Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How I Manage to Get Things Done

Trips to my local quilt shop are more than fabric-buying adventures. For a stay-at-home mom like me, they are much-needed opportunities for adult conversation. Last week’s shopping trip surpassed my expectations. I got the Bella Solid in white bleached I needed to save this quilt, and I bumped into Kathy, a new member of the NHMQG.

Kathy and I chatted each other up, and then we moved on to Miss D, one of the shop’s employees. Miss D knows how crazy pants my life can be—after all, she has witnessed my younger son doing laps around the store’s cutting table!—and during our conversation she expressed her amazement of how I accomplish so much sewing. Miss D’s comment got me thinking. How do I make the most of my time at my sewing machine?

What follows is a list of high-level strategies I follow to get stuff done. If you have some of your own suggestions, please share them in the comments below. : )

1. I have a dedicated sewing space.

I would love to have a real sewing room, one with a door that can be closed to hide the chaos, but I don’t. I’ve resorted to squatting in the dining room. This isn’t a problem—we rarely use the space as a dining room—and I benefit from sewing on a big table and in the best natural light in the house. 

When my kids are at home, I don’t have big chunks of uninterrupted time, so having a place to spread out my sewing stuff is key. I don’t have to do any packing or unpacking—everything is ready to go. If a peaceful 10-minute slot presents itself, I can cut fabric or chain-piece.

Every three or four days, when I can’t stand it any longer, I vacuum up all the loose threads, return fabric to my stash or scrap bin, and restore a sense of order in there. Otherwise, it’s a pit. It’s one of life’s great paradoxes: To make something beautiful, you first have to make a huge mess.

I was not exaggerating.

2. I have multiple WIPs at different stages going all the time.

I admire those quilters who have the focus to work on one project from start to finish before embarking on another. For me, that’s drudgery. Sometimes I want to mindlessly chain-piece. Other times I want to dig through my scrap bin or cut fabric. I can get overwhelmed with too many WIPs, but five or six at a time gives me options to do what I feel like doing on a given day.

3. My WIPs are different kinds of projects.

My projects don’t require the same amount of time and energy. I design some myself—those are bigger time commitments—and writing a corresponding tutorial requires even more time. But one of my current projects, my Outlined Plus Quilt, was designed by someone else. I’m even using a bundle of Basic Grey’s Mon Ami for it, so there have been few fabric decisions to labor over.

Then there are my nonquilt endeavors. When I grow weary of big quilt projects, I can pick up a bag project in process and enjoy the thrill of a faster finish.

Outlined Plus pattern by Meadow Mist Designs

4. I hire a longarmer for a few quilts every year.

This is a new strategy for me. I’m a straight-line quilter, and I quilted my first 20 or so quilts myself. In the past six months, I finished two quilt tops that I knew needed something more than the straight lines I would quilt on them. This strategy makes my expensive hobby more expensive, but it helps me finish more big projects.

Quilting on my Better Late Than Never Quilt by See Mary Quilt

Quilting on my Obsession Quilt by Garden Gate Quilting

5. I finish almost everything I start.

I am not a compulsive project starter. Sure, I have a bunch of things going on at once, but I finish the vast majority of them. Occasionally, I do abandon something—I give myself permission to bail if need be. Remember my petal quilt, broken chevron project, or fiddly Christmas table topper? You likely will not be seeing them as finishes—ever.

What about you? What are your big-picture strategies to checking off items on your to-do list?

Linking up to Tips and Tutorials Tuesday, Let’s Bee Social, and Finish It Up Friday ...

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  1. I think your "squatting in the dining room" may be a big helper, actually. I have a nice dedicated space in the basement, but since we really spend all our family time upstairs, it means that when I get a break from kid time in the evenings or on the weekend I can't easily sneak away and get some sewing done because if my son notices, he clamors to come with me and nothing gets done then :)

  2. A dedicated space is really a huge help; I used to quilt on the table, and if we had company over and I needed to "pack up", it took a long time before I set it back up again. I have a list of projects in front of my face at my computer that I see multiple times a day which really helps me stay focused on deadlines and on track. It also helps me know if I can afford to start a new project or not.

