Monday, May 22, 2017

Quilter's Tool Chest: Add-A-Quarter Ruler

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

Today we're sharing another nifty notion that both Mom and I keep in our Quilter's Tool Chest: the Add-A-Quarter ruler .

Add-A-Quarter Ruler

The Add-A-Quarter ruler allows you to easily add a quarter-inch seam allowance to any straight seam that you've already sewn, which is an especially amazing technique when you're working with foundation piecing (regular paper piecing, as compared to English Paper Piecing).

To use the ruler with foundation piecing you slide the ruler right up along the edge where you want to add that quarter-inch seam allowance. The ruler has two different heights on the bottom side, so you can feel when it bumps up against your seam; it's almost like it has snapped into place. Then, you can use your rotary cutter to trim off any of the excess fabric before going on to sew your next seam onto the paper foundation. This helps to keep the back of your block neat and tidy (or as tidy as one can with paper piecing), and eliminates the extra fabric from bulking up.

Was that explanation "clear as mud," as Mom likes to say? Check out this video on YouTube by the inventor herself, Carolyn Cullinan McCormick, for a video demonstration.

The ruler comes in different sizes, but we both use the 6" ruler for our projects, since most of the foundation piecing we do has seams smaller than six inches. All ruler links are Amazon Affiliate links, which help keep Prairie Sewn Studios up and running!

Have you ever tried the Add-A-Quarter ruler for your foundation or paper piecing projects? 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Fiber Arts Fiction Friday #7 - The Shop On Blossom Street

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter


Welcome to Week #7 of our Fiber Arts Fiction Friday (FAFF) series! This week we're back to knitting as our fiber art with The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber.

Summary:

The Shop On Blossom Street tells the story Lydia Hoffman opening her own yarn shop in a quaint neighborhood in Seattle called Blossom Street. Lydia's beaten cancer twice,  and has put all of her eggs (financial and emotional) into A Good Yarn. Lydia begins a knitting class for beginners, and we get to know the four VERY different women in attendance. Each one is there for her own reason, but the journey they take throughout the books demonstrates how you don't always end up where you think you'll be. Lydia's yarn shop serves as the perfect backdrop to this shared experience of friendship, camaraderie, differences and reconciliation. 

My Thoughts on This Book:

I always enjoy Debbie Macomber's books more than I think I will. Although I found some of the characters a little over-the-top with their emotions, her writing makes it easy for me to close my eyes and pretend I'm on Blossom Street.

I reread the book to write this post, and discovered that being as I'm at a completely different stage of my life than when I first read The Shop on Blossom Street 10 years ago,  I strongly identified with a different character this time around. We really do change as the years go by!

Want your own copy? Find it on Amazon here through our affiliate link. Affiliate links to things we love help support Prairie Sewn Studios! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Five Life Lessons I've Learned from Crafting

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter


I've been crafting and sewing since I was a small child, thanks to Mom's own interests and dedication to teaching her children sewing and crafting skills. Trying new things and learning new skills wasn't just for one gender in our house (nor should it be anywhere), but both my brother and I were encouraged to try all kinds of different crafts and projects that ignored traditional gender lines.

As an adult I can look back on over 30 years of crafting, DIY and sewing adventures and appreciate the lessons that I've learned from crafting and creating. These lessons aren't just how to sew an accurate 1/4" seam allowance (although I think I'm pretty good at that one by now, too), but LIFE lessons.

Lesson 1: Patience is important, even (especially) when it's something that's challenging or new.
  • You start a new project and you are OMG SO EXCITED. And then you realize how hard it is to try a new technique. It's easy to give up or feel defeated when you feel like you're not learning or improving fast enough, but you need to fight that feeling. 
  • Learning a new skill, whether it's a new sewing technique like English Paper Piecing, learning to drive a manual transmission or memorizing your piece for the piano recital takes time. No matter how many life hacks, tricks or tips that you might try, you're still going to need to practice the skill of patience as you learn. 
Manual Transmission


Lesson 2: Sometimes you just have to rip something out and try it again.
  • You're sewing rows of a quilt together and when you pull it out of your machine you realize your seams are just not matching up at all. You have a choice to either ignore the seams and keep going, or ripping the stitching out, re-pinning your seams and giving it another go. Most of the time, this is the right option. Take a deep breath, frog (undo) your stitches and try again.
Frogging
Even Kermit has to frog his stitches sometimes.
  • You won't get everything right on your first try, just like you probably didn't perfectly parallel park your car the first time you tried. But you don't give up and leave your car in the middle of the street; you realign your car and try again. 


Lesson 3: But sometimes you need to move on from something.
  • Despite Lessons 1 and 2, there will likely come a time when you just need to give up and move on. This might be giving up on a project that no longer brings you joy, and getting it out of your house. It might also be the realization that you've ripped a seam apart so many times that the fabric is now frayed and pulled out of shape. At that point it's better cut fresh fabric and start over with the sewing on that block. 
Frayed Fabric

  • Things that I've moved on from in my life: studying German, figure skating, backpacking trips, jello shots, and bad relationships. 


