Sunday, January 31, 2010

16 Patch Surprise top and Color Catcher String blocks done

I actually got some sewing time today.  Yippee!  I have mostly taken the day off of work, but I have to go through the project list later and prioritize the returns that are in as well as finish up the accounting work for a January 31 year end projection, but I can do both of those things on the laptop while watching my Sunday night TV.

The first thing I worked on were my color catcher string blocks that I first posted about here.  I got all of the strings sewed to the foundations and here they are before I trimmed them:

And here are the trimmings that were adding to the pillowcase for future pet beds:

And here are the finished blocks.  I played with a few layouts, but didn't come up with anything I'm happy with yet.  I know there will be some sort of sashing or offsetting blocks, but I just can't decide on what exactly.  I'll let the project marinate for awhile while I work on other things.  I'm sure something will come to me.

After I was done with the string blocks, I went back to work on my 16 Patch Scrap Surprise, as I've been calling it.  I got the top complete.  It's all made from stash and the border fabric I used was one of the very first fabrics I bought when I started quilting so I'm glad to have that almost gone.  I saved what was left to use for the binding unless I come up with a different idea for the binding in the meantime.  The top measures approximately 26 x 26, so a nice little wallhanging or table topper size.

I also sewed some leader ender blocks in between the other projects and I'll press those and call it a day, quilting-wise anyway.  I need to give my dad a call so I'll do that while I'm pressing.  DH has got fried chicken, baby carrots and crusty french bread on the menu tonight, so I've got just enough time to call dad before the dinner bell rings.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Computer is as good as it's going to get for tax season

I have some quirks to work out, but for the most part, the new computer is at full functionality for tax season.  Neither printer will work, one because it's just flat out not compatible with Windows 7 because it's too old, and the other for some unknown reason.  The second one is really the scanner, and it is supposed to be compatible with Windows 7, but in spite of downloading and installing the updated drivers, it still won't talk to the computer.  Dell won't help unless I pay them because the printer is out of warranty.  I thought that was a bit crappy since it's the new computer that is the problem and that is most definitely IN warranty.  Oh, well.  I can run both with the laptop, so on the rare occasion that I need to print, or if I need to scan something, I will hook up the laptop, do what I need to do and transfer the data to the desktop via a flashdrive.  After tax season I will look into purchasing a new scanner/printer/copier.  I never really loved the one I have, and a new one shouldn't have any compatibility issues, so it isn't a huge tragedy or expense to have to purchase a new one. 

I did get a trial version of my paperless software downloaded that I can use for 45 days, presumably long enough to finally get a call back from the company as to what to do with my license, so that was far more important.  I am paperless for both work and home, so that software effectively IS my printer and without it, I was lost.  I use it multiple times a day, many times multiple times an hour, so it was like missing a limb.  I suspect I will be forced to purchase a new license even though I have a fully paid license already that is trapped on the old computer, but again, a worthwhile expense at this point. 

Email for work came back fully restored and then some.  Does anyone know why, when you restore an Outlook file, that everything you have filed in folders, also reappears in your in-box?  I had to delete almost 3000 extra messages from my in-box.  That was a pain, but I'd rather have too much data than too little.  I have one other problem with Outlook to solve after tax season, but for now, I will just deal with it.  New emails from all 3 work email addresses are coming in fine as well.  If my paperless software is like one of my limbs, Outlook is too, as that's how my clients send me everything.  So now I've got all of my limbs back!  Yeah!

The home email is another story.  For those of you who use Outlook Express, be aware that the program no longer exists in Windows 7.  It has been replaced by a program called Windows Mail, or something like that if that's not the correct name.  Supposedly you can import your Outlook Express file, but I haven't tried it.  I haven't even set up the Windows Mail as I can access my home email remotely and I've been so focused on getting the work stuff back in order that I haven't even tried doing anything with the home email.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How I've spent the last 3 days

I've been absent from the blogging world for the past few days and you all probably thought I had my head buried in tax returns.  I wish.  Just for the record, you will NEVER hear me wishing to be working on tax returns unless I'm doing something far, far, worse...which I was. 

After my lovely quilting day on Sunday, I traveled, with a spring in my step (not really - let's keep it real here, folks), across the house to my home office, ready to get to work for the week.  At the time I had in excess of 20 tax returns in for preparation, plus 1099's to prepare, and I needed to get back to work on them.  More returns have come in this week.  The short version of Monday's events is that I spent the entire day trying to get this lovely piece of equipment back to a quality of life that was acceptable to us both.

