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Goals…How to Set Them, How to Reach Them

Last week I announced the 2021 theme – Quilting Survival.  I chose this idea on the backdrop of COVID.  At the time I’m writing this blog, two vaccines have been approved and are rolling out.  However, even with that, most us know it will be months before any of us receive it.  Masks will continue to be worn and we’ll still need to social distance.  This new year will continue to be one of challenges and changes.  With this in mind, I’d like to encourage you to set some quilting goals this year.  I wish I could drop into each of my reader’s homes for a nice cup of coffee or tea and talk about your quilting and what you want to do – the new things you want to try and the projects you want to finish.  I’d love to help you set some goals so you can steadily progress to finishing your projects and starting some new ones.

However, even pre-Covid, this wasn’t possible.  At least not with all of you.  Instead, I’d like to tell you about the steps go through to set my New Year’s goals and reasonably follow through with them.  At this point, at least with myself, I’m thinking about two different sets of goals – the projects I want to start or complete and what I want to learn from them.  The first step is to review the projects I completed the previous year.  Since 2020 was the marathon-to-end-all-stay-at-home-marathons (seriously, I felt like I was 13 again and grounded by my parents), lots of us had more finishes than ever before.  For the first time in my quilting career, I finished three quilts for Christmas gifts!  Before December 24!  Actually, all three were finished by October – quilted, bound, and labeled.  The reactions from the recipients makes me want to gift more quilts to the quilt-worthy people in my life.  All three of these quilts involved panels.  Two of them I simply square-up and added borders.  The other one – The Fish Almighty Quilt – involved more work and more math.  That one stretched me out of my comfort zone.  I also finished two small quilts and five lap-sized or larger quilt tops.  I started two ambitious applique projects (I’m half-way through appliqueing the blocks on one and the other was started in November).  From these projects I’ve learned more about piecing my applique off the block and how to pre-quilt the backgrounds (since both of them will use crosshatching in the background). 

Not too shabby for one year.  I’ve learned more about panels, applique, and pre-quilting as well as chalking up some serious “final” finishes and several “first” finishes.  I’m pleased.  I think this probably the most I have gotten done in any year thank you so much COVID (yes, this is sarcasm). 

Then I take the complete finishes (pieced/appliqued, quilted, bound, and labeled) and make a list.  And I put it somewhere I can see it regularly during the next year.  This serves as a tangible reminder of what I can do when I have grit, determination, self-discipline, and don’t go anywhere.  Yes!  I can do this.  I am the quilter. 

Once I’m through gloating over what I have accomplished, I make another list.  This is all the WIPs (Works in Progress) which are currently in my quilt studio. Please be assured I have many WIPs, but only keep the ones I’m presently working on in my studio.  I list their name and approximately how much I have done on each, what are the major steps I need to accomplish to finish them, and where they’re at on my priority list.  Some of these I know I will complete in the next year.  In my case, it’s my guild’s 2020 BOM, a quilt for a friend who is undergoing chemo, and two pieced quilts I was supposed to finish at quilt retreat.  All the blocks are complete for the BOM.  I simply have to set them together in a top and quilt it, so it’s 80% complete and I have a deadline with it.  I will move this up into a top priority slot because I want to get it finished.

The other three are at different stages.  The chemo quilt is pieced and simply needs quilting. One (Twinkling Twinkle) is 90% complete.  It only needs borders and quilting.  The other is cut out, but not one stitch has been put in.   This one is at the starting gate.  I will have to spend serious time on this top to complete it.  I want to get the chemo quilt to my friend ASAP, so it comes right after the 2020 BOM. Twinkling Twinkle is in the third priority position (again, I want to get it done and I’m super-close).  The other pieced one (All Roads Lead Home) will take the fourth priority slot.  My reasoning behind this is once I get the BOM, chemo quilt, and Twinkling Twinkle out of the way, I can devote more time to that fourth top.  Plus, finishing three tops will spur me to complete the fourth one.

