Monday, September 2, 2019

That Handmade Touch


It's been a crazy start for school this year thanks to a flock of unwelcome germs that descended on our house just days after we started classes. Bunny was the first to get sick, followed closely by Bear. I thought for sure that we were finished with it all after making it through last week with no new symptoms until Mouse came down with a fever last night...just in time for her birthday next weekend, of course. She's devastated at the thought of missing out on all the fun we've planned, and I'm trying to get her over this as quickly as possible.


The only thing that made her eyes light up was the sight of this bag that I made over the weekend. I've known my friend Svetlana for so many years now, all the way back to when I first started blogging and sewing. She has such a clear sense of her own style; I can look at a project in my Instagram feed and instantly know that it's hers even before I see the name. Her new book That Handmade Touch is so perfectly her from beginning to end, full of useful projects that are beautiful yet simple.


I chose to make the On-the-Go Project Bag, mostly because I can never have enough of this sort of bag in my life. It's a sturdy bag in a great size that will be perfect for carrying all sorts of things. The leather handles are a nice touch, and I love the drawstring opening. I used linen and canvas for both the exterior and lining, and to keep the bag soft yet structured, I used batting, which has become my favorite interfacing these days.

The only changes I made to the pattern were to box the lower corners instead of folding them up and to make the handles just a bit wider. I really like that it includes an inside slip pocket as well for corralling small things, always helpful for someone like me who is constantly digging in the bottom of her purse for that one thing I can't find.


I'll be perfectly honest with you, friends: this bag was going to be mine. I had every intention of using it for travelling sewing projects this year, and I was looking forward to all the adventures we were going to take together, this bag and I. And then I saw Mouse's eyes when she saw me carrying it into the family room. "Are those llamas?" she asked excitedly. And I knew I just couldn't keep this one to myself.


So I've decided that this will be the gift bag for Mouse's birthday present from all of us. My daughter is obsessed with three things these days: llamas, swimming, and Disney's Zorro television show from the 1950's. I used to watch reruns on the Disney channel when I was a kid (Zorro and Davy Crockett were my heroes back then), and I've loved sharing it with my girls. We've managed to watch a few episodes on YouTube and the old Sign of Zorro movie on Amazon, which is really just clips from the first season all put together. Happily, I was able to find a set of dvds from the first and second seasons on Ebay that wouldn't clean out our bank account, and I'll tuck those into this bag so that we can give it to her on Sunday.

I can't wait to see her face.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Birthday Sewing


Birthdays are a big deal in our family. Even though we keep our parties simple and small, the girls are always allowed to choose a theme, and they literally start talking about next year's party before their big day is even finished. My little Mouse is turning 9 next month and decided long ago that she wanted a pool party with a tropical feel. For weeks she's been coming up to me with her big eyes and cheeky grin, asking, "Can we talk about my birthday?" So we spend time looking at pictures on Pinterest and talking about cupcake flavors and pretending that we're planning the party of the year when really it's all a great big excuse to spend time cuddling and chatting together, giving her special one-on-one time with Mommy that we both love so much.


When she told me that she wanted to do little candy favor bags, I decided that these adorable animal prints from Under the Canopy by Citrus & Mint Designs for Riley Blake would be perfect. My girls are especially crazy about sloths right now, but the leopards and birds were also a big hit.


I sewed these drawstring bags together in less than an hour. The striped baker's twine was perfect for the finishing touch. (I buy several spools of it every time I see it in the dollar section at Target since it goes with just about anything!) These bags are just the right size, and I love that the girls can use them after the party for other things.


Speaking of Riley Blake, I want to take a moment to say thank you. I've spent the last few years as a designer for them, and it's been an absolute joy. They've been generous to me in so many ways. Not only did they give me the chance to create three collections, but they've given me fabric to use for so many special projects. They sent me prints to use in both Sew Organized for the Busy Girl and Patchwork USA as well as in the next book that I'm working on right now. When I asked them if they could donate material so that I could make burp cloths for a local pregnancy clinic that I support, they sent me a huge box packed to the brim with soft flannel goodness that allowed me to sew the stack above and still have plenty leftover to give to the clinic for future needs. Working with these staff members and designers has been such a privilege, and I've learned so much through this chance to do something that I honestly never thought I would get to do. So to everyone from the RBD office who has been so kind and helpful to me these past three years, and to all the amazing RBD designer friends who have blessed my heart with love and encouragement -- thank you . . . with all my heart.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

All the Little Things


In less than two weeks already, we'll be starting another school year. How we got here so quickly is beyond me as always. In any case, the textbooks have arrived, the school shopping has been done, and the girls -- and I, if I'm honest -- are all showing the signs of needing to be back on a routine again. In the middle of May with summer stretching out before me, I always make an ambitious to-do list for the months ahead, convinced that I'm going to get so much done. This is all completely hilarious to end-of-July me, who tossed that list aside back in June and is now wringing every last drop of relaxation out of each waking moment before lesson plans and homework take over my desk again. Really though, in spite of all the responsibilities on my plate during the school year, I do get more creative projects done during those busy months than during my vacation, probably because I work it all into my schedule on purpose. But that's for another day. Right now it's still summer for two golden weeks, and I'm happy to play while I can.


