Quilting with friends – both in person and online

Sewing and quilting tend to be a solitary activity. I love to listen to audiobooks, podcasts and the radio when I’m working on a project. I’ll text pictures of my progress to a friend or two along the way. I don’t have a TV in my sewing room. I will bring the laptop to my sewing room for an event on Zoom, but the laptop normally stays in our home office because my husband and I both use the the laptop on a regular basis.

One quilter in my Friday Sew Group constantly mentioned her friends, Kimberly and Pat. I thought she was talking about two of the ladies in our local sewing community. Nope. She’s talking about Kimberly Jolly from Fat Quarter Shop and Pat Sloan, the quilter. Both ladies regularly livestream on Facebook and YouTube. My friend schedules some of these events on her weekly calendar. She spoke of plans to meet with some the NC quilters from Pat Sloan’s online group. What fun!

Since COVID, I have craved in-person quilting events. A monthly table runner group got started at Stitch N Quilt and then Pat closed her shop. I could go sit & stitch over at The Cotton Farm, but it closed in mid-November. Fortunately, a core group of ladies from Stitch N Quilt’s table runner club found a space at the public library. Many of the ladies in this group will tell you how much Friday Sew Days mean to them. I’m there at least two Fridays per month. I’ve debated joining the quilt guild a few of them belong to, but it’s a night guild. Our Friday meeting spot is about 3 miles from where the guild holds its monthly meetings. What takes 35-40 minutes to drive on Friday mornings would take double that in rush hour traffic. I’ll think about it. The guild I did join is closer to home and meets monthly on Fridays during the day. It’s a large guild (300+ members) which means great programs and learning opportunities, but I’ve only met two people who are close to my age. I’ll try a bee group or find a volunteer opportunity to meet more folks.

Back to my Friday Sew Group. One Friday, we streamed FQS live during our meeting time. Several ladies were away at a guild retreat, so I think 4 of us showed up to sew. It was an absolute hoot listening to my friend’s comments as the program aired. The online quilting community is much bigger than I realized. My husband will tell you I don’t watch much TV. I’ve deliberately limited my time on social media because of all the craziness. The NYE quilt a long I did with Stitchin’ Heaven had 15,000 people registered according to the hosts. I know “2,000 watching” was showing on the YouTube live feed. Surprisingly, I did feel connected to others out there in the virtual quilting world.

Since then, I’ve put together a YouTube playlist of quilters & such to stream while I work in my sewing room. I’ve yet to attend a livestream event in real time, but it is fun to listen to the replays in the background as I sew. I feel like I’m quilting with friends – even if they are virtual.

Crafting & sewing supplies on a budget

Want to try out a new craft, but don’t want to invest a lot of money?

Try Dollar Tree first. The company has really upped its game in the crafting department. They offer wood shapes, paints, stickers, vinyl, fat quarters, beads, flowers, yarn and all the tools you might need for various crafts, Need drawing paper, crayons, markers and colored pencils? Coloring books? Visit the school/office supply aisle while you’re there.

After watching some MakersGonnaLearn tutorials, I picked up some extra tools to use with my Cricut Maker at a fraction of what similar supplies would cost elsewhere.

If you have a Tuesday Morning in your area, be sure to stop in and check out their craft supply offerings. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may just find that expensive name-brand product at super close-out prices.

I purchased a 15″ TravelPro wheeled underseat tote that I use to transport my Featherweight and Elna STAR machines on the plane.

There’s always Walmart. Product offerings vary from store-to-store, but you can generally find what you need across many product categories. Want to learn sewing? You can pick up a machine, sewing supplies, patterns and fabric to get you started. Many Wal-Marts have now gone to selling pre-cut lengths of fabric instead of offering it on the bolt. Waverly branded fabric in 3 yard lengths works well for backing fabric. Don’t let the quilt police deter you from using fabric that comes from somewhere other than a quilt shop. If you like it, put in your quilt. That’s all that matters!

I use Waverly pre-cut polka dots as backing fabric on my kid and donation quilts. I found Cricut stencil vinyl here when the big box stores were out.

If you have access to a Joann’s, Hobby-Lobby or Michael’s, check the sales flyers to plan the best use of your crafty/sewing dollars. Download the store’s app AND if going to Joann’s – print out the online coupons to take with you. Use those plus the ones in your app to maximize your savings. Here’s a great discussion on sale policies by category among the 3 crafty retailers over at Krazy Koupon Lady.

Hobby Lobby is typically my first stop when I need something simply because there are two locations within 15 minutes of my house. Joann’s allows Sadie in the store, so we visit at least once a week – even if it’s just to walk laps around the store. I rarely shop at Michael’s.

For books, borrow them from your local library. If you decide you really need a copy for your personal library, buy new from amazon or try used books from alibris and better world books. Do you really need a print book (pattern pieces, templates, etc) or will an e-book do?

I’ve started buying more e-books to save space on my shelves.

Yes, you can also find craft supplies and books at yard sales and thrift stores. Two of my sewing machines came from estate sales. My cutting table came from Craig’s List. My Horn sewing cabinet was bought second-hand from a retiring seamstress. There’s just something about the thrill of the hunt. However, if you need a specific item NOW, you’ll have better luck trying to find the item in a store (unless you can borrow from the stash of a crafty friend!).

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Chance encounters are the best kind!

Today, I ran into one of my favorite lunch ladies from my former elementary school. She was happy to see me and didn’t realize I’d retired. She thought I’d moved to another school. She described how hard it had been for her to come back after winter break. Her husband wants to retire in 18 months. I told her to go for it. Now is the perfect time to start getting everything lined up to allow for a smooth transition from workaday life to retired life.

On the way home, I realized that had I stuck to our original plan, this would mark my final semester as a school librarian. So glad I followed my gut and exited when I did. From all accounts, it would have been one chaotic, stressful year. No, thank you. Not. worth. it. Making the necessary adjustments so that we could both retire early and still thrive have been totally worth it.

As I look at my calendar for 2023, I’m excited at what’s ahead. No way would this be possible if I was still working full-time.

Actually having time for people without feeling rushed and being able to fill my days with the activities that bring me joy – PRICELESS!