Unfortunately, by 5 p.m., it was apparent that it was not to be.  I was in a bit of a panic at that point as this is tax season after all, and that computer is how I connect to the server to do my work.  Fortunately, data loss was a non-issue as I have both an on-line backup as well as an external hard drive, but the operating system was clearly not going to function properly without repair.  The computer is 5 1/2 years old, so the best course of action at this point was to completely replace it with something reliable for tax season and worry about fixing it later.

So, yesterday afternoon, I picked up this lovely piece of equipment.  It's a Dell Studio XPS 8100 with an Intel i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 1 TB hard drive and souped up graphics to handle the multiple monitors I use.  I really like it so far and it runs so quietly that I have to put my ear right next to it to even hear that it's on.

I spent last evening getting software installed and today it has been restoring my data.  I had planned to have the data restored overnight while I was sleeping, but unbeknownst to me, the computer was set to go to sleep after 2 hours of non-activity, not including internet transmission, so it went to sleep not long after I did!  It has been restoring all day and is almost done.  I've tested some of the restored data and it is perfect, but the real test will be when I try to open the email files.  Fingers crossed that they will all be there.  I'm off now to get the printers installed.  If that goes well, and email is fine, I'm hoping to be back in almost full action by tomorrow.  I am still trying to get one program installed, but I have a work around I can use if I can't get it going.  Lost productivity at this time of year is not a good thing and I think there will be some long days ahead to catch up.  BUT, no data loss is the most important thing, and that's all that really matters to me at this point.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Progress on my little squares project

Dawn and I had one of our quilting days today and my priority was to work on this project.  Since I was basically designing as I went and trying to bring my paper drawing to life, I didn't get as far as I wanted.  I'd hoped to have the top completely assembled except for the border, but I did at least get it all layed out on the design wall and partially assembled.  Here's where I'm at so far.

It shouldn't take too long to get the rest of the top put together.  I'm really pleased with how it's turning out and so far it has come entirely from my pre-cut squares and strips.  I'm sure I will be able to find a border fabric in my stash as well.

I also got the opportunity to use my new baby.  She sewed like a dream, just like the other one, so I was very pleased with that as well.  Actually, she purred so quietly that it seems that maybe it's time to take the other machine in for a good cleaning :-).  My original machine doesn't sound bad at all, but in comparison to the new machine, it definitely doesn't run as quietly.

Google Reader/Batting Scraps Organized

I'm sure this is not news for most of you reading this, but I checked out Google Reader finally after reading about it again on someone else's blog.  Wow, what an easy, efficient way to keep up with blogs!  Who knew?  Probably all of you, that's who.  I had seen other bloggers commenting on it before, but just never got around to setting it up.  Now I can't believe I waited this long and how much time I probably wasted keeping up with blog reading "the old way" (i.e. via bookmarks or webrings where you didn't know if the blogs were updated or not).  I got most of the blogs I like to read added yesterday in between work stuff and it is so easy to just cruise through this morning.

On a quilty note, I finally got my batting scraps sorted and organized yesterday.  I recently started prewashing some of my batting so now I have scraps that are prewashed and scraps that aren't.  With all of those quilts I quilted in December, I also had a lot of unfiled trimmings.  I use pieced battings when I can so I do use the trimmings that I save.  Yesterday I got everything sorted by size and separated by prewashed and not, with the prewashed pieces labled with a sticky.  I also separated out the non Warm 'n Natural batting, which wasn't much, just some large scraps of wool from Dawn and some large scraps of unknown content that my longarmer gave to me thinking they were mine.  I will probably use those in pet quilts since I don't know what the fiber content is.  I meant to take a picture, but had it all put away before I remembered.  I was NOT taking it back out :-).  I also worked on a dishcloth while watching the ladies figure skating championship, but didn't get very far.

