The project that helped me find my sewing groove

Bluebirds on Madrona Road
Bluebirds on Madrona Road

Folks over at the MQG teamed up with Michael Miller fabrics (one of my fave fabric companies) to sponsor a quilt challenge using the Madrona Road fabric line designed by Violet Craft.

Participants were each provided a fabric pack with the instructions that the finished quilt had to be at least 12″ square and that you could only add solid colors or additional yardage from the Madrona Road line.  I supplemented my fabric pack with bits of white and black from my stash.  I was also determined to make the quilt using what I had on hand.  I did – thanks to a well stocked stash.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute, but I diligently worked on this project every night this week after work.  I met the deadline to upload my photo for consideration to be included in a vendor display at QuiltCon.  My deadline wasn’t really until my guild meeting on Saturday, but I thought it would be cool to say I at least entered the contest.  Who knows, maybe my little snowball block quilt will get chosen to be on display.

Anyhow, the quilt consists of 42 – 3″ snowball blocks.  Yes, there is a deliberate pattern to how the blocks were arranged.  The bluebirds were cut using my AccuQuilt Go! and appliqued using the raw edge technique.  The body is quilted in a loopy pattern.  I still want to add some beading and bling detail to the birds and a hanging sleeve.  This one I’m keeping for me!  Yes, probably need to buy a different camera!

Charm Squares Explained

Many of us who have sewn for a while sometimes forget there are folks out there who are not familiar with our lingo.  I had the pleasure of running into a former student and her mother today at Joann’s.  Little one was determined to start quilting TODAY.  In case they visit my blog, here’s an explanation of charm squares just for Miss B:

A charm square is simply a 5″x5″ cut of fabric – usually quilting weight cotton.

Single charm square laid out on cutting mat - size is 5"x5"
Single charm square laid out on cutting mat – size is 5″x5″

Charm squares are available as pre-cut sets (normally around 40 squares to a pack) and retail for $8-$10 per pack.  You can also cut your own charm squares using your favorite cutting method – scissors, rotary cutter & ruler or a die-cut machine such as an Accuquilt Go!

Examples of pre-cut charm squares
Examples of pre-cut charm squares

One of the easiest projects for a beginning quilter/sewer (especially a kid/teen) is to make a charm square quilt.  Here’s an example of one currently in progress:

Charm square top in progress - 6x5 rows
Charm square top in progress – 6×5 rows with 2-1/2″ inner borders added.

The finished size of this baby quilt will be about 35″x40″ once the outer borders and binding are added.  For a first time quilt project, I suggest doing an “envelope method” for finishing the quilt and tying the corners where the blocks meet with six-strand embroidery floss.

Beginning sewing classes are commonly taught at quilt shops, craft retailers and sewing machine dealers.  A small quilt project such as this one is typically completed in a couple of class sessions or during a kids’ sewing/quilt camp during school breaks.  If you don’t see a particular class listed on the current class roster, be sure to ask.  If enough students are interested, the shop and instructor will do their best to schedule a class time that is convenient for everyone.

For those of you who prefer to learn DIY-style, here’s a link you might find helpful:
How to make a basic charm square quilt video

Happy Stitching!

Staying motivated and keeping focused

This new house business could easily consume my every spare moment, if I let it.

Fact of the matter is, I need to get projects moved from the PENDING and WIP stacks to the DONE, DELIVERED and PAID status.  New projects for adult beginning quilting classes and summer sewing camps/classes have to be submitted to the quilt shops in March.  I have an upcoming juried quilt show deadline to meet in late March, as well.  (I haven’t even started cutting on that quilt top!) Then, there’s the matter of de-stashing in advance of the move.  There are some things I just don’t want to move to the new house.

I work full-time and operate my sewing business on the side. The transition from work to home to studio is a challenge some most days.  Errands to run, a dog to walk and chores to do.  But once I’m in my studio, I am fine.  It’s getting to the studio that’s the challenge. I started marking off Monday and Thursday afternoons on my calendar as studio time (unless I have a work obligation).  I am in my studio by 4 p.m. – no ands, ifs or buts.  On Sunday, I plan my sewing activities for the week, tidy my studio and prep materials for the projects I plan to work on during the week.  This bit of planning and prep time has made a world of difference in my productivity.  My “pet-me monster” dog doesn’t necessarily appreciate mama’s new focus on sewing, however!

Sewing is typically a solitary endeavor.  One of the ways I try to stay connected and garner inspiration is to attend monthly sew-ins and meetings sponsored by my quilt guild.  I also like to listen to audiobooks or quilting podcasts while I work in my studio (or during my commute).  Creative Mojo with Mark Lipinski or Quilting with Pat Sloan are just two podcasts I encourage you to try.  Streaming music on Pandora is another option.    I feel like I’m not alone if I hear another human voice while I work – whether on audiobook, radio show or kids playing outside.

I’m also taking a cue from one of my prolific quilt guild members – who always has gobs to share at our monthly show and tell.  She work from home and can sew while her data queries are running.  Obviously, I can’t have a sewing machine in the library, but my friend is ALWAYS working on SOMETHING.  I think that’s truly the secret to her prolific quiltiness. So, this morning, I pinned inner borders to a baby quilt while fixing breakfast. I had 15 extra minutes before I had to leave this morning, so the entire inner border pieces were attached, seams pressed and corners squared up. I keep a needlework basket in the family room so I can work on a redwork panel while watching television.  This keeps hubs happy (he counts tv time as spending time together) and me feel like I’m getting something accomplished.

How to you stay focused and productive?  Any tips you care to share?

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