Organizing – Hitting the Wall

Things have been progressing well as I work through the assignments given by my professional organiser. Most of my things are sorted and some are put away. My space is starting to feel comfortable and usable. But I am hitting the wall. I hear the voice in my head saying ‘Isn’t this good enough? Do you really have any more time to waste on this?’
I look at my almost organised space, and at the 9 crates with incomplete projects from the last few weeks and I realise that I have been using the chaos and my habitual lack of finishing as a shield. As the reason for not operating at full power, for not putting my work out there to be judged. Once the chaos is tamed there will be no more excuses.

Yesterday I posted on scoutie girl that passion is scary and overwhelming.  I think that is because of how I am feeling right now, in this project.  I have gotten to this point, organizing myself so many times, and given up.  But this time I have back up.  I know if I want to finish this time I need to call Claudia for help.  She told me at the start that people are never disorganized because they are lazy.  That there is always a good reason.  I guess I just found mine. 

Is getting organised going to make me a better artist?

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Tulip Field Quilt

As I am slogging away at reorganising my space (yes still at that), I have been unearthing a lot of unfinished quilts.  I tend to jump around between projects mostly when I get tired of piecing, bored, hit a problem, get a new idea, well pretty much for any reason at all. 

However I didn’t realise I had such a major problem.  I discovered 10 different projects that I have been working on in the last month!  Needless to say this was a bit disheartening, so I stopped and finished one.

  It took me a grand total of 2 hours to finish this quilt, photograph it and list it for sale .

I started this quilt after my dad sent me a link to pictures of Dutch tulip fields, the amazing surreal stripes of colour across the landscape begged to put into a quilt, I immediately ran out to my dye station and dyed the fabrics.  As soon as they were ready to use I dived right in.  I quit when the quilting wasn’t going right.  If you look closely you can see it has a quilted motif of tulips.  When I sat down to finish it up I loosened up the shape of the buds, and it just clicked.

So now I only have 9 current works in progress, but I know most of them are only needing a few hours work, and that makes it seem so much more doable.

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A Crafty Tool Belt Tutorial

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my largest problems in the organization of my studio space is the constant misplacing of hand tools.  The solution is blindingly obvious, a quilters tool belt.  Of course this is not restricted to quilting.  If you move from place to place in your work space, and have small hand tools that need to travel with you, then a tool belt is a great idea.    For me (and I bet most of you too) a standard premade apron was not what I needed.  I wanted specific pockets/holsters for each hand tool I carry, not just the usual tools carried by someone who makes quilts. 

Lucky for me my abilities tend toward sewing, so I custom-made my own.  If you can sew  (you don’t need to be a master seamstress, if you can sew a straight line and make a hem you can probably do this) use this tutorial to create your own custom tool belt. If you don’t sew or don’t have the time right now, I would love to make one for you.

Firstly, gather all the tools you want to carry.  I had to think about this a bit, and mentally go through the motions of a project.  These items are the ones you reach for constantly, and are used in different places.  Depending on how you work you may find it convenient to carry small components as well.

I decided to add an item I hadn’t used previously, the index cards.  This is because one of my current disorganisation problems is that I write notes on random scraps of paper, and then lose them.  Adding the index cards to the belt is part of my larger reorganization.

So anyway you get the idea.  After figuring out exactly what I was going to carry, I laid it all out and took measurements, and decided where to place each item on the belt for easy access.  This is naturally going to be different for each person, but here are some guidelines. 

  • For pens, pencils and similarly shaped items I allow 1 1/4″ width per pen. 
  • For scissors I used a holster loop, rather than trying to fit them in a pocket. 
  • Make the pockets a bit shorter than the items, so you can grab the bit that sticks out, instead rummaging in a pocket.  (the one exception was my tape, which would fall out if I stored it that way)
  • For items with a bit of thickness I add that to the pocket width.   For instance, my calculator is 3″ wide and 1/2″ thick, so I made the pocket for it 4″ wide. 
  • Put each item where it is easiest to grab,  being right-handed I put scissors and pens on my right hip.  I hold an index card or calculator in my left hand when using them, so I put these items on my left side.   
  • Lesser used items can be in the middle, with the more frequently used items getting the prime hip real estate.
  • I decided a magnetic pin cushion was the best way for me to carry pins.  You may find carrying them on a wrist pin cushion more convenient.
  • Cluster similar shaped items together, into one large pocket, but divide it with lines of vertical stitch.  (see the photo with the pens at the top for an example)

Once I had all my pocket sizes and locations figured out I was ready to actually construct the apron/tool belt.  I had some pieces of linen from another project and  I added some bits of lace and rickrack as well as some 3 1/2″ patchwork squares that I found. 

