Blog Improvements – What’s on the Menu?

I’ve been making a few changes around here, organizing my blog content so it’s much easier to find, and updating a few of my graphics and images. I didn’t realize how much I’ve written over the last several years, until I started trying to gather it all in one place.

Please join me for a tour of my new menus! They are all listed below, but you’ll need to click the links at the top of the page to get to them.

Christa QuiltsAbout Me – Kind of obvious, right? This was probably the hardest page to write to describe myself and what I’m all about. However, it does include some super cool artwork my friend drew, including fun captions that go along with each of my quilting caricatures!

Christa’s Quilts – This is the place where I’ve been sharing my quilt finishes. I blog about them as I go, then I write up a separate “page” for each quilt. This is a place for me to gather all of the quilt statistics in one place, list any awards or honors the quilt has received, and then link to any of the WIP posts, in case you missed them the first time.

herringbone_hst_stackTutorials & Freebies – This drop down menu has a lot of content in it! It includes links to all of my quilt alongs, plus free patterns, EQ7 downloads and tutorials I’ve written.

Craftsy Articles – This menu item will take you to all of the content I’ve written for Craftsy’s blog. I usually write my posts days ahead of schedule, so I’m not exactly sure when new ones will post, but it’s fun to see them go live. 🙂

CraftsyTeaching Schedule – This menu item is super new. I put together a page listing all of my current teaching events. I will keep this updated as often as possible. (This one is the most useful for me so I can see at a glance, where I need to be next, LOL!!)

Shop – Another obvious one. This is where you can find my patterns for sale, my precut store, and the remaining items on clearance. All of my various selling venues are all gathered into one place – now that’s convenient!

spot_on_shadow

If you blog, how do you like to organize your content? Is there anything else I’m missing?

Christa’s Sew and Tell – Sewing Room Reveal

Recently I was excited to be featured on the Modern Quilt Guild’s blog, and not just because I’m trying to “get myself out there” (though that is certainly true). Mostly I was happy because it forced me to finish organizing and cleaning up my sewing room! 🙂

Sewing Room

Where the Magic Happens

In the picture above, you can see I have a place for everything. I hang quilt tops over the bannister so that they don’t accumulate fold wrinkles while waiting to be basted. Rolls of batting rest atop a large storage cabinet, and I have plenty of floor space for an ironing station and basting tables. There’s a nice comfy couch in front of the railing (far enough away so that no one can topple over). My daughter even has her own sewing desk, too!

Here is the messy “before” picture with lots of clutter everywhere, ugly plastic bins full of supplies, monstrous utility tables that are hard to move, and no place big enough to lay out a large quilt while piecing!

Before

Before – what a mess!

Below is the calming “after” shot with everything tidied up nice and neat. The big ironing board gets tucked into a corner, misc. junk is either hidden in pretty baskets or behind closed doors, and bigger pieces can be pushed to the side.

Sewing Room

Quiet, Clean, Sewing Room

My favorite acquisition was a gift to myself for Christmas: two 8′ portable plastic tables that are lightweight and easy to move. I use both of them set side by side for basting a large quilt. When not in use, they fold in half and are stored in the corner next to my supply cabinet (and large rotary mat), freeing up the floor space again. (Jason’s present was the photography lights – we are still learning how to use those!)

Portable Basting TablesTwo major projects which made all this possible were installing a huge design wall that doubles as my photography space, and dejunking my overflowing fabric stash. After nearly 20 years of accumulating fabrics and supplies, I was not sorry to see much of it go!

Sewing Desk with Natural Light

Sewing Desk with Natural Light

I love all of the natural light that streams in through the window in front of my large sewing table (which I purchased from a dealer over 15 years ago). When I upgraded to a bigger machine, I removed the custom table insert and brought the machine to the right height with a couple of sturdy books underneath. I may eventually cut a new insert, but for now I haven’t really needed it.

My longer acrylic rulers hang from adhesive hooks on both of my white storage cabinets, and the smaller ones are tucked neatly inside.

I don’t know about you, but I find that I can be much more productive when there’s a place for everything and everything’s in it’s place. Now I’m off to do a little more quilting!

Christa’s Soapbox – My Daily Routine

I’m often asked how I manage to get so much done. The simple answer is that the hubby and kids help out a lot, and I don’t watch a lot of TV (except when I’m hand-binding).

Hand Binding

I love hand-binding. It’s so relaxing!

If I were to give advice, it would be to prioritize what you want to do and then go do it! Because working in the quilting industry for me is a full-time business, I try to treat it as a job and stick to regular hours with (mostly) weekends off. 🙂

I am an early riser because I have more energy in the mornings than at night. I thank my 16 year old son for that – he trained the night owl out of me when he was a baby by constantly waking up at 6 AM no matter how late he went to bed. He only started sleeping in when he became a teenager and it was time to get up early for school. But that’s another story…..

Running in Utah

Running in Scenic Utah While Attending a Quilt Show

I usually start off the day with a quick bit of exercise. Jason is my workout buddy and even though we have a flexible schedule since he does this with me, I’ve found that if we don’t exercise first thing in the morning, it doesn’t happen. We try to run while on vacation, too.

