Monday, September 30, 2013

Homeschool Chronicles: Make Something Better

Homeschool  ChroniclesI'm frozen in front of a blank page, my mind swirling.  What to share?  Where to start?  There's been so much...

And this is what rises to the surface:  don't settle.  Don't settle.  Don't settle.  With our children, with their education, with our lives, with our creativity - don't settle for less than the better you can imagine.  It's easier to accept the status quo, what we had planned, what we've already paid for (darn it!).  The fabric's already cut.  The children are enrolled.  The textbooks bought.  But, don't.  Don't settle.

If it's not working, change it.  Re-imagine what you have to create something better.  Mess around on the design wall.  Cut in a new color.  Cut out what's not working, even when it costs you.  Because why would you choose the lesser path, even just this season, even just this year?  Isn't life more precious than that?  Isn't it (your precious creative time, your children, insert what matters here) worth your best efforts, now, today?  If you can't be proud of what you have in front of you, make something different.  Or, better yet, re-make what's in front of you... Better.

good things -  fabric pull

Right now we're in the process of withdrawing Aria from the homeschool co-op program she's enrolled in.  It's a two-day program that was such a great fit for us last year. But this year... it's not.  It's intrusive, distracting.  I thought to finish the year in the program, starting fresh next year, and then wondered why the heck I would accept anything less than our best year possible?  Don't settle.  We can do better, now.

Don't settle

Now my friends and I are plotting and planning our own co-op program for next year.  Because if you have the courage to cut out what disappoints, you create space for something so much better!  I'm fairly bursting with ideas and trying to reign it in.  I love designing systems.  I'd love to orchestrate the whole thing!  But, well, I have this other job (hi, StitchedinColor!) and I'm loyal.  So, we'll keep it small and simple.  But, oh, the possibilities are exciting when you set yourself free!

Don't settle

I had the same sort of experience in the past week with my triangle quilt work-in-progress.  From the beginning, I struggled with the colors.  After putting up the triangles on a temporary design wall (batting push-pinned to the wall) I had to face facts - it wasn't something I'd be proud of making.  So, what the heck?  Remake it!  There's not only one way to layout triangles.  I tried them as diamonds, as zigzags and as hexagons.  Yay for design walls!  The morning after my brainstorm, the hexagons suddenly felt like the only true idea.  So there we are.  And now, I like it!  I really love it!  I think I'll be showing off the finished top tomorrow!

Which is all to say, we're all tempted to give less than our all, to settle for what's easy and obvious.  And sometimes that works just fine.  But..... but, if you're not happy, don't settle.  There's something better for you.  Be brave enough to cut it out.  Reimagine your life, better.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Quilt Essential: review & giveaway

Hiya!  I'm excited it's Friday!  We need a bit of a break from routine around here and extra time to work on some projects.  Yay for weekends!  I feel like I have hardly been sewing lately, and I really hope that changes this weekend.  I miss making!

Quilt Essential - giveaway!

I'm going to take a moment today, though, to introduce you to a new book. I've actually been blessed to receive a few books lately, each of which I want to share with you. But, one at a time, please!   This first one, Quilt Essential, is authored by Erin Burke Harris of House on Hill Road.  We met years ago at an Anna Maria workshop in Nashville.

Quilt Essential is a kind of crash-course on quiltmaking for today's emerging quilter.  It's packed with pictures and information. Lots of information!  This is just the kind of book I would have super, super benefited from when I first got started with quilting.

Quilt Essential - giveaway!

Not that this book is just for beginners!  Of the three that arrived on my doorstep at about the same time, this is the one that I had to read right through.  I'm sort of an information junkie.  I love learning new things, and especially seeing new things.   I especially enjoyed the chapter on diverse quilt styles and the one that showed different block layouts and settings. 

