Wednesday, January 30, 2013

February Newsletter Is On It's Way! (& Giveaway Info)

I don't think it's a big secret here that I have been working on putting my newsletter in a magazine format... I've only mentioned it, like, a million times (sorry....) But, it's finally going out tomorrow! Here is the cover for our first ever magazine-format issue:

Back in November I asked for your opinions and feedback regarding the newsletter. There are several reasons I wanted to do the newsletter in this new format: 

1) I wanted it to be prettier and easier to read than the email version. You will be able to flip through the pages, instead of scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.... and scrolling down some more as you must do with the email version. 

2) I wanted to be able to put most of the content in one place so that you don't have to click outside the email for patterns, recipes, etc. In the magazine, almost everything is included. (You will still be able to click from the magazine to various links.... but these are "extras," not links that are necessary to use the content of the magazine.)

3) I wanted to be able to fit more content into each issue. With the magazine, I can include more step-by-step photos for projects & recipes which I can't do with the email version.

4) With the magazine format, it will be much easier for you to save and print out the parts of the issue that you want to keep (for example, projects and recipes). See below for a more detailed explanation of that.

5) I just wanted an excuse to design a pretty cover for every issue :)

For this issue- we have done both versions (the email version as in the past, and the new magazine version.) When you get your email, at the very top you will have the option of clicking over to the magazine, or just scrolling down and reading it within your email. Most of the content is the same. I hope you will look at both versions and tell me which one you like best (and I am REALLY hoping you like the magazine...)

Some of you had mentioned back in November that you like to get the email so you can hold onto it and read it later. Even if we do the magazine, you will ALWAYS get an email to let you know that the issue has been released, and then with just one click you can read the magazine. And the link to the issue will be good forever- so you can put all of those emails in a file and refer to them whenever you want. You will also have the option of downloading the issue as a PDF, so you can store it on your computer for future reference if you would like. Finally, you can print selected pages from your PDF- for example, if there is a recipe that you want to print out to use, you can print out just that page. And even though the page will be in color, you can choose to print in gray scale (black & white) so you don't use up your valuable colored ink (when you print, just go to your "printer properties" and select gray scale and you are good to go.)

I think that all-in-all, this is going to make the newsletter much more user-friendly and attractive.

If you are not subscribed yet (it's FREE), just click here. The newsletter comes out about 7 times per year and is filled with projects, recipes, and inspiration. (And I won't bother you with any other emails other than the newsletter- I hate a full inbox just like you do!) You can see previous issues here.

If you have any questions or comments, you can ask in the comment section below, or email me.

Finally, don't forget about the giveaway going on at Hopeful Threads- enter to win my Happy Town fabric!

AND, check out my interview at the Henry Glass blog.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Weekend Happenings

How was everyone's weekend? Mine was pretty busy and fun. Friday night my daughter was at a sleepover so hubby and I went on a date to California Pizza Kitchen which was nice & relaxing and the food was really good. While at the mall, I had to use a gift certificate that I had for Williams and Sonoma and this is what I got- a big red "batter bowl" with handle and pouring spout, in my favorite color, of course! (It only came in red, lucky for me.) I also got one of those long skinny scrapers for getting the last bit of jelly or mayo from the bottom of the jar:

I recently saw someone on TV, or maybe it was in a magazine, who had a ceramic egg holder. And I thought, Why would someone need that? The eggs come in a perfectly good cardboard container at the store. But I walked into Anthropologie and what did I see? You guessed it. And somehow at that moment I decided that I needed one too. And I got some cute dish towels too.

Saturday night, my husband and I went to see a Tim Hawkins comedy show with some of our friends- I laughed so hard that my cheeks hurt by the end :D He did 2 shows and the place was packed. If you don't know who Tim Hawkins is, you can see a couple of his YouTube videos below. We own a couple of his DVD's- very funny and clean so the whole family can watch.

We also helped with a spaghetti dinner that we had at church on Sunday as a fundraiser for the Youth Group. Sorry I didn't get any photos, but imagine spaghetti & meatballs, garlic bread and salad on white plastic disposable plates in a church basement and you get the idea, ha ha. It was tasty, but of course the best part is just hanging out with your friends.... And the kids made some money for their upcoming retreat.

