around the world blog hop

Last week the inimitable Amy Friend of During Quiet Time tagged me in the Around the World Blog Hop. Amy is a local quilt guild friend. With two other quilty fabric-y friends, she started the Seacoast Modern Quilt Guild. I’m an active member of the SMQG and am so thankful for the friendship and fellowship it offers! (Shameless plug for joining your local chapter of the MQG!)

In return, I am tagging two people I met through SMQG, and one person who daily provides such friendship and fellowship that I have to remind myself we haven’t yet met in person.

Stephanie of Simple Sewendipity is a fussy-cutting, rainbow-sewing, Elsa-and-Anna-dress-making force to be reckoned with. The quilts she makes for her girls always make me jealous, because they are full of such sweet details and amazing colors. She’s working on a rainbow alphabet quilt right now for one of her daughters that I can’t wait to see finished!

Mary of See Mary Quilt is also a bit of a rainbow connoisseur–but in her work, beautifully detailed machine free-motion quilting is the real star. Mary is also a knitter and a garment sewer and a stitcher of all things. What I love most in her work is that she seems willing to try just about anything stitchy, at least once!

Renee of Quilts of a Feather recently had a whole bunch of state fair judges confirm that she is a master quilter! She does quilting that I cannot believe comes from a domestic sewing machine. She doesn’t shy away from doing work that is incredibly painstaking and detailed, and sometimes the size of her pieces belies the amount of work that went into them. One of the most affecting quilts I’ve ever seen is about her experience in childbirth.

Stephanie, Mary, Renee, here are the questions I’ll answer (and that I’m looking forward to seeing you answer, in turn!):

1. What am I working on?
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
3. Why do I write/create what I do?
4. How does my writing/creating process work?

1. What am I working on?

I’m behind. Can you tell? This summer I took up a new activity/hobby (more on that this week, I hope) and the time and energy it took meant I had to drop *something*. I tried dropping cooking but my family didn’t love it–so the blog got lost. This is all to say that I have a long list of things I need or want to do right now, and they’re sort of getting done, but none as quickly as I’d like. So…I still have a pay it forward 2014 gift to make.

It started out like this:

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And then because I couldn’t let it go, and nothing helps a stagnating to-do list like time waste, it became

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I finished the top yesterday and can’t decide if it’s too “a lot of look” to still gift to the poor waiting pay-it-forward recipient. But I DID use a lot of stash!

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Besides the fact that I also knit and make clothes, I think the key that distinguishes my work is that I like a lot of loud color. I don’t particularly love to work with neutrals, and I don’t love solids. For a long time modern quilters used too much white fabric. “We”, as a group, still may be using too much white fabric. When I start a project, I’m not interested in purchasing eight yards of Kona Snow just to get started cutting. I put a lot of money into my stash so I am interested in using only the colorful fabrics that I enjoy buying to create a whole quilt. I think my current pink-and-gold/orchid-and-ochre (pink and pee pee?) WIP is a good example.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

Boredom! Being a stay-at-home mom can be isolating. It can also be deadening. Moms don’t get performance reviews or promotions or raises. By choosing not to work outside our home, I was missing out on some project-doing that I really need to be participating in. (I was in publishing project management right before I quit four years ago.) Quilts are more permanent than a well-cooked meal, and, frankly, more well-recieved around here. And writing? Well, blogging has fallen a bit by the wayside for me as Lucy’s gotten a bit older, but I still do appreciate this space to document some of the projects I am doing.

4. How does my writing/creating process work?

I used to think the answer was discipline, and it sort of is. (Make six blocks a day, and in six days, you’ll have enough for a quilt!) But recently, I am finding that a mix of discipline and choosing to do what gives me pleasure works best. So maybe: “do” something every day, but if you hate what you are doing, “do” something else?

