Sunday, 28 October 2012

Quilting the Centre Compass - The Beast


Well phew, the large centre compass is finished.   It took me longer then I planned and hoped due to a number of factors.   Primarily my clever plan of quilting the smaller compasses backfired big time.    Instead of being able to squish the quilt under the throat, due to the heavy quilting on the smaller compasses it was very difficult to manage and really impacted my ability to manage any intricate quilting on the large compass.

So I fell back to the old standard.   Pebbling on the rumbas, large and small stippling on the large compass points, Leah's Wiggly Tentacles on the smaller points and then used half of the Leah's Wiggly Woven Lines and Leah's Deco Leaves which I think worked quite well.

I also had issues with bunching as I quilted sections close together, nothing I can do but quilt them flat.
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I was tempted to be disheartened and feel like I had ruined the quilt due to rushing, quilting sections without thought for how it would impact the rest of it and so on.   But I'm choosing to take this as a huge learning by doing experience.     This is my quilt and not a gift for someone else so I can chill a bit about quality and basically I'm getting a lot of quilting practise under difficult circumstances.

I'm delighted to be able to focus on the next sections, decorative quilting which should be easier to manage as they are along the sides so I'll be able to keep the majority of the quilt to the left of the needle and not stuffed under the throat.    I'm also looking forward to using lots of Leah's water/sea quilting patterns to fill out the rest.

My machine is going to the doctors tomorrow for an overhaul while I'm in Macau for work, so we'll both come back refreshed and ready for the next section of quilting.

What I have realised is that for me having a quilt sitting around as a UFO means that when I come to quilt it, I already feel like that project has been around for ages and feels behind and a bit stale.    I'm really looking forward to starting a project from scratch and seeing how the quilting feels.

I had wanted to do two large nap quilts for family for Christmas, but as I have to post them by middle of December if I don't start now then I won't be finished in time.    I really don't want to put Compass on hold.   I just feel strongly that I must finish it completely and not get distracted by something else.   So I've decided that these quilts are going to be Valentine Day presents, both are single ladies so I think that will be a lovely surprise and I won't be pushing to get them done for a very close deadline and having a quilt half finished waiting for them to be finished.     I have to say it feels very good to have made that decision and not fall back into the old ways.

So all in all the Compass isn't proving to be the showcase of my quilting abilities that I had always fantasised about, but boy is it proving to be a complete blessing and teaching tool about myself, overcoming adversity and simply just doing and not procrastinating.   I have a feeling this is a quilt I will pull out on bad days, when life seems to be going wrong or not working out how I had hoped and I'll be able to lie underneath it and reassure myself that a quilt is layers of fabric held together by stitches and is not about quality or perfection, but warmth, colour and effort, just like life.

Again many thanks to Leah for keeping me on track.
UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Quilting the 4th Compass - Mine

Well the 4th compass is completed.   I started really well, enjoying everything, even the challenge of using a thread that will really show up on the curves for my pebbling.   I still like pebbling but I noticed that if I do more then 30 minutes then I get careless and "just get it done" syndrome comes into play.

So all went well until it came to the white points.   I'd looked at loads of the 365 Designs and couldn't find a design like Leah Day's Channel Weave that I liked as well from the straight line ones and then decided to do Leah Day's Flame Stitch to make it look as if Sun Rays were coming out of the compass.   I started cheerfully enough, tried the first one in one direction and the second in the other and decided that it was too busy for this part of the quilt so decided to adjust the design and do one big flame and echo coming in and as I started I just lost oomph!   It all became blah and tiresome and suddenly I was totally tired and bored with this monstrous quilt and I knew I was facing the huge compass where the design is very important and I can't get away with just trying stuff as I've done in the smaller compasses.

I sat and stared and was within an inch away, no make that a seam allowance away, from bundling up the quilt and getting out the bits I've cut for a new quilt and start piecing.   And normally that would be a good idea, have a break, get productive on something else while the batteries recharge.  BUT this is a UFO and yes I know technically that it is now a WIP and I have no more UFO's piling up, this quilt has been sandwiched for over a year and I know I have to get it done. 

I tried several ideas in my mind, I could just stipple the rest of it or straight line quilt it, boring but quick, I could use those idea's I had in another quilt one day.   But I knew that this was a cop out and actually I'm really looking forward to quilting the white but the Big Mama Compass is in the way.   I also thought well leave the Mama til the end but that seems like another cop out and I think would haunt the rest of the quilting.

It being too early to reach for quilter's helper (wine), I told myself to do just one more section in my revised flame design.   I wasn't any more happy with the result but it was quick.   So I did another, and another and finished.   There wasn't a huge Woo Hoo but there was a sense of accomplishment.   And having finished I realised that what I was dreading was the sewing of the big compass.   I have no idea's for design and worry I'm going to choose something that is awful and that piece is just too big to randomly try something/anything.

I'm definitely going to do pebbling in the curves as with the other compasses and I'm very comfortable with that design choice.   But........... the rest.

So I'm reaching out here, please, please, please send me ideas, suggestions because I know that if I get stuck after the pebbling this UFO is going to go back into the trunk for another long while.