Lesson 4: Don't be afraid to try new things.
  • You never know what new adventure might lead to your next great project or skill. Mom was hesitate to try English paper-piecing and only went to a lecture on it because I wanted to go (and she's a great Mom). Turns out she liked the technique and it inspired a whole new world of creativity for her. This led to developing the English Paper-Piecing style technique that we use to make our 3-D fabric containers, which in turn led to our first published book! (Contain It! English Paper-Pieced Style Accessories). 
Prairie Sewn Studios Cube

  • New adventures that have rewarded me 100x fold: studying Russian, moving to California, taking my first Spin class and making an appointment to speak with a publishing editor at a quilt show! 


Lesson 5: Practice is important; develop that muscle memory.
  • The first time I used English paper-piecing to sew a Grandmother's Flower Garden block it took forever. It felt like I was all thumbs as I tried to correctly position the paper template, fabric and needle to sew the seams together; all while attempting to avoid getting blood on my block by stabbing the needle into my thumb. But how I've made hundreds of these blocks, so when I start a new one my fingers move into position automatically. 
  • It took me a loooong time to learn how to ride a bike. I'm not sure what my hold-up was, but it really was a struggle to me. Now, of course, I can just hop on a bike and ride off without any thought, but that's only because my muscle memory is firmly in place for me. 
Bicycle

We'd love to hear any life lessons you've learned from crafting! Share your experiences in the comments below. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fiber Arts Fiction Friday #6 - The Quick and the Thread by Amanda Lee

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter



Welcome to Week #6 of our Fiber Arts Fiction Friday (FAFF) series! I'm super excited to introduce a series and an author that was brand new to me: Amanda Lee and her Embroidery Mystery Series, starting with the first book The Quick and The Thread

Summary:

As the first book in the series, The Quick and the Thread quickly introduces Miss Marcy Singer and the new embroidery shop that she's just opened in Tallulah Falls, Oregon. Marcy's also a brand new resident of Tallulah Falls, having moved there from San Francisco when her best friend suggested she open the embroidery shop. Luckily for Marcy, her new shop (The Seven-Year Stitch), is right next to Sadie's coffee shop, so Marcy has ready made friendship and support when things start to go awry the night after the shop's Grand Opening party.

Marcy comes into the shop that morning to find one of the party-goes dead in the storeroom, having scratched a mysterious and incomplete message into the storeroom wall with a tapestry needle before succumbing to his death. Shortly thereafter another man is found dead, but this time foul play is immediately evident. It seems like everything is linked together through a fraudulent financial scam that had occurred several years previously. Four men are in jail, but now it seems as if a secret and silent partner is now cleaning up what he believes to be loose ends.

Marcy quickly gets wrapped up in the ongoing investigation, both as a victim and as a sleuth. She starts to piece together the various players and scandals from the white-collar crime, ending up in a precarious and dangerous situation. 

My Thoughts on This Book:

Well-written cozy mysteries are some of my favorite stories to read and this combination of a cozy-mystery and the setting of an embroidery shop means that I might have a new favorite series! The author has made this a fairly believable story with characters that you want to get to know and love.

Marcy Singer is a strong independent woman, who's making her own way in the world and taking a leap of faith by opening her embroidery shop. Her detective skills are a bonus factor and it was a delight to watch her work everything out over the course of the novel. She has a great sense of humor and is a hard worker who values things being done right, yet creatively. Her shop is one that I'd love to sit in for a few hours, stitching away and chatting delightedly.

Want your own copy? Find it on Amazon here through our affiliate link. Affiliate links to things we love help support Prairie Sewn Studios! 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Paper-Crafted Trolley Project

Written by Linda Chaney, mother

Wow! How time flies! I remember as a child thinking that the hours could not go by fast enough, especially when I was sitting in a class I didn't like in school. Now I find there is never enough time in the day to do all the things I would like to do. That said, let me show you a project (or three) completed as  2016 Christmas presents for the clan in California.

Paper-crafted Trolley Project


I have found that I truly enjoy making three dimensional projects. Since both my son and daughter live in the San Francisco area, I thought that Laura Denison's Trolley project would be perfect Christmas presents.

An album sits inside the center area of the trolley. And the passengers aboard can easily be changed - I modified the original pattern so that the long set of windows in the front is held shut by a magnet and flips partway open to allow easy access for addition or removal of various passengers.

Paper-crafted trolley


I'm hoping that the album will be filled with favorites sites visited in the San Francisco area. Slowly some of the long standing places are being eliminated. What better way to remember those places than with a photo in an album!



