Friday, October 21, 2016

row by row

row by row

It think it was at this point that I completely fell in love with this quilt.  Limiting myself to Loominous fabrics and to fabric-repetition in the rows is not always easy for my patchwork spirit, but the effects are exactly what I wanted.  It's strong, spicey and a tad dark side, but with pretty colors and woven details to keep things "me."

row by row

Oh!  Also, I learned how to align the fabrics correctly after making just one mark - the diagonal crease line with my hera marker.  (I mark a line that falls at 1/4" from each corner of the top fabric and then arrange fabrics so that the line touches at a 1/4" from each corner of the underneath fabric.)  That saves a good bit of time so that churning out these half rectangle triangles isn't a chore. I still have to trim each HRT after sewing, just as you would with half square triangles.  At least the trimmings are pretty!

row by row

Today I finished my fifth row. She's coming along nicely!  The colors look a bit duller here than they are in real life.  When I photograph the finished quilt outside, hopefully I'll capture the rich tones.

row by row

I've chosen fabrics for the last two rows, which I hope to complete this afternoon, before Brandon comes home from work and we go work on the addition.  Honestly, working on the addition is just as fun as patchwork these days because it's slowly but surely turning into fresh livable space!  I plan to move the baby's dresser/changing table into the new master bedroom this weekend and pack it with diapers, clothes and all the essentials we'll use right away.  I'm also eyeing the entry, which just needs trim.  I can't wait to move some of our furniture that's clogging up the rest of the house into the entry where it belongs and roll out my new entry rug.  It's the little things!

And then, when I'm not working on the addition I am most likely scouring the internet, Baby Name Wizard and my poor, long suffering friends about baby names.  We've never had trouble choosing a girl name before, but this time has been different.  So different.  Still no name, but not for lack of trying.  The phases:
  • A Girl!  How fun!  Maybe Cora, maybe Esme, maybe Penny, maybe Ivy... so many good options!
  • Drum roll....It's Esme.   Esme Rosalie Hauser!  (No, we've never read Twilight.)
  • Oh no, once we commit, Esme feels terribly wrong!  Maybe after she's born it'll all feel right.  Yeah, maybe we should just choose a name after she's born from among all our good options.
  • Several months interim in "it'll all work out" denial.
  • Crap.  It's not going to work out.  The names sound worse and worse.  Stress.  This baby is coming soon.  Stress!  (At least it's not birth-related stress.)
  • Clearly we haven't found the right name.  Once we come across the right name, we'll know.  Insert baby name books, websites, smart phone game aps...
  • I have now considered every name known to man.  Brandon and I are going for different styles entirely.  My guidelines for the right name are snowballing out of control (can't start with "A" or "L" or "E"; can't end in "ia"; must be feminine, but not very long, etc.). There is no name for this baby.  Can we just keep calling her "baby"?  A friend googles "baby" in other languages.  It's that bad.
So, yeah, the baby name thing has been tough this time.   I know we don't 100% have to choose a name before she's born or before we leave the hospital or etc.  But, I don't really want this hanging over my head at a time when I hope to be enjoying my baby, and at a time when I might be very emotional anyways, for a whole number of reasons.

If only names could be built like quilts - row by row.  That would be easier.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Welcome, Studio 39 Fabrics!

STUDIO 39 button Today I'm pleased to welcome a brand new sponsor from Canada!  Studio 39 Fabrics is a Canadian fabric shop that opened earlier this year.  The family-owned business is curating a range of stash-building basics which will appeal to the modern sewist and quilter.  Orders ship to Canada at a flat rate of $4.95 (or free over $100), with flat rate options for U.S. and international customers as well.

True to their word, Studio 39 stocks fat quarter bundles that would make a smart addition to any burgeoning fabric stash.  This type of basic is often called a texture or tone-on-tone print.  I call them "helpful fabrics" because, being just one color (neutrals don't count), they can so easily coordinate with the special, stand-out prints you're dying to use.  A stash full of multi-color or large scale prints with loads of personality is challenging to coordinate for patchwork; whereas, a stash heavily seasoned with helpful fabrics makes mixing and matching monumentally easier.  Plus, helpful fabrics make helpful scraps!

The Asterisk prints by Lizzy House are a prime example of a modern tone-on-tone design. Interesting, but clean.

