Thursday, January 26, 2023

"Sew the Samplers Challenge 2023"

     Here's something I've been meaning to do since I first subscribed to the Fat Quarter Shop's monthly Sew Sampler Box subscription in 2017-- actually sew them! What better time to start than with January's box. If you are a member of this club, you know that these boxes start to stack up pretty quick-- I don't have a finished sewing space yet and they are popping up everywhere after just a couple of months in this house!

    If you've never heard of it-- the Sew Sampler is a box of sewing supplies FQS sends out usually toward the end of each month. It includes some fabric-- charm packs, 1/2 a jelly roll, an assortment of layer cake squares, or a panel-- you never know. Then there is a pattern to use the fabric, a couple of notions, a card with instructions to make a bonus quilt block for a year long quilt project, and last, but not least, a coupon!  Everyone has a strong opinion on each box, in fact there's very strong opinions on each and every item in the box-- I sometime think there ten thousand more opinions than completed projects! I'll lay my opinion straight out there-- I love getting a little surprise in the mail each month, it's very affordable for me, and I don't have to fall in love with every single box-- for me, I'm just interested to see the variety of things out there and stay on top of trends. 

     I do have a negative about it, though-- the part I don't like is having to spend more to finish up the project. Usually a couple yards of background fabric is needed just to complete the top -- not to mention backing, binding, and quilting. So unless I absolutely LOVE, intend to finish, and will use the completed quilt, I'm pretty cheap about wanting to spend more money on it. 

     This is the challenge I'm laying out for myself-- complete a little project using all of the fabric in the box, and adding only stash fabrics if needed. In a month. Then gift, sell, donate, or appropriately store anything else from the box. And, oh-- use the coupon. How many times have you ordered from FQS and then realized you had a Sew Sampler coupon you could have used! 

     Imagine have 12 cute projects to gift next Christmas-- or to be able to pull something out of a hat for a birthday or what not-- it would be amazing, not to mention the shelf space we would all gain!

     If this sounds like something you'd be interested to do--join me! I am going to make up a little worksheet for us with checklists and even some rules... what makes quilting more enjoyable than a bunch of arbitrary rules-- especially when you break them! If you want to join, I am going to start a Facebook group, and you can download your monthly worksheet, get motivated, git 'er done, and then post a finished picture of our projects at the end of the month. Beware-- since I am listing everything in each box for the worksheet-- there will be SPOILERS.

     If you don't get the box, you're welcome to join anyway to see the projects and cheer the rest of us on...

     Let the challenge begin!

Join the 2023 Sew the Samplers private Facebook group here:

Start by downloading and filling in your January worksheet, then take a picture of it and post it as I did on the group as your commitment to make a project for the month.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes of this... not to mention free up room for even more supplies! LOL



Sunday, January 22, 2023

Crushed it!

      I totally crushed most of my goals this week-- and even ended up with a cute baby quilt I hadn't even dreamed of last week at this time! Many of you kindly reached out to me privately to console me for not having big 2023 goals-- I think the weekly approach works much better for me-- so much more immediate and you have to do it, rather than think about it. I'm filling a column titled "This Week's List" in my happy planner with a weekly wish list instead of long range stuff.

     Did you see our new "Happy Mail" in-the-hoop quilt block? In last week's post, it was just an idea. I did move forward on it, and spent time figuring out how to do it, then perfecting it, then very quickly turning two charm packs into this...

    I'm going to spend the time to quickly sew those together this week-- someone I know just had a little girl and these Valentine fabrics are so perfect for a baby girl quilt. I can't even begin to tell you how much fun I had-- it's just that not too much in this hobby of ours happens fast, does it? I very much enjoyed picking the different fabrics for each envelope-- then planning so that this was the only waste out of the whole project-- thread dust and three extra squares. 

    My 6" blocks needed a 7" hoop (obviously), so the last thing I did was resize for smaller hoops-- this is the 5x7 inch hoop size-- it's just incredibly inspiring how little this is-- and just how perfect it comes out-- every time! And the trim lines are stitched right in-- so there's next to no measuring, too.

     Every project seems to beget another one-- I'd love to make tiny size envelopes in Christmas fabric for a holiday table runner this year. The Christmas spirit has kind of passed, so I'm going to jot the idea down in my happy planner for September. In the meantime, you can bet I am on the lookout for other blocks that would translate well to a hoop!