Thanks for sticking around for this mike-tap of a post. I’m here! I worked on SO many quilts and sweaters and fun things this summer, and I can’t wait to share them with you. As soon as I resurrect my broken iPhoto library (sobs).

finished: fancy fox quilt

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I have procrastinated writing this post almost as long as it took me to actually make this quilt. Which is to say, I’ve been sitting on a finished quilt and photos for almost a week. And this little quilt took me a week and a morning to make.

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When Elizabeth Hartman started instagramming about her Fancy Fox quilt pattern, and mentioned it was perfect for Liberty fat eighths, I knew it was for me. I had joined Westwood Acres’ Liberty club in January, promising myself that I’d actually USE these luxury fabrics instead of just collecting them. The first month I did great, cutting into a couple of the fabrics for a small pillow project. The next few months I maybe played with a few fabric pulls including the Liberty, but mostly I let these fat eighths sit on the shelf.

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I have been buying some Liberty yardage too. A yard here, a yard there. I did a Liberty and Peppered Cotton Ruby dress (I should really blog the three Rubies I made!), and I made some Liberty napkins for a friend’s birthday. I wasn’t letting big pieces of Liberty sit on my shelf!

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In the spirit of applying maximum Liberty directly to my person, I pulled thirteen club favorites, added some scraps of a separately-purchased Liberty favorite (Kayoko, oh my) and whipped up the throw size quilt. Just for me. I used Peppered Cotton in Fog from Sew Fresh Fabrics for background and sashing. Kona Pepper and Snow were the muzzles and eyes.

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If you’re considering making this quilt, know that it sews up SO FAST. It’s a fast cut, and a fast sew, and it is so fun and satisfying to see favorite pieces of precious fabric made into these funny cute fox faces. I was done with the quilt top before I expected to be, and was caught without a backing plan. I had two meters of Liberty Scilly Flora from the first Massdrop buy (ended up being $23/meter, shipped, which is crazy a good deal) and had dragged my feet about the right dress pattern for it. Turns out it was the perfect amount to back and bind this quilt.

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Quilted with some Aurifil 2600 and a dense vertical squiggle, this quilt became luxuriously textured. It washed great and it is a super-light, smooth, cool-feeling quilt to use during the summer months.

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I can tell you this: I won’t be sharing this one. Not even with Lucy.

finished: snake trail quilt (the cerise beast)

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As I edit these photos, I’m still not sure quite how this quilt happened.

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Of course, I’ve wanted to make this quilt since Denyse Schmidt’s book Modern Quilts Traditional Inspiration hit my doorstep a couple of summers ago. I had this FQ bundle of the Flea Market Fancy Legacy reprint–only the second FQ bundle I had ever purchased!–and really needed to do just the right thing with it. I thought of copying Angela at Fussy Cut’s amazing, bright elongated long cabin take on the original line. I thought about making Sew Crafty Jess’s Lucky Square pattern. I thought about making a fan quilt; Suburbs; a Red-Pepper-Quilts-style simple HSTs-with-white quilt. But really? In my quilter’s heart I knew it had to be Snake Trail for this fabric, fabric that seemed too good and too special to cut into.

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But when I decided this a couple of years ago, I wan’t quite a skilled enough quilter to make it happen. I just didn’t have the chops. I struggled with FMQ. I struggled to make some blocks lay flat. I kept not making the quilt, and I kept not being quite able to use the Flea Market Fancy fabric for anything. In the meantime, though, I made a whole bunch of quilts. I made some harder quilts, like Penny Sampler and Bargain Basement; I made some easier quilts, like Briar Rose Boy’s Nonsense. I free-motion-quilted a whole bunch of quilts–charity quilts, quilts for Boston, my own quilts. I developed a set of quilter’s skills and a quilter’s eye, and this year, when I started thinking about “all the hard things” I wanted to do this year, Snake Trail topped my list.

And buddy was it worth every bit of the 2+ months (on and off, of course) I spent making it.