Also, somewhere in there, I made and photographed 3 recipes for my next project. Have I mentioned this here on the blog yet? Oh I don't know I really can't keep track! Anyway, I am going to be releasing an e-pattern in February- it will be my first one in a digital format, which is nice because I can include lots of full-color step out photos to make the patterns easy to understand. And you will learn how to roll an egg roll, in case that is something you are interested in....

Did you do anything fun this weekend??

Friday, January 25, 2013

How "Social" Are You??

.... when it comes to "social media," that is? Do you do Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, Google +, Linked In, Klout....... Phew! I'm sure I missed a lot! Seems social media is everywhere....

For those of us who grew up before the dawn of the Facebook era (in fact, back before there even existed personal computers, way before there were computers in almost every home, and way way back before you could carry one around in your pocket...), this online living can seem like a cold, impersonal, inauthentic way of life. The digital world that my kids take for granted and as first nature for them often seems like an odd after-thought for me. While I do a lot of social media for my business, I feel I should do more but I often forget to. If I am enjoying a beautiful sunset or a delicious meal, I usually forget to take a photo. (It's good to enjoy the moment!!) Or if I do remember, I don't want to miss the moment by taking the photo and then having to upload it, so I just skip it (the photo that is- not the delicious meal....)

So I am just curious as to how everyone feels about social media? I am sure there will be a broad range of opinions. Of course, if you are reading this, it means that you do know how to turn on a computer and get on the interwebs, and there are still many who cannot do even that! So congratulations- you are pretty technologically savvy in my book!

And social media keeps changing so fast! Just when I get something figured out, something new comes along for me to learn- I always feel like I'm a step (or 2 or 10) behind...

Take, for example, Facebook- they keep changing it. I have such a hard time figuring out how it works (thank goodness that my children are ages 17 and 22- perfect for helping me through it...)
And I don't like the Timeline that they instituted last year, I find it hard to read.

And did you know that just because you "like" a page- that doesn't mean that you will see all- or even ANY- of the posts from that page on your feed? That's because Facebook tries to figure out what are the most popular posts AND what YOU are most interested in. So here is the dilemma for someone who is using Facebook for their business (like I do)- the more popular your posts are, the more people will see them, so the more popular they will be, so the more people will see them.... Of course this also works in reverse- if your posts aren't popular, no one will see them, which really kills your chances of them being popular, so no one will see them. See what I mean? Frustrating.

So if you have Facebook pages that you "like" [including mine, hopefully :)] and don't want to miss their posts, you have a couple of options. One is just make sure that you frequently interact with the posts from that page. If you "like," "comment," or "share" posts from a particular page frequently, Facebook will know that you are interested in that page and keep showing you their posts. Another thing you can do, which most people don't know about, is set your notifications so that you get a notification whenever that page posts something. To do this, go to the page and hover over the "Liked" button:

When you hover over it, there will be a box that comes up and the first option will be "Get Notifications"- click it. When there is a check mark next to "Get Notifications" that means that you will be notified every time that page posts something. Very easy- once you know how to do it! Of course, you can also turn off the notifications any time, if you want to.

In future posts, I will talk about what I think of some other platforms like Pinterest (hint- love!), Twitter, and Instagram.

So now we come to the question portion of today's post: What are your favorite Social Media platforms? Why do you like them and what do you use them for (business, keeping in touch with friends, inspiration, discussion about topics important to you, etc.)
Are there any platforms that you've tried but just don't like?
Or, do you pretty much shun social media and just stick to the blogs?

PS Be sure to visit The Jolly Jabber (The Fat Quarter Shop's blog) where I am featured in their "Designer Tidbits" ....

PPS! I just found out about this giveaway at Hopeful Threads- sponsored by Fat Quarter Shop. Click here for your chance to win a fat quarter bundle of my Happy Town fabric :D

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Newsletter Preview & My New Red Le Creuset Pot

I'm back... again, I hope you are still enjoying the "Throwback Posts" (aka Oldies but Goodies) that I have been putting up. It's just been so busy here, so much going on "behind the scenes" that I just haven't had a chance to do a lot of new posts.