Note that this compass is 47" and is a monster in itself.   It has the same writing on the large cardinal points at the others.   Those I stippled in large and small but I have a feeling on these it will seem a bit bland.    

The Monster that is causing me sleepless nights!
I've also figured out that the smudge on my camera is not due to my finger but something on/in the lens, cleaning doesn't work so off the camera shop for me.

Am linking up with Leah

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Quilting the Third Compass - Ju's

Well the quilting of the 3rd compass is completed.   It's been finished for a while now but a busy work week and a lovely weekend last week stopped me from posting.   I had a 6 hour Skype session with Wales as we had the handover of our 2 year border round robin.   12 women, 12 quilts with a 2 month rotation.   The quilts are amazing and I hope to start a second blog about the round robin and the process in November when I've finished Mariner's Compass and get the quilt into my hands.

Anyway the quilting of this started off lovely.   I decided to continue stippling the compass points but this time used a combination of large and micro stippling in the side by side points to see if that would give a subtle shading and help the points to stand out.   I'm not sure it did but it was great practise for micro stippling so will continue with that design for the 4th compass and possibly the large.

The pebbling continued well and I feel like I'm really getting the hang of that.

Leah suggested Channel Weave for the rumba's and it worked beautifully I think.   The combination of the curves in the darker points and the straight lines in the lighter ones has really made the compass pop.   I'd love to do it for the 4th compass but have promised myself a different design on each one.   So am looking for suggestions for the last in the rumba's while I finish off the stippling and pebbling.

However the sewing of the Channel Weave was a, how do I put it?, well frankly a bitch.   My tension was completely off and suddenly I had major skipping of stitches.   I did everything all my books suggest, checked both tensions, re-threaded the machine, changed the needle and NOTHING worked.   I had taken receipt of my Ultimate Free Motion Sewing Kit and was so anxious to try it.   I put in the washer and the glider and it made no difference.   Well actually the glider was a joy so I felt the difference in moving the quilt but the stitching was a pain.

When we started quilting years ago (the Friendship Quilting Group) we did a number of block round robins and the rule was to use unbleached calico in each block with a colour.   The problem with calico is that it comes in many different weights and I noticed that Ju used an almost upholstery weight of calico in the white rumbas and also the curves where I did the pebbling.    I didn't have a problem with the pebbling, it just started with the rumbas.   

I went back to my test sandwich but the problem is that it is standard quilting weight calico on both sides, not a mixture of flannel beneath and the heavy calico on top which is what I was working on.

I'm going to take my machine in for a service but that will have to wait until next week so what should I do NOW?   I had a couple of choices, leave that part of the quilt and move on, stop quilting until the machine is serviced or just battle on.   I decided to battle on.   I think I felt that if I stopped then some sort of fear would just grow and magnify and there would be a real danger that I would just simply put the Mariner's Compass aside for months.

I had a strong desire to stop quilting and start piecing a new quilt.

Normally I would say just stop and do something else that is more pleasant, leave the battle for another day but I'm working through a last UFO here and I just felt it was important to continue on.   That having a problem with a particular area of a quilt was part of the reason I let so many pile up in the first place and I know that having an unfinished quilt and then starting on another makes me feel a bit anxious and rushed with the new quilt and vaguely guilty.   Starting something with enthusiasm and then stopping when it gets a bit hard or I hit a problem or begin to feel a bit bored is a pattern for me in a lot of things and it felt critical that I didn't do this again. 

So the choice was made to just push through.   Where stitches skipped I used that as a chance to practise travelling.   I told myself that with everything, even the fun things, there are bad days and it is better to push through if you can rather then stop.   This is not a show quilt and I'm happy to have that area of the quilt to remind me that I didn't give up and life, like the Olympics, is sometimes a matter of taking part but not winning.

What I did notice with the quilting was how important the position of the quilt is.   I don't have much option with Mariner's Compass, at 90 inches by 90 inches I cannot change the positioning of the fabric, I had to adjust the angle I sew at.   I started working from the point towards me and back up to the curve and it was great.   I had no problems with the pattern, Channel Weave needs changes in direction so you have to think a bit especially in the beginning.    In all I felt it was easy and loved working on it.   When I had to work with the point to the left and the curve to the right, it was more difficult and I lost my way many times.   When I finally worked with the point at the top and down to the curve it was super difficult especially as the fabric began to bunch up into the curve.   

So sometimes it is not that a pattern is difficult but that the positioning of the fabric isn't ideal.   If I had started trying Channel Weave with the points to the top and the curve at the bottom I might have given up.   So another lesson is to relax and just wait and see how things progress, don't immediately think "I hate this pattern" or "I'm so bad at quilting".

So Compass 3 gave me a lot of challenges but also a lot of learning.     I didn't have to push through, and wisdom would say stop doing what frustrates you and move to something more pleasant.   That is my pattern in UFOs and this time I decided not to.   I think when the quilt is finished I'll look at this compass fondly and it will remind me to put on my shoes and go for that run, get the books out and study even for 30 minutes, pay those bills, take out the trash or whatever it is that I'm itching to avoid.

