Sunday, January 22, 2017

A New Place....

Recently, it's dawned on me that I've landed in a new place in my quilting journey.  It's hard to put into words, but it feels like I've advanced to the next level (if there's such a thing!), kind of like what you experience when you finally find your stride at that new, challenging job, or when you embrace a whole new way of cooking and eating and find that you absolutely love it.

It's no wonder I want to share my love of quilting with others!

After a particularly inspiring day teaching yesterday, I started pondering about just what has contributed to it, and here are some conclusions, in no particular order.  :)


2016 marked the 25th anniversary of my quilting journey.  To document that milestone, I stitched a Scrappy Trip Around the World quilt containing one strip of every fabric I had used over the past 25 years in my quilting, as well as scraps from sewing projects prior to that.  Once my quilt was finished and those events were represented in the quilt, I felt like I could let go of some super ugly fabrics that I was hanging on to.  Prior to stitching that quilt, even though I have some really lovely fabrics in my stash, I would end up "hoarding" the pretties and felt a responsibility to use fabrics I no longer loved,  simply because I had paid money for them.  But, I can't tell you how freeing it was to get rid of a majority of them!  Most were too dated to pass on to anyone else, so I simply donated them to my local thrift shop where I knew someone would make good use of them.  I basically went through all my fabrics, and if they no longer "sparked joy" (in Marie Kondo's words!) or they weren't something I would purchase now, then into the thrift shop bag they went.  I also went through my WIP's; I only got rid of one Thimbleberries-era flannel heart mini quilt that I had started, but I did indeed get rid of it.  It was wild what that did for me!  All of a sudden I felt free to use the fabrics that I love in my stash, and it's been a great jump start into more creativity!

I've had some really successful fabric pulls lately as a result, something I wasn't able to do before.  :)

Online Inspiration and Community

I think it was about five years ago when I discovered my first quilt blog (it's hard to remember exactly when that happened for me...), and shortly after that,  Pinterest, which resulted in finding even more blogs!  All of a sudden I felt like I found my tribe!  Even though I have friends in this area that quilt, I hadn't yet met anyone whose style and tastes were similar to mine.  And, I also didn't know anyone who loved to quilt as much as I did.  It was so encouraging and so helpful - I devoured everything I could find.  I even went back and read ever single post on some of my favorite blogs!

 Over the last few years, my nightly bedtime ritual has been reading the latest blog post from my favorite bloggers (see the side bar on the blog for my favs), as well as some Pinterest perusal if there was time.  A lot of people think of Pinterest as being a way to simply idle away time online, but for makers, sewists, and creatives, it's an invaluable help.  I've been so grateful for all the bloggers out there who generously share their work online!

Just recently I've stumbled across some amazing inspiration on a number of Instagram accounts too - oh my!!  Over these past few years, I've accumulated an incredible amount of visual images that  are only now coming out in my work.  It's been so worth that investment of time!

Another significant development was striking up an online friendship with Kathy Olkowski of Stitch by Stitch over three years ago when I reached out to her by e-mail.  We've never met in person, and yet she has become a dear friend and quilting mentor.  It's so wonderful to have access to her!

And then finally, this last year and a half  I've been posting on Facebook and linking to my blog posts.   There are so many things I don't like about Facebook (especially when it comes to heated political posts!!), but it also has the potential to be a wonderful tool for good in our creative circles.  I've chosen to use it to educate, motivate and inspire - you can make it work for you too!  It's been such a benefit to getting my name and work out there, and  has been helpful for staying in touch with other quilters as well as my students.

Teaching at The Old Country Store

I still marvel at the way God paved the way for me to end up being part of the teaching staff at The Old Country Store in Intercourse, PA.  It was such a God-orchestrated fluke!

One and a half years ago I had the hair brained but truly God-inspired idea to hang my entire collection of quilts on my aunt and uncle's barn at our family reunion in July of 2015.  My younger sister took pictures, posted them on Facebook, and before I knew it, those images went almost viral.

 As a result, an article ended up in Lancaster Farming, and that publicity gave me the courage to knock on Marcia's office door at The Old Country Store.  We begin the dialogue about the possibility of me doing a trunk show for them, which then evolved into the opportunity to join the teaching staff.  Dean and Jan Mast, owners of the store, and Marcia were so gracious in going out on a limb by allowing me to that event for them last spring, even though they knew very little about me.  But, that day was truly a turning point in my quilting journey.  No longer was I embarrassed about my excessive love for quilting, nor ashamed that I had hung on to almost every single quilt I've stitched in the past 25 years (except for commissioned work).  Suddenly I caught a vision for what I might be able to offer to the quilting community.  

