Friday, March 27, 2015

Morning Walk for Easter

Early this month I suggested to Aria that we go Easter dress shopping together, just she and I.  She is 10 years old now, and I recall really enjoying shopping for a special dress at that age.  Her response was adamant and endearing, "No, mama, I really want you to make me my Easter dress!  Your dresses are the nicest."  Well that settled it.  NICU-be-darned, I'm making her an Easter dress.

collage by Art Gallery Fabrics
Have you seen Leah Duncan's newest collection, Morning Walk?  It's just arriving in stores and it's as lovely as her Meadow collection for sure.  I fell in love straight away with a light, airy print called Aura Wispy Daybreak that screamed "Easter Dress".  Fortunately Aria agreed and off I went to Fat Quarter Shop to order fabric.

new Morning Walk fabrics

I decided to try two options for the contrast sash because it was so hard to tell online what would look best with the Aura Wispy.  I had been leaning towards the blue print, but..

Morning Walk for Easter

In person the yellow version is way, way better!  Hopefully I'll be able to start cutting the dress this weekend.

NICU baby Eleni

I thought you might like a little update on Eleni.  Since we last talked she has been stable in the NICU and seems to move her body more and more each day.  However, her sucking has not progressed.  Sad face.  In order to be able to take her home, Eleni had a surgery last Monday for a stomach feeding tube.  It's such a strange thing to feed a baby through a tube into her stomach, but it means we can enjoy her sweet face sans any tubes now.  And, most importantly, it means she'll be able to eat safely at home while we continue to hope she learns to suck or at least swallow. 

Eleni is recovering well from the surgery with no need for oxygen assistance or any medicines.  We were actually all set up for a Sunday discharge (this weekend!), but I just found out moments ago that it may be delayed due to some logistics.  Oh, I can't wait to take this baby home!  Crossing fingers and toes things are ironed out in time.  Or, if not Sunday, then really soon thereafter!

Have a great weekend, friends!  I hope to get some sewing in too.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

{Clambake} Rainbow Clams quilt finish + Link Party

Clambake quilt-alongToday is the day!  I've finished and photographed my Rainbow Clams quilt, and I'm super excited to show it off!  This is one of my favorite quilts I've made yet.  I always love rainbows, love making from scrap, and it doesn't hurt that the cream fabric I used, Comma Periods in chalk, is my all time favorite basic.  Also, I'm so glad I was adventurous with the rainbow color flow.  It totally worked!  I like how it invites the eye to explore color relationships.

Ok, enough chatter.  Come see!

Rainbow Clams quilt

Rainbow Clams quilt

Making this quilt with my quilt-as-you-go technique turned out to be a great idea.  During the planning stage, I thought I'd find the process of pressing under raw edges and sewing down clams to be a bit tedious (kind of like joining English paper pieced shapes, you know?), but it was not at all annoying.  It was actually addicting!  Before baby came I was sewing along too fast, haha.  And of course I loved that the quilting was already done when the quilt top was complete. 

Rainbow Clams quilt

Rainbow Clams quilt

The clamshell-shaped quilting on the back is an extra bonus!  I used a Denyse Schmidt Flea Market Fancy fabric for the backing.  It's a home decor weight fabric I picked up ages ago on close out at a fabric store.  Score!  The little dotted leaf design actually echos the Comma Periods print on the front, though I might be the only one who would notice.

Just as planned, this quilt is now listed in my Etsy shop.  Aria is horrified that I'm not keeping it, but I feel good about sending this beauty out into the world, perhaps into a house not already so well stocked with handmade quilty goodness.  May it bring color, may it bring joy!

Rainbow Clams quilt

Now, what about you?  Please share your Clambake quilt-along progress or finishes here.  I'll leave this last link party up through the end of April so you can join in later if need be.  Let's see!





