Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hot FROM The Press

As in The Taunton Press! I hope you indulge me this week, as I introduce a brand new cookbook title.

Seems whenever I am invited to join a quilty pot-luck meal, somebody always brings a quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) dish. Quinoa is one of those superfoods that has lots of healthy good stuff and no gluten.

I've noticed that quinoa salad is a popular pot luck offering, but did you know that quinoa can be used in lots and lots of other recipes? Not just salad. Like this orange layer cake . .

Have I got your attention?

The book is called, not surprisingly, We Love Quinoa. And it's filled with easy, yummy, healthy recipes featuring quinoa.

As you know, my books are published by The Taunton Press, and I happen to have the inside scoop that We Love Quinoa JUST ARRIVED in their warehouse! Order it from this link, and it'll likely ship by the end of the day.

Check out a few more photos (courtesy of Simon Pask) from the book:

How about some risotto-style quinoa with mushrooms and onions?

Some granola:

Now, I'm hungry for lunch!

The fudgy brownies got my husband's attention.

Thumbing through the recipes, although I haven't had time to try any yet, they're easy and filled with basic ingredients. Everything you ever wanted to know about cooking with quinoa is there.

If quinoa is your thing, I'd say this is a must-have for your recipe collection.Once you're powered up with all that extra protein, you'll be adequately fueled for a full day at the sewing machine.

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Happy, Happy. Joy, Joy.

As the ball dropped in Times Square, closing out 2015, many folks were making resolutions for 2016. It's mid-January, now. I wonder how those are working out?

As for me, I set out to create a simple plan to reduce the number of unfinished projects in my quilty stash. I keep 'saying' I want to do this, and make little steps of progress, but the unfinished projects remaining. And I've been outlining the three simple steps to my approach in the last couple weeks.

To Recap

A Plan. Keep it simple. Keep it flexible. And make a commitment. I showed you a copy of the journal I'm keeping to maintain my list and make notes from time to time. Basically my goal is to finish 12 personal projects by the end of 2016.

Focus. Choose one project and see it through to completion. Jumping from one project to another may create forward progress, but if the goal is to get something done, then you may be disappointed.


This week, the thing that pulls it all together is JOY. The 'fun' is the 'glue.' At the checkout at Ben & Jerry's in Vermont this past summer:

You know, all this journaling, listing, and focusing isn't worth a bit if the journey isn't fun. At least I don't think so. It would be so easy to power through my projects and just get 'em done. But, was that really why I started quilting? Is that what I enjoy most?

I had to decide that I like the journey as much as I like the completion. This Scrappy Star quilt is not done yet. I'm still working on the quilting in the border. I suppose it would have been done faster if I did a simple line of stitching a quarter inch away from each piano key seam in the border.

Instead, I pulled a star-shaped cookie cutter out of my kitchen cabinet and I'm tracing and sewing stars  - because, for me, anyway, it's more fun! It's taking me a little longer, but that's okay. That's why I built some flexibility into my plan. This is the back of the quilt at the border, I'm not sure if you can see it very well, but the stars are there in the quilting lines. They make me happy.

Another example. I started this small heart-shaped embroidery wall-hanging quilt several years ago. It sat in a basket until December last year. It was basted and ready to quilt. Why was it sitting there so long?

I could have simply quilted on the lines that I marked, but I remembered (way back when I started this piece) wanting to add some beads to the stitching in the center.

Well, once I got going with the beads, it didn't end with the center. . . .

Anyway, this little quilt is done now, and even has a label. No idea what I'm going to do with it. I have a feeling it'll be a wedding or shower gift before too long. Or I might just hang it up in my dining room. Might as well enjoy it, right?

My point is, if all you want to do is pull things together quickly and finish them up, that's great. It's done. Celebrate!

But if the journey has a few slight turns to slow things down, might be worth it to enjoy the scenery along with the ride to the finish.