There are 4 main sections:  Fabrics, Colors, Designs and Assembling.  Fabrics teaches about fabric types, includes a reference section on calculating yardage and quilt size (including sashing and borders) and another on caring for fabric (prewash or not, colorfastness, etc.).

Quilt Essential - giveaway!

Colors has a bit of color theory and ideas for combining colors, prints and textures.

Quilt Essential - giveaway!

Designs is the biggest section, and my favorite too.  Chapters explore shapes used in quilting, traditional vs. modern blocks, block layouts, quilt styles, sashing/borders and embellishments like applique.  In this section I discovered names for some quilt layouts I had already seen as well as came across a few things that were new to me. 

Quilt Essential - giveaway!

The last section, Assembling, has actual sewing advice.  This part would be awesome for a new quilter.  It's like the beginning how-to section of most quilt books, but a lot more comprehensive, and very open-minded too.   There's a sense that there is more than one way to do things and the expectation that you'd like to know your options.  I like that!

Quilt Essential - giveaway!

Throughout the book are page spreads highlighting an inspirational quilter.  Always fun to get a personal angle on the topic at hand!

Quilt Essential would be a great addition to the library of anyone who is feeling their way in today's quilting world.  It really gives you the lay of the land, with lots of options, concrete information and a wealth of pictures.  Since I sort of live and breath quilting, there wasn't so much new to me that I would have bought it for myself, but I would have eagerly checked it out from the library.  Quilt nerds, like myself, won't be able to resist the read!


If you'd like to win a copy, add your comment here.  Tell me what you'd like to learn most about quilting and/or if you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate or experienced quilter.  Since the territory for this book is limited, the book can ship to the U.S., Canada or Mexico only.  Sorry.   Giveaway closes noon EST on Tuesday, October 1st!

Disclosure:  I received this book free from the publisher.  My review is my honest opinion, as my relationship with my readers is far more important than receiving free books!  Some links are affiliate links to Amazon.

********Comments closed!*********

The winner is #197 - Cheryl who said, "I am guessing that I am an advanced beginner, but definitely a beginner."  I'll be in touch, Cheryl!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

newly Stashed

You know that it's going to be a good package when the fabrics inspire you even in slices...

good in slices

On first glance I thought, "I'd love to quilt that!"

from FabricBubb

Yes, I've done some fabric shopping!  This is my order from Fabric Bubb.  My heart was set on those Alison Glass feathers!  From left that's:  Ta Dot Emerald, Domino Dot Water, Feathers in Ocean, Feathers in Teal, Feathers in Lime, Feathers in Dahlia, Leaves in White.

from Sew Love Fabrics

From Sew Love Fabrics, I reordered a whole yard of Social Climber in gold.  I love, love, love, LOVE that fabric.  But I never buy anything in bigger than 1 yard cuts, unless for a particular project.  I think every other fabric I bought I opted for 1/2 yard cuts?  That's my go-to size for stash building.  From bottom:  Social Climber Gold, Momo Dot Blossom, Ticking Stripes Pink, Mind's Eye Toast, Dotted Leaf, Pressed Field Peony.

from Fresh Modern Fabrics

From Fresh Modern Fabrics I finally took home those Comma Periods in black and added a bunch of helpful fabrics to my stash.  From left:  Posy Stripe Lily, Ditsy Hollyhock, Leonard Pastel, Posy Story Foxglove, Architextures Crosshatch Peach, Ta Dot Petal, Comma Periods Black.

so I needed PINK

Did you notice a theme?  PINK.  I needed them since I'm supposed to be cooking up a pink and red quilt for Aria's bed.  Pink is one of those colors (like blue) that has a myriad of different incarnations.  I'm not sure exactly which "pink" I'm going for, but my stash was sorely lacking in this hue overall, so buy I did!

loving these colors!

And this little arrangement nearly echos the colors I requested for the go Anywhere Stripes quilt.  Funny how that happens!