And I finally moved my study desk into the sewing room and put it at the back of the sewing trestle so I can spread the quilt out and not have it bunched at the back of the machine.   I think that this will make a difference for the better.    I'm going to experiment with the feed dogs in the up position for the next compass.

I'm linking up with:

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Quilting the Second Compass - C's

Well quilting of the second compass has been completed.      For some reason I found myself resisting getting started and after a week of wondering why and not getting an answer, I decided to Nike it and got set up.   As always I get everything ready and bring my laptop in so I can refresh myself with Leah's video of the pattern I'm trying out.

 The brown cutie at the bottom of the photo is Leia so I have two Leia's/Leah's helping me get started.

I used a slight variation of Leah's Wiggly Tentacles as I thought this would suit the shape of the compass points and it worked OK, although I should have put the lines closer together.

 Not perfect but only getting started as this point.

As before I stippled the larger compass points as they have the writing on them, but I don't think this is the right idea.   What I hadn't taken into account is that the compasses provide 5 layers through the point, the fabric of the compasses, the foundation backing, the top of the quilt, the batting and then the flannel backing (which is heavy in itself).   So I had some problems with stitches skipping as I felt the needle almost hesitating to get through the layers, if that makes sense.   I ran out of the red variegated thread before I finished so will have to go back later when I get more to finish it off.

I really enjoyed the pebbling and felt a huge improvement on just my second try.   It needs to get much better, but I have 2 more smaller compasses to go and the final large one so I think it will get better and better.   I did have a bit of a worrying moment when I couldn't control the needle and my smooth circles were suddenly jagging in and out and couldn't figure what was going on other then my hands must be having spasms.   So I got up and made a cup of tea, studying my hands all the time although they performed that task without a problem.   Sat back at the machine sighing and just happened to look up at the display and realised I had somehow hit the button for a decorative flower stitch!    Put it back to straight line stitching mode shaking my head ruefully at myself and vowing to go back and unpick those first stitches at the end of the quilting process (I don't want any going back on myself as that will set myself up negatively) but then had to search hard at the end of quilting the rest of the rumbas to find those stitch and thought, yeah no worries.   If I can still find them at the end of the quilting process I can unpick them then, but I bet I don't.

 The "flower" pebbles are along the bottom of the rumba and go slightly up the right hand side.

Mental Note to Self:   Stop putting finger of the lens of the camera!

So moral of that story is you don't have to fix every mistake immediately, you don't have to worry about every wobbly stitch and you certainly don't have to let it put you off moving forwards.   The more forwards you move, the more confident you get and the more forgiving you can be about those early mistakes and actually enjoy seeing them as proof of the learning process and your accomplishments.    None of us remember learning how to walk but we walk perfectly now and if we were somehow to see our baby selves attempting to walk, falling down, getting up again and preserving, we wouldn't be negative or scolding of our early attempts.   We'd just be proud of how well we tried.    So we should be kinder to ourselves as quilters.

I'm thinking of trying Leah's Deco Leaves for the smaller points on the next Compass but would love to hear other ideas and suggestions.

Thanks Leah and UFO Sunday for keeping me on track.

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project

Monday, 17 September 2012

No sewing progress but design work happening

I've made no sewing progress this week due to big work project and a jam packed weekend full of social engagements (most unusual for me).

But I've worked on and off on the overall design.  The images of Cloud/Wind, Sun, Dragon, Mermaid and Ship are all to be quilted!   Yes quilted.   Very ambitious and am very excited about tackling them so it should make me focus on getting the compasses quilted without fear and delay so I can work on them.    The four moon symbols I might quilt in the corners at the edge of the quilt but I think I can only decide this when I finished the rest of the "Here Be Dragons" map images.

The four smaller blank circles and the centre large circle represent the Mariner's Compass.

The real thing, yummy.

I'm linking up with
Leah's UFO Sunday

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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The declutter's Guide to Exterminating UFO's (No More Monsters)

I am a dedicated declutterer.   I didn't always used to be.   I had report cards from aged 6 even when they weren't very complimentary.   I stockpiled letters from people from people I couldn't even remember.   I had clothes back to the sometimes embarrassing 80s that I wouldn't wear today but kept.   I would buy a beautiful new journal/notebook on a whim despite having loads unused at home.   I would buy quilting books for lovely quilts, despite having piles at home whose techniques I never used.   I would buy fabric because "that is lovely" and stuff it into drawers of years of fabric I bought because it is "lovely".

I was stockpiling things to do, things I must do, to ensure I never felt good about achieving one thing, because there was always a list of things I had bought to do and hadn't.

Is this a problem?   Well no, not if you can happily start a project and finish it and don't feel guilty because of the piles and lists of things waiting in the background for you to finish.   If you do feel guilty, if you have a harking suspicion that those piles prevent you from enjoying the moment, from embracing the project you are working on now, then it is a problem.   And you wouldn't have jumped onto Leah's UFO Sunday like Babe tucks into potato peels.