Little Ruby Sundae Stripes are a basic that will create movement in a finished work because of the directionality in the bias striping.

One of my favorites, the Petite Henna Garden collection offers a softer range of basics with organic shapes (meaning shapes from nature, often with curves), which will balance nicely with classic stripes, solids, texts, etc. in your patchwork mix.

And not to be overlooked, this low value bundle made up of Whisper prints by Lizzy House would help you bring value-oriented patchwork to life.

One lucky reader is going to win a 4-meter shopping spree at Studio 39 Fabrics!  If you're our random winner, you'll get to mix and match up to 8 half-meter cuts.  I couldn't help thinking what I would take home if I were to win.  Hm..... I'd probably choose prints from the Whisper Palette, as well as some low volume Uppercase prints.  I've been using up my low volume basics and will need more for a scrap quilt I have planed.  Contrasting scraps of all colors/patterns with low volume prints is an easy way to bring a quilt together!

Low Volume from Studio 39 Fabrics
on my wish list


To enter to win a 4-meter shopping spree, add your comment now through noon, EST on Monday, October 24.  This giveaway is open to everyone, anywhere!  Don't forget to include your email address if it is not connected to your Google account.  Good luck!

Monday, October 17, 2016

introducing Owlet

Every pregnancy is different, but pregnancy after miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss is in a category all its own. I know because I've listened to the stories of women whose children suffered birth trauma, like mine, as well as read pretty much every memoir I could find about loss during pregnancy and infancy. I guess I was looking for my tribe, for confirmation that my feelings are normal. I've learned that no matter how many children you've birthed before, pregnancy after a loss is like starting all over again – not fresh, but in a new paradigm. It is a paradigm in which bad things really do happen in low-risk situations, vigilance is required to prevent tragedies and yet, alas, not all dangers can be avoided.

It's not all bad, this new paradigm. In fact, I daresay it is true. It's life.

Owlet sleep monitor

Near the end of my first trimester I concluded it was logically more likely I would give birth to a live, healthy baby than not. This didn't feel true, but I would remind myself it was true. Logically. And so began the ongoing process of reimagining motherhood.

At a Facebook support group for women pregnant after HIE (Eleni's type of brain damage), we discuss prenatal care, inductions vs. cesareans, bonding and breastfeeding. I remember when one mother asked for opinions about sleep monitors for baby. She didn't mean a sound monitor or video monitor, but rather the kind that is designed to alert you if baby stops breathing. It was early in my pregnancy, not long after Eleni had died, when the wires and beeping machines had been cleared away, and our house finally sounded more like a home than a hospital. I thought, no way. No way do I want to return to wires and monitors and alarms with my future healthy (?) baby. I can't wait to have a baby that doesn't need all that! I can't wait to raise her like I did Aria and Liam: confident, fearless, easy.

Months and months later, the topic of sleep monitors came up again on the support forum. I guess I had done some processing. For one, I knew that the mother I am is changed forever. No going back. My new “confident, fearless, easy” will be different than the old version. And I suddenly realized that just as I am opting for more vigilance to have a safer pregnancy and birth than ever before, I would rather opt for more vigilance to protect my baby after she is born.

Owlet sleep monitor

Why not a sleep monitor? It may sound a little silly, a little excessive at first, but then so did carseats once upon a time. 10 times more babies pass away from accidental suffocation than from car accidents. It's not a pretty fact, but that doesn't make it go away, unfortunately. If there is a noninvasive device that could alert me to a potentially life threatening situation, why would I not want to use it?

Owlet sleep monitor

Why indeed.

A little looking led me to the Owlet. There are several baby sleep monitors available these days, but this one makes the most sense to me. The Owlet is a pulse oximeter. This is the same technology used in hospitals to monitor heart rates and oxygen levels. Actually, we used a hospital-grade pulse oximeter at home to monitor Eleni. It was one of our most important tools.

Owlet sleep monitor

But the Owlet is better than that from my perspective. It's wireless (thank heavens!) and wears like a soft slipper, appropriately sized to fit well. It communicates data to a small, dimable device that lights up different colors designed to indicate no concerns (green), poor connection (blue), low battery (yellow) or breathing/heart rate alert (red).

