it’s okay to be little

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I’ve had this post a-brewing for a long time. It’s not so much about quilting, so feel free to click “mark as read” and move on. It’s okay.

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When I started this blog in May 2012, I was a stay-at-home mom with a 1-year-old, and I was lonely and bored. We moved to our town in Massachusetts about five weeks before Lucy was due to be born, and, in full survival mode, dug into what we needed to do to survive late pregnancy and newbornhood. I didn’t do a good job putting down roots; I didn’t do a good job reaching out to make friends. I felt crippled by my tiny 10th percentile bottle-refusing baby who needed to nurse every 45 minutes.

By the time Lucy was 14 months old, I turned to my husband and said, “I feel like I’ve recovered from a long, terrible illness, and I’m finally well again.” I had picked quilting back up after nearly abandoning it during Lucy’s babyhood. I was sleeping again. Lucy was weaned. And I had this little blog and OBVIOUSLY I was going to be immediately and hugely famous.

SONY DSCHA. It took a year before anyone even started seeing my work. But this past summer, when I joined Beth’s Let’s Get Acquainted New Blogger Blog Hop, I was so overwhelmed by how friendly and wonderful all of my fellow bloggers are! I’m so glad to be having the kinds of conversations I always wanted to have about quilts and fabric hoarding and sewing and kids and being a stay-at-home-mom who tries to sew. Exchanging comments and emails with you-all has been a lifeline.

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I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t admit that the same blog hop that brought me so many close and vibrant online friendships didn’t also bring some negative feelings. Feelings like stress and pressure. Feelings like jealousy, which is always really rooted in selfish feelings of inadequacy. “She has so many more followers than me, surely she doesn’t want to talk to little ol’ me.” “He’s so sparkly, he doesn’t have time to yak about which Art Gallery fabrics to buy.” “She’s already designing her own patterns! I’ll never be able to do that.” “How is she managing four or five posts a week? I still don’t know where my camera is from two weeks ago.”

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Of course, all that negative stuff is in my own head. In my heart of hearts, I believe that any person possessed by the urge to cut fabric into tiny pieces and put it back together into a thing of warmth, beauty, and love, has a golden soul and is a truly kindred spirit. And it’s turned out to be so true! Every sewing blogger I’ve exchanged words with, big or small, is a lovely, warm person.

SONY DSCIn the past two months, my feelings of jealousy and inadequacy have resolved into something more satisfied and peaceful. I used to think I wanted to be a capital B Blogger (like I used to think I wanted to be capital P Professor or a capital E Editor. Or a capital W Writer.) But I’ve learned (through experience) that something essential changes the moment that you do something for any reason other than love. The first novel you read to cite in a paper you’re trying to write so that you can be a fierce competitor on a brutal job market changes you as a reader. The first quilt you make to sell isn’t the same as the quilt you made for love. I’ve not done it, but I imagine the first blog post you write that isn’t for the love of your own little blog isn’t a bad thing–it’s just a different thing.

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It’s not like potential sponsors are knocking down my door. It’s not like I get a lot of pageviews. It’s not like I’m getting emails from sewing websites begging me to submit tutorials. But truly? I don’t think I want them to. I need this–blogging and quilting–to be the thing I do out of love. I don’t personally feel the need to spend time growing my readership or trying to get pageviews or plotting a string of tutorials.

(Sidenote: some of the quilters I most admire–some of the PEOPLE I most admire–do tutorials and sell quilts and patterns and blog for reasons other than hippy dippy “love”. I’ll fiercely defend anything a person can do from their own home to support their hobby or allow them to spend less time in an office and more time with those they love. Fiercely. In saying this is not for me, I’m not passing any value judgment.)

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So, materially, what this might mean is that I might be here a little less often. That’s OK. Some weeks I might have a ton to say. Some months, nothing. It’s all cool. This is a hobby, right, for love? So if I’m not loving it, I don’t have to do it. It’s also going to mean that I’m going to put even less pressure on myself to link-up-socialize-spend-three-hours-every-Friday-night-commenting-on-as-many-posts-as-possible.

I’m hoping these realizations help me reach a more genuine place as a blogger and as a quilter. It’s okay to be little! And it’s even more okay to figure out that little is always what you wanted to be in the first place.

