Free Time – Life Balance

One of the biggest changes for me, now that I am no longer working out of the home is to allow for time to make myself work-ready and to commute to the office. For me the loss is a couple of hours each day.  I am not special in this loss of personal time.   It is the personal price that millions of people pay as part of being gainfully employed.  It is time the working person can never get back.

I use my commuting time to plan my day or decompress and shut down at the end of a day.   When I push the button on the garage door, that is the line of demarcation of work time and personal time.   I don’t take home paperwork, my computer or say to anyone at work to call me at home.     I have traveled that road before of letting work take over my life and have no desire to do it again.    When I am on the clock I am 110% in, but when I am off-the-clock  I am guard my private time preciously.   It isn’t easy and I like so many others have struggled with this situation.

When I accepted this job, RangerSir and I talked about this.   We discussed what the realistic expectations were.   We discussed what was most likely to suffer and what each of us might do to limit the impact of my new job on personal time.

I have done several things to ensure that I don’t let work creep occur.    I am trying to cultivate new habits to ensure I don’t just go to work and come home and veg, because I  found I was falling in that pattern.    In January  I enrolled in a creative class with weekly assignments because I love to learn and I thrive on creativity.   With regular assignments I am forced to carve out time for myself.   It seems that once I have found the rhythm of making self-time, it seems I have found  time for other things as well.   I  have queued up several books at the public library, because I am back to reading daily.   I had wanted to make a baby quilt when my newest Great Nephew was born, but I had never started the project.  I felt I had no time.    Now the top is pieced and I am busy machine quilting it so I can go to baby Harrison.

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I had never imagined I would find the time to make a baby quilt, though I really wanted this special baby boy to have one.   Now suddenly it is well on its way. 

Are you caught in the never ending rat race of letting your work encroach on your personal time?    Are you not being yourself, but instead using the exhaustion of work  preventing you from finding enjoyment in life?   If so, I hope you take a little time and think about how you can find some time for you.  You are worth it.   Maybe you can’t be as lucky as I am, but even if all you get is a few minutes to yourself, it will be worth it.   Once you claim those first few minutes hopefully you can claim a few more and a few more.

It is something we all need not just with work and personal time, but holistically more life balance.

Flashback to Celebrating the End of a Century

As we celebrate the end of a year I just had a flash back to how I marked the end of the 20th century.  I received a quilt top I had made with 2000 different fabrics to mark the end of 1999 back in the mail from a friend who had quilted it for me.

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I had long ago forgotten about this quilt, mostly because it turned into an overwhelming project that did not pan out to this wonderful creation I had imagined when I started it.   As we approached the end of the 20th century,  there was a plethora of folks who thought if we swapped fabric that we could all end up with 2000 different fabrics from around the country if not the world.  Then each of us would make an amazing quilt using 2000 fabrics to celebrate the end of the century.

I am not exactly how we all exchanged addresses, but we did.   Each of us sent one another an envelope with 10 squares of different fabrics.   They were suppose to be quilt-quality fabric.  Some of what I received went directly to the trash clearly not quilt quality fabric even for the 1990’s when quilting was in the mist of a reawakening.    I taught quilting and used all sorts of fabrics, but was beginning to explore some art quilting and the new emerging batiks.   I used it as an opportunity to cut up what remained from quilts I had made and trade  it out with others.  Lots of what I received was that classic calico I am not sure they even print any more.

Soon my rural mail box was full of squishies every day.   This is what we called an envelope with 10 squares of fabric.   Some tucked notes in with their squares, explaining the significance of one of their squares.    Several from Canada found fabric honoring their country with the name Canada blaze on the square they sent a print with  the maple leaf that was synonymous  with their country.   One lady who own a bakery in NYC, said she bought special bagel fabric so she could include a square in each package she sent out.    I got one with an ostrich on it from a lady in Australia.   A person from New Orleans found fabric in gold and purple with figures of Mardi Gras, fabric that would likely never be found in northern Michigan.  I got an Asian print from a woman in Japan, long before they became a mainstay option for quilters in the US.    I remember this inspired me to go out and buy fabric that would represent where I lived and enclose a square of fabric with pine needles on it to tell the story of the pines where I lived.

Once I collected my more than 2000 pieces of fabrics, I purged some of what I could not believe that someone sent, or pieces that were a long ways from square, until I pared it down to 2000 pieces of fabric.   Then I thought about design and became overwhelmed by what I had and how to best organize them to sew them together.    I toyed with color rainbows, light vs. dark, designs within designs….but no matter what I came up with my project was huge and I had no way to manage it.   I eventually threw up my hands and just sewed my 2000 squares together.   When I finished it was not this wonderful master quilt I had foreseen.   It was too big for me to quilt I was now over my head again, and whatever inspiration I had when I started this project it was long gone.

