“Online Quilt Classes Are a Rip-Off”

No, of course–I did not say that, but “Online quilt classes are a rip-off” is a direct quote from a member of a social network quilt group to which I belong. Appalled, I made no rebuttal at the time, thinking it better not to blow things out of proportion by starting one of those social network discussions where everyone must take sides and nobody wins.

Still, these words about online quilt classes being a rip-off echoed in my mind for a long time, so I now choose this time and place to put forth my argument. The beginning of a new year is always a good time to take stock of the past and set up some useful plans for the future. Read what I have to say and then decide for yourself about this contentious issue.

Here’s a well-kept secret from my personal experience: Statistically, the majority of quilters who sign up and pay for an online class do absolutely nothing with it!

During all my years of teaching for Quilt University and in more recent times teaching for QuiltEd Online, these statistics hold true consistently:

  • Of all the students who sign up for an online class session, 50% of them greet the teacher and their classmates, but at least 50% say nothing at all in class!
  • Of the 50% of students who introduce themselves, about half of them offer some kind of second post. Perhaps they ask a question, make a remark or even put forward a photo of a project begun. Only 25% of the students actually DO anything at all with their class materials!
  • Of this group of 25% of the class students, less than half work seriously with the class instructions and information, post photos of what they do and engage the teacher in dialog about the work. Only about 10% of the total number of quilters enrolled in an online class actually give their teacher a chance to teach!
  • Of the 10% who permit the teacher to teach—by doing the work, sharing photos, asking questions and engaging in constructive discussion with the teacher—only about 3% actually finish a project.

Now, where lies the rip-off? Why are quilters so eager to sign up for an online quilt design class when they have no sense of commitment–to their teacher, classmates or even, indeed, to themselves–to do the work and make an effort to learn from their experience?

Goodbye to the Grid art quilt by Mary Kelly of Canada, a QuiltEd Online student
Goodbye to the Grid art quilt by Mary Kelly of Canada, a QuiltEd Online student

The most usual excuse we hear is “Oh, well—life got in the way!” Does life get in the way of shopping for food, cooking meals and eating? Does life get in the way of attending the new Star Wars film opening or having a cruise holiday to Barbados? I doubt it!

So, if you want to take an online quilt design class because you seriously want to design quilts for yourself, and you believe a particular teacher can help you learn how to do that, how do you make that commitment to do the work and hold “life” at bay?

Here are a few useful tips:

 

Read the full article at QuiltEd Online!

Walking Dead Version of Victoria

This is just in from Judy Chaffee of Ventura, California, who shares her Walking Dead fabrics version of the Crystal Quilt pattern, Victoria:

Thought you might want to see what I did with the Victoria Crystal Quilt pattern.  My son-in-law was the camera person on the show called the Walking Dead and when I saw the Walking Dead fabric I thought of your pattern and that it would work great with the fabric.

However,  I wish that I had turned the center square diagonally.  It took me several tries until I figured how to make the mitered corners and how to attach the background fabric but I learned a new technique  so it was worth it.

Judy used my quilt pattern Victoria, but in a way very different from the ways in which I have used it. Here’s the original, in two versions:

Victoria I, a Crystal Quilt by Dena Dale Crain

In this first version, I used Inset Angle Piecing, a simple technique that takes about 15 minutes to master. Inset Angle Piecing made every point perfect. The quilt has no unnecessary seam lines. Every seam involves a fabric change.

There is a fine line of white Perfect Piping around the quilt top, just inside the yellow strip that fames the patchwork so nicely. (Click on the photo to open the image in another tab to see it enlarged.) That little line of white punches out the design by echoing the center white patch. A little hand beading finished the work well, giving it a definite focal point.

Victoria II, a Crystal Quilt by Dena Dale Crain

The second version of Victoria was cut as one piece of pink silk dupioni, made in one piece with the borders. Reverse appliqué was the principal technique used to make this quilt. Notice that there are no unnecessary seam lines in this quilt, either. There are tiny Swarovski crystals in the centre.

Judy did a great job with her Walking Dead quilt, made with my Victoria quilt pattern but working without instruction from me. She used machine appliqué with a decorative stitch, and added a few seams to make piecing easier. The Walking Dead fabrics make her quilt distinctive, one sure to catch and hold anyone’s eye!

Download the quilt pattern for Victoria, a Crystal Quilt pattern and make your own Victoria version. Take the online art quilt class Crystal Quilts if you need more help with the piecing or if you want to design your own, original Crystal Quilts.

Then, send in a photo of your finished quilt and I will publish it here on my blog for you!

Writing an e-Book

Writing an e-book is no easy task!

Writing an e-book is a job! I tend to think like a mind-map, all over the place, and in a circular way that makes it hard for anyone else to follow. It takes a long time to develop the content, writing it all in a way that is linear and makes sense to others.

mind map photo
Photo by zipckr

Building the content into something legible is only one part of the job. Then, you have to grapple with the photos, something I spent all day yesterday trying to figure out!