    Next up-- Block Four of Winter Twist--check! I loved all of your ideas about what the last white creature should be-- don't be offended if I didn't pick yours-- in the end it just comes down to the one I think will digitize well and expand on what we already have. We already had a bird-- the rabbit and fox were also good choices, but I felt they were too close to the ermine. So the white deer won out. We now have a full court-- king, baron, marquise, and knight-- I also got the phases of the moon in-- did you notice? I didn't plan that out-- it's just fun to let projects play out the way they will-- it just happened. I definitely prefer this to highly planning a piece. How do you like to work?

    The finishing kit will also be free-- I am still mostly in boxes after the move and am severely limited to fabric pulls I can do, so we'll have to see what happens. I have loved seeing your stitch outs on the Facebook group-- join if you haven't!-- LOVED all the colors and fabric-- I have to admit I'm feeling a bit of pressure!

     In the handwork department, I'm trying to do a Prairie Meadow applique block every three weeks-- that gives me one week to prep the pieces and two to sew. It's working out well. This past week was my week to prep. After totally re-working the last block, I pretty much stayed with the program and just changed the circle color on this block. 

    I have to say, the pieces really seemed fiddly to me this time-- but were really no different from other weeks. Am I getting bored? I am frequently reminding myself this is not a show quilt-- this is a fun and relaxing little stitch for my evenings! 

    It's really impossible to get nice points with this technique of stitching pieces to stabilizer and turning them, so I am just freeing all the points and turning them as I go-- it's not costing me any extra time. I have a long way to go with hand applique, but I'm pretty clever with points and I want them pointy!

    Since I wasn't hand sewing that last week, I worked along two of my cross stitches-- yes, I thought I was done with cross stitch for awhile. Last week one popped up, but now there are two of them!

   The Lori Holt Stitch Cards Set "O" is going really quickly. Most of these stitch cards were formulated from her quilt blocks, but this set really had more detail and I couldn't resist. The colors also remind me of the 1800s or something-- I love them. Anyway, I might gift some of these smaller things next Christmas-- I had so few handmade gifts last year. I love to make and give a handmade gift!

     I'm mad at myself I cut that off so close to the bottom! What was I thinking. 

     Then I started the FREE Fat Quarter Shop Love Note pattern-- we are supposed to wait to stitch it in February for the "Be Mine" sew-a-long, but just like I did in the 100yd dash in Kindergarten-- I need a head start. This only uses three colors and requires just a small piece of cloth. If you're looking for an inexpensive way to jump back into cross stitch, this would be it. 

     There is a ton of filling in on this-- I think you might actually be able to do it front of TV! Next, I'm just going to outline the color areas, and then I won't even have to think anymore. 


as they say, the beatings will continue until morale improves-- or in my case-- the whining will continue until A Ribbon Runs Through It is finished! This is the one thing I really struggle with last week. (again.)

    I promised to "force" myself to do one seam a night-- that didn't happen even once. Too much fun on other things! So on Sunday, I "forced" myself to work on it for a good few hours-- I got the last row of blocks pieced and quite a few rows sewn together. It's a gut buster-- I kidded someone that the seams were ten feet long, and then I measured them and they are closer to 11. It's true because we're sewing on the diagonal. As of this writing, I just have three big pieces left to join. 

    Can I just give myself a pat on the back-- or maybe the designer should get it, but it is coming together beautifully. Here's the corner-- all those pink triangles are just lining up sew perfectly, like soldiers in a row.

    After that, there are two borders to add-- then I have to wash and assemble the backing. I'm sure I can keep the misery going for another couple of weeks. The Barn Star Sampler with Fat Quarter Shop starts this Friday, so as one major quilt is finished, I just can't wait to start another!

Have a wonderful week!



Sunday, January 15, 2023

A Happy Little Day

      We all got sucked into Bob Ross binge watching over the holidays-- in that spirit, on Saturday I had a happy little Bob Ross kind of day- except sewing, instead of painting, obviously. I gave myself the gift of one of the all sewing days I promised myself after losing some personal time to entertaining during my favorite last week of the year.

     I worked four projects along at once. I used a technique I've heard others talk about-- people who really get things done. 1) You pin up a whole bunch of pieces to get ready to sew. 2) You move to the sewing machine and stitch them. 3) Iron. 4) Well, step four is back to step one! 