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bits, pieces, and stuff you should know about

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(I can only LUCK into good photos of this kid lately. Here she is amusing herself while I worked on Scrappy Spiderwebs photos.)

1) Victoria Findlay Wolfe (she is who I think of as “THE WINNER OF QUILTCON”) is coming to lecture at an event co-hosted by the Boston MQG and the Seacoast MQG! She’ll be at the West Newbury Town Hall Annex in West Newbury MA on October 18, 7-9pm. Members of either BMQG or SMQG pay $5 at the door; all guests are welcome and can purchase a $10 ticket at the door. See the SMQG blog for details.

2) Lizzy House is coming to another lecture co-hosted by the SMQG and BMQG! She’ll be visiting us on November 23 from 10 am to noon, also at the West Newbury Town Hall Annex in West Newbury MA. This event is free to all members of the SMQG and BMQG; again, all guests are welcome and can purchase a $10 ticket at the door. SMQG blog has Lizzy House details, too!

3) Denyse Schmidt is coming to the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell MA in November. Her workshop has been booked up for months, but she will be giving a lecture on November 15 at 7pm. I won’t be able to make this one myself but check out the details if you think you can!

4) By Hand London just released a free PDF pattern, the Polly Top, and it looks FABULOUS. Fabulous, as in, why am I not already sewing this?! Head over here, enter your email address, and they’ll send you a download link. I’ve had a look and the pattern looks quite appropriate for a beginner sewist. (This is absolutely not a sponsored post, but seriously, you should know about the Polly Top.)

/and now back to your regular programming

finished: scrappy spiderwebs quilt

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Remember when I won the spiderweb lottery blocks at my guild meeting in June? I felt like the luckiest gal alive.

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I knew I needed to make a few more spiderweb blocks, sure. And I had a funky buttload of string scraps to use (even after Roy G. Zig). I felt sure that my beloved and much-coveted spiderweb quilt was close at hand. A quick finish!

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Say it with me, in a Borat voice: NOT.

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My first problem with this quilt I knew before I even left my guild meeting. This is a block that requires very consistent measuring and piecing to make all the star points meet correctly. If any one of my guild members had made 30 spiderweb blocks, all 30 of theirs would have made a perfect quilt. As it was, I had 16 blocks made by different hands, and the star points were just not going to all meet. This is the blessing and curse of bee quilts. I’m SO bowled over by the blessing of owning a quilt made by some of the most talented quilters in my geographic region, don’t get me wrong. But our points don’t match.

I know, call the quilt police.

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My second issue with this quilt was that given my current quilting commitments (Penny Sampler, Phoenix Twins, two bees, some guild stuff, and holiday sewing looming ominously) I just knew I couldn’t scrape together many more spiderweb blocks. OK, I couldn’t do ANY more spiderweb blocks.

But then you brilliant people out there on the quilternet saved the day! Kelie of Craft Nurse Quilt posted this amazing finish on Flickr. I was struck by the fact that I didn’t HAVE to make 14 more spiderweb blocks! I could make more blocks, sure, but I could do them however the heck-o I wanted!

Then enter Kelly’s fabulous Serendipity scrap quilt, and the rainbow blocks Mary’s churning out. Why not some easy-peasy improv log cabiny blocks? Paintbox style? Around the edges? Quick, scrap-hoovering, perfect.

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This plan looked fabulous and was so fun. Enter problem #3: then when I attached my sashing and improv blocks, the top wouldn’t lay flat. No amount of steam could flatten the sucker into submission.

So I thought, fine, okay, I’ll just stipple this bad boy and call it a day. HA. Problem #4. My backing wrinkled up twice and my front wrinkled up once before I had even an eighth of the quilt stippled. Then I spent a whole naptime watching a trashy movie and spitefully seam-ripping.

I finally gave in and straight line quilted it

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and called it a day.

(I’m ignoring problem #5 I ran short of backing on one corner, problem #6 it’s not at all square, and problem #7 the first time I went to take photos of this they all turned out blue wth?)

You guys?

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I love this hot mess of a quilt.

