement was that they would give me $5 and I could keep anything I didn’t use (you remember those timed car washes that gave you about a minute of spray time for a 25 cents? I could usually wash and vacuum the car for roughly $2)

I’ve also probably always been crafty (I think I remember trying to figure out how to sell friendship bracelets) so when Etsy came into the world, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to make stuff to sell. The problem is, I’ve had a lot of experience with reality since I was 8 or 9 years old and I realized that it’s difficult to really make enough money selling handmade items to be profitable. And I know myself and I just wouldn’t enjoy making custom items for other people (don’t even ask about the curtains or the table runners I’ve made on commission).

So I came to a realization yesterday. Even though I want to build my blog readership and post more often, I’ve decided that I’m not in pursuit of sponsorship dollars or book deals. As the picture above says, I just want to make beautiful things and tell people about them. I want to make things for people who I know and family who I love so that I know that deep down they will love and appreciate the handmade gifts. I want to make pretty mini quilts to put up in my cubicle at work so that when people ask me about them I can say “yes I made these, no, I don’t sell them” which most of what I usually say (except most of the minis in my cubicle are not made by me because of swaps and such, I’m going to bring those home for a mini display wall in my sewing space.) I don’t want to work my tail off to promote an Etsy shop and end up burned out making things for other people. I no longer WANT to have a handmade business, I just want to make beautiful things.

I feel that when blogging first really started it was because people wanted a voice. I think that crafty people started blogging because they wanted a way to feel accountable because somehow when you write something down that people can see, or put it out into the world, you feel like you have to do it or risk disappointing your readers.

As you’ve undoubtedly seen, I don’t use a lot of photos in my blog posts because I use Instagram for that purpose, for the most part, my blog is my voice, the thoughts in my head and things I want to share with anyone who is willing to read it.

This sort of goes back to a Quilt Without Obligation discussion that happened a while back. I always end up comparing myself to the amazing quilters that I follow on IG who ARE writing patterns and promoting their blog to build readership and who WANT to design a fabric line or write a book. I just want to make pretty things and share my process and successes and failures along the way.

Of course, if someone wants to give me a book deal, I’m certainly open to the idea, but for now, I’m just going to use my precious free quilting time to make things I want to make, with very limited or flexible deadlines. I still need to finish up my 80s 90s Swap project, am working on a mini medallion swap with my friend Emily and have a monthly Quilters Bee Mod block to make, but the rest of my projects are going to be flexible.

It always makes me so sad to think of the practical hoards of fabric and unfinished quilt tops that end up being sold at garage sales and on eBay because that quilter didn’t get the chance to finish the tops or use the fabric. I’ve done pretty well with my Use My Stash/No Buy Challenge for 2015. It has been remarkably easy to NOT buy fabric since I have such a nice stash to work with. Now I just need to work on quilting and binding the tops!

Alright, I think that is all I needed to say for now. It’s very surprising how significant of a realization this is for me.  I know I’m not the only one out there who feels like this.

Thanks for sticking with me for this long post!

Happy Stitches,

Anna

Insta-Friday: Houston Insta-Quilters Meet Up

DeathtoStock_Wired9_picmonkeyed

Welcome to another edition of Insta-Friday, where I will share a little tidbit of (hopefully) helpful information about Instagram to make using it easier and more enjoyable! Or I just ramble on about how much I love Instagram.

As fun as it is to connect with people all over the world through Instagram, I still feel that quilting is a social activity that should be shared in person (my husband would disagree with that though).  Maybe it’s because when I have a friend to sew with, I don’t have to stop sewing to take a picture and share it on IG if they are sitting right next to me!

Through my posts on IG I have come to realize that there are A LOT of quilters in Houston who use Instagram! This is so exciting to me because it helps me feel connected to them, maybe because I know they are experiencing the same hot and humid weather or I know they feel my pain when I talk about the traffic in Houston. It’s just another way to connect to them.

When I posted the question to my IG friends to ask if anyone wanted to meet up, I had a really nice response! The only problem, Houston is super spread out and a lot of us have full time jobs and/or children and driving across town for a meet up is not really something we wanted to do (see previous comment about the traffic).  So now I’m trying to work out some of the logistics but I have a temporary solution.