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I made the quilt exactly as Denyse Schmidt calls for in her book. The quilt is twin-sized (I dream of one day having a guest room with a twin bed to put this on!) and took 48 blocks. Each block takes 14 snake “segments,” which had to be more-or-less hand-cut off a template. I used that clear, flexible no-melt template plastic, and stuck the templates to my fabric using scotch tape. Then, I used my ruler and rotary cutter to cut the straight edges, and my scissors to round off the top and bottom. 672 times. Then the pie pieces and weird maxi-pad middle pieces had to be cut (they were bigger so I rotary cut those around the same template-plastic-scotch-tape mess).

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I had every intention of sewing the whole top up over the Boston MQG/Seacoast MQG retreat in March in Kennebunk Maine. Three days with no kid, no dishes to wash, no macaroni to make, no laundry to wrangle? I could make five quilts. No, but I forgot to factor in that I really need to sleep and actually I still need to eat and oh yeah this quilt is actually a hoss. A beast, if you will.

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Though it did take longer than planned, the cutting was really the only tedious part. I found that the sewing went mostly smoothly. When I pieced together the blocks at the end, I had to be VERY careful to line up the snakes. It took a lot of unpicking. It took help from friends on Instagram.

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The quilting was a bit of a challenge too. I had seen Don’t Call Me Betsy’s tutorial for Baptist Fan free-motion quilting and knew I really wanted to try it. Why I chose a monster beast of a twin quilt to try it out I’ll never know, except: could there be a more perfect quilting motif for this block design? It took two days and 2.5 Frixion pens, and quite a lot of positive self-talk at the sewing machine (if you look up close, my fans are WON KY) but holy cow you guys, the texture.

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A final thanks should to go Sarah over at Smiles Too Loudly because SHE was the one who (maybe a little joking? I can’t tell) suggested that I try using the Kona Cerise as a background when I found white fabric JUST TOO BORING. She made me look super-smart but it was all her idea. Now, I can’t imagine this quilt any other way but cerise!

Now I can’t wait to take on my next challenge quilt. I cut an easy project to keep my hands busy while I plot and decision-make, but I have big ideas already :)

advice for new bloggers: community {plum and june 2014 blog hop for new modern quilt bloggers}

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Plum and June

Last summer, I participated in the Plum and June 2013 New Blogger Blog Hop, run by Beth over at Plum and June. In many ways, it was a whirlwind. It’s easy to feel sometimes that modern quilt blogging is a saturated, overly competitive field. I mean, you already figured out you weren’t going to be the next Smitten Kitchen. But the sheer number of modern quilting blogs can be surprising if you’re just starting out. It’s easy to feel like you are writing into a void–like you’re alone in a crowd of established bloggers and no one cares what you are doing and writing about.

Take heart, you of small sewing machine and small blog. Your voice and your blog are vital in this wide and growing community of modern sewists and makers. Your. blog. matters. Because someone out there reading it just might be your new friend. “How can I make blogging friends?” you wonder. “The only person who ever comments on my blog is my cat.” Your cat notwithstanding, there are some habits you can develop as a blogger that can make you feel like you are part of this thriving, chatty community.

Community-building Habit #1: Respond to comments. (via email.) If you’re a WordPress blogger like I am, this may take just a bit of extra copy-paste email address action in Gmail. But it’s so worth it to respond to even a few comments on every post. Isn’t it fun when you get an email from Rachel, or Beth, or Molli Sparkles? Sometimes a blogger’s reply to a comment can even spark a further email conversation. Be open; be willing to keep talking, if you’re feeling it.

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Community-Building Habit #2: Be a Joiner. (within reason.) When Ashley emailed me in the midst of the blog hop last summer, saying “can we start a bee?” I was a little foot-draggy. I’m not…a good manager of people. But Ashley’s enthusiasm is, as you may know, contagious, and we ended up asking the participants in last summer’s blog hop if they would be interested in starting a bee. The response was quick and solid–after a couple of hours we had a baker’s dozen participants, and a whole year and a month’s worth of quilting ahead. (And I think some of the international quilters even started their own global bee!) We’re winding down now, on our last four months of Scrapbeelicious blocks, but it’s been so fun to make blocks for these skilled and creative quilters every month.

