Saturday, February 22, 2014

How to apply for a job and actually get hired

I recently wrote a grant which enabled me to hire additional help for my collections. This, apparently, is both a blessing and a curse. It's been about five years since I've been involved in a hiring process. It was around the same time that I not only served on a search committee but also started applying for jobs. I do not claim to be an expert in this area, but I've gotten as far as phone interviews for all the jobs to which I've applied and feel like I've helped find successful candidates for every opening for which I've served as a search committee member. So I must know a little something, right?

After two weeks of receiving applications, I have a few things to say to all those people out there applying for work. Will following these steps guarantee you will get a job? I can't promise that. Will following these steps mean you won't frustrate some poor person overwhelmed with job applications? Yes, I can promise that. And if you don't frustrate the people sitting on the hiring side of the table, the next time your name comes across, you may be just the person for the job. Bear in mind that these lessons learned from from the academic, private, non-profit, library/archive setting. Each profession is a bit different, but I'm pretty sure these tips will help just about everyone.

So, in no particular order, Joy's guide to not frustrating the people you hope will hire you.

1. Don't spend the majority of your cover letter explaining how good you are at something that wasn't even hinted at in the job description.
Job description: You will work with old paper in filing cabinets.
Cover letter: I rock at customer service.
Evaluation: The old paper doesn't care how well you work with people. Tell me why your experience qualifies you to work with old paper. If you can't come up with an answer, don't apply to the job.

2. Don't spend your entire cover letter addressing how much you want to work in one particular type of organization if that's not the type of organization to which you are applying.
Job description: This is a non-profit research library.
Cover letter: I have always wanted to work with students in an academic setting.
Evaluation: Well then, why don't you go apply to an academic institution? Even if this isn't your dream job, at least pretend like you read the description or did a bit of research about the institution online. In other words, lie, openly admit your shortcomings, or apply to another position.

3. If you put one of those super trendy goal sentences at the top of your resume, be sure it matches the position to which you are applying.
Job description: This is a job in an archive at a nonprofit institution.
Resume: I hope to find an awesome job working with debt collection (No. Lie. Though perhaps paraphrased).
Evaluation: Why are you wasting my time? Even if the job doesn't exactly match your professional goals, at least try.

4. The cover letter should be a concise document highlighting how the skills you have listed on your CV/resume directly fill the requirements of the particular position. This is not a thesis or dissertation. I tolerate two pages if you make it good, but if you cannot communicate in closer to one page why you are the perfect candidate for the job, you have not demonstrated an ability to communicate effectively.
Evaluation: I stop reading after the second page. And if you went on to say something brilliant on the fifth page (I kid you not), and it's not in the last paragraph, I did not read it.

5. If there are specific ways/formats/items that are requested for your application packet, make sure you include all of them. Especially if attention to detail is one of the job requirements.
Application instructions: Email a cover letter and resume to the following person as a pdf.
Result: Emailed a resume to another person in WordPerfect format with no cover letter.
Evaluation: You  obviously cannot follow directions, so I am concerned that you lack an attention to detail which was a requirement for the job. I will not waste my time when there are a dozen other candidates who know how to follow directions.

6. At least in the library/archive world, ask questions. If there is something you don't understand about the position or you are just interested in a little more information, ask politely and don't be annoying. Any and all interaction you have with anyone at the hiring institution will influence the evaluation of your application.
Application instructions: If you have questions about the position, contact this person.
Result: You ask a question, then ask more, then start asking more and offering advice on the hiring process as well as the nature of the work. Then say you're going to apply.
Evaluation: You are annoying, and you are wasting my time. While you may be the perfect candidate for the job, your behavior does not win brownie points.

7. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, and tone are all very important in a cover letter and resume. Lower case "i" when you refer to yourself is incorrect. Ellipses all over your resume are incorrect and make me think you are hiding something. Misspellings are incorrect. Have someone else look at all of your documentation BEFORE you send it.Check, double check, and then have someone else check, especially if you really want the job.
Evaluation: Unless the sum total of your experience and application are so completely, overwhelmingly outstanding, these errors will reduce the likelihood of hiring.

