Let’s catch up! Life and quilting in 2020

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Hello, friends and fellow quilters! In my last post (January 18, 2020!) I closed by wishing everyone a happy 2020 filled with stitching for the ones we love. Who would have thought that within a few months we would all be making masks for our loved ones, and the year would have seen such a renewed interest in all kinds of sewing? I read just a few weeks ago that sewing machines are flying off the shelves in record numbers.

Stating the obvious: I’ve been absent from this blog for nearly seven months. Overall, I think that’s been a good thing. First, because during all the craziness that has been 2020, I’ve felt like I didn’t need to add to the noise, even the quilting noise. My livelihood isn’t dependent on this website and since I was so distracted by life, I just didn’t have much to say about quilting. Second, because my own stress level just couldn’t handle anything else on my plate. In Part I below, I explain vent about my new “normal” and what my current plans are for the Scissortail Quilting website. Part II, I bring you up to speed with my projects for the year. (If you want to skip Part I and go straight to the good stuff, I completely understand!)

Part I: My crazy 2020

I had hoped that 2020 would be the year that I would get back on schedule with my regular emails and the completion of the quilt block library. I had a plan all in place, and then shortly after the email relaunch, the effects of COVID entered my world. Most of you know that in addition to running this website and a small quilting business, I have a full-time job as a graphic designer. My place of employment is a global company, with offices in Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, and Beijing. We manage events and workshops for scientists all around the world, and my primary responsibility is to layout technical articles and produce a monthly magazine, but I also create ads and graphics in support of marketing our events.

By February we were disrupted. Events were being delayed, which resulted in us revising dates on graphics and producing more communications to keep folks updated. It was starting to get crazy. In mid-March, the company sent us all home to work remotely. Since we were already set up to communicate online with global offices, our company was fortunate enough to already have the infrastructure to make the transition. I, on the other hand, was not. I found myself trying to get my work done on a tiny laptop screen instead of my 35″ monitor, without a desk. Roaming from room to room trying to get the best wi-fi signal.

By this point, even more events were being delayed and we were trying to transition physical events to online events. April and May were a whirlwind of frantic activity. I worked a LOT of overtime. But slowly I adjusted to working from home. I found workarounds to get files from the server more quickly. I bought a desk and carved out an area in my sewing room as an office. I hooked up a second monitor. Looking back, I should have set up a desk in the sewing room a LONG time ago!

Then at the end of May, a layoff reduced our department from 5 staffers to 3. And we got a new temporary boss. The workload of the staff who had been let go was divided among the three remaining staffers, and once again I was having to adapt. But all was not negative: the new responsibilities have been good skills to learn and the new boss has been very supportive.

Next week, I will meet yet another new boss. And we’ve been told that we will probably remain working remotely through the end of the year and possibly permanently. I’m sure the changes will keep coming. To sum it all up, with so many changes and the hectic pace we were keeping work, I knew I needed to focus as clearly as I could on the “day job.” Which is why the website has been on the back burner.

Plans for the website

Like many of you, 2020 has been a year that’s caused me to really pause and reflect on how I’m spending my time. Where do I really need to focus? Of course, family is always first. That’s a given. But after that, what are my goals with regard to quilting?

It may look rather simple from the outside, but running a website is a TON of work, and it’s easy to get sucked down rabbit holes that eat up your time. As a person with a very limited amount of time, I’ve needed to step back and ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” The short answer is to build a platform to ultimately showcase my own quilt designs. I felt like I needed to build that platform first so I would have a community of people who could give feedback on my designs.

DESIGNING is what I really want to do. I have this huge notebook full of quilt designs that I want to bring to life. And over the past three years, while I’ve been busy drafting pictures of quilt blocks and calculating cut charts for the website, I’ve watched many patterns with similar ideas to mine get launched in the market while mine languish in the notebook.

Beginning in October, the plan is to get back to adding several block patterns and coloring sheets to the quilt block library each month. You will hear from me about once a month with updates to quilt blocks in the library, but my primary focus will be developing those pattern ideas. And I will try to post about them on the blog as I can, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself to keep to any rigorous schedule.

Part II: 2020 Projects

You’re gonna think I’m completely nuts when I tell you this, but in addition to the crazy work schedule I ranted about in Part I, I started the year with a client dropping off 3 HUGE buckets full of denim jeans and asking me to make as many quilts from them as I could.

The client, a rancher in western Oklahoma, wanted something very simple and practical. We came up with a design of squares and rectangles. No batting was used, but we backed them in flannel with a self-binding edge, and hand-tied them to finish them off. I found out later from a friend that the way we constructed them was what her family had called “Farm Blankets” when she was growing up. We made eight and still had a bucket of denim left over.

Stach of “farm blankets” constructed out of old denim

The denim quilt project pretty much consumed my evenings and weekends from January through March. And then, two weeks into quarantine, my sewing machine broke.

Yes, you heard me correctly. My sewing machine died. Since I couldn’t take her in to a repairman (because everything was CLOSED!), I did what any sane person would do.

I ordered a new one.

And let me tell you, I couldn’t be happier. My new machine, a Brother PQ1500, sews up to 1200 spm and sews through leather and denim like it’s butter. (BTW, I was able to take my girl into the doctor, and she only needed a slight mechanical adjustment. The technician told me she was in mint condition!)

My new Brother sewing machine

In addition to the denim quilt project, I’ve made two t-shirt quilts for clients this year and still have three more to complete. (Which is why I don’t really plan to do much website work until October.)


Personal projects:

With all the denim quilt work, I was yearning for handwork. In February I made this table runner using a Sweetwater Panel (BTW, I will be teaching classes on this technique over the next few months at a shop here in Tulsa.)

In April, I completed a wool/felt hand-stiched pillow.

And I finished up this pillow that I started in a class last year at the Houston Quilt Show.

Speaking of pillows, I made new pillows for my son and daughter who just bought their first home at the end of March.

And here is the quilt I make for my nephew.

After making that quilt, I made a few changes and turned it into this pattern.

Basically, I made the circles and camera smaller to improve the scale.

These past few months, I’ve made most of the blocks for my next pattern release. I’m shooting to have this pattern ready by October and I can show you more then.

In between projects, I whipped up this little checkerboard from a Sweetwater kit.

Finally, I’ve done a lot of work in and to my sewing room. (Weird, but organizing is like therapy to me.) I moved into this room about a year ago when my son got married. It has been a work in progress all year, but I really had to rethink things when I brought in the desk.

Another upgrade was the design wall, which can now hold a much heavier amount of fabric/blocks. Today it’s a blank canvas 😉

I’m trying to figure out ways to maximize my storage space and I have a few ideas to implement, but they will need some construction work. (Hubby may have a project in his future!)

The real trick here is being able to remember where I put stuff after I reorganize it. I never had trouble finding anything in my old sewing room, but since I moved into this room I find that I have often hidden things from myself!

Once I’ve carved out a little more space, I’d like to set up a 2nd sewing machine permanently. (Tired of switching out machines in my table.) I’ll keep you updated with a full post about my sewing room reorganization in future months.

That’s it for now! Thanks for hanging with me and reading this post to the bitter end. I do believe 2020 will get better and in the future we will look back at this year and realize that it did hold lots of blessings in disguise.

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