Sunday, November 16, 2014

Being a Swap Mama

I'm in my third round of the Schnitzel & Boo Mini Swap (it just started) & my second round as a swap mama for it. However, before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to provide a little background.

This swap, originated and run by Kristi over at Schnitzel & Boo, is partly responsible for all my swap sign ups to date and is directly responsible for my volunteering as swap mama.Twice. I enjoyed the large group of people to follow, seeing their creations and listening to their buzz about the ups and downs of trying to make for partners they've never met. I shared in every one of those experiences in one way or another and I made new InstaGram friends and widened the number people I stalk (I mean, follow and praise!) greatly. :)

All that said when I went into round 2 of the the S&B swap, I put on my answers that I would help as a swap mama and lo and behold, a swap mama I became. WHAT A RIDE! 

(One more note before I forget, Karri over at Karri of Berries has a great post on being a swap participant. Give it a read. I've been guilty of one or two things on that list that I shouldn't do (like "I like everything") but mostly, it's a helpful guideline to get you thinking about answers for the next swap you sign up for.)

You might think being a mama is just checking in with your group of participants here and there and kind of keeping track of their progress and you are right.  It also means being organized (honestly, I don't remember yesterday so remembering who was on my list and who they were making for was always a blur).  For me, organization meant knowing how to read my excel spreadsheet that contained the makers and all their information as well as the receivers and all the answers to the swap questions! It meant knowing where everyone was in the process. Were they on track to finish on time, did they send their mini, did they receive their mini?  It meant answering questions along the way by participants and helping them get more info from the recipient if the maker was having difficulty finding much (some folks are less active on social media).  It also meant keeping track of people who had to drop out or those who did not receive a mini and being sure a Swap Angel was assigned and then that mini was made and received.  There were more, little things in this whole process but that's the gist.

I hated it.  Okay truth, only a teeny, tiny, itty, bitty part of me hated it. The part of me that felt unorganized and out of her depth at the beginning. But then, the part of me that gets a high off of organizing something, making a process and seeing it work, LOVED it.  I liked it so much so that I offered to be a mama again. I'm taking what I learned the first time around, applying it to this round and trusting that it will work so I have little fear of being stressed over this. 

So, if you are ever thinking about being a swap mama, here are some things that work as best practices for me. Modify them, make them your own. We aren't robots and what works for me is not always going to work for everyone else but I'm posting this just to consider, more of an FYI.

What works for me?
  1. Get ORGANIZED - Take the excel list sent with the detailed information & make a new sheet that contains the only info I really need in my quick searches. Add a couple columns for action items such as, confirmed partner received, mailed date, received date, etc.  
  2. RECORD my interactions with my group on the spreadsheet. For example, if Sally tells me she's travelling for work and will be mailing on the 20th instead of the 16th b/c she didn't have a chance to finish binding before she left, I can record it in a comment column and let her partner Jane know that it's mailing a couple days late (also recording by Jane's name). Between work and home life, I won't remember if I told Jane so noting that helps me.
  3. USE the resources available to you. I often screen shot my IG notification feed so I don't miss something I'm tagged on if I can't respond to it right away.  I also use the folders in my email. When I've responded to something, I will file the emails into the folder. That way, only the emails that I still need to act on are in my inbox.
  4. COMMUNICATE proactively with my group. If mail dates are arriving, I will ask my group to check in on how they are doing.  I'm a last minute worker so I tend to think a reminder of an upcoming deadline is a good thing.
  5. Be POSITIVE and PATIENT.  I can usually manage the first one but the second is a little more difficult some days.  I always try to remind myself that while I may be fielding 1600 questions at once, the person asking me one question does not know that and if it takes me 3 days to respond, she's likely feeling her ask has been overlooked or ignored and is reaching out to others. What to do? Figure out your reasonable response time. for me, I like to try to answer IG requests within a couple of hours. That is reasonable for my schedule but email takes longer.  If I know I wont be able to answer quickly, I at least try to respond quickly and give the person asking a time frame in which I will provide an answer.  You have no idea how quickly stress can be reduced for me and the person needing an answer, by taking a moment to do that.   
  6. TALK with the other mamas.  If you aren't sure something is going right or have questions about how you are handling things, ask the other mamas.  Because we are all different, they have invaluable input. Sometimes, you just need to let a little vent out so you can go back to being #4. Other times, the mamas will also help you stay on track with communications to your groups. 
That's it. Pretty simple, right?  Really, the spreadsheet work was the turning point for me last round. Trying to keep it all in email or IG made me go a little mad. As soon as I got smart about keeping it all in the source that came to me, it was simpler.  I hope this gives you ideas about what might work for you if you ever decide to become a swap mama and if you do, enjoy the ride.  It's actually pretty fun to interact with so many people as they stretch their creative talents.