Initial Steps
  1. Lay out ALL quilting projects - this includes EVERYTHING, quilts in the drawing stage, fabrics put aside for a project, started blocks, applique, finished quilt tops but not sandwiched, sandwiched but not quilted, half quilted, quilted but not bound.
  2. Divide them into projects verbally promised (include those you promised yourself) and those which you decided you would do but not told the recipient you would make for them
  3. Put in the deadline, if there is one, on the projects you verbally promised someone they would get it by (baby, wedding, graduation etc)
  4. Think about appropriateness.   If you have a quilt started 10 years ago for a baby that is now totally inappropriate for their age, mark it as "this will not do for Mary".
  5. Look at the piles and think about how YOU feel about the quilt.  Do you now dislike the fabric, the design, the person for whom it was meant?   Examine your own feelings about the UFO - does it make you feel ill to look at it, does it represent an attempt at a new technique that you struggled with, failed at, cried at.  Or does it make you feel excited as in "I really want to do this"".
Make no decisions as of yet.   By now UFOs have moved from pile to pile to pile - early beginning but excitement at the thought of proceeding with them, nearly finished but make you reach for "quilter's helper" (wine) at the thought of them.

Be clear about what is a UFO, a Potential Project and a WIP
Some projects are a long term WIP and shouldn't be confused and negated by putting it in the UFO pile.    Two years about I cut out 49 12" blocks of plain flannel, red on one side and warm cream on the other.   I sandwiched them.   They are a quilt as you go project called my "Life" quilt.   I hand quilt it with simple designs that represent a part of my life and the people in it.      I decided that this would be a travel project.   At the time I was travelling a lot around Asia for work, so taking a block along meant I could happily quilt on a plane while watching a movie.   I don't travel for work now and get the project out once a year for when I go home to Ireland, 13 hours on the plane go by quickly as I stitch away.   My friend is hand sewing a Jane Austen hexagon quilt.   She sews it when she is on a plane, away on a chilling holiday, when she gets tired of a project she is working on and wants an excuse to watch Harry Potter.   She's been at it for years now and is still happily working away from time to time.   Both of these projects have no deadline and are works in progress.   They cause us no angst or guilt when we think about them.   They see the light of day at least a couple of times a year.   I figure if I continue sewing just two blocks a year on a long haul flight then it will be on the go for another 20 years.   I'm happy with that.   If a project is sitting in a drawer for a year with no progress and it makes you "itchy" to think of it it is a UFO.

What about the two projects I thought about (as a way of procasternation about my Mariner's Compass UFO), designed and cut out the fabric before firmly putting them away.   Are they UFOs?   Really they are BUT I made the decision to decide they are not.   They are potential projects.   I don't have to use the design I thought of, I don't have to use the fabric's I cut out for that quilt and I only ever said I would make Mary (actually Mary got her quilt years ago) a quilt in my mind.   So I put away the pieces into a small package and will use them one day, maybe for a quick emergency quilt, maybe in another round robin.    They are potentials.

So UFOs are projects in any stage which make you feel guilty, anxious, unsatisfied or slightly negative in some way.   Often they represent money.   Money spend on fabrics that are not being used and make you feel guilty about buying more fabrics.  Or simply they clutter up your space inhibiting the creative flow and you just want them gone/finished/sorted.

So now you have your group of UFOs, how could you tackle them?

Knock off the easy finishers
Seriously if you have quilts that just need to be bound, then bind them and send them on their way.  If binding is a mental block to you, then take the challenge and get them done.   Not binding a quilt is like having a letter in an envelope, address written, stamp put on but you just can't take that step to get to the post box.  You don't have to hand bind, embrace Leah's machine binding.   Also the plus side is that scraps of fabric/stash make great binding.

Knock off the non starters
There are plenty of quilt shops/groups that gladly take fabric, assortment of blocks, half finished quilt tops to finish as quilts for charity.    If you have something that just won't work for Mary (because she is now 16 and Sunbonnet Sue is SOOOOOOOOOOOO lame) and you really don't like it anymore because your taste in fabric, your standards in quilting, your choice of colour have changed over the years - give it away.   Explain to Mary that she is going to get a graduation quilt (that gives you 2 years of breathing space) and give the quilt in whatever state away.   IF you still like the fabric/pattern/colour then decide to give it to someone else's baby.   If there is no baby on the horizon, then put the project in whatever state it is in a bag (I love using sandwich bags), with all assorted fabric needed to finish it and put it away in the Quilts Waiting for a Home drawer - no longer a UFO but on pend with a clear decision that it will be finished when the occasion arises.    But you have to use it for the next baby - no exceptions.   Otherwise just give it away, there is a baby/child out there somewhere who will love it.   Even if it was a quilt meant for an adult.

Knock off the "make you feel ill to look at them" projects
We tend to believe that we must struggle through the endevour.   This is not always the case.   Sometimes we were just not ready to try Hawaiian applique and we don't need to keep the reminders of an early struggle around to negatively impact a future attempt when you are ready for it.   So as horrific as it sounds just dump it.  Yes, get rid of the crumpled, half unpicked mess.   And by doing so you could leave your imagination to joyfully soar towards a new attempt.