This is not to say you should say yes to everything. If you’re already feeling like you don’t have time to do your own work, you know you need to say a kind, firm, “no thank you but you guys have fun without me.” But if you’ve never joined a collaborative effort such as a bee–it’s a great way to get to know some people a little bit better. (Just ask me how I feel about the ladies in my do. Good Stitches circle.) (hint: it’s all pink and purple hearts.)

SONY DSC Community-Building Habit #3: Join a guild. (no, really just do it.) No excuses. We are all wallflowers who would rather sit at our sewing machines. But real-life connections can help you grow your quilting community AND your blog, all at once. There are a handful of really talented and creative likeminded bloggers in my guild and putting faces to their blog handles helped me feel much more connected to them. Plus their quilts are all so much more amazing in person. Go to a guild meeting and be nice, and I promise they will be nice back.

No local guild? Think about starting one. I have a brave friend who is starting one up in the coming month. The guild I am a member of was started once upon a time by three people who were tired of driving, too. These things start somewhere; why not with you? At the very least visit your local quilt shop, buy a spool of Aurifil, and try to strike up a conversation with the person who takes your money!

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Community-Building Habit #4: Remember that other small bloggers are people too. That means when someone you haven’t yet met comments on your blog, their blog is worth a visit (and perhaps a Bloglovin’ follow, and maybe a comment on their next post). I’ve gotten out of this habit lately and it’s like missing out on a daily run–it is a great way to see what other people are up to, and a fantastic way to meet other people who are doing the same thing you are doing in the same space.

Community-Building Habit #5, and the last: Be open. (True Colors, and all.) It took me thirty years to learn this, but friendships don’t happen unless potential friends sense that you’re open to them. Blogging friendships follow this rule too. It’s easy to be standoffish and closed-off. Be open (within reason, within safety, within comfort–we’ve all seen Catfish) to other people with similar tastes, interests, talents, friends, and you’ll be surprised what develops.

PS: for more information on the 2014 Blog Hop, please click the button at the tip-top of this post! I 100% recommend participating if you are a new modern quilting blogger.

mathilde blouse: an all-the-hard-things finish

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I’ve written only briefly about my “all-the-hard-things” goal for this year. It’s a nebulous goal, and the phrase “all the hard things” really sums it up more nicely than a whole bunch of bullet points or detailed goal lists ever could. Plus, an open ended goal leaves room for expansion and modification. I might make a bunch of quilting goals but then decide to take up, say, tatting (hint: likely not what you think–click the link!) or wild-yeast sourdough bread making. With me, you sort of never know.

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One of my firm goals this year was to finally make the Mathilde Blouse, pattern by Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the Buttons. I had seen this amazing version done up in Liberty lawn over at the Workroom’s blog (Liberty junkies: this blog is nearly as essential a follow as the Purl Bee) and I just knew–though I barely had Washi under my belt–that it had to be mine. I bought the pattern, I bought some beautiful Yuwa lawn because I’m not about to goof up $35/yd Liberty and…

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…I let the whole pile sit for a year, almost. Part of the issue was that the pattern, designed for A4 paper, printed super-weird and I had to hand-draw in many of the lines so that I could even cut it out. And that Yuwa lawn? Well. It came, and was supposed to be less-nice than Liberty, but it was the most beautiful fabric I’d laid my hands on to date, and I was terrified to ruin it. Plus there had been the Buttonhole Incident surrounding the Geranium Dresses I made for Lucy last year that made me love-hate-dread-fear my Janome auto-buttonhole feature. Let’s just recollect that Mathilde’s key feature is that lovely row of seven buttons closing the back of the blouse–romantic, dreamy, old-fashioned–but they had to be done RIGHT.

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What is there to say except, reader, I finally sewed it?