Tuesday, March 24, 2015

{Behind the Blog} Allison of Cluck, Cluck Sew


Allison Harris of Cluck, Cluck Sew shares some great insights today, especially about what it's like to have a quilty business.  She's been blogging for quite a long time!  Over the years I've used several of Allison's tutorials, like the sprocket pillow and cuffed stocking.  She really helps equip her readers to try new things and is a down-to-earth, friendly kind of lady.  Enjoy!

::YOUR BLOG:: The purpose behind keeping a blog tends to evolve over time.  As we enter the new year, what does your blog mean to you?

Blogs are a lot of work. Especially when it's a quilting/sewing blog and I actually have to quilt/sew something to share!

The purpose of my blog has always been to be an outlet for me creatively. I love being home with my family all day...but let's face it sometimes I feel like I'm going to lose my mind. Sewing, and sharing my sewing has brought balance and satisfaction to my life when I needed it. I've made wonderful, lifelong friends blogging, and from the quilting community in general. I still blog just for that reason...friendships, community, and so I don't lose my mind. ;) All of the other stuff (patterns/book/fabric) have been an extension of my blog. They wouldn't have happened without the blog first and the support of amazing readers. I owe my readers everything...so I hope that keeping up my blog and sharing ideas is a way I can thank them.

Chippewa Quilt + Tutorial

::BUSINESS + PERSONAL FULFILLMENT:: You are well-established in the quilting industry, having written a book, published pdf and print patterns and grown quite a blog readership. Which of these business ventures has been the most rewarding emotionally?

Definitely the most emotionally rewarding thing I've done is blogging. My blog has been 8 years of hard, creative work...so I'm really proud of it. I go through ups and down where I post a lot and have a lot share, and other times where I'm in a rut and I don't post for a month. Either way, I know the blog is there for me when I'm ready to get back to it, and hopefully my readers will be too. On the flip side blogging is also emotionally taxing...every time I hit the publish button I cringe inside knowing I might get a snarky comment or a rude email. It's easier to let it go now that I'm used to it, but criticism is the one major downside to blogging.

::BUSINESS + FINANCES:: Which of these business ventures has been the most rewarding financially? Which one has demanded the most time, in comparison to its rewards, whether emotionally or financially or otherwise?

Instead of thinking of the things I've done as individual business ventures...I think of it as one collective business venture, trying new things here and there and figuring out what I want to do along the way. Individually....blogging, patterns, writing books, or designing fabric don't make that much financially. Collectively though, they add up to be a worthwhile little business.

Some things do take more time and have less reward financially. Writing a book for example as I'm sure most people know...is not very profitable and takes a lot of time. Not just the work I put into it, but afterwards it takes almost 2 years to get paid for that work! If I really wanted too, I could probably make more at a quilt show in a weekend than my book ever will! Same goes for designing fabric. Both are big time commitments, but it's also a once in a lifetime experience to see your name on a book cover in Barnes and Noble, or your fabric in a quilt shop. That makes it worth it for me.

her book, Growing Up Modern (post 1 and post 2)

::BLOG ADVERTISING:: Your blog advertising is managed by BlogHer. Did you ever manage advertisers directly for your site or have you always worked with BlogHer?  Pros and cons?

I'm a crazy practical person. If I can't justify it...I don't buy it. The same goes for fabric and my quilting hobby. So adding ads to my blog was the way for me to justify buying quilting supplies...and in the beginning it was the only way I could afford to keep quilting.

I've worked with BlogHer ads since my blog was a baby, and there are some really great, and some not so great things about them. I like that I can filter the ads that show up, and I don't really have to worry about them. I dislike their strict placement guidelines, and lately their fill rates of high quality ads are horrible. All in all I've been happy and grateful to be with them, but we'll see what the future holds. I've honestly thought more about it writing this paragraph than I have in a year!