8. Include your complete contact information, which would include your address. I'm not going to write you a letter, but it's always nice to know where someone lives. Will this influence the hiring process? It may, but by being honest, you may find that you really are judged by your qualifications.
p.s. If you have one of those super cutesy, quirky, snarky, silly, or crude email addresses, go to your free email service of choice and register yourself a plain, boring, professional email address. Now.

9. Before you send in any application, double check your online presence. Facebook page decent? LinkedIn profile up to date? Any other surprises out there that some enterprising hiring agent will find? Clean it up or lock it down. Also, bear in mind that if a hiring agent can't find you at all online, that's suspicious these days.
Bonus advice: If you've slammed your current or previous employer(s) openly online, that does not look good for you. If you've talked about your application process openly online, the hiring agent will see that. I've been on search committees in the past where a candidate has been eliminated because of the public, online reaction that was posted concerning the interview experience.

10. Always include references, even if they weren't requested. It makes your application stand out and proves that you have nothing to hide. And no, your mom should not be a reference.

So, turns out I had ten tips. Perhaps I'll have another post after phone interviews commence.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wait, it's October?

Life has certainly been busy recently. Moving, campaigning, crafting, unpacking, travelling. It's left me with little motivation to add to this little blog, but here we go.

We have two dear friends who are adopting from Uganda (read all about it here), and I wanted to make quilts for the two additions to their family before they left. Two quilts. At the same time. I really adore a baby quilt pattern that I have used in the past (the small quilt at the end of the post), but it just wasn't going to work for this project. I wanted to incorporate fabric from the previous two quilts that I made for their homegrown children into the two quilts for their heart grown children, but unfortunately, the fabric pieces I had left just weren't big enough for my go to pattern (one that I have made 4 times now... I really love that pattern!).

So, what do I do? I go and find some inspiration.

The first nudging of an idea came when I was watching a new PBS special on the Quilts of Valor program (which is something I would love to do at some point). Eleanor Burns (of Quilt in a Day fame) was featured on the program doing a Tossed Nine Patch pattern. She made it look so simple. So very, very simple. So, I thought that these two baby quilts would be the perfect way to test this pattern out. Small, quick, easy. Simple, right?

In theory.

So, the basic pattern of a tossed nine patch is pretty straight forward:
1. Sew a nine patch block (9 equal sized squares sewn in three rows of three)
2. Cut the nine patch block into four equal squares.
3. Toss all the new squares and reassemble them into a beautiful quilt that looks much more difficult to sew.

Simple, right? (I even found a YouTube video of how "simple" Eleanor makes it out to be).

Well, the problem is that I have a really hard time matching fabric. Well, really, matching anything. It was fun to go shopping in my stash for all the fabrics, reliving memories, thinking about the different projects that I had sewn. I found fabrics that I felt coordinated with the two from the original quilts and complimented each other without actually making the same quilt for both children.

I decided to make 4 inch squares to sew into the nine patch pattern and make 12 nine patch blocks. Using a standard 1/4 inch sew allowance, this would give me a finished quilt of about 31" x 42" which, I've been told, is a pretty ideal size for a child's blanket. So I cut lots of fabric and figured out which fabrics went with what. And tried to balance the use of flannel and cotton in the two quilts.

But then I over thought the process. Or maybe under thought? Either way, step three for quilt one took waaaaaay longer than I expected.

I think in the end, though, the quilts turned out quite nicely.

This was the first quilt that I did. For this one, I did not take Eleanor's advice to use the same fabric for the center square of each nine patch. I had some convoluted way of arranging the fabrics in the nine patches and working through some sort of pattern that made sense in my head but was extremely chaotic after the whole jumbling process. The arranging of this quilt to make sure that the colors were well distributed and none of the same fabrics were touching took me two days. Really. Ask Jeff.

And here's the second quilt. For this one, I did use the same fabric for each of the nine patch blocks and arranged the other eight fabrics in a much more intuitive way (I figured out which ones looked nice next to each other, and then just rotated the eight fabrics around the center block for each of the 12 nine patch blocks). This made the post-jumble layout of the quilt MUCH easier.

Jeff picked out which backing went with which quilt since I forgot what I was thinking in between buying the fabric and actually attaching it to the fronts.