In August I have a meeting planned for for the Savor Each Stitch Bee on Saturday August 1st from 1-3 pm at Panera Bread in Post Oak and I’d like to invite any and all Houston Insta-Quilters to come either to the bee meeting (we’re discussing the design concept of Scale from the 3rd or 4th chapter of the book) or come at 3 pm for the Insta-Quilter portion of the afternoon.

I guess the point of this post is that even though Instagram is technically a media where you may never expect to meet people you “know” online, there are still opportunities to meet them! In fact, it was an almost surreal experience when I got to meet a few people at the International Quilt Show in Houston last fall whom I only knew online (@capitolaquilter and @cauchycomplete to name two) and again at QuiltCon I made a new friend who actually lives in Houston (@sweetfeetstitches)! Social media is helping to make our large world feel smaller and more connected and that can never be a bad thing.

Insta-Quilters in Houston Meet Up

(not sewing, just sewcializing, but you’re welcome to bring sew and tell!)

Saturday August 1st

3pm -5pm(come from 1-3pm if you want to participate in the Savor Each Stitch Bee)

Panera Bread in Post Oak

Questions? Just drop me an e-mail and I’ll try to answer them

Happy Friday,

Anna

How to Get Over a Quilt Retreat Hangover

Pass the Coffee

My son, Michael James, probably about 18 months old

Ugh, it’s Monday after an amazing quilt retreat at Honey Hill. I’ve been on several retreats and I always take Friday off to travel to the site and come home on Sunday. Then I always wish I had taken Monday off too so I could recover from the weekend! The feeling you have on Monday when you have to go back to work after a quilt retreat is what I call a Quilt Retreat Hangover. No, alcohol is not even required for this lethargic effect that hits you when you realize you have to return to reality bright and early Monday morning (or Sunday night). If your Monday morning job is doing laundry and entertaining young children or like mine, going in to work by 8:30 am, it’s always a difficult adjustment to get back to that routine. Thankfully the only real effect is tiredness, not sensitivity to light or sound or nausea (if that is the case, maybe you should have done more sewing and less actual drinking).

I mean, here is how my weekend went (note the time references):

Friday – Arrive at the retreat at 4:30 pm, stay up until 4:30 am trying to finish that last row (of course my bobbin ran out after sewing about 4 inches so I just decided that was a sign to wait until the morning)

Saturday – Woke up excited around 9:30 am despite going to sleep at 4:30 am. Who needs to SLEEP when you can SEW?? Stayed up until roughly 2:30 am working on a project which, deep down I KNEW I couldn’t really make any serious progress on because I managed to leave ALL my lime green fabrics at home (hmm, maybe I should have read my previous post about packing for a retreat).

Sunday – Due to the previous two days of staying up past my normal 11 pm bedtime I was a little tired and slept until 10 am.  I mean, when you don’t have a kid jumping on your face at 7 am, it’s amazingly easy to sleep in! Plus, the room was pleasantly dark, at home my bedroom is full of daylight by 7 am (which is why the kid wakes up). Finally hit the road around 1 pm, and made it home around 6:30 pm (because of my detour to the quilt shop and some heavy traffic on the way home). For some strange reason I stayed up until 1:30 am on Sunday night, not the best idea when I knew I needed to wake up by 6:30 am today.

Of course, when I got home, I was instantly back to being Mom and wife again. No easing back into the routine for this girl. Apparently my child missed me so much that the normally fairly independent toddler became a Klingon. While I appreciate the sentiment, it was still difficult to carry around a 40 lb child or have him following me around like a little shadow.

So, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to get to the part about how to combat this effect of being extra tired on Monday morning. Truth is, I don’t really know how to get over it. Here are a few suggestions though:

1) COFFEE, COFFEE, and more COFFEE (or just the usual dark roast from Starbucks)

2) I strongly believe that taking Monday off from work will help transition back to reality. (even if it is delaying the inevitable)

3) Maybe working from home would help (in my case that would mean being able to sleep in an extra hour) if your job allows that option.

4) Going to bed as early as possible on Sunday night (for some reason I was up until 1:30 am last night, unpacking and chatting with hubs)

5) Spend as much time with child, husband, and/or pets as possible on Sunday night. Put the phone away and “be present” for the family because you were just immersed in a quilt/IG/FB/girl time weekend and they missed you!