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This sew took me every bit of four whole sewing days, at 2-3 hours a day, to complete, but it was so worth it. I loved every minute, from french-seaming every part I possibly could, to carefully hand-finishing the cuffs (stitch in the ditch was too sloppy a finish for this beauty–hand sewing was definitely called for), to sewing on the bright, coral-pink buttons that Lucy insisted were the right choice for this blouse. (She was right.) Even setting a seam with my iron was a joy.

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The best part? It fulfilled my childhood Anne-with-an-e dream of ridiculously puffed sleeves on a garment. Mathilde Blouse: check.

may blocks: grace circle, do good stitches

“Gradients” are all the rage these days. Whether you’re sewing, knitting, dyeing Easter eggs, or getting dressed–it’s much more fun to choose colors that are related to each other, of different values, than to go monochromatic.

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I have a post brewing (oh, it’s been so long!) about how I really became a knitter this winter and how knitting has opened up this whole new way of thinking about piecing quilts and making in general. Really, the knitters have gradients COVERED. Even the self-striping yarn makers are catching on to the gradient craze: I knit these socks last month using some KnitPicks Felici Fingering.

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But that’s not all! Quilty people tend not to use the word “gradient” quite as often as knitters, but we’re doing the same work. We tend to talk more about “value,” but it’s all part of the same thing. (Differing values make gradients, after all.) I love how Alex at Teaginny is working with color value lately (you just have to glance through her first few recent posts to get the idea! She’s a master). Joshua at Molli Sparkles has done some gradient geese that make me die of jealousy every time I see them. Cath at Wombat Quilts made this stunning baby quilt last year, that plays with value and the relationship between plummy purple and orange. In this case, she uses lighter values of yellow to convey heat at the center of the quilt.

So. For our May Grace circle quilt, dump your scrap bucket (or, okay, don’t, because if I did I’d drown–rifle around in it a bit, at least) and choose a bright, cheery color or two that you have in several different values. Obviously, I have a thing for pink. But I also had quite a collection of aqua scraps, and quite easily made a block out of aqua too. Each block takes 36 2.5” squares, laid out 6 x 6, to make a 12.5” square block. Lay them out in gradient-ish order, across a diagonal.

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May Grace circle block samples

You can send me two blocks of the same color, or two of different colors. Got a lot of aqua and pink, just like me? Send ‘em! Doesn’t matter. Just make your colors bright and cheery not muddy. As much as I love them, I don’t think gray and black belong here (yet. I reserve the right to sash in black!). I think this will be a girl quilt, so feel free to girl it up with the pinks, peaches, purples, yellows, and aquas!

And ladies–it’s time to pull out that .25” foot and be really precise with your piecing. These are really simple, quick patchwork blocks so let’s press and lock our seams and make them perfect.

Finally, if you find you’re lacking in any particular part of the gradient–say, you have a lot of red fabrics but they’re all dark values–never fear. Send me a quick Flickr messsage, ping me on Instagram, or email me to let me know, and maybe you can do either a center block or I can help you out from my own overflowing scrap heap.

I can’t wait to see what we all come up with! I think it will be so fun to play with these blocks.

THE SKINNY
–36 2.5” squares per block (x 2 blocks), 6 x 6 layout
–bright, cheery, girly? colors (no black, gray, or “muddy”)
–finishes at 12.5” square
–gradient across the diagonal. Doesn’t matter if you do left to right or top to bottom I’m going to turn it however I want it :P

a final PS: our fearless leader Rachel has done some great work with color value, and ran a QAL in 2012 with lessons and writeups re: determining value, if you’re stuck. Don’t sweat these blocks too much. This is an improv quilt at heart and precision isn’t the idea–play is!

finished: single girl baby quilt

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This is a story about a bucket list quilt and two quilters.

