Sunday, January 30, 2022

Declutter Challenge 2022 - Days 17 through 21

Days 17 through 21 of the Declutter Challenge have been the strangest for me.  Having had a good run in the weeks before, I was floundering a bit when I got to this stage.

The final five days had to do with addressing your scraps and fabric, and that seemed like it might be a REALLY BIG THING, especially as it was described in the challenge as "tackling Mount Scrapmore." I mean, that sounds like a monumental uphill climb, doesn't it?

So I took a day (or three) off before I started this part of the journey.  In other words, I procrastinated.  

But also played with my scraps.

(Making scrappy roses with red and green scraps)

Day 17 - Scrap Management: "Gather all of your scraps together.  How large is your Mount Scrapmore?"  Wait, what?

It reminded me of those late-night curfew announcements on TV back in the day: "It's 11:00 o'clock.  Parents, do you know where your children are?"

Well, I know where my scrap children are.  They may not be all properly tucked into their beds, but they're present and accounted for.

No way was I going to do any gathering. My scraps are in Sterlite boxes and drawers by colors...and, okay, maybe a bunch of unsorted ones jumbled up in a big clear bag (the kind comforters come packaged in).  Then there's the wad on the end of my cutting table that I cut down into strips (last fall) but have not yet put away.  

Of course, this was my resistance talking, with some denial chiming in as well.

So I rewatched the Day 17 video at Just Get It Done Quilts to better understand the purpose behind tackling Mount Scrapmore.  It was to set boundaries for your scraps.  How much space do you want to devote to your scraps?  How many quilts do you realistically intend to make with them this year?  And do you want or need all of them?  All good things to consider.

In the end, I probably half-assed Day 17.  It's going to take regular effort to keep the scraps under control, and, more importantly, used.  But it did get me thinking about and playing with my scraps, so that counts as a form of scrap management, right?

(Scraps and strings in drawers by colors)

Day 18 - Batting.  Gather your batting scraps and sew/splice them together to make "Frankenbatting."  That was the task for Day 18.  I already do this as a matter of course, as needed, like for the table runner featured in the previous post.  I did find some smaller batting scraps cut off a recently longarmed quilt, so I made a small piece of Frankenbatting that I'll probably use for a Table Scraps Challenge project in the next few months.  So that particular decluttering skill is already part of my toolkit.

I also use batting scraps for de-linting my cutting table and mat, and recently I've been putting a batting scrap on the end of my ironing board for those stray threads you notice when pressing.  The batting scrap serves as a place to deposit those threads, where they stay on the batting, not stuck to your fingers or falling to the floor. 

Day 19 - Fabric Scraps.  Think about what you want to do with your fabric scraps, how much you want to hang on to, and how it fits into your space.  

(Scrap totes under cutting table, by color; the lights bin is overflowing)

This seemed like Day 17 again, but turned up to eleven.  Suggestions were made for processing your scraps, like cutting them down into 2-1/2-inch strips and 5-inch strips, etc.  I watched some other suggested videos on scrap systems, quilts made from certain size scraps, etc.  All very interesting and informative.  

(Giant Whirlygig block from scraps)

In the end, though, I'm not going to cut down ALL of my scraps into prescribed sizes.  It feels limiting to me.  I like having hunks and chunks of fabric (smaller than a FQ, larger than a 5-inch strip), in case I need, say, a 7-1/4 inch square, like I did the other day. 

I did cut some scraps into 2-1/2 inch strips for the Scrappy Trip quilt I'm currently working on.  I also appreciated learning what systems work for other quilters and how easy it might be to "grab and go" when you want to make a quilt.  I can see the benefit of having a system of precut sizes at the ready as building blocks.

(A little more progress on Scrappy Trip)

Day 20 - Fabric.  We're talking fat quarters and yardage now, not scraps.  Karen alluded to a video coming in February on organizing your fabric (which sounded like a perfectly good reason for me to procrastinate a couple weeks).  Basically, though, sort out what you have, what you don't want or need anymore.  Start a tally list on how much you have.