Samantha & I have been doing an awful lot for the newsletter. There are some fun changes coming- the next issue (February) will be both in magazine format AND (hopefully) in the email format. I will be looking for feedback as to which one everyone prefers- so I hope you won't be shy with your opinions (oh, I know you won't be, based on your feedback at the end of last November!). Although it's been a lot of work, it's been really fun putting the magazine together. Samantha came over on Saturday and we worked on it for hours, in addition to the hours that we had spent working on it separately over the last couple of weeks. We are trying to get the hang of doing the layout differently than we had previously... hopefully next time it won't take quite as long. It's looking really good and I'm so excited to launch it and see what you all think :)

So, there has been cooking and crafting going on... projects to try, fabric to play with, illustrations to draw and recipes to taste....

And in the midst of all that, I'm still working on the pattern that I told you about a couple of weeks ago... Oh and working on the new website (which is still several months down the road, but lots of planning to do). So yes- busy busy busy- but in a good way, a fun way. Not feeling overwhelmed (yet), just having fun with all the activities going on. To be honest, I like it better when I'm working on a few things at the same time- If I have to just paint, or just sew, or just sit on the computer for days on end (which is what happens when I have a deadline looming), I get tired and cranky. But with a lot of different things going on, I never get bored :)

Monday we took my grandmother out to lunch for her 87th birthday. I can't believe I forgot to take a picture, I'm so annoyed with myself. But she had 3 grandchildren (including me) and 4 great grandchildren (including my daughter Megan) in attendance. The waiters sang Happy Birthday to her and she looked a little annoyed, ha ha! We laughed a lot and had a great time.

One new thing that I wanted to "show off" to you today is one of my Christmas presents that I got last month. I had been wanting one for a long time... and I finally got one... in RED- my favorite color...

My new Le Creuset pot. It's cast iron and has a lid that doubles as a skillet, and it weighs about a hundred pounds (Ok maybe a little less than that.) Everything tastes so much better cooked in this- I think because of the way the cast iron distributes the heat and gets super hot. You can use it on the stove top and the oven- so far I usually start whatever I'm making on the stove, then put it in the oven to finish cooking. 

Last night I made a chicken stew (which is really just chicken soup with a few tablespoons of flour thrown in to thicken the broth into gravy.) When it was almost done, I put some layers of Phyllo dough on top (I had a few sheets leftover from a recipe last week), brushing with melted butter in between the layers. Then I popped it back in the oven uncovered for the last 15 minutes of baking so the Phyllo got nice and flaky. Yum!

So far I have used my new "toy" to make the chicken stew, a sausage and bean casserole, and beef burgundy- all delicious. 
What is your favorite tool in the kitchen- the one that you use all the time and couldn't live without? What is your favorite comfort food?????

Monday, January 21, 2013

There are some games in which cheering for the other side feels better than winning...

We are approaching the grand pinnacle of the professional football season. I am not a sports fan at all. But for all the talk about how much money the players and owners make, and the bad behavior & attitudes sometimes displayed, a good sports story reminds us of the what we as people are capable of.... of the goodness and kindness we are able to share when we stop and think about someone other than ourselves... (which I guess is why sports stories are so popular among sports fans and non-fans alike).
This "Throwback Post" originally appeared here on my blog in January of 2009. I was thinking about it this morning and wanted to share it with you- it chokes me up and inspires me every time I read it.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and I hope it inspires you to go out and do something nice for someone else today. Remember- no act of kindness is ever too small :)

Original story can be found here. 
There are some games in which cheering for the other side feels better than winning
by Rick Reilly
Melinda Wright

Gainesville State players douse head coach Mark Williams in celebration.

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team's fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville, but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.

So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."

Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"

And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."

Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!

"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"

It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"

Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.

After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."

And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.

The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it's nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Throwback Post : Sweater Makeover

Samantha is taking a little time off from doing her usual Friday guest posts to help me put the next Newsletter together. She has also been sick this week- as have my younger daughter, my son-in-law, and almost everyone else we know! We are hoping "sick season" is over soon :)

This post originally appeared on my blog last March. I think it was also my post popular "pin" on Pinterest ever! Find an old sweater that you don't wear anymore, get out your scissors, and have some fun....

Here is a photo of a sweater that oldest daughter has had forever. It had shrunk and become too short, but she still liked the color:

We marked the center of the sweater, then carefully cut up the center of the sweater front.

We cut 2 pieces of fusible hem tape the length of the sweater front.

We fused the hem tape to the wrong side of the cut edges of the sweater, then turned them under and fused the hem down.