  3. I have a small corner in my kids' playroom. That means that I can watch them as I sew! I think if I had my own room, I would never actually get to spend time there. I so hear you on this. I get asked this question all the time! And I think my reasons are all the same. :)

  4. Sounds about right! I try to take 20 minutes here, thirty minutes there. I set goals at the beginning of the week in my Quilter's Planner. I finish what I start whenever I can (ie: this section of quilting, or binding sewn to the front).

  5. Great to read about your tips and tricks to make your sewing space work for you. We have downsized and although I have my sewing cabinet set up in the tiny spare room, do my cutting out on top of the chest freezer in the (attached) garage. Its just the right height and works well for me.

  6. I have to agree with #2. I have several things on the go -- it's nice to work on something that suits your mood. And sometimes when I don't feel like sewing, I'll pre-cut a project. That way it's ready to go when I'm ready to sew.

  7. I also use my dining room for my sewing room. I love that it's open, and right in the middle of everything! But, it gets old cleaning up every night for dinner. I usually have several quilts lined up for quilting, but not often do I have several projects at once. (except BOM's) I can't imagine being a mom with little ones under foot! You handle it very well and make progress!

  8. I have a dedicated sewing room and still have hubby haul my sewing machine down to the dining room table where I can sew and still be in the midst of everything! If I walk by the dining room, I'll stop for a few and sew a little!

  9. You certainly do have a nice room to sew in! I like all the things that you listed, the only one I haven't tried is hiring a longarmer to do the quilting for me. Maybe I will!

  10. I only have one little one around and I wish I got more sewing done. I now get more sewing done since my son is in kindergarten all day, but I admit, I miss having my sewing space be in a common area, like the dining room. I have a dedicated sewing room (with a door) but it's so far removed from everything that I just can't get up there as often as I like when the kiddo is home. When my machine was on the main floor, I could easily sew a few patches while the pasta water was on the stove, etc. I miss that a bit.

  11. I use my dining room as my sewing room as well, but I only clean up if we are going to be using it-so usually only holidays & birthdays! :)

  12. Great strategies, I also keep a few WIP's going, and try to keep it under five. The longarmer certainly helps with the big quilts, it's worth it! I keep project lists going, that helps move things along as well...and it feels good to cross things off!

  13. I envy your sewing space at least your not in the hallway and have good room to spread out! And #5 ... bahahahahahaha, you need to help me on that one.

  14. I employ your strategy of multiple WIPS in different stages. It's nice to be able to go over and cut really quick, press something, or just chain piece when time allows. A dedicated sewing space is helpful too. PS...I'm a straight line quilter too!

  15. My children are grown up and I have been using a bedroom as my space but I'm dancing around the bed and I've been camped out in the dining room over the winter as there is not enough light. Yesterday I started clearing out the room, the bed is going to my sister and I am splashing out on storage and lighting. Could buy lots more fabric with the money though........
    Smiles form

  16. I think leaving things set up so you can just sit and sew is the big one for me, it doesn't even have to mean that I've got the machine laid out as much as knowing what the next step is so I don't have to make a decision to get started. I also break everything up into chunks so if I need to do some cutting then that's all I'm aiming for for an evening and if I get to sewing then that's a plus. I'm nothing like as prolific as some though!

  17. Personally, I go to quilt stores and guild meetings to get inspiration from others!! And I loved our chat in the store! Look forward to many more! We share some of the same tactics for productivity. I have a dedicated space (wahoo!) that I can jump into anytime. However, I cannot handle too many projects at one time or too much of a mess in the room. Therefore, I make lists of projects to work on, finish most before I start more and clean up between projects. Having said that, good weather is coming and productivity will plummet!!

  18. I tick all of those five boxes too!
    I am not a stay-at-home mum, but I work from home. My adult conversation comes from going to sewing groups and hanging out with friends at the dog park every afternoon. Getting out of the house is important.


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