I am off to Dawn's in a few hours for a quilting day, so I'm hoping to have a much more interesting post later today or tomorrow.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Too much work yesterday and not enough sewing

Between being too tired from a bad night's sleep and having too much work to do, the only sewing I got done yesterday was to add a few more strings to my color catcher string blocks.  It wasn't even enough progress to bother taking an updated picture.  Today is another work day, but tomorrow is quilting day at Dawn's again, so hopefully I will have some things to show by the end of the weekend.  I could show you a picture of my computer for what I will be working on today, but I don't think that would be took exciting for anyone LOL.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Crazy day yesterday

After I wrote my post the other day, I tried to stay up to watch my Wednesday night TV, but finally gave up and went to bed at 7:30.  Yes, 7:30.  I slept until 4:30 the next morning, but still spent all day yesterday fighting cold/flu like symptoms.  I even had to lay down and take a nap at one point.  After much research over the last few months and keeping tracking of my headaches and these cold/flu like bouts that seem to come every month, I have concluded that these episodes are hormone related, so the next step is to see what I can do about it.  I can't feel like I have a cold/flu for a week every month, and lose valuable hobby time in addition to work time, especially this time of year when I already have a bunch of tax returns in for prep.

While I was sleeping part of the afternoon away, we were experiencing one of the worst storms in Arizona history.  Once the sun comes up, I will try to get some pictures of the yard, although I can already tell that a lot of the water has soaked in.  Last night, a huge section of the yard was like one big lake and the pool water had gone up by 2 inches.  The wind was so strong at times that we went out in the rain last night to try and get some trees re-secured in hopes that they wouldn't topple over.  From what I can see in the dark, they are leaning this morning, but still standing.  The ground is just too soaked to hold the stakes in place.  The rain stopped at some point overnight, thankfully.  Some parts of the valley got double the rain we did, so I'd hate to see what the yard would have looked like then and the pool probably would have been close to overflowing.  DH built a burm on Wednesday to try and keep the water from pooling around the pool equipment and that side of the house and it seemed to do the job pretty well, except during the worst of the storm.  We'll see how the equipment does when we turn it back on.  We've had it off for the past several days.

Update: Here's some pictures of the results of the storm.  All of the areas with standing water had 2-3 times more water last night.  The bird feeding area (the dirt area at the end of the sidewalk) was a small pond.  The ground is so saturated in parts of the yard that you can't even walk across the rocks without starting to sink.  The pool water is supposed to be below the first tile.  It's so high right now that you can barely see the first tile above the water.

On a quilty/stitchy note, in between propping trees up, I did get a couple of dishcloths crocheted last night while watching a new show called The Deep End, which I enjoyed, followed by Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, both of which were good episodes.

And now I better go get some work done and hope that the computer gremlins that messed with my system yesterday are gone, as well as the hormone gremlims.  I know those won't be gone yet, but I took some Excedrin Extra Strength that I hope will at least keep my functional.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nothing quilty is going to happen today

I am just beat today, for no apparent reason.  I felt fairly rested this morning, but shortly after arriving at my client's offices, I felt like I could have gone to sleep right on my laptop.  In spite of numerous cups of coffee, I just could not get my energy level up and my head feels like I'm in a fog.  I got on the treadmill when I got home, which usually clears my head, but it had no effect at all.  I feel perfectly fine, have no sinus problems, got enough sleep last night, so who knows.  I did have an 80 mile round trip commute, which does tend to zap my energy a bit, but usually not this bad.  So, there will be no quilting taking place this evening.  At best I will work on some dishcloths while watching TV.  Hopefully I will have something more exciting to post tomorrow.  I did think about some quilt designs while I was working today :-).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fun with Strings

I am one of those quilters that saves even the smallest of scraps as I have great fun creating with these leftovers, or what some quilters would deem as trash.  If the scraps are too small for me to use, which has to be pretty small by the way, they go in the pillowcase for the pet pillows I make for the animal shelters.  I am particularly enamored with strings.  I LOVE to make string quilts.  It always amazes me that you can throw a mishmash of fabrics together, sew them randomly, and produce a beautiful quilt.  Where I'm going with this is a little project I started today with my shorter strings.

I had been working on payroll filings for hours and I hit the wall.  Fortunately for me, I not only work for myself, but I also work from home, which means that when I need to get away from work for awhile, I can go sew.  So that is what I did.  First I pulled out these:

Less than an hour later, I had these:

The first picture shows the tins where I keep my shorter strings.  Are you surprised that they are puppy and kitty tins?  LOL  Stacked in front of the tins are used Shout color catcher sheets.  Since they can obviously go through the washer, I saved them as I thought they might work as foundations for a string quilt.  I've heard of people using dryer sheets, so I figured why not try it.  I used the following rules for piecing my string rectangles.

