July 10, 2024

2024 Mid-Year Review

We are just past the middle of 2024, which means it's time for me to pause for a few minutes and see how I'm doing with my goals this year.

Before I dive into that, though, I have some exciting life/work news to share 😊 I've been wanting to move out of childcare for a long time, but there aren't a lot of work opportunities in our small town, so I stayed with what I knew (and what gave me summers off!). Early in the spring, though, one of my childcare moms told me they would possibly be moving away over the summer, leaving me with only one little that I could count on for next school year. That wasn't going to be enough income for me, so we made the decision that when school ended, I'd be finished with childcare. Cue the angel chorus! We didn't know what I'd be doing instead, and I kept saying it was entirely possible I'd be checking in people's groceries. However, I've started working part time as a virtual assistant for another pattern designer, doing for her business the same kinds of things I do for my own Devoted Quilter business, like blog posts and creating PDF downloads. I'm only a little more than a week into it, but I'm enjoying it so far and it's a lot quieter than childcare, that's for sure.

Right now it feels like my regular summer break from childcare, but I know it will really hit me when Paul and Nathan go back to school in September and no littles are dropped off here. I'm quite looking forward to soaking in the peace and quiet that first day! I'm also looking forward to putting more time into my own business, since my 'regular job' is now less than half the number of hours each week.

So that's one big life goal achieved, even though I never actually wrote it down anywhere 😊 How am I doing with the goals I did write down?

1. Keep making small quilts

I've finished 3 small quilts so far this year, which I define as a baby quilt or smaller. One hasn't been blogged yet, but I do have pictures, so I should get to that soon. The others are Rippling and Shining Through, which are both baby quilts.
Rippling quilt | DevotedQuilter.com
I've also started 4 more small quilts recently (three Merry Minis for the QAL, plus the test version of the next Stash Artists BOM pattern), so I should have plenty of small quilts to celebrate for the second half of the year, too.

2. Sew some clothes

So far this year I've made two shirts, but I don't have pictures of them. I wear a lot of dresses in the summer and want to make a couple of new ones, but I haven't taken the time to do that yet. Maybe soon.

3. Moments with Jesus Easter QAL

I loved this year's QAL! For the past four years, this has been one of my favourite projects of the whole year. Because I love it so much, I've already started planning for next year. Not that I've quilted either of this year's two quilt tops...or any of the ones from the previous years...
These Three quilt | DevotedQuilter.com

4. All things Stash Artists

Stash Artists just passed its first birthday and I love the members! It's wonderful to get to sew with some of them every other month, and I love planning new patterns for them, like Ombre Twirl.  I'm excited to see what the second year brings 😊 If you love stash-friendly patterns and virtual sewing sessions with friends, get on the waitlist so you won't miss it when the membership doors open again.
Ombre Twirl quilt | DevotedQuilter.com

5. WIPS-B-GONE 2024

This is coming up quickly! I mentioned an abundance of unquilted tops sitting and waiting, didn't I? I need the WIPS-B-GONE challenge as much as anyone else! Sign ups will open in September.

6. Finish my Hexie Rainbow top

I'm making progress! At the start of the year I was working on squaring up the second corner, which is now finished and I'm working on the third. Here's what it looks like today.
Hexie Rainbow quilt progress | DevotedQuilter.com
Paul and I will be traveling to Jasper National Park next month for our 25th anniversary, so there will be lots of plane time and time in the Airbnb for hand stitching. I think it's entirely possible I could finish the top this year.

7. Regular workouts and 300,000 steps a month

Well, this one is a yes and a no 😅 My goal for workouts is to do 2-3 yoga or strength training workouts from Youtube each week and I've only missed that target two weeks in the first half of the year. I like Yoga with Adriene and Nourish Move Love, if you're needing some recommendations. I can notice an improvement in my strength, which is great motivation to keep going.

The 300,000 steps a month on the other hand...I've only reached that goal once so far, in May. 300,000 a month averages out to be about 10,000 steps a day. In April I averaged about 9,700/day, which is pretty close. In March I averaged about 8,200, which isn't close at all. Altogether, my average for the first half of the year is 9,064/day, and I'm fairly happy about that.

One other thing I noticed was that if I did a workout, there often wasn't time/energy/interest for a walk, so I usually only did one or the other on a given day.

Overall, I'm not stressing about the 300,000 per month, but I'm going to keep trying to get more steps in. I definitely feel better when I move more, whether that's yoga, strength training, or walking.

I'm feeling pretty good about my year so far! Did you set goals for 2024? If you did, how are you doing with them after half the year?