What can you farm out?
The year after I promised to make 9 quilts, I was left with 3 mostly finished quilt tops.   I was aware that the kiddies were waiting patiently for them, looking at siblings snuggled into their own finished quilts.   I knew I was in an emotional state where I just couldn't face those last finishing touches to the tops, then sandwich them, quilt them and bind them.   I still loved the quilts, I wanted them to be given to their owners and I knew that one day I would finish them but I didn't want the kids to wait and I didn't want to find I had the energy to finish them but that they had been so long in the UFO pile that I hated to look at them.   So I agreed to myself that I would finish the tops and send them out to be sandwiched/quilted/bound.   It took a lot of internal debate.   I felt guilty I won't deny it.   It felt like cheating, it felt wrong.   There seemed to be some covenant somewhere that I had signed into that stated it would only be a meaningful gift if I did it all myself.   But I made the decision and did it anyway.   The kids got their quilts and were happy and I relieved myself of a self imposed burden.   Once the quilts came back I was happy I had made that decision - they were quilted by someone else and it doesn't matter now 10 years on.   One of them was a border round robin quilt for me and I've slept under it for years now and don't think about someone else finishing it, I just think of it as mine.

Putting the UFOs into a working order

Hopefully now you are left with a much smaller pile of manageable UFOs.   The key decision is now what is important to you, what would make you happy?   Quilting is your hobby not someone elses.  The main point of a hobby is that it does good things for you, not for people who might benefit from the outcome of that hobby.

What techniques do you want to practise?   What is making you excited in the quilting world?   Get to the point where you get to do what you want to do.   When I was facing 4 UFOs at the beginning of the year, most of them were in blocks.   I really wanted to practise free motion quilting and get better at it.   I thought the best way to do this was to have projects lined up ready to quilt in a row.   So I tackled each quilt top until they were all sandwiched and ready to quilt.     This really put the ooomph into finishing the tops and I did that faster then if I tackled them one at a time to completion.   This satisfied my own want but also gave me the impetus to get the projects quickly to where I needed them to be.   Those blocks sat in my drawers for years, but I had them sewn into quilt tops and sandwiched in a month.   And the quilting was fun.

Decide which is more important to you right now.   Finishing quilts for other people, finishing quilts for yourself.    Will it help with inspiration and self esteem to finish promised quilts first or is it now time for you to focus on yourself?  What makes it more enticing to get started and finished on the UFOs?

Think about how you work best - facing the difficult quilts and getting them worked on first, or going for the easier ones to get the "finishing" habit in place.   Maybe an assembly line way of working suits you.   Finish all piecing for all UFOs, then sandwich them all, then quilt/bind, or you need to work through each project methodically until finished and then start on the next one.

Simplify the Quilts and Revitalise the Design
When looking at what you want/need to tackle, think about simplifying the quilt to get it finished.   Had you planned to do a 49 block ocean waves quilt and have made only 16 of the blocks?   Why not decide to use what blocks you have and use a single fabric to pad out the rest of the top?   You might find playing around with and redesigning the quilt puts new life into how you look at it and suddenly you are all excited to get going again.   It doesn't matter if you have all the other triangles cut out, you can put them aside for another project in the future.    And all that negative space will be a joy to quilt.

Stuck at the quilting stage, been stuck at it for ages?   If this is a quilt you want to get out the door so you can move forwards with other projects, you could do a lot worse then stippling the whole thing.   I did this at the beginning of my free motion quilting training.  It was speedy and satisfying and I loved the feel afterwards.   And I grew in confidence, what is any free motion design but stippling in different shapes.

If you look at some of the modern quilts it is amazing how stunning simple squares of just the right colour can look placed interestingly on a background of negative space fabric and how simple quilting lines can just pop.

Stuck with a design problem on a quilt you really want to do?   Put it aside to germinate.   Get all the other UFOs out, maybe try techniques you want to use on those other quilts.   Then when you are ready the design will flow.

Set a simple schedule
Be realistic and look at all the UFOs and what needs to be done and think about how long it will take REALLY.     Think about how you sew.   If you are lucky enough to have a space that is permanent, then it is easy to leave a project by the sewing machine and sit down for short periods regularly.   A quilt can progress really quickly by just putting 20 minutes a day into it.   And the process is more fun, at least for me.   Stop before you get tired and are still enjoying the process and things are going well.    Be over generous with the amount of time you think it will take to finish each quilt, makes you feel really good if you finish early and allows for the rest of life getting in the way and stops you feeling once again you've let yourself down and got behind schedule.   Be clear and honest to yourself about how long it will take you to clear every UFO.

Clear the Decks
Put all but the project you are working on away.   Don't depress yourself with piles of projects at varying stages of completion all glaring at you asking "why aren't you working on me?".      If you have a design wall put something up that is inspiring.   A quilt you have finished maybe and you love.   Make your quilting space as enticing as possible no matter how small it is.     If your space is a temporary one that needs to get set up and then cleared away, like the dining/kitchen table, try to make your set up easy - have everything you need to get moving on the project in a bag so it is quick and easy to set up and put away.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected
People get engaged, have babies, have an unexpected loss, graduate.   For babies you at least get 9 months to make the quilt and most people give a lot of notice for weddings.   Unexpected losses are a different matter.   My sister's husband died unexpectedly in March and after about a week I knew I wanted to make her a nap quilt as an expression of love.   I tried and tried and tried.   Rushed, and rushed and pushed and in the end made two dreadful quilt tops and had to destroy them.   I then realised that I needed time to grieve and that I wasn't emotionally ready to make a quilt for her and that in fact, despite being a quilter and that's how we show our love, I could help her in other ways, phone calls, contact and support.   In July I took out part of the quilt that I saved, the Mariner's Compass, and knew exactly what I wanted to do and finished the quilt quickly and with ease and love.