We have breakfast and planning time in the morning with the kids to get them started on their daily assignments. (We home school the younger two while the older one attends a community college-high school charter program. So we are around each other a lot!)

Checking Email

I work on a laptop next to my sewing machine so it’s a good reminder to finish work on time and start sewing!

My favorite time of the day is mid-morning after the kids are settled. I like to spend a good hour or two before lunch responding to emails, read what’s happening on other blogs, and brainstorming new ideas. I’ll usually start several blog posts ahead of time and jot down my ideas while they are fresh. Then I’ll go back and finish them later on.

The kids are pretty well trained to work independently and come to us when they need help, so our flexible schedule works. Usually once a week I’ll take them to the park for some outside PE time which is a great chance for me to sit and read the latest quilting book or magazine outside in the sun while they play. (Yes – even in December!)

Park Day

Playing at the Park

The afternoon is usually when I get the bulk of my work done – designing, writing, or processing new precut shipments. I try to finalize the next day’s blog post so it can fire off on schedule, and I usually jot down my schedule for the next day.

Precuts

My daughter likes to earn extra money helping me bag precuts!

After dinner if there’s nothing else going on, I can plan on an hour or two of precious quilting time. It’s amazing what I can finish if I actually set aside time every day to sew. I will usually listen to an audio book or catch up on quilting podcasts while I sew.

Listening and Quilting

I love to multi-task – machine quilting while listening to quilting podcasts!

We get the kids to bed at a decent time so Jason and I can squeeze in an hour of down time to talk, read, or watch an episode of whatever our current Netflix show is. (We are taking turns watching past episodes of the Biggest Loser, Survivor, Downton Abbey and Arrested Development. It’s an eclectic mix!)

After that it’s early to bed so we can begin the routine all over again the next day!

By the way, this is just our weekday schedule. On weekends – all bets are off and we are all on our own schedules. 🙂

Board Game Fun

Weekend fun – we love playing board games with the kids!

A New Design Wall

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Hubs recently earned some extra brownie points by helping me create a brand new HUGE design wall for my sewing room. In my nearly 20 years of quilting I was fine using the floor, tables, portable walls or what have you.

However, now that I’m getting a little more serious about showing and sharing my quilts in public and online, I realized I needed a better solution. I want a larger space so that I can design and photograph bigger quilts.

Foam Core

2 Sheets of Foam Insulation

We started by purchasing 2 huge pieces of foam core from the home improvement store. Each measures 4′ x 8′ and the space we are covering is about 7.5′ x 8′.

After wrestling them in the SUV and taking them home, we cut off about 6″ with a utility knife so it would be the right size.

Design Wall

Jason putting my rulers to work!

Jason drew the straight lines, while I did the cutting. It wasn’t a perfect cut, so we decided to put this side on the bottom where no one would see it. In retrospect, I should have tried my rotary cutter, but this stuff if pretty darn thick! (We tried to get them to cut it at the store but they said they couldn’t. Bummer!)

Cutting

I’d rather use a rotary cutter than a utility blade, any day!

We then taped the two pieces of foam core together with duct tape on the white side. The other side, the silver side is the “front”.

Tape the Pieces

Tape the Pieces

Next was the hardest part. We bought a king-sized flannel sheet and covered the entire wall by stapling the flannel to the back side. The problem we ran into is that the sheet was not square or even so we had to yank on it quite a bit to make sure it would be nice and smooth on the front. We pinned it to the foam sheet first, then stapled like crazy!

Stapling

Staple the Sheet

We pulled it so it would be taut and attached it with a ton of staples. The corners were the hardest to finagle so that they would look smooth on the front.

Stapling the Corners

Stapling the Corners

We used my basting tables to work on but you could also do this on a smooth floor if you have enough space. It reminded me of basting a quilt but not as fun, LOL!!

Once everything was in place, it was time to mount it to the wall. Jason did this by attaching it with screws and decorative washers to make it look a little less “industrial”.

Mounting the Wall

Mounting the Wall

I am so happy that I have larger space to design. It adds such a pretty element to my sewing space. Now need to keep some WIP’s on there all the time!

Design Wall

Finished Design Wall, 8′ wide by 7.5′ high.

 

Sew and Tell WIP – Sewing Room Redo

While I’m not quite ready for the complete reveal, I have been hard at work this week improving my sewing space. After reducing my fabric stash by about half, I spent the early part of this week combing though my entire collection of notions and supplies and getting rid of as much as possible. That sure felt good. 🙂

Messy Room

What a mess! Going, going… gone!

For example, I kept hanging onto a huge supply of stencils for years, hoping that one day, I’d use them on the perfect quilt. Then I quickly realized that I actually prefer to quilt more organic shapes on my quilts that don’t need stencils and usually require little to no marking. So they are on their way to finding a better home…

Stencils

Stencil Stash – I may keep just 1 or 2…

As I’ve been dejunking and reorganizing, it’s helped me realize just who I am and how I like to work. I previously opined about being a minimalist. The more I reduce the clutter, the better I feel.

After rearranging furniture and getting rid of ugly plastic bins like these, I realized I enjoy negative space not just in quilting, but in decorating, too.