Are you kidding me?  I didn't have any rules.  This was supposed to give my brain a break, remember?  Actually, I did apply one rule and that was to start with a wider strip for the end as that just makes practical sense for when the blocks need to be sewn together.  After that, I pretty much just grabbed a string from the tin, provided it was long enough, randomly alternating between light and dark.  I now have a pile of 12 rectangles that are at least 1/3 covered in strings.  I had a blast and once I was done, my head was clear and I was ready to get back to work.

Kitchen Helper set done - 9 more to go!

One of my goals for 2010 is to crochet 10 Kitchen Helper sets for charity.  Generally speaking, each set will consist of 7 coordinating dishcloths.  I have crocheted most of the cloths in this set over the last 2 weeks, but I don't really post about my crocheting because I just use it as busy work to pick up while watching tv, riding in the car, etc.  One of the dishcloths in this set was crocheted during the ride to and from picking up my new sewing machine a week ago.  Don't worry...DH was driving!  So, here's set #1 for 2010.  I also got the first dishcloth for the second set crocheted while watching TV last night.

Monday, January 18, 2010

1 UFO finished, progress on another

I had a productive day yesterday.  I was able to spend most of the day sewing/stitching.  Since I wanted to watch the Golden Globes as well as my usual Sunday night TV, I worked on the quilting project first.  It's the Merry Christmas wallhanging from Nancy Halvorsen's book, I Believe.  I bought this book in October and fell in love with pretty much all of the projects, but this one was my favorite.  It's rare that I find a quilt pattern that I have the urge to start immediately, but such was the case with this one.  I went out and got the fabrics and then decided that I needed to get the fabrics for all of the projects in the book.  Nancy always designs a fabric line to go with the book - great marketing don't you think?  Again, I rarely buy fabrics for a specific purpose, let alone an entire fabric line, but away I went to numerous quilt shops, in person and on-line, to find all of them that I needed in the quantity that I needed to make the quilts in the book.  36 yards of fabric later and here's the first project in progress from the book.  I had all of the letters fused in November, but by the time I did a practice piece to learn how to do machine applique with the buttonhole stitch, I was a little burnt out on the process, so I set it aside.  The Candy Hearts piece got me going again, so I worked on appliquing the letters yesterday.  I got about half of them done.  Please excuse the threads that still need to be buried and clipped.

The second project I finished was the stitching piece that I showed in this post (thank you Wanda for your help in how to add links to my posts).  I put the last stitches in last night just as Brothers and Sisters ended, so perfect timing, as it was bed time shortly after that.  I am finding that having this blog is really pushing me to work on and finish projects so I have something to post about, which is great. I do still need to dig through my charm stash (yes, I have a stash of charms too LOL) and find something suitable for the red block, as well as sign and date it, but as far as the UFO list is concerned, it's done!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Did a little stitching today

I had to work today, but wrapped things up by 2 so I could settle in for the Cardinals playoff game at 2:30, which they unfortunately lost, quite badly in fact.  I got my quilting/stitching "Hit List" completed while I watched the game, which is my running list of needlework to do's that is comprised of the specifics behind my overall yearly goals.  The list helps keep me focused and gives me a list to choose from when I'm looking for a project to work on.  There's always something that will pique my interest at any particular time.

After I finished the list, I was in the mood to cross-stitch, so I took advantage of my currently good eyesight and pulled out a small ornament project I started last fall.  As tax season progresses, my eyes will be too tired to even consider working on these small stitch count projects.  I have about a third more stitching to do and then the stitching will be complete.  This piece is called Woodland Noel by Heart in Hand.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Started a new small project

While piecing the back to my Christmas 9 Patch on Sunday, I also started a small project.  I started with this, a bag of 1 1/2 inch dark squares:

I fed pairs of the squares through the machine in between the large groups of squares for the Christmas quilt backing.  By the time I had completed the backing, I had this:

While sitting in an all-day continuing education class on depreciation today, I came up with a cute little quilt that will use these units I've been sewing together.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cats can be just like kids...

We got quite a chuckle about a kitty incident last night and then a similar instance happened again today.  Sassy is the little troublemaker in the house and is always into something she's not supposed to be.  You can't leave an eggshell or any other food in the sink for a millisecond before running it down the disposal or she will abscond with it.  She made off with an eggshell one time and I finally found it in the hall closet, thankfully within an hour of her taking it, so it didn't smell or anything.