Who among us hasn’t looked at all the gorgeous Single Girl quilts out there and felt that potent mix of desire and self-doubt and template loathing? When I first started quilting through 2010 and 2011, I was vaguely aware that this was a quilt. And people were making it. And it was hard, and they griped about it and were proud of it, and finished it as though they had given birth. Of course, I thought, “psssshhhhh I can do that.”

I sewed my first curved blocks, and thought, “maybe not.”

In 2013 I felt like I really became a quilter. I started making quilts I was proud of, that I felt like could hold their own next to any other quilter’s. I don’t talk a lot about Big Goals and Things I Mean To Do, but my 2014 mentality is Try All The Hard Things. It’s time to sew that lawn top with the 1400 buttonholes up the back. Time to make a queen-size quilt that speaks to my style, and FMQ it on my little Janome. Time to knit little striped sweaters and big striped sweaters and learn some dadgum colorwork. Maybe even make the Elisalex.

When I write all those things I mean to do in a list, this Single Girl looks like both a piece of cake and the tip of the iceberg. Because really! Only four rings! Big huge curve to piece! Little bitty ol’ quilt! But I was scared, nonetheless. I knew I wanted to make this quilt for friends who were expecting their first son in March. They chose purple, orange, and gray for their nursery (they have the best taste) and I loved thinking of the kind of quilt these colors would make. I procrastinated, and stalled, and just didn’t make the quilt.

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A week before the baby shower, Lucy and I flew to East Tennessee to spend a week with my family. I packed my Single Girl pattern, and a huge pile of fabric. My grandma packed her little Brother. Within 36 hours of landing in the South, Grandma and I had all the pieces cut for four rings and I had my first ring sewn together (see first photo in the post). Another 24 hours and we had the whole quilt pieced. What can’t two quilters do together?!

I was so blessed to get to work with my grandmother on this quilt. She’s healthy and strong and still a prolific quilter, but I know there will be times later in my life when I will look back on this project and finally realize what a sweet time this was.

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We worked kind of assembly-line style. I used scotch tape to tape the paper templates down to my fabric, and rotary cut the straight edges (and then used the cutter to hack each piece out of the fabric). Grandma used scissors to cut around the curves of the templates. She also kept track of how I was distributing my colors across the rings. Then, I pieced the ring segments while she cut my background fabric. She’d press, I’d sew.

And she came up with the idea to do the orange and gray border, and swap it top and bottom. Smart!

At the end, Grandma came to two conclusions: 1) there is no reason to be afraid of this quilt, and 2) she would like to do one. I’ll be sending her a copy of the pattern as a thank-you for helping me.

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I backed the little quilt in silver-gray minky and quilted it with a loose loopy FMQ pattern (it’s best not to get too fancy when you’re quilting minky). I did use a cotton batting for a heavier quilt–a March baby is a winter baby, in Boston! I handed off the quilt to the proud mommas-to-be this past weekend, and I think they were pleased.

I’m surely pleased to be able to cross this pattern off my list. (Though I think there’s another one of these coming this year!)

finished: tule mountains quilt

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SONY DSCObservations that are going to take the place of a real post:

1) It’s easy to look like you’re finishing a whole bunch of stuff when you’re a blog slacker (slacking as in reading and posting). Ta-da! All the finishes! When really, I’m just not getting it together to post real WIP posts (which I invariably find more interesting to read, even if they are harder to write).

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2) I’m a lazy quilt namer. This thing is in a box on the way to Texas right now–a gift for a dear friend–and I didn’t even think about naming it until I sat down to lazy-blog it. Ta-da! Fabric line + pattern = name!

3) I have the best, most helpful husband, who helped me photograph this quilt with NO complaining, even as the wind tried to grab the quilt right out of his hands. Marry a good person, quilters, one who doesn’t gripe about fabric expenditures or goofy quilt photo shoots. Bonus points for tallness.

