Wednesday, 23 January 2019

What Sparks Your Joy?

January is nearly behind us ... have you checked in with your New Year's resolutions?

My goal for 2019 was (and still is) to sew through my stash (and be happy about it!). It's interesting how quilters hang onto fabric. We are all a little guilty of starting and stopping projects, failing to execute others or not wanting to cut into pieces of beautiful fabric. I can see how over the years my tastes have changed by what is left in my stash box. Stores come out in force each January selling storage bins and supplies to organise your life.

If you have Netflix or follow any other social media, you may by now have heard about Marie Kondo. Marie is the author of the 2014 book 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing'. After reading this book a few months ago, I started to look at my belongings in a different way. Marie doesn't ask you to purge your things or look for things to throw out. She asks you to tidy according to category and look at what you want to keep. If you love something, keep it! Love it, show it off, use it. Don't keep something out of guilt or because you fear needing it in the future.

Marie also has a show on Netflix called 'Tidying Up With Marie Kondo". It's worth watching to just learn how to fold your sweaters. This show is like pornography for clean freaks!

The categories to tidy are:
Komono - miscellaneous items, household goods, kitchenware, garage etc.
Sentimental Items

Kondo's idea is to only keep items you love. Don't keep things 'just because' ...

Marie has clearly never met a quilter! This beautiful pile of red fabric sparks my joy! At one time, I kept it, folded secretly in a bin ... scared to cut it, scared to ruin it or pick the wrong project. Some of the pieces were purchased because they were on sale or intended for a different quilt that didn't materialize. 

When tidying and purging, they suggest you should go in order with these items .. start with clothes and move on ... don't start with your sentimental items like old photos or family heirlooms. Gather all of your clothes from all over the house and pile them up to get a good inventory and then go about folding and tidying. After doing this, I found I have three pairs of black golf shorts - all the same size and brand. I saw that I have Five. white t-shirts. Five. Who knew?

To be honest, my quilting fabric, patterns and tools overlap between the categories of Komono and sentimental items. I have left it for last. Over Christmas, I started a small clean-up of my sewing space and started a stash plan but have not really taken a bigger dive into it. I'm not ready.

Here is the before and after of Darby's drawers .. tiny clothes all crammed in her dresser all willy nilly! Secret messes hidden behind curtains, closets and closed drawers.

Thank you Marie!

People hang to items for different reasons. Many people fear the future and want to preserve the past (maybe without realizing it). Emotional attachments give us a sense of identity. Objects and brands can signal our membership into social groups (like all of the nurses I know who carry Coach bags and wear LuLu sweaters ... high end gang symbols). I think I hang onto things out of fear ... I may need it ... I don't want to ruin things ... some guilt ... my skinny, fat and just right jeans will tell more about this another day.

After doing some Kondo tidying this month, I was shocked at how many papers I had in the house ... receipts, lists, letters, cards ... and at how many spots I was stashing them. My favourite stow area was beside the coffee pot! When I gathered it all and put it in a bin, it was everywhere. (My hubby's favorite stow spot is under the visor in our car ... he calls it the 'policeman's purse')

It made me sad and guilty to see the books I had accumulated. Books I bought and never read or expensive text books never to be read again were all hard for me to part with. Again, I had books on the bookcase, in my bedside table, one in my purse, one in my work bag ... this does not include my quilting books or patterns. I haven't even touched my cookbooks! Again, they are stashed everywhere.

As they say ... one step at a time .... one stitch at a time ... hopefully, in my next post, you will see the start of a beautiful creation from my red stash! (hint, hint ... Valentine's Day is just around the corner!)


Saturday, 19 January 2019

Winter Blues

January brings some cold temperatures to the north! This time of year can be tough on the soul as we all feel a bit cooped up when the mercury dips into minus 30 territory. Things to look forward to, of course, are quilts! January couldn't be a better time to get working on your cuddly quilts.

This blue throw was made by my customer Kareen for her daughter who is crazy about stars. Kareen usually needs a tight turn around time when I quilt for her and I'm happy to accommodate her. I am busy with work, baby, papa and the house but when the stars align, it all works out. When it all falls to pot .... well ... that's a story for another day! Things fell soon after I unloaded this sweet throw from the long arm .... 