Be Selective
This leads on from why you have so many UFOs, why you can't finish one project before starting another, and why you quilt.   Why did you start quilting?  Because you thought "here is a quick, easy and cheap way to make gifts for people?".   I doubt it, it is a great bonus of being a quilter but it is easy to get sucked in by family and friends asking "when will I get one of your quilts?" and feeling that as a quilter you must honour an occasion by making a quilt.   Buy the baby a present, get the happy couple some candlesticks.   If it is someone you really do want to make a quilt for (and remember this is for those of us with UFO's hanging out of our eyeballs), then tell them "I want to make a quilt for your wedding/baby but it won't be ready for the date", be really clear you want to have the time and space to make the quilt for them you really want them to have and that needs to you to quilt clutter free.   They'll be thrilled anyway and be happy to wait.  If for whatever reason, and this goes back to being prepared for the unexpected, you need to make the quilt immediately, then make it simple and vow that this is just a small detour before getting back to the UFOs.   Don't start it if you feel that you are going to add it to the UFO list.   Sometimes as quilters we tend to feel everything needs to be complex and we forget how beautiful the simplest quilt can be.   Or be crafty and use one of your UFOs - that's killing two birds with one stone.   Basically stop making quilts for everyone at the drop of a hat.   A quilt made by you is precious and needs to be earned by years of begging/favours/compliments by a possible recipient.

So now you are organised, you've faced your quilting demons and got every possible variation of a UFO out of the closet, you know how long it will take you to finish them all, and in what order you want to tackle them.

Now you have to do it right?   Making the plan and getting organised feels great but you still have to start and suddenly the whole thing just feels like a boulder resting on your shoulders and all you want to do is just start a new project with fresh, crisp fabric.

Making the Vow - Finish What You Started
Leah mentioned this as Key 1 and I agree with that, but it is a repeatable vow so keep on making it.    Vow to clear all UFOs in the time you now know it will take to get them done.   I started 2012 with the vow of no more new quilts until I finished the 4 UFOs I had waiting and the round robin Mama Africa which will come home in early October to me.    Although I made two other "emergency" quilts, I started/finished them and got them to their new owners and got back to my UFOs.

When I had the little madness session of thinking of 4 more quilts I wanted to make and even started cutting out the fabric for them, I made another VOW.   2013 would be the year of those 4 quilts.   I could plan and design them now, adjust the designs and readjust during 2014.    I would have fun with them and think of new techniques I could try.   I also re-vowed to use as much stash as possible in my quilts.   I had sorted out stash in the same way I recommend sorting out UFOs and gave a lot away and kept only fabrics I loved.   So I looked at my stash again and sorted out what fabrics could be used for projects.   I had some fabrics left over that just didn't fit together.   They were orphans and yes I could go to the quilt shop to find matches but I already had enough fabric in my stash to make another 10 quilts so what was the point in that.   So I gave those away.   All I have left now are yummy fabrics that are possibles in new quilts and I can't wait to get stuck in to decide how to use them - in 2013!

Why Finish all UFOs?
There are so many reasons, all of them personal to us all.   For me it was a number of things, and this applies to stash as well.   I'd gotten into the habit of always having a list of quilts on the go so when I worked on one, I was pushing to get it done so I could finish the next one in the row.    I wasn't enjoying the process to its fullest.    An unexpected result was as I finished each UFO I got lighter.   I got excited about what I was doing now and what I might achieve in the future.  I got into the habit of finishing the quilts and began to stop the pattern of rushing into a new project.   The original quilting design for Mariner's Compass has changed a lot while I was finishing other projects, I gave the design time to stew, marinate and develop.  I felt free and joyful.  

Spend time designing - Leah's Key 2
As Leah says, taking the time to design and plan a quilt means you don't rush into it and create another UFO.   And the other plus is that it allows you to mature a design.   Buy yourself a lovely notebook, or in my case use one of the 14 I had lying around.   And the experience you gain in finishing off those UFOs means that next quilt will be better, you will be more assured and skilled.   Planning quilts this way means it is easy to change the design, much better then getting half way through a project and thinking "uh oh".   Stop the cyle of UFOs and think how lovely it might be to only have one or two quilts on the go at one time.

Provide a Carrot
Think of rewards.   Is there a special project you really want to do, can be a new one or a UFO on hold.    Design it, review it, lust over it and be anxious to get going on with it but don't.     The quilt will only be better for the wait.  Or maybe you want a new sewing machine - hang it out there as a reward.   Plan a special meal for when you finish each quilt.  It can be anything.    Don't be daunted by what is in front of you, the more you finish the more hooked you'll get on the experience and the easier and more fun it will be.   Turning UFOs into FOs will become the reward.    

