Tackling the Big Project: Sewing for Quilt Market

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tackling the Big Project: Sewing for Quilt Market - In Color Order

Today I want to talk about how I tackle a big creative project! Diane of CraftyPod invited me to share my experience preparing for a large event like Quilt Market as a part of a blog hop, Tackling the Big Project.  Make sure and check out Diane's post as well as posts from Lisa, Liz, Martine, and Wendi.

I wish there was a magic formula I could give you that says do this and this to get X result.  If only it were that easy.  Tackling a big project, whether it be outfitting a trade show booth, writing a book or even designing a quilt from start to finish, it can at first seem overwhelming.  Everyone approaches projects, large or small, in different ways, but there are a few things that have helped me power through a big project, especially with sewing for this past Quilt Market!

1. Plan, plan, plan
Tackling the Big Project: Sewing for Quilt Market - In Color Order
Quilt Market Set Up, a photo by Jeni Baker on Flickr.
I am a huge planner.  I love the problem solving aspect of figuring out what projects to make, how to make them, and then actually seeing them through from start to finish.  Quilt Market adds it's own set of challenges, primarily limited time and limited resources.  I received my first fat quarters of fabric approximately a month and a half before Quilt Market, and was unsure of how much I'd have to work with in the end. Having to plan without knowing how much fabric I'd have was really hard.  It requires a plan, a back-up plan, and then another back-up plan! Thankfully I planned enough projects, so when I received 2 yards of my fabrics a little over a week before the event, I was able to scramble and get a lot of projects done. Always plan more than you think you'll need!

2. Create a schedule
Tackling the Big Project: Sewing for Quilt Market - In Color Order
Binding, a photo by Jeni Baker on Flickr.
I'll be the first to admit I didn't do a very good job at this.  To be honest, I worked on little else during the month and a half leading up to Quilt Market.  It was unhealthy and left me feeling burned out when it was all over.  As I'm gearing up to sew for this Fall's Quilt Market I'm trying to set certain hours of the day for project sewing, leaving time for regular everyday tasks and things that can't be pushed aside like pattern writing and blogging.  It can be hard to find a good routine working from home.  It's far too easy (and sometimes necessary) to work too many hours a day and wear yourself out. Set boundaries for yourself and know when it's okay to break them.

3. Take it one day at a time
Tackling the Big Project: Sewing for Quilt Market - In Color Order
Nordika Drawstring Bags, a photo by Jeni Baker on Flickr.
This is the number one thing that helped me continue to sew for hours on end each day leading up to Quilt Market.  I set a goal for each day, along with mini goals throughout the day to keep me motivated.  When you have such a large project, there isn't a lot of instant gratification, so create some using small goals.  It keeps you motivated and also makes the project feel more manageable.  I would often set chocolate goals.  "If I get all of these blocks pieced, I can have a piece of chocolate." Or, "If I cut out the rest of this project, I can hop on Pinterest for a few minutes."  Creating rewards for getting things done not only helped me get more done, but it helped me save time. 

4. Don't cut corners
Tackling the Big Project: Sewing for Quilt Market - In Color Order
Nordika Side Braid Quilt, a photo by Jeni Baker on Flickr.
When it comes down to it, try to find shortcuts to make your life easier, but don't cut corners.  Use quality materials and tools. Do things the right way, even if it takes a little longer.  I rushed on basting the last quilt for my booth and I ended up with huge puckers on the back.  I ended up having to unpick most of the quilting (which took about 5 hours), re-baste part of it and then re-quilt it! If I had taken a little extra time in the beginning and basted it correctly I could have save myself loads of time!  20 minutes versus 6-7 hours, I think we all know which is the best choice!

5. Be reasonable
Tackling the Big Project: Sewing for Quilt Market - In Color Order
Rug Failure, a photo by Jeni Baker on Flickr.
So many of these things I learned as I was going through the process of preparing for Quilt Market, rather than before I started.  It's hard to know what is going to work until you've tried it.  This is my biggest piece of advice.  Be reasonable about what you can do given your limitations.  As I mentioned, for me those limitations were time and resources.  There were a few projects I tried to tackle that were unreasonable given the time I had.

For example,  I spent nearly 5 full days last Spring trying to make a braided rug from scratch.  It took forever to tear the bedsheets I'd chosen into strips, braid all of the strips and then sew them together into the rug.  In the end, it was a total and absolute failure! I sewed it on the machine and it didn't turn out flat.  The silly thing was, it was purely a decoration.  It wouldn't have helped me promote my products any better.  It should have been insignificant on my priority list and instead I wasted 5 days on it.  This time around, I'm really thinking about each possible project and evaluating whether it is a good use of my time.  Bounce your ideas off of friends or family if you can.  They are often the voice of reason!

