Saturday, October 3, 2015

Getting Back Up After Being Kicked in the Teeth

I have a special Light Up Your Life post for you today as well as a HUGE announcement!

Yes, getting that email was like getting a massive kick in the teeth. Josh and I were so shocked we spent a minute just staring at the computer screen. I didn't even read the whole email because I was so distracted with the paralyzing feeling of  absolute panic.

It was awful because getting an email like that felt almost like losing a job. It was as if our web developer had pulled the rug out from under our feet, suddenly undermining the years and work we've put into our business. We felt powerless over the situation, and that makes both Josh and me not happy campers!

Making Logical Decisions in Times of Shift

It's no surprise that making logical decisions during a time like this can be challenging. Panic, anger, frustration, resentment, stress - all my monsters were wide awake and ready to run the show.

But I stopped. For four days I stopped and didn't jump straight into the transfer. I shopped around for different website developers, shopping cart systems, and hosting services. I considered our options for moving to the other quilting website developer.

And the most important thing is Josh and I came together and honestly, and very logically, discussed what we wanted. I want to keep teaching in videos. It's so much easier now to plan and shoot videos with the Crafty Cottage and I'm dying to get started on next year's Mystery Quilt Along. My passion is still solidly rooted in quilting.

Josh felt much the same. We'd had the rug pulled out from under our feet and change was now forced upon us, and if anything this has reaffirmed our commitment to this business and to one another.

Working Through the Rage

The hardest thing to deal with during this transition was not the sheer massive amount of boring internet work - redirects, new page construction, image transfers, working with various tech support and IT people, etc. This is the fourth website I've built, and the third time I've transferred While it's a skill I have built out of necessity, I would honestly much rather be quilting than stuck on a computer copying and pasting pages, resizing images, and sorting product SKUs.

The hardest thing to deal with was my simmering rage. This was a change necessitated by an company who had failed repeatedly to fulfill our needs or respond to issues in a timely fashion. I knew within six months of transferring to this developer that they were both too small and too niche to be good for us, but once we transferred, we felt stuck with them.

To make matters worse, the acquiring company was deliberately vague on the details. Our sites would be maintained for a year "more or less..." but what was the cut off date? How much exactly would it cost to transfer my site, including all photos and downloads to the buyout company?

I was angry and frustrated, but mostly angry with myself. I had made the decision back in 2013 to go with this company after all. Who was more to blame than me?

Blame, anger, resentment - this is not how I wanted to feel. Early in the work on this new site, I knew I needed to get a hold of my attitude and focus on the positive side of this change. Yes, it was unexpected - Get over it - Pull on your big girl panties and get the work done!

Finding Space for Gratitude

It didn't take long for me to realize that feeling resentful and angry was only going to make this job worse. I avoided talking about the transfer as much as possible. When I allowed myself to vent my true feelings, I literally felt toxic with the bitterness in my words.

I decided to stop complaining and get to work. As the site began taking shape, I was able to test it and quickly became excited about the new features that were so easy to implement. I was able to streamline the shop, update the text, and make wide scale improvements on photos.

Seeing all this taking shape felt great! Here was a site I could be proud of, that I could control without middle men / young college grads who knew nothing about IT or online businesses, that wouldn't have all that red tape in my way between me and the site's administration. I slowly found space to feel thankful this catastrophe had happened.

We now have a new shopping cart system, an updated layout, and a gorgeous, bright design that will give you an excellent experience no matter whether you're visiting on your computer, tablet, or phone.

Even better, the management side of this website is going to be so much easier. Josh can print orders, calculate shipping, and send download links from one page, which is making his job so much faster and easier.

No, I wasn't expecting this to happen, but now I'm actually thankful. We have rebuilt our business on a stronger foundation that not only makes our jobs easier but will be able to grow with us in a massive way.

Please go check out the new and let me know what you think!

Let's get moving, let's try something new,

Leah Day

Monday, September 28, 2015

Quilty Box Hokey Pokey Crazy Quilt

This month's Quilty Box was so awesome! I love the gear from Clover and the bright polka dotted fabrics:

quilty box september 2015
Just in case you've never heard of Quilty Box, it's a subscription service that sends you a box of awesome quilting gear and fabric each month. You never know what you're going to get, but having gotten three boxes so far, I can absolutely assure you, you're going to get something awesome every month!

Now I have a tendency to hoarde supplies, especially precut fabrics, for some magical day when I'm not busy and I have a master plan for doing amazing things with that gear. That's my tendency, but my desire is to stop hoarding and start creating!

To stop myself from hoarding this cool stuff, I challenged myself to create a new project with each month's Quilty Box! This month I opened the box to find an awesome assortment of quilting tools from Clover and some Riley Blake Polka Dot 5" precuts. Watch this video to see how I transformed this simple fabric into one funky polka dot quilt!