Anyway, last night she was somewhere she wasn't supposed to be, which I discovered just as Echo came walking up to see what she was doing.  As I called to DH, she took off out of the room and immediately laid down on the rug so as he passed by she looked like she'd been laying there all along and poor Echo was still sitting at the scene of the crime not having a clue that he'd just been set up to take the fall.  We had quite a laugh at her antics...just like the pesky sibling that sets you up to take the fall for their wrongdoings.

Same thing happened today.  We heard a crash and by the time we got there, Sassy was nowhere to be seen, but again, poor Echo was sitting right there.  We knew he hadn't done it as he'd been sitting right in front of me when we heard the crash, but once again, she totally set him up and he had no clue.  She's so cute, though, and never gets in too much trouble.  The only thing she's actually damaged is the clay pot she knocked off an 8 foot plant shelf at 2 a.m. one night.  Sadly, the pot did not survive.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1st Finish of 2010!

I put the last stitches in Candy Hearts tonight, the class I took last week.  In spite of the frustrations with the class itself, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out.  I think I will seriously consider not doing the rest of the months as applique/quilt as you go.  The instructor had us spray baste this piece and it seemed that this wasn't quite stable enough of a basting job to then do the applique and the quilting as one step.  I ended up with some poofiness in some spots around the hearts, which you can see in the picture.  I think that spray basting is probably the way to go with these little quilts, but then it is also probably better to do the applique separately from the quilting so you can keep the piece flat. 

Since these quilt of the month kits also include the hanger, I've already got this cutie up on the wall by my front door where all of the monthly quilts will probably live.  Who cares that it's not even February yet LOL.  I don't even normally decorate for any holidays other than Christmas and we don't even do that sometimes, so I'm way ahead of the game right now :-).

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm either crazy or I really, really, really love my Janome 6600

I'll go with the second option.  I purchased my first (a clue where this post is going) Janome 6600 three and a half years ago.  I have loved everything about it from the second I got it, except for transporting it.  The thing is a beast and I don't have much space in my sewing room (aka the guest room) to maneuver it in and out of the travel case.  Disregarding the back story of the past couple of days whereby I even started thinking about getting a second 6600 (I do have an older Elna that could be used in a pinch, but it doesn't sew anything like the Janome), the bottom line is that I put a deposit on one this morning at the same dealer where I bought the first one.  They have to bring it over from another store to the one closest to me, so I can pick it up Wednesday.  I basically paid the same price as I paid for the first one, so I feel I got a pretty good deal.  I will also ask them to kick in the extra straight stitch throat plate when I pick it up, as that was the only add-on I've had to purchase for my original machine.  I have been saving some of my stash money all year long and I had enough to pay for 2/3 of the cost, so the additional out of pocket is not too bad.  As my husband said, I certainly don't need any more fabric (see previous post on my stash), so why not spend it on another sewing machine if that's what I wanted.  I couldn't argue with that.

The plan is to keep this second machine in the traveling case for use for class, taking to Dawn's etc., and to sell the Elna since I will no longer need it as a backup.

I'm very excited to get the new machine.  Fingers crossed that it works as great as the first one.  I know a few people have gotten lemons, but for the most part, everyone that has this machine loves it.  And if by chance I get a lemon, I will take it right back for an exchange.  I know how it's supposed to work, so it should be obvious pretty quickly if something isn't right.

Update:  I called the store to see if they would throw in some of the new accessories that have come out since I purchased my original machine and my new machine was already at the shop.  So, I convinced DH to go up there with me right away rather than waiting until tomorrow.  So, here is my new baby.  I also got them to throw in the FMQ bobbin case and a package of bobbins and they gave me 20% off the ditch quilting foot.  I can't wait to try these new accessories when I quilt my next quilt.  I did not purchase the straight stitch throat plate as they only had it in combo with a foot that I don't like (just like with my original purchase), but I found the plate only on-line for $22.  The local store was honest and said there's no way they could beat that price, even if they could get the product, and to go ahead and order it on-line, so that's what I plan to do.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Christmas 9 Patch Backing is Done!

I finished the backing for the Christmas 9 Patch today with no time to spare to get a photo outside before the sun went down.  The yellow things on the side are my stickies that were my row markers.  I didn't have time to remove them before taking the picture.  The fabrics aren't fabulous together, but it completely used them up except for scraps so that was good as I believe all of them were purchased in 2001, the year I started quilting.  I put in a couple of close-up pics of the fabrics I used.