And blanket binding. How I hate thee! But, in my opinion, no baby blanket is complete without that satiny finish along the edges, so it is always worth the bother. No matter how many times I do attach this blanket binding, I always forget what I did the last time. My favorite tutorials are here and here. The key is getting your zig zag stitch just right to minimize bunching.

I am not a quilter that actually quilts her quilts, so these are just tied with coordinating floss. The batting is 100% cotton which is the perfect weight for Florida.

I was so worried that the quilts would be too busy and crazy, but when I delivered them to their new home, they seemed to fit right in. The coolest thing, too, was that I had no hint on nursery theme for these puppies, so I started with the animal fabrics (thanks, Mom. Those are from your stash!), the two fabrics from the other quilts (which are the green palm tree and the light yellow polka dot), and went from there. Turns out the two babies will be welcomed with a circus theme! And blanket number one has a fabric that coordinates almost perfectly with the crib bumper for the bed. God was certainly in the sewing room with me on these ones to make sure they turned out just right for this very special project.

The tossed nine patch really was a fun pattern, but I'm not sure if I would do it again. Or if I did, I would probably have the nine patches in all one color family. The next quilt will be back to my favorite again :-)

(p.s. Thanks for the photos, Karissa, since I completely forgot to take some in the rush of finishing the quilts on time. You can see them featured in her virtual baby shower here)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Quilts big and small

I promised that I would soon post a post (redundant?) about a large project on which I was working, and because I waited long enough, you'll get a two for one deal. If you stay until the end, you may even get a bonus project.

Quilt number one (drum roll please....)

My SIL commissioned me to make this quilt for her niece that will be attending FSU this Fall (Congrats, Brianna!!). This was the very first full size quilt that I have ever completed... or really attempted for that matter, so I was a little intimidated. I didn't really have many guidelines for the quilt, just make it FSU and preferably a twin size rather than a lap blanket. The finished product is about 90" x 60" (its shown on our queen size bed and reached the edges).

I didn't really take pictures as I made it since, quite frankly, I was flying by the seat of my pants on design. To start, I based my design a bit off of Nancy Zieman's "fat free triangle" method. It made the sewing part go super fast, but I still hate all the cutting. I had to go back to the fabric store a few times since I miscalculated material amount (hey, I'm an English major, not a math major). I also didn't realize how difficult it would be to find coordinating fabrics to match the FSU licensed stuff. The yellow (or gold or whatever the "official" color is called) is really a bizarre color, so I found it was actually easier to find material that matched the crimson color (which I thought would be really difficult to match). If I were to do something like this again, I would probably make the double blocks of the crimson FSU fabric actual rectangles to save some time.

I did some basic machine quilting which you can see in the first small picture. I chose to go around the diamonds as the simplest design element. This was my first experience machine quilting something this large, and my machine and I exchanged quite a few words. I definitely recognize the benefit of having a long arm machine, now. In addition to the machine "stitching in the ditch," I also tied with crimson and gold floss around the solid squares. The one thing I discovered with this is make sure you have a needle with a large enough eye so that you're not killing your fingers trying to pull the floss through all of the layers.

For the binding, I cheated a little and used a self-binding technique. I researched many different sites on the internet to find some help with this, but I liked the binding help on Annie's Attic and Ludlow Quilt and Sew the best. There was also a series of videos on YouTube by the Missouri Star Quilt Company that was great, too (be careful, though. I got lost for quite some time watching all of their fantastic tutorials). I also machine sewed the binding rather than hand slip-stitch since I was on a bit of a time crunch. I think that it turned out quite nice.

The other tip that I found while layering this quilt was that you need a large space (thank you living room floor). A hard floor is nice. In order to make the backing nice and tight, you really need to tape the backing fabric to the floor (if you have carpet, you can also pin it into the carpet). I never knew that, but I'll admit that it took me a few frustrating hours before I caved and looked up why my backing fabric wouldn't stay smooth during my layering process. Let my frustration be your learning experience. And if you're curious, I used a 100% cotton batting that isn't as fluffy as polyester batting but is just perfect for Florida.