We sewed ribbon down the front of the fused edges, and added buttons. Voila- new spring cardigan! Won't this be cute with a pair of jeans or a summer skirt....

I wish I had taken a photo of daughter wearing this with her plain navy summer dress- it looked really adorable! This project took less than an hour, and cost just a few dollars for the ribbon and buttons. Maybe this weekend would be a good time for you to go through your closets, or some thrift shops, and find a waiting treasure?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Painting, Writing, Baking & Trying to Focus

After all of the sewing that I did last week, this week I am writing patterns- sooooo, there's not much exciting going on here!

I did find some time to do some quick illustrations for the February Newsletter (sign up for your free subscription here)....

And I finished up 2 quilts for my next pattern so I could get them off to the quilter.....

Today, I am planning on working on some recipes for the newsletter, too. I tried one out over the weekend, and it was kind of a fail. So back to the kitchen. Good thing my family and friends don't mind eating the "mistakes."

How is everyone's 2013 going so far? So far, mine has been..... pretty much like 2012! Meaning, no huge changes. I don't make resolutions anymore- I resolved to give them up a long time ago, ha ha! I never kept them for more than 3 days anyway :). I do have some new things planned for this year, though. I mentioned in my last post that I am going to do my patterns differently, so that will be a little bit of a challenge but I am pretty excited about it- I hope you will find them to be beautiful and an excellent value for your money.

I am also looking to re-do my blog and website this year- which let me tell you is really overwhelming! Like..... I lay awake at night bed wondering how I am going to do it, in the midst of getting everything else done. You know how that is- that you feel that you really need to move on, but you can't seem to find the time for the new stuff because there's still so much stuff in your day-to-day life that you have to handle? And that is when you start to feel like you are just running on a treadmill- working and working and working but not getting anywhere. That is how I have been feeling.... so I have to figure out a way to find make time for the new stuff I want to explore.... Of course that means that some old stuff is going to have to go- and that is scary. I have ideas that I have been turning over in my head over the last several months. Oh there just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do! Maybe that is the hardest part- deciding which things to focus on, and letting the other things go.

Of course there are some things that are just a "no-brainer"- like I could watch a little less TV. Or get up a bit earlier. Or spend less time on Facebook.

(Brings to mind a saying I heard the other day:
Don't give up what you really want for what you want right now.

How do you get past the "planning" stage into the "doing" stage? When you have lots of ideas, how do you decide which is the best to focus on? And what have you given up in order to make more time and energy for those things?

Monday, January 14, 2013

New "Happy Town" Projects

Did you enjoy our "Throwback Posts" last week? I hope you did- I spent last week sewing, and sewing, and sewing some more.... and writing.... and taking photos (lots of photos!)..... I am putting together a pattern that I hope you will really like.... no, OK, I hope you LOVE it! I will be doing this one differently than I have in the past. One thing that will be different is that instead of drawing diagrams, I took photos for every step. And the format will be different from my previous patterns.... but that is all I'm saying for now. I hope to have it done by mid-February. Many of the projects feature my newest fabric line, Happy Town.

Here is a sneak peek:
A great tote bag with lots of pockets (I don't know about you, but I love a tote with tons of pockets so I can keep my stuff organized.) This is great for kids because it's nice and roomy and they can put all of their little toys & treasures in the pockets (I am making one for myself in "grown-up" fabrics, because I think it will be great for the beach- pockets for suntan lotion, sunglasses, etc.)

Remember a couple of weeks ago I asked you to keep me accountable to finish that little stuffed kitty? Well I finished it, and she will be included in the pattern, too- and she will have a puppy dog and a bunny friend to keep her company!

There will be a couple of embroidery projects:

AND, there are TWO quilt patterns.... so this is going to be a nice-big-fat pattern. 

I am excited about this fabric line- I am donating all of my royalties for the line to Quilts for Kids. Also, Henry Glass Fabrics is sponsoring a quilt contest, with cash prizes AND the winning quilts will be displayed at Quilt Market in May. Click here for the rules. I can't wait to see all of the beautiful quilts that you make (I will be one of the judges- I am sure it's going to be hard to choose....) The great part is that all of the quilts sent in for the contest will be donated to Quilts for Kids- so please enter, and tell ALL of your quilt-y friends and guild members.

The fabric is due in shops by the end of this month. You can also pre-order it from Fat Quarter Shop, so you can have it delivered to your doorstep and get stitching right away.