People read e-books in a variety of formats: ePub, pdf, rtf, lrf, mobi, and text. They appear on a range of devices–on generic tablets, Kindles and iPads, directly online on your laptop or desktop computer–even on smartphones!

Photos and text both, not to mention hyperlinks, all behave differently in the different formats and on different devices. One document has to serve them all. What a mess!

For an author who wants only to write and convey a message, e-book indie publishing proves a real quagmire!

Anyway, today I uploaded yet another proof of my new e-book, Bind Quilts by Machine to Smashwords, my truly wonderful and so easy-to-manage indie publisher. I checked all the versions it will appear as, and there are only a few small tweaks remaining:

  • Pngs do not work in some formats, showing an ugly black background. I’ll have to change a few of those!

Bind Quilts by Machine, e-book from Smashwords

  • Then, I used a couple of different versions of one quilt that show color in a variable way, so I have to make those consistent.

Bind Quilts by Machine, e-book from Smashwords

  • Finally, I need to add text for all hyperlinks because hotlinks don’t work in some formats. Cumbersome, but necessary!

QuiltEd Online http://quiltedonline.com

After fixing all these little things, the e-book Bind Quilts by Machine will be ready for release, and that’s going to happen well before my deadline of July 18!

As soon I as make these corrections, I can authorize release of Bind Quilts by Machine!

I will release the e-book as soon as I upload the final, corrected version. Time is running out–if you want to take advantage of the chance to pre-order the e-book with a hefty discount!

Now, for those of you who have not yet pre-ordered your copy of Bind Quilts by Machine:

  • Pre-order now and get the e-book for the DISCOUNT price of $9.99, about 23% off the full retail price of $12.99!
  • The e-book includes a FREE PATTERN and links to other patterns illustrated in the e-book!
  • There’s an UPGRADE option in the e-book, so you can join the online quilt class in progress for only $7.00 more. You receive full credit for the retail price of the e-book against the class fee!
  • If you pre-order now for $9.99 and later upgrade to the online quilt class for $7.00, you receive both for a total of $16.99, a DISCOUNT of 15% off the $19.99 class fee alone!!

So, how’s that? Have I got a deal for you?!

Pre-order the e-book Bind Quilts by Machine from Kobo, Barnes&Noble, or AppleQUICK!

Bind Quilts by Machine e-Book

With great embarrassment and many apologies, I had to announce that my new e-book, Bind Quilts by Machine, was not yet ready for pre-order.

But guess what?!

It IS available for pre-order now!

Find Bind Quilts by Machine, the e-book, at Barnes and NobleKobo and Apple.

Go to any of these e-book retailers and place a pre-order for the book now at the discounted price of only $9.99. The e-book is to be released on July 18, when your credit card is charged and you receive notice that you can download the e-book. Upon its release, the cost of the e-book goes up to $12.99, so act now to reserve the lower price!

Want to know more?

For far too long, I’ve been doling out these important tips and techniques in little bits and spurts. Not so any more!

When I figured out how to sew double-fold quilt bindings entirely by machine, I knew the time had come to pull all my information and photos together into one resource–an e-book. This way, EVERYONE will have access to this important information!

Hands hurt? Find it hard to hold a hand-sewing needle? Just to busy to bother? Prefer, as I do, spending valuable quilting time putting patchwork together or quilting it rather than finishing off hand-sewn bindings? Well, now you need never hand-sew a quilt binding again!

Take the drudgery out of finishing your quilts with the knowledge and insights you find in Bind Quilts by Machine. The e-book includes fully illustrated, step by step instructions for how to sew by machine:

  • Fuss-Free Single-Fold Quilt Binding by Machine
  • Seamless Quilt Binding by Machine
  • Double-Fold Quilt Binding by Machine
  • Perfect Piping
  • Mock quilt bindings
  • Bagging a quilt
  • Facing a quilt
  • Machine-sewn raw edge finishes for quilts

But wait! Bind Quilts by Machine is also useful for those of you who LOVE doing the hand sewing to finish a binding!

The same principles apply–just sew all your bindings on the face of the quilt, rather than on the back. Learn the easiest way to make beautifully mitered corners and an indistinguishable final join, how to apply and close double-fold binding with a neater final join, as well as all the other great ideas in Bind Quilts by Machine.

Published by highly reputable and popular Smashwords, Bind Quilts by Machine, the e-book, comes in a format to suit any reader.

Download it for your computer as a pdf, then for your iPad or other tablet as an ePub file, and put it on your Kindle or your mobile phone! You can have it in as many formats as you like, and download it as often as you please!

Eventually, the book will be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and many other online book retail shops. Right now, it’s only available here (see the sidebar!) and at Smashwords. But here’s the best part!

Bind Quilts by Machine is available now for “pre-order” at a 25% reduced price of only $9.99!

Place your pre-order for free today. When Bind Quilts by Machine is released on July 18, you will be charged only $9.99 and you will receive notification that you can download the e-book at that price. If you wait to buy the book until July 19, the full retail price of $12.99 will be charged.

