Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014 Year in Review

I was going to do this after Christmas, but yesterday I noticed that the new moon and the winter solstice coincide this year, so now is the time to put the old year to bed, and then make Christmas the celebration of new beginnings that it is meant to be.

So I'm back! Last year Toronto fibre artist Kit Lang did a wonderful post reviewing her projects and learnings from the past year. I believe that improvement, whether you are an artist or an artisan, requires regular reflection and adjustments, so I decided then that I would do something similar this year. Here are the highlights of what I've learned in 2014.

I'd been stressing about UFOs for years, and last January's resolution was to cut them all loose. Clean slate, start over.

Well, it was easy to say, hard to do. All my old projects crept back on the list.

My final thought is that it's like gardening -- cutting away the dead wood makes the whole plant healthier, but over pruning can be equally bad. The trick is balance,

In May I got a new sewing machine, the Brother Nouvelle 1500s high speed, single stitch machine. What a difference it's made!

I've never thought that it's reasonable to spend thousands of dollars on fancy gadgets for a hobby, but I can feel my opinion changing on that. I'm finding that better equipment gives a better result, and makes the process a lot more enjoyable as well.

Also in May, I was able to get this project, It's Warm Inside, from start to finish in about 3 weeks. That was the fastest I've ever done anything quilty! It broke down some mental barriers for me about starting and finishing in a timely manner.

Why was this one so easy to finish?
1. I had all the materials ready to go.
2. It was just 16 blocks, so there was no time to get bored.
3. I planned and cut the whole quilt before I started to sew. Then I wasn't slowed down by decision making during construction.

No, it's still not quilted, but I count it as a success nevertheless!

Mod Trips
Finishing those 16 log cabin blocks empowered me to get back to these Scrappy Trips blocks that I'd started in 2013. You could say they were a UFO whose time had finally come!

I applied what I'd learned. Rather than choosing, ironing and cutting fabrics for the blocks one at a time, I chose and cut everything for the rest of the quilt in one go. This streamlined the process, and it helped me make better choices, because I could see how everything worked together.

Even still, it was a grind to get the 25 blocks done. I think my threshold is around 20 blocks!

On the other hand, the two pillow covers I made from the leftovers were really fun. I think I liked the puzzle of how to fit them all together. That's something I plan to do again!

Over the summer I also put myself on a schedule to finish my "forever project," Texas Star. The schedule was easy, just six stars per week, and it worked.

I had to put my other forever project, Trick or Treat baskets, on hold while I finished Texas Star. Then, as I was finishing up Mod Trips above, I came to a big realization. It's not enough for a project to be interesting, I also need to have an emotional connection with it. Mod Trips is nice enough, and I'm happy it's done, but it's all intellectual.

And the baskets will be the same thing, too much head, not enough heart. I like the grey colour scheme and the fabrics intellectually, but I don't love them. I may start it again down the road in different fabrics, but this version is definitely dead.

Although it's nowhere near finished, this new project Jacks and Cats was still an important lesson. I learned that it is good to have a big stash.

I hear the groans! Over a year ago I resolved to only buy fabric for specific projects, and to stop buying just for stash. But I've changed my mind.

What I've found is that when inspiration strikes, it is very helpful to be ready to go. I bought the magazine and started this project on the same day. The whole thing flowed together beautifully, and it was super fun to be able to ride that initial wave of inspiration. For me, I think that's the best way to work.

Yes, I'm a little worried that now the brakes are off the shopping cart, but actually, I've bought less fabric recently.

Ink Week Finale

November's lesson was about the importance of the blogging community. Really, it should be whole separate post, but I'll just keep going here.

I am so appreciative of all you, bloggers, readers, and commenters, for the support, encouragement and inspiration you provide!!

My project Down in the Garden, had been languishing with just a few of these herb pots done, when I noticed that Kaaren at The Painted Quilt had started it too. She encouraged me to get back to it, and crucially, added my blog to her blog list.

That's so important, because I can see the traffic coming in from her blog, and it's very motivating. It is very helpful to borrow someone else's confidence when your own is flagging! It gave me the encouragement I needed to just go for it with Ink Week.

Then Mary Corbet recommended the series, and sent a huge spike in traffic my way. But, right between parts 3 and 4, a family emergency briefly knocked things askew. Once again, it was knowing that people were watching and waiting for the rest of the series that got me back on track and helped me to finish. And I'm so happy I did, because it turned out even better than I'd hoped!

