Looking Back to Move Forward

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…. well, a thousand pictures tell my story as do several thousand words (grin).

Recently I have been working on my Studio 180 Design re-certification to continue the honor of being a Certified Instructor with Deb Tucker’s tools and techniques. This is a process that is repeated/required every three years. To simplify the explanation, it’s like a merit system, a certain number of points are needed in several different areas to validate renewal. I have been going through my phone’s photos to help jog the old brain to assist in some of the documentation…and quite frankly, for me personally, it’s been a rough three years as they have been bookended by Hurricane Harvey and Covid 19. But just like the dash, on any given tombstone, between the date of birth and date of exiting this world… well, it’s the dash – or the in-between – that truly matters. Kinda an extreme comparison, but you get the point. It’s the living and doing between those bookends that mattered, in this case, seeing that there was indeed enough documentation for points needed for recertification.

That said, I decided this morning that I needed to do a “year in review” of 2020 – if nothing else to document that I survived! Again, I turned to my phone’s photo memory (much better than my own) and for my sanity’s sake, I’m going to hit the highlights of my year in this blog post.

Let me preface this by saying that I struggle with the “comparison game” and recently came across several online images that state that comparison is the thief of joy. I have to agree. Many times this year I felt discouraged in multiple areas of my life. I have been thankful for the “choose joy” quilt that hangs in the bedroom where I can see it each morning upon waking. Talk about an attitude check!

That said, this post is personal, more for my encouragement that I did do something this year besides stress over the restrictions of a global pandemic, its more than the mere bragging of my accomplishments. Please read it (if you chose to continue) in that frame of mind. It’s my way of closing out a difficult and very strange year on a positive note so I can turn the calendar page this next week and began a new season.

I thought it might be best if I summarized each quarter – thinking I might be able to keep this to a novelette or novella instead of a novel (grin). Feel free to bookmark this and read in chunks, or “quarterly chapters” I will certainly understand… let the rambling review begin!

First Quarter – January to March 2020

Sewing – First Quarter

January found me receiving 20 bolts of fabric from Island Batik that would be my first season of secret sewing for the year. Since the Fall 2020 fabric line has been made public, I can now share a bit of the story – look for a future blog hop for Vincent’s Garden once the fabric ships the first of the year. The exciting part, which you already know as a blog follower, is this fabric represented my very first signature collection with Island Batik – their fabric design supported by my quilt designs.

For the full first quarter I pieced and quilted my three quilts, Lights Shine Bright, Never Alone, and Split my Gaggle.  They were shipped the second week of April to Island Batik to be photographed for the Fall 2020 catalog.

Trying Something New – First Quarter

I decided to join an online mystery quilt-a-long but quickly realized that I didn’t have the time to devote to this project. I did collect all the clues and have high hopes that this project will not become a “lost for years” UFO as I like the fabrics I chose and was more than pleased when the mystery layout was revealed. Just not my time to do this, unfortunately.

I also attempted to begin a YouTube series called 15 minutes to Ramble ‘N Sew – thinking I could film as I sewed for myself on the weekends in between all the secret sewing, all in an effort to have something to share. Can we say “inconsistent”? Sigh. While I have had fun doing this intermittently, I found that the time to film plus prepare to upload to YouTube (not to mention that I need to learn to edit) became more than what I could feasibly do on a weekly (or even regular) basis. I do hope that I made folks laugh (at least) with my bloopers while being transparent and real.

The Quilt Rambler on the Road – First Quarter

The year started well with three TNT (Tools ‘n Techniques) workshops at my local quilt shop. Using technique sheets from Studio 180 Design, we made a Cyclone table runner and Shaded Nine Patch placemats both projects using the Tucker Trimmer I. Then we switched to the Hunter’s Star tool to make Studio 180 Design’s Hunter Star Runner.

I hosted two Land Locked Quilting Cruise™ events in my home studio – first featuring the Corner Beam with a little quilt I designed back in 2013 called Hummingbird; the second featured the Rapid Fire Lemoyne Star with a mini quilt I designed back in 2017 called Mini Lemoyne Love. There’s a free download of this pattern.