Check it out at Barnes and NobleKobo and Apple. You can download FOR FREE the first 15% of the book as a sample, just to get a taste of what it offers!

What’s that you say? An e-book is not a real book?

You can’t smell it and fondle it? So what? Are you going to read a book like this for the sensual experience? Or for the top quality technical information you can gain from it?

Bind Quilts by Machine is an e-book, not a hard copy book, because I cannot publish and sell hard copy books from Kenya. Why, the mere cost of shipping is prohibitive, not to mention the storage hazards of potential fire, flood and tropical termites!

Bind Quilts by Machine is the kind of book you read in order to learn some technical information. Once you’ve learned how to finish your quilts by machine, you won’t have any use for a hard copy book. You also won’t have to waste valuable storage space to keep that hard copy book. Owning Bind Quilts by Machine means you will never lose your book because you can download a fresh copy at any time. You OWN it!

And, it never gets dirty!!

You can’t spoil an e-book by spilling coffee on it or dropping it in the mud. I don’t advise these actions for your devices either, but you know exactly what I mean. What you can do is highlight sections you find important and want to revisit later. You can make notes about what you think as you read the e-book. And, you can conveniently bookmark your place!

So, come on–place your pre-order now! Get in on this great deal to gain not only super information about how to finish your quilts entirely by machine, but also to take advantage of the 25% price reduction that is only good until July 18.

Oh, and here’s a tip for you: You can find patterns for a couple of the quilts shown in Bind Quilts by Machine. Keep watching that page–more patterns are coming!!

Bind Quilts by Machine–eBOOK!

Woah! I just published my first quilting e-book–Bind Quilts by Machine!

For far too long, I’ve been doling out these important tips and techniques in little bits and spurts. Not so any more!

When I figured out how to sew double-fold quilt bindings entirely by machine, I knew the time had come to pull all my information and photos together into one resource–an e-book. This way, EVERYONE will have access to this important information!

Hands hurt? Find it hard to hold a hand-sewing needle? Just to busy to bother? Prefer, as I do, spending valuable quilting time putting patchwork together or quilting it rather than finishing off hand-sewn bindings? Well, now you need never hand-sew a quilt binding again!

Take the drudgery out of finishing your quilts with the knowledge and insights you find in Bind Quilts by Machine. The e-book includes fully illustrated, step by step instructions for how to sew by machine:

  • Fuss-Free Single-Fold Quilt Binding by Machine
  • Seamless Quilt Binding by Machine
  • Double-Fold Quilt Binding by Machine
  • Perfect Piping
  • Mock quilt bindings
  • Bagging a quilt
  • Facing a quilt
  • Machine-sewn raw edge finishes for quilts

But wait! Bind Quilts by Machine is also useful for those of you who LOVE doing the hand sewing to finish a binding!

The same principles apply–just sew all your bindings on the face of the quilt, rather than on the back. Learn the easiest way to make beautifully mitered corners and an indistinguishable final join, how to apply and close double-fold binding with a neater final join, as well as all the other great ideas in Bind Quilts by Machine.

Published by highly reputable and popular Smashwords, Bind Quilts by Machine, the e-book, comes in a format to suit any reader.

Download it for your computer as a pdf, then for your iPad or other tablet as an ePub file, and put it on your Kindle or your mobile phone! You can have it in as many formats as you like, and download it as often as you please!

Eventually, the book will be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and many other online book retail shops. Right now, it’s only available here (see the sidebar!) and at Smashwords. But here’s the best part!

Bind Quilts by Machine is available now for “pre-order” at a 25% reduced price of only $9.99!

Place your pre-order for free today. When Bind Quilts by Machine is released on July 18, you will be charged only $9.99 and you will receive notification that you can download the e-book at that price. If you wait to buy the book until July 19, the full retail price of $12.99 will be charged.

Check it out at Smashwords. You can download FOR FREE the first 15% of the book as a sample, just to get a taste of what it offers!

What’s that you say? An e-book is not a real book?

You can’t smell it and fondle it? So what? Are you going to read a book like this for the sensual experience? Or for the top quality technical information you can gain from it?

Bind Quilts by Machine is an e-book, not a hard copy book, because I cannot publish and sell hard copy books from Kenya. Why, the mere cost of shipping is prohibitive, not to mention the storage hazards of potential fire, flood and tropical termites!

Bind Quilts by Machine is the kind of book you read in order to learn some technical information. Once you’ve learned how to finish your quilts by machine, you won’t have any use for a hard copy book. You also won’t have to waste valuable storage space to keep that hard copy book. Owning Bind Quilts by Machine means you will never lose your book because you can download a fresh copy at any time. You OWN it!

And, it never gets dirty!!

You can’t spoil an e-book by spilling coffee on it or dropping it in the mud. I don’t advise these actions for your devices either, but you know exactly what I mean. What you can do is highlight sections you find important and want to revisit later. You can make notes about what you think as you read the e-book. And, you can conveniently bookmark your place!

