Archive for the ‘About Me’ Category

I love to teach. I enjoy traveling to quilt shows outside my region, meeting new people and reconnecting with quilting friends. When I’m teaching away from home, I refer to this as being in the Quilt Bubble. Everywhere I look, I see quilt-related things, hear quilt-related discussions, engage in quilt-related activities. I love being in this bubble.

Happy Paper Piecing Class at the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo, MN

When I go away, I try to keep up with day-to-day things like my email, my deadlines, and world events. It’s hard to find the time and energy after a full day of teaching (sometimes three classes in one day!) to reach out to discover what’s going on outside my quilt bubble.

As I write this, I’m flying back home from Minneapolis, where I taught inside the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo quilt bubble. Before this show, I spent an amazing week at the International Quilt Festival in Houston in another quilt bubble. Over these two weeks, I gave one lecture and taught eleven classes involving machine quilting, foundation paper piecing, and surface design. These quilt bubbles were lovely, calm, and friendly places to be. However, while I was busy inside my quilt bubble, the world was not so lovely, calm, and friendly. And so, I have two lessons to report from this experience.

  1. Treasure those moments when you can spend time with your tribe, pursuing your passions and sharing your interests with others of like minds. These times can be scarce and fleeting. Live in these moments and honor them.
  2. Be gentle with yourself upon re-entry into the real world. Contents of the overhead bins may have shifted during your flight.

And so, thank you to everyone who has been part of any of my quilt bubbles this year — both at home and on the road. I value our time together and thank you for sharing your time and energy with me. Let’s do it again soon!


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checkmarkAll of the planning and all of the lists in the world will not actually get the work done. Writing won’t make it so. To obtain the almighty checkmark, you have to DO the work. That sounds so easy, but what if your body and mind are rebels, refusing to keep your butt in the chair or wandering off in search of more interesting pursuits?

This may be the most important thought I can offer you on productivity, so pay close attention. You will be more productive if you are working on the kind of activity that your mind and body want to do.

  • If you are sitting at the computer and feeling really antsy, then look at your list and find something you need to do that will keep you physically moving.
  • If you’re washing fabric or cutting kits and you are really……really…..tired, stop. Go find something ON YOUR LIST that is less physically active and do that.

In both cases, you’ll accomplish something on your list, but you won’t struggle against what your body and mind actually want to do. (Unless you really just want to sit down with a book and eat cookies. In that case, give yourself a 15-minute break and then get back to work.)

Deadlines are the obvious exceptions to this approach to productivity. If you have a hard deadline, then you are obligated to do specific things to meet that deadline. Unless…you chose that deadline. If the deadline was arbitrary, designed to give yourself milestone accomplishments, then you have the power to change it.

PinkPaperPiecingThis quiltlet is a mostly-done sample for a new class I’m rolling out on paper foundation piecing at the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo in Cleveland. (Yes, I’m working in pink. Get over it. And don’t expect any more of it.)  It’s pieced, it’s sandwiched, and the ditchwork is done. I have planned most of the freemotion quilting designs I’ll do, but I know the quilting will be better if I wait until this afternoon, when I often want to work on the sewing machine. This morning, I’m all about the keyboard.

So, what do you feel like doing today? Can you afford to put off other tasks and do what you feel like doing? Is what you feel like doing on your list? Then stop reading my post and get to work! I wish you a productive day!

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These are some of the tools I use to organize and prioritize my tasks.

Let me start by saying I’m a list girl. I have lists for personal and household stuff and I have lists for my professional life. In fact, I’ve broken down the professional tasks into separate lists by topic: shows, teaching, lectures, webwork, business development, development of new lectures and projects (my favorite), and more lists that would bore you silly. The number of things I am juggling can be daunting – in fact, the mass of stuff I have on my lists can be downright paralyzing.

To keep things in perspective and to stay focused (my word for the year), I do three things that keep me sane and help me prioritize:

  • I write down ALL tasks. Tiny and massive, commitments and wannado-projects, I write them all down on the appropriate list. Benefit: Once it’s on paper, I can use that brainspace for other things.
  • I date every task. I include the date for when I added it to the list and if there’s a hard deadline, I add that to the list AND to my calendar. Benefit: Once I see a task that’s been lurking on the list for a while without any action, I either delete it as not important enough to do or I make it a priority to get it done.
  • I create a daily list by pulling the top priority items. I try to create this list at the end of the day when my brain is full of what didn’t get done and what’s looming on the horizon. I sometimes do this in the morning, but it’s overwhelming and counter-productive to sift through the multiple lists early, when I need to set the tone for the day. I start with that didn’t get done the previous day and then take a look at the master lists to see what is next. Benefit: Throughout my work day, I’m looking at that day’s tasks. It’s a manageable list and I don’t lose track of what I must get done.

