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!

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Wishes Block of the Month Quilt, January

Last night, I began cutting the pieces for the Wishes BOM Quilt‘s January block. Today, I finished the block. I decided to use the yellow, grey, white and black fabric I’ve been collecting.

Wishes BOM Quilt, January Block

Wishes BOM Quilt, January Block

To be honest, this is the most difficult block I’ve put together in a while. I quit quilting for a while, and then came back to the art in earnest last year. Most of what I’ve been making up until this point has been simple quilts, but I decided that I really need to expand my skill set, so when this BOM came up, I thought it was a great way to do just that. Although I’m not a big fan of sampler type quilts, I believe they are great skill builders, so I fully intend to complete several of them this year to give as gifts.

I’m really hoping, though, that the resulting left over fabrics from the cutting will be used at some point down the line in this quilt, because I have quite a lot left. If it doesn’t for some reason get used, I’m sure I can find something to do with it.

That's a lot of fabric to discard, so I'm hoping there's an opportunity to use it later in the year.

That’s a lot of fabric to discard, so I’m hoping there’s an opportunity to use it later in the year.

I’m pretty happy with the way this block turned out overall. I didn’t cut off any points, everything lined up fairly well, and it measures about right. Further, I really like the color combination on this one. Surely someone I know would enjoy receiving the quilt once it’s completed … right?

Resolutions, 2013 edition

Like most people, I’m not as good at keeping resolutions I make for a new year as I would like to be, so this year I’ve decided to make January resolutions. I’m making resolutions that will only last for the month of January, and then after that, I’ll re-evaluate and decide if I want to keep going with the same resolutions, if I want to tweak them, or if I want to give up on trying to make and keep new year’s resolutions all together. So, in no particular order, here are my January resolutions.

1. Improve eating habits, i.e., revert back to where I was pre-holidays. I was lucky and I didn’t gain any weight over the holidays (first time in ages!), but I didn’t eat nearly so well as I should have. In January, I’m going to pack my lunch on the days I go to the office and avoid the cafeteria as much as possible. This also includes breakfasts – since I leave the house prior to 6 am most mornings, and I don’t like eating early, I will take something that fits into my eating plan each day for breakfast as well as lunch.

2. Try to get in at least 5,000 steps a day. I know that the “gurus” push you to get in 10,000 a day, but let’s be realistic here – I haven’t done any real exercise in years, so I’m going to have to work up to it.

3. Try to lose some of the work-related stress I’ve been carrying around the last two and a half years. I need to remember that I’m not the one in the hot seat, and that others need to start standing on their own two feet.

4. Try something different in my studio. This month, I’ll be testing out some fabric dyeing techniques. I realized a few months ago that the looks I want in some of my quilts just aren’t possible with the commercially available fabrics, so I’m going to try doing some of my own. I have tried once before, years ago, and I liked my results, I guess. But back then I used some cheap unbleached muslin from Joann’s. The colors had a muddy look to them, so I’m going to try out a couple of different fabrics – I’m not giving up completely on Joann’s muslin, but this time I’ll use a higher quality bleached muslin. And I’m going to give a couple other cottons a try too – like Kona’s prepared for dyeing (PFD) white.

5. Blog more often. My goal is twice a week for January. I don’t know if I can get up to daily, but I’m going to give twice a week a try and see how that goes. Look! I’ve already blogged once this week. Of course, this week is already nearly over … Some of my blog posts may be nothing more than a photo, but at least it’s something, right?

So there you go, five January resolutions that I will hopefully be able to keep. I’ll post my progress here, to keep myself honest.

Speaking of progress, I’ve already made some progress on numbers 1, 4 and 5. I started on a healthier eating plan today and it’s been great, I ordered a dye starter kit to play around with, and I did this blog post today. 🙂 What are your resolutions?