So, come on–place your pre-order now! Get in on this great deal to gain not only super information about how to finish your quilts entirely by machine, but also to take advantage of the 25% price reduction that is only good until July 18.

Just click “Yes, I want a copy of Bind Quilts by Machine!

Oh, and here’s a tip for you: You can find patterns for a couple of the quilts shown in Bind Quilts by Machine. Keep watching that page–more patterns are coming!!

Time-Saving for Quilters, Part 8

When you enter your studio, spend a minimal amount of time preparing to work. Starting with a clean, tidy and well-organized workplace, this action should take only a few minutes. The entire process takes me five minutes or less. Likewise, cleaning up at the end of the work session is quick and easy because I continuously tidy up as I work. Cleaning up, then, is merely the reverse of preparing a studio for work.

So, how do I do it? Easy!

First, here’s what you know about my studio:

  • A cutting table is covered with a sheet to keep it relatively clean. Under the sheet lie clean cutting mats and rulers.

 

P1110284

 

  • The table has two shallow drawers. One contains my cutting tools, and the other holds rolls of paper and some fusing agents. Under the table are a padded stool and two plastic drawer storage units holding materials and any work in progress.

 

P1110387

 

  • One sewing machine has a hard plastic cover that drops over it. The other one (left below with Ügli the cat resting on it) has a cardboard box that serves the same purpose, helping to keep the machine relatively clean and protected from dust as well as the cats. A serger sits out in the open (right) with a cardboard box over it. I don’t like the appearance of the boxes, but the cats pull any quilted or plastic covers off my machines and sleep on them. Covering the machines with boxes is something new for me, so if it does not work I must find another way to cover them. If it does work, I must find a way to make them more attractive to me without making them more appealing to the cats! Wrapping them with fabric is not an option; perhaps I might paint them . . .

 

Time-Saving for Quilters

 

  • The serger table doubles as a small ironing board sufficient for piecing. A padded board (center above with spray bottle on top) lies on the higher level table. This improvised ironing board flips over and is covered at night with a couple of quilted cat beds to keep it clean and protected. The iron sits on the floor beside the table when not in use. This position doubles as a signal that I have switched off the electricity to the iron.

 

P1110289

 

  • A single power strip fuels all the appliances. That’s Kenya for you–the room has only two electrical outlets, one on the wall near the serger and the other to the right of the cutting table. This power strip holds each appliance cable with its own on/off switch. I use the switch to control the iron because it is quicker to flip that switch than to pick up the iron and wind the little dial. Using the switch also means the iron always heats to the same safe temperature unless I make a deliberate change in the setting.
  • The sewing table, a desk with storage from both sides, holds two sewing machines and a swivel, goose-neck lamp. Left side drawers in the sewing desk hold threads, arranged by type and color. On the right side, drawers hold all small tools and notions I use most frequently. The cats like the boxy feeling of the storage cupboards on the other side of the desk, so I keep those free of my things and with the doors slightly ajar. I can share my space!

 

P1110288

 

  • My design wall covers two cupboard doors, so before I put work onto the wall, I must remove materials, tools and supplies I need from the cupboard. At the end of the session, the work in progress comes down for storage flat in another room, or if it is still in small pieces, into the drawer unit under the cutting table. A second design wall, much larger, is made from a sheet as a roll-up shade, great for leaving work on the wall where the cats cannot reach it! When I want to work on the piece it contains, I simply release the roll and let it fall. All pins holding fabric to it run parallel to the floor so none stick out of the work when it is rolled up.

 

P1110276

 

  • An old specimen cupboard, two columns of eight small drawers, holds all small notions, beads, c-clamps and other such paraphernalia – things I use less frequently. Notice the labels to tell me what is in each drawer!

 

P1110391

 

  • Supplies for surface design are stored on a bookshelf seldom bothered by the cats. Another shelf unit holds quilt and sewing books and magazines.

 

P1110274

 

The room looks pretty bleak, nothing like the colorful and tastefully decorated studios we see in magazines and online, and nothing at all like the way it looked a few years ago, with jars, baskets, plastic boxes and tools scattered all over!

 

g3207

 

Nevertheless, my studio is now extremely efficient. Its minimalist style gives me plenty of space for working with everything I need at my fingertips. When I enter my studio, I know exactly what I’m going to do, what work I expect to accomplish. There is nothing to distract me or to impede my progress.

Upon entering the studio, I roll back the sheet on the cutting table. I remove the work in progress from the drawers underneath the table, and lay it to one side on the table, along with any fabric scraps I may still need. The open tablet and pen are there because as the work progresses, I take notes for use later for my online art quilt classes at QuiltEd Online.

 

P1110325

 

I open one table drawer and remove my cutting tools and a box of pins. I’m ready, then, to cut and pin. Then I turn to the electricity outlet and switch on the power. With a surge protector, it is a couple of minutes before the electricity reaches the power strip. While waiting for the electricity, I uncover and flip the make-shift ironing board and pick up the iron from the floor, throwing the power switch for that only as and when I need to iron.