Also, since I didn't use all those scraps left over from the fat-free triangle method, I do have more FSU fabric for anyone interested :-) It's probably not enough to make another full size quilt, but we could work out something.

Quilt number 2 is much smaller and in a pattern that I have done several times before:

It's a crib size quilt I made for a friend who will soon be blessed with a little boy. As you may have guessed, the theme is dinosaurs (ROAR!). The fabrics are a mix of 100% cotton, cotton flannel, and fuzzy-material-that-should-not-be-manufactured-because-it-is-a-nightmare-to-use-and-makes-a-huge-mess (although I think the official name is warm & cuddly). I declared that the little pieces of green fabric it left behind should be dubbed fabric poo. I love using the satin binding on these baby quilts because I feel that every baby needs a little oy-oy (as my brother used to say) in their lives. I just wish that I would remember how I attach it so that I don't have to rethink the process everytime I make this pattern. For this quilt, I did a little hand quilting around all the fuzzy fabric. I found that it was so much thicker than the cotton, that it just needed a little something to help ground the whole thing together.

And the bonus project is fancy burp clothes for the same baby. What baby doesn't need some camo in his life?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My name is Joy, and I might be a Luddite

I have recently come to terms with the fact that I am a bit of a Luddite. And what, some of you may ask, exactly is a Luddite? According to the Oxford English Dictionary (that's the OED to its closest friends), a Luddite is "one who opposes the introduction of new technology, esp. into a place of work." A group of manufacturers were given this name after following one Captain Ludd in protests during the Industrial Revolution. They essentially tried to stop the march of progress by destroying the machines that were replacing them in the factories. Obviously, they weren't successful, but the name stuck. So that's something they accomplished.

It's not that I don't appreciate technology. Hey, I'm using a blog. I have a Facebook account. Email rocks. Twitter and LinkedIn may grow on me. We just bought a tablet (but I hate (!!) mobile apps. I want to see all of the options, not just the ones your choose for me). And the Internet, well, it's pretty cool.

The Internet: it's bigger on the inside (who's a Doctor Who fan out there?).

Love the IT Crowd.

Sorry. Back to the main topic.

It's just the rate that technology and gadgets are changing can be a bit mind numbing at times. Being in the information profession (that's fancy speak for librarianship), I think that I see so much more of the new technologies, and even what I see is only the tip of the ice burg. My position in the Tower does keep me a bit insulated from many new fangled notions since I'm just trying to pull us past the mid-1990's (I'm getting a new scanner!!). I just find myself thinking I wish I could just give it all up, plow an acre of land, make my own clothes, and coordinate an old fashioned book exchange for the other homesteaders nearby.

So what prompted this oh so very philosophical post? As I may have mentioned, I'm running for an office on the Board of SLA (that's Special Libraries Association). As part of the campaign process, we have to answer questions periodically to help the members get to know us. You can see my most recent post here. The question about techie gadgets just irked me a bit. I really had to tone down my snark. Again, it's not that I have anything wrong with techie gadgets, but they are certainly not the end all be all of helping people in a library or information resource or research setting (and I don't really think the question implied that, it's just where my mind went this evening).

Here was my work for the last two weeks: listening to recordings of carillon concerts (good, actually very enjoyable) combined with trying to get my computer to do something else so I could multitask (not so good) all the while trying to find carillon music appropriate to play during a 5K race (you can still participate). Today, I had 4 hours to actually burn the CD. Between the additional editing that needed to be done, the rare visitor that came to see me in the library, and my super slow computer, it took me 5 hours to accomplish this task. Yes, my computer is that slow. Really. It's not that I was just impatient. It took an hour and a half to burn 66 minutes worth of music to a CD today. What new techie gadget do I want? A computer that works faster than a snail's pace. A scanner with a wide enough bed to capture 8.5 x 11" paper (who buys a scanner made for A4 paper in the US?). A phone that doesn't get all static when a storm is approaching. Reliable electricity and temperature control (historic buildings are a bit of a bummer about things like that). Running water (I kid not). There are librarians out in the world doing what they can with a whole lot less. Tablets, smart phones, apps, blah, blah, blah. Let's make sure everyone has the basics before we go all crazy. The good news is that I should be getting a newer computer, scanner, and other 21st century computer equipment next week!! Eeee!