I used the pocket sizes as well as my own body measurements to decide the sizes of the main apron panel and the belt.  For belt take your measurement at the place you want the apron to tie (waist or hip or somewhere in between).  Add 30″ for tying. (I only added 20 and need to add more because it is not quite enough).  Width 4″.  press all edges in 1/2″.  Fold in half lengthwise, with the good side out.

For the main panel length I measured myself from the farthest back on my hip I was comfortable reaching, around to the same point on the other side, the width was the height of the tallest pocket + 3″.  I decorated the panel with rickrack, lace and a strip of patchwork squares, and turned the bottom and sides under and sewed them.

Cut the pocket patches, (adding 3/4″ to length and width for hems).  Turn under all the sides around 1/4″, or a bit more (I just kind of eyeballed it).  Sew across the top edge, then pin onto the main panel and sew around the other three sides.  Mark and sew the dividing lines if needed.

Find the center of the apron panel, and the belt strip.    Carefully insert the main panel into the folded belt and pin along the length.  Now sew along the 3 open sides of the belt 1/4″ from the edge, making sure that the apron panel is sewn into it. 

Lastly add scissor holsters.  I made my own 1″ fabric tape, but you can use purchased tape if you prefer.  Measure the scissors just below the finger holes, add about an inch for overlap.  Sew the edges of the tape together, and then pin it to the bottom edge of the apron.  Sew it in place.

Your apron is complete!  I have found that as an unexpected side benefit, the act of putting on my tool belt helps me mentally switch into work mode.  I would love know how this works out for others, so please let me know, links to pictures of your finished apron/tool belt would be great too.

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Getting Organized. Step 1

view of my studio from dining room

Today I had a formal consult with a professional organizer.  I was surprisingly nervous considering that  she is a good friend who has helped me out in my home many times, but this is different.  It is my studio.  I have a certain fear that if everything is changed I will lose  my creativity.  But it wasn’t scary at all.  Claudia had me think about  the steps I take and what I do at each station in my studio.  She targeted my major problem areas and then we brainstormed possibilities for solving each problem.  I have been thinking about this for a few days and had some big ideas.  She unceremoniously cut them down to size, and made me focus on the immediate instead of the long-term.  (she kept telling me ‘don’t worry about that yet.  It will be obvious once your workspace is functional.’) We came up with this list.

Problem 1.  Fabric is everywhere, my storage system is obviously not working

Problem 2. I have UFO’s (UnFinished Objects) scattered around and mixed in with my fabrics.  I tend to jump from project to project and loose pieces and notes in the chaos so finishing projects becomes less and less attractive.

Problem 3. I can never keep track of my small hand tools, like scissors, unpicker etc.  Or even if I know exactly where it is, it is on the other side of the room, and I waste a lot of time retracing my steps.

Problem 4. Paperwork is never properly filed, add this to my tendency to sketch, take notes and make calculations for cutting and yardage on any handy scrap of paper, and I have a giant pile of paper sitting in a basket with no idea what most of it is for.

Over the next few days I will be tackling these problems one by one, and discussing the solutions my organizer suggested and what I end up with.  I feel like I am on the edge of getting this figured out and I am actually pretty excited.  I am committed to getting this done before sewing another order (luckily I don’t have any due this week or next!).

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Little Boxes Block Tutorial

I Saw this great cubby unit on Papernstitch yesterday and the arrangement of squares and rectangles were so intriguing that I had to make a quilt block out of it.

I started out by choosing 4 fabrics, and cutting some 2 1/2″ strips, and  4 1/2″ squares.

This is the layout I came up with.