Owlet sleep monitor

The same info can simultaneously be routed to your smart phone designed so you can receive alerts even if you step outside to get the mail. Frankly, this would have been preferred to the hospital pulse oximeter for Eleni, at times. Not when she was critically ill, but at times when she was well but we wanted to keep watch just in case. It's so wonderful that the Owlet indicates when it's just a poor sensor reading or low battery situation. And the portability is amazing! In my opinion, the Owlet combines vital information with convenience factors appropriate to a healthy baby.

Owlet sleep monitor

As part of my research I listened to what “regular” parents who've used Owlet had to say about it. I found a few instances where parents complained about experiencing 1-2 false alarms in months of use. Oh, I laughed out loud! How wonderful to only encounter false alarms! For all to be well, again and again. Sign me up for that reality! But, more seriously, several parents had found their baby not breathing well when the Owlet alerted them and were able to resolve the problem by removing a loosened blanket from the sleeping area. In one case when a baby had several alerts, the parents brought their concerns to a doctor and eventually discovered the child had sleep apnea.

This is a safety device that works. And if it goes off, there is often going to be something you can do to help. That's why I'll be using Owlet for my baby-to-be, and that's also why I wanted to share it with you. Owlet markets itself as the car seat of the crib. I think that's a fair comparison. Yes, it's somewhat pricey, but so are car seats. Yes, it'll take a bit of effort to use, but so do car seats (actually, they take considerably more!). I imagine there will come a day when using a sleep monitor like Owlet is not something that resonates mostly with parents who have experienced loss or are close to someone who has. I hope there comes a day when most of us use them.

Owlet sleep monitor

Thanks for allowing me to share. I try to go easy on projecting my new “paradigm” in this space, because I don't want to be a fear monger and I don't want to convert this to a parenting blog! On the other hand, this seemed like an important message to get out. It's something a lot of us could do, and would probably wish we had done if...

For full disclosure I should include that after deciding to use an Owlet, I contacted the company to request a complimentary device in exchange for mention on my blog. They sent one (they sent three actually; we had terribly luck between lost packages and my dog) and then patiently waited until I was ready to talk about this. October happens to be SIDS Awareness month*, and as we are just 5 weeks from induction-day I figured it was time. I will be sure to tell you what I think after baby is born, and our family has a chance to put Owlet to use.

Owlet sleep monitor

Our new master bedroom is almost ready and the bassinet is out!

*Because the cause of SIDS is unknown, Owlet cannot and does not claim to prevent it.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Favorites from #30DaysofQuiltDesign

There are about two weeks left in our Instagram challenge 30 Days of Quilt Design.  Some of you have already finished, which is exciting to see!  Myself, I've slowed down progress and am only making a few designs per week.  I'll be sure to finish by the end of October though.  I've already found that having a book full of sketched designs is a nice way to live.  Probably after baby comes I'll have a little less energy to think of new ideas.  Working up designs I've already sketched will come in handy!

My favorite personal design from the past two weeks is called Tower Window. I keep seeing this pattern in castle window glass.  Even though it's far from original, I wanted to save the concept into my quilt book.  It actually reminds me of my Cascade quilt pattern simplified.  I'm imagining a combo of prints and solids.

Each day I enjoy when the designs you submit pop up on my phone!  Whether simple or complex, it makes me smile to see so many creative thoughts put to paper.  Here are a few of my favorites from the past two weeks.  All shared with permission:

A photo posted by Teje Karjalainen (@nerospost) on

Even if you're not in Instagram, you can view all the designs via this link, #30DaysofQuiltDesign, right from your browser.

Gotham Quilts is sponsoring our challenge by handing out a $25 gift certificate to a random participant every two weeks.   Based on hashtag usage, I've drawn our random winner using Tint...


Congrats, GooseQuilts!   We'll be in touch!  Thanks to Gotham Quilts for sharing the fabric and thanks to all of you for bravely sharing your designs.

p.s. To be eligible for prizes, don't forget to include "@stitchedincolor" and "@gothamquilts" in your photo captions.  It also makes it much easier for me to catch your designs.  Also, don't forget to use #30DaysofQuiltDesignCompleted to tag your last design, so you'll be in the draw for our grand prize!

Happy Weekend, all!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

the Half Rectangle Triangle

Have you sewn a half rectangle triangle block?  It's the stretched out cousin to the half square triangle.  I don't know if I've sewn one before, but if I did it was definitely not an independent design. I love the shape and am looking forward to getting cozy with its construction.