Thanks to the SMQG who made the blocks, and all of you who inspired me along the way! This is going to be my happy-times snow-days cuddle quilt this winter, I know it.

received: flying geese sewing machine cover from Samantha

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Fun fact: Vancouver-ish BC to Boston-ish MA is about 3160 miles. Google Maps says it would take me 47 hours to drive it. (Fun-ner fact: I highway-drive like a granny, so it would probably take me 55.)

SONY DSCYou may remember the sewing machine cover that I sent to Samantha at Making Life Prettier. This past Saturday the cover she made for my Janome showed up, and it is so amazing.

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She paper-pieced the swirl of flying geese (one of my very favorite quilting motifs) from some little strip-pieced segments, and then used the scraps for the borders. Look at her precise outline quilting around those geese!

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The back is even better. I’m 99% sure that she doesn’t even know that one of my favorite quotes in all of English-language literature is about “little houses.” It’s from These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (yep): Almanzo asks Laura to marry him, and talks about the house he’ll build her. He warns her,

“‘…It will have to be a little house. Do you mind?’ ‘I have always lived in little houses. I like them,’ Laura answered.”

In New England, I know that if I have a house of my own at all, it will have to be a little house. And really, I like little houses! It’s so amazing to me that Samantha fussy cut the phrase “little house” from Violet Craft’s Memoir print (maybe my favorite fabric, ever) and put it in my machine cover. (Look back at the top photo for the best detail.)

I had fun playing I-Spy for my favorite fabrics, too. I see Chicopee, Architextures, Waterfront Park, Tsuru, Lizzy House, and so many more.

Samantha backed the cover in a print from Flea Market Fancy (again, a real favorite), and bound it in a print from DS’s new line, Florence.

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What a useful print that Florence binding looks to be! (adds to never ending to-buy list)

And to top it off, Samantha sent me two vintage zips, some hardware to make Lucy a bag like the ones she made for her littles, a precious Echino scrap from her Super Tote, and an Ellen Luckett Baker Stamped Ladybug scrap.

I feel so blessed that, despite the 3160 miles between us, I have a true sewing friend. What an amazing swap this has been!

Read Samantha’s post about this cover here.

all the things

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Yesterday on Instagram I observed, “cooler weather = casting on all the things.”

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Yesterday evening I cast on a Lowbrow Hat (click through to purchase the pattern on Ravelry) in The Plucky Knitter Primo Aran in the June Classics colorway, Outta My Hair. I have a good friend who washed a man outta her hair this spring-summer, and I wanted to knit her a little luxury to remind her what a good thing washing a man outta your hair can be. The pattern is so easy and amazing that I knit through the first pattern repeat before bed!

photo_2I always thought that leaves looked tricky to knit, but this leaf pattern isn’t. What fun hats are.

Also on my needles right now is my Nanook (again, click through for details and to purchase pattern). You’ve seen the Insta-spam, probably.

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I’m using Cascade 220 in the colorway Anis. Bad math led me to believe that my five stashed skeins were enough, but as I seamed the first sleeve on Sunday

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I started to get that really bad yarn runny-out-y feeling and rushed to order more. (I’ve since re-done my math, and guess what? 5 times 220 yards does NOT, in fact, equal 1200 yards. #englishmajor). The color is a real chameleon. I love it in the top photo, hate it in the second; love it with certain Instagram filters, am wishy-washy on it IRL. I realized it’s the exact color of one of Lucy’s vests

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and so I’ve made peace with it, as a color. I’m 1/4 down the second sleeve and then it’s just a mile and a half of garter and stockinette for the body, so I hope to have it done before a hard frost.

About a month ago I finished my Color Affection shawl, which I posted about before I started it but not since. Yarn is (natch) Plucky Feet in Oatmeal, Dandy Lion, and Ball Point.

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I’d not ever knit stripes before, so, as you can see in the second photo, my edge is a little disastrous. (I’ve got to get one of you IRL knitters I know to teach me to twist yarns together at the color changes.) I don’t care. I love this shawl and I’ve been wearing it in the evenings, August heat be damned. Now that it’s cold, watch out, I’ll hardly take it off.

