Saturday, April 21, 2018
I'm typing at my dining room table this morning, looking out the window at the misty green aftermath of a rainy night. The squirrels are dancing from tree to tree, and I can see deer grazing in the distance. My daughters have spent the morning playing spy games around the house with their walkie talkies, reminding me of when my sister and I used to do the same thing in our front yard so many years ago. In a few minutes we'll be heading off to our favorite Mexican restaurant for our standing weekly lunch with the whole family -- and by "standing" I mean that the restaurant has a table set and waiting for us when they open on Saturdays because they know we'll be there.
It's been a busy week, full of secret sewing and things I can't tell you about yet, but soon...hopefully soon. I have a stack of projects I've been working on which are almost ready to share and another stack that are going to be consuming every free minute I've got for the next three months. And on top of that I'm trying to wrap up our homeschool year in the next five weeks, so several hours of each day are spent grading spelling tests and reteaching math lessons and the like. Sometimes I wonder how I think I can possibly get away with it, this game of smoke and mirrors that I play, trying to look like I'm on top of everything while secretly flying by the seat of my pants. Yet somehow it all gets done. And when I stop stressing over things and just relax and enjoy them, I can stand back and look at it all with more perspective, remembering again how grateful I am that I get to do all of this.
My Date Night yardage arrived this week, and I'm currently sewing up a storm for Quilt Market. The more I work with it, the more I love it. There is a story behind this collection, of course, but I'll wait to share it with you when its June release date is a little closer. Until then, I hope you enjoy looking at that stack of fabric as much as I do...
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
I've never sewn a bag with a lace zipper before, but I will definitely be doing it again. I absolutely love the delicate accent this adds to the piece. The Grandale prints couldn't be sweeter. The tiny floral on the main panel and the faux cross stitch print that I used for the gusset are my favorites in the collection.
This type of bag is inevitably tricky to sew, but Minki makes it as easy as possible with her great instructions and photos. I had to trim my gusset a wee bit smaller to fit, yet everything came together with no trouble at all. I added crosshatch quilting to the side panels and straight line quilting to the zipper panel and gusset to give them all some texture, and I love they way they look. Even though the bag is small, there's a surprising amount of room inside.
This little bag will be packed with goodies and then sent off in the mail to my niece, who is celebrating another birthday at the end of this month. And I predict that it will take approximately five minutes before one of my daughters asks me to make another...
Thursday, March 22, 2018
Today is my stop on the Let's Bake Sew Along, hosted and created by the amazing Lori Holt. These sweet little blocks feature ingredient canisters, a hand mixer, and a quartet of cupcakes. They're from another one of Lori's beautiful applique quilt patterns, and I decided to turn them into a runner for our breakfast nook table.
I used a mix of prints from several different Riley Blake designers as well as some RBD basics to get the eclectic look I love so much. It was a surprise to me how small these pieces are -- the individual blocks finish at about 6" square -- and this makes the project go quickly, even with the hand sewing. Applique is something I very rarely attempt but always enjoy. Adding extra touches like a ric-rac "cord" and "cherry" buttons just make this piece so much fun.
I made a few changes from the original pattern. There is no ric-rac at the top of the cupcake liners because I forgot to order it in time, and I only made 4 cupcakes instead of 6 so that it would fit more neatly on the runner. I also fussy cut a few words from Lori's adorable recipe print for the canister labels instead of embroidering the words from her pattern. My daughters thought "Doughnuts" and "Cookies" were a great idea!
The runner is backed in a mixing bowl print from Lori's Bake Sale 2 collection. It's a perfect match for the front of the runner, and I love the way it looks with a frame of aqua and white striped binding.
It's been a goal of mine to make seasonal runners for the little table where my girls eat breakfast every morning, so it feels great to add another one to our growing collection. Baking is one of my very favorite things to do, and now that my daughters are starting to help out in the kitchen more often with me, I know they'll be thrilled to have this reminder of those special moments in front of them every morning when they wake up.
Happy sewing, friends!
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
As a new mom, I always liked having lots of pillows nearby to help me get into a comfortable position when I was feeding the baby, and that pocket is a great place to stash a book or snack pack or anything else I might want when I'm up by myself in the middle of the night. For a child's gift, you can still tuck little books or toys in the pocket, and it's perfect for travel. My girls and I will be making a mini Book Nook for each of them to take on our family road trip this summer.
I decided to pull out my Heather Ross stash for these pillows, carefully choosing my prints since one is for a girl and the other for a boy. It was so much fun to pick out the fabrics for these! I paired them both with different shades of linen on the pocket background fabric for a nice contrast.
I've started sewing up my own gift bags lately, riffing on the 5-Minute Party Pouch from Ruby Star Wrapping by Melody Miller & Allison Tannery. I just change up the size as needed. It's a great way to use fabric from my Five & Dime stash, and it makes the gift so much more personal. And frankly, considering how expensive gift bags are becoming, I think I'm at least breaking even on the cost!