I uncover the sewing machine I intend to use. I pull out the sewing table for my Bernina QE 440, and attach it and the presser foot knee lift. The machine is clean and oiled, threaded and ready for use. I connect the power cable and foot pedal, disconnected at last usage to reduce risk of having cats pull the machine off the table.

I hit the three switches (wall, power strip and machine) that control power to the sewing machine, the lamp and the transformer used with another sewing machine and the serger. I pull the accessories box off the back of the Bernina and set it up to the right of the machine.

I open the drawer immediately below that, and pull out quilting gloves, a pin box, thread snips and any thread I may have been using that is not already on the machine. Bingo! I sit down and go to work!

To shut down when I’m finished, I first clean and oil, if necessary, the machine I’ve been using. Then, I reverse the entire process: shut down the machine, put table, knee lift and foot pedal into a desk drawer, and replace the accessories box to the back of the machine before covering it with the cardboard box. I disconnect cables and switch off electricity. I put away all tools and materials on my cutting table, and cover the table. I quickly sweep the floor, and empty the trash as I leave the room.

In effect, I am in full control of the work process from start to finish, whether I have thirty minutes or three hours!

To recap, here’s what you can and should do to save time for quilting:

  • Tell everyone in your household you are about to enter your studio, no matter how humble it may be, and that you appreciate very much not being distracted while you work.
  • Set any mobile phone for silent running.
  • Enter your studio, where everything is clean, ready for work and stored well out of sight until you need it.
  • Find what you need quickly and easily with the help of storage labels and a studio inventory.
  • Know what you intend to do, how you intend to do it, and how much time you have available for each studio session.
  • Enter the studio with mindful purpose, quickly retrieve whatever project materials, tools and notions you need for the immediate tasks only, and set the studio for action in fewer than five minutes. Then get to work!
  • While working, keep your movements calm and gentle. Keep the space where you work clean and tidy, putting away each tool immediately you finish working with it. If things start to get out of hand, take time out for a Two-Minute Tidy-Up, and return all non-essential tools and materials to storage.
  • When finished, put all materials and small tools away, switch off and protect all electrical equipment, and quickly clean up the space.

The quilting work process is streamlined from beginning to end. The focus is on getting to work as quickly as possible, working smoothly and without interruption for the time available, then closing everything down and putting everything away to make the next studio session even more efficient than the previous one!

As you can see, it may take some time and some serious effort on your part to achieve maximum efficiency in your quilting. It is, however, worthwhile if you truly want to save time and make more time for quilting–and for doing other things, too!

If you like what you have learned in this series of articles, and you want to try my time-saving techniques for studio management, be gentle but persistent with yourself. Do not expect too much, too soon. It took me about a year to work out the storage and systems I now depend on for maximum efficiency.

Do, instead, whatever you can comfortably manage. If all you can do is to clean out one drawer, reorganize its contents and affix a label, do only that much. Be ever mindful of all the small ways in which you waste time while quilting, and make a conscious effort to use that time more wisely. Little by little, establish your own ways of working to increase efficiency, gaining more time for quilting by using the time you have in a better and more productive way.

 


Time-Saving for Quilters is an 8-part series of blog posts, reprinted here with full permission, similar to the kind of instruction students receive at QuiltEd Online in all of our online art quilt classes. Read the entire series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

Subscribe to QuiltEd Online News to receive notifications of other useful quilt blog posts. Next up? Money-Saving for Quilters!

Time-Saving for Quilters, Part 6

Work with a Sense of Purpose

Not all studio time is spent making a quilt. Sometimes, we need to refresh our perspective on the craft, to find new sources of inspiration, or perhaps experiment with a new technique. Whatever you intend to do in your studio, whether it is quilt-making or any of the many peripheral activities that we need as artists, do it with a sense of purpose.

If you feel blocked, or simply want some time to play around with materials and ideas, do that. Set aside time to relax in your studio, become refreshed and inspired to tackle the next project. If you are relaxing, take it easy and enjoy it. If you are working, get on with the work. Try never to mix the two!

 

Push the Machine

Then, when you’re working, push for speed without sacrificing quality.

Increase the speed of the sewing machine. Learn to push the foot pedal all the way down. Shift any gearing mechanism to high speed. Sew as fast as you can while still maintaining control over the work. Push yourself just a little every time you sew. With practice, the speed will come without sacrificing quality.

Work with more than one bobbin loaded with the correct thread at a time. If you have two bobbins ready to use, you cut time spent shifting and filling bobbins almost in half. Leave an empty bobbin on the bobbin winder at all times, if possible, quick and easy to find when you need one!

All those special features on your sewing machine? Make time to learn how to use them so you never have to learn how to master a mechanical or computer feature when you want to work.

If your sewing machine has a knee lifter for the presser foot, learn to use it. If you have a walking foot but have never put it on your machine, do so and learn how to sew with it.

All special features, feet and stitches on the sewing machine are there to improve the nature, quality and speed with which you work. Use them!

