Take the money & run

Yesterday was my last day in Corporate America, so “Take the Money & Run” by the Steve Miller Band was my theme song all day. Yep, I’m that kind of nerd, but I have come to accept and even embrace my nerdiness. LOL After going to the office one last time to turn in my computer, badge and assorted CorpAm paraphernalia, I went in search of the last bits of stuff I need to start the Amy Bradley Campers quilt.

Amy Bradley's brilliant quilt pattern, Campers!

Amy Bradley’s brilliant quilt pattern, Campers!

I am crazy about this pattern! I first saw it when I was shopping at my favorite LQS, Painted Pony & Quilts, a few months ago. They had to order the pattern, and I got it ages ago, but I didn’t have time to dig in to it. Now I have lots of time to devote to making it. It’s my first project post-CorpAm. ;-) And I have the PERFECT fabric for it …

Adorable Route 66 fabric by Robert Kaufman

Adorable Route 66 fabric by Robert Kaufman

I first fell in love with this fabric a few years ago when I visited another favored LQS, Sew Contempo. Sew Contempo became All Brands last year, and I think it’s better than ever, but I digress. I didn’t buy this fabric the first time I saw it, but it haunted me, and eventually I gave in and made a trip all the way back to the store (which is about 50-ish miles away) to pick up a couple yards. It has acted as my inspiration for the rest of the fabrics, and will serve as a larger than called for border in my final quilt. Speaking of the rest of the fabric, I am really excited about the colorway this quilt has taken on, and the cute fabrics I’ve found for the campers …

Route 66 Coordinates

Route 66 Coordinates

I think it’s going to be really cute. Now, the original pattern is like, child sized, or maybe wall sized?? Well, you know that’s not going to work for me, so I’m going to add at least one more column of campers, and some additional borders. While I certainly love Amy’s original pattern, I want something I can actually use as a throw. Oh, and did I mention that this will be my very first applique quilt ever?? Ambitious? Perhaps, but I think it will be totally worth it.

I have been toying with the idea of using my Brother CutNScan to cut the pieces for the campers, and I’m going to give it a shot tomorrow, because I don’t have a lightbox. I could order a lightbox, but it will be sometime next week before it gets here, at the earliest. I could build a lightbox, but after pricing the lights for the box, it would be cheaper to order one off Amazon. Trust me, I’ve looked every where I can think to buy one locally, except for the camera store, because I KNOW how much they’ll cost there. I never could afford a lightbox when photography was my main hobby! But the CutNScan has possibilities …

At any rate, words cannot begin to describe how excited I am about starting this project. I am really looking forward to putting together different fabrics to make the campers, and I’ve even toyed with the idea of mixing colors within in the blocks. *gasp* But seriously, how can you go wrong with a retro camper quilt?!?

I’ll keep ya updated on my progress; Lord knows I’ll have plenty of time to post now that I’m not working. ;-)

In to the home stretch

Today, I’m starting my last week of employment with my current company. While I’ve got a plan for the future, I’m still a little nervous. I feel like I’m jumping off the deep end, working without a net … taking unusual risks that I normally wouldn’t take, at least not with my livelihood. And yet, I feel like it’s the right thing to do. It’s definitely time to move on from Corporate America and take the next step.

However, all of this change and upheaval have taken a toll on my studio time. I just have not been focused enough to do anything in there lately. I have the Cat in the Hat quilt in the process of being free motion quilted, but I haven’t felt the pull to work on it lately. I haven’t been able to focus on anything creative because I felt the need to nail down a plan of action on my career first. I did some fabric dyeing in yellow, which turned out quite well, in my opinion.

