Friday, September 30, 2016

I Do It For Me

I was with extended family one day last spring, filling time by stitching together a Lucy Boston block, perfectly content while hand-stitching all my fussy-cut fabric together.  The piece was coming along nicely, and I was in my own little world until my uncle stopped to see what I was doing.  He asked, "Are you going to sell that when you're done?"

A wall hanging I made with three Lucy Boston/
Patchwork of the Crosses blocks. I gave it to
my mother-in-law for her birthday one year.
 As you know, quilting can be a very expensive hobby.  Add in the amount of time spent on making the quilt, and it's very difficult to get paid back for all that you put into it.  On top of that, I have this fear that if I decided to sell my quilts, I'd suddenly be conscious of every single error, mistake, oops, and oh-boy that I made during the process, and I think the hobby would cease to be fun. So I made the decision when I started quilting that I wasn't going to sell my quilts. And I told my uncle "No, I sew them for myself.  The minute I tried to sell them, I think it would stop being fun."

His reply: "Making money isn't fun?"  Sigh.

Unfortunately, my uncle's sentiment is probably shared by others in my family, and likely with tons of other people out there.  If you can't make money from the quilts, why are you bothering?  It's difficult to explain to people who don't have a crafty sensibility exactly what it means to simply enjoy the process of creating. Of taking individual pieces and somehow molding them into a work of art.

Even though I frequently make quilts for other people, the truth of the matter is, in the midst of the process, they're all for me -- because they are my creative outlet. Life can be stressful, and it's a relief to know that anytime I feel the urge, I can pull out fabric in a variety of colors and shades, and by putting them together, I'm creating something that no one else could duplicate.  The pattern may be the same, but the vision and the execution are mine.

One of the first quilts I ever made.  It went
to my grandmother for her 80th birthday.

For me, it's a form of play.  My medium just happens to be fabric.  It's a way to challenge myself, and it satisfies the visual side of my brain that's constantly looking for beauty amid the chaos.

And who cares if there's a mistake? Knowing it's just for me or for one of my children, my husband, or my great aunt in Pennsylvania, I know that no one is looking for the mistakes because they know the amount of time, energy, and love that go into each and every quilt I make.  You just can't put a price tag on that.

The first quilt I ever made.  I wanted to make
a quilt for my youngest son, who was almost
one at the time.  I've been hooked ever since.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I'm Quilty, Not Guilty

I try to be one of those people who, once she starts something, finishes it. However, the quilter side of me has a bad case of ADHD.  (Actually, the every day me has it too, but I tend to indulge the quilty one more.) 

I get so excited when I see new project possibilities that I can't wait to try them. It's the reason I was doing two separate English paper piecing projects at the same time last year, plus adding on a Christmas present bargello quilt that I completed in a matter of a few weeks. (Apparently I'm more efficient when I have a deadline!)

Bargello finished just in time for my
aunt's Christmas gift last year.
She and I both love blue.
My excuse this time: Christmas centerpieces for the guild Christmas party.  It's a good excuse.  Mostly.  More to the point, I just like the idea of playing with some new techniques that have been on my quilter's bucket list.  I'd been wanting to do something with yo-yos for awhile, even though they're not technically quilting. Still, they're sewing, and I get to play with pretty fabric, so it totally counts.  I found a cute picture on Pinterest, and I wanted to give it a try.  So this weekend, I spent a couple of days making almost 100 yo-yos and then assembling them to make this cute Christmas tree. 

I've also been seeing these amazing Fold 'n Stitch Wreaths all over, especially on Facebook, so I thought now would be a good time to try to make one.  I've got my fabric all picked out, and I'm going to try and get one put together this week.  

Once I'm done, I'm going to take them both to guild next week and see which one they like better.  Then I'll know what kind of supplies I'll need to pick up when I go to Missouri Star Quilt Company next weekend.  (Like I needed an excuse to buy more fabric -- but at least now I don't have to feel guilty about it!!)

Meanwhile, I have other projects that are all lined up waiting to be finished.  I keep promising myself that I'll get them done soon.  But oh look, Missouri Star Quilt Company just posted another tutorial, and I just don't have the heart to tell my quilty-self no.  

Sunday, September 25, 2016

It's a Social World

Social media has some drawbacks.  Mean-spirited trolls lurk in just about every comments section, which can make any foray into the interwebs a daunting and frustrating task.  On the plus side, where else can you be connected to so many interesting people who share your love of ... well, just about anything?

I spend a ton of time on Facebook.  I don't really post much on my personal page, with the exception of posting pictures of my kids when we're out doing something fun.  But mostly, I have a personal Facebook page because of the sheer number of quilting groups, shops, fabric suppliers, bloggers, and websites. I'm a visual person (I'd wager most quilters are), so I love seeing pictures of quilts and fabrics.  It's a great place to be inspired, ask questions, and learn something new.  I also have a Facebook page dedicated to my blog where I get to share my new posts as well as whatever quilt-related things catch my interest. (My family is probably grateful to see a little less of the crafty posts so they can get back to rooting for the Cubs!)

I also spend a great deal of time on Pinterest.  Not only is it the perfect place to get ideas (like what in the world am I going to make for the Christmas centerpiece this year?), but it's also fun for sharing and documenting your own projects.  I've posted all of my quilts there, including all of my individual Lucy Boston blocks because a step-back picture of the whole quilt can't quite capture all the detail.