Nope, not gonna tally my fabric.  I appreciate people who like to do that kind of thing, but that is not me.  For me, that is the kind of left-brained exercise I would rather check at the door to the sewing room.  How much do I have?  Plenty, but not too much.  If anything, I probably need more fabric, in certain colors anyway, but I'll shop when I need to.  I had an influx of donated fabric this past year, and I'd like to use that first.

As far as organizing my fabric stash, it's on shelves, more or less arranged by size. FQs on an upper shelf, and then yardage roughly by color on the shelves below.  Thrifted shirts are deboned, folded, and stacked in a rolling 3-drawer cart under the sewing table.  Batiks are in a separate medium-sized tote.  Bottom line, I'm okay with my organization method for now.  It could be improved, I'm sure, but it works for me currently.  If I have a light bulb moment when the organizing video comes out, I may think about making some adjustments.

(Thrifted shirt fabrics)

Day 21 - Containers and Bags.  Time to deal with donations, sales, or give-aways of the fabric you've decluttered during the challenge.  Cull the boxes, containers, excess bags, tubs, and totes.  Eliminate by type and sizes less useful.

I drove a good-sized box full of stuff to Goodwill last week. I already did a bag decluttering a few months ago, so all's good there.  Totes?  Yes, I've got a few to organize and move out of the sewing room.  They're mostly non-sewing related though, as in family history archives, memorabilia, excess kitchenware, etc.  I'll be working more on that in the weeks to come.

(More playing with red scraps)

And that brings me to the end of the Declutter Challenge!  I actually enjoyed it.  It got me into the sewing room every day with a purpose and gave me a boost of creativity besides.  I don't know if I'll do it again next January, but who knows, maybe a second round would be even more productive.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Table Scraps Challenge - January 2022

"In the meadow we can build a snowman..."  

The prompt for this month's table scraps challenge was snowman.  As you'll see, I went at it from a less literal angle and more from the potential for a snowman. 

I had in mind to use the leftovers from my Plaid Peaks baby quilt from 2020.  Right after I finished that quilt, I took the plaid shirt scraps and sewed them together and then cut them into random triangle shapes.

My thought at the time, per the parting words of that 2020 post, was:  "I envision a mini-quilt where these little 'trees' are appliqued on a background.  Maybe a winter theme of some kind."

Enter January's Table Scraps Challenge, which provided the perfect excuse to do just that.

But incorporating the snowman prompt gave me pause.  A slight shift in perspective, to that of a place where you could build a snowman, did the trick for me.  I was reminded of the line from one of my favorite holiday tunes, "Winter Wonderland."

"In the meadow we can build a snowman..."  

Kind of like the line in Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come."  Okay, maybe that's a stretch.  We're not talking zombie snowmen here.

Anyway, I'll set the scene, I thought.  Snowy field, starry sky, a patch of pines.  You get the picture.

And then...I saw a red plaid scrap in the drawer.  A lost scarf, perhaps?  Why yes, the perfect accessory for a potential snowman.

Which my husband thought was a worm when I showed him the finished runner.  A worm!?

Suddenly, one questions one's design choices.

Ah well, I thought it was whimsical.  Maybe it'll stay, or maybe it'll blow away?

Details:  Fused and machine appliqued on a snow/sky curve-pieced background; wavy line quilted in Sulky "Holoshimmer" thread; trees and binding from thrifted plaid shirts; measures about 14-1/2 x 30 inches.

Linking to:  The Joyful Quilter - January 2022 Table Scraps Challenge


Monday, January 24, 2022

Declutter Challenge 2022 - Days 4 through 16

I've been plugging along on the daily sewing room Declutter Challenge and making good progress.  Here's a little catch-up of how it's been going.

Day 4 was books.  Like most quilters, I have quite a few, but they're fairly organized and contained.  Still, it was good to take stock and see if there was anything that could be moved along.  I ended up with a cutting table full of titles, one of which (Mark Making) I thought might be of interest to a friend.  It's been passed on to her and is now living a good life in Idaho.  The rest of these got a free ride to Goodwill.