I also had the chance to host a week of my friend Kim's sew along for her new Notions Pouch pattern. Kim is also known as Retro Mama, and she makes the most adorable things!
This is just the cutest little pouch you ever saw, and I had so much fun making one in each of the two sizes she offers. The sew along is just wrapping up on Instagram -- just check out the hashtag #notionspouchsal to see all the amazing makes.
Speaking of Instagram, I'm trying to keep up with the annual Instagram Quilt Fest hosted by Amy of Amy's Creative Side this month. There's a photo prompt for each day of March to share with the hashtag #igquiltfest, and it's given me the chance to go back and revisit some favorite makes as well as share a behind-the-scenes look at my own sewing studio. Check it out if you get the chance. These are the kind of events that really bring out the friendly spirit that I love most about the online quilting community.
Happy sewing, friends!
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
I think I can safely say that my three daughters are obsessed with horses.
Ever since we arrived in Texas almost three years ago, my girls have been begging for riding lessons. This year James and I decided that they were finally old enough, so as their Christmas gift, we and all their grandparents gave them the gift of weekly lessons for as long as we can afford them. They have fallen completely in love with the horses at our local equestrian center, and we spend half a day there every week while they learn all the details of caring for and riding these beautiful animals. Participating in the blog tour for Melissa Mortenson's sweet Derby Day collection gave me the chance to sew up a cute horse themed pillow, and the girls were so happy to add it to the bench in their bedroom.
A Dresden block seemed like a fun way to show off all the prints at once, and I wanted to feature one of the little horses in the center. I pulled in a solid green to help the center circle stand out and backed the Dresden on a navy Riley Blake gingham print. The stitching is all done with navy thread, which my youngest daughter requested, and though I usually like my quilting to fade into the background, this is a fun change.
I backed the pillow in a beautiful floral print from the collection. I absolutely love this shade of green!
Melissa has created a stunning look book for her Derby Day fabrics which you really should see. The projects she designed for this collection are so clever and gorgeous, and there are plenty of horses and dogs featured throughout the pages too. It's everything my daughters love in one place! Be sure to stop by for a peek.
Meanwhile watching these lessons each week is bringing back my own dreams of riding horses when I was little. My sister and I were devoted to Talent Roundup Day on the original 1950's Mickey Mouse Club show when it had a revival on the Disney channel in the eighties, and we desperately wanted one of those cowgirl outfits. Seeing my girls fulfill one of my childhood dreams is almost more wonderful than doing it myself...
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
It's been almost a year since the Blabberwockies first entered my life. My three girls were goofing off in the back of the car, moving their hands as if they were wearing invisible puppets and talking to each other in funny voices. "What's going on back there?" I asked as I glanced in the rear view mirror.
"Oh, it's just our Blabberwockies," they answered nonchalantly.
"Your what?" I glanced again in the mirror.
"You mean Jabberwockies," I corrected, "from Alice in Wonderland." The girls looked baffled, shook their heads no, and tried to explain.
Apparently one day my oldest came up with the idea of having their hands move (walk) as they talked to each other (blabber) -- they're "all mouth" as she says -- and the Blabberwockies were born: Tommy, Stuart, Sarah, Sylvester, Millie, Dude, Edison, Sammy & Hannah -- just to name a few of the characters they love to play. How my girls keep all those personalities straight is beyond me. It's a blessing and curse at the same time, of course. On the one hand (pun intended), they can bring their own entertainment with them wherever they go, but when things get wild, I can't take their toys away from them since they're permanently attached to their bodies.
So when I was contacted by Nancy Zieman Productions to see if I'd be interested in joining their I Sew for Fun Tour, which encourages grownups and kids to sew together, I immediately went to my daughters and said, "How about if we teach the Blabberwockies to sew?"
And there was great rejoicing.
I've shared with you several times on this blog -- and in my book Sew Organized for the Busy Girl -- about sewing with my daughters, who (for any newcomers) are affectionately referred to as Bunny, Bear, and Mouse to preserve their privacy. It's something I love to do, but it takes lots of preparation and a very different mindset from sewing by myself. I really wish I had owned a copy of Nancy's book back when I got started. I own several books about sewing with kids, and this one is definitely my favorite. It's so practical, easy to follow, and especially helpful for sewing with very young children. Even though my girls are getting older (Mouse is 7, Bear is 8, and Bunny turns 11 this month), they got a kick out of the fun names that Nancy and her granddaughters came up with for the different parts of the sewing machine, and since they're a little more advanced, we were able to go into more depth about the features of my machine and how everything works.