I'm pretty new to Instagram, but I've already started following a number of quilty people.  Now I just need to start posting there more often.  Maybe when I go to Missouri Star Quilt Company in a couple of weeks!  (I signed up to take an English paper piecing class with Sue Daley.  I can't wait!!)

So despite the lurking meanies, I'm grateful for the world of social media.  I'm the only person in my circle of friends and family who has any interest in quilts or crafts of any type.  My one-day-a-month quilt guild meetings keep me from being a hermit.  My being able to connect with other quilters 24/7 keeps me sane.

Just a few of the almost 100 yo-yos I made in the last two days.
PS: Here's what I'm working on right now.  I volunteered to make the guild's centerpieces for the Christmas party.  I'm making a couple different projects to see which they prefer.  This weekend has been all about the yo-yos.  (I'll post the finished project once it's done.)  They're fun, but are really hard on the hands and wrists. Plus, my fingers feel kind of pincushiony now.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Lucy is Done!!!

Just a quick post to share my happy news.  I've got my Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses quilt done at last!!

Lucy (POTC) quilts are frequently done with English paper piecing, so it's all hand-pieced.  I started it in June of 2014, but I didn't work on it straight through as I've had other projects going at the same time, so I probably spent about nine months total on the stitching part of the quilt top.  Once it came time to quilt it, I took a break for a little while since I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to quilt it. I ended up deciding to go with straight lines that formed diamonds around the center of each block so that it didn't cover up any of the fussy cutting.  I love how it turned out.  (It was machine quilted using a walking foot.  I haven't learned hand quilting just yet.  Someday!)

I've named the quilt "Daydreams and Heartache" to represent all the stuff going through my mind while I was stitching all of those pieces by hand.  (EPP is an extremely meditative pursuit.)  I found out my mom was terminally ill a few months after I started the quilt, and she died only eight months later, so I sometimes call this my therapy quilt.  I put a lot of my heart into this project, and I can't wait until I can hang it up.  Now I just have to find the wall space!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hexie Lovin'

I taught myself how to quilt about four years ago.  It was just something I decided to do one day when I realized I wanted to make a quilt for my baby (who's now four).  I bought a very basic sewing machine from Walmart and a pattern book for beginners, and then I just proceeded to make a quilt.  I think after I finished that one, I made four more in quick succession because I was hooked.

Almost two years later, I discovered English paper piecing, and I had a new crush.  My first EPP pattern was Lucy Boston's Patchwork of the Crosses.  I'd seen it on a website for my local quilt shop and was excited to find out they were teaching an EPP class later that week, so I signed up immediately.  I was only one of two people to show up, and the only one who'd never done EPP before.  It was just a one-hour how-to on basic English paper piecing, and that's all it took to hook me.  (And believe me, Lucy blocks are addictive and so much fun!!!)

After that, I started watching all the YouTube videos I could find, particularly Sue Daley.  From there I was able to learn the basics of stitching, basting (I'm a gluer), and fussy cutting.  And then all my free moments, including lunch hours, 15 minute breaks, and doctors' appointments, were spent hand-piecing.  (Gotta' love that EPP portability.)

It never bothered me how slow the process went, with its involved piecing process, stitching every single piece together by hand, plus the skill it takes to hide of each of those stitches (to the extent that it's possible anyway) because each fussy cut block came with an exciting reveal.  Plus, I found it very meditative, something I needed during a very difficult time in my life.  So admittedly, yes, it's very slow, and I enjoy every single minute of it.

"Lucy" in Progress
Rosette 1 from "Millie's Flower Garden"
Pattern by Katja Marek,
The New Hexagon Millefiore Quilt

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

No Such Thing as an Ugly Quilt

I used to get pretty hung up about my so-called ugly quilts.  Maybe my fabrics didn't all play well together.  Maybe my corners didn't line up just so.  They used to drive me crazy.

But then recently, I did a block exchange at my quilt guild.  We each made and exchanged 20 9-patch blocks and were challenged to see what we could do with them. Some of the ones I got back were pretty, and some were clearly from the what-was-I-thinking-when-I-bought-this collection.  (I'm sure we all have some of those.)

At first I was stuck...kind of wondering what in the world I could do to make a pretty quilt out of the stack of not-so-pretty I was working with.  I had a pattern idea in mind, something along the lines of what would happen if...

I took a look at the cacophony of colors and I decided to just go with it.  So I set to cutting, arranging, and sewing the blocks the way I had envisioned them.  And you know, the results weren't half bad.

Then it came time to quilt it.

I'm a relative newbie when it comes to making quilts, so up to this point, I'd been hesitant to attempt free motion quilting, preferring straight lines and stitching in the ditch to avoid ruining my pretty quilt tops with imperfect quilting.

This ugly quilt though?  What did I have to lose?  So for the first time, I free motion quilted an entire quilt, and for a first attempt, I was pretty proud of it.

It was very freeing to open up my creative channels and have the ability to learn without the pressure to chase perfection.  I didn't feel the need to judge my work other than to notice where I could use more practice.

Yes, our goal as quilters is to turn pieces of fabric into stunning quilts, but sometimes those perfect quilts can create a roadblock that might actually stifle our creativity, at least for a beginner like me.

But having that "ugly" quilt gave me permission to step out of my comfort zone and try something I'd never done before.  And that gave me even more confidence to try my new skills with an even larger project.

So I don't see an ugly quilt.  I see a quilt that boosted my confidence and gave me the courage to stretch my creative muscles and play.  And there's nothing ugly about that!

I call it Scrambled Nine Patch
That's my 4-year-old holding it for me.
He's such a good helper.