Next week, we'll be onto something different, I promise! In the meantime. . . .

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Just ONE Quilt

Many times I've imagined changing my sewing room up to have an L-shaped sewing table. On one arm of the table, I'd have a sewing machine set up with thread and feet and hand controls for quilting. And on the other arm of the table, a second sewing machine would be set up for piecing. And I could sit in the middle and work the quilting with my right hand and the piecing with my left. Just think how much I could get done if I could do two quilts at once! 

Wait, what?

Crazy idea, right? Yes, it's a crazy idea. Ridiculous, in fact. 

And, I can already hear some of you who might be saying you can have an embroidery machine and a sewing machine set up exactly like I've described, set up the mechanics for the embroidery, and you can be sewing away on one machine with the embroidery going to town right next to it. That's not what I'm taking about . . . keep reading.

The 'Three Simple Steps' Rewind

Last week I discussed my plan to tackle some quilt projects that have managed to linger in limbo for far too long. I've started a list of targeted UnFinished Objects (UFOs) and, for 2016 I set a goal to complete 12 non-revenue driven projects--stuff I'm working on just for myself. In the background, the quilt samples and pattern writing for my business continue on my usual schedule. 

I showed you my journal and the start of my targeted list of unfinished projects I plan to tackle this year. To guide me through the process, I'm zeroing in on three simple things to keep me on track with my goal. A plan, focus, and joy. I talked about the the first step - A New Plan -  last week. This week my focus is FOCUS!

2) Focus on ONE at a time

You've heard the Chinese proverb?

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

I think this phrase could be reworked for my quilts: The completion of a thousand (!) quilts begins with a single stitch!

I'm convinced that the absolute key to any success on my plan for 2016 is ONE quilt, ONE project ONE stitch at time. Queue the magic word:


That list I created in my planner . . . I'm so glad the planner has a cover. Once I choose the ONE project that will be my focus, I can close the book, and the cover keeps me from looking at the list.

In my mind, I know that list is there, in my planner, waiting. But with the cover shut, it's not staring back at me while other projects on the list beckon. Those aren't the ONEs I'm focused on right now.

If I start bouncing around, quilt a block on this project, then applique a block on another project. Work on a little cross stitch here and there. Maybe a few stitches on a binding. I'm all over the place, and stuff is moving forward a little here and a little there, but nothing--no ONE thing--is reaching completion. 

And that's my goal--to reach completion--with the 12 projects from my list. If you're following along with me, your goal may be different. You may want to move a big project forward one step each month. Whatever your goal, if you aren't focused, I'm going to bet that it won't happen. 

Is it working?

Well, let's see. Last week I showed you a photo of my first target. I've had this red, white, and blue quilt in progress so long I forgot the name of the pattern. Someone recognized it in my post last week (thanks Mary) and enlightened me. It's called Scrappy Star from Two Kwik Quilters. 

When I made the quilt top (I swear it must have been nearly 10 years ago), I thought it would be a good idea to hand quilt it. It's not small, about twin size. I even used swapped rail fence blocks for the border. I thread-basted the entire quilt, and started the hand quilting with an in-the-ditch line of quilting around each star shape. And that's where the project hit a wall. I don't know why, it just did. It sat in a cabinet for a while--a long while. I pulled it out last year and put it on a quilt rack in the corner of my living room intending to finishing it up. But with no focus on its progress, this concept and the quilt fell flat. Zero progress. Nada.

Right before the new year, as I was formulating my planner and my plan, I pulled the quilt off the rack. Now, the quilt center is entirely quilted, and only the borders are left to quilt. When I first pulled it out, my husband, ever the source of positive reinforcement, said something like: "that will take you months!"

Now I can barely keep from pulling out the basting threads. Gimme another week or so . . . that makes a total of three weeks, working on this quilt - and ONLY this quilt - when I'm relaxing with television in the evenings. Let's see if I can stay focused on finishing this ONE quilt!

