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Posts Tagged ‘Cyndi Souder’

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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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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Last summer, I met a new client who told me an old story. She had stuff in a box and didn’t want to move that box around anymore. She wanted to do something with the contents of that box that she could enjoy and that would honor the former owners of the artifacts in the box. Does that sound familiar?

Wedding Gown from 1910

1910 Wedding Gown

So, what was in the box? Three generations of wedding gowns, carefully wrapped in tissue: my client’s wedding gown from the 1970’s, her mother’s wedding gown from the 1940’s, and her grandmother’s gown from around 1910.

About the Design
Working within the confines of a 24″ wide by 36″ long size for the quilt, I needed to use the wedding gowns in a way that would visually feature and honor all three in some way. My client told me it wasn’t immensely important for her to be able to see her 1970’s gown in the finished quilt, but she really did like her braided belt. We agreed that her grandmother’s gown was the most interesting and should be showcased. Her mother’s gown was lovely and handmade, and had features I wanted to highlight.

Wedding Gown from the 1970's

1970’s Wedding Gown in the Box

To design this quilt, I used my Celebration Quilt worksheet to determine color, pattern, materials, techniques, and to make other design decisions. (If you own my book Creating Celebration Quilts or have taken this workshop, you have this worksheet.) While we quilters often think of quilts in terms of strips or blocks, I approached this quilt with layers as my goal. Each generation would have its own layer.

Layer One: Foundation from 1970’s Gown
My client’s wedding gown was made of a white knit, which gave me the additional challenge of stretchy fabric. To create a base layer for this quilt, I found an appropriate backing, added batting, and basted fabric from the skirt of the 1970’s gown to this quilt sandwich as if this gown were the quilt top. I grid-quilted it on my BERNINA 820 at 1 1/2″ intervals to keep the knit stable. Everything else in this quilt would be appliqued to this foundation.

Let me just pause for a moment and say how very hard it is to cut — yes, CUT — vintage garments. Here’s what I tell myself: This garment is beautiful. It lived a wonderful life and is now in a box where it gets no use, has no exposure, brings no joy. If I cut this garment and make it part of something else, it will have a new life where it will be seen and appreciated every day.

Layer Two: Background from 1940’s Gown

1940's Wedding Gown

1940’s Wedding Gown in the Box

My client’s mother’s gown was really special. It was hand sewn from silk and lots of really lovely lace. I wanted to include it so that you could see it was still a dress, but there wasn’t enough real estate in this quilt to highlight both the 1910 gown and the 1940’s gown. I removed the lining from the 1940’s gown and auditioned several layouts that would show the bodice clearly. I also wanted to highlight the points at the cuffs.

Layer Three: Foreground from 1910 Gown
My client’s grandmother was tiny. Her wedding gown looks child-size. Every detail was well-preserved and, well, beautiful. I couldn’t fit the whole gown on the quilt (If I could have changed the quilt size at this point, I would have.) and I hated to lose any of the gorgeous lace detail. I started by removing the lining and then I positioned the dress on the quilt without cutting away anything. I tried placing it vertically, parallel with the sides of the quilt, but that made for a really boring composition. Then, I tried angling the dress to the right and to the left. The diagonal line made the quilt much more interesting and it left some room to the right to show off the 1940’s lace bodice.

Construction

Couching by hand

Couched Floss in the Binding Ditch

Once I knew where everything would go, I pinned things firmly in place and then hand-appliqued everything to the base layer. Where there where big expanses of gown between the stitched edges, I followed the lines of the lace or construction and added more hand-stitching to keep things flat and secure.  Once everything was in place, I trimmed the quilt to size and bound it. To add a little contrast between the binding and the quilt itself, I added a line of Aurifil’s new cotton floss hand-couched in the ditch. It’s subtle, but I think it was an important addition. Finally, I added my client’s braided silk belt. This was what she loved about her gown and I wanted it to show. I handstitched it across the top and left the ends to hang free, framing the other two gowns.

Finished quilt: Three Generation of Wedding Gowns

Out of the Box: Three Generations of Wedding Gowns

A Few Final Thoughts
When I make a Celebration Quilt for a client, I try very hard to use only the materials they supply. Everything in the quilt should be infused with meaning and memories. The only fabrics I added to this quilt were the binding, the backing, and the fabric for the printed labels.

Don’t forget the back of the quilt! When I have artifacts or leftovers that would not fit on the front of a Celebration Quilt, I try to make them work on the back. In this case, I used the lace points from the 1910 gown to highlight the labels. Because the quilt was somewhat unbalanced weight-wise, I added a second sleeve at the bottom for a thin metal slat or drapery weights to help the quilt hang perfectly.

Three labels

This quilt needed three labels to tell the whole story.

