Saturday, January 31, 2015

Goodbye January

Looking back I have mixed feelings about the month... it wasn't great & it wasn't bad. I always have a slow recovery from trips and even weekends away so I won't pretend to be surprised by some lazy days. Our son Micah was here for 3 weeks and then I spent several days adjusting to him being gone.

Even though I love setting goals I'm not one to go off the chain if my interests end up veering elsewhere. I read a ton in January and I have several recommendations including a 5 star book to share with you on my Tuesday Bibliophile Files post. 20+ books!

My Crossroads blocks from RSC13 made it to flimsy stage this month and I think they will be the perfect projects to ease me back into quilting again.

My Let's Book It project for January was this Bowtie quilt from a McCalls Quick & Scrappy Quilts book. I will be making these blocks each month for RSC15.

I also caught up with my blue UFOs from RSC14 and started some crumb/slab blocks for RSC15. It was a RSC (Rainbow Scrap Challenge) month you might say.

I would have loved a finish or two... but I'm sewing again which will lead to them. And, as a bonus, our really cold weather should be behind us and the days are getting longer. I'm really looking forward to being FOCUSED in February!

Fresh Sewing Day
It's time to link up to Fresh Sewing Day@Lily's Quilts and be inspired by what other quilters have been working on this month.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Blue Crumbs and Plans

How can it be the last Friday in January already? So many plans... so little time left!

Our son Micah took this picture of Elsa before we left for Mpls./St. Paul last Friday morning. She was VERY unhappy once the suitcases started to appear and buried herself within her quilt. Kind of like I did once I got back actually for several days of reading, watching movies and napping. Elsa loved every minute!

I guess that is why we make quilts. Sometimes the comfort is in making them and other times the comfort is in using them.

On Wednesday night we took down the bunk bed in Micah's room to give to a young family in need. Before I start shopping for a queen bed suitable for a 19 year old and guests during the school year though I'm rather excited about putting this empty space to use. I'll give you a hint - it's right down the hall from my Quilting Room. More later!

I finally dragged myself off the sofa yesterday for a long sewing session. I should have made backings and sandwiched these tops but I just couldn't motivate myself. Instead I played with my blue scraps and turned them into 20 slabs.
This morning I laid them out on my design wall to ponder the next step for them. When I ran out of my scraps I started pulling some not so pretty 2.5" strips out of my bins to make them bigger but I'm not too fond of them now. I'd like to get them to 12" finished blocks so I guess my choices are keep going as they are (with prettier fabrics!), sash them with a solid or unifying print or something else. Your ideas are most welcome!
I've decided I'm not going to make blocks for the RSC15 Sawtooth Star Sampler after all. Instead I'm going to focus on getting caught up with my RSC14 Sampler blocks. Fortunately I had most of the January blue blocks made and was surprised to find 5 of the 6 pink blocks completely done from last February. Can you really say something was hiding when you totally forgot they exist?
Had I not taken the time to make this list yesterday I would have made those pink blocks twice. The good news is I'm a little further along than I thought. I'm also thinking a good sort through my room is in order as well in case there are more "hidden" items laying about.

Tomorrow I'll be linking up to ScrapHappy and I'm linking Elsa up at Feline Friday@sarahdidit! too.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Flimsy X3

I had forgotten how satisfying it is to turn a stack of blocks into a flimsy - it really is the next best thing to sewing down that last bit of binding to me! Yesterday afternoon was very productive in my Quilting Room. Crossroads 2 came off the design wall first.
Next up was Crossroads 3. I played around with some different layouts and decided on this one with all the colors going in one direction because it allowed me to use the rest of my warm blocks.
Then came the inevitable stumbling block... instead of 20 blocks left I had only had 18. My first thought was to put them away. Then I looked one more time through my bin and tried to remember which white I used for background to make 2 more blocks. Suddenly the best solution dawned on me.
There is nothing wrong with a smaller quilt right? I will use the leftover blocks in one of the backs. Problem solved and now I have 4 more flimsies in the Ready to Quilt section of my UFO Collection.