So now, a couple of questions for you-
  • What features are most important to you in a pattern? What do you like or dislike in patterns that you purchase? Do you prefer paper or digital that you can download right away?
  • Do you participate in any kind of charity quilt programs or events? Do you make quilts on your own, or as part of a group?
  • Which is your favorite project shown above for my upcoming pattern?

OK sorry- that was more than a couple... I guess I'm feeling a bit "nosy" today!
Have a Marvelous Monday :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Throwback Post: Fabric Design Process

This post originally appeared on my blog in July of 2010. I find that everyone is always curious about how fabric is designed. Here is a little peek into how I do it....

I am currently working on my next fabric.You might think (as I used to!) that you can just sit down and start painting. Oh no! I put lots and lots of planning into a design before I ever start painting. It starts with some sketches and ideas regarding a theme, motifs, etc. Then I figure out how I will lay out a fabric panel that is 24" wide (or long, depending on how it's laid out). There are endless options, and it involves math, which is not my favorite thing. When I have decided upon a layout for the panel (in other words- is there a border? 2, maybe 3 borders? do they run parallel or perpendicular to the selvedge? what is the height of the border? how many and what size are the square and rectangular images in the panel? how will the consumer use these components- use the whole thing as a wall hanging or quilt without cutting it apart? cut out the individual components and piece them back together in a project?) Here is the panel I designed for the Sewing Room Social line:

So after figuring out exactly how the panel will lay out, I sketch the different components out on watercolor paper with pencil. Then I procrastinate for a while (which is what I'm doing now...), because once I add the ink, which is permanent, I can't make any changes without starting completely from scratch on a new piece of paper- and that's a pain. Adding the ink is a fun step because the drawing becomes "cleaner" and seems to come to life. But I want to make sure that the drawing is ready and doesn't need further tweaking before I proceed.

I paint out several colors and start deciding- which red? Two reds? Do these greens work well together? I write the name of the color next to each swatch that I paint, because there's no way I'd remember- especially if I mix colors. And I might have a particular paint color from 2 or maybe 3 manufacturers, so I write that down, too. So, for example, I might write Green Earth + Naples, or W&N (manufacturer Winsor & Newton) Indigo. I also have to consider how the colors will need to be broken down for the screens when the fabric is manufactured at the mill. For example, if I know that a particular fabric panel can have 18 different colors, I have to figure that out too. So that means that my blue will have to broken down into 2 or 3 shades of blue, to get the watercolor effect on the fabric.

So when I am fairly kinda somewhat sure of my palette, I start painting. There are usually several drawings, so it takes awhile to paint. Designs for the coordinating fabrics are sketched out, such as floral repeats, stripes, etc. and painted.

Then I scan the paintings, or portions of the paintings, and import them into Photoshop. I pull colors out that will be used for the coordinates. I play with the colors and coordinates on the computer, and after many many hours, everything (the paintings, the Photoshop files) gets shipped to the fabric company (in my case, Henry Glass). And then I hold my breath until they call or email to let me know that everything has arrived safely.

Then there will be about a thousand emails and phone calls between myself and the design director. There is still a lot of work to do! But at this point I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief. It will be many months before I actually have the fabric in my hands....

Monday, January 7, 2013

Throwback Post: Creative Journey

This post originally appeared on my blog in January of 2012. It remains one of my favorites....

Last week I was looking for some of my artwork that I did a few years back, and found that my storage drawers were a complete wreck and totally disorganized. I figured that while I was looking for a couple of particular pieces, I might as well just organize everything.

What began as an organizing chore became a fun look back on my creative journey. I found a lot of old stuff that I had completely forgotten about it. Some of it- I still really like. Some of it- well.... let's just say it really has been a journey! It was good to see how far I've come since I started painting about 16 years ago. I WILL NOT show you that older stuff. What I thought was pretty good all of those years ago is frankly just horrible!! And I found SO MUCH that I had totally forgotten about. I did way more work than I thought. I thought about all of the hours and days and months and years represented in those drawers. I realized that I really have worked really hard to get to where I am today.

Sometimes we are not happy with the work we are doing. It just seems to be not good enough. Sometimes it is missing something, but we don't know quite what, and we don't know what to do to fix it. Creativity is not just a fun hobby or job, it is a learning process just like everything else. If you are not quite happy with your work, I suggest looking back at some things you did a few years ago, and my guess is that you will be pleasantly surprised at how far you've come.