My sidekick, Diane, and I traveled to La Grange for a whirlwind of a day – morning lecture and trunk show followed by an afternoon workshop with my Hummingbird design. The guild was a lot of fun and seemed to enjoy the knowledge of the Studio 180 Design tools and techniques as evidenced by purchases made in my pop-up shop.

Personal – First Quarter

Talk about a season full of changes! From replacing ductwork in the house to the toilet paper shortage as we were learning about Covid 19. We went from celebrating our oldest son’s 35th birthday to a national lockdown, causing us to move to online church services among other things…. everyone has stories to tell of this time in our world’s history…I only mention it for my “Chronicles of Karen” documentation. 

And yes, I did keep up with the empty rolls of TP for a while, then gave up when I realized this wasn’t going to go away. Zoom in to read a few comments as the rolls were all too quickly used.

Second Quarter April to June 2020

Personal – Second Quarter

As I’m sure you will remember, this was a transitional time as we were all attempting to navigate our current world.

I remember not being able to celebrate our 40th Anniversary, which fell on Easter Sunday, due to lockdown – nowhere to go, not even able to go out to eat. The hardest part was being separated from our granddaughter. We decided to deliver an Easter bunny I made (actually made two, one for me and one for Reagan) with plans to “drop and go” by leaving a bag, with the bunny inside, hanging on the fence at their house. I still tear up with the joy of the surprise that the kids came outside for us to visit from that “safe distance” of six feet. What an emotional time for all of us, as I know you remember going through similar fears of the unknown.

I called it a “mental health day” – the day we decided to take a three-hour drive along the Texas Gulf Coast…we didn’t even talk or listen to music. Just enjoyed the sunshine and the drive, complete with an old fashioned picnic basket to eat our ham sandwich in the truck. It was just what I needed, as it leads into the next story.

Sewing – Second Quarter

Just a few days before that mental health drive, Deb Tucker announced the coming of a new tool, the Star 60, which would make 60-degree angles and hexagon shapes. I think “getting away” from the stress opened up the creativity as I promptly came home and designed 5 quilts based on this upcoming tool. Over the course of the next four months, four of the five designs were pieced, quilted, and patterns written. 

The first pieced was De Colores. I started it on April 20th and finished it on May 4th. There was a lot of figuring and refiguring to “make the math work” especially since I was making it before receiving the tool. Once my Star 60 arrived I made a smaller version to “proof the pattern” using the tool I would be writing the instructions with.

I began Whirly Wheels on May 9th and worked on it with multiple design changes as I worked through making the design “mathematically correct” while also working on Wheels on The Bus and designing Synchronized Swimming. All of the quilts were completed by June 1st then the pattern writing began.

Use the arrows to scroll between photos

I decided that the fifth design needed to be put on the back burner, with hopes of being included in a future series. Time will tell!

Trying Something New – Second Quarter

So many things were up in the air this quarter as far as classes and travel were concerned. With the loss of income, many people were moving to “virtual” events. I attempted a Facebook live with a few of my designer friends, which proved difficult as all my pattern cover quilts were in Arizona for an upcoming event, so I didn’t have the “show and tell” I would have liked. I also recognized that I didn’t like the format of having to be “on” at a certain time.  I didn’t need more stress in my life.

Another attempt to recover lost income was to develop an Etsy store. Thankfully my daughter in law set it up and agreed to manage it for a while, it had a few good weeks, but it wasn’t the answer I was looking for.

So far, trying something new isn’t working out too well for me.

The Quilt Rambler on The Road – Second Quarter

As mentioned, it was the beginning of the end of travel. My huge event in Arizona – lecture/ trunk show and two workshops, was postponed to summer, and later further still into next year.

My local gals were willing to take the chance to get together for in-person classes, so my TNT classes started back up at the local quilt shop with a basic Lemoyne star workshop and a blazing star workshop –part of the Mystery Lemoyne Star Quilt planned for the year by working through technique sheets to later combine in a quilt. So thankful for the opportunity to be teaching again!

Mid-June I hosted another Land Locked Quilting Cruise™ event in my home studio teaching my popular workshop Geese Over Galveston Bay – the quilt I taught a year ago on a quilting cruise.

Then the heartbreak.