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4) Free-motion quilting really does get easier and more fun the more you do it. Things that help: Aurifil, and the correct FMQ foot. Finally I threw away my broken FMQ foot and questioned whether the $60 replacement my dealer sold me was correct, bought a generic FMQ foot for $14 on Amazon, and now quilting is going awesome. I’d never heard “try a different FMQ foot” in the list of FMQ troubleshooting advice you always hear, so here it is: try a different FMQ foot if you’re struggling with skipped stitches and thread breakage. Worst case is you’re out $14.

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5) The most fun projects are the ones that possess you. In the middle of all kinds of deadline-chore-gift sewing, I HAD to make the blocks for this quilt using the tutorial Molli Sparkles posted. Had to. Immediately. Five in a day. I had to put the project down to finish all my obligation sewing, but then the blocks went easily and quickly once I was able to turn back to the project. The fabric? A stack of Leah Duncan’s latest line for Art Gallery Fabrics, Tule. (Had to get it used so I can have an excuse to buy Meadow in February.)

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6) and the last: Back a quilt in Art Gallery Fabric, at least once before you die. The feel is like the crispest, softest, most-expensive luxury bedding you’ve ever felt. (Peg of Sew Fresh Fabrics, who sold me this backing, says it’s “like buttah.”) (AGF should make sheets. I’d spend a fortune.) And it crinkles perfectly in the wash. Amazing stuff.

this quilt is about 56” x 66”: a good throw size.

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finished: snowy stars align quilt

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the smallest one was Madeline.SONY DSC

She was not afraid of mice–

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She loved winter, snow, and ice.

I’m amazed what picture books I can recite in part or in whole these days, but the classic Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans, will always be one of my favorites. I can recite it from beginning to end, without faltering, and these past two winters the line “She loved winter, snow, and ice” runs through my head on repeat. When I found out November was my month as a Grace Circle do. Good stitches quilter, I knew I wanted to do something freezy-cold wintery.

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I made this quilt as my first do. Good Stitches quilt; you can find my original post about this quilt here. The block design is by Sarah of Stitching and Bacon (isn’t she smart?!) and can be found here. (Thanks to Sarah for letting us use your block!) (And thanks also to the Grace Circle ladies, who all sew with a PERFECT .25” seam. You gals are totally amazing, let’s make a bunch more quilts together.)

Happily we got a bit of snow–but not too much–the week after I finished this quilt and we were able to zip out and get a few photos. I backed this small quilt (about 52” x 52”) in a charcoal-gray minky and quilted loose, wonky loops across it. I did use Warm and Natural as a batting this time with the minky and it made for a really heavy, drapey, lovely wintery quilt.

Yes, I pin basted the minky. Yes, I agree it is a pain to stick the pins through the poly fabric but it really truly does work just fine!

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This quilt is packed up and ready to be shipped this week to My Very Own Blanket, an organization that provides throw sized quilts to kids in foster care. I know the colors make it boy-appropriate but really? I’m hoping a little girl who loves blue–or, winter, snow, and ice–chooses this one.

making Christmas: a quilter’s process

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It’s five days away.

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Are your gifts still piles of fabric? Still in the skeins? Does your sewing machine tragically need to go to the shop right now, in the thick of it, like a toddler with a bursting bladder only AFTER you’ve loaded up the grocery cart?

Oh my friends. This year I thought I had reached handmade gift zen. Last year was a menace, and a nightmare. I had decided to make EVERYONE A QUILT because everyone needs a quilt, and quilts are what I think I do best in the world. Cut to December 12, and I was a crying, shivering mass under a pile of scraps and WIPs with no present-able presents. I did eventually pull it together for the big day, but I didn’t want to be there again this year.

Today I’m on the other side of Christmas 2013, the done-with-a-fairly-handmade-Christmas side, and I thought I’d share with you a little bit about my process this year. Maybe so you can laugh at me. More so I can look back at this blog in August next year and play things a little differently. So, without further ado, here’s how I made my handmade holidays happen this year.

