Since I retired in 2012 to become a full time studio fabric artist, I have found a need to develop a system to keep things organized for time and technique management. Initially, I felt that taking time to keep records cut into my creative time and resembled work too much. After all, I was here to have fun and make fabric art, right? 😄
Lately, I have added teaching local workshops and for several years have been working on writing several books.
So I found it necessary to figure out a way to keep up with all of this. In fact, the multi-faceted system I came up with saves time and reduces stress, and some of it is kind of fun. Without records I would spend a lot of time figuring out where I was within a project, what was next, and making mistakes I would not have made if I had notes I could refer to. This is especially important if there is an interruption in a specific project and I have a gap of time, or if I am working on more than one project at a time, which I often do (a show quilt, an approaching teaching session, a bit of writing, and even something just for me like clothing or my current bed quilt project).
My daughter-in-law Beth, who is also a quilter and a computer professional, suggested I look into www.Trello.com, which is a free organizational program designed for businesses. I find this program very easy to use and set up. It helps me keep up with project ideas and a general overview of where I am on each project, and you can put in a check list. It’s especially nice when I am doing a project with another person. Beth and I set up a team “Board” of Tatum Quilters so we could share projects. We haven’t done much in that direction, but we still talk about it from time to time…LOL So you might want to check it out.
While Trello helps me keep up with my ideas and plans for quilts, I found I need more detailed information and some of that doesn’t fit into a computerized file. So I also have my big black low tech notebook. I use this from the very beginning of a project and also keep other information in it. I write up ideas, make a general overall plan, keep tiny samples of fabrics, lists of threads, and other supplies, and put records of everything I need in this book for keeping my project together. The following images may give you an idea for your own notebook.
If you’d like to learn more about Pendragon, I have several blogs in which I included the making of this extensive project. The testing of borders and the making of Pendragon. So as you see, I also keep what you might think of as progress reports in this blog.
You might think that would be enough record keeping, but when I started doing show quilts that went to several shows, and sometimes had multiple quilts out for shows or exhibits, I found I had to make sure I knew where they were or were going. I needed to be careful that I didn’t enter the same quilt in a show that was being held at the same time another show that I had entered was held, or enter it into this year’s shows when they had already been shown or rejected from another year’s show (Just as a matter of principal, I never reenter a show that has rejected my quilt previously even if they accept this kind of entry). And I found I can’t enter another Mancuso show if the quilt has received a ribbon in another Mancuso show. So it became a kind of choreograph of the dance of the quilts.
I take care of this with a simple Microsoft Excel workbook with two spreadsheets. One keeps up with what shows that I am interested in and the deadline dates. The other spreadsheet keeps up with what has been where or entered where, with a simple asterisk if it placed in that show. I include an example of my workbook here. I don’t know if it will work on your computer or if it is anything you might want, but it was easy to include if it works for you and you are into show quilting.
Sew there you are. Yes, it is a complex four part system, but it also works well for me and so I wanted to share it. Believe it or not, it saves more time than it spends to do this, especially after getting started with it all, and it really helps keep down the stress factors in my busy busy studio. One more thing, I put on my calendar when a quilt has to be shipped once they are accepted into a show. I have occassionally waked up and wondered if I had missed a deadline, only to be happy to find I had not by looking on my calendar.
Sew happy everyone! Try making a show quilt or a master quilt, even if you don’t want to show it. You might want to keep your own records, with lots of pictures along the way (oh and yes, I have computer files with folders by the year for quilts made in that year. Yes, I back up everything). It will be fun to look back on it or if you want to remember how in the world you did that technique on that quilt some years ago.