Thursday, November 10, 2016

Stormy Seas -- A Work in Progress

Right now I'm working on a new quilt for a beautiful new child.  Here are some pictures of the storm at sea I'm working on for Vivian, my newest niece, born in October.  

I've never done one of these before but have admired them ever since I saw one in a class I was taking in New York.  It was beautiful and has been on my to do list ever since. 

I meant to complete this before Vivian's birth, but lately that just isn't how I work.  I haven't met her in person yet, but even seeing pictures of her has helped me feel that I know her a bit and has helped me work on her quilt.  The process could be streamlined but for the fact that I'm using scraps.  It is taking much longer this way but I do love the results.  

Sadly, this quilt feels right for our time.  I am sickened by our election results and for what they mean for all of our children.  We had a better country, and a better, fairer system within reach just days ago and we threw it away.  We have shirked our responsibility to ourselves, our country and the global community.  We have made the world far less safe and far less just.  We have cleared a path for a despot to rule as he sees fit, without integrity or respect for so many of us, and I fear without checks.  For Vivian, and for all of our children who have been born into this stormy sea through no fault of their own, I hope we can find a life boat, and a way to shepard them to safety and justice and peace.  They certainly deserve better than the nightmare we have just handed them.

Friday, November 4, 2016


I've been making the most of my needle turn appliqué skills lately by sewing patches to my daughter's pants.  She has a way of ripping holes into the knees like none of my other kids.  

She had three pants that needed repairs, so I went with a Frida Kahlo Day of the Dead fabric from Alexander Henry for the first one, 

some leftover EPP hexies for my second, 

and then I hit my stride and went for an ocean theme for the third. 

Most of the patches on this last pair aren't actually needed, strictly speaking, but I felt like they really wanted to be there, so I included them.  To make the patches I cut out the portion of fabric that I wanted for the patch with about a quarter inch extra all around. Then I ironed interfacing to the back and pinned them in place.  After I decided on placement I appliquéd them to the pants. I've done this kind of patching a lot and have found them to be durable and much more fun than traditional patches.  I've even done some for myself...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Journal and Sketchbook Covers

While my family was in town I noticed that some of my nieces carried little composition notebooks as sketchpads.  My kids use composition notebooks to write stories or poems and sketch as well.  I thought it would be cute for each child to have his/her own notebook cover, so I found a tutorial that was really easy to do and made some up.  To make it easier to identify each kid’s book, I reverse appliqued their first initials onto the front rather than covering it with piecing.  I’m not finished with them all, but I have a good start and I think I’ll be able to finish the rest leisurely over the next couple of weeks.  

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Indian Throw Quilt Finish

This week I finally finished a quilt I have been working on for several months.  I thought it would be faster.  Actually, I thought this quilt was just an exercise, so it took me by surprise that each step along the way required lots of attention, consideration and care.  It didn’t originally speak to me, and I’m not sure why I began, but once I got going I really enjoyed making the quilt and I’m happy with the end result.  Most especially I’m happy with the quilting, which was a first attempt at chrysanthemum free motion quilting.  While certainly not perfect, I think it is very effective and, despite the many hours it took to complete, a pleasure - for the most part - to quilt.  

Meanwhile our house has been busy.  We have spent the last several weeks with my siblings and their children.  Our extended family has congregated at my parents’ house to help my mom with a pretty severe injury she sustained while hiking through the Gobi Desert last month in Mongolia.  She’s doing better and my sisters have now headed back home.  

Now we’re spending our days shuttling between swimming and music lessons, soccer and volleyball camp, squeezing in playdates and trips to the library.  Although none of it is very taxing, it all takes up so much time.  Frequently I wonder when is the right time to work on my projects.  I have a huge line-up of things I’d like to do.  Some are things for my family, like a new quilt for my boys with an appliqued knight in armor, and some are household sewing projects, like fresh napkins for our meals, as ours are getting a little sad.  Some projects are for gifts, like a large sashiko panel I’m working on for my parents anniversary, or for the new school year - both girls have requested new backpacks this year.  And some projects are just experimental stuff that I’d like to explore for myself… I have an idea for an EPP project based on a beautiful Islamic design I saw at the Met last year.  That project has the potential to become an obsession but every time I sit down to work on it I find myself interrupted.  I would like to say I’m enjoying all the interruptions, and I’m working on that, but right at this moment I could do with a few less.  