For years I had sponsorship buttons on my blog (ad spaces sold directly to shops). It stressed me out. Every time I bought fabric I felt like I had to scour their shops so I could link to what I bought in case they carried it, I felt like I had to direct traffic to them, and felt guilty when I'd go weeks without blogging. They were all wonderful to work with, but I'm less stressed not having to sell ads to them. That is the positive part about having ad networks...you don't have to fill them, and you don't have to feel guilty if you don't blog for awhile!

::DESIGN:: Thinking about your quilting style, is it important to you to do original, somewhat unique work or are you just as happy working in classic or popular styles of patchwork?  What excites you most in the design process?

I've never really aimed at being unique and different, or trying things that are really original. Very few of my ideas are completely original...most come from outside inspiration whether it be from art or an antique quilt. I do however, infuse my style into everything I make. I make sure it's "me". I love a little bit of everything, but my taste has evolved greatly over the years. I used to love really improvisational, wonky quilts with lots of negative space...and now I find myself gravitating towards symmetry and updated classic block designs. I've never felt "modern"...and I don't feel "traditional"...but I'm definitely myself and I like what I make.



::YOUR STYLE:: Please share a quilt that is a favorite, as far as expressing your quilt style.  What about it represents you or excites you most?

One of the best compliments I ever received was at a quilt show. This sweet lady said she could "pick my quilts out of a thousand quilts". How amazing that she can recognize my personal style in my quilts!? My Spin Cycle quilt is still my favorite I've ever made and represents my style the best. I still remember drawing it on graph paper and thinking "this could work!". Seeing it go from graph paper to a finished quilt and pattern is the best feeling.



::AMBITIONS::  As we enter the new year, do you have any new quilty ambitions?  For example:  book-writing, pattern-making, teaching, quilt shows, etc.  If so, what draws you to this new interest?  If not, do you ever feel pressure to "do more" as a quilter in the blogosphere?

I'm just thankful I get to do what I do...so I really don't have any great ambitions. I have 3rd fabric line showing at Quilt Market in May, and a few new patterns, but other than that I'm happy where I'm at and that's good enough for now. I don't have anymore time in my days to fit in anymore ambitions!!!

I used to feel more pressure to "do more". Luckily I've lost that, and maybe it's me getting older and wiser or maybe it's me seeing the other side of the business and I've actually "done" more. I still get on Instagram and see what so and so is making and so and so's new book and get a tinge of "I have to go make something! I have to go write a book! I have to stay relevant!" but then I snap back to reality. I know I can't do it all, but it's an ongoing battle to remind myself that.

Choosing + Using Solids

::TOOLS::  What sewing machine do you use for piecing and for quilting?  Are you happy with it?  Do you do most of your own quilting?   What thread do you use most often and why?

I use a Bernina 440QE for my piecing and quilting. I bought it 3 years ago, and I was so happy and grateful that I cried when I pulled it out of the box. I still love it, but the light recently went out which led to a motherboard issue which = a lot of money to fix. So I'm a little mad at my Bernina right now....but I would still buy it again in a heartbeat.

 I also have a Juki 2010Q that is new-ish. I love the harp space of this machine, and the speed, and the automatic thread cutter...but the jury's still out whether I love it for quilting or not.

I usually do my own quilting on quilts that are for myself, but if they are for show, I have a great quilter I send them too. I love quiting them myself...but sending out my "nice" quilts has saved me a lot of stress.

As for thread, I currently have Aurifil on my machine...but I also love Superior thread. Aurifil gets all the hype...but I think Superior creates less lint in my machine.


Thanks so much, Allison, for letting inside your world!  I know so many aspire to create a crafty business.  Hearing from someone who's been there, done that is super helpful, I think!  Keep up the amazing work at Cluck, Cluck Sew.

