Wednesday, January 29, 2020
My friend Nicole is known for so many things, not the least of which are the stunning patterns she's created for Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine, but to me she'll always be the girl who made the incredible quilted bag for the Sewvivor Challenge back in 2014 which featured a storm trooper and AT-AT walkers on the sides. Nicole is one of those people from the the online sewing family that I've known and loved for years, and it gives me so much joy to see her now publish her first book: Playing with Patchwork and Sewing. If you're looking for a skill builder book, this is the perfect choice. Nicole takes different techniques like patchwork, applique, foundation piecing and gives you three projects, each at varying difficulty levels. It's a great way to stretch your sewing muscles a bit and try something new.
There was no way that I was going to miss out on being a part of the book tour, but I warned Nicole that I might have to shrink something down into a smaller project to fit it into my schedule. She insisted that this was fantastic, that she -- like me -- loves to see people take her patterns and change them to fit their needs. So this, my friends, is the Picnic Party Quilt pattern. The blocks originally finish at 12" and give you a 60" square quilt, perfect for a lunch date outside on the grass. My squares, however, are sized down to finish at 1" and make a sweet little mug rug which goes nicely with a cup of tea in the afternoon. I pulled out some favorite prints for this one, including that beautiful kitchen print which was a Christmas gift from my dear friend Ayumi. I've been eager to use it ever since I opened the package last month, and I love how it looks in this project.
The back of my mug rug is one of my favorite old prints from the Katie Jump Rope collection by Denyse Schmidt from what now feels like a million years ago. But I love the way the brown centers of the flowers coordinate with the brown gingham that I used for the binding. Little details like that just make my heart so happy.
Let me know if you pick up a copy of the book in the next few months. I'd love to hear what you think of it!
Monday, January 27, 2020
For several months now, I've been designing patterns for the Tilda Club USA subscription box put out by my dear friend Julie of The Intrepid Thread. It's been a fun challenge for me to create something small and simple that people can enjoying making every month just for fun. And yes, getting my hands on these gorgeous Tilda prints has been pretty wonderful too!
Julie opens up the club membership three times a year for new people, and today is one of those days! Monthly members get...
- a box of 6 Tilda fat quarters with matching notions and goodies
- a digital Block of the Month pattern
- digital patterns for small projects (many of which are designed by me!)
- surprise projects here and there
- a members-only forum and Facebook group
- weekly live Q&A chat sessions
If you're interested in joining, just click here to see all the options. Membership closes on Thursday, so hurry on over!
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
As a girl who lives by her lists, it helps me to have a place to keep them together so I don't wind up with post-it notes all over the house. I talked about keeping a sewing calendar in Sew Organized for the Busy Girl, which has been really helpful to me in my creative work. Nowadays I keep a lot of that information in a monthly calendar on my phone, but I also like have something on paper where I can write down the daily steps that get me to those weekly goals. I spent the last week of 2019 looking for the perfect planner to carry me into the new year, but after several hours spent combing through what was available both online and in stores, I came up empty. So this year I decided to try something new: I made my own planner pages from scratch on Adobe Illustrator.
I had originally planned to bring the file to the local office store and have it printed and spiral bound, but my mom encouraged me to live with the pages in a binder for a few weeks first so that I could make adjustments as needed. It was good advice. I've found a few ways to streamline the page as I go along.
While I often have special appointments in my schedule, most of the items on my to-do list fall under a recurring set of categories: cleaning, cooking, homeschooling, writing, and sewing. There are some things that I need to do every single day, but can easily forget to do (feed the dogs) or forget whether or not I've done them (take my allergy medicine) if they're not on a list in front of me. I love having these daily chores already built into the page so that all I have to do is check them off. There's also room to write down extra tasks that come up as well as a spot at the top for special activities or important things that need my attention right away.
In my drive to work through a checklist, it's easy for me to forget about the small everyday things that are going on in my life, so I added room at the bottom of the page to keep track of those too. There's a place to list what I'm reading, listening to, and watching every other day. I like that this will not only help me stay faithful in keeping my annual list of what books I've read, but it will also let me see what's influencing my thinking throughout the year.