Deep Yellow Fabric Dyeing

As far as my career goes, I’m registered for a couple of “spring late start” classes at the local community college. It feels weird to be going back to school now, but I think that getting the accounting courses completed and sitting for the CPA (and possibly the CPB – Certified Public Bookkeeper) exam is the right thing to do. I’m going to be starting my own bookkeeping business on a part time basis at first, then once I’ve gotten my certification(s) out of the way, I’ll expand to a full time business. I’m doing a weekend seminar in March on how to start and run a successful and profitable small business. I’ve got my summer classes planned out, even though I have another month before I can register for them. Once I had all this worked out, I began to feel far more confident about my impending unemployment. In fact, I’m really beginning to look forward to it!

One thing I have realized, though, is that I need to be sure I have regularly scheduled things to do, because if I don’t I have a tendency to want to just sit around doing a whole lot of nothing. OK, maybe not nothing, but I do not need to sit around for hours several days a week to read books, or crochet or knit. I can do those things in the evenings, while watching tv, or in lieu of watching tv. I don’t really have anything specifically planned until  my classes start in March, so until then, I’m going to take a couple of classes on my new Pfaff sewing machine, do my spring cleaning, make some things that I might decide to sell, and spend time working on a business plan. I also intend to make myself some clothing and spend some time with family.

Hopefully, my next post won’t be about work stuff, and I can share some new projects I’m working on, or have finished!

It’s time to get serious

Almost 17 years ago, I accepted a two week temporary assignment at Texaco. It was a decent paying job in downtown Houston, and I welcomed the opportunity to learn something new. Although I had worked in the petrochemical industry at a couple of points in my career, up until that point, I had sort of drifted from industry to industry, trying my hand in the medical, legal, and miscellaneous categories of administrative support. Two weeks turned into six months, and by the end of that year, I was a full time Texaco employee. I will never forget one question that the hiring manager asked me – “You’ve changed jobs every year or two; how will I know you’ll still be around in a couple of years?”

It was a fair question, and obviously one that’s stuck with me all this time. In an ironic twist, two years later I found myself moving to a different group and new job in the newly merged ChevronTexaco, while that particular hiring manager found himself looking for a new job elsewhere. I ended up spending 11 years with Texaco, then ChevronTexaco, and finally, Chevron, before finding myself looking for something new in the Spring of 2010. I really enjoyed most of my time there, and I learned a lot. When I left Chevron, however, I thought it might be a good time to find a job in another industry. God had a different plan for me, and I found myself once again employed in the oil & gas industry.

I was given official notice in December, right before Christmas, that my job was being eliminated, and that my employment would end in mid-February. To be honest, I thought I would find another job within the company, and to date, I have applied for no less than 13 positions, most of which I thought I was qualified to fill. Hiring managers, however, seem to disagree, and almost six years after first coming to this company, I again find myself in need of a new job. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I just did not believe that I would find myself back on the unemployment line. Ha. Ha. Ha. Joke’s on me, I guess. There is still a very small chance that something could pop up and I could get a last-minute reprieve, but with a little more than two weeks left, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

So, I started looking for a job “on the outside.” But let me tell you, job hunting has been a harsh lesson in “Things I should have done before now.” Every single rejection I have received has told me that while my skills, accomplishments, achievements and background are “impressive,” there are better qualified candidates that applied for the job. I know there will always be someone who’s “better qualified” but the common theme in all of these jobs is that they want an accounting or finance degree, and a CPA would be preferred. So, facing at least another 15 (maybe 20) years in the job force, I have decided it’s time to get serious.

I am not totally happy about this, but it has to be done. I’m going back to school. Not to get an MBA or an advanced degree of any type, but to take the classes I would need to get my CPA. I started to do this a few years ago but I found I really didn’t have the drive or desire to make it happen, but something I learned a few years ago is that once you have a bachelor’s degree, regardless of field, there is no college in Texas that will allow you to earn an accounting degree. You can take the advanced accounting classes that would have earned you the degree, but instead of an actual degree, you get a certificate that can be used as proof of education to take the CPA. I am not a fan of long, boring certification tests (I took one many years ago to get my Certified Professional Secretary designation, and another a few years later to get my Certified Administrative Professional rating) but I think that in this case, it’s an absolute necessity, because I don’t think most employers are going to understand that I took all the classes even though I don’t have the degree to back it up. I think the CPA would be the definitive proof needed to show that yes, I can do an accounting job. Clearly, ten years of experience isn’t enough; I need some paper to back it up (isn’t that always the way?).