Kareen used her old blue jeans to make this top. It has a great look. You need to be careful when working with jeans as not all denim is alike. Most of my old blue jeans have a some stretch to them (the best ones!) so they don't make for straight cuts. Some of the denim frays quite badly and some patches just don't work. The colour is off, the grains don't run together ... Kareen did a great job. She told me she really had to cherry pick through her stash for the best pieces.  By using a black one inch cotton divide, she was able to lighten up the quilt. She was set on picking a cuddle backing. At first, I warned against this as it would make the quilt too heavy but as it was only a small throw, it worked. Think of the poor person who has to wash the quilt one day ... this throw is a gift for her daughter who loves stars. We used the panto Becker's Shooting Stars for it and So-Fine thread in light grey. 

Another tip to remember when sewing with denim is to use a needle designed for jeans. I can't tell you how many needles I snapped while sewing in my early days of quilting. They really make a difference and for the few dollars it costs to buy a package of needles, well worth the investment.

These packs are at our local Walmart - $2.47. For less than three dollars you can save yourself hours or misery. Jeans needles are designed to puncture through the tougher, often thicker fabric. They are generally longer, sharper, more durable and have a bigger eye as you may want to use a heavier weight thread. Denim needles may dull more quickly than regular all-purpose needles as well. Be sure to change them out often if working on a new project.

Here's a shot of a denim/flannel rag time quilt I made in 2001. It has held up really well. This quilt currently lives at the bottom of my papa's bed.

Some more tips when sewing with denim:

* Choose the right design .. is your denim heavy and structured or lighter in texture and feel?

* Pay attention to grain lines - cut grain lines in alignment to counter twisting

* Press seams open to combat bulk. Some seams may need to be clipped shorter to combat the bulk.

* Heat and steam can be your friends. Pressing denim is important.

* Slow down! Sew at a slower pace when sewing denim. Moving too quickly may result in needle breakage and frustrations all around

* Denim is made of cotton fibres. It comes in a variety of weights.

* Denim frays. That's why I especially loved using it in my rag time quilts.

With that, I hope you have a great week and enjoy what is left of January. I am diving into a box of red fabric this week to make up something special for Valentine's Day.

Until next time ... may your blue jeans fit your bum, waist and thighs and don't force you to cut them up into a quilt!


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

What do Parsnips Have to Do With Quilts?

My great fabric destash is in full swing. I am worried though ... feeling a bit like a dieter who is gung ho to start a program January 1 only to fall victim to a plate of cinnamon buns 6 weeks later ... the excitement and momentum may fall away to winter solitude. I feel accomplished just giving my sewing space a good cleaning ... I actually clogged up our Electrolux with a ball of thread! Whoops.

My New Year's resolution this year is to destash like a mad woman! If you follow me on Instagram @foxy_mcphee (my maiden name is Fox) you will see me, and others use the hashtag #sewmystahs2019. I encourage you all to follow along and start cutting into your own stash.

I show you this bag of turnips for a reason .... I feel I am a pretty good cook, I'm a bit frugal actually, in the kitchen. My granny taught me to waste nothing ... the bread crusts got dried and crushed into crumbs, the mold gets carved off the end of the cheese and at the end of the week, whatever is left in the vegetable drawer gets thrown into a pot to be used up. Soup is never made twice the same in our house.

I decided that I needed to start sewing in the same way I cook .... see what kind of ingredients I have on hand and supplement frugally here and there to finish off the dish. Too many times I bought a fat quarter bundle or a kit 'on sale' ... maybe I had 'big plans' to start something new only to see it live in a plastic box. I only have 3 large appliqued kits nagging at me.

Back to the parsnips .... how magically these ugly roots get together with some carrots and potatoes ... I dug deep in the freezer to find some old stewing beef .... I only needed to pick up a bit of spice and add some fresh bread. Voila, a masterpiece.

Just like the waiting masterpiece at the bottom of my fabric bin! I love to see the process of turning raw ingredients into something spectacular.

Some rough product, a little elbow grease and some time ..... supper is served!

I'm proud of this bread I baked last week. It was my 2019 resolution to learn to make bread. My friend Robin walked me through the first batch. It tasted as good as it looks! Success.