I’d noticed that I’d gone a bit off knitting and yarn buying. But now that it’s getting back down into the 50s 60s here, I’m having fun planning my fall knits. I want to knit Grace, and those Purl Soho kneesocks that kicked my butt in January. I wound yarn for a To Infinity and Beyond cowl, and MAY have just ordered a couple of skeins of DK for a French Cancan. And I think Lucy’s just got to have a Little Sperry.

If you knit, what are you planning for the fall-winter? Are you casting on all the things too? 🙂

finished-buying-fabric friday?

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Does that count as having finished something, having bought ALL the fabrics?

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Suffering from sewing block this month nearly killed my fabric budget for the rest of the year, in a big way. Above is a photo of my haul from Sew Fresh Fabrics. Peg holds weekly sales (that you will only hear about if you follow Sew Fresh on Facebook), and several weeks ago, she put her whole sale section on extra 40% off. You know what was in that sale section? Many of the prints from Flea Market Fancy. I was doomed. I added in a few other irresistible prints, including an Andover text print and 1.5 yds of Summerlove (Ruby top, anyone?)

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SONY DSCThese low-volume Comma, Architextures, and Madrona Road text print were not on sale, but shoot. I keep running out of these prints because I use them just all the time.

Pink Castle Fabrics is also running an insidious series of promotions they’re calling Deal of the Day. You sign up for the daily email, and then try every day to resist the awesome treat they’re offering at a spectacular price. I’ve caved a modest three times. One low-volume bundle:

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SONY DSCAnd I have an $8 shipped spool of white Aurifil 50wt coming. Aurifil: I won’t FMQ without it.

Stash Modern Fabric is one of my new favorite shops (since I picked up some Koi voile and white Waterfront Park prints a couple weeks back). When Michelle of Factotum of Arts, a dear blog friend, celebrated her one-year blogiversary several weeks ago, she surprised her top five commenters with an Etsy gift card. Michelle is an Etsy artist herself, and I thought this was a wonderful giveaway that gave me a lot of choices for how to treat myself. So duh, fabric, from Stash Modern Fabrics. I’m going to say that Michelle treated me to these fabrics for a Super Tote:

SONY DSCand, because Stash Modern does free shipping over $50, the rest of this just…fell into my cart whoops:

SONY DSCFinally, remember that shopping cart fulla fabric I posted on Monday? I was at this surplus and salvage store (“It’s grosser than Big Lots!” I crowed to my husband) called Mardens, located in Maine. Amy, our SMQG president, arranged for our group to get 10% off our purchases on the day of our September meeting. Ima do the math for ya. Designer fabric at <$5/yard ($4.49 seemed to be what most of my choices were labeled), plus a 10% discount = crazytown.

SONY DSCThere’s a piece missing, some Anna Griffin I bought to make a fall Washi for myself.

So there you have it. Trouble. Now I’m busy trying to cut and sew it all down into a stashable pile–and I’m even busier trying to resist the Pink Castle Skinny Sale this weekend. I’m officially on a fabric diet until Lizzy House’s kitty cats come out. Officially.

P.S. a bonus: Lucy cruised through as I was taking these photos and saw my camera. She asked me to take her picture PLEASE, and then sat still, smiled sweetly, and looked at the camera. She hasn’t done this since she was six months old.

My hope for decent Christmas cards is renewed.

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stuff that helps when you’re stuck

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because it would appear that I’m not the only one! Thanks, all, for the commiseration and advice.

Maybe it’s September? But I’m feeling considerably less stuck today. Could be the changing weather. Yesterday we took Lucy to the playground wearing shorts and short sleeves, and had to leave 45 minutes later because Momma was cold. (Don’t be too jealous. It’s supposed to be in the 90s on Wednesday.)

Or, the renewal of my creative energy could be due to any combination of the below:

1) Selfish sewing

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In July I bought the printed Staple Dress pattern by April Rhodes from Pink Castle Fabrics. It was worth whatever extra couple of bucks it cost me not to have to fuss with taping printer paper together.

Then I waffled about fabric. I wanted Liberty Tana Lawn. I couldn’t justify spending that much money on a dress when I didn’t even know that the pattern was flattering. Then I wanted Anna Maria rayon. Not sure why I didn’t make that happen. Lazies? I considered everything, and then Rashida Coleman Hale’s Koi voile was put on presale at Stash Modern Fabric and I was all, YES.