As you can probably predict, I missed the cut-off to enroll in Spring classes by HOURS. It’s ok, though … I will get enrolled for the summer session, so I have some time to get ready. Although I haven’t even started the classes yet, I’m thinking about purchasing a study guide for one of the modules. I think it might be helpful to know what kind of questions are on the test, and to start thinking proactively about my next steps. Maybe it won’t make a difference, but really, can it hurt? I think it might be a good idea to know what to expect on the test, so that when I cover that material in classes, I can ask for clarification on things I don’t understand, or when the information the instructor gives is vastly different from what the study materials include. I don’t know; I’ll have to think about it, but I don’t see how it could hurt to start thinking about and prepping for the test now.

Either way, I think that pursuing my CPA is the right thing to do. And who knows, once I have it, maybe I’ll decide to strike out on my own and leave Corporate America behind. Who wouldn’t love that?!?

WIP Wednesday

Wishes BOM blocks done!

Wishes BOM blocks done!

Finally, all of the blocks for the Wishes BOM quilt are done! It’s taken me more than a year to get them finished, but finished they are! This is the first sampler quilt I’ve made and I wasn’t really prepared for the amount of cutting, and odd sizes, and that alone took a lot more time than I was expecting it to take. But I will say that I learned a lot making these blocks – a lot about making sure cuts are accurate, about making sure piecing is precise (and that 1/4″ seams are uniform) and about color choices. I think the next time I decide to do a sampler quilt, I will use my Accuquilt Go! Baby to cut the pieces. I’m hoping to upgrade to the regular size Go! later this year, so then I can make bigger blocks, but for now, the smaller blocks would work just fine. At least my cuts would be accurate, for all that my sewing sometimes look like a drunken sailor has taken over my studio.

Now it’s time to sash the quilt. I’d like to say I have everything planned from here on out, but the reality is, I don’t. I am trying to decide whether or not I want to use grey, white or black Kona cotton for the sashing. Right now, I’m leaning toward black or grey. I wanted to like the white, and it was my original choice, but I felt that the blocks get lost in the sea of white when I tested it out. The yellow tends to wash out significantly, and it really pops with the black, but overall, I think I like the grey the best …

Once this top is completed, I think I’m going to work on making myself a blouse. I’ve been reading Nancy Zieman’s book Pattern Fitting With Confidence and I think it’s time I try using some of the things I’m learning. I want to make a button down blouse, so I’m considering using Butterick B5300  for my first attempt at fitting. It’s a semi-fitted shirt made from woven fabric, so it will lend itself well to making a muslin, I hope.

But my real goal for this year is to reduce the overall number of UFOs I have, not increase them, so I am headed out today to see if I can find an extension table for my Pfaff Creative 4.5. I am hopeful that the table will be usable with or without the legs – with the legs when I want to take it with me, without the legs when I want to use it in my Horn Quilter’s Dream sewing cabinet. This is how I used my Janome 8900 for almost two years, and it was the perfect set up. With luck, I will be able to do the same with the Pfaff.

So, what’s on your work table this week?

January blues

I am not a good winter person. The days are too short, the nights too long, and the temperatures too cold for me. Granted, I’m not exactly a summer heat person, either, but I do love the longer days of the summer months. I have always suffered from January blues, and this year is certainly no different. In fact, it may be a little worse than usual considering my personal situation this year.

