Monday, January 15, 2018

TEN Down!! - Ninety-ish To Go . . . . .

Do you have stitching goals for 2018?
Are you making progress?
 January is always the easiest month to stay focused on new goals -- at least here in Northeast Ohio.  The weather is a huge help -- we've had some extremely cold days and quite a bit of snow -- so it's easy to stay home and keep at it. 

I've made good progress on my first goal of "executing 10% of my UFO's" in January!! 
I finished the little cherry block into a small wallhanging.
Hard to see the dozens and dozens of bubbles -- what a lot of work!!
And I finished a needlepoint given to me (because you love birds) by a lovely woman many years ago.  For some reason, I don't enjoy making pillow covers but since I couldn't bear to look at it and feel guilty, I bit the bullet and finished it for my couch.
Of course, it didn't take any time at all when I got to it.
Everything I needed -- perfect back fabric, cording, pillow form -- were right there in my studio.
The stripe was left over from a past something and it is uncanny how perfect the colors are with the needlepoint and the vintage fabric bordering it.
How when I see it, I can smile and remember her instead of feeling guilty!
The quilting of the blue and yellow quilt is temporarily stalled.  The center blocks are finished and I'm experimenting with designs for the setting triangles and the border.  I'm confident that I'll figure it out soon and be back at it next week!
I believe this was the last mystery quilt I designed for my local followers -- it brought all of us to our knees.  The cutting and sewing was straightforward -- but the color placement was ridiculous.  I have always intended to quilt it in sections myself but I've decided to hand it off to be long-armed. since I want pretty quilting designs and I'm not confident about my ability to do that.
I'll get the borders onto it and organize the backing this week!

So that's four UFO's sorted!
As I was sorting stacks in the studio earlier this month, I put projects I felt ready to let go into this tub!
Tomorrow, six of them are headed with me for the first sewing get together of my gang
There that's ten projects -- 10% executed!
And since I made such good progress on the UFO assault, I allowed myself to take on two (small) challenges!!
I made this 13" square piece for Curated Quilts minimalist themed challenge.  I won a copy of the current issue of this new publication so I was inspired to participate in the challenge for the next issue. They set up the colors and I applied the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique and lots of matchstick quilting.
Haven't heard about Curated Quilts?  You can check it out HERE.
There were 65 submissions for the challenge and they are all on display at this LINKY.
How about Project Quilting, now in it's 9th "season"? 
I stumbled across it last winter -- it's the brain child of Kim Lapacek.
The first challenge theme was "hometown proud" and my initial reaction was a blank stare.
When I finally left the house last week for a long walk at the closest park, I came home inspired to share this iconic tree. 
It stands along the trail head overlooking the creek and one of my naturalist friends estimates that the tree is between 200 and 250 years old.  In spite of that massive hole (small children fit inside of it), this red oak is still living. 
The valley has a rich natural and local history and the fact that this tree was already growing when white settlement began evokes all sorts of questions about how it has survived.  
It is so much larger that all the other trees, it seems likely that it lived in a meadow for a while and then as people lost interest in farming the valley, it re-planted the forest around it.
Anyone who has ever visited the park has stopped to look at this tree!
While it is not my typical work it is a hybrid of techniques I've learned over the years -- free form cutting to create the landscape, slashing and inserting strips to create the ghost tree in the background, free motion stitching to highlight the trees in the prints, and fusible applique to create the oak itself.
(Don't I have an impressive hoard of "landscape" fabrics?)

There were an impressive 113 submissions for the challenge and you can look them over and vote for your favorites -- up to 10!!  Click HERE to visit the link-up.
The next challenge theme will be revealed on Sunday, January 21 -- you should at least read it -- who knows there might be an inspiration lurking just around the corner for you?!?

 I'm loving all this energy and hope it stays with me all year!!
Mary








Sunday, January 14, 2018

Finish Along 2018 -- First Quarter Goals

I've been waffling about joining in again this year but here I am at the last minute!
For the first quarter of 2018, I'm going to tackle three projects.

