Friday, February 19, 2010

Hanging in There!

Yesterday morning when I went in to wake up my son this bear was hanging onto the edge of his bed.  We couldn't figure out if he was trying to escape or trying to get back in after a wild night with the other stuffed animals scattered around the room. 

I don't know about your children but my son sleeps in a heap of blankets, stuffed toys, books, and a few plastic army men.  How he can sleep like that is beyond me.  It sometimes takes some searching under the covers to figure out where his head is! 

Anyway, I digress!  My last post was about how I'm overwhelmed with unfinished projects right now and this "hanging on for dear life" bear made me think about my quilting life.  Sometimes I feel like I'm just hanging on, wanting to bail because it would be so much easier to escape and hang out with all the "normal" (non quilting obsessed) people.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love quilters!  We are a fabulous breed that knows how to work hard and play hard.  But sometimes I wish I didn't have a stack of unfinished projects, a room full of fabric I feel guilty about not using up quick enough, not to mention all of those doubts that keep popping up in my head.  Am I doing the work I should be doing, is this working, do I need to change this or add that or throw that particular piece out the window?  It's all so frustrating . . . and wonderful.

Whenever I start feeling this way it reminds me of how I feel with my family sometimes.  You know, those days when you've been carting kids here and there, rushing to the grocery store, making dinner and then realizing at 8:00 that you were supposed to bake 4 dozen cupcakes for a school party that just happens to be the next morning.  And then there's the laundry and the dirty bathrooms and the runny noses and the stomach flu and skinned knees and, well, you know how it goes . . .

Sometimes you just feel like running away, and yet, you know that if you didn't have your family you'd be lost and that everything you do for them is the price you pay for having them in your life. 

It's that way for me with quilting.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all I have to do and want to do.  All the ideas buzzing around in my head, pestering me like flies, needing to get out.  And then knowing that with my family and business responsibilities, the odds of that happening are slim.  It can be depressing and it's one of the reasons this blog is called "The Cranky Quilter."

It does make me cranky when I can't find the time to do what I need to do for myself, for my art, for my sanity.  And yet, the overwhelmed feelings, the idea buzzing, the guilt, the doubts, all of these things are the price I have to pay to quilt the way I want to, to express myself.  Everytime I go through this thought process I always come out with the same answer, "It's all worth it."

Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and so we all hobble along, taking care of our families, making our quilts, wrestling with our demons, enjoying our lives.

All in all I think I'll hang out with you guys, the "normal" people would never understand, and besides . . .

It's all worth it.

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Project Overload

There's a reason why I haven't blogged in a week, it's the stack of unfinished projects in my studio!

I have a terrible habit of getting all excited about something, getting started, and then getting sidetracked with something else.  I can't help starting new projects while I still have unfinished ones, it's a serious problem.

Above is a stack of more recent projects.  The three bottom ones are well on their way but the other two are just basted, I haven't even started working on them!


And that isn't all, here's another group!  The patriotic one is close to finished, the heart one needs to be quilted, and I've only basted the square/circle one. 

It doesn't end there!  Here's another group that's partially finished.  So embarrassing!

The last week I've been going through everything and figuring out what I can finish first.  I'm going to move a few of these to the top of my to-do list and stop designing for a little while.  It's not going to be easy when that inspiration strikes but I really need to attack this before my WIPs take over my life.

I read a really interesting book last year, I think it was called "The Knitter."  Anyway, it was about this woman who was an amazingly talented and creative knitter who when she made a mistake, or realized that a project wasn't working out, would put the project in a large carpetbag.  The odd thing was that she carried that carpetbag with her everywhere, she was literally weighed down by her mistakes. 

I think that we all carry these projects with us, even though we don't literally do it, (I'd need a very large bag to hold all my WIPs!).  It's important to finish what you can, but also, sometimes, to just accept that you've moved on and you have no interest in finishing it.  It's tough because you think about the time and money you spent, not to mention the excitement you once had for the project.  But, the fact is that there comes a time when you have to accept that you aren't ever going to finish that dusty pink quilt from 1985, and that that Civil War quilt you started is no longer anything you're interested in.

I'm going to sign off now and get started on finishing up something.  I hope!