Tax season officially starts tomorrow, so we'll see if I can keep up my productivity the next few months.

Quilt of the Month Class - somewhat disappointing

I have been debating for a couple of days as to whether to post this or not, but have decided to go ahead, even thought it's going to be largely a negative post.  On Thursday night, Dawn and I attended the first session of a Quilt of the Month series at one of our local quilt shops.  I'll leave the shop name out of this since I have some criticisms of the class.  The concept is make a cute little wallhanging for each month and the kits come with a coordinating hanger.  The cost is $30, which includes everything but the batting, thread and fusible, so not too bad.  The main technique learned was supposed to be applique/quilt as you go, so that sounded interesting.

So, the first class was scheduled for Thursday, January 7th and as of Tuesday, the 5th, no supply list had been provided.  I had to go down to the shop to even find out what color threads to bring since this was an applique project.  Between Dawn and I we tried to come up with a list of everything we would need, but even then, we missed some things, which was frustrating to say the least.  We started out having to do some cutting that we weren't expecting so had to use cutting implements which we weren't familiar with.  Then I went to press my borders and found that someone in the morning class had fused their applique on the wrong side and burnt it on the iron which then transferred to my white background fabric.  No time to ask for them to cut more fabric since we were already behind, so I am hoping I can get the black marks out as well as those on the red border fabric.

I was constantly behind all night because there just wasn't enough time allotted for cutting, tracing and fusing applique and then still doing the basting, quilting, etc.  When the instructor (one of the shop owners) asked who wanted to sign up for the next month, I asked if we could at least get the pattern in advance so we could get the applique traced and she agreed.  Even better would be if they would also give us the fabric kits so we could get everything fused and prepped for the actual applique, but I don't see them having them available far enough in advance to get that done.

I probably could have tolerated the haphazard and disorganized manner in which the class was conducted if there hadn't also been constant sales pitches for the other classes, events, products, etc.  If you couldn't take the time to provide me with a supply list for the class I'm sitting in, I really don't want to hear about other classes.

But, at the end of the day, the project is really cute.  Dawn has hers completely done, but I've got a bit more to go.  I had to hand sew the letters (another frustration, but I will leave the details on that out of this post), so that took forever, but I like how they turned out.  I have decided to run a wavy quilting line around the red border and then will trim the quilt and bind.  I'm hoping to get that done this coming week.  Here's my progress so far:

Productive Saturday Quilting Day

At least once a month, my friend Dawn and I have a quilting day.  Yesterday was one of those days.  We both got a lot done, which sometimes is not the case LOL.  My first priority of the day was to make the backing for this quilt:

I want to cull some of my Christmas fabrics, so I cut a bunch of them into 10 1/2 inch squares ala Bonnie Hunter for the backing.  I haven't sewn them together yet, but layed them out and was pleased with the look.

I hadn't hauled my machine along to Dawn's house, so after that I got caught up with pressing all of my leader ender pieces I had sewn and that pretty much wrapped up the day.  I might have gotten more done except for frequent breaks to play with her new kitten, Otis, who you can see a bit in the upper left corner of the picture.  You know me and cats!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Binding attached and ready to hand sew

After class today I attached the binding to the rest of the quilts I quilted recently so I now have a nice stack of quilts just waiting for the hand sewing of the binding to the back.  I love this final step to completing the quilt.  I also have to make the binding for two large quilts, so soon I should have those to sew down as well.  With the Winter Olympics coming up, I'm thinking this will be a good project to tackle while I'm watching my favorite events.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Something doesn't belong in this picture...

I was washing my new batiks on Sunday and as I was transferring them to the dryer I noticed that I had a helper.  Do you see anything that doesn't quite belong in this picture?

I thought if I kept throwing the wet fabric on her, she would leave.  Nope. Just kept letting it pile on until she was completely buried.  Shortly after that she popped her little head out for this picture.  I can't ever accuse her of slacking on her Quality Control duties!!

2010 Goals/Time Management

I've had this post rolling around in my head for a couple of days now (lots of time to think while shredding, you know).  I posted my 2010 needlework goals on Sunday and they are quite ambitious.  In order to have any shot of completing them, I need a better game plan than I've had in the past.  So, I've been putting a lot of thought into what I feel are the barriers to my productivity and how to make the best use of my time.  Time management has been something I've been focusing on in general over the past couple of years in order to eliminate time spent on unnecessary or unimportant tasks in order to have more time to spend on things I enjoy. 