I pondered and finally decided that I would send it to my friend, who was also a long arm quilter with the statement, “quilt this puppy and send me a bill.” Now this friend is a perfectionists.   She organizes her fabrics by color and light to dark.   She makes amazing quilts that have an iridescence and luminescent by using that understanding of color and light to make them sparkle.    I am sure she looked at this and want to use it as a dog blanket.    It was bundled up and put in the bottom of  a pile  almost completely forgot about,and she was hoping that the UFO (Unfinished Objects) fairies would come steal this nasty from her closet.   Some how occasionally she found it and we talked about it, but always finding its way back to the bottom of the dark closet.

Just this week it showed up in a box from the UPS man unannounced.   It was like having someone dig out the card you made for your mother in the third grade, framing it and sending it to you.   Oh my!    I called my friend and she used this an experiment in quilting style she had thought about but never tried before…to make her feathers freely come from all different directions on a long arm quilting set up that doesn’t really lend itself to that kind of style.   She said she was glad she tried it but no hurry to do it again, so much trouble.    The quilting is absolutely breathtaking.    It is the star of the quilt.    You want to appreciate this quilt from the backside and the talent of my friend.

Receiving this has taken me back.   This group of squares has provoked memories of the grand experiment.    Looking at them make me I remember a few of the folks who I swapped with.  It reminds me of the talent of friends who introduced me to quilting so many years ago.  It has also let me know how far I have come and the evolution of not only the art of quilting but also of me.

Quilting Done

2013-11-01 quilt 001Tonight I finished the quilting on the baby quilt I have been working on.   I am pleased with it. It is just the right combination of curves and straight lines.

I have trimmed and squared it up.

Now I have to finish attaching the binding.   I have sewn on the binding  to the front.   I will be spending this weekend folding it over to the back side and sewing this down by hand.   Won’t be long now and I will have a finished baby quilt to share with you.

Making the Back Look Good

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I have finished quilting the planned areas of my baby quilt.    I did some diagonal lines on the edges and some stippling in the main body.   It went pretty well, but my time away from quilting showed and my stippling isn’t up to what was at one time my standard.  When you quilt breathing is as important as when you exercise.   I found myself holding my breath it caused some of my movements not to be as smooth as I would have liked.

Now is the time to turn the quilt over and decided if I need to add some more to make the back as nice as the front.   Normally one does not worry too much about this but when you use a pink/fustian/yellow colored thread on a white on white backing you artistic choices are out there for everyone to see.    I have decided a little outlined quilting on the sashing between the rows of blocks that have been stippled quilt will create a unified look.    It will put a little straight line in the middle of the quilt creating balance of curve and linear design.

Keep watch for the back side.

When I Quilt It is Like Coloring Outside the Lines

Quilt2I finished my quilt top late yesterday.    It was a wonderfully relaxing experience.  No thinking about if the pattern was well written or incorporated all the time saving techniques that I would want to incorporate into the construction. I had done this pattern so many times before it was full of my handwritten notes about how to incorporate  the techniques that made construction go faster.   In just hours the top came together.    Almost instant gratification, a plus for me.

Next I was going to baste my layers.   I quickly found that my collection of batting did not include a baby/crib sized bat.   As much as I hate to run to town for just one thing, a baby shower invitation had come in the mail yesterday so postponing the trip until I had a multi-store list was not an option.

Once I had the layers all basted with my curved safety pins it was time for the part I call coloring outside the lines….quilting.   There are all sorts of rules, most of them made to be broken.   Actual quilting  is sort of like music it can be classic and subtle like white on white feathers, or it can be like kick-ass rock-n-roll with bright colors and jagged edges that should not work but do.

I spent some time with my sewing machine getting the thread I want to used all set up.   Then I did some test runs adjusting my tension to get that perfectly even stitch.   Then knowing it was late and my best quilting never comes when I am weary, I turned off the power for the night.

Knowing it has been years since I have done this I needed to let it perk and see what comes to mind for the quilting pattern on this baby quilt.   I already know I am working in a variegated pink-yellow-fuchsia thread on white fabric. I know my mistakes will be glaring to me if no one else.   I am thinking about the oxymoron of doing feathers, or maybe taking the easy way out and stippling.   I am in love with gridwork, should I plan and lay that one out or keep it simple.    Echo quilting can be some what of a hybrid of gridwork and stippling maybe that is the right approach for this quilt.

Hours later I am not sure how I plan to quilt this project.    This blog is postponing the inevitable.   Time to stop that, because the deadline has been set by that darn invitation.

Time to Get on the Stick and Quilt

quiltI have made what seems to me  like zillions of baby quilts over the years.    All my contemporaries and even their children are  done with little ones.      I have not made  a baby quilt for years.

A business associate found out this spring that she was unexpectedly expecting another second child.    I was by accident one of the first people she told via text, picking the wrong Diana in her contacts to break the news too.   I knew at that time I was going to be making another baby quilt.   This little one was a blessing this family had wanted and thought was not going to happen.

This baby quilt  has sat on the back burner for months and now is the time to get on the stick and get it done.   I have found my favorite baby quilt pattern with notes written all over it, pulled out my stand-by baby quilt fabrics, got my ruler and cutter ready, and oiled my sewing machine.   Daylight is burning and I have to put the pedal to the metal.