Thanks, Kristi, for being responsible for bringing me so much joy in making minis, swapping them and, yes, in letting me do it all while also getting my "organize on".  

Cheers!
Beck

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Deer Quilt - a Luke Haynes pattern

I came across a QAL posted on Bernina's We All Sew website and knew I'd make it one day soon to hang on the wall at the barn on our hunting/retreat property.

One day soon turned out to be a couple months later but I made it. For the instructions and details, please click on the link above but for mine, let me detail it in pictures and a summary at the end.



 Auditioning backgrounds.


Auditioning binding.
I and most of Instagram liked orange but hubs said no. I put it on for a couple days only and then put on the dark blue instead.
Here he finally is!

I found this to be a well explained and easily followed set of instructions and I love the final product but for me personally, it's a fussy process so it lost some appeal part way through.  I tend to be as lazy as I can in the process and cut corners. For this one, that means I only spot glued the applique down and then didn't quilt it for a couple weeks. That meant I had to deal with shifting pieces. MY OWN FAULT. If I had taken more care in the basting/positioning, I'm sure I would have been fine.  Still, I can shrug it off because the overall raw edge look on this quilt gives a nice 3-D impression for the deer head.

Overall, I love it and hubs likes it, which is good since I made it for him.

Thank you Luke Haynes, for sharing your process and providing a pattern to let us achieve a little bit of what you can do!

Cheers!
Beck

Friday, September 12, 2014

Schnitzel & Boo Mini Quilt Swap -via Instagram

I may not have been blogging much lately but I have been getting things done.  Of course there is work and home. We had one kiddo graduate high school this past June - Yay K!
Then there were a couple customer quilts to quilt (one is pictured below). They were both very pretty and enjoyable to work on. I hope I've done a well enough job to make them repeat customers!

Aside from the other two quilts I last blogged about, I have been working on quilt blocks for two bees I'm in, the Stitch That Stash Bee and a LA Traveling Quilt Bee.  To keep me from wondering what I have and haven't blogged about with regards to those, I will save all the block photos and post them at once for each.

But lastly, and the focus of today's post, are three mini quilts I have completed. I participated in the Schnitzel and Boo Instagram Mini Swap and boy was it fun. I ended up making 3 minis instead of one but all were enjoyable and I got to stretch my creative wings.   This was a blind swap so the recipients never know what they are getting until they get it.

First, the angel mini for a person who still hasn't received one (it may be in transit from AU or it may be lost, who knows?). She said Camille Roskelly was an inspiration and she seemed to favorite a lot of rainbow quilts.  So, being quite smitten with the swoon block myself, I made her a Rainbow Swoon. It took a minute to figure out the cutting and color placement but once I did, sewing it up was nice and easy. I liked it so much I had a hard time mailing it but her happiness in receiving it makes me happy in the end.
Second up, a mini for a gal that did not have a lot of quilty inspiration on her IG feed to help me figure something out.  I stalked her Flickr and Pinterest accounts and ran across an entire Pin Board devoted to Alice in Wonderland.  Not the Disney version either, but the more vintage looking Alice. That gave me some ideas about rabbit holes and quotes.   So I used the template pattern from my Rabbit quilt and made a black and white "hole". I hoped the color placement would give the visual effect of falling and gave a couple simple swirl quilting lines to aid in that effect.