Inkwell, Life Words with Comma Periods

Since these goodies arrived, I started a small paper pieced project for the Penny Sampler class.  Used up all those Comma Periods already.  Oops! This Inkwell Life's Words print is one of my favorites, but is pretty hard to find.  Just noticed a sort of similar print that's just come out.  That's the nice thing about fabric these days - there's always something new and lovely to discover!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Washed Earth {a mosaic contest}

Slow down a minute, my friend, and ponder with me in color.

Washed Earth
photo via Jenny Allsorts, author unknown

Rain splatters on fallen leaves, making old things shine as new.  The earth is washed in light, in water, in fiery color, until the neutrals too do sparkle.  I see brown and gray.  I see warmth and chill.  When is the end of things so lovely?

Washed Earth 2
wet leaves, owl, flying geese, nature scene

Tranquility.  Abundence.  The warmth of a hearth and home.  Welcome, welcome autumn!

Washed Earth 1
crochet stones, water, quilt

It's a time for staying in, comforted by the cloth or yarn as it works in the hands.  Or, a time for going out, breathing in the newly crisp air.  We savor each lingering moment of light.

Washed Earth 3
yarn, feathers, woodwork

This autumn I see soft, washed colors - not too saturated, not too loud.  They peak out from behind a myriad of fascinating "plains", so that each shade of creamy white, dusky gray and pillowy brown takes on a reflected hue.

And the rain always makes me smile.

I invite you to join us for a Fabric Mosaic contest sponsored by Pink Chalk Fabrics.

Carefully craft your mosaic of 12 fabrics from among the offerings at Pink Chalk. Choose fabrics to express your interpretation of Washed Earth.  Your collection of fabrics can be mostly monochromatic, fairly neutral, incorporate solids or prints or both.  Just make sure to include earthy colors and definitely some browns, whites or grays.

Once you have your fabrics, the free Mosaic Maker tool makes it a snap to create a mosaic by copy and pasting image url's from Pink Chalk Fabrics.  To find url's, right click on the image you want and choose "copy image URL".

To enter the contest, add your mosaic image to our collection here.  If it suits you, link to a blog post explaining your choices - that helps us spread the word about our contest.  But no blog post is required (you can put your image url in the url space).  Anyone can enter, anywhere in the world.

Add your mosaic by midnight October 3rd.  You can make up to 2 mosaics!  On Friday the 4th, I'll open voting.   We'll have two winners!  The 2 Top Mosaics will earn a complete fat quarter set of their mosaic fabrics!!!  Plus, Pink Chalk will award an extra two winning bundles to random participants.  Winners announced October 7th.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

sick Day

Uh oh, a most unwelcome guest has appeared.  Mr. Cold (or is it Mr. Flu?) has invaded the house.  Darn, must the lovely fall weather bring him as well?

Eclectic Elements by Holtz

So while I'd love to be cutting fabrics for my new quilt and working in these gray-ish brown Eclectic Elements...

in progress

And while I'm itching to add more triangles to this design, not to mention to rearrange them and arrange them and rearrange them yet again...


Today I'm mostly here, hiding my face from the sunshine to sneak in a nap or two.  I hope our visitor leaves posthaste and doesn't darken your door anytime soon!

p.s. a million thanks again, do. Good girls, for this treasure of a quilt.  It's the first I pull out every season.  I never tire of exploring it's fabrics, especially on couch-bound days.

Monday, September 23, 2013

good things

Life whizzes past like a comet.  Only with decided effort can we catch a glimpse of its splendor in real time.  But even if we miss the fulness of each moment, happy days tend to leave behind a trail of good things.