 

Pin Efficiently

Do not use a pincushion. I know – you have one that is just SOOO cute, and you just love it! Well, set your pincushion on a shelf and admire it whenever you like, but don’t use it when you are working.

Dena Dale Crain Pins

I have a pincushion tacked to my design wall, so I don’t have to keep moving about the room reaching for pins while I try to hold a patch or section in place on the wall. Otherwise, I store straight and open safety pins in covered boxes. Add a silicon sachet to prevent rust, like those used for cameras, if you need one.

When ready to pin, tip a few pins out on a table or other work surface. Pick up a pin, put down a pin, quickly and easily, and without fussing about where to stick it into a pincushion. Sticking pins into a pincushion takes more time than sliding them off a table into a small container. Do not pick pins out of a box; you will get stuck–ouch!

Better yet – don’t pin! Apparel manufacturers require factory workers to sew without pinning, even for complicated tasks like setting sleeves. Put some of that pressure on yourself, gaining skill in controlling fabric with your fingers whenever possible. Pin only if you absolutely must do!

Similarly, learn to quilt without marking. Marking quilting patterns is a time-consuming task. If you can possibly quilt without marking a design, do so. If you must mark, seek the fastest ways to do that. I cannot help you with this as I gave up marking quilt tops for quilting many years ago. Discover and follow Leah Day avidly; she is the best!

 

Calm, Quiet Control

As you work, quiet your hands. The stereotypical patchwork quilter lays fabric on a work table, then strokes it to death. Have you ever seen any one of us do that? Are you guilty of it yourself?

How much time do you suppose you might waste stroking fabrics? Instead, develop self-awareness about all the wasted motions of your hands, not to mention feet, in the studio. Less movement means less wasted time.

 

Be Ready for Anything

Do you live in an area plagued by power outages? You sit down behind a sewing machine, eager to piece or quilt, and the power fails? At ALL times, have a hand-sewing project set aside for such moments. Whether the power is off for five minutes or for five hours, use that time productively.

The power fails. You pick up some handwork and get busy. A little time passes, and suddenly the power returns. Should you drop what you are doing and go back to the sewing machine?

Think quickly about the handwork. Continue working on it until you reach a logical stopping point. Then, quickly roll up the work with all its necessary tools (needles, pins, scissors), and set it aside to return to machine sewing. Next time the power fails, the handwork unrolls quickly and includes everything you need to carry on with the work.

Extend your studio. As remarked earlier, being in the studio is a state of mind as much as it is actual habitation of a workspace. Have handwork you can carry with you. Work while traveling by bus, train or plane, or while stuck in traffic, if you can. Work while you wait in an office for an appointment. Do hand sewing any time and place that is comfortable for you, but always do it in such a way that you do not make others uncomfortable.

These are but a few time-saving ideas for how you can make more time for quilting by working thoughtfully and with a sense of purpose. If you pay attention to your work methods, you can no doubt find other actions you can take to work more efficiently and save more time for quilting!

 

 


Time-Saving for Quilters is an 8-lesson series of blog posts, similar to the kind of instruction students receive at QuiltEd Online in all of our online art quilt classes. Read the entire series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and the remaining posts to follow in sequence in coming weeks. Subscribe to QuiltEd Online News to receive notifications of these and other useful quilt blog posts!

Time-Saving for Quilters, Part 5

In Part 1 of Time-Saving for Quilters, we talked about the importance of preventive maintenance for all quilting tools, machines and other equipment. In Part 2, we looked at physical space and that storage hog, the stash. Part 3 was about making sense out of the chaos. In Part 4, we talked about making the workspace more functionally efficient by keeping it tidy. In Part 5, we get down to business!

 

Intention and Focus

To use studio time most efficiently, it is essential to know what you intend to do before you get there! Wandering into your private space/time for quilting without a clue in your mind as to what you intend to achieve is, if not a thoughtless waste of time, at least not a directed and intentionally good use of it. And probably most of us hardly ever do that!

We most likely have some idea of our direction before we enter that place of creativity. We have seen something online, at a guild meeting, or in a magazine or book that caught our eye and we hope to explore that idea further. Perhaps we have a bit of new fabric to enjoy dreaming about, or maybe we are already busy with a project that is well along its way to completion.

Dreaming and thinking time is every bit as important as planning time and doing time. Each of these activities is part of the whole creative process of making patchwork quilts, whether as fine art or as soft furnishings, and no part of the process should be shortchanged.

 

Think ahead

While you dream and think about your next quilt project, think ahead about the planning and doing parts of the process.

If you have only fifteen minutes in your studio, make every minute count. For example, in fifteen minutes, you might measure a piece of fabric to make certain it is enough for a project you have in mind. You might check your supply of notions to see whether you have any red ribbon to finish off a work in progress. You might spend that time sorting and arranging threads by color so it is easier in future to find what you want.

Spending fifteen minutes actively engaged in any of these or similar constructive studio activities is time well spent, not time wasted.