Part of that play time has been sewing, thankfully, and this month has been all about making gifts for some dear people in my life. Our vicar and his wife finished up their year-long internship at our church last week, and though they won't be with us when their baby is born in October, I wanted to send them home with a handmade gift. This long pillow is just the sort of thing I would have loved to have on hand when I was feeding my own babies years ago. I used a mix of favorite novelty prints, including the one with the expected birth month to make it more personal. I put October in the middle along with September and November, so I'm hoping that even if the baby comes early or late, we'll be covered!


This linen improv pouch was a gift for a sweet, talented young woman who spent the summer at our church working with our worship team. It was so much fun choosing the prints for this one, and I loved being able to reflect different parts of her personality in the fabrics. Many of these are by Melody Miller from her original Ruby Star lines. I absolutely love how this pouch turned out and was so thrilled that she loved it too.


This weekend I was able to work on a fun project using my Color Book pattern from my new book Patchwork USA. It features the Dorothy's Journey collection by Jill Howarth, which is a darling take on The Wizard of Oz


Jill's illustrations are always so full of heart and whimsy, and when I saw the collection, I immediately thought these prints would be such a perfect match for this project. I gifted the book to the young daughter of a friend. I'm hoping she'll enjoy turning these colorful pages as she grows up.

So it's been a month of making all the little things as a way of celebrating all the important things. And really, I can't think of a better way to finish out the summer than that. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Summering

The Bandstand Mini Quilt from Patchwork USA

I feel as if I've been missing in action for ages, though it's really only been about a month. We've been summering at our house, which is my golden chance to take a break from the rat race and enjoy some time with my family. The truth is that I don't do it often enough, so when I get started, it's awfully hard to stop.

The Painted Desert

We got everyone in the family finished with school by the end of the first week in June. The second week was consumed with Vacation Bible School at our church, where I got to dance and sing four times each morning in front of 1200 kids -- a guaranteed route to exhaustion by Friday, let me tell you. After a wonderful Father's Day with my parents at home, we (my husband, I, and our girls) took off on our annual summer road trip.

Me and my sweet sis

This year we traveled to California to see my sister and her family, and then back through Arizona to visit my in-laws. It was a wonderful two weeks spent with family and friends, visiting places that my girls could just barely remember from their early years and making new memories for all of us.

These beautiful ladies drove 3 1/2 hours  -- each way! -- to join me in Altadena.

I also had the chance to meet with the loveliest group of people at Quilt 'N' Things in Altadena for a small trunk show and book signing, which was all kinds of fun.

Last week's field trip to the Texas Capitol Building in Austin

Now that we're back home in Texas, the summering hasn't stopped. It's been one day after another of swimming and reading, day trips and movie nights.

Home grown produce -- just one more reason to love summer

The garden is going crazy with tomatoes and squash and watermelons, which all pair beautifully with backyard barbecues and make-your-own pizza dinners. We've enjoyed mini marathons of Gilligan's Island, the Dick Van Dyke Show, and Scarecrow and Mrs. King. And we've reminded ourselves why popcorn and ice cream cones will never go out of style.

In other words, it's been heaven. And I'm not quite ready to give it up just yet...

Monday, June 10, 2019

I'm a Guest on Pat Sloan's American Patchwork & Quilting Podcast Today!


Just a quick note to let you know that I'll be Pat Sloan's first guest on her American Patchwork & Quilting Talk Show Podcast this afternoon at 3pm CST. You can listen in live here or catch the show later this evening on Pat's website here. It will also be available later in the week on the APQ website here. We're going to chat about my new book, Patchwork USA, and some of my other recent projects. I'm so looking forward to chatting with Pat again, and I hope you'll join us!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Most Important Things


It's been a little quiet around here lately for the simple reason that May has been difficult this year.

