Monday, July 6, 2015

Kimono

Yesterday I took my needle and thread along to the river.  We found this lovely spot with cool, shallow water where the little ones can safely wade, while mamas rest on shore, papas fish and big kids wonder to a rope swing near bye.  I coaxed a friend to wade with me.  The icy waters of the Saluda river turned our feet completely numb.  It was just the thing in near 90 degree heat!

Green Bee {kimono}

Hmmm, next time I'll take a shot of the river for you.  Today I just have photos of the little kimono top I finally finished out there.  It's from the Green Bee Modern Baby Set sewn up in Birch Organic Knits from Fabricworm.  I used the coral color for the body and sun for the facings.  These knits are so soft and scrumptious.  I'm sure baby will be cozy!

Green Bee {kimono}

I secured the facings with a double row of hand stitched pearl cotton thread.  The top was looking a bit too plain for my tastes without that.  Now it looks very "handmade" too.  I like that.

Green Bee {kimono}

Instead of ribbons, I used handmade bias tape for ties.  These cuties were leftover from some other project.  Worked perfectly here!

Green Bee {kimono}

I'm thinking this top looks like fall.  And, luckily, it should still fit then, though maybe with three quarter length sleeves.  The pattern is size 0-3 months, but I could tell the top was going to fit roomy as soon as I cut out the pattern.  Baby is about 15 pounds and 4 months old. 

I have some more knit solids, but I'm not sure what to make with them.  Right now Eleni wears a t-shirt and a colorful cloth diaper most every day.  It keeps her cool and gives us access to her g-tube.  Maybe this fall I'll be more tempted to sew clothes for her?

For now, it's back to quilts for me!

Friday, July 3, 2015

fan girl

Let's make it official -  I am a huge fan of Carolyn Friedlander.  I've loved her fabrics since she hit the scene with Architectures.  Her Botanics collection was one of my favorite lines last year and Doe has been high on my radar this year.  Her fabrics are just the kind I find so useful, usually with one main color and great textures.  Very much so "helpful fabrics."

mostly Doe by Carolyn Friedlander

When I was browsing for Eleni's 4 month fabric at Gotham Quilts, I selected two possibilities for the photo shoot:  Ladder Lines in Sage for Carolyn's Doe collection and Serape Dream by April Rhodes.   And while I was at it, I finally stashed some favorites from Doe.

mostly Doe by Carolyn Friedlander

No one does low volume like Carolyn Friedlander!  Maybe some of these will even end up in my newest project...

Did you know Carolyn Frieldander is also an amazing pattern designer?  She does some refreshingly modern applique work that I'd like to try someday.  But mainly, I've been exposed to her design sense through her fantastic book, Savor Each Stitch.  I've checked it out from the library too many times.  Really need to buy my own copy!

inspired by Carolun Friedlander

This little sketch was inspired by a quilt from her book.  I'd like to make a big version someday, but for now I'm launching a mini quilt version to get my feet wet.  I'm going to piece in a rainbow of tiny bricks rather than applique circles, as in Carolyn's version.  I plan to do some textural free motion quilting in the negative spaces though, like she did.  That's the part that will be a stretch for me.

searching for rainbows

This morning I pulled a rainbow of scraps for my mini bricks!

rainbow bricks to be

It can be hard to work in black, brown and gray since they are not in the rainbow spectrum, but I think I'm almost there.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Eleni, 4 months

Eleni is 4 months old.  It's odd how time contorts under pressure.  It seems like so much more than 4 months of trauma - the shock, the worry, the tears painfully stretching towards hope.  It seems like so much less than 4 months of her babyhood - the cuddles, the lullabies and morning walks.  I'm sure, in part, that's because she hasn't really been with us, peacefully at home so very much.  In fact, this month she was hospitalized for a full week. 

4 months old equals 1/3 of a year old.  It means we're that much closer to deadlines that will shed light on how much functionality she's likely to gain.  It means we're nearing her 6 month follow-up MRI and its accompanying serious diagnosis.  It means that if she doesn't start smiling soon.... will she ever?

And so I still have trouble talking about her in this space because I don't want to burden you with negative energies.  I'm tempted to share only the snapshots that hide her challenges.  Like this gorgeous photo of her still-blue eyes on Carolyn Friedlander's Ladder Lines in Sage.  I chose this fabric exactly for this purpose, to capture that lovely shade of blue while I have yet the chance. Aria's eyes turned from this blue to brown, sometime in her 4th month.  I wonder if Eleni's will too? 