One more simple step left to discuss next week. My favorite part . . . joy.

What ONE quilty project are you working on this week?

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Turn a Page

It's a new year! A fresh start! What's done is done. Leave the past behind, set lofty goals and . . .

. . .  feel disappointed by January 15.


Maybe there's a better way.

Confessions of a Quilter

I'm a finisher. You wouldn't know it by looking at my cubby full of projects-in-waiting. Stuff I started because I was excited about something new--a fun fabric, a tool, a process, or an idea. Then those projects got pushed aside, one by one, because of a deadline, another priority, a busy life, a scratch-your-head-moment. And there they sit.

Sound familiar? Some quilters call them UFOs (UnFinished Objects). And they are a source of guilt! Those who know me and know my books, particularly the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good Quilters, know that I feel deeply that this wonderful quilty hobby we all embrace has no place for a guilty soul. It should be fun. Filled with creative solutions instead of guilty burdens.

I've tried making resolutions at the turn of the new calendar year: "Complete all UFOs by next week!" Like the overly optimistic weight-loss plan, this declaration is destined to fail. It's not specific, it's not measurable, it's not realistic, and, worse, I've squished all the fun out of my joyful hobby.

Three Little Things

I'm not giving up. (Finishers don't give up, we're obsessed with finishing things!) Toward the end of last year, I noticed a big change in my attitude toward finishing up projects that have been long overlooked. I managed to get really, truly excited about a couple of quilts that have been lying in waiting in a basket or on a shelf. And they got done! Yay!!

The difference: the addition of three simple things--a plan, focus, and joy.

For 2016, I'm going to try an experiment and see if this approach helps me move some of my to-be-done projects (UFOs) into the Ta-Done stack.

For the next few weeks, I'll share my thoughts on how my plan is progressing. Are you with me? Feel free to join in. 

1) A New Plan

One of my big ah-ha moments from 2015 is having a specific, realistic, measurable goal.
Seems simple, right?

My plan from past years: 

Complete all UFOs by next week.

This isn't realistic. Not even close. I suppose it's measurable, when the shelf is empty, I'm done.

Scratch that plan.

On my office shelf, I found an unused spiral bound journal that has a quilty cover, filled with blank pages. It can be any type of journal, I just happened to have this one handy.


On the first page I gave the notebook a name.

 Sounds good, right? Very up-beat!

Turn the page, and there it is, a blank page. A bit scary, indeed!

On the top of the first page I wrote:

2016  - Goal for the year, 1 project per month complete. OR 12 projects for the year. 


Measurable and reasonable, and I have some options, if I have a particularly busy month, I can play catch up in the following months. Or hit the free-time jackpot and get lots done in a month. Flexible.

Since my job is to write patterns, I want this notebook to represent the hobby side of my quilty life, not projects associated with books or patterns that have their own set of goals.

Next I defined what 'completed' means to me. If it's a quilt, bound and labeled, if its something else like a bag or table runner, then ready to use. Specifics are good.

Then I made two columns and listed target projects, and next step targets. The "Target Project List" has the names of seven projects I want to finish this year. The items on the 'next step' list are projects on deck, if you will.

Seven, not 12 projects are listed. If I commit to a hard and fast list, at this stage, it starts to feel dangerously close to a commitment. If I miss one item, the whole goal starts to teeter on the brink of disaster. Small steps first, then add more to the plate.

It's that simple. On next few journal pages, I'm taking notes on daily progress. I've never been much of a daily journal-writer, but I think a few notes now and again will help me stay on track and feel like progress is being made.

The first project on my list, a red, white, and blue quilt is already showing good progress. It has been thread basted, ready to quilt, sitting on a quilt rack in the corner of my living room for years--at least 5 years. I don't think I have the pattern anymore, so I'm sorry I can't identify its source.

That's enough for now. More next time. . . on focus and joy.

Happy Stitching!