When I found out in November that I was being laid off from my company, I had high hopes that I would be able to find another job internally before my mid-February exit date. But I work in the oil industry, and as you may know, oil prices are in the tank. So I started looking externally last week. Job hunting is not one of my favorite activities, and I’ve been with my present company for nearly six years, so I’m a little rusty. However, it isn’t like the wolf will be at our door the minute I leave my job; there is a generous package, which will keep us going for many months if it’s necessary. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary, but it’s nice to have the safety net if it’s needed. In light of the present oil market and futures, moving on might be in my best interest, and fortunately I have skill sets that are applicable in a wide range of industries. Everything will work out just the way it’s supposed, of that I am sure.

Still, it isn’t easy to get on with the day to day life when you feel this unsettled. I’m doing what I can to keep myself distracted, though. I spent several hours last week preparing the Minions quilt for quilting. I spent most of Saturday cleaning and re-arranging my studio. Sunday morning, I decided to see how the Pfaff would do with free motion quilting (FMQ). I am by no means an expert, and I need LOTS of practice, but I have decided that I will never improve if I don’t actually start using FMQ in my quilting. So, I switched gears and decided to work on the Cat in the Hat quilt that I started FMQ on back when I still had the Janome 8900. That was like, two years ago! So yes, I thought, finishing that would be a great idea. I pulled out some scrap fabric and batting, and gave FMQ on the Pfaff a whirl.

My first attempt at free motion quilting on the Pfaff

My first attempt at free motion quilting on the Pfaff

I know it isn’t very good, but I was pretty happy with it since I haven’t attempted FMQ in at least two years. There is one pucker on the back of the sample, but I didn’t actually tack the layers together in any way, so I was a bit surprised there was only one pucker. I thought, Well, as long as I don’t try anything too crazy, this will work alright on the Cat quilt. So I moved the Pfaff to the sewing cabinet and got ready to quilt. Only … I realized that I didn’t have an extended flat surface on which to work. No extension table or cabinet insert to make the surface easier to work on, and nothing to tape down my Supreme Slider to so that the quilt would move easier. /sigh

I would have used the Brother – it has a bigger throat and I have a cabinet insert for it – but I cannot get it to FMQ, no matter what I try. I am going to try to get to the dealer soon to see if there’s anyone there who can help me figure out what I’m doing wrong, but for now it’s not an option. I do have an extension table for the Viking, but I haven’t tried any FMQ on it, even though I bought a foot for that purpose, but it isn’t quite as big in the throat area as the Pfaff, I think, and definitely not as big as the Brother. So I’m concerned it might be a bit of a trick working on it, but I don’t think I’ll be buying a table or insert for the Pfaff for a while, so if I can’t get the Brother to work I might try it out. In fact, I might try out a sample on it today, just to see how it handles FMQ.

In the meantime, I have block 11 of the 2014 Wishes BOM cut out and ready to assemble. I got sidetracked yesterday evening with making dinner, then I got sucked in to watching tv with Chris. But today I’m going to get that one together, and maybe get the 12th block cut out, at least. Once that’s done, all the blocks will be completed, and I can sash them and put a border or two on it and then that’s another quilt top completed. I have so many quilt tops finished right now, that if I can work out the FMQ thing, I will have practice pieces lined up for MONTHS. LOL None of these quilts are specifically ear-marked for anyone, though I am thinking I will give the Cat in the Hat to my grandson. Well … this is embarrassing to admit, but one of the quilt tops I made for my daughter, when she was about 10. She’s 22 now with a kid of her own. So I guess I’ll give that one to her when it’s done. But other than that, none of them have a specific destination yet. It would be really great if I could get them done and use them for gifts this year.

Have a good Monday, everyone!

Better late than never

On New Year’s Eve, I posted about making weekly goals that I want to accomplish. While I didn’t accomplish much on that list, I did manage to do a fair amount of sewing during the week. I am happy to be able to report that the binding for the fleece jacket is 3/4 done. I am hoping to get it finished by tomorrow night; I would be working on it right now, but there is a wicked western sun coming through the window right where I would be sitting to sew, so I’m waiting for it to go down. Clearly, I need to replace the non-functional Venetian blinds at that window with something that actually works.