Yes, it did take a while to complete. But the biggest problem was finding boxes suitable for shipping from Nebraska to California. Hmmm, next year I will be more selective in choosing my 3D project! And I know that I'll return to Laura Denison's site to find my patterns.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Fiber Arts Fiction Friday #5 - A Thread of Truth by Marie Bostwick

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter


Welcome to Week #5 of our Fiber Arts Fiction Friday (FAFF) series! This week we're coming back to my favorite Fiber Arts Fiction author, Marie Bostwick with the second book in the Cobbled Court Quilt series,  A Thread of Truth.

Summary:

A Thread of Truth brings us back to New Bern, Connecticut community, this time focusing on the life of Ivy Peterman.  Ivy landed in New Bern with her two young children having fled an abusive marriage. Ivy and her family begin work to rebuild their lives with the help of some of our favorite New Bern residents. Ivy connects with the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop and soon begins working there. Everything is going well until her abusive ex-husband spots her in a background shot for an episode of Mary Dell's popular quilting show being filmed in the shop.

Once again, the women of Cobbled Court draw together to protect one of their own. These ladies do NOT back down from their protection of Ivy and her children, even when threatened by the abusive ex-husband. 

My Thoughts on This Book:

This is another great book in the Cobbled Court Quilt series. I really enjoy how the book is written from the perspectives of the various characters, while always keeping the story of Ivy and her children front and center. This is another powerful book for demonstrating the friendship and compassion that can develop within a close group of friends. It also brings to light the super important and very real issue of domestic violence and abuse, demonstrating how challenging it can be to escape the cycle of abuse.

Want your own copy? Find it on Amazon here through our affiliate link. Affiliate links to things we love help support Prairie Sewn Studios! 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Crafting Projects Inspired by Photos: Identify your Color Palette

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

Sometimes it feels like I end up with a lot of pictures on my phone. Since I always have it with me, it's a lot easier than it once was to snap a quick picture of things that catch my attention as I go through the day (and maybe a few pictures of my cats looking adorable).



It's rare that these images make it any further than Facebook these days, but I do love the idea of making a quilt or other project that is inspired by a specific photo. This idea gets one step closer to fruition by using online color palette tools to identify the colors in the photo. This individualized color palette is then easy to either print out or pull up on my phone when I'm ready to pull fabrics and threads for project.

There are many different palette builder tools online, but the one I like the best is the Palette-Builder 2.1 by Play Crafts. It was super easy to upload my photo and download the suggested palette, which are my two primary criteria. This palette builder gets bonus points for its list of suggested Moda Bella Solids that match the color palette.

I took this shot of the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World when we were there last summer for a vacation. It's a little bit blurry since it was taken from the monorail, but I think it give it this quasi-artistic feel that is kind of nifty. We had a great experience here, and I could definitely see using these colors together in a project.



In my first attempt I wished that the palette builder had captured some of the green hues in the palm trees and grass but it was spot on in pulling the various blue-teal-grey colors. You can choose to focus on different colors in the picture by moving the color-picker circles around on the photo, which was an easy solution.


Monday, February 20, 2017

UFO Buster Challenge Link Up and Giveaway!

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

UFO Buster Challenge

Woohoo! We've made it to the end of our UFO Buster Challenge! How did you do? Were you able to attack any of your languishing fabric or crafting projects? Even if you only thought about your projects, that's still a step in the right direction. Sorting through and making decisions on projects that tend to be both labor and love intensive can be an emotionally draining process, so be proud of ANY progress that you made.

UFO Buster Challenge Link-Up and Giveaway




Still need your free copy of our UFO Buster Challenge Workbook? Get it here!

* indicates required


Looking for other posts in the UFO Buster Challenge?

Here is the schedule for this series:
January 2: Know your UFOs
January 16: UFO Tracking
January 23: Organize Your UFOs
February 20: UFO Buster Challenge Link-Up and Drawing

Friday, February 17, 2017

Fiber Arts Fiction Friday #4 - The Basement Quilt by Ann Hazelwood

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter



Welcome to Week #4 of our Fiber Arts Fiction Friday (FAFF) series! This week we're reading The Basement Quilt by Ann Hazelwood.


Summary:

In this novel you'll be introduced to the people, places and goings-on of Colebridge, Missouri, through the eyes of Anne Brown. Anne is the proud owner of the local floral shop and is also very close with her expanded family in Colebridge. Anne and her family decide to set up their own little quilting bee, to finish the quilt of Anne's aunt. They set up the frame in the basement of the house that Anne and her mother live in, but each time they return to the project something strange has happened. They each accuse the others of playing tricks, but also wonder if it could be a ghostly presence!

As they make progress on the quilt (and the mysterious happenings continue), Anne and the others go through a number of life changing events. They learn to rely on themselves and each other to meet their challenges head on, and emerge as resilient citizens of the Colebridge Community. 


My Thoughts on This Book:

While this book is a nice addition to my collection of quilting fiction, but it's not my favorite novel. Like many FAFF books, this features a group of women who come together for a single purpose (quilting) and wind up supporting each other in ways far beyond the quilting frame.