Half Square Rectangles

Today I sat down with this sketch to begin work on my new quilt, the one I mentioned on Friday was all "angles and drama." I'll be using those Loominous II fabrics!  Before I could start cutting I needed to get a general idea of my construction approach.  Luckily, my first internet search led to Heidi's post at Buttons & Butterflies which summarizes different construction approaches to the half rectangle triangle block.

Half Square Rectangles

Generally, I agreed with Heidi on construction approach.  You can find another tutorial of the approach she and I are using right here.  Unfortunately this approach calls for marking 4 points and drawing 2 lines per rectangle set.  That's too much prep for my taste.  On my first test rectangle set, I only marked 2 points and drew 1 line, all on the top fabric (the gray plaid above), leaving the bottom fabric (mint green) alone.  For orienting the blocks I aimed to set things up so that I would be able to start and end my stitch lines where the raw edges of the fabrics meet, which is a concept that will be quite familiar to my Angled students.  It always helps with sewing points!

sewing fine wovens like Loominous

Before sewing, I fitted my machine with a brand new size 10 needle.  Some of these wovens are fine (like shot cottons), so a smallish needle seems wise.  I also set my stitch length to 1.5; whereas, I normally sew at 2.

Half Square Rectangles

Here's my first pair of half rectangle triangle blocks. The construction method worked, but they ended up quite a bit smaller than I expected based on the tutorial's guidelines.  Also, I decided I need to slant all my angles for this quilt in the opposite direction so that I can create the same effect as my sketch.  You'll see, if you compare these blocks and my sketch, that these are reversed in the orientation of the slant.  I feel the opposite slant has more of a sharp, contrary feel, almost a backward-pointing feel, which is what I'm going for in a quilt meant to capture the fact that some things are "Never Easy."

Half Square Rectangles

Now I'm going to be fiddling with cut sizes until I land on the right size rectangles to yield the desired finished block sizes.  Wonder how I even start with that?  After I've sketched a quilt on graph paper, I begin to bring it to life by deciding on the scale for the drawing.  In this case, in order to yield a throw quilt from this sketch, I've decided that each graph square is equal to 3.5".  Based on that scale, my quilt will finish 63" x 77".  Next I look at each block to see what size it was drawn.  Today I'm working on row 3, which has blocks that should finish 5.25" x 10.5".  (I've purposely drawn a 1:2 ratio in height vs. width for the dimensions of my half rectangle triangle blocks.)  My second batch of test blocks demonstrated that cutting rectangles 6.5" x 11.5" will yield blocks that trim nicely to 5.75" x 11", which of course will finish at 5.25" x 10.5", as desired.

Yes, that's quilt math!  I don't mind it at all, if I know where to start.  And, if I don't know where to start, the internet is always there to help.  I'll keep you posted on how things progress!

Monday, October 10, 2016

I Heart You

It was about this time in my last pregnancy that I took it into my head to make baby-to-be a heart quilt. I remember smiling over the post title, “I Heart You” which was doubly true – hearts for her and for you, dear reader, as we neared Valentine's Day, 2015. So much has happened since then, so much changed, but this is still true: I love.

I Heart You NICU quilt series

I love, I love, I love, I love... Twenty-five applique hearts recycled, love notes for babies like Eleni, who lack the storybook beginning that we all wish birth-day would be.

I Heart You NICU quilt series

Over the past week, I basted, quilted and bound seven little quilt tops. My great big bolt of Warm & Natural batting was put to efficient use. Batting by the bolt surely reduces waste, whether quilts are large or small! Luckily I could baste these cuties on my table top rather than crawling around on hands and knees. It's the little things.

I did run out of basting spray (I buy batches of 4, which last me about 2 years) mid-way through basting the series. While waiting on my new shipment, I opted to pin baste one quilt in a 6” grid. Apparently that was not at all enough! Minimal straight line quilting ended up pulling the patchwork design out of whack. So frustrating! I can't say enough about basting spray. So much easier. So much faster. So very, very worth the extra cost, in my opinion.

I Heart You NICU quilt series

Quilting seven quilts could have been a chore, but I played with the quilting on some and focused on pushing through on others, accepting my mood either way. I like the U-shaped rows I quilted on this log cabin design. It was interesting to vary the size of the U's based on the width of the fabric strips.

