Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What Do You Like?

Yesterday I wrote about giving a new technique a try. I had cut apart a quilt and added whites strips in the panels. I liked the way it looked, and it was kind of fun to make.

Building on that experience, I decided to try my hand at a similar concept, but with a curved line. It turned out ok. The line wasn't perfectly smooth, but the concept worked.

Both of these quilts were not really my style of quilting. I have always been a traditional quilter with a strong preference for applique. However, my wallhangings were not selling as well as they used to, and I thought I would try some more modern techniques. 

While I always like working with fabric and sewing, this modern bend was not really what I like. And when you are trying to make things you don't really like, well the joy just isn't there. 

Yes, we should try new techniques now and then. After all, how do we find out if we are going to like something or not? But creating something because we think it will sell, or we think it is the right thing, kind of puts a damper on the experience. 

It has taken me almost three years to realize this lesson. I have recently returned to making quilts the way I like them. Buyers or not, I am having a blast! I am so energized by what I make that it doesn't matter much if I sell them or not. Yes, that would be nice, but I don't make much money on them to begin with. It is just an avenue to find a home for them so my home doesn't get cluttered up.

Another thing Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Big Magic is to not force your creativity to make a living for you. Create because you want to create. I believe that if I am creating things I enjoy making, eventually, something will come of it. 

What do you like to make?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Give It A Try

Good or bad, I don't follow a pattern when I make a quilt. Not sure why, I think it is my creativity that just takes over and comes up with all these other ideas. I may look at a pattern and use parts of it, but I don't think I have ever followed a quilting pattern exactly as written.

Sometimes I don't even have a pattern at all. Instead, I see a picture or an idea pops in my mind and I go with it. That is what happened with this quilt.

If I remember correctly, I saw a picture and wondered if I could create a quilt like it. I had this rather wild purple fabric, and the idea just sort of came to me. It was really rather an interesting process, and I debated writing directions, but decided to just enjoy making the quilt and leave it at that. 

What was really fascinating was the math of this pattern. Despite all the cuts and pieces inserted, the quilt ended up being the same size as the pieces of fabric I started with. That is because the white strips are all 1" wide. With a 1/4" seam allowance, the white strip ended up exactly replacing the purple fabric used in the seam allowance. 

The first cut was a random line, and I sewed in a longer than needed white strip. I trimmed the edges and then cut another slice. Repeated over and over resulted in this quilt. The hardest part was lining up the edges of the purple quilt. on each side of the strip. I just took my time and did some pinning/adjusting. It never did sell, a little too contemporary or wild, not sure. My sister ended up giving it to a friend of hers. However, it was fun to make. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Finding Time to Quilt

We all have limited time in our lives. Time that is divided amongst many responsibilities, requests, and desires. These past two months, I have been trying to find pockets of time to quilt. Even a half hour can get me far enough to see progress after a few days.

To give me focus, I turned to a study aid I used fairly regularly with my middle school students to help remember something - acronyms. Here is a plan to help you accomplish more creatively.

F: Find Time

What? Where? This is the hardest part for some of us. I love having a whole weekend afternoon to sew, but that just doesn't always happen. Instead of lamenting this, I try to be flexible in finding time that works for me and our family. After dinner seems to be a good time for me to sit down for a half an hour, or an hour if I am lucky.

Most of what I do can be broken down into small steps that can be worked on during this time frame. I also have found ways to do things on my lunch break at work. Google Docs lets me draw and design patterns from anywhere. A lady I worked with would always pulled out her crocheting during lunch.

O: Focus on ONE Thing at a Time

If I am designing on my computer, I tend to have multiple internet tabs open. Multi-tasking is never productive for me and I get distracted easily. Also, I tend to have multiple projects going on at once. Therefore I hop from one to the next, never finishing anything.

Recently, I cleaned out my sewing room. I finished a few things I wanted to change, cleaned up the area and made three small piles. These were the next three quilts I wanted to work on. Doing one at a time, in a relatively clean room, really helped me focus on completing it. 

C: Curate Your Materials

Facing a large amount of supplies from which to work from can be stressful and overwhelming. You have so much to choose from, it is hard to make a choice of what to use and where to start.

Last year, I finally curated my fabric collection. I know what I normally use, and what makes me happy to work with. Additionally, seven years worth of quilting books were passed along to someone else because they just caused me anxiety to look at.

With a smaller, well curated collection of supplies, I feel free to create instead of worrying about using everything that I have. I have a much clearer focus. And yes, there are times when I just throw something away.

Supplies can also mean options. I can easily spend an hour searching through Pinterest posts for a pattern or idea. Limiting my options keeps me from being overwhelmed.

U: Understand Limitations and Obstacles

Limitations include time, skills, supplies - anything that won’t change fast. I can definitely address and change these limitations over time; but in the short term, I just need to understand and work around them.

Obstacles, for me often include my time limitations, and my lack of certain skills. As much as I try to make certain types of quilts, I don't have the skills. Limiting my quilts to applique, something I am comfortable with and fairly skilled at, helps my success.

S: Space to Sew

Not everyone has the luxury of a designated space to sew, but if possible, try to find one. It is so nice not to have to clean up everything each time you are done sewing. It lets you do a little at a time, when time permits. 