However, I wish that the characters were more developed and showed a little bit more self-reliance and grit instead of always relying on the help of others. I also had difficulty believing the story itself with the rapid timelines for some of the significant life events in the novel, finding them both unlikely and unwise. While I know that it's a work of fiction, the setting is contemporary enough that my own life experiences and expectations are projected on the storyline, making it a challenge to suspend belief. Since I can sometimes take a while to warm up to a new series, I'm going to continue reading the novels see what happens next!

Want your own copy? Find it on Amazon here through our affiliate link. Affiliate links to things we love help support Prairie Sewn Studios! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Never UFO Alone

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter


Never UFO Alone


Quilting and sewing can be a very solitary endeavor sometimes. Although many people do have bees, guilds or groups where they meet with other quilters in person, much of our craft takes place alone in whatever space we’ve managed to carve out for sewing in our home.

You’ve put a lot of work into finding, sorting, tracking, organizing and starting work on your UFOs, a process that can be emotionally (and even sometimes physically!) draining. It’s important that you keep up your momentum as you work on your UFOs, making steady, if slow, progress on the projects you’ve decided to keep. Don’t let these UFOs languish in your neat organized stacks. Instead, use your networks and community, whether online or in person, to keep your sewing spirits up and keep knocking out those UFOs! Here are a couple of ideas so you don’t have to UFO alone.

Join an in person quilting guild, bee, or sewing group. 


Guilds and other similar groups can be amazing for a number of reasons. Most guilds will have a “Show and Tell” time during a guild meeting where members can either share things that they’re working on or share a finished project. Set a goal to finish your first UFO by the next guild meeting so you can share your success with the other members.

Find an accountability buddy within your quilting friends. 


Maybe you need a little more individual accountability, or someone that you can share your goals and progress with. Ask one of your quilting or sewing friends (either someone you know in real life or online) if they’d be willing to help you with this. Decide on your goals, and then agree on how frequently you should check in about the progress you’re making. This often works best if both participants have goals that they’re working towards so that this accountability is mutually beneficial.

Join online quilting communities, such as Facebook groups, Reddit or My Quilt Place.


These groups can be an easy way to share your progress pics or completed projects. It’s easy to take and upload photos from your phone, especially for Facebook groups, and members tend to be very welcoming and supportive. Always remember-there are no quilt police! If you find a group to be negative or dismissive of your work you can always quit that group and find one that’s a better fit for you.

A few examples of online quilting communities:


Post a progress picture every day on Instagram.

Instagram is a great platform to share your visual works of creativity or art. It’s easy to upload pictures from your phone, and fun to play with the different filters and layouts. Try posting a picture of your current UFO each time you work on it. Don’t forget to use hashtags to help others find projects that they like. Having people ‘like’ your photo can be a huge ego booster, and it’s a fun way to discover new quilters online. When you have the project finished, you’ll also have a great record of progress pictures! (Don't forget to follow @PrairieSewn)

Join an online UFO challenge! 



These tend to pop up every year, usually around New Year when people are thinking about New Year Resolutions. While we certainly don’t think you need to wait until the New Year to work on your UFOs, this can be a great way to find an online community of quilters who are working towards a similar goal of finishing their UFOs and WIPs. Sometimes they’ll run contests or giveaways for challenge participants, too!

UFO Buster Challenge Assignment 

Think about what might work best for YOU and YOUR life and reach out to your real life and online support networks. You don't need to do all of these, but try and choose at least one. In addition to keeping you on track with your UFOs, you'll also grow your quilty community and find inspiration from others.


Have you downloaded our UFO Challenge Workbook? If not, sign up below to get instant access to this printable workbook that can help you attack your UFOs!


Request your free copy of our UFO Buster Challenge Workbook!

* indicates required


Looking for other posts in the UFO Buster Challenge?




Here is the schedule for this series:
January 2: Know your UFOs
January 16: UFO Tracking
January 23: Organize Your UFOs
February 13: Don’t UFO alone!
February 20: UFO Buster Challenge Link-Up and Drawing

Monday, February 6, 2017

Find Time To Work on Your UFOs

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

Find Time for Your UFOs


So you’ve gone through your UFOs and WIPs and figured out exactly how many you’re working with. By this point you should have determined which projects you’re going to keep working on and have a basic idea of what work still remains to be done. You’ve chosen which project you’re going to tackle first so now it’s time to get to stitching!

Depending on how many projects you have it might feel overwhelming to think about making any progress, but it can be done. Still not sure? Here are three ways to make real progress on your UFOs!

1. Schedule it on your calendar like an appointment


This is a recommendation that I see all the time for making sure you find time to exercise. If you schedule it on your calendar just like a regular appointment you won’t skip it. And if we can apply this logic to hitting the gym, why can’t we also apply it to hunkering down in the sewing room. How often you’re able to put “UFO Sewing” on your calendar will depend on your schedule, but try to find at least one hour a week to hold sacred for making progress on your UFOs. Add it to your calendar and be sure your family knows that you’re unavailable during this time unless there is a legitimate emergency.