Today we conclude our series, Behind the Blog, in which I've asking some of my favorite quilt bloggers to fill in the gaps on what happens behind the scenes in their creative lives.  If you missed them, check out interviews with Jolene/Blue Elephant Stitches, Ashley/Film in the Fridge and Chawne/Completely Cauchy.  Thanks again to all these ladies for being a part of my postpartum blog break.  It's been a wonderful gift!

xo,

Rachel

Monday, March 23, 2015

Little Tents for good

Hey, friends.  We had a drippy, drizzly, wet Sunday that didn't allow for photographs of my Clambake quilt finish.  As such, I've decided not to host the final link up for our Clambake Quilt-Along today since I really want to have those photos to share with you.  Not so bad to have a few more days, right?  Let's shoot for Wednesday.  Thanks for your patience!

Little Tents for do. Good

So today I've been working on March bee blocks for the Love circle of do. Good Stitches.  I know my bee mates would have understood if I wanted to skip blocks this month, but this project actually hit the spot: new, clearly defined, quick and scrap-friendly.  I was happy to pull out some pesky triangle scraps to start off.

Little Tents for do. Good

Daisy of Ants to Sugar is leading our quilt this month. She showed us how to make little tents lit from the inside on a dark night.  It's an improv block.  You surround the yellow triangles with aqua strips and then add dark blue to fill out the block.  Adding the dark blue is probably the trickiest step, but this is the type of thing I think you can learn by trial and error if you're willing to dive in. 

Little Tents for do. Good

Daisy called for a smart mix of form and freedom.  Our blocks could finish 6.5", 12.5" or 18.5" wide and any height.  It's going to be cool seeing the blocks puzzled together into a whole.

Love circle makes quilts for children living in poverty through Wrap Them in Love.  We are one of many circles of do. Good Stitches.  Lots of our circles make quilts for children in intensive care.  I can attest that these quilts do make places like the NICU a happier, more homey place.  There are sweet quilts on every bed in our NICU made by some local groups!  If you're interested in joining our Flickr-based virtual quilting bee, you can read about how it works and sign up to join the wait list.  Prospective members need to have some recent sewing/quilting history loaded in their Flickr account so that we can evaluate if you'll be a good fit for our bee.  Thanks!


Friday, March 20, 2015

{Clambake} Finishing

Clambake quilt-alongSo.... any Clambake Quilt-alongers still in the building?  

I knew our shindig might get a little lost along the way, but it seems it got entirely buried!  Rest assured I have not forgotten, and indeed when I've spent any time at the machine lately, it's been in the company of this rainbow.

 Clambake quilt-along... finishing!

If you've made your clamshell quilt with my quilt-as-you-go technique, you'll be just about finished when you applique that last row of clams!   You'll want to trim your quilt top along the marked lines on each side of your quilt and then across the bottom.

Clambake quilt-along... finishing!

At the bottom, trim at the base of the curve, effectively changing that last row of "clamshells" into a semi-circle shape as shown.  Last of all add binding, which encases all raw edges at the sides of the quilt!

How about you?  If you're making a clamshell quilt, I hope yours is close to a finish.  Let's share one final link party for Clamshell quilters on Monday.  I'll bind my quilt over the weekend and have photos ready for you then!  Happy sewing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

in the evenings

Sunburst crochet blanket

After the kids are in bed and we've settled for the night, Brandon and I spend an hour or so together talking or watching a show.  This is the time for our piece of normal, for chocolate, maybe some laughter and my bit of making for the day.  Tucked beside the sofa is this enticing basket of softness and color and cheer.

Sunburst crochet blanket

I haven't made it to the sewing machine much at all in the last 2 1/2 weeks, but I have invested many restful moments joining these sunburst crochet squares.  I started joining these about a week before Eleni was born, and I have only a few rows left to join, actually. 

Like any project or plan or item of clothing that I experienced during my pregnancy, I am often struck as I come across it again, confronted and disoriented with the strange reality that my baby was just fine, totally fine at that time.  These touchstones are a time capsule of our life before.  How quickly and mysteriously life does change. 

