Where is the 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge?

Hi friends! It’s been some time, right?

Well, I have decided, after 9 years, to retire the 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge.

Before you cry about it, let me tell you what I have noticed over 9 years of running this challenge:

First, people often get gung ho to sign up, and then start off blogging strong. Then by mid-month, they have stopped and are back to their old selves.

Second, 31 Days of posting isn’t enough to build a habit. In later years I made a prompt and everything, giving people something to write about. It never stuck.

The reason for this is because the 31 Day challenge isn’t enough to spur people into blogging more. Just like Instagram challenges never really get you posting more. Once your “obligation” to the challenge is over, you either love or hate the process. That’s not a healthy way to connect to your business.

Instead, I have decided to help people form better relationships with their business tasks over on my Patreon. You can sign up for it here: http://patreon.com/muppindotcom

The 31 Day Challenge was a fun ride while it lasted. I connected to many people, who now have quilt or sewing businesses of their own that grew out of their blogs. I’m very grateful for those connections, and it’s time now to form healthy relationships with our online content.

Be sure to connect with me everywhere, and sign up for my email list to get the latest on what’s going on with us!

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Back to School Blog Hop – Basics of Ruching!

Welcome back friends to my little blog where I’m participating in my good friend Sam Hunter’s Back to School Blog Hop! I’ve been a participant for several years in a row with Sam’s wonderful blog hop and I am so so so happy to teach you something near and dear to my heart – Ruching!

Ruching (pronounced rooshing) is a very old fabric manipulation technique that’s been used on gowns and quilts and home decor since the early 1700’s. Ruching can refer to any kind of fabric gathering technique, but here we are going to be specifically gathering strips of fabric. In Quilting, ruching was used on Baltimore Album quilts in the 1860’s. In historical clothing, you can see lot’s of gowns from this same era featuring ruched strips of ribbon adorning them as trims.

Your materials list is very simple: needle and thread (I like Jeana Kimball Wool Needles #7), a strip of fabric about 22 inches long and 2 inches wide, a pencil, an iron and ironing surface, and a Smocking Template to make some marks (I like using my mini smocking template for this technique, but you can use the large one too). Optionally, you can get some Thread Conditioner, like my Mind Your Own Beeswax, to strengthen your thread.

To begin, iron your strip so that the raw edges are in the center. The wrong side of your fabric, should yours have one, should be encapsulated in the middle, and you should only see right sides up.

Next, you need to mark your fabric on the side with the raw edges with a pencil, just at the top and bottom of the strip in a alternating pattern. This is so you have something to sew towards as you make your gathers. The smocking template makes quick work of this, but you could alternately use a ruler.

With your needle threaded (and optionally waxed), start in the bottom corner of the strip, and take an extra stitch so your knot doesn’t pull or pop out. Then take running stitches at an angle toward the opposite side of the strip to the mark you made with your pencil.

Here’s the trick of this whole process. No matter if your needle ends up on the top or bottom side of the strip, you want to make sure that your next stitch loops the thread over the edge of the fold of the fabric. I flip the thread over and start stitching towards the next mark.

After about 3 or 4 “zig zags” on your strip, you can start gently pulling the gathers. You do not want to wait until the end of sewing the whole strip to do this, or your thread will break in the middle! (Ask me how I know!) After you pull them and gather the fabric, take an extra stay stitch at that spot to keep them in place.

Keep going until you have gathered the whole strip! Now here’s where you can see some variations. If you skip a space on your smocking template when making your marks, you will create much wider gathers. This can create softer flowers or shapes. Remember, the raw edges and the marks are technically the back of your strip. You will use the other side as the “right” side.

Also, if you want the colors in a particular strip, you can select a fabric that has a print, but the print itself will be lost in the technique and just leave behind the pretty colors.

Once you have your strip gathered, you can hand applique it down like you would any other fabric. I use the points of the ruching as the spots that get tacked down to the background. I like to spiral them into flowers, tucking in the raw ends to hide them. But they can be stems, or swags, or whatever you like!

Ruching can add some beautiful dimension to your next quilting or garment project! I hope you give it a try! If you like this technique, you will love my online class! Check it out here.

Be sure to check out all of the other blogs participating in this year’s Back to School Blog Hop! Go back and read the previous days and be sure to check them out further along in the month!

Day 1 – September 1 – Sam Hunter: Sewing Long Seams Without Stretching – huntersdesignstudio.com

Day 2 – September 2 – Susan Arnold – Joining Binding the Easy Way – quiltfabrication.com

Day 3 – September 3 – Angie Wilson – Fussy cutting tips and techniques – www.gnomeangel.com

Day 4 – September 4 – Andi Stanfield – No-Mark HST: Let your machine be your guide – truebluequilts.com/blog/

Day 5 – September 5 – Bobbie Gentili – Say YES to Y-seams – geekybobbin.com

Day 6 – September 6 – Mel Beach – 5 Reasons to Say Woo Hoo! to School Glue – pieceloveandhappiness.blogspot.com

Day 7 – September 7 – Laura Piland – 7 Ways to Use a Laser on Your Sewing Machine – www.sliceofpiquilts.com