In the end, how you cope with the Monday Quilt Hangover may be different than how I do it. The best thing is that just getting away from mommy duty for a couple days was very relaxing and helped me recharge my battery. I have some mommy guilt but I know that if I don’t take some time to recharge and hang out with adults who have the same interests that I do and have some girl time, it makes it harder to be a loving mom and wife.

How about you, do YOU have any suggestions for a Quilty Hair of the Dog remedy for a Quilt Retreat Hangover?

I’m looking forward to hearing your response. And thanks for stopping by to read my Packing for a Quilt Retreat post!

Happy Stitches,

Anna

Packing for a Quilt Retreat in 5 Easy Steps

Pack for a Quilt Retreat

Personally, I think there isn’t really ever a BAD time for a quilt retreat. The guilds I’m in usually plan theirs in the Spring time when the wildflowers are blooming and the weather is pretty nice (not too hot and not too rainy/cold). This makes for a pleasant drive because well, let’s face it, in Texas, if you’re going on a retreat, you’re going to have to drive a little bit. I like to go on retreats in the summer because it’s so darn hot and it’s a perfect excuse to stay inside and sew! (The same applies in the winter when it’s so darn cold.)

I’ve been thinking about the best way to pack for a retreat (I hear this question a lot) so I thought I’d share my personal packing steps. You can choose to follow these or share your own in the comments (I like to believe that real people read this blog). I’ve never attended a retreat in another state. I can’t imagine the planning that would have to go into packing for an adventure like that but I hope that someday I’ll get to experience it.

How to Pack for a Quilt (or other) Retreat

1) Meticulously plan every single project you are going to work on, this would be the perfect time to tackle your UFO list. Make sure you WRITE down this list because you’re going to use it in step 2. Hold nothing back, this is YOUR weekend to get stuff done so you don’t want to leave stuff at home and then run out of things to DO!

[OK, seriously, you may want to pick a couple specific projects to work on and then one or two bonus projects]

At the SAMQG retreat of 2014 I only made quilt backs. I had at least 13 quilt tops that needed backs (so I wouldn’t have an excuse to NOT quilt them) and I spent pretty much all three days making backings. How many of those are finished quilts now? Uhm, maybe one. The ones I’ve managed to quilt actually still need binding! (But I am now one step closer to getting them finished!)

2) Spend time gathering your supplies for the projects on the list in Step 1. If this means you have to temporarily ignore the house work [who am I kidding, I ALWAYS ignore the housework] and make sure the kid is situated on the couch binge watching episodes of Daniel Tiger (gotta love auto play) then do it! Probably should consider ordering pizza and let your hubs know he may not see you for the next few hours.

Remember: It takes time to find all those supplies you’ll need, especially if you’re going to tackle some old UFOs or if you haven’t been in your sewing space in a while (which is why you NEED this retreat!) So you may want to start earlier in the week and spread this step out over a few days. Be sure to designate an area to gather all these items. I have a GIANT rolling cart that I use to “pack” my supplies (i.e. madly throw everything in it as I find them). I bought it back when I was “selling” scrapbook supplies and it works perfectly to pack up for retreats. Of course, once it’s packed it usually takes a Herculean effort to get it down the stairs but that’s what husbands are for!

3) Don’t worry if you get distracted by the pretty fabric that will be left behind when you go on this trip. Take a few moments to say “hello old friends” and then get back to packing!

4) Pack up the car. This will probably require you to remove the car seat for the weekend. Just face this fact, you won’t need the car seat (the kid is staying at home) and this will make more room for SUPPLIES! Also, you may want to wait to pack the car under cover of darkness. My child is very attune to my movements and he asks “Where we going?” when I change any article of clothing or take a shower (he assumes that means we’re going somewhere) and he doesn’t like it when Mommy leaves and he stays behind even though ALL his toys are at home. So it is just easier to pack the car after he’s gone to bed, or better yet, in the morning after I’ve dropped him off at daycare before I leave for the retreat. The other benefit of packing at night is that it’s not as hot and in my house we park cars in the garage so it gets stuffy. Just do whatever works for you.

Personally, I have a Toyota Corolla which is a great car for the price but is not very big, so I need every inch I can get of cargo room. So out goes the car seat. I can’t wait until I finally get that SUV we’ve been talking about!