Based on current world conditions I made the hard decision to cancel my Onboard Quilting Excursion™ – my first (and only) sponsored quilting cruise scheduled for Nov 2020. I still cry ugly tears when I think of this disappointment. All the work, all the excitement, all the anticipation. All my dreams.


Third Quarter July to September 2020

Personal – Third Quarter

I needed multiple “mental health days” this quarter. July was my birthday month – the big one that ends in a zero. I had hopes and dreams of a big celebration – I had wanted to rent a beach house and just relax with our kiddos…. but that didn’t happen. Darn Covid. And a week of rain!

I will say that my sweet daughter-in-law sure knows how to throw a party and turned their home into a tropical paradise for the day, complete with a pool party. And God blessed me – the only day without rain for my birthday week was my actual birthday!

I lost count of how many times we storm prepped for hurricanes. So thankful we were spared. Most thankful that we were able to have some huge, damaged trees removed before hurricane season, as they were an accident waiting to happen.

Trying Something New – Third Quarter

This kinda blends personal and quilting… 

On the personal side, my “try something new” was joining up with a health coach to start a program to lose my “Quarantine Fifteen.”  Several years ago, I met Beverly Knowles through Island Batik and we kept up through Facebook. I’ve watched Beverly’s health journey with amazement – from losing a lot of weight to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for multiple years. When she posted “who wants to lose 20-30 pounds by the end of the year” I raised my hand. Pleased to say that my Quarantine Fifteen plus 5 is now in the rear-view mirror! If this is something you are interested in, please reach out and I will provide Bev’s contact information. My journey is continuing as this was only the first hurdle in my weight loss…eager for the need to go jeans shopping this next year!

On the quilting side, I decided to do a Star 60 tutorial, including a YouTube. After all, I’d designed quilts using this tool, so I felt rather comfortable sharing.  I liked that the tool’s instructions included a free pattern, Hextravaganza and since I had some fabric left from making small proofs of my designs, I decided I should make this pattern. Why not try filming it? Why not indeed!

Okay, so perhaps it’s not a truly professional quilt-a-long, but it was my attempt to welcome friends to sew along with me as I worked through the piecing process.  Ya gotta start somewhere, right? Despite some bloopers, and the need to learn how to edit, I think this time the “try something new” was a step in the right direction. I hope to polish and develop this for part of next year’s goals.

Also, quilt related I spent almost a month revamping and redoing my website to include online shopping, phasing out my Etsy store…it’s a work in progress. And way more time consuming than I first imagined!

Seems this category of Trying Something New is getting a little better as the year progresses!

Sewing – Third Quarter

I finished up my “Fabulous Four” Summer Series quilts, De Colores, Wheels on The Bus, Whirly Wheels, and Synchronized Swimming.  I am pleased to share my record-breaking timeline – from design conception on 4/19 to pattern release on 8/10…as my husband would say I’m “proud of my humility” (grin).  In a year of trials, I know you will indulge/forgive me for this infraction (grin).

This quarter was more design time than actual sewing, with the above mentioned revamping of the website taking up much of my time. After another “drive around Texas” – this time going into the hill country, – I again came home with the inspiration for four new designs for the upcoming second Signature Collection with Island Batik for Spring 2021…actually only three were used with the 4th one still percolating for a potential block of the month design…but I’m getting ahead of myself! I think I need to make my driving around Texas a regular event – it certainly calms my stresses and inspires my quilting!

In addition participated in several blog hops this quarter, two different ones sharing my designs using Deb Tucker’s Signature Collection for Island Batik, River Valley, and a designer blog hop “Row A Long”.  I enjoyed making these projects to share. Just do a search on my blog if you missed them.

The Quilt Rambler on The Road – Third Quarter

Things were starting to pick back up with limited in-person events despite our need to “social distance” and wear masks. My TNT series at the local quilt shop wrapped up with individual workshops where we continued to use technique sheets to make blocks for the big reveal of the Mystery Quilt.  We made Liberty Lemoyne, Banded Lemoyne, and Starburst. I say “we” as I was making the blocks a few days ahead of teaching….and then I designed and made the Mystery Quilt layout “just in time” for the last class and big reveal. I am very thankful for my student’s faithfulness and support. I can’t express how much it meant to me to be able to “get out” and have a purpose.