My favorite feature, though, is the small section in the lower right corner for moments that I want to remember -- little victories, quirky happenings, funny things that the girls say. Just looking back over the pages I have already, I can't help but smile at the memories I'm recording, things that could have so easily been forgotten otherwise. The time we were watching White Christmas for a family movie night, and James declared that the pale yellow socks that Danny Kaye was wearing were the height of fashion...so of course I had to track down a pair for him online (he loves them!). The day that Bunny scored a 98% on both her history AND science semester finals. The night when Bear lost a tooth not five minutes after the girls were talking about how much they wanted ice cream (we celebrate every lost tooth with ice cream in our family; it's a tradition). The morning that Mouse came to me excited because she had actually enjoyed a math lesson for the first time ever. "Because," she added (I kid you not), "multiplication and division are the death of all good things." I ran right over to my planner to write that one down before I could forget it, let me tell you...
I love hearing what other people are doing when it comes to planners and organization. What do you use to stay on top of your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule? Do you like using a planner or not? Have any of you tried making your own? What are the most helpful tricks you've found when it comes to getting your to-do list done each day? Please share!
Thursday, January 9, 2020
As much as I can't wait to go on vacation when the holidays roll around, I'm just as content to get back to the school routine once they're over. I like the stability of a schedule, the sanity that it brings to the kids and to me. The only sad part is not having my husband here with us. There's not a doubt in my mind that the biggest perk of being married to a teacher is getting to have him home for weekends, holidays, and vacations. It's given us the chance to do so many things together as a family, and I never take it for granted.
We were driving home from lunch early last week in my minivan, music playing on the radio while the girls chattered together in the backseat, when James turned and asked if I would join him for coffee and sweets when we got home. It was the start of a beautiful new habit which we hope to continue on the weekends. Every afternoon for the rest of the week we sat down at the dining room table with mugs of coffee and something sweet -- usually chocolate -- and talked about what was on our minds: goals for the new year, lesson planning, my next book, the girls, our own struggles and how to beat them. It was like dating again only better: all the interest and attention of those early days when we were getting to know each other mixed with the comfort and familiarity of all these years of shared history together.
Now I'm sitting here at the table after lunch, and I miss my coffee with James. And I'm counting down the hours until Saturday afternoon...
Monday, January 6, 2020
I've been influenced by zakka -- the Japanese concept of making pretty, practical items to beautify your everyday life -- since I first started sewing back in 2011. This has led me to spend a lot of time finding books and fabric by Japanese designers, which are full of wonderful inspiration in this area. My latest purchase is Sew Cute Quilts and Gifts by Atsuko Matsuyama. I had already bought a copy of the book from my favorite online shop Sunny Day Supply when I got an email from Lindsay at Zakka Workshop asking if I would be interested in joining the book tour, so the timing was perfect. I'm eternally grateful to Zakka Workshop, which has taken so many wonderful Japanese craft books and translated them into English so that even more people can enjoy them.
For my project, I chose the round fruit pouch, because I had never made a pouch like this before. This is one of the things I love about Japanese sewing books: they always seem to be full of interesting techniques that I haven't tried yet. I was pleased with how easily the pouch came together, including the applique on the front, which is something I don't get the chance to do very often. Thankfully my dear friends Mary and Shawn at Sunny Day Supply had the zipper I needed in stock, and they were kind enough to send me the leaves and flower for applique as well. Be sure to check out their shop this month, because they're going to have all kinds of wonderful supplies for the projects in this book on hand if you need them!
The back of the pouch was supposed to be a four square block, but I fell so completely in love with this new print by my friend Elea Lutz (of which I'll be sharing more with you next month during her fabric tour!), that I just couldn't resist using it all in one piece. I used the tiny floral print from my Date Night collection for the lining and binding on the pouch which gave a nice continuity from the outside to the inside of the project. I love the color and small scale of this print, and I'm going to be so sad when I run out of it!
The hardest part of this project by far was sewing in the zipper by hand. The directions were perfectly clear and helpful, mind you. I'm just not used to putting a zipper in this way, and it took me a few tries to get my stitches right. Once I got in the swing of it, though, it came together nicely.
I'm so pleased with this sweet little pouch, and it feels great to tuck a few more skills under my crafty belt. The book is chock full of adorable projects featuring more techniques that I haven't tried, so I'm probably going to be pulling this title off the shelf now and then in the next year whenever I want to learn something new. If you're on Instagram, be sure to stop by my post to leave a comment so that you can be entered to win a copy of this book for yourself. I really think you'll like this one.
Saturday, January 4, 2020
|My Big Bear Cabin Quilt from Patchwork USA|
Happy New Year, friends! It's been a whirlwind of holidays and activities, family time and friendship over the past two months, and I've loved every second of it. So much has been happening in real time that it's been difficult to slip away to this space, but I'm tiptoeing back into the blog, and it feels great to be here with you again.