 6-30 pretty eyes

In this photo she looks as healthy and functional as could be...

6-30 ususall holds eyes to one side

But sadly, this is how we normally find Eleni - eyes rolled up and towards the right side.  She does occasionally make eye contact, but not every day.  She has never tracked an object.

6-30 repetitive twisting to right side

She has developed a very strong preference for turning her head to the right and now added to that she'll twist to the right repetitively and with great effort, seaming to try as hard as possible to turn on her side.  Our therapist is not sure if it is a learned, voluntary behavior or a primitive reflex.  I think she looks adorable in the above photo and you may not have given it a second thought, but she's actually resisting as grandma was trying to roll her on her left (not preferred) side. 

6-30 trying to help her untwist

And here grandma gently lifts her legs, hoping to encourage her to relax, rather than repetitively twisting to the right.  See how her head is turned to the right?   It is hard for her to find and maintain midline (looking straight), especially on a hard surface.

Ok, but things aren't all bad.  It's not that she isn't making progress, it's just that I'm not willing to share the good without sharing the bad.  I want to, need to share this journey with you, but not the fake version.  The real deal.

6-30 with grandma

This is my baby girl.  She's sweet, content, generally a good sleeper despite her apnea.  She's still fed breastmilk exclusively via g-tube, but she's growing well and her tummy handles the feeds well.  She likes be rocked, being sung to.  She likes her ABM neuromovement lessons.  She does not like car rides.  In fact, I think she gets car sick!

And, I guess, most of all she likes me?  She does.  But it is hard for me to feel that sometimes, especially on nights when her apnea chases away sleep for 5 1/2 hours or after days strung together without eye contact, never a smile.

5-31, lifting head

Eleni is making progress with holding her head up.  She can bring it up from a slanted position and hold it up as long as she likes.  It stresses her out to be flat on the ground, so we only work on tummy time like this.  She seems to have plenty of strength to arch her head back and to bring it forward, but not the ability to find a balance in a fully upright position.  We always support her head.

6-15, hospitalized

This month she was hospitalized for the second time since NICU, again for a cold virus.  Because of her neurological condition she does not swallow often enough.  When her body makes extra secretions due to a cold, she can't keep up with swallowing them down.  Instead, she aspirates her secretions and her lungs become compromised.  This time she needed more medical assistance to breathe than she ever needed in NICU.  The above photo was taken the day before her release, soon after they removed the IV from her dear little hand.

Over her hospital stay she was diagnosed with obstructive apnea.  This means that her throat flops closed sometimes, often when she is falling asleep or waking up.  A sleep study this July should reveal if she needs oxygen assistance at home or even surgery to protect her airway.  At the very least, this apnea is what keeps her up some nights for hours, falling asleep and waking with a gasp or a struggle, over and over again.

6-30 close up

Well, that's not all of it, but I think that's enough.  The difficulty swallowing, the apnea, the g-tube feedings, difficulty moving and seeing and not smiling - all of it is due to her brain damage.  It's so frustrating that conventional, insurance-covered medicine has n.o.t.h.i.n.g. to help her brain, the root of all her challenges. 

In the last month I have entered action mode.  I am researching and reading about possible therapies for her brain, contacting experts from Toronto to California, scheduling out the next few months of travel for Anat Baniel Method (ABM) neuromovement therapies and more.  We are trying homeopathy, craniosacral therapy, essential oils, laser therapy, reflex integration and who knows what else.  Some of these modalities are well studied, such as laser therapy, others are more experimental, but rather affordable.  All of them are non-invasive and completely safe.  If it can't hurt and it's not expensive, we're going to try it now as much as we're able. We figure if it doesn't help her when she's so young and malleable, then it probably wouldn't help her when she's five.  I guess I'm also thinking to get some of this out of my system.  If I don't I'll always wonder, what if...?

Thank you for asking last time how you can help.  I have set up a fundraiser for Eleni's medical expenses at YouCaring.com.  I really hate when I feel pressured or guilted or in any way emotionally manipulated to give money, so I'm going to do my darndest to share without any of that.  Thanks for the benefit of the doubt.