Two months later, I put Lucy down for a nap, trimmed the pattern, cut the dress, sewed the dress, took the bathroom mirror selfie above, and then got the kid out of the crib. It was that quick, and that easy. And it’s a super-flattering dress, in beautiful fabric. What a joy.

2) Let yourself get behind.

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I was super-caught-up on Penny Sampler blocks and practice projects (see, my dogwood pillow, above) about a week ago. I totally let it all slide last week.

Instead, I took time to:

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pick the last container of blueberries out of the field

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bake the first apple pie of the season

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spend the whole day Saturday going to the Seacoast Modern Quilt Guild’s first meeting in Portland Maine, at A Gathering of Stitches (a making-learning-doing space recently opened by one of our members)

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and go fabric shopping in a big way (I’ll fess up about all the fabric buying in a post soon).

I have nine or ten Penny Sampler blocks to make this week, but I’m so energized from a week of not doing them that they’ll be no problem.

3) Figure out what’s making you feel guilty, and tackle it.

I have two main projects making me feel “obligated.” The spiderweb lottery blocks were a biggie. I want my guild members to see them made into a beautiful quilt, because I want them to know how much I value them and their work. The other night I just…sewed them together and started working on a plan.

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The second is the twin quilts project. It isn’t due until early November, and I have all my fabrics and a general plan. But what makes me nervous is that I’m trying out my own block design, and I’m not sure how well the block WORKS, especially as a quilt. I also had a guild lottery “star” block to make. Two birds, one stone:

"Star" lottery block

 

 

Finally, it goes without saying, I let my camera mostly sit on the shelf and just took iPhone snaps as I went. It’s wonderful to Instagram things when you don’t feel like blogging!

If you were in a funk are you out of it yet?! (How much fabric have YOU bought to get yourself out of it, ha!)

a little stuck

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Village block

 

I’ve been a little absent lately; I’ve been a lazy emailer, and a lackadaisical blogger. Truthfully, I feel a little bit stuck, creatively. I’m not missing any deadlines; I don’t owe any bee blocks, I haven’t let anyone down. I arrived at a design plan and fabric choices for those twin quilts. (You guys: I get to use CHICOPEE. I’m finally going to get to cut my gorgeous FQ stack!) I’m even caught up with Penny Sampler class assignments. (That is my Little Village block above–I spent Saturday putting this together. I’m deep into the why-use-solids-when-there-are-PRINTS-in-this-world philosophy. I’m so smitten with the spirit and whimsy of this block!)

Maybe it’s that I’m lacking the pull of a larger project to keep me orbiting around my sewing machine? Maybe it’s the guilt pile of lottery blocks that is asking me to make “just sixteen more spiderweb blocks please” and let me tell you a spiderweb block is kind of no joke. Maybe it’s just all these little projects that just need a few minutes of attention to get done–no challenge, no nose-to-the-grindstone. Maybe it’s all those silly sewing mistakes I made for a solid week a couple of weeks ago.

Or maybe it’s little anxious things: jury duty, the dentist (my kid chipped my front tooth, ah, the wages of parenthood), the where-are-we-going-to-live-come-December–keeping me up at night, making me too anxious to sew. It’s a vicious cycle. When I am too anxious to sew, I put off doing the thing that is the one surefire anxiety solution in my life, making me even more anxious.

Nothing is really wrong here! Like I said, I’m not behind in any sense. I’m just wishing inspiration would strike, and soon.

What do you do when you’re stuck? Should I start a new project? Pick up a lingering WIP? Keep my head down and bee-block-Penny-Sampler until I’m unstuck? Dig into those dang twin quilts already? So far I seem to be just buying fabric left and right, which isn’t the greatest solution.

I’m all ears!

finished: a sewing machine cover for Samantha

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Oooooooo. It was so hard not to spoiler this project.

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I kept thinking “just a sneaky peek like this!” Or, “just the back!”

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But I had made a gentleman’s agreement. So I kept my mouth shut. And my photos off of Flickr.