Our son Micah flies back to New York tomorrow for college so we will drive down to Mpls./St. Paul this afternoon and spent the night with my sister. It's been great having him around for 5 weeks. And, best of all, I'm planning a trip east the last week of March so I won't have to wait too long to see him again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Crossroad Blocks

If I'm going to have a shot at finishing some UFOs this month I have to get some flimsies made ASAP. Yesterday Elsa helped me organize my stack of Crossroads blocks that I made during RSC13.
She voted for a "girlie" arrangement featuring pink for the first set of blocks and I think she had very good taste. These blocks make such an interesting layout when they are assembled.
Now we have a more masculine set on the design wall ready to sew together. I quite like the chains of color created in these tops and I'm more convinced than ever that these will be my go-to scrap busting block for many years. I just love them!
I will have enough blocks for 4 tops using a 4x5 block layout. These are 12" finished blocks and my Project Linus chapter prefers donations around 48" x 60". My plan is to get all 4 to flimsy stage and get the backings made this week. Then I hope to finish 2 of them next week. The word is FOCUS!

I'm linking up to WIP Wednesday@Freshly Pieced.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

January Blues

Check it out... my 1st blocks of 2015~
And, judging by my rather small collection of blue scraps, there won't be too many more bowtie blocks made today. Perhaps some crumb blocks?
Elsa is delighted to be back in her "helper" role. So far she has batted the cover to my seam ripper under my cutting table, chewed some painters tape off my Angler 2 on the dresser, attacked some blocks on my design wall and stolen my pencil repeatedly.
All in a day's work she says... I also carry stray bits of thread in my fur just for you Mom!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Feline Friday

Elsa was a lucky girl to spend 2+ weeks with my parents while we were on our Kauai trip. We have always boarded our cats when we are gone over the holidays because it's such a busy time and it seems like an imposition to have our usual helpers come in to feed them. When we had to put Tucker down unexpectedly it seemed like she would be so lonely either at home or at our local boarding spot.
When my Mom offered to take her I was at first worried about her chewing on my Dad's oxygen tube but then I realized that she could stay in their lower level just fine. Problem solved. I truly think that only a Grandma would fill her Christmas tree with Elsa's cat toys and unbreakable ornaments so that she could climb all over it to retrieve them. Am I right?

Mom has apologized in advance in case Elsa remembers this awesome game come December 2015! They had a great time together and it sure made our trip easier. My Mom got the best news ever in early January that she would not need weeks of radiation after all due to early detection and successful surgery. Life is good!
Sorry for the slightly blurry photo but this totally cracks me up. Tom came home from school last week saying that his 6th graders had shown him 2 iPad games for Elsa to try. So we loaded them them thinking "ya right" but guess what? She loves them, especially this red dot game. Can you see her personal high score in the top corner - go Elsa! This is GameforCats and Jitterbug has crawling bugs but she only seems to care about watching the ladybug in that one. Who thinks of this stuff is what I'm wondering.
This tower was the kitties Christmas 2013 gift. I thought it had enough rungs to hold them both... but I should have known that only the top rung was IT. There have been many skirmishes over it - Tucker used to go there instantly when he was peeved at Elsa just because it drove her mad. Even though he didn't really fit he still would sleep there. So the lower levels became toy storage as you can see along with a couple of her favorite boxes off to the other side of the loveseat. Elsa and I have a game where I pick up the toys and then she dangles off the top to push them back on the floor where they belong in her worldview.
It is also her 2nd favorite napping spot if my quilt covered lap isn't an option. She has a good thing going doesn't she? I'm linking up to sarah did it!.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

WIP Thursday

This post was intended for yesterday but the day got away from me. After a weekend full of football I'm making baby steps toward real progress in my quilting room.
But first I have to mention how thrilling it was to watch the NDSU Bison win their 4th straight FCS Division 1 Football Championship defeating Illinois State 29-27 on Saturday. WOW! It was a total nail biter as the Bison had to score a touchdown with less than 2 minutes to go for the win after leading for most of the game. Tom, Megan and I are all proud NDSU graduates!
And then, to top it off, we cheered THE Ohio State Buckeyes on to victory in the other National Championship title game against the University of Oregon (fixed!) in Monday night's 42-20 win. Megan's fiance Chris is currently attending Ohio State for a Masters in Health Administration degree. What a fun football weekend... if only our Minnesota Vikings were in the playoffs. Next year!
I spent my some of my football time sorting through various boxes of stuff that found a home in my quilting room during my days of no sewing. Then I looked through some books to get ideas for blocks to work on for RSC15 and settled on this scrappy layout using bowtie blocks. 

And I pulled some charms from my bins to continue my ROYGBIV Chevron Quilt from RSC14. True Confession Time: the only row I finished last year was the Blue!
Continuing in the vein of unfinished RSC business I set up this UFO in my Quilting Notebook... my Crossroads blocks that were made for RSC13. I have enough blocks to make 4 quilts for Project Linus and I would love to finish 2 of them this month. You can find this handy Project Sheet at Pixels To Patchwork by clicking HERE.
2015 is the year I am actually going to USE them! I'll post more about my Quilting Notebook soon.