2. Work in small chunks of time, but do it consistently.


The 15 minutes a day trick is one I learned a long time ago from Marla Cilley, The Flylady. Although she writes primarily about clearing the cutter and having an organized home I’ve found that much of what she says can be applied to other parts of my life. The Flylady promotes taking baby steps each day to make progress on your projects. This, combined with one of her mantras, “ You can do anything for 15 minutes” is an ideal way to make consistent progress. Need a little extra inspiration? Buy yourself a packet of gold star stickers and put on a calendar each day that you work on your UFOs for at least 15 minutes. How many days can you get in a row?

3. Outsource


The idea of outsourcing part of a quilting project might make you feel a little bit weird. After all, it’s YOUR project so YOU need to do ALL of it. Wanting to complete a project all on your own is certainly a worthy goal, but sometimes it’s not worth the stress that it causes, especially if you’re not particularly fond of a certain step of the process.

Quilting

My favorite quote from Eleanor Burns from Quilt in a Day is “I quilt with my credit card.” Eleanor designs some pretty amazing patterns, most of which are intended to be quick to piece together. But she admits she has no interest in doing the quilting herself. This is an incredibly freeing concept; Eleanor can engage in the parts of the craft that she loves and outsource the part she doesn’t.

Cutting and Ironing

For some people the cutting and ironing are the bane of their quilting existence. It can be time consuming, dull, repetitive and hard on the wrists. But maybe you know a budding sewist who is looking to earn a little cash on the side and doesn’t mind the repetitive nature of this work. With proper training (and adequate supervision) this might be something that a responsible child or teenager could help with to earn a couple of extra dollars in their allowance.

Sewing

You might be thinking, “but sewing is the very essence of quilting! I can’t outsource that!” Of course you can! There are no quilt police and if you decide that your passion lies with designing, or machine quilting or hand quilting then by all means find a way to engage in that part and let someone else do the stitching. If you have project boxes full of cut pieces that you really want to sew into a top just so you can do the quilting maybe it’s time to see if someone else can help you with this part. Again, is there a budding quilter interested in a little practice? Or a teenager who is willing to chain-piece for a few hours for a couple of bucks? This is your sewing, your quilting, your crafting. You are the only person who can decide how to engage in your craft.

We’re always on the lookout for other ways to find time for our crafting, so please share your ideas in the comments!

UFO Buster Challenge

UFO Buster Challenge Homework Assignment 


Decide when you’re going to work on your UFO and get to it! Practice being consistent with dedicating time to your projects, even if you’re only able to work on something in short bursts.

Have you downloaded our UFO Challenge Workbook? If not, sign up below to get instant access to this printable workbook that can help you attack your UFOs!

Request your free copy of our UFO Buster Challenge Workbook!

* indicates required


Looking for other posts in the UFO Buster Challenge?


Here is the schedule for this series:
January 2: Know your UFOs
January 16: UFO Tracking
January 23: Organize Your UFOs
February 6: Find Time for your UFOs
February 13: Don’t UFO alone!
February 20: UFO Buster Challenge Link-Up and Drawing

Friday, February 3, 2017

Fiber Arts Fiction Friday #3 - The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter



Welcome to Week #3 of our Fiber Arts Fiction Friday (FAFF) series! This week our novel focuses on a needlecraft that is more unusual nowadays: tapestry. Many of our readers will recognize the author, Tracy Chevalier, as the artist of The Girl with the Pearl Earring. This week's books The Lady and the Unicorn takes us back in time to Europe in the late 1400s.


Summary:

The Lady and the Unicorn  is set in Europe (Paris and Brussels) in 1490, and tells a fictionalized story of the inception, design and creation of the set of six tapestries on the theme of the Lady and the Unicorn. Told from various perspectives throughout the book, Chevalier gives the reader a glimpse into an esteemed household of France and the labor of love that went into creating these tapestries.


My Thoughts on This Book:

This novel reads slightly deeper and more complex than some of the other books on our Fiber Arts Fiction list, perhaps as it's written by an author well known for her historical fiction, as compared to works that are part of the cozy, chick lit or contemporary fiction genres.

Although slightly more risque than many other fiber arts fiction in the descriptions of secret assignations, it also does an outstanding job of demonstrating many of the restrictions and limitations that were placed on women at this time. Given that fiber arts are often though of as "women's work," this novel reminds us all that many fiber arts such as tapestry, wool work and weaving were originally created through tightly organized and male led artisan guilds. While the female characters in The Lady and the Unicorn certainly demonstrate their power and authority over the household and female children, it's also clear that their power is limited and subject to overruling by their male counter parts.

The Lady and the Unicorn


Want your own copy? Find it on Amazon here through our affiliate link. Affiliate links to things we love help support Prairie Sewn Studios! 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Make a Plan of Attack for your UFOs

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

Are you ready to get sewing? The time to sit down and get to work is almost upon us!