Ok, I also want to update you on how baby's ABM lessons are going and what progress Eleni has made through the two lesson intensives she had in June.  Since this post is getting so long, I'll include all that info in a post mid-July.  We're headed to Chicago for a week early July for ABM lessons with one of the best practioners in the country.  I'm hoping for great things!  Oh, and we're staying with a quilty friend in Chicago, which saves a ton of money.  Thanks, Stephanie!  If anyone happens to have a spare room in Gainsville, FL; Chicago (west loop) or Asheville, NC and would like to host us, let me know!

xo,

Rachel





Monday, June 29, 2015

{Tutorial} simple Plus Blocks

simple Plus tutorial

I came back home after a busy therapy weekend to find these colorful plus blocks on my design wall.  When I am away and so preoccupied with Eleni I totally forget about normal home things.  Returning to this project is like receiving a gift!  I'm so enjoying the vivid Kona colors and also how quickly and simple this block goes together.  These little bites of color and scrap play nicely into the corners of my day.  Let me show you how to make your own...

simple Plus Blocks {tutorial}

Step 1:  Cutting

from background fabric cut
  • (4) 3.5" squares
  • (1) 1.5" x 5" strip
  • (2) 1.5" x 2.5" strips
from plus fabric cut (1) 2.5 strip.  Segment as 2.5" x 5" and 2.5" x 6.5".  

1

You can use directional prints for the plus fabric without any special modifications.  Just cut both plus fabric pieces from one 2.5" strip.  This is a great way to use up long, thin scraps!

Step 2:  Sew + Cut

In this tutorial we'll save time and energy by making one additional cut after sewing some pieces together.  Although this might seem counterintuitive, it actually increases accuracy and ensures that your directional fabrics will line up in the end!  Here goes...

First sew the 1.5" x 2.5" background pieces to either end of the 6.5" long plus piece.

Also sew the 1.5" x 5" background piece to the 5" long plus piece.

2

Next, cut the 5" wide segment in half, creating (2) 2.5" wide segments.  When you cut, match a horizontal ruler line to the already-sewn seam to ensure a perpendicular cut.

 3

After cutting you'll have two pieces like this:

5

Step 3:  Assemble

Lay out your pieces in the plus block formation.

6

Sew 3.5" background squares to either side of each short plus segment.  Now your block is organized as 3 rows.

7

Join rows to complete your block!  It should measure 8.5" unfinished, for an 8" finished block.

8

And then, just press repeat.  Unlike interlocking plus quilts, this simple plus style takes no advance planning.  Make as many as you like!

9

And just see what comes to be...


Friday, June 26, 2015

books, books, books at Connecting Threads!

I've always loved books, so it's no surprise that I also love books about sewing.  I find myself studying them, trying new things  and returning to favorites again and again.  This week I noticed some features in Connecting Threads' book section that are super helpful when book shopping.  I asked them if we could do a little giveaway, and they agreed!  Here goes...

First of all, Connecting Thread stocks a massive selection - over 300 quilting and sewing books. Wowzers!  Really that would be too many if they didn't have some clever ways of simplifying the browsing experience.  Sure you can sort by New or by Best Sellers or even Most Searched Authors, but honestly those aren't going to get me to what I like any faster than searching on Amazon.  What I appreciate is the option to sort by Subject, so I can hone in on books about free motion quilting or find a good beginners book to gift to a friend.  Kudos to Connecting Threads for breaking down their selection into a bunch of very specific subjects!

favorite books at Connecting Threads {giveaway}
Stitch Love, Savor Each Stitch, Improvising Tradition, Modern Rainbow, Handmade Style, Cabin Fever

It took me just few moments to collect some books I like.  I'm sure you could do the same.  And then you'd wonder... is it really one I need to own?

For me buying or passing by a book comes down to how many of the projects I'd actually want to make.  Connecting Threads gets that and has a simple solution!  Click "view more images" at each book's item page to preview many of the projects.  It's way better than looking over the first few pages of the book on Amazon, at least for me, because you get to see a bunch of projects, not directions for how to make one.  I love this feature!  It's so much more like paging through the book in person.


Now before we do our giveaway I want to draw your attention especially to Modern Rainbow by Rebecca Bryan.  I received a complimentary copy of this book just prior to Eleni's birth and have been meaning to tell you about it ever since.  For someone who loves a vibrant, modern use of color, this book is absolute eye candy.  The cover quilt is my very most favorite, but several other projects have definitely caught my imagination.