Other WIPs are what I call “Lifers.”  These are the projects which have a lot of detail and handwork.  They will be finished – but not in 2021.  I’m working on them at least once a week, but it may take several years before the last stitch on the label is sewed in.  Currently I have three of these:  Language of the Flowers, Horn of Plenty for a New Generation, and A Day in Grandmother’s Flower Garden (all hand-pieced, hand-appliqued, and probably will also be hand-quilted).  I won’t give these a priority or a deadline until much later.  Currently, I think my Grandmother’s Flower Garden may be the first one to cross the finish line.

Now I make a third list.  This list is a cross between my hopes and dreams and a hard crash with reality – these are the projects I want to start.  I list these projects, give them a priority, and record what I hope to learn from them.  First up is a T-shirt quilt.  The one thing to remember about me and T-shirt quilts is this:  If I make you a T-shirt quilt, I must really love you because I hate making T-shirt quilts.  I know hate is a strong word, but honestly, they’re my least favorite.  And probably the reason is I don’t have a lot of experience with them.  I’ve made a couple of small ones, way back in the mid-1980’s.  So many new products are now on the market for them and there’s so much information about their construction, I am seriously hoping I learn to love them. The big stick-and-carrot for me with this project (besides who it’s made for) is the pattern layout.  It’s not your typical T-shirt layout.  I am excited about this project! 

I want to start one other quilt in this new year — my guild’s 2021 BOM.  I have the yardage requirements.  However, it’s freaking me out just a bit because it’s a two-color quilt. In 35 years of quilting, I’ve never made a two-color quilt.  Ever since this BOM has been announced, I’ve spent hours on Google and Pinterest looking at two-color quilts.  I still haven’t made a decision.  So, with the 2021 BOM, I hope to get comfortable with using only two colors in a quilt.  The struggle is real, y’all.  Right now, my Fig Tree fabrics are in the first-place bracket, but that may change.  Stay tuned.

At this point, my lists look like this:

I know what I finished.  I know what projects I’m in the middle of and the order I need to finish them.  I also know what new projects are on the horizon.  This is a great place to jump start the 2021 quilting year.  However, there are two additional steps I need to take in order to be sure I can accomplish these goals.

The first one is to clean out my studio.  This step is my least favorite, because after Christmas, the best way to describe my quilt room is “There appears to have been a struggle…”  And this year is worse than most because during the time of COVID, I supported the small on-line quilt shops by purchasing fabric.  I think this was one of the only times in my quilt life that I pretty much just randomly chose and purchased significant amounts of yardage (not pre-cuts, or a yard or two…we’re talking three-to-five yards at a clip) because I desperately want them to stay open.  There is literally a stack of fabric I need to go through and sort into colors.  I’m not looking forward to this, but I need to organize the clutter.  I don’t function well with a lot of chaos, so while this step may take some significant time up front, in the end it will allow me to function much better.

The second step can be done while I’m organizing and sorting – and that’s make a list of supplies I need to purchase.  As I’m working my way through the patterns, fabric, and thread, I can make a list of the items I need to replenish.  I keep the list in the Notes app in my iPhone.  This keeps it readily available for me to peruse if I have the opportunity to shop sales and buy in bulk.

As we begin this 2021 journey, let’s work to be kinder to ourselves.  I know we hear a lot about kindness – being nice to each other while we’re still muddling through the pandemic and yet another year of political turmoil – but let me also encourage each of us to be kind to ourselves.  Take time for you while you try to take care of others, too.  I figure if the age of the average quilter is 63, most of us are at the spot in our lives where we’re squeezed in the middle.  Many of us many have adult or near-adult kids who have been affected by the economy and the pandemic and elderly parents we desperately hope aren’t affected by COVID. It’s easy to feel tired, burnt-out, and overwhelmed.  Let your quilting settle your soul and soothe your mind.

Until Next Week, Keep Quilting!

Love and Stitches,

Sherri and Sam

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