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Early this summer, Samantha emailed me to ask if I would be interested in swapping sewing machine covers. She was busy moving into her new home (and her new sewing room) and knew she would miss the deadline of the one she wanted to join on Flickr.

Of course. I love Samantha’s work, and I jumped at the chance to have a piece in her new, long-awaited sewing space.

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I used some of the bright Liberty Stile I’ve been saving for just the right project–this definitely qualifies! There’s a Tsuru print in there, if you can spy it, and I’m not sure the last project I made without Pearl Bracelets in it.

I used the Garden District pattern, written by Corey Yoder of Little Miss Shabby, and published in the book Pillow Pop. Because I worked from stash instead of scrap, I chose to strip-piece the fabrics for the petal segments. This left me with enough leftover “slab” to make the skinny vertical borders, and to piece a little bit of color into the back. I made 8 blocks and laid them out 4 sets of 2, to make a 17”ish by 28”ish machine cover. Then, I used a sewing machine cover tutorial by Randi of i have to say to finish it off and add the binding and ties.

I sent it last Friday the 23rd from Massachusetts. It arrived with Samantha in British Columbia, Canada, today, the 28th. Record time! The USPS must have known how badly I wanted to share.

photography skills, or, just enough to be truly dangerous

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When Beth at Plum and June started writing about her Quilt Photography Workshop, I knew I was all in. I’ve struggled mightily with my blog photography. I know the quick shortcut of taking my finished quilts to gimmicky outdoor locations, but I have a lot of dirty little photography secrets.

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The first is that before today, I’d only used my entry-level (Sony alpha-series) DSLR on auto no-flash mode. Yep. I can hear you clicking “unfollow” from here. Above is a fabric stack, shot how I’d normally shoot it. Auto no-flash, natural light, in my bedroom, afternoon sun.

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Here is the same fabric stack, shot after having switched my camera to Aperture Priority mode (A), which allows me to tinker with a few things but doesn’t QUITE set me adrift like Manual mode does.

(For the record, here’s what I got when I switched to Manual.) (I don’t know which buttons to push to make it not do this.) (No, I don’t know where the camera manual is.)

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I kept taking photos, tinkering with three main things: ISO, exposure, and aperture. Much else is beyond my skill set at this point.

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I think you’ll find that many other people in the link-up can provide many more technical hints than I can. I strongly suggest you visit around this month’s Quilt Photography link-up for specific suggestions re: camera settings. Beth herself has a pretty good post up with specific tips.

What do I bring to the table? I really love to stage a photograph. I love combining a fabric stack with other things, and I love to see what kind of mood I can draw into a blog post simply by putting my fabric stack somewhere different.

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First of all, here’s my setup. My main tip is to find a camera angle that leaves out the mess. Really. All that crap was around everywhere, in every single photo I took.

YOUR SPACE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE CLEAN TO MAKE A GOOD PHOTO. You just have to know how to…frame things. Pull right up on that fabric pile. Get in its face.

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(I’ll solve the “why is this yellow-looking?” problem eventually, right? Advice-givers: any ideas?)

One of my favorite things to do is put a fabric or yarn stack right in a sun spot, partly in shadow, and take a photo. Sometimes this turns out bad. Sometimes it turns out great. I love this shot of Tule.

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Here’s Tule with some thread. Thread not in focus, Tule in focus. Love it.

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Fabric + yarn is another one of my favorite combos. The yarn is The Plucky Knitter Primo Fingering in Buzz Lighter.

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Fabric + wine? (and perfume?) Buddy. (I promise no day drinking was involved, I put my glass right in the fridge for dinner later.)

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My favorite, though, turned out to be fabric and books. No surprise there. I dashed through the living room and pulled “white” books, piled them up, and got this:

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I had a ton of fun taking these photos, and playing with the settings on my camera. I encourage you to try your camera on a more flexible mode, and play around a bit–every one of these photos is straight out of my camera, and I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, but I’m quite proud of several of them. Don’t let yourself be hampered by the no-clue thing. Play around, keep trying, and be proud of what looks good to you. Even if you don’t know what white balance is. (ahem)

Linking up with Beth’s Quilt Photography Workshop. Head over and check it out–many quilt bloggers seem to be photographers first, and there is a wealth of real information to be had.