Big Ideas for a New Year

Happy New Year! I don’t know about you, but my year has already started off with a bang! It’s amazing how turning a calendar page can truly feel like a fresh start – add to that the word “retire” and it is truly freeing.

There’s something about the the end of the year  and the beginning of a new year  that makes me want to organize, maybe it’s just winter, ya’ know a way to prevent “cabin fever” by staying busy inside, regardless it was time to straighten up the studio for a new year of quilting adventures.

So I had a wild idea! If my goal for my “retirement” is to make more scrappy quilts then why not make my fabric scraps and precuts more favorable to that goal? 

Organizing Fabric Scraps

Sometime last summer I visited my sister and together we used the GoCutter to cut leftover fabrics into strips, squares, half square triangle parts, etc. to place into project boxes labeled with the various shapes and sizes. I don’t have a lot cut and sorted, but the goal is in the future to cut the scraps upon completion of a project. It’s not a new idea, many quilters do this, but it’s a new discipline for me. In addition I recently went through some of my “smaller than a fat quarter” scraps and cut them into 1 1/2” strips or 2 1/2” strips.

This system of  “taming my scraps” has already proven itself when I wanted to test out a new tool to make a Pineapple block that uses 1 1/2” strips. It was so fun to randomly pull from the strips to see what fabric came out next. I like the block.

Organizing PreCut Fabrics

Time to take it to a new level of organization and usefulness. 

WARNING WILL ROBINSON, the following information may cause you to gasp out loud or shake your head in disbelief. 

Yep, I did it. 

I have to admit it was a bit scary to open up all my beautiful precut collections and “mix them up” – but I love the end result.

I sorted each collection of 2 1/2” strip packages, and my 10” square packages, by color family.  Then labeled them in containers on my shelves.

Now instead of working with a curated collection I am limitless in mixing my fabrics. Need a little purple for a block? Look no further than the purple container. Want to use a rainbow? Yep, you got it, no longer limited by a collection that was “missing” one or two of the colors. 

What About UFO’s 

Yesterday I really went crazy! I’ve always been good about keeping my projects in various forms of “project boxes” all labeled and on a shelf. I’m proud to say some of my projects date back to the turn of the century. Actually, I should be ashamed that I’ve started so many projects (gasp) but let’s set aside the guilt and let me tell you what I decided to do!

As a disclaimer, I have only worked through half of my UFO’s. I have a “section” of quilt projects that are batiks and an older section of projects that are “quilter’s cottons.”  A tad little back story – in 2017 I became an Island Batik Ambassador (later an Island Batik Designer) and pretty much since then I have worked exclusively with batiks, needless to say, I have a lot of batiks and love them. Most of my quilter’s cottons were pre-Hurricane Harvey purchases (also 2017) and all fabrics had to be washed to salvage after the flooding. I tease that I became a “pre-washer” of fabrics by force. Okay… back to our original topic of UFO’s.

That said, I began working through my projects boxes that were batik fabrics. Some were leftover fabrics and units from the quilt patterns I had designed. These were separated into my new “parts department” with sizable fabric scraps placed into a tote to later find a place in my fabric department. (Another day I will share how I sort yardage, Fat Quarters, and pieces that I don’t want to cut up yet).

A new addition to the “Parts Department”

As more “parts” were discovered, more boxes were added to the Parts Department.

Other project boxes were actually quilts that had been started and left in various forms of completion, or incompletion as the case may be. Obviously I had a plan at one point or another.

The decisions were made box by box to either keep together as a future project or to separate the parts, blocks and fabric.  Some of the projects now have a notation to “reduce the finished size” – in other words, if I have 13 blocks made but the pattern calls for 24 I can just make a smaller quilt when I decide I want to work on it again. Or, if it’s something I know I’m not going to finish I “robbed” the finished blocks and added to an Orphan Block box while distributing the parts to the part department and the fabrics back into the fabric department.