Teaching at the The Old Country Store has been such a joy!!  It's a ton of work for me (I don't know how in the world school teachers teach day in and day out!).  I find the lesson prep time intensive and laborious, yet incredibly meaningful.  At first I considered gearing my classes toward what I thought students would be looking for, but not necessarily what I enjoyed.  I stitched a few samples out of fabric I thought they would like, but it wasn't my style.  But then I realized that the main thing I have to offer  to others is me and my unique taste in fabric and quilts, and it's gone over very well!  My students have been so encouraging.  Each class inspires me to quilt even more and sparks new ideas for future classes.  And, it's pushed me to hone some new skills... when making a Stash and Dash Foldover Organizer recently for a staff event at The Old Country Store.  I'm so glad Jan asked me to take a stab at it!

Getting Serious about Quilting

Now that my quilting activities can be defined as a legitimate business, I no longer feel guilty (or at least not as guilty!) for spending money on fabric, tools and notions, or spending large chunks of time sewing.  My blog posts are being read by a small (very small!) group of followers.  And, I feel permission to invest time in learning, whether it's taking a class, watching a tutorial or reading a book.  There's a new purpose in my creative outlet; before it felt so lonely, solitary and misunderstood,  Now, there's always someone to reach out to with a photo of what I'm up to via e-mail, a FB post, a text message, or a blog post.

Helpful Tools

I also feel like I am way more productive in my work.  I can move through projects so much more quickly, and I found I'm not so mired down by indecision like I had been in the past.  Although I still believe it's important to not rush through a project, and there are times when it may be necessary to lay a project aside until the rest of the inspiration comes, I often have a  vision of what I'm working toward and can keep moving forward.  And, I'm motivated to keep at it because there are so many more quilts I want to stitch!!

A few tools have a made a difference too.  Almost two years ago I invested in a Juki TL2010 sewing machine on a whim, and it's been fabulous, just fabulous! Another God-orchestrated development, for sure.  I can stitch so much faster, and as a result, not get bogged down with the tediousness of piecing.  Before I know it, I'm finished with one quilt top and on the the next.  It's been great for stitching t-shirt quilts too.

A design wall has been invaluable!  I have four portable design walls that I inexpensively created out of insulation board.  They are each four feet wide times the height of my doorway.  I can use all four together or move them around to wherever I need them.  They can also be stowed away behind my hutch.  I can quickly put blocks on the wall, then easily assemble them into quilts.  And, I still have some floor space to lay out a second (or third!) quilt if I need some pondering time on the others.

I also made my own Big Board out of a sheet of plywood covered with batting and decorator weight cotton fabric.  It makes pressing so much easier, and it gives me extra surface space for a cutting mat (or piles of fabric!)

And lastly, my Lori Holt-inspired design boards - they are the greatest!  I'm always introducing them to my students because of the way they revolutionize your work flow.   They make piecing a breeze, and also allow me to work on multiple projects at once, the way I work best.  :)

Who knows what God has in store next!  I couldn't have orchestrated this journey, so I'm trusting Him to continue leading into the next phase.  All I know is that I just want to keep honoring Him with my quilting.

Here's to the future!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Christmas Stitching Recap

I finished stitching my last Christmas gift yesterday, so now that all gifts have been stitched and delivered, I can finally post pictures!  I'm including the link to the blog post on each one (if there is one).

A few pillowcases

And, some zip pouches!

That's it for this year! 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Noodlehead's Trail Totes

I was glad for the push to make this tote for a Christmas present!
My friend Denise asked me to make some kind of a tote out of some vintage barkcloth curtains that had been in her mother's apartment back in her college days.  

Right away, I thought of Noodlehead's Trail Tote pattern.  I had used it to make this tote for myself the other summer, but I was too lazy to add the magnetic snaps or purse strap hardware.  I don't know why those details intimated me, but they did at that point, for whatever reason.

But, since this was a gift, I pushed myself to add the extra details that would make it extra special.

Thankfully, the magnetic snap was super easy to install thanks to Anna's clear instructions (I just wish I had thought to get an antique brass snap to match vs. the silver one), 

as was the case with the strap hardware.

Before I got started, I was stumped as to what other fabrics to incorporate to give the bag some interest, but I was really happy with the results!

The contrasting fabrics gave it the extra punch it needed,

and this yellow zipper adds the final touch.

I have been ordering my zippers from Zipit Zippers, an Etsy shop with super prices and excellent customer service.  I recently got a set of 14" zippers from them in the 65 colors they carry.  I wish I had done that a long time ago!  This way, I always have a zipper on hand in every color imaginable, and then all I need to do is order a replacement for my set.  

I do wish the hardware was a little easier to obtain.  I ordered what I needed from another Etsy shop, but the service wasn't as good, so it took a bit to get a response and then get it ordered and shipped.

I used Pellon SF101 interfacing.  It bugs me to no end that it's so expensive, but it is the perfect interfacing to give quilting cottons the shape and structure they need for these kind of projects.  

Even though it's after the fact, I think I'll order the strap hardware for my tote.  I'll need to open it up and take it back apart a bit, but I think it will be worth it!

The Trail Tote can be made in two sizes: large or small.  I chose the large size for the two I made.

The large size was perfect for the large-scale print on the curtains.

Click here for the free pattern download from Robert Kauffman Fabrics.