Happy Stitching,

Susan

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More Fun with (Fusible) Scraps

Isn't this fun?  It's certainly bright, a little brighter on your screen than in real life, (thank goodness, it would blind me!).  I'm excited about it because I've found another way to use those scraps I just can't seem to part with.  (There could be a whole episode of "Hoarders" about my scrap baskets!)

This all started with the Medallion Bag I made before Christmas.  Notice that in the corners there are small half triangle squares.  I had a stack of squares from a previous project and decided to cut a square out of them to use for the bag.  I attached fusible web to the whole square and then cut the smaller one out of the corner which left me with these cute little "L" shaped pieces, already coated with fusible web.
                  
                  

I knew I'd find a use for them but I didn't have a whole lot from just the one bag.  Well, now I'm making a bunch of these bags and now I have a stack of these pieces. 

Now, I'm a multi-tasker, (what Mom isn't), and I don't like waste.  So I decided to try to use these pieces to make a quilt as I went along.  I found a piece of a woven plaid, (very important to make sure you have straight lines), and now I'm fusing these little odd pieces to it in between other tasks.  I just leave it near the ironing board with the little pieces in a basket nearby and when I have a few minutes I'm adding to it.  So far I'm liking the look of it.  I'm not sure how I'm going to finish it off yet but by the time I use up all of my scraps an idea will probably occur to me. 

                         
                      

I hope to have some finished bags to show soon.  In the meantime, here's my "Thirties" version.  It's kind of cutesy but I'm embracing my inner child right now, and besides who can resist cute little kids with boxes of chocolates and puppies! 

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Love The Dollar Store!


I admit it, I'm a dollar store junkie!  I'm always amazed at how much junky stuff they have and also how many real bargains.  It's a fun way to spend a little time and a little money.

Today I had to go over to our local dollar store because my son needed index cards for school.  For some reason they're on a "flashcard" kick and he's going through them like they're going out of style.  We happened to be at a large pharmacy chain yesterday and I was shocked to see them at $3.29 a package.  Unbelieveable!  No way was I going to pay that so we scrounged enough for today and I went over to the dollar store hoping to save some cash.

I love my local store because it's nearby and it opens at 8am.  Since I drop off my son around 8 it's convenient to swing by the store on my way home.

Today I got the cards, (200 in a pack!), along with a few other things.  I had to buy some snacks for the Super Bowl, (my son's a Colts fan), and some boring stuff for the house, yawn.... Then it was time for fun, I walked the aisles looking for useful and fun things that I didn't mind spending a buck on.

One of my favorite finds are the little carrot containers at the top of the page.  They're about 4" tall and there were three in a package.  They're well made for the price, heavy plastic with secure fitting lids.  I've already filled one with thread scraps to keep in my sewing kit.  My dog discovered the loose threads and it wasn't a good scene, so now he'll have more trouble getting to them!

I also picked up this red index card case.  I put it in my project binder and it will be a great place to store small templates, receipts,  and scraps, and I can use the cards to make notes or bring samples with me.  I think I'll find it very handy.

So, I got out of the store for about $10, or less than what I would have paid for the index cards if I'd bought them at that "other" store, (I needed 4 packs).  I'm feeling pretty thrifty!

Now, I really need to get some sewing done.  I had planned to work on some projects yesterday but had one of "those" days where I lost my phone and internet service, our TV bulb blew, and I had to take my son to pick up his new glasses, then there was basketball practice . . .always something!

Hope your days are less hectic and more fun!

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Stack Of Stripes (and Checks!)

I couldn't resist these ethnic looking stripes and checks.  They reminded me of the hippie bags and smock tops they used to sell on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.  Actually, they probably still sell them there, (talk about a time warp!).

I've always had a passion for color and have always loved anything with that Latin vibe.  Growing up in California in the 60s and 70s I was exposed to a lot of crafts from Mexico and South America.  When I visited Mexico City with a school group in 1976 I brought home embroidered blouses and lots of woven and macrame stuff, (I still use a macrame bag I bought there!). The markets were full of colorful textiles and my only regret is that I had so little money to spend.