Sunburst crochet blanket

Back to the blanket.  I am whipstitching the squares together with cream yarn and a chunky needle.  I find it best to work from the back of the work, so that the front of the blanket looks a tad bit nicer.  The most efficient path to join the squares had me stumped at first.  Eventually I learned to attach a whole row in one long stitch line across the width of the blanket.  At that point, only one side of each newly added square is joined to the blanket.  Then, I go back and join the squares' sides together using yarn strings that extend between each column.  You can see the yarn strings hanging out in this photo as I have yet to join the sides of squares together in my most recently added row.  I leave the yarn strings long to use when joining the next row of squares, which reduces the number of times I must tie in with a new joining yarn.

Sunburst crochet blanket

Here's my blanket so far.  I may have to make more squares to bring it to a desired size, or maybe a border?  We'll see.  I'm just feeling it out.

Sunburst crochet blanket

My heart has been quite busy processing lately.  There are many stages of grief, but the most difficult one for me was when my mind kept fighting to find a way out, a way to fix things, a way to somehow make things OK.  I am a fighter.  I would to do anything.  When I want something to be different in my life, when I decide "the way things are" is not good enough,  I will literally move across the country, take my kids out of school, make my own way into a job, because "where there's a will there's a way."  I embrace hard work to make change.  And even though I hope so much for Eleni's healing, I cannot make sure it happens.  I cannot secure her a healthy body in the future.  And I certainly cannot go back in time to fix this (though I really think that should be an option.  Who let that one slide?). 

So, I realized a few days ago that I won't be made happy because I am able to change what happened or to guarantee a normal-ish future for our baby.  Instead, my opportunity for happiness is here every day.  I'll live not just aiming to survive or get through each day.  No.  I'll live searching for happiness in each day, just the way things are now. 

Maybe some days happiness will be hard to find.  Certainly some days are bleaker than others.  But, I'm confident that most days I'll find it.  


Monday, March 16, 2015

{Behind the Blog} Chawne of Completely Cauchy

Today I feel honored to include one of my favorite voices in the quilt blogging community in this Behind the Blog interview series.  Chawne of Completely Cauchy is an inspiring maker and candid communicator, whose blog often reminds me to slow down and enjoy the process.  She quilts, knits and stitches with layers of meaning.  Come meet the woman behind this fantastic needlework self portrait, made up of 40,400 stitches!

::YOUR BLOG:: The purpose behind keeping a blog tends to evolve over time.  As we enter the new year, what does your blog mean to you? 

This is a hard question. I started my blog about 10 years ago in a different incarnation just as a place to share my craft works with my family who all live far away. Then it quickly developed into a member of a small community of makers. Things were much, much different and smaller-scale then. We shared tips and tricks, wrote tutorials for each other, and became real friends united in a mission to wrap the world in cozy colorful textiles. Things changed once more folks joined and now that community is far-flung, colder and commercial.


My blog now is just a place where I share some of what I’m making and attempt to engage in small conversations about the community, current events, and our mutual love of colors.

::SOCIAL MEDIA::  Do you participate in other social media from a quilty perspective?  If so, which and what do they "add" for you?

Flickr was once my hub, but now you can find me on Instagram (@cauchycomplete). Quick daily posts serve as a jot-journal and a place to get some gut-reaction feedback and advice.

::SELF-EXPRESSION:: One thing I really appreciate is your candor as a blogger and quilter. One gets the impression that you make exactly what you'd like to make, no apologies, and enjoy using quilts to make emotional statements. Having met you, you are soft-spoken and a self-described introvert. Have quilts and crafting allowed you to express yourself more openly than you would otherwise?  Asked another way, how has quilting brought out who you really are?

Thanks! A few real-life quilt friends have asked me the same thing. Yeah, I’m definitely quiet and unassuming in person, though there’s a fire in my belly that bursts forth when I’m eager to help folks. My first quilts were definitely more of a projection of that mild-mannered personality. They are all blue and white (and gray if I was feeling wild!) and made with micro-managed precision. I even made an intricate log cabin quilt pieced using just one solid off-white fabric. You don’t get any quieter than that!