Now it’s time to decide which UFO to work on first. As with anything in sewing or quilting, there’s no right or wrong way to do this but just finding what works for YOU. Here are a few ideas to help you pick which project to start on first.

Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball


Dave Ramsey is a prominent expert and author for financial responsibility and debt reduction. With credit card debt he suggests that you start by throwing all your extra money (beyond minimum payments) towards the smallest debt. Once you get that first one paid off you not only get to do a little victory dance, but you can then start putting all of that money towards the next debt in line. This technique helps to keep you motivated even when it feels like there isn’t an end in site.

Try applying this technique to your UFOs. Review your list of projects and determine which one you are the closest to finishing. Work on that one project until you get it completed! Once it’s done, celebrate your victory with a happy dance and immediately decide which one is next in line with the least amount to finish.

Emotional Baggage


Maybe one of your UFOs has some additional emotional baggage attached to it. A quilt you wanted to finish for a colleagues baby shower, and now the baby is a toddler. Or the wedding gift for the couple that is about to celebrate their 5th anniversary. Sometimes these projects take a huge toll on you emotionally, filling you with guilt and regret that you didn’t manage to complete it in time for the big event.

Pick the one project that is causing you the most inner turmoil and make that your number one UFO priority, even if there’s still quite a bit to finish on it. Keep pushing through until it’s in the hands of its intended recipient.  Remember, it’s about the love and joy that you infuse with each stitch you take that the recipient will value, not whether you finished a quilt by a specific date.

Top Down


The Top Down method is inspired by David Allen’s famous system of productivity called “Getting Things Done.” With the Getting Things Done (GTD) system, one of the steps is to gather all of your loose ends into one pile and to address them one a time, starting with the item on top and working down through the pile.

You’re not allowed to skip items, or defer them until later. What you pick up next is what you must do next. I’ve found this to be a useful mindset for lots of things outside of my inbox, and it’s perfect for an unemotional system to moving through your pile of UFOs.

UFO Buster Challenge Homework Assignment


Choose your first UFO to work on! Use one of these three ideas to figure out what project you want to start with, figure it out a different way. The important thing is to make the choice as to what you’re going to work on first.

Have you downloaded our UFO Challenge Workbook? If not, sign up below to get instant access to this printable workbook that can help you attack your UFOs!

Download your free copy of our UFO Buster Challenge Workbook!

* indicates required


Looking for other posts in the UFO Buster Challenge?


Here is the schedule for this series:
January 2: Know your UFOs
January 16: UFO Tracking
January 23: Organize Your UFOs
January 30: Make a Plan of Attack for your UFOs
February 6: Find Time for your UFOs
February 13: Don’t UFO alone!
February 20: UFO Buster Challenge Link-Up and Drawing

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fiber Arts Fiction Friday #2 - The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

The Quilter's Apprentice


Welcome to Week #2 of our Fiber Arts Fiction Friday (FAFF) series! This week we turn to an author who has reached many quilters with her Elm Creek Quilt series, Jennifer Chiaverini. There are currently 20 novels in this series, plus a handful of short stories, and we'll start at the beginning with The Quilter's Apprentice


Summary:


The Quilter's Apprentice is the first book in the lengthy Elm Creek Quilt series. A young couple, Sarah and Matt, move to the town of Waterford, Pennsylvania for Matt's new job. As Sarah struggles to find a job in her field, she takes an odd-job helping the elderly Mrs. Sylvia Compton go through the family estate and prepare it for sale. In exchange for this work, Mrs. Compton promises to teach Sarah how to quilt.

As Sarah helps Mrs. Compton sort through the rooms in the house, stories and memories emerge. Ghosts from the past emerge as she struggles to come to terms with the direction her life as taken. Through her tenuous yet growing friendship with Sarah, Mrs. Compton takes the first steps in moving from the memories and tragedies of the past into the possibilities and fortunes of the future.

My Thoughts on This Book:

Similar to A Single Thread which we highlighted last week, this series begins with a "fresh start" motif. I think this is what is part of the draw towards many (although certainly not all) novels with a fiber arts twist. It's easy to identify with both  Sarah's struggles determine the path in her life yet to come and Mrs. Compton's struggles to come to terms with the path her life has already followed, and her power to change its direction.

This novel introduces a broad cast of characters from the town of Waterford, and you'll look forward to the other books in the series to you can learn more about their lives, as well. It also takes a jab at those who think that there are (or should be!) quilt police using the various quilt guilds and its members. It tackles the oft-sticky debate around hand versus machine sewing and quilting, picking up the tension that arises when someone declares that something isn't a REAL quilt.

Want your own copy? Find it on Amazon here through our affiliate link. Affiliate links to things we love help support Prairie Sewn Studios! 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Organize your UFOs

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

Now that you Know your UFOs and have a way to keep track of them, it’s time to get them wrangled and organized into a system that will allow you to choose your project and get cracking! There are two things to keep in mind: what should you keep with each UFO and how you will organize all of your UFOs.

