Friday, December 19, 2014

Scraps or Crap? A Leftovers Dilemma

Arrgh - can't sleep so I might as well write the blog that's been rolling around my brain all week.  I want to share an idea I have gotten recently about which I am extremely proud and excited not because I'm certain it is so original, but because it is a solution to a problem I've had for a while and I'm excited about it.

You see, there are a couple of things I find challenging about being organized in my studio. One of those things is scraps, which have always been a bit of a thorn in my side.  Scraps have annoyed me because I seem to lose all logic in the face of them - I cannot seem to apply the obvious solutions, which are to donate them or to offer them to the local quilt guild. I'm not sure why these perfectly excellent solutions aren't happening, I can only say that I seem to have an unnatural attachment them and what they MIGHT become while at the same time, I hate how disorganized they are and how much space they take up in my studio most of the time when I'm not using them.  I know that there are many people who really, really use their scraps all the time.  I just don't seem to be one of them.  So there they sit all fat and wrinkled and fat, and yes, I admit, I've actually thrown a bunch on my burn pile once. But the guilt of that decision is still with me, so I won't do it again - I promise.

Then, too there is the defining of scrap - I mean, how small does a scrap have to be before it is time to throw it away?  Or is it wrong to throw any fabric away, no matter how small? And what, size-wise, is a scrap as opposed to a piece of material that should go back into my stash?  I don't want to have to wade through a bunch of small bits of fabric when I need a large one but I don't really have room for a bunch of smaller bins so all my scraps go into the same bag, which makes them messy, wrinkled and irritating...unless I find the perfect scrap when I need it which makes me happy and glad I saved it.   

In my scrap bags there are several different kinds scraps.  There are fabrics I have used in several projects that are still somewhat sizeable - maybe around a fat quarter's worth or bigger.  I don't want to use them again, but I cannot in good conscience throw them away because they are large-ish.  The second kinds of scraps are bits of material that I love so much I that I cannot bear to throw even the tiniest bit of it away because I would like to use it again, but the scraps are really pretty small, so why am I saving them?   Also in there are irregularly shaped pieces that had weird shapes cut out of them, but aren't necessarily small, just misshapen (Aren't all scraps misshapen, you might ask - yeah, but some are more odd than others). Then there's stuff I got for a specific piece that I don't have any further use for at the moment (the moment lasting about four years) but who knows, I may have use for it at a later date (although I doubt it, but still, you never know).

Again let me point out that while I'm aware of them,  I have emotional difficultly applying the obvious solutions, which even in the middle of the night make perfect instead I came up with this idea:

I have decided to cut them all into squares. At least as many of them as I can. When I am cutting for a new project, I am vowing to spend up to half an hour extra cutting the leftovers (unless there is more than a fat quarter) into squares.The squares at this point will range from six inches to one and a half inches.  Why squares, you might say...why not strips? Well, strips may be easier and faster to cut, but strips are difficult to keep from getting messy and wrinkled, whereas squares are much easier to store neatly in baggies.  And squares are very versatile, too.  A larger square can be easily turned into a different shape - a circle, a half-square triangle, a hexagon, etc.  And when I want to do a quick easy project with by nieces or nephew or a charity project, I will have squares at the ready and I/we don't have to spend so much time cutting.  I just really like the idea of having a bunch of cut up squares that I can use - whenever.  I will put them in baggies not according to color, I think, but by size.  It may make sense at a later date to do color, too, but I'll revisit that if I have to.

It will be a discipline, I know, because usually when I am cutting fabrics I am all hot and heavy to get started on the project, but hey, it's good for me to add discipline into my life wherever I can - builds character, right?  But I also think I will be glad I did it.  

Now the big question for me is what do I do with my current scrap bag?  I'm tempted to just dump it at the donation center, but I think instead I am going to go through it, pull out fabrics I like want to save and cut them into squares.  Ambitious - yes I suppose it is, but I can stubborn and single-minded when I want to be.  Whatever is left will be donated,period.  No debating with myself. 