Day 5 was patterns.  I took this to mean quilting patterns for purposes of this challenge.  I do have a ton of garment sewing patterns to weed through, but that's a job for another time.

Lordy mama, there was a lot to sort through!  I had printed out so many tutorials for quilts I wanted to make "sometime," but it had gotten out of hand.  When it was all said and done, I had about a ream and a half's worth of paper to recycle (see upper right stack with blank sides up in photo below) and other patterns to organize (lower right), which I did the next day.  I set up a better filing system for those, so at least I'll know better where to find them without riffling through the entire bunch.

Day 6's task was to address the archives.  That is, the notes and journals of patterns made or work done that you want to keep, valuable memories or mementos.  My quilt archives got whittled down to what fits in a divided binder (lower left blue binder in photo above). 

A couple of old-old quilt patterns went into the archives, including my grandmother's paper templates for a Dahlia quilt (the construction of which I can't quite wrap my head around yet), as well as a 1961 letter from my mother to her aunt, which was never mailed.  That letter included paper templates and a drawing of the setting for a Sunflower quilt (a type of Dresden plate) that Mom had made.  

I remember my sister and I each had a Sunflower quilt on our twin beds, and one of them is still in the family.  I had it out last fall to photograph.

I don't know why the letter was never mailed, but I'm glad to still have it.  I had to smile at the paragraph on top of the second page of the letter where Mom writes, "The baby talks already and tries to say everything..."  That baby was me at 14 months!

Day 7 was a catch-up or a rest day.  I did a little catching up and then worked on a squirrel project that I had started during the decluttering process, a Scrappy Trip Around the World quilt.

I had happened to pull out my leftover bindings drawer and thought, hmm...all those 2-1/2 inch binding strips could be sewn into a Scrappy Trip block.  I've never made one but have wanted to for a while.  Let's try a block or two with these scraps and see how it goes...

Well, you can imagine how hard it was to stop at a block or two.  That became the go-to project between decluttering sessions for the next several days. 

Day 8 was pins and needles.  Karen of Just Get It Done Quilts talks about inherited stuff on her video for Day 8, "The things that aren't your legacy, they belonged to another person.  You don't need to take on legacy stuff.  You do you.  Keep what YOU use."  I'm paraphrasing, of course, but I definitely needed to hear that!  So I said goodbye to the group above, largely from my mom's sewing collection.

Day 9 was thread.  My threads were in fairly decent shape.  I got rid of a couple spools of hand quilting thread and old-old buttonhole twist because they were duplicates or more inherited-but-unused stuff.  I honestly don't do a lot of hand quilting so one spool was plenty to keep around.  I did put my vintage threads, which were gathering dust in an open container, into a vintage cut glass loaf dish that belonged to my grandma.  They're just for display, I don't use them, but now they're protected and look pretty on the shelf.

Day 10 was rulers and mats.  I gathered them from all their various hidey-holes and put the most used ones on the ruler rack I got for Christmas, and the rest went onto a large open spot on the pegboard in the workshop next door to the sewing room.

Day 11 - Scissors and cutters.  Again, I just gathered together what I had and then let go of a pair of rusty hair scissors (?!) and a dull and unwieldy pinking shears that were my mom's (top row, horizontal items).  The rest are still sharp and useful.  Job done.

Day 12 - Appliances and devices.  This included "anything with a cord," which could be old sewing machines, cameras, electronics and tech, etc., together with accessories and manuals. A whole bagful  of extra and/or no longer used cords, cables, and appliances went bye-bye.

Then I took a look at the old Singer 600 that my daughter returned to me in 2020.  She said the needle position was no longer straight and was sewing wonky.  I had picked up this machine at a thrift store several years earlier and then (after a trip to the spa for general maintenance) gave it to her to use.  

