Thursday, December 27, 2012

Don't Squash that Creativity!

Don’t squash that creativity!

I remember in the 8th grade my art teacher told me to never go for a job that had anything to do with drawing because I was pretty bad at it.  WOW! What a thing for a teacher to say to a 13 year old.
I was heartbroken.  I had been drawing since I could pick up a pencil.  I remember drawing scenes of horses running in the wind.  I would draw lovely ladies in elegant dresses and I would design floor plans for my dream house.  I don’t remember doodling, but I did draw all the time.

I did not pursue any art classes in school after that.  She was a teacher!  She must have been right…

Flash forward to my early 20’s and I still drew.  I was obsessed.  My sister signed me up for art classes at a local college because of my unhappiness at not being able to satisfy what I was trying to achieve.  One thing I learned in the college level art class was how to finish something.

I have had a life lesson of art.  It isn’t how well you can draw; it is what you do with your God given talent.
Quilting is just one more art class in my life.  There is so much more to creativity than just being an artist.  I was asked once why I was making one more afghan.  Why did I need to make it?  I need only  one to keep warm.  That person was a stifler.  She managed to make me feel like my 8th grade art teacher had made me feel and I fell for her negative remark.  I moved on to another art form.

Today as a quilter, if that stifler were to mention that I only need one quilt to keep warm, I would laugh at her.  I don’t “need” any of the quilts I make.  What I need is a way to express myself.  Quilting is my expression.

I make quilts for the love of it.  For the love I feel when I give them to someone and for the sheer joy of creating.  If something so simple can please me and make me feel this good, it’s too bad I don’t know how to put it in a bottle and sell it.  I would be rich in more than just joy.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Scrap Management

Scrap Management

One of the magic moments of quilting is realizing that any fabric plays well with another as long as something ties it all together.

I spent at least 18 months convincing myself of this very fact.  

Finding fabrics that work well together when I did not purchase fabrics for something specific has always been the bane of my creative existence.  I have bought tons of fabric in my lifetime and I have made most of my choices solely on the way the fabric looks.  I like the color, or I like the texture.  I rarely look at the pattern, what I am after is a color value.  Many times my foray into a fabric store was to purchase a color that was missing from what I had in my cupboard.  I seem to use up some colors faster than others.  I wonder why!

My love affair with fabric is a mystery to me sometimes and I worry that I have gotten in over my head.  When I want to start a new project I usually find a block I like and then I sit down with my EQ7 program and design a quilt top so I can do the math and know how much fabric I need.  Since scrap quilts are my favorite, I want to know ahead of time how many fabrics to pull.  If there is a focus fabric I have it on the table to see if what I pull works with it.  If I don’t have a focus fabric, I make sure the quilt I am designing will have sashing or a border I can use to tie all the scrappy fabrics together.

There always seems to be something left over so I will cut it smaller and put it in a box to use in another project.  As the pieces become smaller they still have usefulness, I just have to be more creative!

Trying to use it up becomes scrap management and I like to design projects that the little pieces can star in.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Newest Quilt in a Box

Quilt in a Box continues...

On a recent Monday night at Pattie's house I was perusing her stack of quilt magazines that is always handy and I fell in love with a quilt. In the issue of America Loves Scrap Quilts Spring 2008 was a A Pathway to Nowhere calling my name. 

It isn't like I don't already have enough projects in boxes to do, but I fell head over heels and knew immediately what fabric I would use.

I pulled out the stack of plain fabric I have been gathering for several years and found through my calculations I needed 120 blocks and I had just enough plain fabrics to use each one 3 times for a complete quilt top.

This quilt isn't quite a "no waste" one, but the left over strip for the color is just over 16" and will go into a box for another Scrappy Trip Around the World which I have done before from Bonnie Hunter's website and one I want to do again, as I gave the first one away.  (The first one is actually pictured on Bonnie's page for the directions for that quilt, what an honor that is!) 

I cut my strips and neatly stacked them in the box.

The wonderful part was I needed a new leader/ender project and the little black and white 4 patches are perfect for that. Between blocks of scrappy strips I am making the 4 patches for this little lovely. 

I just had to assemble one block to see what it would look like. For the rest of the quilt, I will keep you posted on my progress!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Best Job Ever

Best Job Ever

I have worked at some job since I was 16.  I have sewn aprons for the rubber company people who make tires.  I have silk screened logos onto ski bags.  I sold burgers at a fast food joint that no longer exists.  I worked at a drive-thru Dairy store where you could buy cigarettes, milk and lunch meat without ever exiting your car. 

There was a 4 year stint at an electronics firm that made computer cables from start to finish. I worked the longest time span of 7 years at an advertising print shop as shift supervisor.  I left the business world behind from this job when I married in my early 30’s and I spent some of this new found free time with my mom who was also newly retired and liked to hop in the car and go for short or long trips on the spur of the moment.


I can honestly say I loved every job I did. I learned so much and had a lot of wonderful experiences.  I met people who broadened my view of the world and I became the person I am today through the process of living my life.


Work is something that needs to be done and I am a firm believer you should do what you love.  Even though I loved all those jobs as I did them, I grew out of all of them at some point and had to break off the relationship and move on.  I “retired” at the age of 31 when my husband said I could leave a horrible situation where my job had degraded into mental abuse and a massive test of wills.  If you are not the boss, you will probably lose a test of wills.  There is no reason to work where you get shabby treatment.


