Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Staying focused on the goal . . . .

. . . . . well, not exactly -- the 12 target UFQ's are still on the shelves.

But I did finish a quilt during the past couple weeks that both spent time in the "unfinished" department of my studio.  So I want to share the story of how this quilt evolved.

On March 14, I finished the chicken quilt!  It's been in "progress" for over 10 years and began life as an excited effort to replicate a magnificient applique block of the month that many of you will recognize.

No, this isn't it.  This is Sandi Schaab's version that was exhibited during the 2013 Farmpark Quilt Show in Lake County.  My enthused beginnings were interrupted by something "more interesting" somewhere around 1999 and the two blocks I made laid with a large pile of "perfect" chicken feather fabric on a shelf in the studio for a lo-o-o-ong time.  So here's the whole story!

Fast forward to 2003.  My shop, Erie Street Quilts, has a booth at the NQA show in Columbus, Ohio.  Two booths away from me, an applique basket quilt is hanging that catches my eye (I'm a sucker for a basket block of just about any description). 

First, I'm looking at the quilt as I walk past (it's on the way to the restrooms) and then, I'm walking through the booth each time to take a closer look.  On the last day of the show, one of the gals in the booth shares with me that they have a kit for that quilt.  "Thanks" I say and walk away because I don't "do kits".  But as the show closes, I'm leaving with the kit and "oh, by the way, you need to buy this book for the pattern". 

Now I've plopped down over $100 for a kit in a somewhat "primitive" color scheme (not my favorite) and a book I can't read (yea, it's Japanese).  You know where it all ended up, don't you?  Yep, on the shelf.  But each January when I go through all the UFQ's, I put this one back on the shelf -- the photo of it (above) kept it on my "to-do" someday list!

Now it's 2010.  I'm headed to Texas in February for a couple weeks of sunshine and birding.  I want to take some handwork for the quiet evenings and I remember the basket kit.  The kit was very well organized (when I finally opened it) and all I needed to do was trace the patterns from the book (didn't need to read Japanese to do that).  By the end of the trip, I have half the small basket blocks finished and I am completely engaged in the project so I kept working on the little blocks.  But as I neared the end of that part of the quilt, I began to think about the large basket block in the center and the 5 or so unfinished complex applique projects in my UFQ's.  That "thinking" gave me an idea. . . . . . . 

Knowing what is on the UFQ shelves as a result of reviewing them every January has made a big difference in thinning my UFQ's out.  As I thought about the unfinished applique projects -- the Baltimore Album blocks, the botanical wreath blocks, the chickens . . . . the chickens!  It occurred to me that the color/fabric palette was similar to the baskets and you need baskets to collect chicken eggs!  And so a quilt was born from a merger of two UFQ's. 


That is why you need to sort and cull and organize your UFQ's!! You can't just leave them squirreled away in bags.  There is often something already in progress that I can finish or redesign to get a gift organized for a bridal or baby shower in less time and without investing more money in fabric. 

I still love these original pattern designs and I'll enjoy seeing them in the future at quilt shows as gals finish them.   But my quilt is unique -- no one will ever reproduce this quilt.  The excitement this quilt has generated for me as I pulled it together has been very enjoyable.  I'm confident this won't be my last redesign project.  Some of you have seen the quilt in person as I've been working on it but now it's time to send it to it's new home where it will be loved and appreciated for many years by an obsessed chicken loving woman. 

So maybe you better go take another look at that stash of UFQ's you own!  There is untapped potential!!  And think about signing up for my e-course, UFQ Assault Tactics.

Friday, March 1, 2013

2013 -- A slow start

It's March 1, 2013 and I've only finished one UFQ to date . . . . I got off to such a great start, I was sure I'd be farther than this by now.  It's a good insight into how unappealing our UFQ's become, isn't it.  It's not that I'm not actively working -- I've finished four other quilted projects and am ready to bind a fifth, but they are all current. 

As I work to eliminate UFQ's from my burgeoning stash, my favorite strategy seems to be repurposing or redesigning a project.  The one I just finished is a good example.  I'll bet some of you out there have the Quilted Village Block of the Month patterns in your stash -- there are 12 and the buildings featured in each block can be appliqued or paper-pieced -- good marketing strategy!!

I was charmed by it, convinced a dozen or so customers to be equally charmed so I could buy it for the shop, and promptly filed it in the "to-be-made" piles (during the last century).  But I did eventually get all the blocks paper-pieced . . . . okay, so I didn't actually do it myself -- eleven (un)willing friends each made one of them for me (but I picked out all the fabrics!)  Over the past 10 years, I would get it out ever now and then and finish some of the embroidery and applique details on a block or two.  And I did piece the BIG central unit. 

Well, this was the first UFQ project I tackled this year.  I did the last of the embroidery and applique detail work -- all right, I didn't do the embroidered birds -- too little!!

Now all that was left to do was set everything together and quilt it!!  But when I put it on the work wall I decided I didn't like the central unit -- it was too dark or something.  So I could rework it . . . maybe.   And then I realized, I didn't really care for looking at upside down and sideways buildings. 

And this is my finished result!!  The rows of blocks are in the same order as the original quilt, so I didn't have to make any "design" decisions there. 

I didn't have to remake the central unit (it went into the charity quilt box of "starter" stuff).

I found a perfect sashing fabric in my stash that looks like cobblestones.

I needed to move through the quilting process smoothly so after several days of contemplation, I decided to use an overall quilting approach rather than outlining all the details -- I knew that would get "old" fast and I'd get bogged down.  So I auditioned three different thread colors -- an alabaster variegated that blended into the background but stood out on the buildings, a light tan variegated that showed up on both the background and the buildings, and a brown variegated that showed up on the background but blended into the buildings.  If you unwind a yard or so of thread across the surface of the quilt, you get an idea of how it will look stitched out.  In the end, I chose the tan combination because the colors didn't stand out too much anywhere on the piece. 

I think the way the trees are designed, it looks like spring, so I practiced quilting "wind" blowing across the quilt.  And then I went at it!!  Five days later, I entered in my "progress" journal that the piece was ready to bind.  I limit my work time at the machine when quilting to about an hour at a time -- old shoulders, you know.

Since I didn't add an outer border, I chose a medium brown fabric as the binding to frame it.  I even put a casing on the back right away!!  And now it's hanging in my dining room.  And I like it so much!!  Why didn't I finish it 10 years ago.  Well, I refuse to feel guilty about that -- 10 years ago I would have finished it exactly like the pattern and I like my adaptation even though it was born out of procrastination.

What's next?  Well, I think I can get two going at the same time.  Since I've just finished hand quilting a piece, I'll layer up one of two tops that I want to hand quilt this year and get that going.  The second one will be stitching at the machine and I'll have to study the list to decide which one of the remaining 10 will get my attention next. 

What about you?  I hope this essay about taking a short cut to finishing a UFQ will inspire you to give another look at one of your UFQ's and discover your own adaptation!