And from now on, a new rule: in order for me to save a piece of fabric, meaning put it back into my bins, it must be at least fat-quarter sized or larger, and I must really, really like it and know that I will use it again.  If there are smallish bits that I like, I will cut it into the largest possible squares.  If I think I won't use it again, no matter how large or how lovely, I will donate it.  And I vow to donate at least every other month, that way I won't have such a large amount of stuff taking up space in my studio. And annoying me. 

While I'm at it, I'm also going to donate a bunch of things my excellent mother, who was gadget-addicted, bought.  I haven't used them in four years, so the odds are that I won't ever.  And someone else might.  It's hard to part with them for the same reason it's hard to part with scraps - you never know when they might come in handy...and, well, my mother bought them and they remind me of her...but the truth is that I like to work in a more organized space than I have at the moment.  Mother, I'm certain, understands this.  

Like I said, I am probably way late to the party - many people may already be doing exactly this, but I'm still excited about it and want to share it in case it helps anyone else who might have my weird scrap issues  (Hey, I may be late, but at least I've finally arrived!)

So I'm curious - what are your scrap solutions -what works for you, because I know everyone is different.  Please share with the group, now - you never know who you might be helping...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Have Been Obsessed!

Last week I started a new piece, and I have literally been obsessed with it for seven days and nights.   I'm not exaggerating - I actually woke up in the middle of the night Sunday and couldn't sleep for thinking about it, so I got up and worked on it for three hours.  Last night I planned to go to bed early because I was so exhausted, but I went back to my studio after dinner at around 7:30 instead, thinking I just had two more rows to sew and then I  could rest happy in the knowledge that I had finished and I would still get to bed early.  I think I got it together by 8:30 or so - great!  I was still on track to go to bed early EXCEPT....I wasn't happy with the offset effect (unfortunately I was too delirious, so I didn't think to take a picture) but instead of a half-frame, which was what I wanted, I had a cross in the corner, which I didn't care for at all.  I asked my husband to come up and look at it, and expressed my dissatisfaction.  He said "I like it the way it is," but let's face it, he was lying because he just wanted me to GET OVER IT!  But I couldn't.  It just wasn't right.  So at 9:00, after getting prepped for bed, I went back into my studio.  I decided to just rip off the bottom rows (two of them), flip them and then I was certain I could relax and go to sleep.

But once I got there I couldn't stop  - I was too hyped up - I just knew I wouldn't be able to sleep if I went to bed then, I needed to see what it was going to look like...I decided to only figure out the changes I needed to make - what squares I needed to add or take off, etc.  Naturally, because I am spatially challenged, it took me over an hour. All that was left was to sew it all together.  I really, really wanted to, but it was 11:30 and I was cross-eyed tired and making pretty much a mistake every two minutes, so I grudgingly went to bed.  I was able to fall asleep serenely knowing that it was all laid out and all I had to do was put it together.

Of course I woke up in the middle of the night and guess what I couldn't stop thinking about?  I tried counting sheep, but they turned into rainbow colored squares!  I was awake at least two hours, during which time I really really wanted to get up and finish, but I didn't because I knew I was too tired to do a good job sewing.

At 6:00 am this morning, however, I popped up to pee, and the squares danced in my head, so I gave in and finally, finally got the thing put together.  Hooray.  I love it now and

I can't wait to start quilting it....

Friday, December 12, 2014

These are not my pillows....

But I wish they were....

They were made to go with a wall hanging and the bed runner that is behind them in the photo.  

I am not a pillow maker - especially round pillows. So when someone asked me to make round pillows with piping, I almost said no.  But I'm so glad I didn't, because I learned a lot, and I enjoyed making them, and they turned out great.  

It just goes to show, one should try new things sometimes. Because you never know what you can do until you try it. .

However, sometimes one should know when to quit!

This morning, I set a goal for myself.  Finish the fourth pillow (it didn't make the picture), exercise, go to town and run errands, complete five more rows on my current project and write at least one of the blogs that has been running around in my head all week before we go to a play tonight. (At the time, it seemed pretty doable).