Scrapbuster blocks

good things -  collaborative quilts

*a finished set of blocks, for a surprise collaborative quilt.  Made these with Little Miss Shabby's Scrapbuster tutorial.  I'd been wanting an excuse to make these blocks for awhile.  Used lots of fabric crumbs!

good things -  pressed seams

*enjoying my new (old) iron.  Did you spot it in the last picture?  Now I have steam again and happy seams!  This is the same Panasonic iron I had used for a couple years that died earlier this year. After trying others, I just wanted another of the same exact one!

 good things -  new fabric

*fabric mail arrived last week.  Not technically a birthday purchase, because this is my job and I actually needed more fabric.  So lucky, I know.

good things -  fabric pull

*and a big, fat fabric pull for a new quilt!  I'll be making this one to gift to a dear friend.  Purposeful and practical and entirely my pleasure!

I'll show you more later this week of the fabrics and the new quilt.  But while I don't have pictures, I am also thinking about the good friends I find in my life these days.  Friends to come over just to pet goats and pick goldenrod.  Friends to pull together for new homeschool co ops.  Friends to help me see the way when decisions are hard.  Friends to laugh with, bake with, sew with, eat chocolate with.  Friends who even love me enough to stretch my faith.

Thank God for so many good things.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Menagerie fabric by Sarah Watson

Last night I made a pillowcase.  Just up and decided to make a pillowcase.  Useful, quick and appreciated!  How nice it is to start and finish a project in one night!!

Woodland in Oak

I followed Ashley's tutorial for my construction approach, changing the dimensions to fit my son's small child-size pillow.  The trim is just the right touch of "special" while keeping things simple.

 Indian Summer pillowcase

I've had some small fat quarters of Indian Summer by Sarah Watson biding their time all summer.  This Menagerie print is by far my favorite.   Seems to be getting hard to find, but I found it today at FabricBubb.  I had to use three different prints for this project since there wasn't enough to go around, but I quite like that Woodland print with the Menagerie.  Teepees and animals - so cool!

Indian Summer fabrics

The back is another Indian Summer print.  Happily all these colors play real well with the Alphabet Soup quilt I made for Liam over two years ago.

Liam's new pillowcase

Of course, he likes it!  Kids are so sweet.  Definitely a satisfying and blessedly simple sew.  Mmm... I needed that! 

Fabrics:  Indian Summer by Sarah Watson can still be found at Sew Modern, Fat Quarter Shop, Intrepid Thread and Fabric Bubb, and in Canada at Mad About Patchwork!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ill Fated

I've been definitely dreading bringing this up... but I know you want to know.  You do want to know what happened to my Penny Sampler, right?

the Penny Sampler

Yeah, I thought so....

A couple weeks ago I posted about some bleeding that occurred when I washed my Penny Sampler Quilt.  Although the purple solid backing (not Kona, by the way) had been prewashed, it bled all over the quilt.  In the comments, you gave me some great advice on how to fix it.

Since I had Shout Spray n'Wash on hand I first sprayed all the stains, let that sit over night and then washed again on cold with a color catcher.  I put that puppy out in the sun to dry, but no luck.  The offending colors didn't budge.

Next I soaked the entire quilt in a concentrated OxyClean soak.  Washed with a color catcher and sun dried, again.  Success!

 ill fated

And then not.  Yes, the purple/red stains came out, BUT a new color bled and even worse troubles befell us!!!  Sadly I'm serious.  But let's work up to it.

ill fated

First, what appears to have bled from the OxyClean soak is Kona Everglade (above 2 images), one of my favorite Kona colors.  I've used and washed it other times with no trouble.  Note it did not bleed until the 3rd wash, after the OxyClean soak.  Maybe OxyClean drew out the color in a weird way?  Also, I was only using one color catcher each time, which I've now learned (from you smart readers) is not aggressive enough.  It seems when you have a known problem you should use multiple color catchers.

ill fated

Ok, here's the other tragedy.  I used Essex linen/cotton blend for the background of this paper pieced block.

ill fated

I sewed generous seams as usual with paper piecing, and the thread did not break.  As evidenced by these pictures, the linen unravelled.  I've had unraveling issues before when combining 100% linen and quilting cotton.  This is the first time with Essex.

ill fated

Some seams that didn't open do show stress.

ill fated

Unfortunately, it did not happen only on that block.  This near bye Essex linen/cotton block in natural also threatens to unravel at the seams.  Sob.