     I cycled through this process about four times doing the four projects and at a really relaxed pace-- no preconceived notions about what I would finish. I did move all four ahead and even finished one of them. It was a really enjoyable day.

     First up-- I finished my corn! The table runner part of it just needed a top border strip. I put this off, just because my table was a mess, I couldn't lay it out to measure, and I also hate the border part of any project. It's good to analyze why you get stuck on things, and wow, once I made up my mind to do it-- it took no time at all. Keeping my table top clean is a top priority for this year.

      I had one pillow top of two done. For the second one, the last two corns needed their leaves. They also needed a star block. I got stuck on this, because I ran out of the background fabric-- another lesson learned-- plan ahead with your supplies. And on a side note-- Etsy is a treasure trove of 2-3 year old fabric collections that you need more of-- don't wait much longer than three years, though.

   So Corn I am considering a "finish," but I actually wrote in my happy planner on August 1st to quilt it and have the set ready for my living room after Labor Day. 

    Next up: A Ribbon Runs Through It. Are you tired of hearing about this yet? We're almost there. Block Sixteen got finished yesterday. All that stands between me and a fabulous finish are a bunch of 10ft long seams, and, yes-- my favorite part, again-- two borders. I am absolutely determined to gut through it this week, forcing myself to do at least one seam every day. Sometimes a bit of FORCE is required in the sport of quilting, don't you agree?

     Third project: Lori Holt's Prairie Meadow quilt. I began and ended the day with hand stitching, and I finished Block 3. I am so happy with it! It looks so cool when all of the pieces go from glued down floppy to stitched down flat against the background. 

     This one I decided to be the boss of my own quilt and changed it up a bit-- apparently, I got a little too bossy and struggled for a bit. I added more color, and some lighter lights and darker darks-- that thing they told me in drawing class applies to quilt blocks, too. Lori had this mustache shaped set of leaves for her cherries, but I prefer my cherries more like the ones on a Las Vegas slot machine. I also added a little more movement by rotating the cherries like a wreath.

     Was it worth the extra time? Now that it's finished, it certainly was, but I hope I don't make as free with the rest of the blocks-- there are other things I'd rather spend my creative time on. There is only one other block I'm not crazy about-- it just has way too many circles. For now, I'm sticking with blocks I totally like-- there are nine left, so there's still plenty of choice. For the last block, I'm thinking of taking the Sew Simple shapes and making my own design-- that is something that sounds really fun to me and there are plenty of shapes in the set.

     I did buy the Cute Cuts 16-1/2" trimming template--- it was wicked expensive, but I got 20% off during Christmas, and I think it will be handy to have.

     Last project of the day: The Fat Quarter Shop is having a free sew-a-long for Valentine's Day! The quilt looks really easy to make-- you can click here to go to their website and download the pattern.

    It is one big block, so you can make this really fast. I don't need another wallhanging-- I'd rather have a tablerunner, but if I make three of them, then the project is too big for my tables. 

     Then I decided to shrink the block-- it did inspire me to come out with a tutorial for resizing blocks, because I am just that good at math and you can be, too. Is that something you'd be interested in? But then I wanted to use a charm pack of J. Wecker Frisch's new collection, "Be Mine Valentine." So cute-- very vintage! I always like her collections-- she's a true artist-- very illustrative. So no piece can then be bigger than a 5" square. I would have to shrink the block way too much to get it to work, way too complicated, too many would be needed.
      Do you see how I get myself down the rabbit hole frequently?

I decided to make my own block-- graph paper is just the best-- I did that, and it came out very cute! Then, I remembered I am a machine embroiderer, and THIS BLOCK CAN BE MADE IN THE HOOP! 

   That was a really exciting moment in my day yesterday-- so look for a new set in about a week, of in-the-hoop envelope blocks. Not only that, but I think we can also make a REAL fabric envelope in the hoop, and even a fun quilt label. 

    So that was my day! I really enjoyed every minute of it. I hope you can also find a day somewhere this month to go to your happy place, close the door, and work a few of those WIPs along. The world needs your completed projects, and I mean that very sincerely.


Sunday, January 8, 2023

No Dessert before your Corn!

    It has been sew fun to browse around the quilt-y blogs and YouTube videos this past week to see everyone's lofty 2023 plans. I think my readers favor a bit more realism, so here I am, still talking about what didn't get done in 2022!. Which year are you stitching in?

