Thursday, June 25, 2015

I need MORE pincushions

WARNING:  The following blog post contains language that may be unsuitable for some readers. If you have an aversion to terms like adorable, precious, darling, cute, and super duper cute, you may wish to stop reading.

In the spring of 2013 I purchased a “Little Bites” pattern for pincushions called “Morsel” (by Carrie Nelson of Miss Rosie’s Quilt Co.).  The Morsel projects were intended as a way to use up 2 ½” squares, and that was probably about the time I started getting hooked on mini charms.  Well, I made my first pincushion that spring, and Carrie’s instructions were fabulous!  In addition to her pattern’s step-by-step instructions, there were also general guidelines and tips on getting creative and making your own shape or size and embellishing them as you like.  I also distinctly remember that part of the fun included going to the pet store with my daughter to purchase crushed walnut shells (used for bird or lizard cages) . . . what a terrific filling it makes!  Anyway, my first pincushion turned out just darling! No big surprise to those who know me well, I used Fig Tree & Co. scraps, this time “California Girl.”

Well this pincushion was so fun and so cute I had to make one for my friend Ibby, who faithfully organizes our annual quilting retreats.  Then Ibby asked me to make one for her mom, who is another wonderful quilting friend, so of course I made one for her too.  Then my busy sister Stacy, who is a terrific cook and gardener, shocked me by asking to borrow a sewing machine so she could take up quilting! (Yippee!) So, naturally I had to make her a darling, little pincushion.  And not long after that, my friend Carolyn took up quilting.  She went straight from, “I think I want to start quilting” to making a lovely full sized quilt!  And yes, Carolyn needed a pincushion too.  I was on a roll.  Five pincushions from my Morsels pattern and every one was just super duper cute.

I have no idea how or why I fell off the wagon, but I have not made another pincushion since then . . . not for two years!  And come on, I had only made ONE for me!  I definitely needed more pincushions for my sewing room! Well I found the cutest pattern (sorry, it had to be said) in Heidi Staples’ book “Sew Organized for the Busy Girl.”  What a terrific book, filled with a variety of fun projects I hope to try. I made Heidi’s “Deluxe Pin Cushion” in one short evening and I love it. It even has a pocket!  Are you kidding me?  Cuteness alert!

A day or two later, a little quilting voice started nudging at the corners of my brain that there was one more pincushion I needed to make.  The mother of all pincushions.  The pièce de résistance.  There was a pattern in Joanna Figueroa’s book “With Fabric & Thread” that I have been avoiding since I got the book in December of 2012.  Drumroll . . . the “Pin Cushion Buttercup,” a three dimensional flower pincushion with petals and leaves . . . the whole floral works!  The pictures in the book are absolutely charming, but it looks tricky, and time consuming, and possibly like a project that might cause me to throw something across the sewing room.  But hey, I had recently conquered my fear of zippers . . . twice.  I figured I could do this too!

And I did . . . and my Buttercup pincushion turned out precious, cute, darling . . . nope, it is beautiful!  Many thanks, once again, to Joanna who writes instructions like a seasoned classroom teacher.

As a treat to myself, I used the technique in Joanna’s book for making the round center portion of the flower, to make two pincushion balls that I could stuff into some sweet little polka dot measuring cups I wasn’t using.  Silly as it sounds, these two ten-minute pincushions might end up being my favorites.  I really love that little trick-or-treating girl! She makes me smile.

I began this post with a warning about the language I was going to use.  Now I will close with a disclaimer.  I don’t use pincushions . . . at all!   ;)

I pin a lot, I’m a nut about pinning, but I tend to leave a trail when I work.  My pins end up not just on my sewing machine, or sewing table, but also the cutting table, the ironing board, the floor, the bookshelf . . . you get the idea.  So after about an hour of work I take my old, cracked and scuffed magnetic pin holder and swipe it about the room, gathering my mess of pins.

But I still love my pincushions.  And I’m certain that I need more.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Just Because Quilts: A crazy notion husbands may not understand

Over the years my husband has learned that when I’m working on a quilt, he shouldn’t ask what or who it is for.  Sometimes he knows what I am up to, because I’ve been yackety yacking in his ear while he is trying to watch golf or football or “Deadliest Catch” on TV. I’m starting on that flannel receiving blanket for so and so . . . or . . . I’m making a new movie watching quilt for the family room,” I might say.  He’ll reply with a nice comment, one eye on the TV, one eye (briefly) on me.  It’s a nice system.  We both like it.

This system works particularly well when I am making a quilt just because I want to make it, just for me, without a reason or a purpose.  I get super absorbed, even obsessed, by those quilts I am making just because the pattern is beautiful, or the kit was irresistible or I’ve been waiting for the fabric to come in for months.  I know the quilt will find a home eventually, so I don’t really need a reason.  Occasionally I feel “wallet guilt” for buying fabric and making something “just because,” but I am able to push that from my mind pretty easily.  He doesn’t ask.  I don’t tell.  I just keep sewing.