The first is a new quilt that is still taking shape on my design wall -- I'm calling it Lift Off.
It will be a twin size quilt destined to belong to someone who is lifting off -- leaving behind addiction and building a clean life.
I've also decided to focus in on my most ancient UFO's this year -- these are projects I began and just can't seem to let go for one reason or another -- but they aren't doing me or anyone any good laying on a shelf in the studio.  This lovely basket block combines piecing and applique.  It was started as a shop sample back in 1999. 
There is just one block left to applique and then I can piece the border.  Because this is a double size quilt, I'm going to send it out for longarm quilting.  I've put the top in the stack going off to a stitching retreat this weekend -- determined to finish that last block!!
I don't even have to look for a needle!?! 
Finally, I pieced this top over the past couple years -- mostly as leaders and enders.  It has been a great teaching tool for my pineapple workshops using Marti Michell's ruler sets.  But as I step back from teaching, it needs to be finished and I think I know exactly who is going to get it!!  Knowing that is always a good motivator for me! 
By choosing just three projects, it gives me time to get distracted and indulge my whims to take on spontaneous projects on the spur of the moment.
How about you?
Are you setting any goals for this quarter?

Visit the Link-up of all the other goal setters HERE!!

Enjoying the cold weather here in NE Ohio!!
Mary

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Executing UFO Quilt Projects -- Progress and Strategies

Winter sunshine is so special here along the southern shores of Lake Erie and it's abundant here this morning.  It has warmed things up a bit and we just hit 8F -- well, it was 5 degrees when I got up.
Odd to think that half a world away in Australia, it's 100 degrees warmer???
The extra cold weather this week has been a big help to me personally -- easier to stay focused on tidying up my studio.
An important part of any studio tidy-up, is facing the UFO's!
For the first time in several years (and perhaps the last time), I tallied "how many" are in there.
I'm embarrassed to say I got up to 95 -- there might be a couple more that I haven't rediscovered but I'm going to quit adding at this point and concentrate on subtracting.

The "count" has inspired me to really buckle down on the UFO's for January.  Do you remember when Weight Watchers was encouraging clients to begin by losing 10% of their weight?
Well, I'm going to execute 10% of my UFO's in January!!
Notice I didn't say "finish" -- makes my options too narrow -- they just need to be gone!

To illustrate "gone" in the hope it will inspire your own UFO assault in the New Year, here's some of the strategies I'm using.

My Opal Essence teaching sample has to be ready to hang the first of February, so it's a very high priority.
The top is now finished, the backing is ready, and I plan to layer it up over the weekend! 
Strategy -- establish priorities and  keep stitching.
Did you notice this little piece sitting on top of a pile in my last post?  It's a charming block, about 12" square, from my It's Okay teaching days -- so that's circa 1990?  I've been shifting this around for 25 years?  No more!!  Currently, it's under the needle on my studio machine.  It will be finished soon and it is providing me with an opportunity to practice free motion bubbles which I love to look at but not stitch.  So the small scale of the piece is just enough challenge me to find the rhythm of stitching the design and if I understand it better perhaps I'll use it in future quilts.
Strategy -- use my UFO's to build skills.
Setting the Opal Essence blocks together by machine uses the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique that I teach, but I needed more "sew-offs", so I pulled out this project.  In the process of setting the Opal Essence blocks together, I got a full Rose Star block and a half block for the edge of the quilt done at the same time.  Just two more blocks to piece and it will be ready for setting!
Strategy -- use stalled piecing projects for sew-offs during more interesting/deadline piecing.
This jumble of strips was born in the early 1990's.  My staff and I made a fabulous Lone Star quilt with them for King's Road Imports in 1992 and intended to make a second one for the shop.  Can you see how far that idea got?
I get all these warm and fuzzy emotions about that quilt when I see this pile and so haven't let them go, but I'm also (obviously) not very interested in taking them to their original destination.
They are 2 1/2" strips, so it would be very sensible to put them into that scrap box!!
Then this morning, I woke up thinking yet again about @stephkucera #plusblockqal on Instagram which I really want to do but seriously how can I think about starting one more quilt!!
And then, that desire connected with this pile of strips.
Using her instructions for cutting jelly roll strips into the "plus" pieces, I now have the beginning of 76 blocks which I'll use as a charity quilt project with my gang!!
It's helpful to review UFO's regularly since they can often be repurposed
Strategy -- wait for what you already have to connect with what you want to do!!
                                      