Call me a Luddite. It's ok. I'd even wear the t-shirt.

If I start a tech-free commune, who wants a plot of land?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Crafting is good for the soul

We'll just ignore that once again I have seriously neglected this blog. I'll say that life has been consumed by many things. I'm running for an office on the international board of SLA, serving my regional SLA chapter as president,  planning some trips to conferences, and crafting away. I've been working on a really large project that I'll be able to share soon (but not yet) and some smaller projects in between.

Last weekend, I facilitated a Bible study for my church's women's retreat. We evaluated our thought closets, considering how it is that we as women talk to ourselves, what takes up the most space in our thoughts, and how God would actually like us to talk to ourselves and prioritize our thoughts. I had my doubts about the format (we watched several videos in the Jennifer Rothschild study Me, Myself, and Lies: A Thought Closet Makeover) since we were trying to cram the lessons of a 6 week study into a weekend, but I think it went well. Our church is planning on doing the rest of the study this summer, and I really can't wait.

So, what does this have to do with crafting? Crafty woman that I am, I couldn't miss out on an opportunity to make a little something for the ladies that attended the event. A few months ago, I saw a blog post about making journal jars, and I stuck it on the back burner of my mind. When I started studying for this event, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity.

Step one: gather jars of all shapes and sizes. Why buy jars when we empty jars all the time? The size of the jars ranged from a small jam jar up to a spaghetti sauce jar. It really made no difference, but I think I liked the odd shaped jelly jars the best. Make sure the lids fit snugly on the jars. I found metal worked better than plastic in terms of holding the paint. I did use one canning jar, and I just glued the two pieces of the lid together with tacky glue.

Step two: make sure the jars and lids are nice and clean, clear of all labels and glue, and don't smell funny (like one pickle jar I wanted to use). A nice long soak in warm soapy water worked well for most, but you may need to pull out the Goo-gone on the tougher labels.

Step three: I painted the jar lids to make them look less like discarded food jars and more like a crafty item. I painted both the outside and inside of the lids to give them a more finished look. This was the part that took the longest since you need to let the paint dry completely between coats. The outside of the lids took about three coats, depending on the lid material (plastic, metal, shiny metal). The insides only took about two (mostly because I was lazy).

Step four: jazz them up! I found a super cute dress form graphic over at the Graphics Fairy, my go-to site for license free graphics. Book mark it. Now. After some consultation with my DH, we agreed that I should color them to match the lids. I think that it added a very nice touch. I used my Crayola True to Life crayons that have complimenting colors mixed into one crayon (they are my most favorite crayons which is why it is so sad they were discontinued). For the inside of the lid, I made a little reminder of the Bible verse that was the focus of our study.

Step five: I attached the graphics to the lids using Mod Podge which is always super fun to use. It took about two coats to cover the graphics and make it smooth enough. I am also hoping that this step will help protect the paint from chipping. Let the lids dry completely before placing them back onto the jars (the point is to be able to reopen them after all).

Step six: fill the jars with journal prompts. I used a bunch of thoughts from our study and then when I gave the jars to the ladies, I encouraged them to continue filling them with favorite Bible verses and other prompts that will remind them of God's will for their lives. I colored the back of the paper to match the lids and dress forms.

If you had a journal jar, what would you put in it?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Florida Association of Museums conference 2011

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of leading a panel of presenters at the annual Florida Association of Museums (FAM) conference over in Tampa. The four of us shared about the unique situations in which museum libraries find themselves, smashed between the two similar but disparate worlds of museums and libraries. It was so much fun. I love conferences, and I remembered that I really love to share with others. I love talking about libraries with other librarians, but I love even more talking about libraries with people that are not librarians. I love sharing ideas and hearing ideas and re-energizing myself and others for the banal tasks we have to do every day. It was great. I only wish that I could have stayed for the whole conference, but budgets are what they are. I was able to get in to the lunch yesterday and hear the keynote speaker. He challenged the listeners to push limits, look for audiences outside the norm, and take risks. Great advice for any business.