 

Time-saving for quilters

 

Then, it is one thing to find yourself with fifteen minutes of unexpected free time and quite something else to plan ahead to include those fifteen minutes into your schedule. Schedule if possible, of course, but be prepared to use unexpected free time wisely.

How? By thinking ahead!

Every time you leave your studio, your private creative space, think about what you intend to accomplish next time you enter that space. Carry with you, either mentally or by writing it down, an agenda of activities that need doing.

For example, as I write this article, I am working on a wall hanging quilt already titled “Heart of Africa.” I remember exactly what I did the last time I worked on the piece, and I know exactly what I need to do next. I also need to drop back to Part 2 of this series, and spend some time cleaning out and reorganizing my fabric stash.

 

Heart of Africa, a Redefinitions quilt by Dena Dale Crain (work in progress)

 

The next phase of work on the quilt needs about three hours to accomplish. I could easily spend a full day sorting out my fabric stash, but if I work on it shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer, I can accomplish much in smaller chunks of time. Whether I find or schedule time in my studio, and regardless of whether I have fifteen minutes or five hours, I already know what to do when I get there.

 

Plan ahead

Think about when you might next be able to spend time in your studio. If you do not keep a calendar, give it a try. Keeping a calendar and setting up reminders may prove more useful and productive than you expect!

 

calendar photo

 

If you keep a calendar, add studio time to it. Set reminders to alert you when it is time for you to be in your studio, and resist the temptation to ignore those reminders.

We all tend to rank studio time lower than many other activities, especially those that are family and household business as well as outside jobs. Your creative time is important, too, and if scheduling studio time helps accomplish creative goals, then do it.

Plan ahead for shopping, too. From one brief work session, you may learn you need some yellow fabric. Plan ahead to buy that fabric when you shop for household furnishings or groceries, or when you pop out for a haircut or other trip that takes you out of the house. Doing so means you neither delay work on a project nor have to make an unplanned shopping trip–a real time waster!

If a project calls for special materials, tools and supplies, plan ahead to source those things in advance of the time you intend to spend in your studio. There is nothing more frustrating than having to stop work while you shop for materials or have equipment repaired. We already discussed keeping machines and tools in good shape, well serviced and prepared for hard work.

Forgetting to buy materials simply because you neglected to write down a shopping list is equally inexcusable in terms of efficient use of time. Keep a written shopping list, on notepad, tablet or phone, handy at all times. Write down whatever you need to buy, and then forget about it until you shop again. Buy only what you need and get out of the shop as quickly as possible. “Free” shopping time is a luxury for another time, not a purposeful quick purchase of only what you need now, and it can prove expensive in money as well as wasted time!

The common theme of all this discussion is to do all dreaming, thinking, planning and shopping in advance of the time you intend to do the cutting, piecing, quilting, finishing and embellishment of a quilt. When you enter your studio to take action, the space should be fully stocked and equipped. Likewise, your mind should be clear about what you intend to do and how you intend to do it!

 

Stay Focused

Know, before you get to your studio, what it is you plan to do there. Have a specific project or task in mind, and go to your studio to complete, or at least move forward with, that activity.

Know how much time you have to spend in the studio for your next session there. Is it thirty minutes, or three hours? Know in advance how much time you have, and set realistic goals of accomplishment for each time period.

Goal setting need not be a complicated process. It may be as simple as saying to yourself “I want to put the binding on the current project quilt today” or “I want to spend an hour reading my new magazine and looking for a gift idea for my cousin’s wedding.”

If you do not accomplish as much as you had hoped during one session, simply pick up where you left off, with a modified perception of how much you should accomplish, in the next session. In this way, the work always moves forward.

Consider carefully, before you get to your studio, how you intend to accomplish that task. Is there more than one way to do the job? Is the method you have chosen the best choice? What difficulties might you encounter as you do the job in that manner? You can answer questions like these as you take laundry from the washer and put it in the dryer, while cooking a meal or while standing in line at a check-out counter at the local supermarket.

Once you commit to performing a particular task in a certain way, do not deviate from that decision unless it is truly necessary. Backtracking is a huge waste of time.

Your time is better spent thinking through all potential obstacles before you arrive in your studio than to begin working in one way, then decide that is not the best way, then choose another way and perhaps have that method fail as well.

Make up your mind early about what is the best way to do the job, and then do it that way! If you make a mistake, you know it and you learn from the experience.

 

One at a time

It is far easier to begin a new project than it is to complete an earlier one. Why is that? Because, for many of us, the dreaming, thinking and planning parts of the process are more fun than the cutting, sewing and finishing tasks. Everyone loves to dream. Books and magazines are lovely to see, and imagination is king!

There is a cure for this potential problem, though. Dream, think and plan as you will. Then, schedule the work for some time in the distant future, say, six months to a year from now. Or, simply know that when the project you work on today is completed, you can choose from amongst several new ones you already evaluated.