You can do this for everything.   I did this with my lovely notebooks/journals.   Collected every one - over 20!   I gave away 8 of them.   I didn't really like them for whatever reason and that was why I wasn't using them.   I divided the others into groups, some for quilting designs, some for journal writing, some for work, some for study.   And I made the vow that I would not, absolutely not, buy another until I'd used them all up.

And I'll finish by saying that this is my experience. I don't expect everyone to want the same thing but for the first time in the 14 years I've been quilting I've given myself the time and space to really think about why I quilt, what it adds to my life and why I was getting sucked into a way of quilting that actually negatively impacted the way I felt about something I loved to do.

7th October - a small note here.

It is tempting half way through the process to start feeling really smug with yourself and think "I have this beat" and start new projects.   Resist, resist, resist.   You have not beaten the habit until all are gone and you spend another 6 months making new projects and finishing them before starting on 12 others.   One day at a time.

My Personal Pattern in Creating UFOs

After completing the first compass of my "Beast" I found myself pushing to get No 2 completed.   As I pushed away, rush, rush, rush, I had to stop and ask myself why I was working as if there was a gun to my head and the surprising answer was "Because that's how I've always done it".

When I started quilting I focused on making quilts for family members and putting a deadline on myself.   In my first year I made two children's quilt and a round robin.  Then I made an anniversary quilt for my sister and my brother outlaw, and with the contribution of the family two 50th wedding anniversary quilts for my parents.   Then I pushed the next year with another border round robin and some hug quilts.   Then decided, as they were clamouring for them, that all the other nieces and nephews needed quilts and it was impossible to decide who got theirs first so made the incredibly stupid plan to make all the quilts in one year ready for each of their birthdays.  That meant 9 quilts in a year.  I got to October and had finished 7 and my personal life imploded and the last three took another year to complete.

I still joined another 2 round robins, contributed to another 2 hug quilts and over the next 8 years began to stockpile the UFO's which were always my own quilts.   I still put impossible time lines on myself.   Quilts has to be ready by a certain date and if I failed that date,  the quilt had to be completed in a hurry to make the next deadline I set myself.   Increasingly quilts were almost late in the planning stages for completion.  Everything was a rush.   I wouldn't quilt for a couple of months and then in a burst of activity would push over a month to finish a quilt.   I was always battling with myself to complete and in my mind was a growing list of quilts I wanted to make.

The first break through was two years ago when I made a double wedding ring quilt for my cousin's wedding.   I bought all the fabric early and left the project sitting until I had 30 days to start/complete it.   I decided I could work on it in two ways - usual couple of weekends starting early in the morning and finishing late at night, rush, rush, rush.  OR I could do this one differently - set myself a 30 minute sewing period per night on weekdays and a couple of hours on the weekend.   I chose the second option and the sewing went like silk (it was a silk quilt).   I had none of the frustrations of mistakes and issues which come with sewing for hours at a time.   I stopped quilting before I was ready and so the next day was ready to embrace more.   It was the perfect project.   I had decided on simple quilting but was so enjoying the process and increasing in confidence and fun that I added more and more complexity.  This was how quilting was supposed to be.   Quilting was meant to be fun for me, I was so focused on the end result and pleasure of the recipient that I forgot that the process was meant to be fun in itself for me.

But as often, we learn a lesson and need to go back and repeat the mistakes again for a while until the lesson has truly sunk in.  

So at the beginning of this year I put a "halt to my gallop" as the Irish like to say, and as Leah's perfect blog about UFOs said, decided Step 1 was to add no more new projects until I had completed my UFOs.   Interestingly those 4 UFOs were all quilts for me from round robins I had participated in.   I was also aware that the end of September 2012 would see the end of another border round robin and my Mama Africa would come home to me - another quilt to finish for myself.   So what would be so wrong in completing 4 quilts for myself - 2 nap quilts, 1 wall hanging and 1 bed quilt?   Nothing.

I put the embargo on myself and despite two emergency quilts - new baby and a hug quilt for my sister who lost her husband, kept on track.

Then I found myself thinking of when my UFOs would be finished - what would I do?   And suddenly I came up with 4 quilts I just had to make for siblings and before I knew it those quilts were burning in my mind and even without really thinking of what I would do for them and when they had to be done by, they took over my mind and I stalled at 3 UFOs finished but the huge Mariner's Compass was still sitting on my table looking in askance as I pulled out stash, made designs and even cut out fabric for these new quilts.   Doesn't matter that there are no deadlines, that the Mariner's Compass is huge and I have ambitious quilting plans for it, that Mama Africa round robin quilt will be home in a couple of months and is 100" x 100" - no suddenly everything had to be put on hold to push through 4 QUILTS (I mean honestly what madness?) that had just popped into my mind and once again I was rush, rush, rush and leaving two huge UFOs, one on the sewing table and the other coming my way, unattended.

Stop the Madness.

I put away the designs and the fabric I had already cut out and just stopped.   And that is when Leah came up with UFO Sundays and I followed her advice and thought why?   Why was I ready to leap into new projects with unfinished ones left on the table?