For part of the take-away of our presentation, I compiled a list of library resources. During the conversations our panel had, I discovered that many museum professionals that find themselves working in a museum library are not aware of the wealth of information available for training, grants, and general reference. I decided to include my list here. It is in no way complete. I tried to keep it to one page, front and back, so there were many resources that I was unable to include.

We're not all librarians, but what are some of your favorite go-to resources for what you do?

Library Resources for the Museum Professional

Compiled by: Joy M. Banks, Librarian, Anton Brees Carillon Library, Bok Tower Gardens
for Florida Association of Museums, Sept. 20, 2011

General Websites
Florida State Library Resources for Librarians – A source for resources too numerous to list including state wide job postings, a registry of libraries in the state (be sure to register yours!), information about grants, contact information for regional library consortia, and general resources to improve library services.

Library of Congress – The LOC website is filled with rich information for libraries and archives. Check out the sites dedicated to preservation (, building digital collections (, and their general librarians and archivists resource page (

LISNews – A great source for the latest in news and blogs related to libraries and library services. Sign up for their email digest to get summaries of stories sent straight to you.

IMLS Museums, Libraries and 21st Century Skills – While this initiative took place during 2010-2011, the resources on this website include self-assessment tools to see how an institution rates with 21st century skills and a report that includes case reports and the vision for libraries and museums in the future. Check out the rest of the IMLS website for grant opportunities.

Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science – One stop dictionary for defining all of those acronyms that fill library and information science vocabulary. A great way to help you help others understand the value of what you do.

Resources for Museum and Curatorial Librarians – a general listing of both electronic and print resource for librarians. Many of the resources are geared towards art institutions.

Special Libraries Association – For best library practice, networking, and finding colleagues in similar library situations. Of particular interest may be the Florida & Caribbean Chapter (, the Museum, Art, and Humanities Division (, and the Solo Division (

Library of Congress Catalog – a great reference to find MARC records and call number.

Library of Congress Authority file – a definitive reference for finding authorized subject headings, name authority headings, and uniform titles.

OCLC – One of the largest consortia of library in the world with over 72,000 member libraries. Their website includes great resources for bibliographic standards, training (many of them free), and a long list of helpful listservs to which you can subscribe. – This is the open version of OCLC’s extensive, international WorldCat database. It’s a great resource to see who else has books you have or who has books your patrons may need.

Library of Congress guide to Library Discussion Lists:
IFLA guide to Library Discussion Lists:

The following list is in no way complete but includes lists of general interest.
Fl-lib Listserv - This list is devoted to messages and discussions relating to the library community in Florida. Participation in the list is open to anyone, anywhere.

AutoCat – For all your cataloging questions. If they can’t answer you, they know someone who can.

Circplus – Library circulation and related issues.

LIBJobs – A mailing list for librarians and information professionals seeking employment and employers wishing to advertise their jobs.

Libref-L – Discussion of library reference issues.

DigLib – A discussion list for digital library researchers and librarians.

Wateren, Jan van der. The importance of museum libraries. INSPEL 33 (1994)4, pp. 190-198.

Continuing Education
Lifelong Education at Desktop (LE@D) – Offerings from the University of North Texas for professional development of librarians. Some are offered for free (sign up for their e-newsletter) and some are more in-depth for a fee. All are online.

Other sources for free and low cost library training include OCLC, regional consortia (, professional organizations, and schools with LS programs

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back to Crafty

Let's just call the last month and a half of silence a Summer break and get this thing rolling again.

Life has been keeping me busy with future planning at work, future planning with the Florida & Caribbean Chapter of SLA, and a little future planning at home. Unfortunately, all that future planning didn't leave me much time or desire to reflect on what's happening in the here and now. I'd just like to take a moment and update what few faithful readers I may have left on my current crafting project.

Back in 2003, my mom thought it would be a great idea to make matching Christmas pj's for me, my sister, and her. Aren't we cute?

For the next few years, she continued this tradition, expanding her repertoire to include my nieces, sister-in-law, brother, dad, and husband. After a few years, it was just too many pajamas. A while back, I started thinking about all that flannel going to waste in her drawer. Florida climate being what it is, there isn't much call for long sleeve flannel nightgowns even in the dead of winter. She was glad to make room in her drawers and gave me her nightgowns to turn into a quilt.

