The Key to Happiness

Some people say that the key to happiness is having lower expectations. Yesterday I had incredibly low expectations for myself and managed to beat them, which made me happy. So I guess it’s true!

Beyond going to the gym and doing a small amount of housework (emphasis on “small,”) I also learned a new skill that will help with an upcoming project.

My project will use an airplane in the center block. For a long time I figured to appliqué something, but recently I decided I’d rather piece it for better durability and so there isn’t the stiffness or chemicals of fusible web in the quilt. Hmm, piecing an airplane? That sounds like a job for paper piecing!

I have done paper piecing, and I’ve drawn my own papers for it, but they were quite simple. An airplane is more complex that a border of triangles. A search for available patterns didn’t coming up with the specific airplane I want, and I figured I’d need to draw my own. My next search was for tips on designing your own foundation patterns. Low and behold, I found the video at this link. It shows the steps to use in EQ7 for creating a paper-piecing pattern. (It couldn’t be embedded, so if you want to see it, you need to click the link.)

I have EQ8 software, but was able to “translate” the instructions to the current version. It helps to both slow down the speed of play and stop it regularly, to catch up to directions. I learned how to import an image into the block design worktable, and then use the drawing tool to simplify the image as a pieced block. The video then showed how to prepare the pattern for printing. It was so much easier than I could have imagined!

Here is my block, colored as if it were in fabric.

And here it is with the seam lines drawn in.

The software then separates and numbers the patches for the pattern. It is SO COOL.

Can I manage to keep my expectations or ambitions in check? Maybe not. Here is a list of things I have queued up:
* Finish quilting the rooster collage applique; bind and label it.
* Make the back for my Wind River Beauty project; load it, quilt it, bind and label it.
* Make and attach a label for a neighbor’s baby quilt, now that the baby has been born and has a name.
* Try creating the airplane block as above. If it works, move the rest of the project along.

I always think I can achieve more in any time frame than I really can. That might be optimism, and I haven’t unlearned it after all these years. It can make me feel a little disappointed and stressed when things don’t go as planned. But deliberately setting low expectations for a few days gives me permission to take my time, recapture pleasure, and look forward to the next steps. That’s the key…

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28 thoughts on “The Key to Happiness

  1. jeanswenson

    This post speaks to me on so many levels! Always being optimistic and sometimes the lowering of expectations on myself helps on those days that we just need to “breathe”. I also just got EQ8 for Christmas, and while I haven’t spent much time in a deep dive to learn all the ins and outs, I am thrilled to hear that it can help simplify paper piecing. I have two more big projects that I need to clear off my decks, then I think I will spend that time with learning EQ8 🙂

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      That’s great. Time learning new skills is almost never wasted. I’ve used EQ for several years but know I’ve only scratched the surface of what I could do with it. Partly that’s on purpose — I’d rather spend time making than playing with pictures — but partly it’s just laziness, of not wanting to spend the time. Then something like THIS happens!! and I think, wow, I wish I’d spent more time… 🙂 Enjoy and let me know if you find some really cool functions.

      Reply
      1. jeanswenson

        Haha – that sounds exactly like me – “I’d rather spend time making than playing with pictures”, and partly the not wanting to spend the time on that. Remember when we were kids, and time seemed endless? Boy, how I so wish for “endless” time now!

        Reply
  2. piecefulwendy

    I find that I think I can get more projects done in a day than I ever do. Lately, some of the work I’m doing results in getting only one block done. One! Part of it is the pattern; it’s not poorly written, but it also requires me to think through my fabrics, figure out how many of what color for each piece, etc., rather than saying “make 5 blue 2″ squares”. So it’s more time consuming. I’m just going to kick back and try to enjoy the process, rather than try to beat the clock. Now I want to go play on EQ8.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I guess that’s why we keep being encouraged to be “mindful.” Stay with what you’re doing and not worry too much about what comes next, or what did or didn’t happen in the past. Mostly I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have actual deadlines (mostly,) and any pressure I feel is (mostly) self-imposed! Go play!

      Reply
  3. Kerry

    That’s really cool! You are having fun – never too old to play. I I think that’s important too. I find I’m too easily distracted by pretty much anything.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I can get in a groove and really concentrate for a while, but breaks are important! And it helps a lot to have things written down so I know what to return to when I’m done with my break. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Kerry

        Housework sessions are rewarded by a play either with a bit of sewing or reading with a cup of coffee, then it’s done fairly quickly and painlessly – then the rest of the week is free for gardening, sewing or even just sitting with the chickens guilt-free!

        Reply
  4. katechiconi

    How cool to find something completely new you can do with EQ! I’m still old school enough to do stuff like that with pencil and paper, but it sure would be handy to have the pieces separated and numbered for me.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I think if a person had done a few PP patterns, they would have a feel for it, and the software wouldn’t be needed. Since I haven’t done this kind of thing before, I didn’t have anything already in my head for how you plan one. Of course, pretty quickly I keyed into it, since I was the one who drew the lines! But yeah, it helped to have the help.

      Reply
  5. tierneycreates

    Oooh – design your own foundation patterns! That would be great for future art quilt projects with stories that I want to convey in them! I might have to break down and get myself the EQ software someday! Fantastic airplane!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yep, you got me, Tierney. Now I’m thinking about the amazing Ruth McDowell stuff, which has such complex piecing! I’m not sure if she used PP or traditional, but PP would make a lot of it easier, I’d think. Thanks!

      Reply
  6. snarkyquilter

    I watched a MQG webinar last week where one pattern designer used EQ for her paper pieced patterns. I can see how it’s much faster than pencil/paper, once you’ve mastered the software. I love that it numbers your pieces.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, it separates the design into segments and numbers them, or you can turn off that default if you’d rather do it yourself. One of the features I like is that you can size things however you wish. If you draw it (an airplane, say,) as a 10″ block and decide you’d rather have it as a 12″ block, you just change the parameters instead of redrawing it. That, really, is where the potential time savings is.

      Reply
  7. Ann

    I haven’t used EQ since 2. It’s intriguing to see what you can do with the new versions. And I pieced some prop planes a few years ago. Again, yours are updated jets. Have fun.

    Reply
  8. Shasta Matova

    I was going to say I agree with lowering your expectations, but it doesn’t seem like you need to. You are doing great whatever your expectations are. I love this airplane block!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, it seems pretty doable! Ultimately it is 3 long pieces with the fuselage and wing segments, and then the tail. Not too bad! I do want to add a bit of overage along the outside edges so I can trim to a slightly better size. Could work that out in the pattern, but actually now it will be easier to work it out in the cloth. 🙂 Thanks!

      Reply

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