If you don’t have children, the same load-the-car-at-night principle applies to pets and spouses. I had a dog once who would run and jump into the back of my Mazda 3 hatchback when I opened the hatch and said “Let’s go to Gigi’s!” They know when you’re leaving, I mean, isn’t Instagram full of pictures of pets sitting in suitcases and tote bags?

5) Now that the car is packed up with the essential supplies, look around and see if there is any extra room. Are the floorboards empty? Is there room in the trunk or glove compartment? If so, you can use that space to bring more fabric! That means there is room for just one more project! I mean, maybe you’ll only really have 1 full day out of the 3 days you’ll be gone to work but I’m sure you’re as productive as I am and can get at least 10 projects finished in that time right?

Don’t get discouraged. If all else fails, grab a bag of scraps and just do some wonky improv piecing all weekend!

And in seriousness, here’s a list of the ESSENTIAL supplies outside of your project materials which may help you pack for your retreat:

1) Sewing machine AND POWER CORD and PEDAL (very important)

2) Presser feet (I use the 1/4 inch – it has an edge to guide the fabric, flat foot – for paper piecing, walking foot – for quilting, darning foot – for free motion quilting) and I always need a little screw driver with my machine for the feet

3) Travel (or regular) iron plus pressing mat

4) Cutting supplies – I always bring a small mat, rotary cutter and small ruler because I like to paper piece and have these supplies right next to my machine

5) TV tray (great for extending the table and keeping the cutting supplies handy)

6) Pillowcase to gather scraps and “sewing trash” for a dog bed to donate at the end of the weekend

7) Seam ripper, scissors (large and small), extra machine needles, pins, basting spray, batting

8) Travel coffee mug (with a lid to help lessen spills), I like to bring my own little hazlenut creamer cups

9) Snacks to share and keep up your energy while you’re sewing, also great for long road trips

10) Camera, phone, CHARGER cord

11) PILLOW – I have a special Bamboo pillow that we purchased recently and it’s AMAZING so I’m definitely bringing it! Even though sleeping is rare when I go to a retreat, the idea of spending a night not waking up at 4 AM to get my son a cup of milk or without a kid kicking me all night is VERY appealing.

12) Cute PJs that you don’t mind other people seeing, fuzzy socks or slippers (feet may get cold and I sew barefoot anyway), sweater OR a personal fan (depending on your preference, if you are warm natured)

13) Sketchbook, always bring a sketchbook and pencils or markers

That’s about it. Is there anything that you bring that helps make your weekend more enjoyable? Also, I’d love to hear if this list was helpful.

Happy Stitching!

Anna

Do you dream in color?

image

I absolutely love color. I think my favorite part of the quilt design process is choosing the fabrics because it means I get to play with color. Yet I hear that so many people feel lost or stuck when it comes to choosing the colors for their next quilt.  Do you use Pinterest?  I have one main board just dedicated to color combos but I’ve also started other boards for specific projects and for those I typically start with color pinspiration (see what I did there?) This picture is from Pinterest and it’s a stretch from the colors I typically choose. Normally I lean toward aqua and coral and maybe a pop of lime green (and my wardrobe reflects that as well). But when I was pinning color combos for my Sewing Buddy project with my friend Emily, I saw this combo of green, blue and deep purple and jumped on it. Oddly enough, today I’m wearing my one outfit that doesn’t have coral and the color combo is very close to the image above and that was a complete coincidence! If you need some other color inspiration, check out the #fridayfabricmix tag on IG. The hostesses chose a theme each week and asked people to pull fabrics with that theme. It was really fun to see the different combos people chose based on their interpretation of the theme. I hope they will continue the challenge beyond May! If you get stuck when choosing colors, try this: Pick one fabric that you know you want to work with and look for colors within that fabric. The coordinates don’t have to be solid and there are a ton of amazing geometric designs out there (I believe quilters call them blenders) that would play so well with a main fabric.  I just need to warn you, if you are choosing colors based on a main fabric on a website and you have all 12 fabrics in your virtual cart, don’t wait overnight to order because the next day your feature fabric may be sold out! (ask me how I know this). If you decide you want to play with color combos, I’d love to see what you put together! Feel free to tag me in your IG post about color!

Happy Stitching,

Anna