You probably thought I was going to post a picture of the completed quilt next. Fooled you!

I finally have all the squares cut from the three nightgowns. Can I also just say at this point that I detest cutting fabric. I'll even go one step further and say I loathe cutting fabric. I am convinced I am not an avid quilter simply because of the amount of fabric that one must cut before sewing begins. So. There you have it. I also have additional fabric from another year that I didn't even bother cutting plus a pair of pj pants that Jeff no longer wears, but with over 300 squares, I think I'm good for now. I didn't really think about making a tutorial for this until I was just about done with all my cutting, so bear with me a bit.

The first step was deconstructing the nightgowns to get the most use of the material without loosing my mind. I decided to just cut off the seams rather than rip them out. I started by cutting up the sides, cutting off the sleeves, and cutting the shoulder seams. I didn't bother trimming off the hem of the sleeves or shoulders, but I did cut off the neck line. The finished product looked something like this:
I chose to make 5 inch squares for my quilt mostly because of the the width of the sleeves (just over 15 inches at the narrowest point). I wasn't too concerned with grain and all that since I'm using scrap fabric. Just make a straight cut somewhere, and go from there. There are about a million tutorials online for cutting fabric, but I found this one on Make and Takes pretty useful.

Oh, and since you're using old nightgowns, be sure to iron the fabric really well after you detach all the seams and before you start cutting your blocks.

I started with the sleeves, cut long strips 5 inches wide and then cut the strips into 5 inch blocks. For the body of the nightgown, I folded the fabric in half to create a straight edge before trimming. While folded in half, I cut the material into the 5 inch strips. I layered these strips on top of each other (I only did 2 layers) and then proceeded to make my 5 inch squares. Twice as fast, twice as fun? Maybe. All of the scraps, I set aside to make my 1 inch squares. I followed the same method to do the inch squares, but they are just tinier. Here are my piles of squares:

Each nightgown gave me over 100 5 inch squares, but your results would all depend on the size of the nightgowns and the size of the squares you cut. I have no idea how many 1 inch squares I'll get because I'm still cutting them. Did I mention my feelings toward cutting?

I am now working on sewing together the 1 inch squares into several mini postage stamps quilts so that I can imbed them in the quilt. I am using a denim quilt I made many years ago as a model.

That's me, my sister, and dad a million years ago. You can see that the seams are frayed and fuzzy. I chose this method since flannel is nice and cozy, will fray in a similar way as denim, and you rarely need anything any thicker than a single layer quilt in Florida.

Here is the process I am using for the postage stamp portion of the quilt. I did a little geometry and figured that I would need to make these 8 x 8 squares with a little less than a 1/4 inch seam between each block. That gets the square down to the 5" x 5" size so that I'll be able to sew them easily into the quilt. Here we are in process and with my first completed block:

You can see on the right, the last row I've already sewn the blocks together. I am doing this part of the sewing by hand (I'm pretty good at judging the 1/4 inch seam allowance). Sew the blocks WRONG sides together (I know, it's a bit counter-intuitive) so the seams will be on the top of the quilt. My sewing machine is a bit... persnickity, and I didn't want to deal with the hassle. You can see how much the size of the block shrinks after you sew it. Once all the rows are sewn in this method, I took them upstairs to iron them. Alternate the direction of the seams so the rows will fit nicely together. Sew the rows together wrong sides together with the same size seam on your machine that you used while sewing by hand. The completed block is on the left.

I am taking the time to arrange each block, but as you can see, since only about 1/2 inch square is visible after everything is sewn together, you can pretty much just combine the blocks in any way you wish. I haven't quite figured out if I'm going to make the completed quilt 10 x 10 or 8 x 8. We'll have to see. I was hoping that I could submit it to Joann's Quilt Your Colors Contest since my mom did buy all the fabric at that store. After reading the entry requirements, though, you have to show the receipts of purchase. I doubt that she still has those :-) Besides, this will be more country comfort than work of art.

I'll be sure to post pictures when I'm done. Hopefully before Christmas.