Orphan Blocks

I have always loved sampler quilts, mainly the scrappiness of them, so many vibrant colors and designs. Liberating the blocks buried in all those unfinished project boxes is going to be sew much fun! I have grand plans of using these “orphan blocks” to combine with new blocks I want to make, along with some of the parts of various units…My mind is just whirling with ideas to give new life to the wonderful collection of blocks, fabric scraps, and yardage in my studio. Hardest part is remembering to come up for air and nourishment (grin). Yep, this is my retirement plan in a nutshell.

But Wait, There’s More

Look at all the boxes I emptied! Such potential!

I wish I could show you what I have on my design wall right now, but I’d rather tell the story another time, namely if and when I actually sew the blocks together…what am I talking about?

Well, I’ve got a whole slue of demo blocks that I used in my trunk shows – blocks made using the Studio 180 Design tools, many of which were made as my Certified Instructor application blocks, or my re-certification blocks. Some were made from Blockbuster blocks or Technique Sheets. Some are test blocks made for my patterns or blocks I have seen posted online that I wanted to Tuckerize.  My plans are to combine these into a sampler quilt – one that will be perfect to share when I am teaching a Studio 180 Design workshop.

What? Teaching?

Closing my business in 2022 has given me freedom to say yes to an occasional opportunity to teach. Gone is the stress of designing then publishing a pattern. Gone are the deadline quilts. Gone is being a one woman business trying to keep all the plates spinning – bookkeeping, marketing, inventory, shipping, social media presence, self-promoting, saying no to family events because I had to keep the business flowing.

Teaching without being “in business” allows me to enjoy being in the classroom without the need to promote the event, collect fees, cut kits, worry about inventory, etc. I can leave that all up to the quilt shops. I will have the freedom to prepare for my class and then “show up to teach” with the glee of working with my students to make a beautiful creation. Teaching is truly my first love in quilting besides quilting itself! Time will tell how often this will occur, but I’m going to be flexible.

I love it that I can be flexible with my family. A phone call from Reagan resulted in her coming over to “help me take down the tree” this week. Last week it was a “play day” and we made Play Dough. Tomorrow is “spend the night Friday”.  This is retirement for me. Impromptu “dinner out” dates, “it’s a sunny day let’s drive to Galveston” dates, etc. 

So now I have the best of all worlds. Flexible time for family and friends, lots of studio time as I reorganize and appreciate all the collections I have curated for my retirement, and the occasional classroom experience sharing my love of quilting combined with my love Studio 180 Design tools.

Here’s to 2023

Yep, 5 days into a new year and I’m enjoying all the possibilities….now to get back to the sewing machine, I’ve got “a plan” on the design wall that I’m itching to get started!

Happy quilting,

Karen E Overton, still Ramblin’ On

6 thoughts on “Big Ideas for a New Year

  1. Marilyn F Storey says:

    Karen Montgomery of Nine Patch A Day is challenging us to finish UFO’s. Simply number all your UFO’s, put that many numbers in something and draw a number. That’s the one you work on first. Finish and then draw another number. Good luck with your retirement and so glad all the pressure is gone and you can get back to doing what you want to do!

    • TheQuiltRambler says:

      Thank you. I’ve seen a lot of UFO challenges popping up and they do sound like a good idea. However, I have to be in the mood to work on a project- that’s why I have UFO’s to begin with 🤪 – either I’m not in the mood or the creative juices are taking me in another direction. That said, I do hope to clear out more project boxes this year!

  2. Clare Beth Rutila says:

    Wow! I am impressed. I am doing something similar after three decades in the business … thank you for a few new great tips. And you crack me up – remember when it was exciting to get new boxes? – now we stack them up empty and celebrate! Letting go of projects I’ll never do/finish is not easy; resorting into ‘new’ opportunities works for me too. UFOs I love await, dinking around in the sewing room isn’t wasting time, and I can always stop to walk the pup or play HOT LAVA with the neighbor kids. Yet still, this textile/quilt/sewing community runs deep in my blood. My best wishes for your retirement. Live long and keep stitching!

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