Sunday, July 31, 2016

On the Subject of Thank-You Notes

I have a finish to photograph, but a forecast of rainy days will prevent me from sharing it until the end of the week. (I’m not complaining—we need this rain!) I thought I’d take advantage of the lull in new finishes to talk about a related subject ...

I was at a gathering of quilty-minded ladies yesterday and the subject of thank-you notes came up. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation. In fact, I’ve discussed it with this group of friends, other quilters, even quilt-shop owners. All too often, quilters feel that the recipients of gifted quilts don’t adequately express their gratitude. Some would be satisfied to receive a quick text or shout-out on Facebook. Few get a handwritten note sent the old-fashioned way.

There are exceptions—big, happy, thank-you-thank-you-thank-you exceptions—however. The first quilt I made was a simple patchwork of 8-inch squares. I gave it to my friend Miss K on her birthday. She wasn’t expecting any gift from me, let alone a handmade one, and she was over the moon.

I don’t recall receiving a thank-you note (maybe I did), but Miss K’s appreciation was clear. Whenever I encountered her and her daughters in public with the quilt, Miss K would shout out, “We’re having lunch on your quilt, Michelle!” or “We’ve already had a milk spill and washed your quilt!” Now, after countless picnics and concerts in the park and washings, the Denyse Schmidt fabrics I used in that first quilt are a shadow of what they once were, and that’s fine. That quilt has been well loved.

My first quilt, made in the summer of 2013.

Does that story remind you of how friends and family members have responded to quilts you have gifted, or are you still waiting for a thank-you for that quilt you gave someone three years ago?

If your binding is in a bunch about the subject of thank-yous, may I offer some suggestions?

Be deliberate about your giving.

Not everyone needs one of your quilts. Some people aren’t into handmade quilts or don’t understand the time, effort, and cost that go into a quilt. Buy those people in your life a gift certificate for Christmas instead of handing over a prized finish. (It does not make them bad people or you a bad gift giver!)

Other people get a quilt because you know they will be thrilled about it. Sometimes, they, like Miss K, will even get a second. (K, if you’re reading this, I have no idea when that second quilt will come into existence!)

Scale down the grand plans.

Less of a project can be more, especially if you’re the one making it. My mother-in-law, for example, requested a quilt last year. (When your MIL asks for a quilt, I think she should get one; it’s a perk of being a MIL.) I made her a quilt, but it was a throw size instead of the king size she really wanted. A king-size quilt was too big of a project for me. Making her a throw was more doable, and the result was the same: a happy MIL.

Lotus Blossom, made for my mother-in-law.

Here’s another example. After I started quilting, I was inclined to make quilts for all the new babies in my life. As a mother myself, though, I knew that new babies get lots of blankets and quilts, both store bought and handmade. Instead of committing to making a baby quilt that may not get the use it deserves, I decided to sew Jane Market Bags for these newborns instead. These bags are great for toting toys to a play date or books to the library. Making them was a win-win situation: I got to give something handmade, and the mom received a practical gift.

I am such a fan of the Jane Market Bag pattern that I have been known to make six at a time!

Practice showing appreciation yourself.

We can’t control how others respond to a quilt we make for them, but we can choose to tell others when we appreciate a gift. I’m not great at writing thank-you cards promptly, and I have decided to get better about it. Thanking someone does matter, and it will be noticed.

What do you think?

Sometimes my thanks comes in forms other than notes. Audrey got an Instagram thank-you when I received this bag from her. (I cannot tell you how many times random people have complimented this bag!)

And I remember calling Kim within a minute of opening up this beauty.

Follow on Bloglovin

Saturday, July 23, 2016

What I’m not Doing on My Summer Vacation

Dear friends, I’m writing you from a summery state of captivity. For the past month, I’ve been held against my will by two little boys and a golden retriever. We’ve been spending our days going to the pool and running around the playroom, talking Pokemon and eating ice cream. Perhaps this doesn’t sound like prison to you, but my captors do not support my quilting hobby.

I know this because every time I sit down to accomplish something at my sewing machine, I am interrupted by “Mom, he’s hitting me!” or “Mom, Rose is eating a shoe!” Well, I will show them. I’m going to finish some quilts this summer if it kills me (and it very well may).

I am close to completing five projects. I have two quilt tops that are finished and set aside for Miss Mary to do her magic (blogged about here and here). I have three other tops that I am going to quilt myself. This past week, when summer school and camp provided me some time alone, I did a little binge basting ...

I paired these sweet foxes with scraps from Grape Fizz to sew this quilt top.
(The design is Stitched in Color's Penny Patch Quilt.)

My guild reviewed the basics of paper piecing by sewing these Dutch Windmill blocks.
(The design is from Red Delicious Life.)

How is your summer going? Are you like those teacher friends of mine who have 10 glorious weeks to churn out quilt after quilt at their leisure, or do you find yourself as I do, running around the house in a bathing suit, armed with a water blaster and chasing after a 7-year-old, thinking, “I am too old for this!”

What are you doing on your summer vacation? We want to know!

Linking up to Let’s Bee Social and Needle and Thread Thursday ...

Follow on Bloglovin

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Tale of My First Block of the Month

My longest-running WIP has been the Park Bench block of the month (BOM) I started in 2014. I hit a snag after making a handful of the blocks that year and let it derail me for, like, 18 months.

This past April, when I was planning projects for my guild’s retreat, I knew it was time to face Park Bench. There’s nothing like being stranded at a Catholic retreat center for a weekend with a sewing machine and quilty friends to get things going.

And now here it is, the full quilt top ...

Each of those hexagons finishes at 16 inches. They’re so big and so satisfying to sew.

It helped that the fabric for this BOM is Carolyn Friedlander’s Botanics collection. I’ve liked her fabric lines since Botanics debuted, but this combination of pretty colors, not-so-feminine florals, and versatile low-volumes is my favorite.

Now, the whole point of a BOM is that you end up with the same quilt in the same fabrics as everyone else. If you’re me, however, you manage to mess it up. The snag I mentioned earlier? Two of the packets I got over the course of the project were mislabeled. Instead of investigating why the fabrics didn’t sync with the provided pattern, I figured my quilt shop had to make some substitutions and I went with what I had, wrong labels and all. I ended up not liking the blocks and decided to omit them from the finished quilt top. (Take a peek at a full finished top here, at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework.)

I consider this a Big Girl Decision. These hexagons are time sucks. I’ve put plenty of resources—including beautiful fabric!—into making them. Editing three of them out of the final layout is painful but necessary. I’d rather snuggle up under a smaller quilt than have those ugly blocks staring me down in the final product. And I know what you’re thinking, but I so dislike them that they will not appear on the quilt back, either.

The beauty of having finished this top is that I have a sizable pile of Botanics scraps. This line is out of production, so these leftovers are worth their weight in gold. 

My latest scrap-busting technique is putting scraps to work in another quilt before I can relegate them to an uncertain future in my scrap bin. I’ve been loving much of what Nancy Purvis has been posting on Instagram lately, and I’m thinking that I could pair the Botanics scraps with a pale grey to sew something akin to her Scrappy Happy Quilt. (See other pictures from her along these lines here and here.)

Do you have any thoughts, reservations, or recommendations about my plan for those lovely scraps?!

To see other pictures from this quilt top when it was a WIP, click here.

Linking up to Let’s Bee Social and Scraptastic Tuesday ...

Follow on Bloglovin