Two weeks ago we got the news that my grandfather, my dad's father, had suffered a massive heart attack. The day after Mother's Day, we found out that my grandmother had walked into the room that morning just in time to see him pass away. I never had the chance to know Grandpa as much as I wanted to, partly because he lived across the country in Minnesota. He loved to drive all over the country with my grandmother in their camper, and occasionally they would swing through our town when I was young, often bringing along a paper bag full of balloons as a special treat for my sister and me. They came by a few times after my girls were born, and my oldest daughter vividly remembers playing card games with Grandma and eating jelly beans in their camper with them while it was parked in our driveway. Although talk always seemed to settle on frivolous things -- the weather, the dogs -- I remember one visit when Grandpa somehow wound up talking about his military service during World War II when he worked in the motor pool for Patton's Third Army. It was a glimpse into a side of him that I hadn't seen before, and I wish I could have heard more. Though he never broached the subject with us, I know that Grandpa was part of the American forces who liberated Dachau concentration camp way back in 1945. I was always terribly proud of his part in that, and I remember thinking of him when I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. years ago as I was standing in front of the candles lit for Dachau in the Hall of Remembrance. It's hard to believe that Grandpa won't be driving up our driveway again, doting on my dogs and chatting with his great granddaughters.

Only a few days after that, my dad's best friend from college had a sudden heart attack. We worried and prayed and texted messages back and forth with his wife until he was thankfully able to return home after treatment. But I was shaken. It's hard to see the people you looked up to as a child suddenly struggling with health issues, as though your own stability is somehow tied up with theirs.

And then last Sunday night my oldest daughter broke her arm at a church youth gathering, leading to a host of medical appointments and a new normal for the next few months as we help her recover from this intensely painful injury. It's been hard for her to concentrate with all the stress and discomfort, but thankfully we were able to get her last tests finished last night for the school year so that she could start her summer and really begin a time of rest and healing.

As I sit here typing at my computer, I realize that the last few weeks have left me feeling vulnerable. It's not that you don't know that these sorts of things can happen to the people you love. This is life, after all. But when it does, it feels like a tidal wave sweeping over you. The one blessing in it for me is that troubles inevitably bring clarity to my life.  Little, petty things that seemed like such a big deal before, now fall to the side where they belong. The most important things -- which are almost always the things I managed to neglect due to the demands of my over packed schedule -- come to the forefront. You suddenly realize what matters most, and it's okay to let the rest go. And the people you love -- your family and friends -- you understand how much you need them, how important it is to spend time with them while you have them, to not hesitate to say, "I love you" or hug them close as often as you can.

So today's schedule will look a little different for me. Yes, there will be dishes and grading and maybe a bit of writing. But there will also be Lego building and chocolate chip cookie baking, cuddling under quilts and games of Fishy Tag in the pool. Because every minute I spend with this dear family of mine is more precious to me than anything else in the world.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Margie


Up to this point, I've worked with quilting cotton, linen, canvas, flannel, double gauze, felt, fleece, and lawn. So when Riley Blake Designs gave me the chance to do a blog post about their wool, I jumped at the challenge.


These gorgeous bundles of color showed up at my door, and I was completely blown away. Aren't they stunning?!

I did some looking around online for project ideas using wool, and after much thought, I finally decided that it would be fun to try working on some stuffed animals. I purchased a few patterns from Willowyn on Etsy and got to work.


Sometimes I think it's good for me to try something completely different from what I'm used to. This project was such a fun change of pace for me, and I absolutely loved sewing together this little bunny. It was surprising to me how forgiving the wool seemed to be. Even when stitches weren't perfect, you couldn't really tell, and I was so thrilled with how she turned out. I did almost all of my sewing by machine except for a bit of hand stitching with matching gray thread to close up a few gaps after stuffing. Her ears are lined with a striped print from Date Night, and I embroidered her nose and eyes with black Aurifloss.


I loved the clothing patterns that Willowyn designed to go with her stuffed friends, so I just had to make a sweet pair of overalls in a favorite pink floral print from the Lemonade Sundae collection which I've been hoarding for a while. The little silver snaps on her outfit make me smile.


Her tiny wool coat (my daughter chose the color) has a hood lined in a print from Lori Holt's upcoming Granny Chic collection. I actually got this fabric to use in another upcoming project, but when I saw how perfectly the colors complemented that shade of green wool, I just couldn't settle for anything else.


I made a button bow to complement her outfit. Normally I wouldn't sew a button onto a stuffed animal, but since this one is for me, I made an exception.

During one of the nights when I was working on this project, my own Bunny was having trouble falling asleep. She wandered into my sewing room and asked if she could do my hair for a few minutes while I worked. So I let her practice her French braiding skills on me while I cut out pattern pieces, and together we watched an old Jeanne Crain movie called Margie on my computer. When I showed Bunny my finished doll the next day, she squealed and immediately asked, "What's her name?" I told her that I hadn't decided yet. She clutched the bunny to her chest in a hug and said confidently, "Margie. You have to call her Margie."

And that, my friends, was that.
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