I figured out a couple of things:
  • I feel quilts I make for someone else are more important then mine
  • The lure of giving a quilt to someone else is more emotionally satisfying (the "aren't I a lovely person to put myself last" syndrome) then a quilt I make for myself
  • My quilting pattern is based on finish, finish, make another, finish, rush, make another - to simply think "so and so would love a quilt" is for it to became an internal binding contract in my head "you must do this, you promised".   In other words, to think of a potential project was to put it on my list of something I MUST get done
  • Fear - of tackling a project where I wanted to do good work, increase my skills and above all take the time to do it well, so better to launch into something else.
So despite my worst self, I firmly shut the door in my mind on the new quilts and turned the power on my sewing machine and set my first stippling stiches in my last UFO - Mariner's Compass.   I would finish it and I would enjoy it.  I would explore and extend my FMQ talents and rush no more.   I will envelop and explore and enjoy.


Thinking about my quilting history made me look over past quilts and enjoy them.

Year 1 - Brian's Fish Quilt
Year 1 - Baileigh's Lion King Quilt

 Year 2 - Leonie and Andrew's Anniversery Navajo Quilt
 Year 2 - Mummy/Daddy's 50th Anniversery Quilt from their Children
 Year 2 - Mummy/Daddy's 50th Anniversery Quilt from their grandchildren

Note in the following quilts that all painted panels were created by my very talented sister in law Amanda who would absolutely forgive me and embrace that I decided to put away the ideas for a quilt for her and focus on finishing my own UFOs because she is lovely

Year 3 - Ciara's Dolphin Quilt
 Year 3 - Amelia's Fish Quilt
 Year 3 - Cillian's Dinosaur Quilt
 Year 3 - Blaise's Dino Quilt
 Year 3 - Nisa's Little House Quilt

 Year 3 - Feibhar's Unicorn Quilt
 Year 4 (supposed to be finished Year 3) - Esme's Fairy Quilt
 Year 4 (supposed ot be finished Year 3) - Matthew's Harry Potter Quilt
Year 4 (supposed to be finished Year 3) - Bryn's Quilt
Horrors, I can't find a picture of it!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Quilting the first Compass - Jo's

I've realised one of the pitfalls of blogging, procrastination.   Writing about what you are going to do helps to put off what you need to do.

I decided to quilt Jo's compass first as the fabric is so patterned that I felt none of my stitches would be too visible and it would give me a chance to warm up.

I then found myself frantically flipping through Leah's Designs to try to find one that would fit, and couldn't make my mind up, what would emphasise the compass, what would work and eventually working myself into a real state.   I even found myself mentally referring to the quilt as "The Beast" - how mean is that?

So I poured myself a glass of wine (I refer to it as quilter's little helper) and thought about it.   I could sit and think about what I was going to do forever and the Beast, I mean the quilt, would still be there, larger then life, on my sewing table raising slightly questioning eyebrows and asking silently "Well?"

So I started with what I know and stippled the cardinal points that had writing on them.

Then took another sip of wine (quilter's little helper was definitely kicking in now) and decided to do some pebbling.   I want to use that in white sections of the quilt and I've never done it, so this would give me a chance to practise.   Hmm Leah rightly mentioned in her tutorial to be careful to travel over the lines quilted before otherwise it would look dirty - harder then she makes it look.

To save me rearranging the quilt, I pebbled 3 of the sections and decided I had to do the rumba's before moving on.   Big mistake No 1, I had created a great big puff of quilt between the stabilising and the pebbling which meant I had to quilt some of the top in folds.   Sigh.   Never mind for the next sections I'd do those first and then pebble.   That worked better.

The design for the rumba's were a development, I wanted to create a separation between the different colours/points and tried a vague pattern that flowed in one direction on one fabric and then in a different direction for another.   As I moved along I turned this into a wave pattern which worked better.

So not perfect and not particularly interesting to look at but the first compass is quilted and the result?  Well inspirational flood gates opened as I progressed and I found a design I'm wanting to try in the next compass which may work well.   I feel engaged and eager to continue quilting.   It's now fun rather then a task to be dreaded.

So the moral of the story is quilting something is often better then quilting nothing and letting the task build up as a monster in your head.

Stabilising The Quilt

I simply used off white thread to blend in with the main fabric and free motioned around each of the Compasses and it took me no time at all.

One of the helpful things about doing this, apart from the stabilising was that it allowed me to get the feel of how easy/difficult it was going to be to move such a huge quilt through the sewing machine.  I got a feel for the heft and weight of the quilt and although I tried to keep the majority of the quilt to the left of the sewing machine and on the table, this is not going to work in the long run.   I think I need to put a chair by the back of the table to support some of the quilt.

What I love about the concept of free motion is that you can focus for a while on a particular area of a quilt without constantly moving the bulk of the quilt through the machine the whole time.   On one of my first large quilts, I used a walking foot and cross hatched the whole quilt, this meant rolling up the quilt for one long line, then adjusting the roll under the machine and going again.   Tedious and I felt I was spending more time adjusting then quilting.

So first step done and dusted, now to really move forward

Oh what I haven't said yet is that the batting is 100% wool which I love for the loft, warmth and ease of quilting, and the backing is flannel.