Day 8 – September 8 – Suzy Webster – How to solve loops in free motion quilting – www.websterquilt.com

Day 9 – September 9 – Tara Miller – Accurate Stitch-and-Flip Corners – quiltdistrict.com

Day 10 – September 10 – Latifah Saafir – Accurate Seams Using Masking Tape! – latifahsaafirstudios.com

Day 11 – September 11 – Sarah Ruiz – The Magic of Glue Basting – saroy.net

Day 12 – September 12 – Jen Shaffer – Ways to stop your ruler from slipping while cutting – patternsbyjen.blogspot.com

Day 13 – September 13 – Cheryl Sleboda – Basics of ruching (a vintage fabric manipulation technique) – muppin.com

Day 14 – September 14 – Raylee Bielenberg – Choosing quilting designs for your quilt – www.sunflowerstitcheries.com

Day 15 – September 15 – Jen Strauser – Accurate and Attractive Machine binding – dizzyquilter.com

Day 16 – September 16 – Jane Davidson – Matching points for all types of intersections – quiltjane.com

Day 17 – September 17 – Teresa Coates – Starch and starch alternatives – teresacoates.com

Day 18 – September 18 – Jen Frost – Benefits of spray basting – faithandfabricdesign.com

Day 19 – September 19 – Sandra Starley – Getting started with Hand Quilting – utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com

Day 20 – September 20 – Karen Platt – Drunkard’s Path Made Easy – karenplatt.co.uk/blog/

Day 21 – September 21 – Kris Driessen – All Kinds of Square (in a Square) – scrapdash.com

Day 22 – September 22 – Sarah Goer – Planned Improv Piecing – sarahgoerquilts.com

Day 23 – September 23 – Kathy Bruckman – Organizing kits for on-the-go sewing – kathyskwiltsandmore.blogspot.com

Day 24 – September 24 – Cheryl Daines Brown – The Secret to Flat Quilt Tops: Borders – quilterchic.com

Day 25 – September 25 – Cherry Guidry – Pre-assembling fusible applique – cherryblossomsquilting.com

Day 26 – September 26 – Laura Chaney – Getting started with English Paper Piecing – prairiesewnstudios.com

Day 27 – September 27 – Ebony Love – Cutting Bias Strips from a Rectangle – lovebugstudios.com

Day 28 – September 28 – Tammy Silvers – Working with heavier weight threads in your machine – tamarinis.typepad.com

Day 29 – September 29 – Kathy Nutley – Create a perfect facing or frame with 90 degree angles – quiltingsbykathy.com

Day 30 – September 3 – Joanne Harris – Using Leaders and Enders – quiltsbyjoanne.blogspot.com

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Back to Basics – Why you have to power through

This week in my series of posts about creative blocks and how to get through them I’d like to share a quote with you. There’s a fabulous quote by Ira Glass that goes like this:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 
The key phrase in this for those of us who are stuck is “the most important thing you can do is DO A LOT OF WORK”.
This means that no matter how uncreative you may feel, or have that block that keeps you from making new work, it’s so important to POWER THROUGH this and make more work.  It may not be good.  It may be cool and awesome.  But the most important thing is to KEEP WORKING. 
This is why thinking about working in a series or having a recurring creative reason (like weekly or monthly journal quilts) helps you get through these, as you are almost required to keep working. 
Next week, I’m going to post some thoughts about my Weekly Quilt project and why I do it, etc that may help you think about this process.  

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Back to Basics – Work on a UFO

Believe it or not I have many UFOs(UnFinished Objects).  Yup, a whole box of them in fact.  Sometimes I pull them out for an emergency gift.  But I find most often that I go back to one particular UFO when the chips are down.  
My first quilt.
Yes, my first ever quilt is still a UFO.  It’s not that I don’t like it, because I do.  But I chose to hand quilt it, and well…. it’s never gotten past that point.
When I’m not particularly inspired, but I know I need to keep my hands working on something, I pull out this quilt and the hoop I quilt it with, and start at it again.
Maybe something about handquilting just makes me want to seek some other, faster method of completing the quilting process… I don’t know. Usually after a week of working on this in front of the TV will have me back at my machine happily. Strangely, I don’t “hate” to handquilt. I have done it many times on lots of little projects. I do actually get excited to bring this quilt out, and I’m just as happy when I put it away again. For me, this quilt is a slump-buster.  
Do you have a UFO that you go to when you are not feeling very creative?  (Should I post a picture of my first quilt that is still a UFO?) 

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Back to Basics – Slow Down

When working through a “creative block” I often turn “back to the basics” and that helps me power through creative slumps.  One of the ways I do this is to slow down, and really work on the “process” of quilting.
This may mean slowing down my piecing, and really get my seams and corners to match.  This may mean slowing down my free motion quilting and make nice deliberate designs instead of powering through it.  This may mean slowing down the design process, and crating fully formed designs before I even start.
Whatever the slowing down process you choose, use the time you add to enjoy the process.  Have soothing music on to help calm the mood. You may find that even the parts of the art making journey that you didn’t like before will end up with new appreciation!

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