Once, about a year ago, our system saw a little glitch. I had just received my "Canned Pears" quilt back from the quilter. This was a kit I had purchased on the Fig Tree & Company website. Made up of beautiful Fig Tree fabrics in the softest tones, all those sweet pears surrounded by a darling checkerboard border just made me happy! And the free motion quilting by Nancy Jolene Quilting was stunning.  I couldn’t wait to start on the butterscotch colored binding.  I absolutely loved this quilt . . . and then I showed it to my husband.

He nodded and agreed that it was very pretty, and then he asked the question, “What is it for?”  I was surprised and stumped.  We’d been married nearly 25 years.  I seriously thought he knew better than to ask that question!  All I could think to say was, “I’m not sure.”  He raised one eyebrow at me (the other eye was likely on the TV) as if to say, “Well, what was the point of that then?”  And somewhere in the depths of my first born, bossy, Type-A personality I snapped out this response:  “It’s kind of like when you spend an entire weekend 'catch and release' fishing and don’t come home with any supper for the table.”   He just grinned.  Touché.  System back in line.

After I finished the binding, I carried the quilt from room to room in my house and determined it really needed to be in my kitchen (makes sense—pears—kitchen—no big leap there). Of course, I don’t have the wall space in my kitchen for a quilt of that size, and so began the online search for a tall, old wooden painting ladder. Mission accomplished thanks to an area online garage sale.  And then naturally, the ladder was a bit too paint spattered for my liking. Since I was also obsessed with chalk painting at the time, the messy ladder received a nice coat of nest-colored paint and wax.  But then there was the problem of the burgundy walls in my kitchen, which really clashed with the just because “Canned Pears” quilt, so the kitchen walls received a fresh coat of neutral paint as well.

I like to think that somewhere in my subconscious I knew all along the answer to my husband’s question, “What is it for?”  Turns out it was just for me, just because I love it, and just because my kitchen needed some serious perking up. 

Not long after that, it seemed to me that the just because "Canned Pears" quilt needed some company in the kitchen, so sewing up a Fig Tree “Mini Cherry Pie” quilt was also in order.  My dear husband didn’t ask what that quilt was for.  


Friday, June 19, 2015

Farm Girl Vintage Sew Along: My progress through week 8

On Friday, June 5, I shared my progress (check out my post here) in the Farm Girl Vintage Sew Along led by Lori Holt of Bee In My Bonnet. We are now on week eight, and I have to admit that my silly happiness continues to grow with each block I sew.  Every six-inch block seems cuter than the last one, and I continue to feel inspired by the challenge of sifting through all of my stash bits and pieces and finding just the right scrap for the right block.

My progress through Week 8

We've made 15 of the 45 Farm Girl Blocks, and it's not too late for you to join.  The time commitment is pretty small . . . in one evening you can knock out two blocks.  Then the fun comes on Fridays when all the participants begin posting their current week's blocks on Instagram. (#farmgirlfridays and #farmgirlvintage) Seeing the different color combinations and varying fabric choices is something I look forward to every week.

Week 7: Crops Block & Egg Basket Block

Week 8: Farm Fresh Flower Block & Farmhouse Block

This little farmhouse was quite the challenge.  Using directional fabric in a six-inch block made up of 36 little pieces kept me on my toes, but it was still easy to complete on a rainy evening while watching a movie with my daughter.  There was supposed to be a sidewalk, but I just couldn't break up my cute patch of apple green grass.

Friends, if it seems like I'm hounding you to join this sew along, I guess I am, but maybe not for the reason you think.  We all have stresses and sadness in our lives.  And we all have chores, and duties and responsibilities.  For most of us there is a great therapy in sewing, playing with fabric, and (yes) buying fabric.  This sew along has taken that therapy up a notch for me because of the sense of community it provides.  Sharing with other quilters, feeding off of their enthusiasm, and enjoying their kind comments on my work . . . these are a balm to the soul.

Thanks for reading!  Here's hoping you get carried away quilting often!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Conquering my fear of zippers

Two zippered pouches, one happy quilter

To all my quilting and sewing friends, I am very happy to announce I have overcome my fear of installing a zipper.  This week I made two small and sweet zippered pouches . . . and I survived . . . and they look great!  I am brimming with sewing confidence!  Bring it on all you patterns and projects requiring zippers.  I am ready!  I shall run out and buy zippers in several lengths and colors. Bring it on!