Then I added 4 quotes but jumbled them all up so it's like a phrase search for the rest of the quote.  They read, "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop."  "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." "How long is forever? Sometimes, just one second." "You have to be half mad to dream me up." I called it "Alice's Jumbled Thoughts."
This was a fun one to make and very nerve-wracking.  I mean, what if that board was there for ideas for a friend's wedding shower or something?  Turns out, however, it was her board and she liked the mini and uniqueness of it all the more. Yes!

Last but not least was a mini that had me truly nervous about sending.  Again this person didn't have a lot of quilty inspiration on her IG feed but had some family posts and posts about her horses. She gave me a good idea of her likes on her sign up sheet and I sat to thinking about how to get her something more personal for her, I browsed her IG feed more closely.  I happened upon a nice shadow photo which she labeled "me and my shadow." A light bulb, I can make that. But how? How to make it look nice? Ahh, wonky strips of her favorite colors with the shadow overlaying it. Yep.  So I did it. Then sent it. Then stressed she wouldn't hate it or be disappointed.
Her response just served to remind me that when we listen to our hearts, we create quilts which truly touch people.  This is what she wrote when she posted her receipt, "possibly the most amazing thing anyone has ever made for me... another pic after I pull myself together." "I was hoping it was mine but hubs was skeptical saying the pose was so common it could be anyone (in response to a sneak peek I posted) with a horse so I talked myself out of it. I retired Gracie last year and it has been a very emotional thing for me, so this mini is particularly special."  I felt like I did something good and I love that feeling when I make a quilt. Yay!

The person who made for me was Eileen (IG: Luckycharm933635) and she hit it on the head! I love her paper-pieced creation with fussy cut fabrics and color choices.  How can this not make me happy, just look at it!
If you've never participated in a swap, consider it. If you are open to receiving whatever, you will probably enjoy it quite a bit.

Cheers!
Beck

Friday, August 8, 2014

Notting Hill Mistress

When Joel Dewberry's Notting Hill line came out a couple years ago, I fell in love. It was the first, and so far since, fabric line where I loved each colorway and each print. All of it.

I had to have it.
I had to make a quilt out of it.
For me.

So, I bought FQs and a few half yards and then I pondered what to make. And pondered, and pondered. I wanted to show off the fabric and everything I thought of was not appealing to me. I just couldn't bring myself to cut the fabric.  A year of pondering later, I finally decided I didn't need to cut it. That patchwork would be perfect! Someone will need to explain to me why this light bulb took so long to turn on one day.

I cut 10" squares, placed them and
sewed.
Keeping to the concept of showcasing the fabrics, I quilted diagonal lines in each square. They are about 1.5" apart.

I bound the quilt in an orange polka dot and then set about looking for a place to photograph it. I love this quilt It had to be a perfect spot.  Of course, I couldn't find one for a while until I remembered that I had 40 acres of beautiful, raw land and it should work.  (fyi, I used Aurifil 50wt white thread on the top and Bottom Line cream on the back. I'm going to brag a bit on myself here, too. This quilting is done free motion and without a stitch regulator! Whoa, I feel good now that I look closely at it.)

I first took it out at my neighbor's place where one of the horses promptly rubbed his head all over it. I am a sucker, I just let him (of course, it was the back of the quilt so I wasn't too concerned about it getting dirty before the photos).
After I washed it and it got all crinkly, I hung it again on the frame for our fire pit.

I just love this quilt and it's mine, all mine!
Cheers!
Beck

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Poltergeist Rabbit - 4 years in the making

They say every quilt has a story and this quilt definitely has a story.  This story resulted in this quilt's name. Wait, do they say that and who's "they"?  Regardless, let me share a tale with you and since this took 4, almost 5 years, to complete, go grab a cuppa something, sit down and get comfortable.

It all started with my sister who wanted to hire me to make a quilt for my SIL.  I told them it was good practice (I'd only been quilting a couple years) so covering cost of fabric would be all that I'd ask for.