Modern Rainbow 2

Modern Rainbow 3

My overriding thought as I've paged through Modern Rainbow over the past few months is that this is the book I would write, if I were to write a quilting book.  And now I don't have to; Rebecca did it beautifully!  She and I seem to make a lot of the same fabric and style choices.  Plus her way of explaining things makes total sense to me.  Basically, if you like my blog, I think you'll really like this book!

::Giveaway::

To celebrate their book-y excellence, Connecting Threads is giving away the book of your choice to one lucky reader.  Unfortunately they can only ship to the U.S. or Canada.  If you live internationally and choose to enter, you could always have your prize sent to a friend in U.S. or Canada, just because you're incredibly nice?  Sorry we couldn't do better.

To enter this giveaway, tell us which book you'd choose from Connecting Threads vast selection OR which quilting/sewing book you've been enjoying most lately.  Enter now through noon, eastern time, on Monday the 29th.  Don't forget to include your email if necessary.  Good luck, friends!



*************************Comments Closed******************

And our winner is #89, Kathie, who selected All Points Patchwork by Diane Gilleland!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sticks + Stones

Sticks + Stones for do. Good

Now aren't those cute?  These "sticks and stones" blocks are my contribution to the Love Circle's June bee quilt.

The Love circle is a group of 10 quilters which is part of a much bigger movement called do. Good Stitches.  All do. Good circles make collaborative quilts for good, benefiting a large variety of charities for women, children and those who are ill.  Last time I mentioned our need for new members, you certainly responded!  Our wait list is now filled up again.  I'll be contacting folks bit by bit as openings come up!

Anyhoo, the blocks.  This month one of our fab new members is leading her first do. Good quilt.  She called for a variation of the pick up sticks block, with a small square added in to the mix.  The squares were to be aqua, the background low volume and the "sticks" nice and bright.  These blocks are refreshingly low-pressure.  Here's a quick overview of how I put them together:

Sticks + Stones for do. Good

First sew an aqua "stone" into background fabric.  These stones were rescued from my fabric crumb bins.  Yay!

Sticks + Stones for do. Good

Choose two fabric strips or "sticks" to insert into the block.  Then, just cut a diagonal slash somewhere.  Yep, willy nilly - cut!  Sew in your fabric strip and press seams.  Then do it again, this time making your diagonal cut over the top of the first one.  When you sew in the second fabric strip, try to keep the first "stick" aligned as much as possible.

Sticks + Stones for do. Good

After using this slice and insert technique to insert both fabric strips, trim the block to size.  It's really nice to have a square ruler in the size you want and trim right around it.

Sticks + Stones for do. Good

Thanks, Kirianth, for a fun, scrap-friendly little project.  This block is a bit of visual tease.  It definitely looks harder than it is!  I'm sure it's going to make a fun, kid-friendly quilt!



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}


Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

Bright, joyous flowers and aqua over a tranquil lattice design - everything about this quilt turned out quite.... uplifting.  It's almost over-the-top happy; but then again, you can never be too happy.

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

I started making this quilt for one person, but along the way I realized it's entirely perfect for another.  Laura Gunn's Vignette fabrics are just as vibrant and optimistic as this friend.   I can't wait to surprise her!  Quilts are such a wonderful way to show your gratitude.  I'm so lucky to have the chance to make them as part of my job!

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

I know some wonder how I keep up with my sewing given... things.  Sometimes I wonder too and even wonder if I should be spending time here.  But, there are at least three reasons that keep me engaged.  1. It's my job and it pays some bills.  I'm so incredibly lucky to have a job that I actually enjoy and can do from home.  That's not something to drop when times are tough if at all possible.  2.  It keeps me creating.  Making time to nurture my soul with color and design seems wise.  3.  Why would I walk away from your friendship?  I want to keep giving, to keep being a part of our community.

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

I do wonder how my work might mature and evolve as I learn to live with these new challenges.  I feel I've been floundering a bit when transitioning to new projects.  On the other hand, I've recognized a new loyalty to adding unexpected or broken elements to my work, like the simple aqua squares in this quilt that break up the lattice pattern.  I have always liked variations like that in other's quilts.  Now I think I'm remembering and reaching more often to add them in my own.

Vignette Garden {a lattice quilt}

Vignette Garden is free motion quilted with a lily pattern that runs in rows across the quilt.  It's bound in some Vignette scraps.  To make your own lattice-style quilt, see my tutorial.  This is a great pattern for a new quilter!  Don't be afraid to give it a go!

Happy quilting, friends.

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