     The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is one of my favorites for unbridled sewing-- all the hoopla of gifts and meals is over, but the festive spirit remains along with plenty of leftovers! This year, we had two Christmasses, as our DS now has a five-hour drive to celebrate with us and planned to spend the big day at his own home. He arrived with friends after Christmas for quite a few days, so I got a bit cheated of my sewing week-- it was worth it, of course! <3 I intend to make up for it with a few all day sewing marathons this month.

     I had hoped to finish A Ribbon Runs Through It by the end of the year-- that did not happen. It wasn't lack of effort, because I have been sewing, sewing, sewing this thing-- it just never appears to be ending. The pieces are getting larger, but now I have to go back to finish that last star block, #16. My past self just could not get it done last May. There is no reason to complain about her-- I totally understand how impossible it was at the time. Each star block took me about five hours. If I could go back, I'd put my arm around my May self, and tell her not to worry, and show her how far along we are now on this epic quilt, despite the move!

     I keep saying I better pay attention to the sizes of projects before I begin them, but in my defense, this did not look this big on the wall of the quilt shop where I fell in love with it. Also in my defense, there was a $40 upgrade charge to make it KING SIZE that I did not purchase-- so with impeccable logic, I reasoned the size is NOT KING, thus it is small-- heehee. When I laid it out on my queen size bed, I was pretty shocked. I looked bed sizes up online and 100" x 100" is King alright. God help the people who bought the upgrade-- they better have a Green Giant size bed. And I still have to add two borders! I do like my quilts hanging pretty far over the edge of the bed, so let's see where we end up. Otherwise, could I fold it?

     The other leftover is my "Let's Pop Some Corn" Tablerunner and pillows-- these have not received a stitch since before Thanksgiving-- I want them done and promised myself no new sewing till they are. For "new" 2023 goals, I was thinking it would be the "Year of the Star"-- I am joining the "Barn Star Sampler" sew-a-long with Fat Quarter Shop, I also have the "Dessert Quilt" from about three or four years ago, and "My Color is Moda" in the Cookie Tin colorway, all of them full of stars.  That would be amazing to finish those three. So I was explaining all of this to the artist-in-residence about finishing 2022 projects before starting the Dessert Quilt.  She started laughing very hard... I didn't share the joke. Then she said in her "funny" voice she uses-- "No dessert before you finish your corn!" I am still laughing.

     I did get another Lori Holt applique block stitched up and have started #3. Unfortunately for number three, I started being too much the boss of my own quilt and and first changed colors and am now trading out shapes. I am currently the boss of my own mess! Let's hope I can control myself better going forward-- I want this on my bed for my birthday, at the end of the summer. And yes, I know some of the cherries are the wrong way. I have stayed on schedule for one every three weeks.

     I did have a fabulous finish! I had my Sew In Love quilt professionally long-armed-- it came out incredible. So I may take the easy way out and get a couple more finished tops quilted "not by me" before summer. When we first looked at this house, we knew from the listing it had a cabin hiding in the woods.  So the first time we laid eyes on it, yes, it did cross my mind what a fabulous quilt backdrop it would make-- and it did. SEW. IN. LOVE. 


  There's also a rock wall facing the meadow...

and more large rocks-- KING size rocks, in the meadow-- we call them Stonehenge. I have to believe these were dug out for the foundation of the house, but look at the size of that. I bet not even A Ribbon Runs through it will cover that stone.

And here's me laughing when I realized Mr. SFO was taking pictures of me taking pictures of the quilt in 15" of snow.

The Sew in Love quilt now lives with my sister. Of course, it got a beautiful machine embroidered label.

     Finally I thought I was done cross stitching for awhile-- apparently not-- I started Lori Holt's Stitch Card Set O. At least I resisted halfway though the alphabet-- but this set has a little more detail than the others and I find it very appealing. The stitch cards finish up quick -- haha-- if only I picked every project based on how fast it was!

    So that is where I am with 2022 finishes and 2023 plans-- a bit scattered, but very inspired, motivated, and happy. I think a yearly goal is too big for me-- maybe I'll try a first of every month check-in this year. Hope you are all fired up for the stitching year as well... organized or not!


Saturday, December 31, 2022

Things 2022 Taught Me

It's December 31st, and I'm taking a look back through my camera roll for a trip down 2022's Memory Lane -- here are some lessons learned this past year-- both quilt-y and in real life!


January: Keep on keepin' on.