I've determined that my main time waster is mindless web surfing, which is completely in my control to change.  So, I'm going to make it my top priority to get that under control this year.  It's mainly a problem when I'm working and I'm not interested in what I'm working on.  Since I do all of my work on the computer, it's easy to just open a webpage and start surfing.  Of course that drags the work out longer, which cuts into my free time.  I am self-employed and only have myself to get the work done, so the longer it takes me to do it, the less fun time I have.  Again, largely in my control, so it's up to me to solve this problem.  Maybe posting it here for the world to see will help me.

The other things I've been thinking about are changes I can make to other barriers to my productivity.  One of my biggest barriers to my quilting is the fact that I don't have a dedicated studio so everything except the sewing machine has to be pulled out and put away after each session (i.e. the kitchen island is my cutting station, the floor or bed serves as the design wall when needed, and there is no good place to permanently set up a pressing station).  Because of my current set-up, it is not efficient for me to try and quilt for short periods of time.  In addition, I am a morning person and have no brain matter left after about 8 p.m. so trying to get complicated things done in the evening is a lost cause for me.  After 8 1/2 years of quilting, many more than that of cross-stitching, and even more than that of crocheting, I am now fully aware of what times of day I have the mental competancy to work on each of these hobbies and how much set-up time, or not, is necessary to do so.  I can crochet when I'm dead tired or have a migraine, but I need full wattage in order to stitch accurately and for most quilting tasks.

So, given the above, I have come up with the following plan to make the most effective use of my needlework time.
  • I repurposed a large Rubbermaid container with a lid to use as a project box.  I can keep all of my current stitching and quilting projects in the box for easy access to pull one out when I have some time.  I already have my current crochet projects in a carry bag that I can grab whenever I need it.

  • Any morning time I have available before work will be spent on my stitching projects.
  • Any evening time I have available will be spent on crochet projects or blogging.  Much I'd love to start each day blogging and commenting on other people's blogs, that is most certainly something I can do when I'm tired at the end of the day and I shouldn't be spending my peak energy time on those tasks.
  • Longer periods of available time will be dedicated to quilting.  Admitting that I will probably never be a quilter that can get quilting things done in the evenings after work, like so many of you do, was a big step for me.  I was very frustrated by this for quite some time until I realized that I just need to develop a system that works best for me.  If that means no quilting during the weekday evenings, but marathon sessions on the weekends, then that's how it will be.
Boy, just putting my thoughts on this down in writing is pretty motivating in and of itself.  I've always been the type that gets things done once they are written down, so let's hope that means that I will get a lot accomplished in 2010!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Shredding, not Sewing

While I'm on vacation this week, I want to do some de-cluttering of various areas of our home.  I got DH on board with the project, so we started with the office yesterday.  I work from home so this room is both a home and work office.  We started with purging 9 years worth of household bills/statements.  That project carried over to today, but is now complete and we have added numerous bags of shredded paper to the recycle bin.  We are currently about 80% paperless for our personal bills/statements, so this shouldn't be such a chore going forward.  I'm hoping to be about 95% paperless by the end of 2010.  I'd like to be at 100%, but there is always going to be some amount of paperwork that comes in.  My work is 95% paperless, but I still have one box full of notes, etc. that needs to be shredded so I can start the year with an empty slate, so to speak.  I figure one box of paper to be shredded at the end of each year isn't too bad.  In between bouts of shredding, I have added a computer, the related monitor, numerous computer cords, etc. and a scanner to the donation pile.  I'm hoping to finish the shredding by tomorrow so I can move on to the other items in the office and be done with that room by Wednesday at the latest.  Ty and Maya go to the vet tomorrow morning and I have a continuing education class on Wednesday afternoon, but I think I should have enough time tonight and tomorrow to finish up the office by the time I leave for class on Wednesday.

Oh, and as the bill boxes got emptied, look who had to check them out.

The other part of the office I worked on today was my bookcase.  I got some new collections of books off of ebay the past couple of weeks and needed to make room, so I pulled everything out, rearranged, and this is the final result.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fabric Inventory complete/stash pictures & ponderings

Well, the 2010 fabric inventory is complete.  While it is a bit of a chore, I always like revisiting my stash and finding things I forgot I had.  It also gets my creative juices going and helps solidify my current year goals.  And of course I never get tired of petting my batiks.