Women have long struggled to gain a foothold in a man’s world and I gave up trying.  I did stick it out for a time, but I turned to my creativity in the end and started doing something that satisfied deeper urges.  All the jobs have led me to what I do now.  I learned skills I would never had learned in any other situation.


My first venture into the world of self-employment involved looms, my sister, and 20 years selling hand- made clothing, bags and rugs.  This was satisfying hard work that did not involve testing any wills other than my own to get all that needed to be done each week to prepare for the weekend art show my sister would take the finished goods to sell.


Leaving weaving behind evolved into quilting.  Each picture is a quilt I quilted this week.  I did not have to piece any of them.  They are all fabulous and I got to touch them and add something to them to help complete a vision someone had while creating a thing of beauty.  This is the Best Job Ever!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Leaders and Enders

Leaders and Enders

While sewing a quilt seems like such a simple thing I have mental issues about waste.  I don’t like wasting thread between bits of sewing, so I employ a process described by a dear friend, Bonnie Hunter, which she calls leaders/enders.  Bonnie is the Queen of efficiency and makes more quilts than anyone can imagine.  You can check out what she does on her website and can find a link to her blog there. 

 Bonnie is amazing and does quilt retreats for guilds and travels all over showing people her methods, all the while still managing to produce an unbelievable amount of quilts, get books published and sew up fabric that people who love her mail to her.

I have followed her progress for years by looking at her website on occasion, and when I needed to know a method short cut or the math for sizing setting triangles I would just automatically go to her website and find my answer.  Always while there I would check to see if she had any new patterns or to see what she had in progress.  Her site is always an inspiration.

One of the things that Bonnie prescribed was having a second project going and as you stopped at the end of a seam on your current project, you would sew two pieces of fabric together from this second project and keep those little pieces in their container.  As you work on a project and sew off between seams with the leader/enders, you first get parts of, then blocks to a whole ‘nother project and in a year’s time of sewing quilt tops, I could manage to get at least two “free” quilts this way.  The little blocks keep you from having long threads that you have to cut off as you sew. I’m sure my explanation is confusing as words, so I have pictures.


The hard part of this prescription for not wasting bits of thread means you have to be organized enough to actually have a second project thought up, planned out and cut and ready to sew.  I’m not as organized as Bonnie and I don’t have so many sizes of scraps available to pull from but I have made my own method to please my crazy brain.  What I end up with for my leaders/enders projects has fondly become what another friend calls Quilt in a Box.
I can plan out a quilt and cut all the fabric for it and never stress over my choices because it is a PROJECT and it is READY TO GO!  I have a nice stash of quilts in boxes on the shelves under my ironing board.  I am ready!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chicken Run

Chicken Run

The nice thing about working from home is having my own schedule.  I can work at a pace suited to the day.  If I can’t get done today, I can push it into tomorrow because I can be flexible with my time.
Today’s quilt is day 2 of a 3 day custom job.  Each day I set a goal for how much of the custom work I feel needs to be done to keep on schedule.  I am very close today.  I just have to finish the feathers in the border and today’s work will be accomplished. 
All this is being said because we are out of chicken and I need to go to Gerber’s Poultry in Kidron, Ohio to stock up.  I would think up any excuse to get in the car and take a trip to Amish country on a fine sunny November day, and it would usually revolve around a quilt shop.  But the chicken excuse is good enough for today. Soon the snow will be flying and the cold air will make me think more than twice about going outside, but today, this chilly weather is offset by the gorgeous sunshine and my need to have chicken in the freezer for meal planning.
There were lots of farm animals enjoying the day but I did not get any good pictures of the assortment of goats, sheep, donkeys and cows out and about.  It is a tad warmer in this area of Ohio and many of the trees still hold their Fall colors.  The fields are being plowed in preparation for the winter. All’s well in this world.

The horse trailers were lining up in Kidron to drop off stock for an auction we were fortunate to miss.  It can get pretty hectic trying to maneuver through the horse drawn traffic, the semis and the tourists gawking at every little thing.
Mission accomplished, home with enough chicken to get us through the next few months.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Quilt a Day

A Quilt a Day

When I started quilting as my job, I would arrange the quilts that were brought to me in cubby holes on the back wall of the studio.  Each week I would do the last quilt I needed to get done and painstakingly move all the quilts still in cubbies to the left row of holes so I could have my order.  I need order!

This worked fine for a while.  I usually had enough cubbyholes for the quilts on hand.  One day they started lining up along the wall because there were not enough cubby holes and I could no longer realistically look at the wall of cubbies and guess how long this customer’s quilt would be waiting for its turn on the machine.  I needed a plan and I needed it NOW.
I loaded a calendar program onto my computer during my Christmas break in my second full year of quilting and I took each quilt from its cubby in the order they were going to be quilted and I estimated how long I thought it would take me to do that quilt according to what my worksheet said I was to do on it. This took me several days, but by the end of that time I had my order!  I had 5 week of quilts waiting for me to do my magic.

4 quilts in waiting
This freed me from a huge burden.  I no longer sounded stupid when someone wanted to know when I would have their quilt would be ready for pick up.  It also opened up many options for my customers.  They could now schedule a quilt DATE.  What a novel idea! 
The best part was I got rid of the guilt I felt about wanting to quilt one of my own quilts.  What is the use of having a quilting machine if I can’t quilt one for myself every now and again.

It took me another full year to realize I needed to schedule time for me to take a break once in a while.