Plastic Bins

Lots of junky bins and stacks of clutter to get rid of!

I was able to completely empty them out and organize them into prettier containers – baskets, bins, and on shelves behind closed doors. It’s amazing how much you can clean up the place when you stash it away where no one can see it!

Decorative Baskets

Use pretty buckets to hide things away!

Instead of cramming shelving and bins all together haphazardly, the closed shelving units look much better by themselves with a little empty space around them.

Storage UnitSee all that blank space on the right side wall? That will soon be my huge design wall area. I used to have both white storage units there and it really took up too much visual space. By getting rid of excess junk and furniture, I was able to separate the storage units, tuck them into corners, and free up some wall space so that I have more room to design!

Getting there - but I still need to replace those clunky tables!

Getting there – but I still need to replace those clunky tables!

Now all I have left to do is create the design wall, hang my rulers on the sides of my storage units, replace the junky basting tables, and maybe throw up a couple of valances for a touch of color. I plan on being a busy bee over the next few days until it’s done. Then I can quilt again. 🙂

Updated – Ok, I’ll give you guys my stencils!

After I posted this I was inundated with requests on where they will go. So I will give them to you guys. I’ll make them my giveaway for next week – so stay tuned. :-)

Christa’s Soap Box – I am a minimalist. And organizing is good.

I didn’t realize how much of a minimalist I have become until I started dejunking and reorganizing my sewing room big time! Remember this picture?

StashThis was about half of my stash that I got rid of simply because I can’t stand excess. (Sorry they are gone now but I’m sure in a few months I will need to dejunk again!)

So I started thinking about events in my life in which I get overwhelmed by choices and clutter. For example, back in the day when you would go to the video store (instead of watching videos on demand or by mail) I would never pick out movies. Instead I always left it up to my husband – there were simply too many choices! (Thank goodness he likes a good comedy and will watch a decent chick flick with me.)

Cut Squares

Stack of Yummy Solids

I’ve started comparing my lifestyle to my fabric and quilting choices and maybe the reason I love solids so much is because they are so simple. They are just pure color without any busy-ness.

Early on in our marriage we had some tight living arrangements. Before we had kids, Jason and I lived for a time in a small trailer on his parents’ property and then for several months in a motorhome. We really figured out then what we could do without!

Stash

A smaller, tidy stash.

So I’m always dejunking and getting rid of things. I figure if I accidentally throw something out, I can just buy it again. But to store too many things in the hope of one day using them – no thanks!

I think one of the reason negative spaces in quilts appeal to me is because it’s calming and gives your eyes a place to rest without the clutter. Sure I will fill up all that space with quilting, but that’s just an extra layer of subtle texture which gives life to the quilt.

Negative Space

Look at all that white space!

One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard about controlling clutter was from a home-making class at church. (I get more then just spiritual fulfillment there – bonus!)

The speaker said to take all of your personal mementos you want to keep and store them in one box only. If you are hanging onto items for family members, kindly give them back as soon as you can. And finally, put everything you don’t use/want in a box. If you haven’t touched it in a year, you can live without it. Words to live by!

Lots of organizing going on around here!

Lots of organizing going on around here!

Recently, we’ve been having the kids dejunk their rooms and started installing shelving and organizing closets. It’s sort of in my best interest as I have been slowing moving all of their creative supplies out of my sewing space and into their own bedroom corners. 🙂

Shelves

Gotta Love Shelves!

Does anyone else run into the problem of starting one project only for it to quickly overwhelm the entire house? I do, but I’m working through it one room at a time. Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be able to have a “sewing room reveal” which will leave me more organized, efficient and ready to work!

Thanks, You Guys – I am Officially De-Stashed!

Thanks so much to everyone who helped me de-stash yesterday. I couldn’t believe the response! I spent all day Friday going through my stash, packing it up and shipping it out. I sent out a total of 33 flat rate boxes worth of Stash and it feels great!

Stash

Boxes of Stash

For those of you that missed out, there is still good news for you. I am sort of doing the same thing with my store inventory, but not quite as dramatic. Right now I have over 800 fabrics on clearance, until they sell out. They are anywhere from 20% to 50% off so you can still get your fabric fix for cheap. 🙂

Click here for my store clearance section – over 800 items on sale!

Part of all this fabric cleansing is to make way for changes in my quilting direction, both personally and professionally. I recently realized I need to redo my sewing studio to make it more comfortable and useable.

Stash Before

Stash – Before

Step one is cleaning and organizing my stash. I’m waiting for those mini cardboard fabric organizers to arrive so that I can make make the most of my shelf space.

Stash Cleansing

Stash Cleansing

Step two is setting up a better design wall. Right now I have a small portable flannel wall and it’s just not cutting it – I need more space for designing!

Stash - After

Stash – After

Step three is cleaning up my store to make it more focused and efficient. The less time I need to spend working, the more sewing and designing time I will have.

I really live by the philosophy that less is more. In other words, the less clutter I have, the more quilts I’ll be able to make!

New Stash to Wash

New Stash to Wash

Now I’m off to spend the morning washing and ironing this lovely pile of fabrics since I have room for them once again. 🙂