Friday, January 9, 2015

What's the Word?

I am one of those people who loves making lists, resolutions and grand plans. However my follow through can leave a lot to be desired and this has been a life long problem for me. I seem to have either the attention span of a gnat or I can spend hours down a rabbit hole on one passion/project/task. The in between balancing act where life really happens is my ongoing struggle.
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In 2013 I chose FINISH as my word for the year and I went all in by finishing 65 quilting projects that year - a whopping 57 UFOs and 8 new projects! So it might be understandable that I felt pretty confident heading into 2014 with "only" 43 UFOs.

My word for 2014 was SIMPLIFY and, as I posted HERE yesterday, I did manage a lot of simplifying in 2014. The part that went missing for the most part was the finishing. Achieving 90% or 65% of a goal isn't nearly as satisfying as 100%. My thing is to make great progress early on, then lose focus and move on to the next shiny object. Over and over. And as my regular readers know my quilting went completely dormant while I worked off blog on other things.
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So instead of feeling free to choose a Fun Word for 2015 I've selected another Working Word. One that I hope will motivate me to zero in on the task at hand but also allow me the flexibility of choice that I need. I might be chasing 10 rabbits in total as I work towards my goals but I'm going to do it one step at a time. Thoughtfully and with purpose.
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I've learned a lot about myself over the last few years and I think 2015 is the year that it all will come together. Some FINISH, some SIMPLIFY and a LOT of...
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November & December Reads

Surprise... another catch up post! I missed the December Bibliophile Files link up over at sarah did it! so today will be two months in one. My Goodreads Challenge Goal was to read 130 books in 2014 and I ended up with 151 on my list. Unfortunately I set up my 2015 goal while on vacation and forgot to take a screen shot of my 2014 final tally so I'll sub in a cute picture of Elsa instead.
She hasn't seen my real camera in awhile and seems puzzled don't you think?

Out of the 24 books I've read since I last posted I do have several that earned 4 star ratings from 5 of my favorite authors. I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite among these - they were just that good! 
  • One Plus One by JoJo Moyes
  • Eyes of a Child by Richard North Patterson
  • Deadline by John Sandford
  • The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
  • The Son by Jo Nesbo
I've set my Goodreads Challenge at 150 books for 2015 since I plan to continue my 2 pronged reading plan of listening to library audiobooks while walking/crafting and trimmed the unloved/unneeded books from my personal library. I'm adding a new twist this year however.
Each month I'm going to pull at least 5 books off my shelves to read/reread and these are my January selections. It's easy to be drawn to new books as they appear on my iPad library app so I'm thinking this will keep me focused on working through the books I already own.

I missed the Elsa sniff test pic but she approves as winter reading involves a quilt to cover me and a spot for her on my lap. If I'm not under the quilt she will stand next to me on the sofa and paw at the quilt resting over the sofa back as a not so subtle reminder to get with the program! Some of you have commented on how big Elsa has grown and she would like you to know that she is a petite girl at 9.6 lbs. under all that fur.

Elsa is a total sun worshipper and this is her usual spot during my computer time if the weather is cooperating. This pic really shows off her pretty colors. She has a little bit of everything... stripes, splotches and the back of her legs are all black. Her fur is so soft and fine that she barely sheds at all which seems impossible.

Since I wrote the last paragraph she has flopped over to warm her other side. Smart girl!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2014 In The Rearview Mirror

Does anyone else feel like 2014 blasted by? It is going to take me some time to fully accept that 2015 is here already. And it may take me even longer to get a firm grasp on the unexpected way that 2014 turned into a year that I really didn't see coming!

A year ago I had no idea that I wouldn't finish a quilt after April 2014 or go for months without sewing a stitch. Crazy. Of course a year isn't measured by quilting alone but since this is a quilting blog that is where I shall start.

1. Charmed Pinwheels, 2. Valentine's Day Table Topper, 3. Blitzen Table Topper, 4. Four Patch & Friends, 5. Valentine's Plus, 6. Minnesota Hotdish

I finished 3 UFOs in 2014 - Charmed Pinwheels, Four Patch & Friends and Minnesota Hotdish. The other 3 projects shown above were started and finished in 2014 as a part of my "Sewing for the Seasons" theme. I got off to a great start using my Valentine's Day stash. I absolutely LOVE Valentine's Plus and look forward to putting it out in less than a month.