This supper was enjoyed by me and my family. I love it when my hubby brags to his fishing buddy about something I cooked. He was quite impressed with the bread adventure. It has taken me awhile but it came to me over the holidays .... why don't I sew the way I cook? See what I have on hand, add a bit of spice and 'stew' up something special. Like these bread loaves ... finished is better than perfect!

Don't save things for a special occasion ... today is a special occasion!

I love how these I Spy quilts turned out. I have been feverishly cutting into my kids fabric, determined to empty it out. I have promised myself that I can not start any new projects until I finish one ... as in finish .. start to finish ... not just finish the top, but finish it all .... top, quilted and bound (boo ... binding! my least favourite part of the process). I picked a bunch of Netflix movies to help me along with the binding process ...

An I-Spy quilt is typically made up of novelty prints like the ones I have pictured. They are fussy cut with pictures ... anything goes ... animals, candy, flowers, super heroes ... the idea is to mimic a game of I-Spy in quilt form.

I made two I-Spy quilts .... one more feminine and the other more generic (I had lots of pink for some reason!) I used red bricks on the quilt below and quilted it with a variegated rainbow King Tut thread. I'm pleased with how it turned out. The panto is a new one called outer space. I really had fun with it.

And of course, cuddle on the back for both of them.

These little throws make for great car or picnic quilts. We especially love heading out to our local Drive-In each summer to watch late night movies. We are lucky to be in a community with one of the last standing out door theatres. These throws will be sure to keep sweet Darby cozy and occupied. She had a great time 'helping' me with the fabric and layout.

Here's a shot of the rough product .... like my stew ... some raw, rough products, can turn into something amazing at the end of the day!

And cut, cut, cut ..... sew, sew, sew .....

To success!

I have made a few different versions of the children's quilts over the years. This time out, I used the simple bricks pattern again. Other times, I have used 5" charms and 2/5" squares to construct them. Use whatever you have on hand. I did not buy one thread for these sweet quilts. From the top, backing and binding, it was all hobbled together from my stash. As you can see, this quilt is Casey approved! I should print that on a quilt label.

I'm determined to see the bottom of my kids fabric box this winter so you will definitely see more I-Spy's coming out of Queen Street. I also plan to have an Etsy shop up and running by spring. If you want to lay claim to one of these cuties before that, please contact me.

As always, may your pins stay sharp and you sew with joy.


Monday, 7 January 2019

Simple Bricks

This is a fun quilt I quilted for Evelyn ... this was a pattern our guild has been using for our new quilters workshops. A few of us more seasoned sewers have been using it too. It is a fun, quick project that uses up scraps and other bits. I especially like how this pattern uses up layer cakes. 

This was a gift for one of Evelyn's people for Christmas and I'm sure it is loved. 

I used an ivory cuddle on the back and the echo blossom pantograph. So Fine thread of course in 401 (my fave!) Snow ... 

We didn't want to quilt with anything too dense and I think we picked perfectly. 

This particular pattern is getting a run for it in my sewing room these days ... I'm on a mission to get sewing through my stash and this has been the perfect vehicle for it. You can cut and sew up this top in an evening ... it took me longer to load the quilt onto my longarm and pick a panto than to actually quilt it. Ssshhhh .... don't tell anyone how easy it can be!

Here's a shot of my own throw I 'threw' together over Christmas. I'm not sure it has a home yet ... I have been kicking around the idea of starting an Etsy store this year ... this may be one of my first listings ... stay tuned on that one!

The panto I used is called 'Fun Floral Feathers' .... feathers? Yes, I actually quilted feathers on one of my own quilts. It's hard for even me to believe!

The thread is a #50 wt So Fine called 'Baby Blue' and I used Quilter's Dream Blend batting of course. It will always be my favourite batting. The fabric is part of my stash ... I picked up a few pieces from this line last summer with some big projects in mind when I saw a deal on it. I still think its really pretty. I love the modern daisies ... my favourite quilts are made using modern fabrics in vintage patterns.  The line is called True Blue.

This easy bricks pattern really showcases the material. I love how different mine looks from Evelyn's who used a Moda fabric as well from the Fig Tree line. Her quilt has a soft, country feel to it.