July 08, 2024

Merry Mini QAL - Week 2 - Alternating Squares

It's week 2 of the Merry Mini QAL! How did your embroidery or colouring of your text block go? I thoroughly enjoyed working on the embroidery for my third text block. Some of it was done sitting in the backyard, and Saturday morning I lowered it after finishing a thread and found this guy on my lap.
white satin moth caterpillar | DevotedQuilter.com
Apparently he's a white satin moth caterpillar. He's also very lucky I didn't flick him off before I registered that he was just a caterpillar and not something yucky like a spider. After taking his picture, Paul coaxed him onto a leaf so he could be gently deposited back on the ground.

After finishing my embroidery, I dissolved the Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy I used to transfer the template onto my fabric. I shared a sped-up video of the process here, if you'd like to see. It was pretty impressive, though my fingers stayed sticky for quite a while, even after washing. I rinsed the embroidered fabric a couple times in bowls of clean water, then left it to dry. It was still a bit sticky feeling after it dried, though, so I soaked it in warm water for about 20 minutes, then left it to dry again. As I'm typing this (on Sunday evening), it's still drying, and I have my fingers crossed all the stickiness is gone.

Week 2 - The alternating squares borders

If you haven't already joined the QAL, there's still plenty of time to join in for some Christmas in July fun! You can pick up your pattern here. From now until the end of July, the Merry Mini pattern is 20% off with the code MERRYMINIQAL, which should already by applied if you click on the link. Once you have your pattern, enter your email address here to have the weekly emails sent to your inbox so you don't miss any of the QAL blog posts.

As a reminder, here's the weekly schedule. Click on the link to go to last week's post.

July 8 - Make the alternating squares borders
July 15 - Make the tree borders
July 22 - Quilting
July 29 - Binding

This week's sewing will involve some small scraps of red, green, and white. Do you have your scraps organized so it's easy to find what you need? If not, you might like the tips in my PDF guide Escape Scrap Overwhelm.

I love sewing with small pieces! I also love chain piecing, which makes the whole process go faster. That's maybe not much of a concern for a small project like Merry Mini, but if you're sewing dozens of squares together, then chain piecing is a real time saver. 

If I'm sewing a row of squares, I usually don't sew squares 1 and 2, stop, add square three, stop, add square 4, etc. Instead, I chain piece the squares into pairs first - 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, etc. Here are my pairs for one of my Merry Mini quilts.
pairs of scrappy squares | DevotedQuilter.com
Then I sew the pairs to each other - 1/2 and 3/4, etc. Chain piecing into pairs first doesn't save a huge amount of time, but it does cut down on the starting and stopping required to put a row of squares together and I'll take that as a win.

Here are my alternating squares rows sewn together. Once your alternating squares rows are finished, you can go ahead and stitch them to your text block. I'm going to sew the rest of my rows before adding them to the mini quilts, so I can make sure I'm happy with the balance of fabrics for each one.
Merry Mini QAL - week 2 - DevotedQuilter.com

Leaders and enders/spider/scrap square

I love using leaders and enders when I'm chain piecing because it lets me work on a scrap quilt kind of in the background as I work on my main project, though it does require a little prep work to have pieces ready. I first learned about leaders and enders from Bonnie Hunter, the queen of scrap quilting. I'm not super consistent with it, since I don't always keep up with having pieces ready to go, but my current leaders/enders project is flying geese to make a throw size quilt with my Flying Together block, and they're accumulating nicely.

The idea is to start chain piecing by sewing together a unit from your leaders and enders project (which is the leader), then sew your main project pieces. Here you can see my flying geese unit has been sewn and I'm ready to start the first of my pairs of squares.
sewing with leaders and enders | DevotedQuilter.com
When you get to the end of the pieces you're chain stitching, end the chain with another piece from your leaders and enders project (the ender), which you leave under the needle. You can see my last red square at the back in this picture, followed by the flying geese ender (I'm also sewing bonus HSTs with these stitch-and-flip flying geese, so I guess I'm really working on two scrap quilts with these leaders and enders). Cut the chain between the ender and the piece before it.
sewing with leaders and enders | DevotedQuilter.com
When you're ready to start your next chain, the ender from the previous chain is already under the needle, ready to be the leader for this chain. Stitch your units together as usual, then end with another ender unit.

This method is especially helpful when the units you're piecing for your main project involve starting at the point of a triangle, which can sometimes get pushed down into the throat plate of the machine (aka eaten by the machine). When there's a leader, that triangle point doesn't get eaten because the threads are being pull along by the leader. Even when I'm just working with squares, like for the Merry Mini, I still like using leaders/enders.