 And the ends of the strips went into the 2 1/2" box while lots of low volume strips are coming out of the box to be used for the plus blocks!  Win, win!!
So do you want to do it, too -- HERE are the instructions!
I made a darling quilt using these prints for a friend's grandson but I had grabbed the end of the bolt (owned the shop) and stashed all that were left (in 1984).
Why am I keeping these?
I've noticed one of the habits of modern quilters I follow on Instagram is that every now and then, they destash their leftovers/scraps!?!  I never do that but perhaps I should.
So, if anyone wants these three blocks -- they are on drapery weight cotton, approx. 7" by 10" -- speak up quickly before I change my mind!
Strategy -- Loosen up!!
The studio tidy-up is progressing -- look at all this cutting space!!
I'm feeling very energetic about this UFO assault.
Having a good time certainly makes it easier to move towards my goal of executing 10 UFO's this month!!
I have started a hashtag on my Instagram posts -- #noancientufoquilts
(You can use it, too if you want.)
Stay tuned -- the best is yet to come!!
Enjoy your weekend!
Mary





Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A NEW YEAR!

Soooo, what are you doing?
It's a beautiful sunny day here in Northeast Ohio and we have a fresh covering of snow!
Very cheerful view if you overlook the 9 degrees F.
I'm tidying my studio and from the looks of my Instagram feed, I'm in good company.
Apparently, lots of us trashed our stitching space (as usual) in that big push for the holiday gift giving season.  I'll be at it all week.

To begin -- this is going to be a year of eliminating ancient UFO's!!
Okay, so it's going to be "another year" of dealing with UFO's but the number has shrunk steadily over the past few year.  
However, this year I am determined to finish up or throw the oldest ones overboard!
Watch my #noancientUFOquilts hashtag on Instagram in 2018!!

As we speak, my APQS George has this beautiful blue and yellow one under the needle!
I could be binding this during the first weekend of 2018!!
Pieced around 2004?
   I started at the north end of the studio by plowing through the UFO shelves.  I emptied every shelf, reviewed every bundle keeping a tally as I went of just how many are there!!
I'll reveal that number next week . . . . maybe!?!
It looks like I forgot to do the top shelf doesn't it -- argh, what is lurking up there?
The bottom shelf is mostly large cuts of fabric -- first stop when looking for a backing!!
All four shelves were stuffed with UFO's 10 years ago -- progress!!

I sorted out a half dozen projects that have been malingering in the piles -- I'll pass off them off to my gang to re-purpose for donation quilts. 
 I pinned notes to each UFO about what needs to be done -- it's so much easier to pick up one for a fast finish if a quick review of "the note" tells me I need to add 4" borders and piece together the rest of the stack into a 48" by 62" backing.  
My brain says -- "that's all?" and I'm in business!!
On an intellectual level, I understand that working in a tidy space is more comfortable for me, but my inclination to start a new project at the drop of a hat means I'm often leaving a mess in my wake -- "can't put that pile away because I need it for that project".
When I left the studio yesterday, I was 75% finished with the area around my sewing machines so that's where I'll start today.
The original purpose for this little shelf unit was to keep things handy near the machines but it's grown quite a few "layers".  That box lid on the top had all sorts of "treasures".
Funny, I was just thinking about this quilt the other day?  And here it is!?!
Pretty sure it's my oldest UFO!
Started it after I opened my shop (1979) and lost interest in hand piecing when I started teaching machine piecing ala Mary Ellen Hopkins (1982).
It's now in the re-purpose box and will meet my quilting gang later this month to be finished into a useful lap robe for someone!!
The flat surface (known as the cutting table) is too large for my own good.  
When I had a shop, my desk was the catch-all for anything and everything -- someone found a cartoon and left it on my door that pretty much summed it up.
Mother to child -- "I want you to clean off your desk."
Child to mother -- "I have a desk?"
That's my cutting table!!
(This picture has not been edited.)
I'm tidying it in spurts and hoping it gets completely cleared off except for my tools.  It's tricky though because each little pile requires "decisions" about what to do with it or where to put it.  Do you have a decision-making threshold?  I certainly do and I've learned not to try to exceed it!
My incentive/reward for staying focused is to work until I can't make another decision, then I can stitch!!
This is my version of Lorena Uriate's Opal Essence.
I'll finish setting it together this week and prep it for quilting next week.
 It's my annual workshop during the Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show in mid-February.
(Interested in joining me?   Details are HERE.)
Time to go back at it!
Here's to a new year of reaching towards our goals!!
Happy New Year!!
Mary