Thursday, July 2, 2015

Life-Changing Moments

In the past 5 years, I have given/thrown away over half of the things I owned. I have struggled all my life with "stuff"...mainly having too much of it due to emotional attachment or because I would "need it someday".

About 5 years ago I discovered minimalism and it really did change my life. I finally had the permission I needed to let things go. I sent car load after car load to be donated. I felt really good. My long ignored items were going to find new homes with people who would use them and love them. In the past 5 years I have not missed one item I gave away nor have I needed to replace anything.

When Ian and I moved to a small apartment in the city two years ago, I culled my stuff again. We needed to fit a two story house (with full basement and 2-car garage) into 6 rooms with no storage or garage.

I gave away at least three mini-van's worth of stuff. And we made, like, $60 selling our books at Half-Priced Books...so you know that was A LOT of books.

After we moved in, it took us about 6 months to find homes for everything. I gave away more stuff. Finally, everything had a home and we were happy.

And then, we weren't. Slowly, things got cluttered. I tried rearranging closets, cupboards, my studio. And that would help for a bit. But then the clutter would come back. And Ian and I would start to feel annoyed.

Ian tries to write and feels blocked. I try to sew and feel frustrated. We have no room, and yet there is nothing left to get rid of.

And so, feeling desperate and trapped, I culled my fabric stash. I took out every piece that wasn't "me" anymore. And it felt good.

A day or two later, I saw this book recommended on a few blogs: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.

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I'm about 1/3 of the way through and I'm surprised to find that my desperate fabric stash decluttering is exactly what a lot of people do when they're frustrated with their lives. But once the crisis has passed, they stop. I stopped. I felt better and that was that.

Only, that feeling doesn't last forever. I will feel it again, I didn't actually solve anything. I didn't fix my clutter problem.

I love this book more than any minimalist blog or book I've read. Why? Because this book teaches you to declutter forever...in one pass. Not a little every day, not "put it in a box and if you haven't opened it in a year, give it away". Just this: "Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle."

Reset my life? You have no idea how freeing that is, especially for someone who has so many different hobbies. I am free to be the person I am now, to keep only the things I love and use now. Like the fabric I liked but didn't love. I never thought to get rid of it because who gives away fabric? It's useful, it's pretty much my life. But at the end of the day, it's just fabric. I can get rid of it if it doesn't bring me joy. That is the whole point of quilting, isn't it? To bring me happiness?

And what about my beading supplies and sewing patterns and thread and yarn...it never occurred to me to go through those boxes. Because, honestly, my life now (and the life I've been leading for quite some time) does not really involve making or wearing jewelry or sewing from patterns. So, why do I have all the stuff?

Why do I have so many dresses if I never wear dresses? Why do I have a million embroidery hoops if I don't like to embroider? I know it's because I LIKE dresses and I LIKE embroidery...but that's a totally different thing, isn't it?

Why have I never thought of this before?

And so, before I start (continue?) to ramble, I will just say this: if you are frustrated in your own home/studio and you have cluttered surfaces or closets that are packed full and you want to do something about it, really DO something...read this book. I'm so inspired and can't wait to wake up early tomorrow and get to work. Poor Ian...he's going to be so scared!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Birthday Girl

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It's my birthday today! For lunch I'm having a picnic with friends from work and later, Ian is cooking Tofu Tikka Masala...a new-to-us tofu version of the recipe that Alicia likes. I, like Alicia, am obsessed with making our Indian dishes taste EXACTLY like they do at the Indian restaurant that we used to go to all the time before we moved. So far, close but not quite. But maybe this is THE recipe? Maybe this will make all my dreams come true? I think Ian is feeling the pressure but I'm not worried. Each time we're one step closer. Last time we made our own paneer!

I put together a birthday fabric bundle at Hawthorne Threads...a lot of Cotton + Steel prints and some other coordinating fabrics. For the past few weeks, I've been obsessed with the color combination of mint, peach, mustard and navy. I've never been obsessed with any of those colors before...this is so weird and new!

I also bought a yard of Picnic Basket in Blue by Melody Miller. I'm going to make a Jane Market Bag just for picnics this summer. Oh yes, that is happening!

In other birthday-related news, my friend Sara sent me three knitting patterns by Martina Behm. I love ALL her patterns and I'm so excited to add these to my collection. I'm not sure which I'll start first...they'll all make lovely and wearable shawls. I already have a few skeins of yarn in mind. Thank you again, Sara!

What a lovely day!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Catching Up, But Slowly

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Summer is here. It's hot and humid and I'm moving slowly. Everything feels damp. The cats sleep all the time.

Summer is good for cross-stitching. Sitting in front of the fan, coffee in the morning, lemonade in the afternoon. I'm finishing up my Winterwoods sampler that I started three years ago. I am not a very diligent stitcher. I really only want to do it when I'm stressed or on hot, lazy, summer afternoons. It just so happens that early summer is our busy time at work and I have been stressed out! It's a nice escape, this cross-stitch. Just x after x, filling in the spaces. No decisions, no schedule, no deadline...just x after tiny x.

Also, when I feel stressed, I like to finish up projects, get rid of things, organize my sewing room. I like that little bit of control, that accomplishment, however small. And so, I went through my last two scrap bins (green and pink/orange) and cut more 4.5" squares for my great grandma quilt. Cutting these squares makes lots of strips which I have been using in various ways. Strips smaller than 1.5" wide go in one bin, the larger strips go in another.

I also went through my fabric stash and pulled out every single fabric that isn't really "me" anymore. I still like them all, in one way or another...but they are the ones that just never seem to get used. So, I used them and it felt really good!