I hosted the final Land Locked Quilting Cruise™ event for 2020 with a two-day workshop teaching my pattern Celestial Borealis Twilight.  

I was also able to do a couple of lecture/trunk shows with local guilds located in Waller County and Baytown – with hopes to return for workshops in the future when more members feel comfortable with in-person events

Fourth Quarter October to December 2020

Wow, this has turned into a short story (between 1,000 and 7,500 words) instead of a novelette (7,500 to 19,000 words). Whew! Thanks for hanging in here with me! Don’t worry, this is a shorter quarter to report (grin).

Sewing – Fourth Quarter

As the majority of the quarter found me glued to my sewing machine or longarm I thought I’d start here. The time was split between pattern writing for my Spring 2020 Island Batik catalog quilt, Not Your Grandmother’s Sampler, and the making of my Spring 2021 quilts to support my second Signature Collection with Island Batik. As these are still secret, I can only report on the timeline.

Design #1 was designed back in June, the 11th according to my phone records. Design #2 came after one of my “drive around Texas” mental health days on 8/2, with Design #3 coming to me on 8/18 (again, according to photo records).  

My fabric delivery has a story all its own (thanks in part to the overloaded shipping companies due, once again, to Covid). Half of the fabric arrived Sept 24th with the remaining shipping showing up Oct 21st. So needless to say, there have been some long hours in the studio.

The piecing for Quilt #1 was completed Nov 3rd, with Quilt #2 started the following day. It’s the larger of the three and one of my favorites…. there’s some interesting piecing going on in this one, including a pieced border that on my Electric Quilt 8 (EQ8) looked great but proved mathematically inconceivable when put into reality. Time for a mental health day – a day at the beach – then back to the drawing board with a much better design both visually and construction-wise. Quilt #3 was begun on Nov 21st.

All three quilts were pieced and ready for the longarm on Dec 1st, being ready for binding by Dec 6th and shipped on Dec 10th to (thankfully) arrive before the Dec 18th deadline for photography at Island Batik. Whew!

Interestingly enough, sometime during all this, I’ve been invited to have yet a third Signature Line with Island Batik, for Fall 2021. The night my Spring 2021 quilts were shipped I sat down and designed Quilt #1 for the next series. I don’t know when the fabrics for this one will arrive or the deadlines, but I do have at least one quilt designed and may fall back on the ones designed earlier this year and not developed. Time will tell!

I then took a little time to sew for myself and make a few gifts – I pieced Synchronized Swimming in Christmas Island Batik fabrics to use as a tree skirt – but alas, it didn’t get quilted…perhaps it will grace my frame sometime this next year to be used next holiday season.

I recently blogged about the other things I sewed this month, so I won’t repeat it here (you’re welcome).

The Quilt Rambler on The Road – Fourth Quarter

As a gift to myself, as in I wanted to be with my TNT gals one more time, we gathered for the final workshop for the year the first of October to make my pattern Simply CelebratePerfect for the holidays as our local quilt shop also had the cover quilt fabrics from Island Batik.

Personal- Fourth Quarter

Needless to say, I took a “few days off” to enjoy family. There was the mental health beach day with my husband.  A perfectly warm November day!

A beach day taking our granddaughter to see the ocean for the first time.  Only a week later, it was nice temp wise but extremely windy.

Nestled between Thanksgiving and Christmas was tree decorating, cooking baking, and lots of eating out as the hours of pattern writing, quilt making, and holiday preparing took away time to even think about “what’s for dinner”, besides, this is our way of supporting our local economy to keep our favorite restaurants in business!

That’s a Wrap!

If you noticed, the fourth quarter didn’t have a “trying something new” category…I think I was/am just tried to try something new (grin)…but technically there are still 4 days left in the year, so ya’ never know!

OH WAIT! I just remembered!!

Trying Something New – Fourth Quarter

How could I forget! I AM trying something new! I’m moving my Land Locked Quilting Cruise™ events from my home studio, where I am limited to six students, to a larger venue for multiple students!! Yes!!!

I found the perfect venue in October – a beautiful Hilton Hotel overlooking a lake… Clear Lake in the NASA area to be exact!