In other news, this followed me home last Tuesday …

My new toy, which somehow managed to just follow me home ...

My new toy, which somehow managed to just follow me home …

It wasn’t in the plan to buy a new machine; I had stopped by to take a look at what they had to offer, because the one year anniversary of my Viking Opal 690Q purchase is approaching, and I had until that date to trade it in and get the full purchase price credited toward another new machine, at MSRP. Now, I’ve been watching the machines since I bought the Opal, and let me tell you that it’s not always the best idea to trade in a machine against MSRP, because many times, new machines are marked down more than the amount the trade would give you. And that would have been no different with this machine. In fact, I got an outstanding deal on this machine, paying about half MSRP. It was a machine used at the Houston Quilt Show back in November for classes, but this machine had almost no time on it. It came with the small embroidery unit, which is still a very generous 10″ x 6″-ish size. Down the road, I might just upgrade to the large unit, which has an embroidery area bigger than 14″ square.

This is the machine I’ve been using the do the binding on the fleece jacket, and I will say that I’m thoroughly impressed with the IDT on this machine. Attaching the binding has been a much easier process than I was anticipating on the other two machines I have, and I am very happy with this purchase. But I have to tell you, that really wasn’t the case when I first brought it home. In fact, I wasn’t sure what I was doing the whole time I was making the purchase. When I got it home, I let it sit in the middle of the studio for a while before I unpacked it. Then I let it sit on the table for a few days before I used it. Oh, I ran a couple of sample lines of stitching on a scrap piece of fabric to be sure it would at least do that, but I didn’t actually use it until Friday. And from that first line of stitching, I knew that I would love this machine. But until then, I was pretty much freaking out, which is why very little was done on my list last week – I just couldn’t keep my mind on anything but trying to figure out what I’d do if this machine turned out to be a mistake (my dealer doesn’t allow returns). I’m very happy to report that it isn’t a mistake. Yay!

I will do a full review of this machine once I’ve had it for a while and used it, but right now I will say that I foresee this being my go-to machine for difficult fabrics. The IDT is making the fleece a breeze, so I imagine it will have similar results on other difficult fabrics. The Opal didn’t do so hot on the fleece; the Brother did fine, but the Pfaff just sang. I can’t wait to really put this machine through it’s paces and see what she can do!

Stay tuned … :-)

WIP Wednesday

My first WIP post for 2016 gives me the chance to report that I’ve been getting on with the sewing this week – a good start to my new year, I think. I am about to start my 11th block for the Wishes BOM from 2014, so I wanted to take a look at all the finished blocks together.

Month 10 completed

Month 10 completed

I like to take photos of my works in progress often, because a lot of times, I can spot things in a photo that I don’t see in person. This works really well for color selection in particular, but also block lay out and how things are coming together. Also, a photo is an invaluable tool when I’ve got the lay out set and then have to take the quilt off the wall to sew it together. Usually I do this one row at a time, but even then it can get really confusing if I don’t have something to use as a guide. I use both my camera on my phone (down & dirty shots) and my Canon 60D (when I’m a little more serious about better photos). Those lay out photos have saved me a lot of time and frustration over the years!

Anyway, I’ve not yet got these blocks in any particular order, because I don’t plan to follow the lay out of the original pattern. I was a part of the Facebook group for this BOM and I began to notice how many people were using the same fabrics as the original pattern, and how just about all of them followed the same lay out. I guess I’m a rebel, because following the sample to the letter just doesn’t really appeal to me. I prefer to choose my own fabrics and determine my own lay out, unless the lay out is integral to the design of the quilt, which is clearly not the case with a sampler such as this one.

Now I’m starting to think about the sashing between the blocks, and I don’t think I’m going to use white as originally planned. I think I might use grey or maybe even black. Right now, grey is the front runner but I’m holding off on a decision until all the blocks are finished.

So, what’s on your worktable on this first Wednesday of 2016?