This quilt has three labels. One includes the name of the quilt and information about how it came to be. The second label includes pictures of all three brides, including names and dates. The third label includes the anatomy of the quilt, showing a picture of the quilt with arrows identifying what artifacts are where. This is a good idea any time the artifacts may not be obvious or the quilt may eventually go to someone who would not recognize the contents.

This quilt may not be for everyone; it’s not supposed to be. My client is happy. She has hung this quilt in her new home where she can enjoy it every day. An effective Celebration Quilt is personal and meaningful — and designed as a one-of-a-kind piece of art. If you are interested in learning how to make Celebration Quilts, you can buy my book or come to one of my workshops. If you bring the seed of an idea, I’ll help you make a plan. If you want to talk with me about making a Celebration Quilt for you, e-mail me and let’s start the conversation.

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A while back, I received an e-mail from a prospective client asking if I’d be interested in creating a wall quilt from a logo she had already commissioned from a graphic designer. She was building a mountain home – a dream home, really – and was celebrating this event with artwork. I don’t usually create art quilts from other people’s designs, but I met with her, liked the design and the client, and took the job.

Lesson 1: When a door opens, you don’t have to go through it. But it’s a good idea to look through the open door to check out the opportunity.

Logo DesignThe logo artwork was a line drawing with a basic color palette. The client wanted the resulting quilt to be prominent in her new home. She wanted it to be big – 9 feet by 9 feet big. I work in a small studio with no room for a quilt that size to hang during construction. We settled on 6 feet square, which still felt like a monster size. In fact, I needed to construct a portable design wall to accommodate the project, but it was doable.

Lesson 2: Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Negotiation isn’t a dirty word and it doesn’t always mean that someone’s trying to take advantage. This negotiation helped me set limits and contributed to the overall success of the project.

Working within the color palette, I gathered fabrics. Too many fabrics, really, but it was good to have choices. I spent a lot of time collecting, auditioning, and selecting fabrics from a wide array of sources. I used commercial cotton, batiks, raw silk, and rusted fabric. In art quilt class yesterday, one of my students was talking about a recent quilt and said she had been a slave to one of the fabrics, changing every other fabric to try to make the piece work but clinging to this one special fabric. Finally, she realized she had to jettison that one problem child fabric and the piece came together. Her experience sounded familiar. The fabrics for the borders and corners of this piece – the browns and greens – gave me fits. I had one or two fabrics that I thought were perfect and I clung to them. In the end, I had to give them up and that helped break through my quilter’s block.

Quilt on the BerninaLesson 3: Make decisions but be open to changing your mind. Not all decisions are good ones, and you may not be as stuck as you think you are. Just because something looks great in one context doesn’t mean it will work well somewhere else.

This quilt was the hardest wall quilt I’ve ever made. I could go on about how the circle in the square layout gave me heartburn or how the miles of handmade bias binding took forever to make or how moving the piece from the design wall to the sewing machine caused the pinned pieces to shift, forcing me to hand baste every piece in place. All of these things are true, but every project brings challenges. So what made this piece so difficult? Fear. When I take on a project, it never occurs to me that I might not be able to successfully complete it…until I’m knee-deep in alligators. This piece was bigger than my typical work and that made the challenges seem insurmountably bigger. I was in an almost constant state of fear that I would not be able to complete this art quilt as I had envisioned it. If you know me, you know that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Usually, that works for me, but not for this project.

Lesson 4: Work hard and trust your instincts. If you’ve honed skills over decades of education and experience, trust that you have the tools to identify problems and that you will find a way to resolve any issues. Get out of your own way and do the work. It really will all work out.

Quilt in placeWhen the quilt was completed, my husband and I took it to the client’s newly completed mountain home and installed it. Through the entire ride to the client’s house, I worried. Would she like it? Would it be good enough? Would it hang flat enough? Would the rod I chose fit with the rest of the house? Would, could, should. When it was time, I unrolled the quilt on the floor and held my breath while my client took her first look at her new art quilt. I needn’t have worried. She was happy, I was happy, and I felt myself release more tension than I knew I had been carrying. We crouched around the quilt as I pointed out special fabric choices and showed her where I had made quilting decisions to commemorate aspects of her house and its construction. She was interested in as much information as I could give her and I was bursting at the seams to share every detail.

Lesson 5: Outcomes are often much worse in your imagination than in reality. I had imagined the worst. What if she hated it? What if she didn’t love the colors I used? What if, what if, what if? In reality, she loved it. We artists are a fragile bunch, at once proud of our work and fearful that no one will like it and, by extension, us. I’m not sure how to change that in myself, but I hope my awareness will help boost my confidence.

I’m working on a new commission now for a different client. When it’s completed, I’ll post about this art quilt of three generations of wedding gowns. For now, let me say that I’m keeping an open mind through the process, trusting my instincts, and trying not to worry about how the client will react. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

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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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Creating Celebration Quilts Book CoverI love making quilts that celebrate something — events, milestones, the lives of lost loved ones, or even a special vacation. I relish the design decisions, the fabric choices, the execution, and the joy of seeing the quilt completed. I have made many, many celebration quilts. Some have been for myself, but mostly they have been for others.