So, when I say that I appreciate you all, it's not empty words. I really mean it! You make me better. Thank you!

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Gift for Me

With the final push to Christmas now underway, this is probably my last post before the holiday. This week I bought myself this book, 500 Traditional Quilts, and I had to share it. Need a little reward after all the cooking is done? Get yourself this book!

The title says it all. 500 full colour photos of the best traditional quilts of today, chosen by Karey Patterson Bresenhan, Founder of the International Quilt Festival at Houston, from photos submitted by the quilters themselves.

I only photographed a few pages to give you the idea. In truth, the book is overwhelming and I needed a couple of sittings to look at it all. There are 432 pages, and it weighs over 2.5 lbs (1 kg)!

But what a wonderful resource! The ones on the right above, and left below, are two of my favourites.

While most of the quilts are American, and made in the past 7 or so years, there are also quilts from all over the world and as far back as the 1980s. I recognized many of them as Best of Show winners from recent shows at Houston and Paducah, as well as other national and international shows.

There are a handful of whole cloth quilts, but most of them are appliqued, pieced, or a combination of the two. There are several Baltimore-style quilts and a couple of miniatures as well. Most of the photos are full page, but a few are not:

My only complaint is that I wish there was some way to "zoom in" on some of the details! The star quilt on the right is 100" square, and made entirely from half square triangles (HSTs).

Best of all, the book was less than $20 on Amazon Canada. Unfortunately, it looks like it is now on backorder. But, it might be in stock elsewhere.

On a much smaller scale, I've been making HSTs this month as well:

I was inspired by Bonnie Hunter's new mystery quilt, in a general way, and more specifically by some of Audrey's recent work. But, there is nothing to show yet. I have 40 of these sets of 12 HSTs to make before I can start to put them together. In the new year, probably!

I'll be back after Christmas, but until then, I wish everyone a great holiday -- whatever, wherever and however you are celebrating!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Near the End on BFF

At the end of Ink Week, one thing that became clear to me was that I was ready to close out my current stitchery project, Best Friends Forever by Rosalie Quinlan. Now that all the individual stars are finished for Texas Star, I am also ready for my next English paper piecing project, which is going to be the setting for BFF. So I have two strong reasons to finish the stitchery portion of this project!

Today I have just finished the telephone, which is part of a motif from Month 6, and I'm about to turn on the tv and backstitch all the lettering while I catch up on a few episodes of CBC's Strange Empire.

Since it's Sunday and I haven't linked to Slow Stitching Sunday in ages, I thought I'd do that too! Recently it's seemed like Sundays have been a good day to devote to the sewing machine, but today I'm going to kick back. Plus, I'm keen to finish this up now!

The original, eight-month Block of the Month had 32 hexagon motifs. As I'm not doing them all, a smaller but still nice layout will be 22 hexagons, roughly like this:

Including the telephone, I need three more, so that's the plan for the next while. My cross stitch snowman is back on hold, by the way. My cross stitching neurons are rusty, and I was making mistakes all over because I was rushing it. BFF may not be Christmas-y, but it will sure feel like a nice gift to get this phase of the project done!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

333 Finished Stars

Yesterday I finished the last star for my Texas Star quilt:

I decided to use this low volume print, called "Warm Wishes," for my last three stars. As I got to the end I realized that I had some of my least favourite fabrics left, and I thought the last star should be nicer. I had a strip of this set aside for the binding of Mod Trips, so I cut it up and used it here instead. Against the white background they will almost disappear, and I like the idea of a few "ghost" stars among the rest.

I've been adding three background diamonds to most of the stars as I sewed:

Now I can sew the stars together without the boredom of all the white pieces. I've already made a start:

Back in August I made myself a schedule of six stars per week, in order to finish them all this year. I am so pleased that I have managed to stick to it! Some weeks I was ahead of schedule, and some weeks I had to catch up, but in the end I am right on time. If you missed some of the Ticker photos, here they all are again:

In the new year I may make another schedule for the rows, but I'll see how that looks after the holidays. After working on these for so long, it feels a little empty to think they are all done. I'll have to regroup a little now, and think about what the next big project will be. I put aside the baskets in order to finish these, so I may go back to those. We'll see!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...