Along with the book, we received a package of notions from Clover that Nancy developed to go along with the book. There are some fabulous goodies in here. My favorite is the retractable seam ripper which turns into a thread cutter -- something I'll definitely be using myself. My daughters loved the large seam guide that makes it super easy for them to keep a straight seam allowance. Having their own set of Clover clips which we kept in the lid for the heart shaped pincushion was also a big hit. Adding or collecting clips is the perfect job for little kids, and it's probably what Mouse loves doing most. "This heart is all filled up with joy," she chirped happily as she kept adding clips to the lid while we were sewing together.
The projects in the book are each awarded a 1, 2, or 3 button difficulty rating (1 being easiest) to help you pick the right challenge for your child. My girls could probably have handled a 2 or 3, but everyone immediately went crazy over the cuteness of the stuffed animal sleeping bag, so we decided to go with that.
I let the girls choose their fabrics from my stash, and they had such a great time going through my color bins, which leads me to another lesson I've learned about sewing with kids: let them use the pretty fabric. The things they sew will be sitting around your house for the whole world to see, after all, so they might as well look good. I always make sure that the girls run their choices past me in case I'm saving a print for something special, otherwise everything is fair game. After the girls chose their combinations, I cut out the pieces for each sleeping bag, and then I had an appointment with each of my girls to sew their projects.
I had originally used the idea of teaching their Blabberwockies to sew as a gimmick to get the girls excited -- not that they need any help with that when it comes to sewing -- but it wound up being surprisingly helpful. Instead of saying, "Keep your right hand here and your left hand there," it's so much more fun to say, "Let Tommy hold that side and Stuart can hold the edge by the seam guide." And while my girls might be distracted at times from paying attention, they had a great time making their Blabberwockies the most diligent students in the sewing room. "Sylvester's asking all my questions for me!" Bear laughed.
It's important to remember that sewing with kids is completely different from sewing by yourself. Everything takes at least four times longer with kids...at least...so be sure that you budget enough time rather than become frustrated because you're in a hurry. You can do almost everything more quickly or easily by yourself, but fight that urge and let the kids do it. The seam allowances aren't going to be perfectly straight and the points won't all match up. It will drive you crazy, but I promise, the kids won't care. They'll look at it and say, "I love it!" Because what matters isn't getting it done quickly or perfectly. You're making a special memory by sewing something with your child.
The best thing about sewing with your kids is the conversations you have together while you do it. We talked about why caterpillars shouldn't smoke (thank you, Alice in Wonderland fabric), weighed possible fabric options for the Jet-Set Case (from my book) that Bunny wants to make for our summer road trip, and discussed all the plans for Edison and Hannah's upcoming wedding reception in the dollhouse this spring. And in between listening to their Blabberwockies crack their little jokes ("I had an extremely fun time, but the fabric tasted awful.") and stitching away at our projects, I get to see more of my daughters' hearts. I get to hear what they're feeling and doing and hoping for the year ahead. I've heard it said before that when children spell "love" they use the letters T-I-M-E. I truly believe that. My girls appreciate that I'm choosing to spend my time with them because I want to. They know that I enjoy sharing my fabric, knowledge and tools with them so that they can do what I do, and it means a lot . . . to all of us.
I was heartbroken when I heard that Nancy passed away last year, partly because I missed the chance to know her. I never had the opportunity to take a class from her or talk with her, even though we both designed fabric for Riley Blake Designs. It was only a month later that I got the invitation for this blog hop, and I can't tell you how grateful I was to finally meet her through the pages of this beautiful book. Her heart is so obviously in every chapter, reminding us that no matter what age, we all sew for the same reasons: for the love of it . . . for the love of the people we sew for and with . . . for the fun.
I can't think of a more fitting legacy for her to leave behind than that.
Friday, January 19, 2018
"What if," I said as I pulled a tearful Mouse into my lap, "we made a pillow together? Would you like that?"
She lifted one hand to knuckle away the tears...sniffed...nodded.
"You could pick out the fabric, choose a pillow size, the whole thing. Sound good?"
Another sniffle...another nod...the beginnings of a smile.
My 7-year-old had come wandering into the loft while I was sewing one night last week, looking for a special stuffed friend that she hadn't seen in a while. I took a deep breath and broke the news to her that the friend had been in the line of fire during Mouse's bout of flu several months back, and I hadn't been able to save it. A torrent of tears and several long hugs later, I had done my best to salvage the situation with the offer of a mommy-daughter sewing project. To see my girl move through the stages of grief in approximately 3 minutes flat and then start chattering away about her new pillow...it was reason #347 why I'm so thankful that I sew.
So Mouse picked out a pillow form at Joann Fabrics and a Rifle Paper Co. linen print from my stash, and soon we were stitching away at my machine. I fleetingly wondered how many more times she'll be able to sit on my lap while we sew together, as she -- like her sisters -- is growing up so quickly these days. It took all of ten minutes before she was trying to hug her finished pillow and me at the same time. And with a quick, "Thank you, Mommy! Thank you so much!" she was off and running to share her new friend with the rest of the house.
And there you have it, I thought. Sewing saves the day again.