I wrote Creating Celebration Quilts to help you design and create your own Celebration Quilts. Using the skills you have now, you can create quilts that are personal, meaningful, joyful, and healing. In my book, I have included four sections to help you through the process:

  1. The Celebration Quilt Worksheet will help you design your Celebration Quilt and offer you things to consider as you work through the process.
  2. A Closer Look follows five Celebration Quilts from concept to completion, including quilts made from a commercially available foundation piecing pattern, from a roll of precut strips, from a large collection of bow ties and a bulletin board full of quotes, from tee shirts and traditional nine-patch blocks, and from clothing and artifacts belonging to a spirited man I wish I’d met while he was still with us.
  3. The Celebration Quilt Toolbox contains tips and suggestions for taming difficult fabrics, using photographs, approaching the quilting, incorporating quilted words, constructing show-ready hanging sleeves, and adding complete and meaningful labels.
  4. The Celebration Quilts Gallery is filled with ideas and inspiration with examples of baby quilts, wedding and anniversary quilts, quilts that celebrate the lives of lost loved ones, and quilts that celebrate family, family traditions, birthdays, accomplishments, events, and travel.

When I teach Celebration Quilts as a class or workshop, I am always surprised and moved by the stories I hear. Often, the quilters I meet are planning quilts to honor family members and we talk about the linens, clothing, and collections that have been left behind. Sometimes quilts are planned to commemorate weddings, anniversaries, births, and graduations. I’d love to hear your stories…what do your quilts celebrate?

Leave a comment by Sunday, June 30, 2013, and you will be entered into a drawing for your choice of either a free copy of my book or a free consultation on a celebration quilt you’re planning or working on.

Creating Celebration Quilts is available on my website and at quilt shops everywhere.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Celebrate with Quilts!

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Beach

Join me in the Caribbean!

I love it when I can combine a bunch of favorite things in one event, don’t you? Next March (2014), I’m teaming up with Quilt Retreats at Sea and Artistic Artifacts for an eight-night quilting cruise where I can enjoy:

  • Travel to warm places while it’s cold at home
  • Spending time with my hubby
  • Spending time with quilting buddies (quilters I know now and quilters I will meet)
  • Sharing my favorite original quilt pattern with other quilters
  • Giving out prizes and surprises
  • Food, food, and more food
  • Ocean view
  • Sewing!
Cruise Project, Ocean View

Friendship Chain, Purple Rain Colorway — Fabrics will vary

Sounds good, right? I’d love it if you’d join us! We’ll leave Baltimore on Friday, March 28, 2014 on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas. Our ship was refurbished in 2012 and is just beautiful! Click here to read all about the ship. Our stops include Port Canaveral, Florida; Nassau, Bahamas; Coco Cay, Bahamas; and Key West, Florida. We can have beach time, shopping time, sightseeing time, and just lazy time. We’ll return to Baltimore on Saturday, April 5.

On three of our days, we’ll be at sea, having fun piecing a quilt. I’ll be teaching the techniques you’ll need to successfully complete our quick and easy project. This is my favorite pattern, Friendship Chain. Back before the Dawn of Time (when I was in elementary school), we used to make these zigzag bracelets out of paper chewing gum wrappers. This quilt reminds me of those bracelets, hence the name. I can almost smell the Juicy Fruit gum!

Tangerine Sunrise Colorway

Tangerine Sunrise Colorway — Fabrics will vary

Quilt Cruisers will get to choose from two colorways: Purple Rain and Tangerine Sunrise. Our sewing machines are being provided for us along with an expert to troubleshoot as needed and keep us rolling in full bobbins! But the best part about our quick and easy project is that I will cut the kit for you. When you sit down to work, you will not have to cut strips or subcut blocks — it’ll all be ready for you to get started!

If you are a fast worker (and you know who you are!), you might want to bring a small UFO or two. While the ship has lots of distractions for your free time, you may finish your quilt top and want something to work on during the optional Stitch-and-Sail sewing times.

Toward the end of our cruise, I’ll have a surprise project for you to work on. We’re going to have lots and lots of fun!

Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas

So, what’s included on the cruise? The Friendship Quilting Cruise Package includes:

Snow on the Deck

March 2013 in Virginia – Wouldn’t you rather be in the Caribbean in March 2014?

  • Eight nights aboard the Grandeur of the Seas
  • All port fees and taxes
  • Prepaid onboard gratuities
  • Trip/travel insurance
  • Two group cocktail parties
  • All onboard meals
  • Onboard entertainment
  • Quilting classes and instruction
  • Project kits and materials
  • Open Stitch-and-Sail sewing times
  • Group events, prizes, giveaways!

I’d love you to join us! For more information or to register, contact Quilt Retreats at Sea. If you have any questions, e-mail me.

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