Most were fat quarters and I cut a 13" square out of each to use as backing for my quilt as you go log cabin blocks. The leftover strips went into their respective bins. Selvedges went into the selvedge bin.

Half yard cuts were turned into drawstring bags for gifts. Most of these were wintery fabrics that I'll use for holiday gifts this year.

Full yard cuts...well, I never got around to cutting these up because I just didn't know what to do with them. Market bags? Pillowcases? Quilt backs? Binding? I've set these aside for now.

One last bit of organization: I bought another project bag from Knottygnome Crafts because I need one of these bags for every knitting project I'm working on. They are THE perfect bags! Sara's next shop update is Monday, July 6 @9am EDT. I'm hoping for a Heather Ross strawberry print bag. I need one!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Orphan Block Project: Hilda's Blocks

Today's orphan blocks are from Hilda. Hilda is awesome! She mostly makes quilts for newly diagnosed diabetic children, newborn to teens. She accepts blocks and tops from other quilters and then finishes them to donate. What a lot of work! But what a great way to help these kids.

Hilda sent blocks that she made from gifted fabric...fabric that is way outside of what she usually uses. And when they were completed, they just didn't speak to her. So she sent them (and also some extra fabric) to me and I'm really happy she did.

Because, you see: these fabrics are way outside of what I usually use too. The blocks are lovely...I love the star pattern and the asterisks and the woven blocks...but the fabrics are just so not "me".

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And that's okay. I'm really enjoying discovering beauty in quilt blocks that are different from mine and appreciating the specialness of something someone else made.

I'm tempted to make a quilt with all these blocks together...they match so well and there's lots I could do with the extra fabric Hilda sent.

On the other hand, I'm tempted to try to turn these blocks into something more "me". Like, make similar blocks in different fabrics and try to make them "go" together? Or cut them up somehow? I don't really like the sound of that, though. Is it even possible to turn these blocks into something more "me"? Is that disrespectful to them? They clearly have a personality, a mood...should I enhance it or try to change it?

I feel it's more respectful to keep them as-is. Plus, there are lots of quilts I like that have a more subdued color pallet. But the challenge to make them seem different is appealing. What are your opinions on this?

Thank you for these blocks, Hilda! They are definitely giving me a lot to think about and adding quite a bit of fun to this project!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Orphan Block Project: Batik + Curves

While I was waiting for more orphan blocks to arrive, I decided to try out my curvy batik block idea. Lynda sent six of these blocks which will be more than enough to make an entire improv quilt top.

Lynda's Blocks for Orphan Block Project

I went through my stash to find solids that would look good with Lynda's bright fabrics. I found a few blues and also added grey for contrast. I was originally thinking about a super light blue background but I love the inspiration quilt so much that I decided to go with white.

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Lynda's blocks are rectangles with straight sides. I wanted the new blocks to have at least one curvy side so I removed one or two curves from each block and replaced them with a strip of the background fabric. The curves I removed will be sewn to a background fabric and will become new blocks/improv pieces.

This is my very first curved seam ever:

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I used this tutorial from Red Pepper Quilts and it worked like a charm!

Once I had the curves swapped out, I trimed the block to be square-ish and added background fabric to the other sides. The leftover pieces became smaller square blocks.

Here's where I left things...what do you think?

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Monday, June 15, 2015

The Orphan Block Project: Anna's Blocks

Today's blocks came from the lovely Anna. Anna loves bright and saturated colors, black and white included. She also owns a darling etsy shop where she sells some really neat quilts and pillow covers!

Anna sent a wide variety of blocks...Alturas blocks hand appliqued on linen:

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...fused applique:

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...traditional piecing (from her 16 patch quilt and Chevron and On quilt):

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...and freezer-paper pieced Polaris Stars:

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Really great blocks, right? I love that the blocks were all sewn with different techniques. So far, the variety of styles and techniques have exceeded my expectations. It's been fun to see how other people sew, what fabric they choose, what blocks and styles they like. I guess that was (obviously) going to be part of the fun but I didn't really think about that aspect until now.

Thank you Anna!

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Orphan Block Project: Lynda's Blocks

The first orphan blocks I received for this project were from Lynda who lives in Washington (jealous!!). She has an enormous fabric stash (again, jealous!) and makes lots of quilts to keep, to give away and as shop samples for a quilt shop in Alaska.

Lynda likes to experiment with different styles and lately really likes more modern designs. She's not into 30's prints, fabric with food on it or darker prints but she does like to work with solids and batiks.

Lynda's block are really neat and all very different from each other. Two of her orphan blocks came from her Pezzy quilt:

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This one is her first attempt at piecing a star using leftovers. She thinks this one is a fail but I really like it!

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She even sent leftovers from the project she was working on that day. These batik triangles are really neat! I've always wanted to try something with triangles. I've never used batik in a quilt before so incorporating these will be a fun challenge.

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Lynda also sent six of these curved improv blocks. Can you believe that this is her first attempt at sewing curves? Can you believe that she sent them to ME?

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I just have to take a moment to say this: I truly feel that when someone makes something for the first time, that thing is as special as a unicorn. I mean, that thing represents the first time someone tried a new technique or worked in a different medium. That's such an amazing thing! And to be the recipient of that special something is a great honor. That is how I feel when I look at these blocks: honored.

Lynda had planned to cut these blocks into strips to make a pick up stick quilt but then got busy with other projects. I can totally relate.

After pondering these curvy blocks this week, I think I'd like to put them together in an improv style quilt, something like this maybe. But with curves...somehow. I've never tried sewing curves before but I'm inspired by Lynda to try.

I'm not sure what I'll do with the other blocks yet. I'm waiting until I get a few more packages in the mail. Then I'll have lots of blocks and can see how they all inspire me. Thank you again, Lynda!!