My UFO Countdown was at 43 on 1/1/2014 so with 3 UFO Finishes and 3 unfinished 2014 projects I am once again starting my year with 43 UFOs. I guess I can be happy that I broke even right?
The word I selected for 2014 was SIMPLIFY. Here is a blurb from THIS post in December 2012.

"This also ties into the word I've chosen for 2014. Now that my UFO baggage is lighter I want to feel lighter in my rest of my world too. I want to do a top to bottom purge of my home and clear out the unused, unneeded and unloved stuff. This will be happening off blog for the most part but it holds true in my quilting life too. I'd rather decorate my home with my creativity a lot more and with my stuff a lot less!"

I can say that I was MUCH more successful off blog with my goal in 2014. I simplified 25+ lbs from my life with the help of Weight Watchers Online, my Fitbit and a Facebook group. I am still walking most days and feel better than I have in many years healthwise.
I sorted through years of accumulated crafting supplies and my quilting stash during my Olympics Organizathon in February. I had such a sense of accomplishment that I didn't want to stop.

For the next 2 months I purged countless items from our home and I still feel happiness each time I open a cabinet, drawer or closet door with room to breathe. Let it go!
I exceeded my goal to read 130 books in 2014 and I also made solid progress on trimming my home library.
And I discovered a new passion for making junk journals, journaling and getting things done with my best find of 2014 - the Bullet Journal. Sadly very little of this excitement was shared here but I will try and catch up over the next few weeks.

So... was it a bad year? Of course not! But because I didn't have a lot of success with my quilting goals I felt really out of sync with my blog. No sewing = no blogging. In 2015, while I fully expect to have quilting projects to blog about, I am also going to do my best to blend in the rest of my life. I wish I hadn't gone silent for weeks. I miss the routine of writing posts, updating pictures and responding to your comments. 

My plan is work at my natural tendencies to be an all-or-nothing person during 2015. I'm going to try and FOCUS on the tasks that are not yet complete while not losing sight of the big picture. Life is more than quilting... but quilting needs to be a part of my life again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's 2015!

In an attempt to unravel my tangled thoughts about what did & didn't happen in 2014 from my hopes for 2015 I'm going to jump ahead with the "easy" part today as we are a week into the New Year already. Perhaps some forward thinking will settle my mind for an insightful look back in a few days!
I'm starting off the year with 43 UFOs that need some serious attention. In a perfect world I would love to have 10-12 quilting projects in various stages of completion. I am not a start-to-finish quilter - instead I need choices and options when I go into my quilting room.

I have 3 main quilting goals for 2015:

1. Make quilting a primary focus again in my life. Plain and simple.

2. End the year with 12 or less UFOs/WIPs. As a person who enjoys having multiple projects to choose from this would be very comfortable for me. It could be 8 UFOs and 4 WIPs or 12 WIPs... the key thing is that I have enough variety to maintain interest but keep the projects moving along.

3. Learn how to FMQ at a basic level and ENJOY it! A meander, some loops & swirls and a few other options that I can use to finish my tops would make me a happy quilter.

Goals 2 and 3 are basically the same from my failed 2014 quilting goals. To reach goal 2 I need to finish at least 33 UFOs in 2015 and keep new projects moving towards the finish line. To accomplish this I am going to resurrect a variation of my UFO Reward System (blogged HERE) that worked so well in 2012-2013. I haven't worked the 2015 version out yet so stay tuned.
My Button I'm also going to try to recapture the magic that being an active participant in A Lovely Year of Finishes and Finish-Along gave me during my UFO Busting Heydays. If you aren't familiar with these challenges click on the buttons for more information.
2015 FAL at On the Windy Side
My January goal for A Lovely Year of Finishes will be (once again) Strip Stacks in Blue & Brown. Blocks assembled, sandwiched, quilted, bound and off to our son in New York - that's it!

I've selected the following UFOs to tackle during Q1 of the Finish-Along. 

1. Charming Snowmen, 2. 10 Path and Stiles Blocks, 3. Blue & Yellow Strings, 4. Scrappy Strip Stacks, 5. Strip Stacks in Blue & Brown, 6. Warm 16 Patches, 7. Picnic In Serenade, 8. Crossroads Blocks = 4 Quilts

8 pictures equals 11 finishes as I have enough Crossroads blocks to make 4 quilts for Project Linus. Yes, I'm going big... but winter traditionally is my prime sewing time (even in 2014!) so I'm feeling pretty confident that I can achieve a jump start towards my goals in the next 3 months.

Tomorrow I will post about the word I have chosen for 2015 and try to fill in the gaps now that I've selected my targets and linked up to the challenges today.