It's an all metal geared machine, unlike some later Touch and Sew models, so I felt it was worth taking a look at before giving up on it completely.  Luckily, it seemed that simply moving one of the levers fixed the issue, and after a thorough cleaning and oiling, it was sewing like a champ once again.  Since I don't need another machine (have five already, plus a serger), and my daughter now has a new machine, I'm giving it to my sister.  First, though, I got out the hot glue gun and fixed up the thread holder with some new felt, since the original cushioning material that held the thread spool in place was disintegrating into fine bits of powder.

Day 13 - Notions.  I was dreading this, but as it turned out, it wasn't bad.  I got rid of a bunch of "legacy" ribbons from mom's stash, along with some elastic and a few other doodads.  I tossed some old interfacing, reorganized some of the drawers to consolidate things, and that was about it.  I kept more buttons than I'll ever need or use in my lifetime, but buttons are small and they're fun to look at and don't take up much space.  I also kept all the zippers I've collected (mostly from thrift stores), because I do use them for little makeup bags and pouches.

Day 14 - Another catch-up or rest day, and/or to remove excess furniture from the sewing room.  I don't have excess furniture so I worked on an idea for a table runner from scraps.  I'll talk about that more in the January Table Scraps Challenge link-up this coming weekend.  It was fun to play around!

Day 15 - UFOs.  Okay, don't hate me but I don't have many UFOs.  I've got a quilt pin basted and waiting to be quilted, if that counts.  Otherwise, there's the scrappy string Hole In the Barn Door (Churn Dash) quilt that I sashed together a week or so ago.  I think it may need another border, but I'm percolating on that.  So that's two things.  

The third and truly oldest UFO is one I've had for 10 or 12 years.  It's a little attic windows quilt with a vintage bird fabric I thought was so cool to find at the time.  But I'm really "meh" on this thing.  I don't love it, and maybe it just needs to be finished—or cut apart and reworked.  Something.  I just don't feel compelled to finish it now (ever?), but for the purposes of this challenge, I dug it out of the drawer and took a picture of it.

Day 16 - Kits.  What's a kit?  It's a fabric bundle (or fabric pull) and pattern or idea for a quilt.  I don't have any kits, currently, so I worked on my scrappy table runner instead.

And that brings me up to today, Day 17 - Scrap Management, which I haven't yet started.  It sounds like it may get messy—or at least interesting!


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Better Late to the Challenge than Never

I don't really do New Year's resolutions.  I've never formally committed to a word of the year.  One year, I thought my word should be "flow," but I didn't stitch it up and put it on display to remind myself.  Maybe I should have in order to better cement it in my consciousness, but I decided to with the flow.

But I did see something cross my Facebook feed the last week of December that sounded interesting, and that was to note one good thing per day during the year, the idea being to write it on a strip of paper and put it in a jar and then read through them all at the end of the year as a way to revisit those moments.  Sort of an annual highlight reel of good things.

The idea of noting one good thing daily seems like a good habit to cultivate as a way to mindfully practice gratitude, and I'm all for that.  So on January 1, I started doing this, except instead of putting papers in a memory jar, I started a "One Thing Good About Today" memo on my tablet.  

(Good Things daily list)

You might note that I transposed "Good Thing" as "Thing Good," in the title of the list (guess I was thinking in Wisconsin-ese) but I couldn't figure out how to correct it without starting a new memo and starting over.  Ope.

(Homemade Rhubarb Pie on New Year's Day)

Now there are many good things about any given day, but taking the time to jot down just one item makes it easy, quick, and totally doable.  I usually have my tablet with me when I climb into bed anyway, so before I open a streaming app to watch the next episode of whatever bingeable series I'm currently obsessed with, I take a moment to reflect on the day and add one good thing to the memo.

(Basting a quilt on January 5)

I also decided to hop on board the sewing room Declutter Challenge at Just Get It Done Quilts.  The challenge was several days underway when I joined, but that's okay.  You can see all the daily challenge blogs and videos there or on Karen's YouTube channel.