That said, spending these last few weeks with my sisters and their kids has put into focus how fast kids do grow up.  I have a two year old, but thanks to my older kids, I can see that his babyhood is coming to a close.  I didn’t have that perspective when my older kids were babies and toddlers.  It was mostly great and sometimes difficult, but it felt like that stage was going to be permanent.  Now I can see that before I know it my kids will have all grown up.  It used to be that things like naps felt more important that they do now.  Not that I don’t care if my kids sleep, it’s just that now I know they will, sooner or later.  They probably will, anyway.  Spending time with so many small children made me realize that our challenges feel very different than they once did.  It’s still all about keeping them engaged and busy.  But what that means is different.  It used to be enough to make play dough or sing silly songs.  Or look for nature on a walk through our neighborhood.  Doing laundry together or making dinner was a focal point, not something we had to squeeze in somewhere.  Now the kids need to be out in the world a lot more.  And each child has his/her own individual set of interests that need to be accommodated and developed.

Its not as if we don’t have downtime anymore.  In fact, as I write this children are reading, playing music, and building with Legos nearby.  I don’t like being heavily scheduled and I don’t think it’s always in the best interest of families or children.  But to some extent it seems to be a fact of life with school aged children.  The challenge we’re facing today is trying to balance the activities that will benefit each member of my family and the down time that all people need.  Time for activity versus time for introspection versus time for relaxation.  

Last night I was up LATE drafting, or trying to draft, that Islamic mosaic I mentioned.  I think I’m going to need a compass and a protractor.  Luckily my oldest daughter has a set that I can use.  This is a big project.  I’d love to get going on it though, because it is exciting to me right now.  

As for the Indian Throw Quilt, I took it down to my mom’s house the day before my sister left with her girls and we photographed it there.  My mom lives above the harbor and in the evening when the sun goes down it gets chilly.  My mom got cold toward the end of dinner and we threw it over her. It looked just right there on her lap, so I decided it should live with her.  I think it found a happy home, which is just the point of making a quilt!

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Good Mother Makes a Happy Home...

Yesterday was my sister’s birthday and she's in town right now with her kids.  We’re heading to my mom’s tonight to celebrate as a family.  Actually, both my sisters and their families have come to visit so we've been having a great time, especially with all the kids running around together.  

I’ve been working on a mini quilt (whose design I took directly from Sew Mama Sew --  I think) and it seemed like a great birthday gift.  I just wish that I put onto it the words “A Good Mother Makes a Happy Home”.  My mom has had a plate that hangs in her kitchen with those words on it for as long as I can remember, and this mini quilt would have been a perfect backdrop for that saying.  

I am also working on a second mini quilt, but I’m not nearly done with it.  I found it in a book by Kathreen Ricketson, called Whip Up Mini Quilts.  I didn’t follow it exactly.  I made my own bird entirely, and reoriented the quilt a bit.  But I certainly enjoyed using her ideas.

I'm not sure how to quilt it, so I'll need to think about it a bit.  I think I'll embroider the details onto the bird before I begin quilting, so that I don't need to think about defining it during the quilting process.  

I thought these mini quilts would be an easy and fun way to work on my machine quilting skills a bit.  

Working on texture for sky.  I used a freehand spiral that I think worked well with the fabric.

Here's a close up of the grass.  I tried to ground the quilt with a texture that would feel very different from the sky.  I think it worked.  
I’m still working on an “Indian Throw Quilt” that I started a few months ago.  I’ve been quilting chrysanthemums onto it, and it’s going well, but it is time consuming.  I’m nearly done with the quilting (hopefully this week will do it) and then I need to think about binding.  But I do see the light at the end of the tunnel.   

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Song Quilt WIP: Bunny Block

I’ve been working on a song quilt (formerly called a nursery rhyme quilt) for a long time now.  I’ve made several blocks, and then weeded some out and used them in other projects, and now am left with just the ones that I like together.