Once I started making these lists and using them on a daily basis, I realized that I had to learn to say no. There’s this huge pool of what I must do and precious little discretionary time for things that I want to do but haven’t made the list. Recently, I was invited to make a small quilt for a Quilts of Valor fundraising auction to be held at the America Quilts Expo in Des Moines, IA, in May 2016. Do I have time? No. Is it a priority in my business? No. But I’m doing it anyway. I want to do it and I feel it’s right to do it. Something else will have to wait or come off the list entirely. I will shuffle priorities. It’s important to be realistic, but reserve a few “yesses” so that you can do a few things that really feed your soul.

Next week: Productivity through Biorhythms

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I think a lot about productivity. I’d like to be more productive. I plan to be more productive. Amazingly, some people actually think I’m productive. So, why don’t I feel productive?

The answers are so simple that I’ve decided to share them with you over the next four weeks. We’ll talk about perfection, planning, prioritizing, and productivity through biorhythms. Ready? Let’s get started!

Perfect vs. Done
When I was working in the corporate world, I had a very wise boss who seemed to have my number from day one. I am a perfectionist. There. I said it. But it’s important to know when you need perfection (math, taxes, brain surgery) and when good is good enough. My boss used to say, “Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Translation: “Please give me your work product – I’m sure it’s fine.” In some cases, he was right.

Tree quilt for client

Perfection (or as close as I could get) was the goal for this client quilt.

If you, too, are a perfectionist, consider why you work beyond the demands of the task. My reasons generally fall into two categories: either I enjoy the process and I get lost in it, or I lose track of how exactly how well this task must be completed. It helps me if I can look — really look — at the task. Will it be published? Will others see it? Is this the first step in a longer process where long-term success depends on high quality work in the beginning? If not, then I can probably find a way to streamline a process and save some time.

If you could spend one hour doing two tasks well enough or one task perfectly, which would you choose? Well, you do get to choose. Now consider what you could do with that saved time if only you could stop working on a task as soon as it is done enough. You simply need to figure out which tasks require perfection (or near perfection) and which tasks just need to be done.

There will be times when your inner perfectionist demands to be heard. If you can afford the time and it will give you satisfaction, give in to that demand (but not every time). It will make you happy…and a happy quilter is a productive quilter.

Picture of my featherweight

Molly, my 1935 Singer Featherweight

My Story: I was recently given an amazing, unexpected gift by a long-time friend and I want to savor every minute of my time with it. (Thank you again, Linda Cooper!) I am now the proud owner of a 1935 Singer Featherweight 221, which I have named Molly. I want to learn all about it, clean and care for it, and take it on the road with me when I might have a little time to sew. I could have sent it out for service, but no. I sent out for the parts and (with my husband’s help) cleaned and serviced it myself. I am documenting Molly’s journey in a notebook. If you know me in real life, this is no surprise. My inner perfectionist wants to document Molly’s history and keep records for when she moves on to her next owner (since I know she will outlast me), and so I gave myself permission. I didn’t have to do it; I wanted to do it. This has made me a very happy quilter.

Next week: Planning — A Road Map or Quicksand?

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I enjoy helping people. I really do. In this installment of my blog, I want to introduce you to Cherrywood Hand Dyed Fabrics and invite you to help them.

Craftsy Class Project with Cherrywood Hand Dyed Fabric

Craftsy Class Project with Cherrywood Hand Dyed Fabric

I have to tell you that I just love Cherrywood fabric. I use it every chance I get. In fact, almost all of my class projects for my new Craftsy class are made from Cherrywood fabrics. (The one non-Cherrywood fabric was a print.) Cherrywood fabric is beautiful, it feels SO soft, and it sews like a dream. But the thing that really sets this hand-dyed fabric apart from the others is the visual texture. It looks like suede! Seriously. They have this one jacket sample in their booth that looks so much like suede that people stop and touch it. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

Have you ever dyed fabric before? I can do it, but I’m not a big fan of the prep work and the mess. It’s fun – and it’s like a birthday present when you open the containers to rinse the fabric and see what you’ve done – but it’s hard work and it takes a lot of time. Sure, I could dye all of my own fabric, but I have other things on my list that I would enjoy more. And I just can’t get that suede look in my own hand-dyed fabric. So, I buy Cherrywood.

This is what it looks like to dye a few yards of fabric and lace and a few tee shirts.

This is what it looks like when I dyed a few yards of fabric, lace, and a few tee shirts.