UFO Buster Challenge

Make UFO Kits


If you’re like me, sometimes the biggest impediment to starting work on a project is not having all of the necessary materials and supplies together. We’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen with your UFOs by pulling all of these items together to be stored with the UFO itself. The exact contents of your UFO kit will necessarily vary from project to project, but here’s a list of items to consider.
  • The UFO itself. 
    • This might include cut pieces and pieced blocks, or even fabric that hasn’t even been cut into yet.
  • Border fabric and backing fabric. 
    • If you’ve already chosen these fabrics be sure you’re storing them with the UFO. Nothing is more frustrating than going to work on a project only to discover you (or worse, someone else in your household!) has absconded with the perfect piece of fabric that you’d mentally earmarked for the backing. 
    • Remember that this is intended to help you make progress on your UFOs, not restrict your creativity. It’s not a big deal if you change your mind about a fabric selection while working on the UFO. Just make the swap and keep on working. 
  • Coordinating thread. 
    • If you have selected a special thread for piecing, perhaps in a matching or neutral color, be sure that’s in the kit. Likewise, if you’ve already discovered the perfect thread for quilting your final project add that in, too. 
  • Project specific tools or notions. 
    • This would be anything that you purchased to use with this specific project, that you’re very unlikely to want or need for a different project. A great example of this is the clothing tagging gun that I purchased during a Stack’n’Whack class with Bethany Reynolds. 
  • Any additional project specific materials or embellishments. 
    • This could be anything from the double-fusible fleece you purchased to make a specific purse, or the little seashell buttons you purchased for your Little Mermaid themed art quilt. 
  • The pattern or instructions. 
    • If it is a standalone pattern, go ahead and stick the whole thing into your kit. If it’s a pattern from a book, add a piece of paper that reminds you of which book, and what page the pattern is on. If you store downloaded PDF patterns, remind yourself where you can find on your computer. 
  • Project notes. 
    • I tend to scribble a lot of things down on paper when I’m first starting a project. This is anything from a rough sketched layout, to full-on dimensions for strip cutting, or indications of color choices. These are all formed during that initial phase of “New Project Energy” and can be invaluable when you’re ready to pick the project back up again; not only for the information they contain, but for a way to add that shot of energy back into your UFO. 

Organize your UFOs


Now that you’ve gathered all of your project supplies together it’s time to get them contained and stored in a system that works for YOUR own space limitations. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Protect the UFO. 
    • Use a storage system that keeps your UFOs protected from extreme heat, dust, pet hair, and grimy fingers.
  • Use a clear or see through storage container. 
    • We’ll talk about labeling in a minute, but sometimes just being able to get that quick visual take on the contents of a box is enough to help your brain remember exactly what’s in there. 
  • Label, but don’t go overboard. 
    • Take a minute to think about what information you want need to be able to grab the right project from your stash. If you track your UFOs with one of the ways we suggested in the previous post you might need limited information on the project kit itself. A pattern name, recipient name, class title or even ID number from a spreadsheet (if you tend to go overboard with tracking like me) is sufficient. 
  • Consider your space limitations. 
    • This is perhaps the most important consideration of all. It doesn’t matter how many fancy plastic bins that you use if you’re working out of a closet with absolutely no space to stack them. Think outside the bin and check out our UFO and Project Storage Pinterest board for ideas. 

UFO Buster Challenge Assignment 


Organize your UFOs! But don’t let uncertainty slow you down too much here. If all else fails, grab some 2 gallon Ziploc bags off of Amazon or at the grocery store, make your UFO project kits, label them with a permanent marker and neatly pile them into a designated “UFO Box.”


Have you downloaded our UFO Challenge Workbook? If not, sign up below to get instant access to this printable workbook that can help you attack your UFOs!


Request your free copy of our UFO Buster Challenge Workbook!

* indicates required


Looking for other posts in the UFO Buster Challenge?




Here is the schedule for this series:
January 2: Know your UFOs
January 16: UFO Tracking
January 23: Organize Your UFOs
January 30: Make a Plan of Attack for your UFOs
February 6: Find Time for your UFOs
February 13: Don’t UFO alone!
February 20: UFO Buster Challenge Link-Up and Drawing


Friday, January 20, 2017

Fiber Arts Fiction Friday #1 - A Single Thread by Marie Boswick

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter



Today we're kicking off our new series, Fiber Arts Fiction Friday (FAFF) with one of my absolute favorite works of Fiber Arts Fiction: A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick. This is the first book in the Cobbled Court Quilt series.

A Single Thread

Summary:


This novel is the first in the Cobbled Court Quilts series, which follows a fun and personable cast of characters who live in the quaint New England town of New Bern. We're introduced to New Bern and its residents through the eyes of Evelyn Dixon, a longtime quilter who is looking for a fresh start and decides to open her own quilt shop, Cobbled Court Quilts.