It started out to be a great day.  I was humming along, making great progress.  Then I hit a little snag... I really, really lost my cool. Again.

 I won't go into my ridiculous behavior, but allow me to set the table:  I've been quite excited to get going on this piece.  I finally got all the pieces organized and was ready to start sewing on Thursday.  I had a few little hitches, and I was a little crabby, but I was able to calm down, figure it out, and get five whole rows done.  And I loved it - it was looking so fabulous!  I decided because it is kind of an intense project that I would only sew five rows a day together (there are 21 rows in all).  That way I would not get bored or frustrated.  

Today, after finishing the pillow, I could hardly wait to get started on my five more rows.  The first three rows went together like a dream.  I was really enjoying myself, and I really thought I had gotten the hang of the pattern.  So much so, that when I got to the fourth row, I didn't really look at my sketch, I just pulled the squares and started sewing. What a disaster.  I had sewn them all backwards (or so I thought). 

Looking at my phone and seeing time was running out and I hadn't met my five-row goal, I got pretty annoyed and started muttering (and let's be honest, cursing) and berating myself. I should have stopped sewing right then. I thought about it, but I didn't.  I tried to calm myself down while I ripped every single one apart, but I was getting more and more annoyed.  Still, I kept on sewing,making more mistakes, getting more and more upset.  In the back of my head I kept saying,"Just stop, just stop - so what if you don't meet your goal," but I didn't stop.  

Finally I was able to get the whole fourth row completed.  Hooray - I was going to make my goal after all!  Happy and calm again, I carefully matched up the seams and sewed it to my already completed three rows.   And yep, I had sewed it completely upside down!  All the squares I thought I had sewn wrong in the first place were actually right. I hadn't consulted my sketch and so I did it all wrong.  Needless to say, I was not a picture of calm happy quilter at this moment.  (I forgot my husband was downstairs, so please don't ask him what i said - PLEASE!)  Suddenly I realized how ridiculous I was being and I started to laugh.  Who cares if I don't meet my goal, really nothing matters that much.  In the calm after my storm I made myself take it all apart, and then I ironed the squares and put them on my machine for next time.

I admit, I feel pretty discouraged that I still lose my cool like that.  I have been striving and striving to NOT do it - meditating, praying, exercising but I still do, and it makes me feel so - deflated.  Maybe that's why I feel compelled to confess it so publicly on this blog.  I know no one is perfect, and believe me, I'm not striving for perfection.  I just want to NOT lose my temper.  I want to listen to the voice in the back of my head when it waves it arms and screams "WARNING! WARNING!"  

Alas, today's experience tells me I still have a quite far to go before I reach that goal.  If I ever do.  But I'm going to forgive myself; I'm not going to use the fact that I feel like I'm never going to be the way I want to be as an excuse to stop trying, even in the face of extreme frustration. I'm going to try again and again and again...and again, if I have to.  

Because I forgot for a few moments that it's all about the journey, not the destination. (Guess the universe thought I needed some reminding.)   

I heard this quote by Ariana Huffington.  She said "Mistakes are not the opposite of success. They are just steps along the way."  

I guess I should be grateful for what happened today - is was an opportunity.  I missed it, but thanks anyway, universe!  Hopefully I won't miss it next time...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hey Jude - Let it Be!

Have no fear of'll never reach it. 
                                                                     Salvador Dali

Just reading a blog by Amy Garro at 13 Spools talking about a mistake in a quilt.  It made me think,,,I don't believe there is a piece I've ever made that doesn't have a flaw in it somewhere! 

Not that I'm bragging, of course.  

My goal, absolutely, is perfection.  But so far, I've never been able to attain it.  And somewhere along the line I realized I would have to settle for the aspiration of perfection, but the reality of not-so perfect.