2019 was good to me. There were things to celebrate and not too many things to mourn. There was plenty of learning and growing which is always helpful. And there was a conscious decision to set aside time for family which was probably the best thing of all. I sat down this morning to think about what stood out to me over the past 12 months, and this is what came to mind...
1. biggest sewing accomplishment: Patchwork USA has been in the works since 2015, and I was thrilled to see it finally released into the world last July. This book is dear to my heart for many reasons, which you can read about here. Getting beautiful messages from readers who love it has brought all kinds of joy to my heart. To each one of you who bought it, thanks a million! And to those of you who haven't, you can still get a copy of your own. I hope you'll love it as much as I do.
2. biggest life change: This was the year that I felt the definite shift from being the mother of 3 little girls to the mother of 3 preteen daughters. It's been wonderful, terrifying, frustrating, exhausting, and exciting all at once, but we're finding our way one step at a time. Having my amazing husband and parents here to support me has been a lifesaver in this area more times than I can count, and together we make a great team. I'm learning the value of perspective and patience, and that sometimes it's better (but not easier) to hold my tongue and listen when the girls are having an off day. I'm pretty darn proud of these young women we're raising, who are each so smart and strong and fun. Being their mother is the hardest job in the world, but it's the best one too.
3. most surprising new habit: I've spent my whole life as a night owl, but this year I dabbled in being an early bird, and I'm still amazed at how much I like it. I don't do it every day, but getting up before dawn and sitting down with a cup of coffee (another new habit, believe it or not!) and my Bible to have a bit of quiet time before the girls are awake has been an anchor for my soul in the mornings. I'm craving more of that peace as I go into the new year.
4. most challenging new habit: I started intermittent fasting at the end of November, which basically just means that on most days, I don't eat after 2:30 in the afternoon. It's been a slow adjustment, but so far I've been pleased to see that it's really helping some of the health issues that were plaguing me last year. Like most things, it seems to get easier the longer you do it. We'll see how it goes over the next few months.
5. favorite unexpected project: I had so much fun designing some enamel pins and vinyl stickers for Maker Pin Co. last spring! They're still available here if you like that sort of thing. It was a dream assignment for me, and I love sharing them with friends when I can.
6. most influential read: The book that had the biggest impact on me this year was definitely Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I had been hurtling through life at breakneck speed for too long without realizing how much it was costing me, and this book was the wake up call I desperately needed. I'm still figuring out a lot of this stuff as I go along, but the change has been real and important in how I spend my days, and I'm so grateful.
7. favorite new accessory: My glasses are a permanent fixture now that I've crossed over into my 40's, but I like seeing a more interesting face look back at me in the mirror. Being able to read without feeling like I'm going blind is pretty nice too.
8. biggest schedule change: Now that my girls are getting older (they're currently in 4th, 5th, and 8th grade), school is taking a lot more of my time each day. We do a DVD based home school program where the girls watch their classes (taught by amazing teachers in real classrooms) at their desks, and then I make sure that they do their assignments, help them study for quizzes and tests, reteach lessons or tutor as needed, and grade all their papers. As the work is getting more challenging, the time I need to devote to teaching each day is growing. I'm perfectly happy with that since my daughters' education is the most important work I do, but it's meant that I've had to get creative sometimes when it comes to finishing the rest of my tasks each day. Exploring new ways to do this better is on my list of goals for 2020.
So those are the highlights that come to mind at the moment. I had another birthday last month, and it feels surprisingly good. The best thing about being 42 so far is realizing that I no longer need to make excuses for who I want to be. I don't need to apologize for wearing message tees, listening to Billie Holiday, reading old books about the Civil War, and staying home at night watching reruns of Psych with my husband instead of going out on the town. I don't have to feel guilty about lying down for 15 minutes with a good book in the afternoon, letting the dishes sit on the kitchen counter until later in the day, or sneaking off to get ice cream on the weekend without my daughters. The best thing I'm learning is that I don't have to be an all or nothing person in every area of my life. I can ease into new habits, tweak them a bit here and there, and take time to see what works instead of feeling like I have to start a new regime and get everything right immediately or it's no good. It takes a lot of pressure off when you stop trying to live up to the Pinterest boards and give yourself permission to be a human being.
But seriously, don't tell my daughters about the ice cream, because I still feel a little guilty about that one...