Through her experience as a new business owner and a quilter, Evelyn builds a life for herself in New Bern, facing hardships and triumph along the way. Each chapter allows a peek into the world of her new friends, demonstrating that life can be both hard and wonderful for each and every person, despite their social stature or life circumstances. By the time you've finished the book you'll wish you could go visit New Bern and stitch away an afternoon with Evelyn and her friends.

My Thoughts on This Book:

Reading this book was a major turning point in my life when I first read it in 2008. I had a lot of difficult things going on in my life, including a recent move and new job, plus a very seriously ill family member. I felt like everything was going wrong, and that I was pretty much failing at life. This book gave me hope that even when things are hard, they will get better. It can be easy to feel like we're stuck, without any hope of a better future; this book helped me move past that mentality. I actually own this book both on my Kindle and as a paper book and it's my go-to novel whenever life feels like its getting me down. 

In 2009, Mom and I went to our very first American Quilter's Society Paducah Quilt Show and discovered that Marie was on the schedule. She gave a great talk about how her quilting helped her get through some tough times, and was incredibly generous with her time. Mom and I have been fortunate enough to connect with her several other times at quilt shows, and each time it's a reminder of what a genuine, talented and support person Marie is.

Marie's brought a bit of the Cobbled Court community and her own passion for quilting online with her Cobbled Court Quilt Circle Facebook group!



And now for the giveaway.

I truly do love this book. So much that I have a (gently used) copy to give away to one of our readers. Just complete the form below to enter the giveaway and sign up for the Prairie Sewn Studios newsletter. 


Enter the giveaway for "A Single Thread" and subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required


The Fine Print 

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents aged 18 years or older. This giveaway is for a gently used copy of A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick. Neither Marie Bostwick nor her publisher are sponsoring this giveaway; I just loved this book so much that I want to spread the quilty cheer. This giveaway will be open from January 20, 2017, through 12pm midnight Pacific Time on January 24, 2017.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Track your UFOs

Written by Laura Chaney, daughter

UFO Buster Challenge

You’ve gathered up your UFOs and narrowed your pile down to the ones that you want to finish in some way, either as the original project or with a creative transformation. Depending on how many are in your pile (and there’s no judging here!), you might be feeling overwhelmed with all of the work ahead of you. These next posts will help you organize your UFOs and make a plan of attack for choosing the next project to focus on and getting some sewing done!


There are two kinds of tracking that are important to our UFOs: tracking all of the projects that you’re working on and tracking the progress on each individual project.


Tracking All the Projects


Here at Prairie Sewn Studios, we are list making people. Making lists of things helps you feel more organized and creates a sense of order from what may feel like a void of chaos. While this is slightly melodramatic, we truly do make lists to help us keep our lives organized. You have your UFOs in a pile and all you need to do is write them all down in a list. There’s no right or wrong method to do this, just find one that works for you.


Some ideas:

  • Our UFO Buster Challenge Workbook (get it for free below!)
  • Excel or Google Sheet
  • Paper and pen
  • Printable Planner Pages
  • White Board
  • Post-It note stuck to the side of your sewing machine
  • Project management software, such as Trello
  • A notebook or journal that you’ve been “saving” for a special occasion
  • Send yourself an email



Tracking Individual Progress on a Project


Tracking your progress on individual projects isn’t something that you necessarily have to do, but something that we think is a good idea. You can track this information either on an individual project page, or on a single spreadsheet listing all of your projects and the steps to complete each one. Really want to be organized? Use a single spreadsheet to track where you are for the basic steps for all of your projects in one place, then use an individual project page/printout for each individual project for all of the more specialized information and any notes you make about the project. Think of this step like a project notebook, instead of just a tracker.


While every project may not have the exact same steps, many will have steps that are similar regardless of the project type. Here are a few steps and pieces of information to consider tracking. Remember that there’s no right or wrong way to do this, but instead an opportunity to explore and figure out what works best for you.

  • Project name
  • Intended recipient
  • Pattern name
  • Pattern location, if it’s in a magazine or book
  • Dimensions
  • Date started
  • Project stages
    • Designing
    • Cutting
    • Piecing
    • Preparing for finishing
    • Quilting
    • Binding/Hanging sleeve
    • Label
    • Photograph
  • Fabric swatches
  • Project notes


UFO Buster Challenge Assignment 

Create a list of all of the UFOs that you’re going to finish in some capacity, either as the original project or a creative transformation.


Extra Credit: Track your various stages for the projects on an excel sheet or project sheet!




Have you downloaded our UFO Challenge Workbook? If not, sign up below to get instant access to this printable workbook that can help you attack your UFOs!


Request your free copy of our UFO Buster Challenge Workbook!

* indicates required


Looking for other posts in the UFO Buster Challenge?


Here is the schedule for this series:
January 2: Know your UFOs
January 16: UFO Tracking
January 23: Organize Your UFOs
January 30: Make a Plan of Attack for your UFOs
February 6: Find Time for your UFOs
February 13: Don’t UFO alone!
February 20: UFO Buster Challenge Link-Up and Drawing