Now imagine that you are dyeing fabric. Yards of fabric. Bolts of fabric. Every day. Imagine that you are doing this in the tiny basement of an old building where the floor drain continually backs up, the room gets really humid, and there’s no air conditioning. Oh, and there’s no elevator. You will need to hoss things – heavy things – up and down two flights of stairs. Did I mention that this situation was meant to be temporary? Wouldn’t it be great if the building where you work were all on one floor? With lots of great lighting and windows and capacity for more washing machines? And an actual loading dock?

So, the good folks at Cherrywood are buying such a building! They have the finance thing worked out for the building, but they would appreciate your help with some of the remodeling costs that would take this empty shell of a building and make it a wonderfully functional facility with room to grow. And they would really like to be able to use rolling carts to move the heavy stuff from work station to work station. I’m just sayin’.

CherrywoodIndieGoGoFor the rest of July, Cherrywood Hand Dyed Fabrics has a campaign at INDIEGOGO. I encourage you to follow the link and read their story. They are not asking for something for nothing. If you can throw them some help (as little as $5), they’ll throw something back.

I’m helping. Currently, I buy Cherrywood online and at quilt shows. I want Cherrywood Hand Dyed Fabrics to make a successful move, to expand, and to be able to dye enough fabric to sell wholesale to shops. Maybe local shops.

So, I’m in! Join me?

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Cyndi SouderJanuary is such a promising month, but it’s daunting, too. With the New Year come New Year’s resolutions, goals, and those promises we make to ourselves that we will accomplish more, do more, be more. Each year, I have made those promises to myself but this year I took a long hard look at the negative effect that can have. My resolutions seem rigid and demanding and unforgiving: be more productive; waste less time; make more money; lose weight.

Well, I’m not doing it this year. I refuse to entertain that much negativity voluntarily. On New Year’s Eve, I posted this on Facebook:

“I feel the shadow of New Year’s Resolutions hovering nearby. I will not yield to the pressure. Every moment of every day offers us the opportunity to change. Declare the change you want, move toward it, adjust and realign as necessary. As a dear friend once told me, to affect change, you only have to adjust your trajectory by one degree. Small changes in everyday life can create significant changes down the road.”

To this, I would add a few more thoughts.

  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t overload yourself with edicts and pronouncements about all of the things you must do. Pick one and then make tiny changes toward your goal. Forgive yourself when you go off your path and simply start again.
  • Celebrate every victory, no matter how small. Pause for a moment, smile to yourself, and breathe in the joy of accomplishment.
  • Don’t feel guilty about doing the things that make you happy. You have to feed your soul. As they say on airplanes during the safety speech: “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.”

If I did make resolutions, it would be this: honor the people and relationships you value. This morning, I learned that a close family friend has died. Aunt Alyce was not related to us by blood, but my mother loved her as a sister and named her a courtesy aunt to the six of us kids. She was my mother’s dearest friend, a strong influence in my sister’s life, and a truly good and loving person. I thought of her frequently, but I did not stay in touch as often as I should have. She died in July, just shy of her 97th birthday. Yes, it’s January now.

It’s time to take my own advice. I cannot go back and change the past, but I can start over and reach out to someone today. I can grieve Aunt Alyce’s passing and then smile and think of her whenever I’m sewing, which was her favorite activity. I can make a one degree change in my trajectory and see where it takes me. I wish the same for you.

Happy New Year.

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I did not go willingly to Pinterest.

I resisted despite the advice and recommendations. Social media classes recommended it. Pat Sloan and Luana Rubin talked about how it could be useful for business and marketing. My friend Heidi Reagan wanted me to try it because she knows me well and knew I would love it. I didn’t care. I was sure Pinterest was a giant rabbit hole into which I would fall and never get out.

I don’t have time, I said. It won’t help my business, I said. I don’t see how it will help me in any way, I said. I was wrong on all counts. Click here to visit me on Pinterest.

My Pinterest Presence After One Week

My Pinterest Presence After One Week

So, why do I like Pinterest? Let me share my top five reasons.

1. Pinterest is free if you don’t count the cost of time and internet access.

2. Pinterest allows me to enjoy things I cannot own in three dimensions. Things that are too big or too expensive or just unavailable in real life can be pinned on my boards and enjoyed at any time.

3. Here in the real world, things don’t stay organized. Chaos always wins. On Pinterest, things stay where I put them.

4. Art is a visual medium. Pinterest is a visual medium. It feeds my need to see things that make me happy.

5. Pinterest is amazingly inspirational. A very small percentage of my pins are quilts. I find I’m inspired by non-quilt images that I hope will in some way inform the art I create later.

Thank you, Heidi Reagan, for giving me a tour of your Pinterest boards last week. About two screens in I knew I was hooked. For the record, you were absolutely right.

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