When I was at the Pacific International Quilt Festival last fall I took some photographs of a few quilts that were made with these kinds of stripes and patterns.  It was so crowded that I often couldn't get close enough to get great shots, but a few that I shot over people's heads came out pretty well.  I wish I knew the artist, (and if you're out there let me know so I can credit you . . .your stuff is fab!), but I was only taking them for my own reference and hadn't planned on blogging about them.  Frankly, I was surprised that they came out at all!


This was my favorite.  I love how the stripes form squares and how the artist used lights, darks, and different hues to make them stand out.   I drafted the block and it's very simple, I just never thought of using it this way.  Wouldn't this be a great block to use to make a kaleidoscope quilt?  I'm picturing flowers in the squares and leaf patterned fabrics in the background.  Here's the drafted block, if you turn it on point you'll get squares like this, or leave it as is and get the center squares on point.



There were a couple of other quilts, I believe by the same artist.  Check out this one with the triangles, you don't see them very often!

                            

And more squares, I love this artist's sense of color!  It also looks like they threw in some batiks and patterned fabrics into this one.  It would be a very cool strip quilting project.

I'm so inspired! Wouldn't this style be great for a simple shoulder bag, with beads on the bottom?  I think I have an old woven belt that would make a great handle. Now, I just have to find the time . . .

Happy Stitching!

Susan

Monday, February 1, 2010

Does this ever happen to you?

I was in my local quilt store over the weekend and picked up some fabrics to add to my stash.  The great thing about it is that they were free!  Well, actually it was my reward for purchases I'd made over the last few years.  I don't shop there often but I guess I had reached the limit for a $20 bonus.  Yeah!  Free fabric!!

What I was wondering about is if this ever happens to you.  Did you notice that the fabrics I picked out are coordinated?  I do that all the time, even when I'm stash building.  I don't know why but nine times out of ten the clerk asks me what quilt pattern I'm making and they're surprised when I say that I'm just stash building. 

I don't know why it happens but it's been going on with me for years.  Maybe it's just some unconscious thing that's going on in my head, who knows?  It is interesting though, I'd love to hear if it happens to you as well.

I also made another trip to Joann's and had more good luck.  One thing that I'm always encouraging quilters to do is to make yourself familiar with fabric lines.  I always check out the online fabric stores even when I'm not buying, just to see what's out there.  I make a mental note of fabrics I like and maybe don't like enough to fork out the cash, but would be interested in if they went on sale.

Now, we all know that a lot of the fabrics at Joann's are printed on lower quality greige goods so they aren't always a good buy.  However, I've noticed lately that there are more of the high quality fabrics in their fat quarter selections.  This is where knowing your fabric lines can really pay off.  Since I know the designs that are out there and have been out there for the last couple of years, I'm able to spot some real bargains.

One way to know you're getting a better fabric is the selvedge edges.  If you see the selvedge edge cut off, with part of the white edge showing, then you're probably getting a higher quality fabric that the manufacturer or designer doesn't want anyone to know is being sold at discount.

I used to work in the discount grocery business so I know how this works, often high quality brands are repackaged, or stores are not allowed to advertise that they have them.  This is because they want to "protect" their brand.  If it got out that you could get that brand cheaper then no one would buy it at full price.  I think that's what's happening here, the fabric suppliers need to unload older fabrics, but they don't want to downgrade their brand so they're making Joann's remove their selvedge markings.
                            

One line I've been admiring for a while is Linden by P& B textiles.  I like the simple shapes and the colors.  I had snagged a few pieces of the line over time but was thrilled when I saw it in a fat quarter bundle at Joann's.  What a steal at $6.00, (gotta love those 40% off coupons!).  



I also had some luck in the folded fat quarter section.  These are also name brand fabrics with high thread counts that I picked up for $1.29 a fat quarter, (half the price my local quilt shop charges).  I recognize all of these from lines still being sold in online shops at about $9 a yard. 

Make sure you check out the fat quarters carefully.  Usually they're very poor quality but if you look for a non-shiny, tightly woven, heavier weight, with clearly printed designs you might very well have a winner.

I really need to get some sewing done, I seem to be getting further behind every day.  Where does the time go?  I wish I knew!  Anyway, until next time,

Happy Stitching!

Susan