In the midst of the project, the mail arrived and look what was waiting for me.  Here's a sneak peek.  Can you guess what the box contains?

Ok, here's a closer look, along with the package inspector, Echo.  Are you surprised?  It's more batiks of course!  Yummy Timeless Treasure batiks off of Ebay.  They were a good deal and cost about exactly as much as the check my sister sent me for my dishcloth sales, so they were basically free too!  How could I pass them up?  They have been counted in the inventory and will be getting washed and stored today.  My inventory sheet tells me that I have almost 700 yards of batiks.  Do you think that's too much?  I don't.  I don't think I can ever have too many batiks.  My dream job would be as a fabric rep for Princess Mirah batiks, but alas, I will have to keep my day job for now, since we like to eat and have a roof over our heads, as do the furkids.

Here's some pictures of my batik stash, as well as the rest of my stash.  I do truly love my stash and wouldn't want to get rid of any of it.  I love that I very rarely have to shop for borders or even backings as I can shop my own "store" 24/7.  Same goes for thread.  I have a huge stash of that now too and I had something on hand for every quilt I just quilted and didn't have to wait for the quilt shop to open in order to continue on my projects.  That is huge for me.  When I am in the mood to work on something, particularly machine quilting, I need to jump on it while the mood is there and get it done as I'm not good at all with "having" to work on certain projects.  The rotation method would never work for me.  I like to work on what I want, when I want to do it, whether it be quilting, cross-stitch, or crocheting.

Oh, and here's a cute picture of the main members of the Quality Control Team, Mutt & Jeff, er, I mean Sassy and Echo.  Can you see how much smaller Sassy is?  She will be a year old in a month and Echo is a month younger than her.  She's a petite little thing.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Year End Summary

Today I tallied up my 2009 completed projects and here's the list.  Given some of the life events we dealt with in 2009, I feel like I had a pretty good year.  I'm hoping to get even more accomplished in 2010.
  • 4 cat mats started, completed, and donated to the Arizona Humane Society
  • 11 pet pillows of various sizes started, completed, and donated to the Arizona Humane Society
  • 2 cross-stitch UFO's framed
  • 1 tablerunner started and completed
  • 1 quilt top started and completed
  • 6 quilts in process completed
  • 8 quilts in process quilted
  • 3 cross-stitch pieces stitched
  • 1 quilt top in process completed
  • 5 cross-stitch pieces finished (i.e. as ornaments, etc.)
  • 94 dishcloths crocheted
  • 54 scrubbies crocheted
  • 4 make-up removers crocheted
  • 13 potholders crocheted
  • 12 baby facecloths crocheted
  • 5 coasters crocheted

Happy 8th Birthday to Maya today!

Maya, our female Tibetan Mastiff, turns 8 today, so Happy Birthday to her!  In honor of her birthday *grin*, we are having Ribeye steaks on the grill for dinner along with some fresh mushrooms and wine, which is a rarity at our house.  Of course she got her usual chewy today, so she did get something for her special day.

Fresh Date Muffins - YUM!

Just had to throw in this non-quilty post today.  I recently found a fabulous basic sweet muffin recipe that I've fine-tuned in to the most yummy date muffin recipe.  I made a fresh batch this morning and have been munching on them all day.  There's too much batter for 6 large muffin cups, so I make an mini loaf with the extra.  Don't they look good? 

Happy New Year!

20 years ago today I arrived in the big city of Phoenix.  Coming from Rugby, North Dakota, a small town of about 1,600 people at the time, this was a huge move for me.  I moved here to finish my accounting degree at Arizona State and I'm still here, for the time being anyway.  DH and I plan to move to Texas eventually.  I remember arriving to a rainy, cool day, with temperatures in the 50's, and laughing about how everyone was bundled up in coats.  To me, this was a minimum of a 50 degree improvement from what I'd come from and it felt downright balmy, and there was certainly no need for a coat!  Fast forward a year and I had acclimated and become one of those people for whom sweatshirt weather begins when the temps drop below 60, or possibly even 70, depending on if it's sunny or not LOL.  That could have had something to do with the fact that my first summer here recorded the hottest date in history - 122 degrees registered at Sky Harbor Airport on June 26, 1990.  It's never come close to that again, thankfully.

I have high hopes and big plans for 2010 and am hoping for a great year.  I wish the same to the rest of you out on blogland!