I love the new Cuddle backing I just got in ... it seems more luxurious than my others. This colour is called denim. It's actually a 60" wide back that I just received. I have 60" yellow and pink as well if you need backings. My little basement shop got a bit of an overhaul over the holidays. I invite you to come by and check out the wares. I have around 20 backings now for you to choose from. It's tough living in a small town with no quilt shop nearby and I am happy to offer these services for my costumers.

 As usual ... a trusty helper.


Thursday, 3 January 2019

Just One More Sweater Away from Happiness

If you are a quilter following anyone on Instagram you will see the hash tag #sewmystash2019 popping up allover the place. The idea of course, is to sew your stash this year! Get rid on it and get rid of it.  I have jumped on the bandwagon with this one!

My stash has gotten out of hand lately and I need to start diving into some long forgotten baskets of fabric. In one of my last posts, I spoke about 'saving' fabric and how I have had a hard time cutting into some of it. I declare the year 2019 as the year of enough! I have enough. I am enough! Instead of looking to buy another bin to store things in this new year, I urge you to play along ... get working through what you already have!

My hubby's favourite joke to tell when we are in a quilt store together is 'Why don't you just give me $100 and I'll hand you things from your closet you don't even know you have." Ha ha. It was funny the first time ... but ... he may be onto something!

I have been inspired by a few different authors and bloggers this past year who write about living a more simple life .... getting your finances in order, decluttering, enjoying your down time. I follow  Cait Flanders, who wrote 'The Year of Less' and Courtney Carver who authored 'Soulful Simplicity'

Courtney Carver was the architect behind Project 333 which I am participating in. (For those who know me, I bet you didn't even notice!) You too can be more with less .. check her out here ...

That particular project is aimed at bringing in less and enjoying more ... 'Be more with Less'. Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. I struggled with the thought of doing this challenge when I first came upon it on social media but the actual doing part was (and is) simple. I had in fact, been participating for years and was not fully aware of it. I had a packed closet full of clothes and an overflowing dresser. I had clothes in 3 different sizes for ten seasons. I was hanging onto fat jeans I worried about needing again, skinny jeans I longed to fit into and jeans that fit me today which I didn't like (and usually didn't wear). I had clothes 'just in case' I had clothes 'purchased' in virtual shopping carts and nearly daily, perused the net for a sale or was receiving a coupon or VIP card from one of my favourite shops. I was always just one more sweater away from happiness! I have struggled with my weight since I was a child and have really had a tough time letting go ... letting go of fat me, trying to be skinny me ... just another ten pounds, right? Ten more pounds and I will be a better whatever .... a better mom, a better wife, a better nurse ... ten go and guess what? It didn't happen ... so ... maybe ten more ... I have been on enough diets to wallpaper a bathroom and my body still settles to where it wants ....

With all of the clothes, books, bins and needing more, more, more .... I was feeling anxious and smothered.  I was, like most people, scurrying around in the morning declaring 'I have nothing to wear!' and likely wearing the same few outfits every day ...

Project 333 has set me free clothes, clutter and buying. The notion is now creeping downstairs into my last domain! The sewing room!

You can check it out here .... Project 333

Here's a shot of 'some of the stash' ..... (I'm feeling free already!)

Someday, usually means never .....

I may need this some day ... that is too good to cut ... this will be just right for ....

The truth is, that I will likely not live long enough to sew through all of my fabric and patterns.

Whoa now, this isn't a declaration of a terminal illness or anything ... its mathematical. The rate at which I can start and finish a quilt times the amount I have to work with equals a whole lot of boxes sold in a yard sale when I die. The thought of my beautiful treasures out in the yard getting picked over by neighbours for pennies makes me ill ... so ill, I'm doing something about it!

First up .... cutting into this box of kids fabric!

I have been operating my long arm business for about a year and a half now .... in 18 months I have not quilted one ugly quilt. Not one! Every single top brought into my house comes in with beauty and potential. They all leave rock stars! I'm not trying to insinuate that I am the best quilter in the world ... far from it ... what I am saying is that finished is better than perfect and all finished quilts are nicer than this sad box of fabric.

Wish me luck with my destash! Happy quilting to you this new year. May the new year bring your old projects back to life.