Everyday Zips Pouch

First up is the “Everyday Zips Pouch” (pattern by Fig Tree & Co.).  I received this pattern last December during my mad dash of online ordering at Fig Tree’s annual 12 Days of Christmas sale. Joanna’s pattern instructions are so detailed and helpful, in typical Fig Tree fashion.  This darling pouch will store my smallest notions, and the “I'm a Maker” text fabric (AGF Studio) will remind me that I too am a maker at heart. Doesn't that text fabric play nicely with the Fig Tree's Strawberry Fields floral I have been hoarding?  Bonus . . . I can now also proclaim that I have made prairie points.  What was I waiting for?  Super easy and super cute!  Thank you Fig Tree & Co.!

Handy little notions pouch. 

Prairie points were not tough at all!

I'm a pinner, both per the directions
and because I'm a fuss budget.

Simple Zipper Patchwork Pouch

My second pouch for the week came from the pattern “Simple Zipper Patchwork Pouch” in Amy Sinibaldi’s new book Sweetly Stitched Handmades. (Check out Amy's lovely creations at nanaCompany!) As with many of the projects in Amy’s beautiful book, this pattern called for a small linen patch with an embroidered message, which adds such a charming and personal touch.  This pouch is for my teenage daughter, and I hope every time she uses it, it reminds her of how much I love her.

Patchwork pouch, made with love.

Auditioning fabrics is my favorite part!

I may have gotten a little carried away in my enthusiasm about zippers. But in all seriousness friends, how many times do we tell ourselves that we can’t do something?  That it looks too difficult?  That we don’t have the skill or talent?  I am willing to bet that nine times out of ten, we actually can do it.  And that tenth time where we fail . . . well, we most certainly learned something and we probably even enjoyed ourselves during the attempt. Let’s all take those little steps to conquer our fears, even when they are as small as sewing in a zipper!  

Here’s hoping you get carried away quilting often!

My stash bits & pieces for these projects (that I know of or can remember):  Aloha Girl, Somerset, Avalon, California Girl, Strawberry Fields (Fig Tree & Co. for Moda); Circa 1934 (Cosmo Cricket for Moda); Wishes (Sweetwater for Moda); Maker (AGF Studios).

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

1992: My first quilt

I made my first “real” quilt in 1992.  My husband and I were fresh out of college and had our first teaching jobs in Vermillion, South Dakota.  We were several hours from our hometowns in Minnesota, and we didn’t know many people.  We rented a house that sat up on a bluff ten miles from town, and while it was exciting for us to finally be grown-ups earning a real income, I think I was lonely. 

On Saturday mornings I got into the routine of watching Eleanor Burns and her “Quilt in a Day” series on PBS.  I had sewn before and I enjoyed making things. Over the years my mom and I had done our fair share of counted cross stitch, macramé, decoupage, and candle making. I also admired the lovely doilies and afghan blankets that both my grandmothers would crochet.  But there was something about listening to Eleanor and watching the process of building a quilt that appealed to me differently, and I think I was hooked before I bought my first yard of cotton.

Sadly this is the only picture I have of my first quilt, barely
in view on the bed. The following year I made the coordinating
small quilt to spruce up our little home's decor. (1992-1993)
After several Saturdays with PBS as my friend, my husband and I made the 40 mile trek to the Jo-Ann Fabric Store in Sioux City, Iowa, where I purchased . . . well . . . EVERYTHING.  I needed one of Eleanor’s books (Quilt in a Day: Around the World), all the fabric and batting to make a full sized quilt, thread, scissors, a large cutting mat, rotary cutter, a few notions, and one ruler.  I'm sure the grand total on the bill was huge, but my husband didn’t bat an eye. (A very good sign for things to come!)  I borrowed my mom’s old Singer sewing machine which was on its last leg. We even had to duct tape the tension mechanism down so it wouldn’t shoot off at me while I was sewing.  That first quilt took more than “a day” to make, and there were moments I was so frustrated I wanted to quit.  But the end result was a decent looking quilt made with a lot of love (and maybe a couple of tears and swear words).  It served as the comforter on our bed for many years, and was eventually relegated to a guest room bed, and some years later became an everyday “use and abuse” quilt.  Finally, the family dog inherited the quilt for her bed, until “Around the World” had seen enough days and left this world for the dumpster. 

I feel a sort tenderness for that young wife and teacher who was living in a new place, missing home and family, and feeling pangs of loneliness.  I am so glad that girl found her passion and then got a bit carried away on her first shopping trip. And I’m even more thankful for the young guy at her side, who didn’t get upset about the expense, and carried most of her loot to the car.  I’ve made several quilts for him over the years to try and even the score.

Oh, and I am STILL using the same large cutting mat.  I love it!   

I hope you'll take a few moments to recall your first "real" quilt, what inspired you to give it a try, and what it meant to you once you were done.  

Here’s hoping you get carried away quilting often!