It looked pretty bland, so after taking another look at my inspiration I decided to add a white strip between each piece.  Of course this raised a technical issue.  Because of the varied sizes of the blocks I need to cut down the pieces to fit the sashing in.  Also to piece the blocks easily I couldn’t have the long strip in the top center.  But with a little tweaking I figured it all out.

So, here is your cut list.

Cut two or three pieces from each fabric

3x 4 1/4″x4 1/4″

2x 2 1/4″x2 1/4″

2x 2 1/4″x4 1/4″

1x 2 1/4″x6 1/4″

1x 2 1/4″x7 1/4″ (this is the strip for the top middle)  cut this strip down into three pieces, a 4 1/4, a 3/4 and a 2 1/4, cut them in  that order so they go together well when they are joined back together.  Set aside the 3/4 piece for later, and insert the other two pieces into the layout.

2x strips 3/4″ wide of white 

Lay out your block.  It will not line up at this point, so don’t be concerned.

Start by piecing the most basic units. 

Make sure you press the seams away from the white sashing, otherwise it will get really bulky.

Assemble the units into larger units until you have two halves.  Now comes the tricky bit.  I was not willing to give up the look of the large strip at the top, so I faked it.  Get the 3/4″ piece that was set aside earlier, and sew it to one end of the white sashing.  Press the seam toward the white.

Carefully pin the strip in place so the seams line up, and sew, do the same for the other side.

Done!  If you want you can add an additional piece of white sashing around the outside. 

This is a somewhat fiddly block, but well within the reach of anyone who has been quilt for a while.  Just take your time and don’t be afraid to take out stitches and do it again to get it right.  Please let me know if you have any problems following this, and send links of your versions.

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February Goals

Already a 12th of the way through the year!  January has been a good month for me to evaluate where my business is going, and to make plans.  This month I am focused on getting all the old business from last year wrapped up so I can move on my goals for this year.  specifically

Continue with my stash reduction project from January.  Things are going well!

Get all my tax paperwork in order  and to the accountant, and get all my old paperwork filed.

Now that I am beginning to make inroads on my stash I see a clear need to overhaul the way I have been storing my supplies.   I will be working with a friend who is a Professional Organiser to figure out how I function in my workspace, and store things accordingly. ( I will be blogging about that for sure!)

Get my new designs finalised and available to purchase.

 I have one other goal that I have been procrastinating on for a while.  I want to find one or two local stores to wholesale to.  I plan on going to visit some of the higher end beach communities and browse though some stores to find some that seem like a good fit, and then approach them  about wholesale for the summer.

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Adventures In Dyeing

I have decided to enter the Project Modern Challenge 2.  And I am finding it more challenging than expected (no pun intended). 

The challenge is to make a quilt composed of only one colour, in all it’s varying shades and tones.  The different layouts I come up with seem to have a lack, that I know I could easily fix, with the addition of a neutral or contrasting fabric.  But finding a solution that is within the colour family is far more difficult.  So I decided to dye a piece of fabric the palest shade of teal blue (the colour I have chosen), to use as negative space in the quilt.  Easier said than done!

I am a relatively new fabric dyer of about six months, but I lean heavily on my background as a wood finisher, where I would routinely custom match the colours of existing woodwork something that you had to do by eye, as the underlying colour of the wood always varied.  Meaning that I mix by eye, and don’t write much down.   So I couldn’t remember how much I needed to water down blue dye to get a super pale shade.  I decided, quite arbitrarily, to go with one cup of full strength dye in 14 cups of water.  It looked okay when the fabric when in, and I swirled it around for a minute and put it in a bag to set.  I went to check on my kids in the back yard for a minute and came back to empty the dye tub, and it already looked darker!  Now the main ingredient in the dye was turquoise, which is supposed to take 24 hours to reach full strength.  So immediately into the rinse water it went.  I think that may be a record for shortest dye setting time. 

After washing and drying it is a relatively light shade, but not the pastel I was looking for.  It looks to homogenous with the prints I have chosen.  Fortunately in my panic I had forgotten to dump the dye, so I poured most of it out, added a lot more water, and dyed a new piece. 

End result: I now have a the correct shade, and matching backing several shades darker, and I still have no idea of what proportions I need to make a nice pastel.  I just know it is a lot more than 1:14

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