I did throw a lot of stuff away- mostly stuff that was incomplete and I knew I'd never finish. It was a good purge- making room for the new! But I kept a lot of the stuff from my "Early Ugly Period" (I am thinking that when I'm dead and then finally become a super famous artist, that's what the historians will call it.....)- it is a good reminder of how much I've improved.(I even labelled the folder for them so it will be easy for them to archive.)

It reminds me of a couple of quotes. The first is by Ira Glass:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

By the way, I don't think this is just true of beginners. As we progress, and our work improves, it can still get even better. As long as we just keep making stuff, it will get keep getting better and better. More mature, more aesthetically pleasing. Even though I am light years ahead of where I began, there is still so much to master... I look forward to the unfolding journey in the upcoming years....

The second quote that I am reminded of comes from Zechariah 4:10:
(paraphrase) Do not despise the day of small beginnings.....

Do  not despise where you are today! Keep on working and then enjoy the fruits of your labor!
(And don't despise your Early Ugly Period, either. Even Michelangelo had to start somewhere....)

Friday, January 4, 2013

In The Studio Today: Wool Block of the Month (& a little kitty cat!)

Do you remember about a month ago when I confessed that I had a wool Block of the Month which I had abandoned although it was nearly done? Well, I have been diligently working on it. (Sometimes it is good to post things on your blog, if for no other reason than for accountability, ha ha.) I now remember why I had stopped working on it.... I had gotten to the point where I had to trim up all of the blocks and sew them together before I could continue... and I was frankly scared that I would make a mistake and mess up all of the work I had done so far... But if it's going to get done, I had to jump in and just do it! So a few weeks ago, I spent a Saturday working on it.

It actually came out just fine. Once all of the blocks were trimmed to the correct size (in hindsight, I probably should have done that before I appliqued them, but then I ran the risk of them stretching anyway), I laid them out and pinned them together with the edges overlapping by about 1/2". Then I sewed them together using a large zig zag stitch with black thread. I was going to sew them together by hand, but I just couldn't face that! The zig zag stitch on my machine worked out just fine.

Then it was time to prep the last block at the bottom. I am now in the process of appliqueing those pieces on. The blocks had to be pieced together because the applique pieces for that bottom block overlap the other blocks.

Once this block is done, I have to do a border for the top and the bottom. I do love sewing with wool, it's so soft and the needle just slides through like "butta." The only problem now is that instead of working with just a single block at a time, I now have an entire wool quilt on my lap to applique- it is a little unwieldy, and it gets warm! This is NOT a summertime project- so that is another incentive to get it done in the next few months....

Something else I have been working on:

I hope to get this done soon! I started it a while ago, and got side tracked (a recurring theme here!) It's a little stuffed cat. This is a prototype that I quickly put together using muslin. Some accountability would be good with this project too- make sure I finish this one, OK?

So now that the holidays are over, what projects are you dying to jump into? Something new, or something you just need to get done and out of the way?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Throwback Post: Groundhog Wranglin'

This post originally appeared on my blog in 2008. These guys are kind of cute..... kind of...

Seems we have a bit of a groundhog (aka woodchuck) problem. Every year, one or two set up residence on our property. Which I don't care about too much, except if they try to burrow somewhere they shouldn't, like our barn. Or when the dog corners one and refuses to leave it be. Today, the dog cornered this baby on the tire of my car.

A couple of years ago, she chased one up in a tree. Groundhogs make a funny clicking noise when threatened, and have some pretty wicked claws and teeth. But they are very shy and not dangerous unless they are cornered (which, as I mentioned, my dog likes to do.)

When we can, we use a rake to push the cornered creature into a trashcan, and then we enter him in our "relocation" program (which means we drive him to a field down the street and release him, then he is someone else's problem). This sport is referred to as Groundhog Wranglin'. What? You've never heard of it? Well, that there's the way we do it here in the deep South of Jersey.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013! 

This is the third year in a row that I am posting this on New Year's Day, so I guess it is officially "a tradition." It's such a good reminder about how to live every day.... not just in the beginning of the year when we are trying to be on our best behavior!

You can click here for a printable PDF of this poster.

Have a Happy New Year!


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