The first step of this process was creating half square triangles with the polka dot fabric and solid precut squares.

half square triangles
Then we layered the half square triangles with more solid precut squares and stitched these units exactly the same way you create half square triangles to create Half Quarter Square Triangles. This is such a funky block and I can only imagine all the creative possibilities in different colorways and sizes!

half quarter square triangle
Laying out this quilt was a challenge because I was trying to incorporate both the diamond shapes and pinwheels. Once I was happy with the layout, piecing this Hokey Pokey Crazy quilt was another crazy adventure! Dad pieced the bulk of this quilt top over two days and said without a doubt it's the hardest quilt he's ever had to piece because it was so friggin CRAZY!

hokey pokey crazy quilt | Leah Day
This quilt just makes me smile, smile, smile! The Hokey Pokey was a silly dance we did at the roller skating rink when I was growing up and seemed perfectly suited to name this bright, cheerful quilt.

So I challenged myself to use the materials in my Quilty Box to make a new throw sized quilt! What will you make with your new gear?

Remember, having cool stuff doesn't make you creative. USING that gear to make something new and fun is the whole point!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Big Magic Creating Mosaics

Yesterday I hopped on the Audible website ready to find a new set of audiobooks enjoy while quilting and was delighted to find Big Magic, a new book by Elizabeth Gilbert. I immediately downloaded the book and I've absolutely enjoyed every minute of this book about living a creative life without suffering, following inspiration, and creating with joy.

It's this last point that is really important to me: Creating. With. Joy.

I create new stuff every day. This is as natural to me as breathing, but it doesn't always feel easy. Because of my history of negative thoughts, I have to be very careful not to slip into pockets of brooding about the past or worrying anxiously about the future. I also tend to be a perfectionist, and no matter how many times I tell you in videos not to obsess about your stitches being perfect, I'm really saying it to myself.

While reading this book, it is the parts about creating with joy that have struck the greatest chord.

Where is the laughter and lightness in my work? Where is the happy flow and smiles at myself? I think I just got out of the habit of asking joy to come visit. I allowed the weight of duty and the burden of responsibility to take her place, and because of that, I haven't felt that bright, bubbly joy while I created in quite a long time.

So I did something about this little problem last night! I pulled out fabrics, fusible web, and a pair of sharp scissors and while laughing my head off at this new book, I cut and fused this beautiful mosaic quilt block:

This is very small - only 8 inches square - so cutting all those itsy bitsy triangles was quite tedious, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I've been obsessed with mosaics since this spring when I began running across them everywhere and they caught my attention in a way that mosaics never had before.

I've resisted the pull of making a mosaic quilt because it just seemed so weird. Why would I suddenly go from hating a craft style to loving it overnight? What am I going to do with this thing? Will I teach it? Will anyone else even like it?

I let all these doubts stand in my way and stop me from playing, which was really silly because what is wrong with playing around and having some fun with fabric? Does everything have to have a massive purpose or well laid plan? I like this, it calls to me, and I'm curious about where it will lead.

I jumped right in and had such a fun, joyous experience. This was pure fun and exactly what I needed to create. Today I've felt lighter, happier, and more energetic for following this impulse and creating with joy.

If you've been needing a creativity kick in the pants, I highly recommend Big Magic as a great place to learn more about being creative and how to create with joy as your companion.

Let's go quilt!

Leah Day

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Easy Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Recipe

Yes, I've become quite the Pumpkin Queen this week! We've learned two magical ways to quilt a pumpkin mug rug and a cool new Twisted Tendril design. Now I'd like to share a super easy recipe for pumpkin bread and muffins.

Most of the time I use this recipe to bake bread, but James is such a fan of muffins that I had to try baking a set of those for him too. It works great either way, and it makes a LOT, so this is a great recipe to use for holiday baking so you'll have plenty of bread or muffins to give to friends and family this year.

Easy Pumpkin Bread and Muffins Recipe

3 1/2 c. All Purpose Flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 tsp. Ground Cardamon
2 c. Sugar
4 eggs
2 c. (1 14 oz can) Pumpkin puree
1 c. Oil (see special instructions for coconut oil)
2/3 c. Water
3/4 c. Chopped Pecans or Walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three loaf pans with butter and line with parchment paper for bread. For muffins, line muffin tins with muffin liners.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, spices, and sugar in a bowl until combined.

Special instructions for coconut oil - This is the oil I prefer to use for baking, but it can be tricky to work with because it tends to solidify when the house is chilly. If your jar of coconut oil is solidified, scoop out 1 cup into a small saucepan and heat on low until clear and completely melted. To ensure your oil doesn't solidify in the bowl, make sure your eggs, pumpkin puree, and water are all room temperature before proceeding to the next step.

In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and beat until well mixed. Add the pumpkin puree and oil and water, mixing well after each addition.

Begin adding the flour mixture to the wet mixture in small amounts and beating well to until smooth. Add the chopped nuts if desired.