The Day 1 challenge was to take out the trash in your sewing room.  I am notorious for writing myself little notes on scraps of paper and letting them accumulate until I've done the thing I wanted to remember to do.  Well, I am a procrastinator, so some of those notes were well-aged, shall we say.  

(Songs on scraps of paper became a playlist)

I tend to write down the names of songs I hear while sewing that I want to listen to again or further explore the artist.  So before discarding those bits of paper, I decided to find the songs on YouTube and make a playlist of them, which I named Sewing Room Songs.  Feel free to click and listen, if you're up for an eclectic mix of roots rock, funk, blues, alt, and interesting covers.  

Part of Day 2's challenge was to clean your sewing machine.  I cleaned and lubricated two of my most often used machines, the Juki and the vintage Singer Touch and Sew that was my mom's back in the 1960s.  The 15 minutes to be allotted for this task took an hour and 45, but I was happy to give them some overdue TLC.

(Day 2 Declutter Challenge - cleaning and oiling machines)

Day 3 was today's challenge for me, and that involved decluttering magazines and then working on a UFO.  I had exactly zero magazines to declutter (having done that already during the past year or two), so I spent the time on sashing the UFO that's been languishing on my design wall for a couple months.  Again, I spent longer than 15 or 30 minutes on this part of the challenge, but once started, I was happy to keep the momentum going.

(Working on a UFO as part of Day 3 Declutter Challenge)

I think things are about to get more challenging tomorrow with Day 4's book decluttering challenge.  We'll see how it goes!


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

A Few More December Finishes

In addition to the table runner/wall hanging mentioned in the previous post, I finished a few more gifts in December.

My niece was expecting a baby and delivered a little girl in mid-December, a few weeks early.  Thankfully, both mom and baby are doing well, and (also thankfully) I had finished her baby quilt in the nick of time.  

My daughter had helped me pick out fabrics for it when we visited a new-to-me quilt shop in November.  I used a free baby quilt pattern by Amanda at Jedi Craft Girl, which I'd used before for a different baby quilt.  It's a nice one for larger or more elaborate print fabric that would otherwise get lost if you had to cut it into smaller pieces.

I really like the colors in this quilt.  The coral color is a nice alternative to pink.

While we were fabric shopping, my daughter mentioned she needed a new makeup bag, as the zipper pouch I'd made her several years ago was looking rather worn.  She picked out a couple of fat quarters for a new one, so that became one of her Christmas gifts.  She was pretty excited to open it on Christmas Day.

Lastly, as part of my goal to make each of my nieces and nephews a quilt, the Waverly (Storm-at-Sea) quilt was finished and gifted at Christmas to my nephew Brandon.

Local long-arm quilter Sandy did a great job on the quilting.  She gave me several options and I chose one that I thought gave the impression of a rolling sea or splashing waves.

It turned out very nicely.  I finished the binding a week or so before Christmas and that was a wrap!

So that's what's been happening here behind the scenes, sewing wise.  

I had an issue with my computer in November and ended up buying a new one during the after-Thanksgiving sales.  Setting things up and bringing myself back up to speed seemed to take a bit more mental bandwidth than usual.  It had been almost 10 years since my last computer and many things had changed.  I allowed myself a little more grace and time to get things switched over and definitely felt like the proverbial old dog learning new tricks.

(Temporary setup on the dining room table during the switchover)

One thing I'm still working on is learning different photo editing software, since the one I had been using on my old computer hasn't been supported for several years, and I felt like I needed to explore other options.  So far I've downloaded GIMP, but it seems pretty complicated for my needs, so I downloaded FastStone, which seems more user friendly.  I mostly do just simple editing for color and lighting correction, cropping, straightening, resizing, and watermarking.  Yesterday, after watching way too many YouTube videos on both programs, I was finally able to create a watermark in GIMP that I can use in FastStone (yes, I needed both programs to do that one simple thing...ugh). 

What do you use for photo editing, resizing, etc., and do you like it?