But when my father passed away, I made a couple of quilts for my siblings using his silk ties. They were bright and splashy---totally his personal style. One was precision pieced and the other was one of my first improv designs. Not only were these quilts therapeutic, they also broke me free to be expressive in my quilting. Soon thereafter, the textual quilts started as a way to work through some conflicts in my town. That was the first time I just followed all the instincts and made a series. Even today, I’m not sure how those ideas came to me, but they certainly allowed me to “say” things that I couldn’t actually say out loud.

please read for context

::SHOWING QUILTS:: In 2014 it seems that many of your quilts were exhibited. Were some made specifically for exhibitions? Does the anticipation of exhibiting change the process for you? What motivates you to exhibit your quilts?

I feel quite honored and grateful to get to have my quilts join the conversation in the art world and the quilt world. My approach is to make what comes to mind and then find a venue, if a piece seems worthy. I’ve re-made a quilt to fit an exhibition’s size requirements, but haven’t yet targeted projects to specific calls-for-exhibition.

Self Study #4:  The one for T, Exhibited at QuiltCon 2015

Exhibiting has been a nice way to meet artists and curators around the country and learn from them. It’s humbling to put one’s work into different contexts to see if the self-expression is effective. It’s been transformative.

::DESIGN:: Thinking about your quilting style, is it important to you to do original, somewhat unique work or are you just as happy working in classic or popular styles of patchwork?  What excites you most in the design process?

I prefer to do my own designs, though I love to study traditional and historical quilts. Some of my quilts are twists and variations on traditional themes, while others are artistic “minimalist outbursts” inspired by current events.

George

Practicing traditional techniques provides the skills to work in an expressive frenzy and yet still produce artwork that is of sound construction. The two genres are hand-in-hand for me. Learning new skills and figuring out new ways to play are the two exciting bits of the process. I make lots of small “swatches” of ideas and new-to-me techniques and those are often more fun than making the full-sized quilts they inspire. In the familiar dichotomy, I am a Process-maker rather than a Product-maker. Process is everything.

::YOUR STYLE:: Please share a quilt that is a favorite, as far as expressing your quilt style.  What about it represents you or excites you most?

Snuggleshott. Working under constraints can make one more creative in designing. I’d been given a charm pack and some fat-eighths of Oakshott’s iridescent shot cotton in their 60+ colors. I wanted somehow to use ALL the colors in an improvisational way that wasn’t too riotous but still showed the blends of color. How do you exert order among a bright mess?



I think the precision-sewn hourglasses help the eye rest amidst the cacophony but also take the eye on a journey around the quilt. Plus, in person, the colors shimmer due to the way the fabrics are woven.


::SCRAPS::  At times you have been an avid fabric scrap user, with scraps inspiring or driving your work. Is this a significant influence on your current work?


I definitely prefer scrappy quilting because it connects back to the quilts my great-grandmother made and the make-do approach to life. Because I mainly use solids these days, I don’t really generate my own “scraps.” There’s still a scrappy feel to it because I am using smaller pieces in my patchwork, however, and small bits from one quilt feed right into the next one. So…I guess I’m still scrappy? Just in a different way.

::TOOLS::  What sewing machine do you use for piecing and for quilting?  Are you happy with it?  Do you do most of your own quilting?   What thread do you use most often and why?

I use a Juki TL-2010Q, an industrial straight-stitch machine and I love it. It’s not for everyone but it’s perfect for the rough and constant usage it gets in my studio.

Yep, I do most of my quilting, though I prefer hand quilting. As for thread: I use any cotton thread that is readily at hand.


Thanks so much, Chawne, for gifting us your time for this interview.  I'm so glad you've remained part of the conversation through your blog and through Instagram.  I look forward to continuing to hear from you!  If you haven't yet, do go explore, reflect and be inspired at Completely Cauchy.

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