For Pumpkin Bread: Pour into the greased loaf pans, filling halfway. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, remove from the pan at once and cool on a wire rack.

 For Pumpkin Muffin: Fill each muffin tin 3/4 full. If desired, top with a sprinkle of chopped nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

You can also mix and match pumpkin bread and muffins. This last time I made one large loaf of pumpkin bread and 12 pumpkin muffins. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!

Let's go bake!

Leah Day

Monday, September 21, 2015

Quilting a Magical Pumpkin Mug Rug

Yes, I'm going a bit pumpkin crazy! I had to quilt another pumpkin block to try out more of the Twisted Tendril design, and to play with other ways to free motion quilt the pumpkin shape.

quilting pumpkin | machine quilting
One major change with this pumpkin was extending the stem and filling in that space with a free form Flowing Lines design. I really like how that extended the stem area to fill in more of the pumpkin shape and made the stem more interesting. See how these cool designs are quilted in this fun, free video:

The pumpkins I've been playing with have all been cut from the Fall Medley AccuQuilt die. I really love using my Accuquilt to cut applique shapes because it's so quick and always cuts the shape perfectly.

quilt pumpkin block | machine quilting
 To fuse the applique in place, I use Lite Steam-a-Seam 2, which is a super lightweight fusible web. I love it because even if I'm completely absent minded about fusing the shape in place and hold my iron on way too long, the glue doesn't evaporate like it can with some fusible web brands.

Now that I've stitched so many pumpkins, I'm really in the mood for pumpkin bread! Swing by tomorrow to find my family recipe for pumpkin bread and muffins!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Importance of Daily Practice

It's hard to explain just how important I believe practice is to learning any craft or skill. It's almost as important as breathing - you must put in the practice or do the work if you want to see improvement in your abilities.

But I've been having an argument with my son James about practice since school started this year. Watch this video to hear why we've been disagreeing about practice:

So 2 hours all in one go or 10 minutes a day? Which do you feel would be more productive?

 Whether it's practice or time to work on a new project from start to finish, many people have unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a creative person. Many assume that we must set aside hours and hours of time set aside to use at once.

The truth is that time rarely happens. I've personally found that if I have a wonderful day set aside for dedicated work on a project...someone (usually me) promptly gets sick the day before. Or we suddenly have an urgent errand that will chew up half my time, or I simply wake up that morning with an intense desire to stay in bed reading.

In the case of my son, he'd promise to spend an hour playing piano, but get bored in about 30 minutes, then spend the remaining time whining about having to practice so much. You just can't expect your attention span to hold tight on a single task for hours on end.

The point here is that creative urges can't be "stored" up for a later time. These impulses are special and should be treated with great care. If you feel like quilting, GO QUILT. Quilt something, anything, any practice you get is the perfect amount. Even if it's working on a real project or a scrap of fabric - it's all practice and it all builds skill.

So I'll end by giving you permission to make this happen. Whatever you need to do to set up your machine so you can plop down and stitch for just 10 minutes a day. Even if it means rearranging your house and getting rid of some unused furniture - do you really need a guest room more than a sewing room? Could you find space in that large master closet or dining room that's rarely used?

Be creative as you look at your home and remember you have permission to stop making do and to make this happen.

Let's get moving. Let's try something new,

Leah Day

Friday, September 18, 2015

Design #451 - Twisted Tendril

I've been machine quilting pumpkins this week and stumbled across this cool pumpkin vine quilting design. I wanted a free form loopy line that would appear almost like a twisted ribbon. With a bit of experimenting I've created Twisted Tendril!

free motion quilting design | twisted tendril
 This funky design is super easy to quilt and it's a great skill builder for both echoing and travel stitching. The best thing about it? It's supposed to be slightly messy so even if your stitching isn't perfect, it's still going to look great!

 This quilting design is a bit odd in that it doesn't really work like a normal filler design. I tried filling up a block with it, branching out different Twisted Tendrils from one another and it just ended up looking kinda weird...

free motion quilting design | twisted tendril

I think this could work as a fill, but it would need to be two colors and stitched like a Foundational Design. First form the main twisted tendril, then change thread colors and fill the background with echoes.

So in creating this design, we've also created a new subcategory of quilting designs called Accents. This is a suitable name because Twisted Tendril really acted as an accent or embellishment, but you wouldn't want to fill the whole background with it. It would lose it's magical, whimsical quality if it was densely stitched all over the place.
 free motion quilting design | twisted tendril
I had so much fun quilting this design and the cute pumpkins as well! Be on the lookout for a video next Monday on how I quilted the pumpkin above.

365 Free Motion Quilting Designs book
If you're on the hunt for more quilting inspiration to keep you busy all year, definitely check out my book 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs. This book features the first 365 designs from this project, stitched out in beautiful photos that are so detailed, you can see every stitch!

Don't forget to share this design on Facebook and pin it on Pinterest to share it with your friends!

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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