Friday, June 5, 2015

Sew Along: This farm girl’s progress

Earlier this spring when I got my hands on the book Farm Girl Vintage by Lori Holt (Bee in my Bonnet), I admit I was farm girl giddy!  First off, the book is just so pretty!  From the beautiful photography to the graphic design to the lay-flat spiral binding, it’s the kind of quilting book that deserves a good read.  Curl up in the recliner under your favorite faded quilt, along with a cup of tea (or glass of wine), and page through it . . . maybe even several evenings in a row if your family doesn’t put up a fuss or expect you to make supper.

The sheer volume of blocks, arrangements and projects in this book is amazing. Forty five individual farm girl blocks! Several quilts and projects in varying sizes! Instructions for mixing and matching different block settings! Tips for embedding smaller blocks into larger blocks for a custom project!    

But of course, it’s the quilts themselves that are the real show stoppers . . . beautiful, colorful, cheerful, fresh, vintage . . . and for me, nostalgic.  You see, I am a farm girl. Along with my younger siblings, I picked rocks, drove tractor, and weeded soybean fields.  We played in the hay loft of the barn, built forts in our large grove and rode our bikes two miles down the gravel road to play with a neighbor girl. We set up a dusty outdoor “café” and made mud pies and served lemonade to my Grandpa Ray when he came in from the fields.  We froze sweet corn in our small, hot kitchen with Mom and Grandma Audrey.  Farm girl memories came back to me as I leafed through the pages of Lori’s book.

However, I also quickly found I had a problem.  I wanted to make everything in the book . . . to the point that I couldn’t decide where to start.  Soon my book was decorated with colorful sticky tabs of the projects or blocks that were my favorites.  That was no help.  Nearly half of the book was tabbed!  

Thankfully, the answer came in the form of farm girl fun! Lori announced on her Bee In My Bonnet blog that there would be a weekly sew along called Farm Girl Fridays.  This is the first sew along I have ever joined and it is great fun!  I encourage you to visit Lori’s blog for the instructions and just jump in! The Farm Girl Vintage book is published by It's Sew Emma, a division of Fat Quarter Shop. And if you don’t have an Instagram account yet, you’ll want to get one for sharing your progress and seeing the blocks of other quilters.  It's both inspiring and a great way to connect with other quilters! #farmgirlfridays  #farmgirlvintage  

My Farm Girl Progress through Week 6:

I did not purchase any new fabric for this project, and I don’t know what I will do with all of the blocks when I am done.  But I am thoroughly enjoying the process of making two new, six-inch blocks each week (yes, six-inch blocks!) and forcing myself to creatively use up bits and pieces from my fabric stash.  Nerd alert:  even color organizing my stash has been fun.  I am truly pleased with how my scraps are working together.  Here's my journey, week by week . . .

Week 1: Apron Strings Block

Week 2: Autumn Star Block, Baby Chick Block

Week 3:  Baking Day Block, Butter Churn Block

Week 4:  Canning Season Block, Chicken Foot Block

Week 5:  Churn Dash Block, Cool Threads Block

Week 6:  Corn & Tomatoes Block, Country Crossroads Block

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  Here's hoping you'll get carried away quilting often!

My stash bits & pieces (that I know of or can remember):  Aloha Girl, Somerset, Avalon (Fig Tree & Co. for Moda); Circa 1934 (Cosmo Cricket for Moda); Bee My Honey (Mary Jane for Moda); Wishes (Sweetwater for Moda); Baby Jane (Eric & Julie Comstock for Moda)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Warning: New Blogger on the Loose!

Well, here I am . . . writing my first blog post and feeling pretty nervous about it.  Thoughts are racing . . . Who do I think I am to blog about quilting? Will anyone actually read this? What is compelling me to do this? Is this silly?  But just as those negative thoughts hammer me, I can boldly answer them.
I am a quilter.  I have been quilting for over 20 years.  I love fabric, and quilting books, and notions, and pretty spools of thread, and gadgets, and patterns, and pin cushions, and quilting lingo, and most especially . . . the friendships that are formed through a shared passion for quilting.  I follow other quilters on Instagram and Facebook to be inspired and to be part of the joy and camaraderie people find in sharing their passion.   So yes, I have something to share, and I bet somebody will enjoy it!
My father is entering the end stage of Alzheimer's disease.  It's a sad, tough business to witness.  After visiting him yesterday, I walked to my car feeling the warmth of the early summer sunshine, with the scent of lilacs in the air, and I thought how lucky I am.  I am here.  I am able.  I can pursue my passions and I am lucky for it.  When I was young, my dad often said to me, "Run fast, jump high, do good!"  Years later, he repeated that mantra to my children.  We were and are a sports minded family, but we all know Grandpa's go-to line meant a lot more.  It meant get after it . . . pursue your passions . . . do your best.
I will close with a photo of my dad holding a small quilt I made for him years ago.  Thanks, Dad, for always pushing me to go for it.
Thanks for listening (reading)!  Here's hoping you'll get carried away quilting often!