V (SIL) chose the Jinny Beyer Shimmering Sea pattern and asked for it to fit a king quilt. I thought, no problem, I love foundation piecing! I did not pay attention to my inexperience or the level of skill they cautioned as needed.

I took V to the store, she chose most of the fabrics and then I go started cutting. I cut, a lot. To put it in perspective, there are 45 pieces in each block and I decided to make a 6x6 quilt.  That's 36 blocks which means 1,620 pieces, borders not included in this quilt.  Add borders, binding and backing and I have 1,640 pieces of fabric in this quilt (I'm counting the back and binding as one each).
That's the most I've ever done for one quilt!


Anyway, I cut and then I copied and traced 36 foundation patterns but not before dealing with the first mishap.  A pup who, it seems, did not appreciate Ms. Beyer's pattern in the same way I did. 
I bought more tape that night.

Eventually I started sewing and on the third block, realized I had a problem. I sewed it backwards (the design was rotating in the wrong direction). Once I realized how this happened, I figured I could avoid it but no, I managed to do it 3 more times.  4 blocks I now have as scrap blocks. 
I kept  sewing. Each block took me between 1 hr and 15 minutes to 1 hr and 30 min. to complete. I wondered what was wrong with me. Then I would put it away for a while, months at a time. We moved houses, I lost the fabric pieces and blocks for a bit but I knew they would turn up sooner or later.


Eventually they did but then my sisters’ dog was ill and had a hard time controlling her bladder. I couldn’t justify rushing to finish a quilt that would have to sit in a closet.  I took my time with it but was feeling ambivalent.  So I put up blocks on a design wall and shared it with my sister. It did what I wanted it to do, set my sisters on my tail to find out when it was going to be complete. 
I had a plan. I was going to finish it and take it down to them when I visited at the end of February. I was making good time. I loaded the quilt on the frame and started quilting it.


Then, I started having machine problems. The knob to raise the presser foot broke, the tension screw was stripped and the lever to raise/lower the presser foot was out of alignment. 

That may not sound bad but I didn’t know those were the issues when they presented themselves. Thankfully, Nolting (Hinterberg) was VERY RESPONSIVE and super helpful with their responses. I couldn’t, however, finish the quilt in the time frame I wanted and I did have to talk with the tech/sales people at the same quilt show I was heading down my sister’s way for.  I threatened Ms. Midge (my machine) that it might be time for me to purchase a new one. 
I only had this much left to quilt when she decided to act up.
When I returned from the show, I was 80% decided I would hold off on purchasing a new machine. I set Ms. Midge up with new parts and started sewing but she STILL gave me problems. Clearly, she felt she should still be on strike but I had other plans.  I adjusted a few things and told her she better shape up or, my 80% would change from keeping her to trading her in.  She started purring sweetly and sewing straight.  AMAZING how management can threaten labor with being fired to get them to perform again. –wink-
I was able to finish it up and add the binding. Then I realized there was no way I could take pictures which would do it justice. This thing was big and beautiful. Now what?  Ah yes! I’m giving it to a photographer after all.

I sent it to her and then on Easter weekend, we went to the docks and took some photos.  Of course the day had to be windy and we were hanging on to it for our lives. We had visions of it slipping away and landing in the water. Talk about the most nerve wracking photo shoot ever! But it was worth it. Look at what she came up with. It makes this quilt look great and I’m a bit amazed I made it.  Despite the long term process and despite the hiccups I have come to love this quilt after seeing these pictures but I’m am glad I don’t own it.



 
That reminds me, of its name.  Poltergeist is the descriptor because, frankly, all the little things that happened during its making and all the time it took to complete it. Rabbit because it’s a substitute for the swear word I uttered often completing this quilt. The “f” word substitute came from my SIL when the kids were young and listening to what we said.


So here you have it, the Poltergeist Rabbit shown in pictures that are fantastic from Ren Photography in Hampton Roads, VA area. 

Cheers!
Beck