Another "S" is Sew. That's right! You have everything lined up or maybe you don't. It doesn't matter. Just sit down and sew. Try something, rip it out, finish it, just sew. The best writing advice I heard, was sit in the chair and write. So my best piece of advice for creativity is sit in the chair and sew!

Saturday, December 9, 2017


My life has been full of creativity - from making Barbie doll clothes with a scissors and tape, to learning how to sew my own clothes including my wedding dress. I also knit my own sweaters in high school, and made clothing for our children. My sewing talents took a turn toward quilting, and with my aunt, we sell quilted wall hangings at an art show each year.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote an excellent book about this - Big Magic. I had to read parts of it twice because it really struck a chord with me; though maybe not the way it did with most people. Her book really encourages you to get out there and express your creativity - don't let fear control you, embrace your creative drive!

No, I don't think I have a problem expressing my creativity personally or publicly. What I didn't realize until I read her book was that creativity is a part of me. I could no more turn my back on it than I could on my family.

I am the type of person who walks through a fabric store and all the different fabrics are calling out to me - "make me", "use me in a project". Do you ever feel that way? You could buy arm fulls of fabric they are so appealing. 

My week is complete, unless I have created something. My sister is a baker and my cousin loves to cook so much, she opened a summer food cart. I wish I cooking would fulfill my creative drive, as I have to do each day, but no it doesn't. So I look elsewhere - fabric, and currently yarn, are my draws.

When I am not actually sewing, I am looking for ideas, drawing quilt patterns, and writing lists about what I would like to make. As many do, I sell and give away my quilts because I have more enjoyment making them than keeping them. I am a creative. Yes, that is me!

Friday, December 8, 2017


Batiks are definitely my all time favorite fabric. There is something about the tones, the colors, the way the fabric swirls together. I mentioned previously, that I don't like to quilt over applique pieces because I love the fabric as art itself.

While I have been known to pick some rather wild looking batik fabrics, that even my artsy sister raised her eyebrows at, the ones that I enjoy the most are the ones that are rather monotone, with a subtle pattern to them, as the ones shown in the hummingbird quilt above. I've recently learned they are called Batik Blenders - tone on tone fabrics. Someday I would love to try a hand at dyeing my own.

There are a few quilt shops around us that sell batiks, but they are out of my way, so I tend to buy fabric at JoAnne's or Walmart - more convenient. And sometimes convenience rules.

Lately, my goal has been to use up all the fabric in my stash (it's not large) before I buy anything new. The other day we walked past the fabric at Walmart and my feet naturally went that way. No, I said to myself, if I am going to buy new fabric, this time it is going to be batiks.

Hopefully soon, I will get to the quilt store, that really isn't that far away, just out of the way, and buy myself some pretty batiks.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Inspired by the Seasons

Quilters find inspiration in my places. I am personally in love with Pinterest. Each time I get on there, I find beautiful quilts that inspire me to get going on my own. Quilt shows, friends, blogs - they all inspire us to quilt more, and provide us with ideas.

We live in Wisconsin, a state that experiences all four seasons. Good or bad depending on your perspective, we experience 90+ degree heat in the summer, and below zero snow in the winter. The seasons influence everything in our lives from clothing to activities. They also influence my quilting.

As I mentioned yesterday, I am drawn to making seasonal quilts. I made a quilt for each month of the year to showcase on the inside of our front door. Fall seems to be my favorite season as I wrote about last year. 

Well, I am writing about it again, because I just love the colors and shapes. Every time I go for a walk in the fall, I am compelled to take pictures of the beautiful leaves. Finding trees of many colors is a delight to me. Leaves, pumpkins, yes, they appeal to me. This is a picture of a quilt I made for my mom's front door, from a pattern in Quilt Sampler magazine

Fall quilts have threaded themselves throughout my entire quilting experience. And I don't see this stopping any time soon. Do you have a favorite type or theme of quilt that you enjoy making? 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Creating a Formula for Creativity

Logic rules most of my life. I love when things fit together. I search for facts, and love it when I can find a pattern in something. I create processes at work, and I have spent the last two years trying to find a formula for quilting.

A formula for quilting? Yes, a type of quilt that I can create many of, a consistent set of rules, a theme. I searched through Pinterest, and saved boards and created quilts based on modern quilts, half square triangles, art quilts, table runners, and mug rugs.

Throughout it all, my heart lies with applique and in particular, seasonal quilts. I love making quilts that reflect the season. When I first started quilting, I created a quilt for every month of the year and hung it on the inside of the front door. I loved changing that quilt each month.

Modern quilts just were not my thing. I really didn't like all the white, nor the colors needed to go with the white. I kept picking traditional colors, not modern colors. I was still really drawn to applique, and making mug rugs were really frustrating because they were too small.

Throughout all of this, was also a desire to create patterns for my designs. While this may be too much to ask of my creativity, I was really driven to try to find the "Big Magic".

It happened. This fall, it happened. I found the perfect tri-fecta. The right size quilt, the right themed quilt, and the right quilt to create patterns. The ideas flowed fast and furiously. I had more ideas than time to make the quilts. Five quilt tops were made before I could get them quilted. More were swirling in my mind. 

I can't tell you how awesome it feels to be in this flow. It won't last forever; it will ebb and flow. But I am thrilled to finally have this direction and create something that I am really excited about.