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1) Procrastinated. Pure and simple. Sarah started posting about Christmas way back in the heat of July. It was all a big blog hop movement to get people like me to get their rears in gear and make at least ONE Christmas gift while the making was good. I commented on her post about it. I was all, “I will do this!” And then I went and did another thing or seven, none of which was a Christmas gift.

Fast forward to the week before Thanksgiving, and commence step

2) Bit off more than I could chew. “What do you want me to knit you for Christmas?” I texted my family. “I can do all kinds of things! Socks! Cowls! Hats! Mittens!” My family, who, by now, knows I am dopey, kind of tolerated these texts and provided halfhearted responses, knowing in their gut they’d never see those emerald-green little-cable knee socks. How smart was I about this, though–after all the trouble I got in last year making quilts, I was in awesome shape. No quilts! All knitting! And knitting can be done in front of the TV! How relaxing!

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By now you’re guessing that the next step is certainly

3) Deny, deny, deny. I productively procrastinated by winding ALL of the yarn while watching Pitch Perfect on loop from the sofa on the day before Thanksgiving. I cast on my grandmother’s Bees to Honey shawl Thanksgiving morning, and knit three stripes during the parade, thinking, “this is just flying along! Going so fast! I’m so awesome! Going to do all the knitting!” Never once did I think “My Bees to Honey took four weeks to knit and I am in serious trouble right now.”

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4) Enter plague of death. You know the one. The plague that your kid brings home from some preschooler activity that makes her sick for one day, but that takes down all adults for a week. I was so sick that all I could do was watch Ja’mie on the sofa with my cast-on hat edge sitting next to me. (If you’re sensing that there is more TV than holiday gift making in my plan you are correct.)

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5) Get totally distracted. By cats. Because, Catvent! What an awesome idea! I love Advent! I love Christmas! I have scraps! I can make four cats a day and make a throw for my cat-loving sister! I have the backing! I have the scraps! It’s practically a free present–a present made out of pure freeness and love! Watch me watch me make TWELVE CATS A DAY!! (Still plague, here, also.)

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6) Realize there’s a problem in this plan. Also realize that Christmas is 20 days away and gifts must be shipped in 13-14 days. Panic. Work like a fiend, on all the wrong things. More cats! Penny Sampler! Finish Grandma’s Bees, feel awesome–but not for long because that hat got effed up while you were watching Ja’mie, gotta frog it all. Producing a ton of stuff at this point, but no gift-like objects are emerging.

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7) Wake with gift clarity, on December 8, when all the people are at Joann’s already. Tote bags are the answer. Let’s take the cats, make cat totes. Three cat totes. Need cotton duck. Need denim/chambray. Need zips. Need…Joann’s. I’m so grateful that I had my little tote revelation on a Sunday, when I could leave my toddler-helper at home. Joann’s is never really a place you want to be but it is the Last Place You Want To Be on a weekend day in December.

8) Sew totes. Produce things. On a roll! All the things that I was going to knit are now totes! Only my control-freak sister says my mother won’t use THAT kind of tote, she needs the OTHER kind of tote! OK I can do that too! Packing! Shipping! Totes! Books in the totes!

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9) Knit the things. On a roll! Two boy hats for the boys who presumably don’t carry things like quilted totes with kitty cat faces on them.

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10) Ship, on a snow day. With the toddler, in this stupid population-dense place we live, from a PO with the smallest parking lot ever.

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11) Here’s where I am now: January gifts. I really like to make little things for my friends, but that totally got lost because I put everything off too late. I think the January gift is the best idea ever. Everyone gets so many gifts in December, but January is when you are on your budget and on your diet and it’s cold and snowy and life really kind of stinks. That’s when you need your surprise cashmere-blend handknits, your Art Gallery Fabrics quilts. Right? Right?

How about you? are you still manic? (Clearly I am a little.) Or are you zen, having long ago figured out the key to having your handmade holiday and enjoying it too? Do tell! And have just the merriest of Christmases. I owe a finish to Do Good Stitches by 12/31, so keep a look out!