I Heart You NICU quilt series

I'm also pleased with this loopy heart quilting, an all-over design I quilted on three of the quilts in this series. At first I thought I'd quilt all my loops as hearts, but soon realized that mixing in the occasional loop-de-heart was more to my taste. Sometimes a sprinkle is sweeter.

I Heart You NICU quilt series

Bound, folded and stacked, it seems I managed to use a good amount of pink after all.  Well, look at that!  Now my pink fabric stack has been tamed to reasonable dimensions. Mmmm... there's nothing like a stack of quilts. It's like the lure of a fabric cabinet with all the colors, patterns and mix-n-match combinations.... only better, because it's fabric well used.
Yesterday we had some friends over to play in the beautiful autumn weather.  I roped the kids into helping me photograph my NICU series before the quilts are donated.

I Heart You NICU quilt series

I Heart You NICU quilt series

I Heart You NICU quilt series

And so our hearts are full, healthy and healing.... one stitch, one day at at time.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Loominous II

I was SO close; so, so close to being able to share my completed NICU series quilts today.  But, with Hurricane Matthew ushering in clouds and near-constant rain in mid state South Carolina, I'll have no chance to photograph my series today or even tomorrow.  Of course, I'm lucky that clouds, rain and some wind are all that's forecasted in my area.  I'm sure I can speak for many of you when I say that our thoughts are with those whose home and livelihoods are threatened.  Please stay stafe.

Happily, this drippy morning won't stop me from photographing and sharing some fabric candy with you today!  Would you like to see what's been motivating me whilst I finish these seven baby quilts?

Loominous II by AM Horner

Oh, just this stack of breathtaking gorgeousness!

"What is it!?!?" you exclaim.  It's Anna Maria Horner, doing her magic again.  You see, several years ago I made the mistake of not buying her first yarn dyed collection, Loominous.  I was scared off by reports that Loominous had a different hand than quilting cotton.  Would it fray too much, unravel too easily for the making of durable quilts?

Just recently I bought one piece from Loominous, Big Love in Candy.  When that fabric arrived, I was enchanted by its smooth weave and luxurious drape.  I even used it right away in Cranberry Tart.  Big Love didn't seem to have fraying issues, like linen would for instance.  It was altogether a pleasure to cut and sew, reminding more of shot cottons, but without the wrinkling issues.  So, when I heard that Horner was releasing a follow-up yarn dyed collection, Loominous II, I immediately reached out to Freespirit to request some samples for a Loominous project.

You can view both Loominous collections here at Freespirit's website.  Prepurchase Loominous II fabrics, which are expected in October, from Fabricworm.   But none of those photos do the fabrics justice.  And, indeed, maybe no photos can as these fabrics are tactile experiences, but I'll try...

Loominous II by AM Horner

First, Loominous II includes some plaid-like weaves similar to the popular Big Love of the original Loominous.  All of these fabrics are incredibly smooth with a lovely drape and slightly lighter weight, similar to shot cottons.  I adore the way she has designed some colors to seem to bleed into their neighbors due to the unusual weave.

Loominous II by AM Horner

Other Loominous II fabrics are richly textured.  These two at front have occasional raised ribbon-like stripes, while the two at the back have all-over stripes in a thicker thread that creates an effect very much like a solid line of hand quilting.

Loominous II by AM Horner

And these - so entirely surprising and charming!  They're sprinkled with squares woven into the fabric so that their frayed edges are exposed at the fabric's surface.  This design, called Treasure, is probably my favorite.

Loominous II by AM Horner

I'm also enamored of the dark, sultry hues Anna Maria has mixed in with lighter, cheerful shades.  These are perfectly suited to the quilt I have in mind, which is all angles and drama.  Of all the Loominous II fabrics, the chemistry prints (above, at left) seem to have a slightly heavier weight.  Not so heavy that I fear using them with the others, but very well suited to cool-weather shirts and dresses, I imagine. 

As soon as I finish sewing the binding on my NICU quilts, I'll be plotting my first cuts into these lovelies.  Yes, they present some challenges for quilting, but I believe a lot can be accomplished by using a smaller-than-normal stitch length and true (not scant) seam allowances.  Some of the prints have weaves that would be easy to snag, so I'm making a throw quilt that would be lovely to show off on a sofa or in a guest room. 

Because I won't make the mistake of missing Loominous again!  It's really something special.

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