For example, yesterday I was finishing a commissioned piece that so far had gone really well.  I literally was putting the final touches on the quilting, and I could not get the thread to cooperate (metallic thread, enough said).  It didn't look horrible, but it wasn't - well, perfect.   After pulling out the stitching three times in one area, it was becoming clear to me that perhaps I was setting my standard too high.  I took a few deep breaths and decided that if the next time, if it was good enough, I would just leave it.  Unable to resist trying to fix it, I tweaked** it one more time, but (this is the key, here) I had already accepted that it wasn't going to be exactly the way I wanted it to be... as you may have guessed, this time, it worked just fine and it looked exactly the way I wanted! 

Wish I could say this happens all the time, but nope, it doesn't.  Sometimes, I really do have to live with imperfections in my work  -  because, Man! these things are handmade.  Most of the time I'm flying blind, I have an idea and a sketch and if there's a pattern I made it myself and well - I'm not a machine, I'm a person, and boy oh boy am I imperfect!

Don't get me wrong I still (desperately, intensely) want to make my quilts perfectly!  I mean, everyone else seems to, why can't I?  The answer, silly me, is that everyone else doesn't!  I just don't see their mistakes the way I see mine.  Or sometimes I do see mistakes, but it doesn't negate the beauty of the piece or even really impact it at all - they're just there. Or maybe they have made mistakes but have been able to "fix" them so they aren't noticeable. (I was absolutely liberated one time by my friend Karen Kemp telling me about some class she took where the lady, a reknowned artist, actually said she uses SHARPIE markers to correct mistakes.  Yep, your eyes are not deceiving you, I said SHARPIE!)  

Of course, my favorite mistakes are the ones that actually enhance the beauty, as in "Oops - I accidentally made this piece even better!"    It does happen on occasion, you know, what a boon!  That's one we pretend we did on purpose. ( wink, wink) "I meant to do that!". 

Having said this, I think everyone has a certain line of what is acceptable and what isn't. After re-doing the binding on one of my favorite pieces recently I somehow ended up with a bare spot where the batting wasn't covered on the back!  EEKS!  This is completely unacceptable.  I had to take the entire area of binding off (again) and add a piece of fabric to cover it.  Excellently, I don't think one could tell at all now where that happened, and I'm sure not telling, but the point is, it had to be fixed.  On a different piece, there is some very small quilting that didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it to, but I left it in.   It's white on white, and really not all that noticeable and it would damage the fabric to try to pull it out and I just don't want to, either.   Does it irk me?  I would be lying if I said it didn't, a little.  But the goal is to Let. It. Be.

I have a pact with myself that I will do everything I can possibly do to make my work as perfect as I possibly can. If there is something I think I can fix, I will try to do so. And - here's the challenge for me - I strive to be calm and positive while I do it, too, while I do it. It takes a lot of self talk sometimes.  It goes something like  this:

"OH &^#($@!  What the *&##%!?  How did that happen?"

"Remember Carrie, you are trying to do the best you can do - it's worth it to try to figure this out, now DON'T GET FRUSTRATED CARRIE!   If you are getting mad you have to stop NOW!"  

"But," whines my mind's I,  "I don't waaanna to stop!"

"Okay, then you will CALM DOWN!" (deep breath, deep breath) 

"Alright I'm calm, let's do this, bi-atch!"

As I've said before, I want to create with a happy, positive vibe with my art, and I believe that comes not just from the design, but from the attitude of the creator, too - to bring joy, it must be created with joy.  And that includes when something goes wrong, too.  (Which happens to me pretty much daily.)

So not only is my art a daily practice for being present, it's also a daily practice in tolerance. Because sometimes we can fix mistakes, sometimes we can cover them up and sometimes...well, sometimes, we just have to --


Here is a photo of the one with the bald spot - close up, even.  I think it's fine, except for the stuff sticking to the back of the quilt - need to get out my lint brush, methinks!

**I had been using clear monofilament as the bobbin thread, thinking it was the same consistency as the metallic, but I switched back to quilting thread and Viola!  Perfect stitches!