I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I put the finishing touches on my booth and stepped back to admire all of my hard work.  It was a huge undertaking, but it all came together in the end.  I didn't take very good care of myself while I was working, and now that I'm about to do it all again, I'm being more thoughtful about how I'm approaching it.  At the end of the day, big projects demand that you make sacrifices. Make sure it's worth it! :)

24 comments :

  1. I love your chocolate rewards system. That would totally work with me, assuming I could be disciplined enough to truly wait until I had earned it :-)

    Planning, and breaking down into small pieces seems to be a common thread among all of our posts, but I think you may have been the first to point out the importance of taking care of yourself. Great point! And so easy to miss.

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  2. I agree with Lisa about your excellent point regarding self-care. One thing I didn't mention in my post is that after all these years I know I need to stop making by 8 pm or I'll start accidentally hurting myself & making mistakes.i learned I'm a start fresh in the morning person.

    I also like how it's clear for your experience that the more you tackle a big project like this, the better you can manage it. Experience counts!

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  3. OMG, now I'm even more impressed with all the output you created for Quilt Market, knowing how little time you actually had to work with! And not quite knowing how much fabric you'd have? That would have exploded my whole brain. You're truly a wonder woman!

    I love that you set work goals - I use that trick all the time, too. When I think about everything I have to do, I get overwhelmed and freak out. But if I give myself a specific and doable "work goal" for each day, and then I make myself stop working when it's accomplished, then I manage to meet deadlines. I used to make my daily goals too big, but now I limit myself to three things. Thanks so much for sharing your process with us!

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  4. Gorgeous booth, beautiful projects, great advice ... thanks for taking the time to share all of this. I think you've earned another piece of chocolate or two or three!

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  5. Great post, Jeni! I always try to make a plan/schedule, but I'm afraid I am amazing at underestimating how long something will take (even when I try to add extra time), so I'm usually behind almost immediately. One of these days... :)

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  6. This is perfect! Thank you for the wonderful tips!

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  7. I use candy rewards too - mostly for staying on top of my email. :-) "If you get your inbox down to 10 messages you may have a piece of sea salt caramel." And it's so good that you mentioned the self-care! It's so easy to put ourselves at the bottom of our to-do lists, but that never works out very well in the end.

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  8. I love your reward system, but I would be insanely fat if I used food rewards. Like you and George, I have a pet - actually 2 cats. For my reward, I give myself a 15 minute break, and spend some quality time with them, petting or playing with them. They love to fetch, (yes they think they are dogs), or play with this mousey toy that hangs off a stick. It makes me really happy to spend time with them, and I know they love the attention.

    I do have a question for you. How do you baste a large project? Do you use safety pins or to you hand baste? Thanks.

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    1. I use safety pins to baste all of my projects, large and small! For really large ones I usually go to my local shop since they have more floor space than me! :)

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  9. Thanks for the insight. People like you make it seem so effortless. It's nice to know you're human too.

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  10. That might be a worthless rug, but it is an awesome sombrero.

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  11. I remember being in awe watching all of your quilt market sewing unfold on instagram and was SO impressed that you pulled it all off with such a beautiful booth at QM! Truly a feat. :)

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  12. Hi Jeni

    This was a really interesting post - thank you :-) I liked what you said about scheduling in relation to burn out. It's so easy to over do it. Scheduling breaks is a good idea. If you are planning well then you should definitely allow time for breaks! You have a great blog :-)

    Martine

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  13. Thank you for another thoughtful, useful post! It helps me a lot to hear how organized creative people order things....I've been noticing how many little tips and bits I've learned from you and some others, have been quietly working their way into my everyday, making it better! Thank you for your time, insights, and energy!

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  14. Thank you so much for this Jeni it's terrific and perfect timing.

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  15. Hi Jeni, what a gorgeous booth. I really love that huge hexies quilt on your wall. Can you tell me if the hexies are appliqued or pieced? Could I make it by adapting your Colour Hex quilt pattern do you think? Thank you, Melanie

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    1. Hi Melanie! They actually are pieced! And that is my Color Hex pattern that I used to make it! :)

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    2. Thank you - that's perfect! Cheers

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  16. Jeni, I can't thank you enough for this super helpful post! In fact I am in the midst of the craziness right now, getting ready for my first Quilt Market in Houston and feeling a bit swamped under all the pressure... My problem is that I often forget to take care of myself at the end of the day, especially after the long work hours and after taking care of my family. Planning, self reward system, taking one day at a time, and self care... all makes so much sense to me! ;D

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  17. Such a great post, Jeni! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject!

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  18. I had the "take one at a time", too, when I was pregnant with the second child. The pregnancy was more challenging because of being less easier and having a little one already. I often said to myself "if you empty the dish washer than you can sit down and relax" or "if you load the washing machine you can sit down". Something like that. Helped a lot to get a few things done without hurting myself. Don't know if it's comparable but your words made me think of it.

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  19. I am getting ready for quilt market how do you get those hard walls for your booth? and those poles? Are those rentable?

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    1. The booths come with the poles and white curtains. The hard walls were constructed for me by Art Gallery Fabrics!

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