     Stitches of the Sea was the block of the month for the ill-fated 2020 year, complete with all its challenges. We ran out of stabilizer and thread as everything shut down, and the Octopus planned for October was a major mental battle to digitize eight legs with dozens of suckers on them. A full two years after beginning, I finally made it to the finishing kit just like I envisioned it so many months before. Lesson learned: Don't stop believing!

 February: Give yourself a head start on a finish.

    This was the month I realized that I had a couple of quilts that were 90% done. All that stood between me and a finish was 28 Ohio stars on this one. Once I made my mind up, I very quickly had my first finish of the year. Lesson learned: You're closer than you think!

 March: Family first.

    These two decided to go on the adventure of a lifetime-- the Appalachian Trail. Supporting them with drop-offs of food was a priority and a time suck. I was more than rewarded with breaks from the sewing room and new inspiration from nature as I got to visit quite a few states and parks.  Lesson learned: All sewing and no play makes for some dull quilts.

April: Try new things.

     This is a Halloween quilt I did on the longarm. Hey!... part of me says I have no business trying to longarm a quilt, but when I saw this photo-- Hey!... It looks pretty good. Lesson learned: No matter how hard a new technique "seems" to be, you'll never know until you try.

May: Little by little, finishes the quilt.

     This block of the month I signed up for finishes out at more than 10,000 pieces-- but divide that by 12 months, and you certainly have something very doable! Tonight, I'm just sewing up the very last seams of this quilt. Lesson learned: Don't overwhelm yourself with the "whole"-- baby steps, people!

June: Focus.

     I finally put the last stitches on this amazing Sandy Orton Autumn Sampler cross stitch almost a year to the day I started it-- my only hand project for the entire year. Yes, I loved and hated working on it, all year! Now that it's over, I realized how much it taught me about sticking with one project at a time. Lesson learned-- I tend to work on more and more until less and less gets finished-- next year, I'm going to work on less and less, to finish more and more! 

July: Evolve.

    This is a pattern from the late 1990s that I absolutely loved! I found it as we packed to move and was surprised how I would have ever considered making this-- my taste and skills have totally changed. I think we're meant to keep moving forward-- do the quilts you make look exactly like the ones you made five years ago? Maybe it's time to try something else. Lesson learned: Grow. 

August: Embrace your past.

   This is a bit of a counterpoint to the previous idea-- but take out those old quilts you made, look them over, and enjoy the lessons they have to teach you. As we packed, I pulled out many old art works, going all the way back to college. Are they all amazing? Far from it, but it is so satisfying and incredibly motivating to see your body of completed work, and how you have grown. Lesson learned: Never forget where you come from!

September: Move on.

     This month, we stepped out of our beautiful Plymouth home for the last time. Despite frantic efforts to find a home or a mover for my mom's piano she purchased in the early 1950s, no such opportunity came through. Our home buyers allowed us to just leave it there in the end, thank goodness. So many memories of this item, and just looking at this photo gives me pangs, so this was one of my toughest lessons this year. Sometimes you can't take it with you. Lesson learned: Get over it.

October: Tomorrow is only a day away.

     At this point, the hikers had been on the trail for 5+ months and almost 1800 miles when we got a call from the DD. Her foot pain was now unbearable, and she couldn't go on. The dream was over. We were happy to pick her up and bring her home to rest, see a podiatrist-- maybe rejoin her partner later. We all agreed she would just stay at a hostel for a couple of nights to make sure it was really over for her. In short, it was not. She felt significantly better on Monday and went on to have one of her best days on the trail, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Lesson learned: Tomorrow's a game changer! 

November: Neatness counts.

     As I am still faced with a dozens of sewing boxes to unpack and a sewing room that still is just stud walls, it strikes me as tragic that I didn't take care of the beautiful room I had in our former home. It was always just a mess! This is an area I am determined to do better with next year. Lesson learned: A quilt isn't finished until all the scraps are put away! 

December: Ask for help when you need it.

     A growing stack of "flimsies" and a longarm that's still not assembled convinced me to send out a couple of quilts for finishing. Does it take away from a finish that every stitch wasn't
of my doing? Absolutely not-- this quilt is gorgeous and will be loved. Lesson learned: Finished is always better.

Hope you have a chance to ponder your 2022 camera roll tonight and think about where you came from, and where you're going... with every ending there is a new beginning, isn't that true?

Happy New Year!