Postponing projects until you truly have time for them works on your behalf in several ways:

  • It gives you new projects to anticipate even as it encourages you to finish the current project so you can get to the next one. Your interest level remains high, and there is some pressure to get on with the work at hand and finish it. This is healthy discipline; use it well!
  • It helps refine your interests. Projects that look so good today might not be so appealing in six months or a year. Those that are truly wonderful are the ones to launch and complete when time permits. The others naturally fall by the wayside.
  • It gives you time to source materials and supplies. Be careful about this, though. Do not immediately rush out to shop for fabrics you may not use because you changed your mind about the project. Wait to shop until your current project is near completion and you know for certain which is the next project you intend to make.

If possible, never begin work on a second project until you finish your current work-in-progress. Instead, work on one project at a time from conception through completion. This keeps all materials and tools needed for that job close at hand, keeps you mentally focused, and reduces the number of UFOs.

 

Many at a time

If you are a prolific quilter, you may increase the number of works-in-progress to three, but no more! You should never work on more than three quilt projects at a time. That is plenty of work for any quilter! If you truly want to save time, reduce that number to one and stick with it.

For example, an art quilter might have three projects in the works, only because some design challenge arises that needs mental time for resolution. While dyeing for or piecing a second project, the artist’s mind is on the design problem of the first one that is at a later stage of development.

 

Urban Africa, a Redefinitions quilt by Dena Dale Crain (work in progress)

 

Leave such work in progress on a design wall, where you see it every time you walk past. The mind percolates information and perceptions change subtly with time. When the time is right to return to the work, you will know better what needs to be done next. That knowledge prompts you to re-engage quickly with the work and move forward with it.

If you follow this pattern, you may also define the projects by task. For example, you might work out the mathematics of one project by measuring, calculating and figuring fabric requirements and a cutting layout. A second project may be at the piecing stage and a third one ready for handwork, perhaps awaiting completion of a binding or attachment of a label.

Even so, it is easy to see how a quilter’s priorities can become muddled, work gets set aside, efficiency falls dues to confusion and the stack of UFOs grows exponentially!

In truth, you can work on only one project at a time, so why clutter your studio, your mind and your efficiency jumping from one to another project?

Pick a project, assemble everything you need to complete it, then set to the task, keeping 100% focused on that project until it is finished. When the first project is done, be ready to begin immediately on the second project. Keep clear-headed and stay focused on the work at hand!

 

UFO’s

Are you the kind of quilter who has several projects in process at once? Are there projects that stalled for one reason or another? If so, how does that make you feel? Do you have a sense of stress about finishing any of those projects, or perhaps only need to clear some storage space in your house?

If you have UFOs at the moment, choose one and move forward with it. Make a decision either to complete the project or to dispose of it. For the decision to complete the project, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the work salvageable?
  • What will it take to finish the project?
  • Do you have, or can you get, everything you need to finish the job?
  • Will you love the quilt when it’s done?

Perhaps the UFO is an old project, something you would never initiate today. If finishing this project is a matter of duty or obligation, if you are not excited about completing the quilt, or if you have no other good reason to do the work, seek and find an alternative solution.

Either give the work to your local guild or quilt shop and let them be creative about finishing the work for charitable uses, or dispose of it in some other constructive way. If the project is not a love of your heart, it does no good to force yourself to complete the quilt. You finish something you neither like nor care about, and what good is that? You will give it away in either case!

If the project is worth saving, the first step to completion is to discover what factor caused this project to stall and become a UFO. Perhaps it’s a shortage of a particular fabric, or maybe you lack the technical skill to complete the work. It may be that a design issue is unresolved, or perhaps you lack a special foot for your sewing machine.

 

Liquid Gold, a Redefinitions quilt by Dena Dale Crain

 

Figure out why you stopped work on this project, and then tackle that problem, not the project itself, head-on. Once you resolve the problem, the reason why the work stalled, you can return to the project and move forward with ease and confidence. For more about how to resolve and complete a UFO, see Quilt Chop and Liquid Gold.

Finishing UFOs is like unblocking a stalled production line in a factory. It eases the forward movement of the work stream by opening physical space in your studio and mental space in your mind. It lifts the burden of obligation that can depress your efficiency. It lightens the load, both of mental pressure and the amount of work to accomplish, so that you can move forward to embrace new activities without feeling guilty about the ones you left behind!

_____

Working with all these ideas in mind, make more time for quilting by using the time you have more efficiently and effectively:

  • Think ahead: use free mental time to dream and think about what you want to accomplish.
  • Plan ahead: keep equipment and tools ready and do all necessary shopping before you begin a new project.
  • Stay focused: work on one to three quilt projects at any given time, but give each one your total concentration for the tasks at hand.
  • Finish those UFOs: one at a time, complete or discard every UFO in your studio to make a clear space, a clear time and a clear mind ready for work on current projects.

 


Time-Saving for Quilters is an 8-lesson series of blog posts, reprinted here with permission, similar to the kind of instruction students receive at QuiltEd Online in all of our online art quilt classes. Read the entire series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 and the remaining posts to follow in sequence in coming weeks. Subscribe to QuiltEd Online News to receive notifications of these and other useful quilt blog posts!