If you don't want to fuss with having units prepped for a leaders/enders project, you can achieve the same effect by starting and ending with small squares of fabric. This small square can be reused many times, which has earned it the nickname 'spider' for all the threads hanging off it after many uses.

If you share your Merry Mini QAL progress on social media, be sure to use the hashtag #MerryMiniQAL and tag me (devotedquilter on IG and devotedquilterdesigns on FB) so I can see. I'd love to cheer you on!

July 04, 2024

TGIFF - Rippling

Welcome to the first Thank Goodness It's Finished Friday of July! It's time to celebrate our finishes and cheer each other on. After all, no one understands the joy of a finished quilt like another quilter.

Every other month I release a new pattern for Stash Artists members, and I'm excited to get to share this month's pattern, called Rippling. You know I had fun digging into my stash of blues for this one!
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
I had the hardest time naming this quilt. When I sent it to Yvonne for tech editing, I asked her for suggestions and she said it reminded her of "ripples formed in sand by lapping ocean waves." I can't believe I hadn't noticed that. There are already a couple of patterns named Ripples, so I went with Rippling. Thanks, Yvonne!
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
One of my goals again this year is to make more small quilts, which I define as anything baby size or smaller. With that in mind, I made a baby size Rippling quilt (the pattern also includes instructions for a throw size). Paul's nephew and his wife are expecting their first baby (a boy) in the fall, so Rippling will be his once he arrives. It feels great to already have it ready and waiting for him!

When I cut the blues, I skipped any fabrics that had distracting amounts of another colour. I did use a few fabrics with white, which I don't find as distracting as other colours.
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
This was the fabric that made me realize I had to limit the secondary colours. I cut it thinking the kites would be cute in a baby quilt, but really they were just distracting. The pink and yellow drew the eye, taking away from the rest of the quilt.
Kite fabric | DevotedQuilter.com
There are only two seams in each Rippling block. Yes, two! As you can imagine, the blocks came together quickly, and not long after that I had a quilt top.
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
A few weeks ago I said I've been leaning more towards open, all-over quilting designs lately. This quilt wasn't having any of that! It demanded custom quilting in each section. Sometimes you just have to listen to the quilt! Do your quilts make demands when it comes to choosing their quilting designs? 

I started by doing a small loopy meander in the white parts, using Aurifil 2021. You can see in this picture that the white isn't solid. I love blender fabrics that read as solid from a distance, but have a little something extra when you get up close.
loopy meander free motion quilting | DevotedQuilter.com
I wasn't sure I had enough left on my spool of 2021, so I picked up a couple more spools when we were in St. John's for Aiden's graduation. Good thing, too. Look how close I was to finishing when I got to the end of the spool.
Thread chicken loss | DevotedQuilter.com
Of course, a few days later I opened the box where I keep my cones of Aurifil, only to find an almost full cone of white (2024) I had forgotten about. D'oh! At least I know I have lots of white on hand now 😂

Next I outlined the orange triangles and filled them in with back and forth lines using Aurifil 1133. I echoed the diagonal line about 1/4" away, too. Quilting such a bold line sure feels scary and every wobble seems magnified, but then it doesn't even show up from a distance or in pictures of the full quilt. There must be a life lesson in there about doing scary things.
free motion quilting | DevotedQuilter.com
I had left the blues for last because I didn't know how I wanted to quilt them, and the quilt wasn't making any more demands now that I was committed to the custom quilting. I pinned it up on my design wall for a couple of days while I thought about it. I kept coming back to wishbones, so that's what I did. I chose Aurifil 1158, which is a dark blue-grey that I find works nicely on a wide variety of blues.
wishbone free motion quilting | DevotedQuilter.com
I love how the quilting looks on the back! I haven't been doing as much of it lately, but this quilt has reminded me just how magical custom quilting feels.
Rippling quilt back | DevotedQuilter.com
Rippling quilt back | DevotedQuilter.com
With all those blues, I had to use a scrappy blue binding, too.
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
I took Rippling and another quilt to the beach when we went for a BBQ supper last weekend and roamed around taking pictures while Paul cooked our burgers. Someone had built this tiny inukshuk on a rock and it was too cute not to use as a photo prop.
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
I love taking quilts to the beach! Really, I just love being at the beach. This is one of my favourite supper time views, too, and we eat here quite a few times every summer.
Rippling quilt pattern | DevotedQuilter.com
That's my finish! What have you finished recently? Link it up below so we can celebrate the finish with you. Don't forget to visit some of the other links, too, so you can help them celebrate their finishes 😊

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