I still have a few to go, and one to redo.  It started out without any real color scheme.  I thought I’d just let each song speak to me and make each piece independently.  I liked each block, but I didn’t love it all together, so I pulled out all the blocks that didn’t feel right and will either redo them or put in other songs altogether. This week I'm working on a bunny block.  

I sketched the block onto some graph paper and the used it as a pattern for my fabric version.  I back baste appliquéd the bunny onto the background, which is my favorite method of appliqué.  

As pictured in the sketch, it will have a little song embroidered onto it that Miles and I sing a lot (we learned it at our botanical garden's weekly sing along).  I’d like to remake the block for blackbirds, and I’d like to do a longer song, maybe a poem (I am thinking about "The Swing" by Robert Louis Stevenson).  Then I think I’ll fill in empty spaces with some half square triangles or some kind of liberated piecing to finish the top.  I may do some more embroidery or applique on a border…I like "The Dream Keeper" by Langston Hughes.  This quilt is definitely a work in progress, but I’d like to get it finished before my son is too old to enjoy it.  

Here are a few of the blocks that I have chosen to edit out of the quilt:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Courthouse Steps Finish?

I decided that I didn’t like the look of my courthouse steps blocks when I started to put them together, and it is too much work for me to make them all and decide I don’t like it.  So I turned them into bags.  

I embroidered a word to the top of each bag like I did here, and I used more of the leftover stripes for the backs and handles.  I made a slightly bigger bag than I have before, these measure somewhere around 14” x 19” and I think that is a good size for both kids (who need bigger bags for their art supplies and library books, etc.,) and also for adults.  

I love these bags and would even like to make a few more when I have time, but I’d still like to make an actual courthouse steps quilt.  I love the fabric in these bags, but they weren't translating into a great quilt for me.  It could be all the stripes?  Anyway, I'm going to try it again to see if I can come up with an arrangement I like better.  

I’m linking up with Finish It Up Friday on Crazy Mom Quilts

Friday, April 22, 2016


While going through some old fabrics and cleaning out my sewing room I came across a panel that my mom bought me maybe a decade ago.  It’s cute, but I don’t really sew up panels much.  It’s just not that interesting to me.  But I’ve got a couple of kids who have been playing with their trains and trucks lately, so I thought this would be a great little mat to sew up for them.  Plus, it’s portable.  This week I went to a book club and needed to bring my two year old.  We took some books and some little trains, but I was thinking that this mat (had I finished it) would be perfect for him.  Oh well, next month.  

I used some fabric for the backing that I’ve had on hand.  I bought lots of it, and I think it’s really cute stuff, but haven’t found myself reaching for it.   I cut binding strips from the leftover backing and bound it by machine.  I finished it yesterday and Miles especially seems to be enjoying it.  

My mom also bought some border fabric for the panel with trains and cars.  I tried it out with the panel, but rejected it because it was so busy.  The fabric is cute though so I thought I’d try out some napkins.  I can make 16 little napkins out of the fabric, which would be fun.  I’m not sure what else to do with it.  16 is a lot of these napkins.  Maybe some little bags?  Any ideas would be welcome.  

Linking up with Finish It Up Friday on Crazy Mom Quilts.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Indian Blanket Top

After many weeks on my wall, my “Indian Blanket” top is finally complete.  I like it, but this design has never really put off an "Indian" vibe for me.  It doesn't matter, but it is interesting that I completely miss the feel of the design, but enjoy it nonetheless...

I played with the idea of making it a few rows longer to use as another quilt on my daughter’s bed.  When I mentioned this to her she reminded me that she had “like 5 quilts to choose from already” and didn’t really need another.  She said it nicely, not all snotty, but still, message received.  Actually, it's kind of a good thing as I was really struggling to find fabric for the last few rows that worked for me.  I did cut a few different ideas, put them up and ultimately reject them.  My trouble in this area was a big part of the reason it took so long to complete this top.  So, in that way, it is best that it doesn't need to be any longer. 

To finish this top I’m going to order some flannel for the back, maybe try out a new free motion quilting design, and use it on the couch in the evenings.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Courthouse Steps

I’m not finished with log cabins.  I have decided to make a variation on a log cabin with leftover stripes from my nephew’s star baby quilt.  I thought I was going to make a pillowcase out of the butterflies, but I like this idea better…