Advertisement for May 2021 Land Locked Quilting Cruise by The Quilt Rambler

There’s a lot of planning and anticipation coming my way at the beginning of the new year! I love that the hotel already has a Covid policy in place that will allow us to “social distance” etc. for this in-person event.  There is a special $50 discount on registration through the end of the year so I hope you will check it out!

Remember my sharing of the Fall 2020 quilts? Well, just as soon as I wrap up the year (physically as well as closing the financial books), I will be writing the patterns and awaiting the fabric shipment to be able to offer (optional) quilt kits to my both my students at the May event as well as to offer through the online shop.

Looking Back to Look Forward

Thank you thank you for allowing me to have this “group therapy” time of chronicling a difficult year. By writing things down, and sharing, this truly has helped ease the pain of isolation, depression, and the feeling of not accomplishing things that I had hoped to accomplish. I know we have all had obstacles to overcome this year.  I sincerely hope you have had someone to share the ups and downs with this year.

I know that turning the page of a calendar to reveal a “new year” is more symbolic than expecting things to magically change between Dec 31 and Jan 1, as in reality not much changes in 24 hours (except maybe the weather) …. that is, except for HOPE.

 I think hope is what changes things. Hope for a new beginning, hope for a new year full of possibilities…hope to move forward. There’s so much to be hopeful for!

And that, my friends, will be a topic for the next ramble…I need to reflect a bit more on my hope for 2021…

One thing I would like to ask…would you leave a comment with one or two things you want to share about your 2020 and one or two things you are looking forward, with hope, towards 2021? Group therapy works both ways!

This is Karen Overton, The Quilt Rambler

(who has broken all sorts of blog writing rules with such a long-winded post – thanks again for hanging with me!) 

Enjoy the final days of 2020!

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7 thoughts on “Looking Back to Move Forward

  1. Pat says:

    So many reasons to delight in a new beginning!
    A year of growth…even though the lessons are hard.
    Retraining our brains to “look for the good”…”count the blessings”…
    Reflection gives us that opportunity.
    Thank you for sharing….💖….you are a blessing!

  2. Lois Swanson says:

    One of the sayings that has helped me this year is: “Life is what you make it”. That applies to so many everyday occurrences. And another is “Other people have made it through these circumstances, so can I.”

  3. jrp53 says:

    As bad as it was in 2020, the best thing for me was that I gained a new son-in-law! (I guess I owe them a wedding quilt.) I even finished a king size quilt that had begun nearly 6 years ago and almost finished another. It will be finished in the first week of the new year. I HOPE that the vaccine will allow us all to gather again to enjoy our passion of quilting in retreats and in-person guild meetings. I have so many quilts in the queue that I wish I could get from conception to completion as quickly as you do! Happy New year!

  4. Brenda @ Songbird Designs says:

    I enjoyed your Chronicles, Karen! This has certainly been a topsy turvy year, but we HAVE survived it! Thankfully we have avoided Covid thus far. I am grateful that we have had more time to sew, and though life has been stressful with the lockdown and restrictions, it seems that most everyone has slowed down, reminding me of simpler times, not always going and doing. Another blessing for us is that my hubby has been able to work from home throughout the lockdown and is currently still working from home, which has been great for us. It appears he will be home for a while longer. I’ve certainly enjoyed participating in a lot of blog hops…and now I have a few UFO’s to complete in 2021, primarily quilting my hop projects! For 2021, I’m looking forward to some “secret sewing” which has been prepped and ready to start! Plus I want to finish my Sunshine Cove quilt. I am hoping, but moreso praying, that the changes coming in 2021 will be more positive than I am expecting, but time will tell. I just have to remind myself to pray and let go, and let God! I loved seeing the pics of Reagan! She’s such a cutie pie!! I also hope to be able to attend one of your Land Locked Cruises one day! Happy New and Healthy New Year to your and your family, Karen!!

    • TheQuiltRambler says:

      Hi Brenda! I’m with you on hoping 2021 is better. Will be glad to have your “secret sewing” as part of my future blog hop for Vincent’s Garden this upcoming spring. Reagan likes to “sing” Let It Go from Frozen – I’m going to let that remind me to “let it go and let God” – thanks for that encouragement! Hope to see you in a future Land Locked Quilting Cruise – maybe the May event will work for you! Time will tell – happy new year!

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