I'm not faultless.  For one, I did not prewash these Essex fabrics, since I gave up prewashing over a year ago.  Given that linen is known to shrink more than cotton, methinks prewashing of linen is essential from here on out.  Also, I only tied this quilt every 6 inches.  I thought that was enough, but it certainly occurs to me that if it had been quilted or tied more densely the Essex may not have felt so stressed out as to fall to pieces.   Poor thing.

About the time of my Fix This post, I was thinking about gifting this quilt to my grandmother, who is moving away this month.  When my fixing efforts so horribly failed, my first response was denial.  I stuck it on a shelf for a week.  Then last week my grandmother was hospitalized for a staph infection.  I took that for a sign.

 ill fated

To patch the worst part of the Flower Pot block, I added a new piece of Essex linen with raw edges folded under and one long side tucked into the open seam.

ill fated

Then I used pins to bring the still-nicely-pressed-under polka dot seam towards the intact Essex.  After pinning tucking and pinning both opened seams, I zigzagged the patootie off this block.  I zigzagged all over, in fact, to reinforce virtually every Essex seam in the block.

ill fated

This neighboring Spruce Forest block had no open seams, but showed stress, so I zigzagged all it's seams as well.  That was a whole lot of quilt to wrestle, let me tell ya.  I stitched with top thread to match each quilt block and bottom thread to match the purple quilt back.  I think it worked out to not be an eye sore.

ill fated

What is an eye sore is this corner of the Flower Pot block, which was the worst.  Definitely not so square anymore.  Sad face.  But, hopefully its strength is renewed.

This weekend I gave my grandma her surprise gift at the hospital.  And I think she was really touched.  Yes, I did come clean about some of its problems and I gave her a color catcher to use in the next wash, but I didn't point out every single, ingle glitch.   Shhhhh......  If there's someone who can love your work even with its failings, that would be family.  I hope that for her it will be pleasant memory of our time together in South Carolina.  And now, I'm done talking about quilts with shadowy fates.

the Penny Sampler

I choose to remember my Penny Sampler in all her glory.  And I'm enjoying seeing her take on oodles of new lives at the hands of my students who are turning out so many lovely Penny Samplers!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

on Thread

What thread do you use?

Connecting Threads Essential Thread

I've always bought cotton thread, preferring to work with natural fibers, but I've tried all sorts of brands.  When I started sewing, I bought Coats & Clark - cheap and local.  Then, when I became "a quilter" I switched to Gutermann - also local, though expensive and supposed to be better quality for quilting.  Aurifil has been much-touted in blogland, so naturally I gave it a try.  I bought a pack of basic Aurifil neutrals from Pink Chalk, which I'm still working my way through.  Pricey stuff, but so shiny that it feels luxurious.  Lots of people recommend it for free motion quilting.

Aurifil 12 wt stitches - Love!
quilted with Aurifil 12 wt

Honestly, I can't tell the difference in how ANY of these sew.  That doesn't mean that there isn't a difference (I'm no expert), but it feels like faith to buy one or the other.  I know some sewing machines seem to prefer specific threads, but I haven't found that to be the case with my machines.  I do love to straight line quilt in the Aurifil 12 wt thread, a chunky thread that really shows off.  I'll keep that up, but for piecing.... Aurifil is just too pricey for me.

Connecting Threads thread
Connecting Threads Essential Threads

So, recently, I asked Connecting Threads to send me a cone of their "Essential" thread in 50 wt cotton.  The price is extraordinarily good - 5000 yards for $10.  Or, if your machine doesn't accommodate cones, it's $2.80 for a 1200 yard spool.  Either way, it's the cheapest thread I've seen.  Yes, it's less lustrous than Aurifil 50 wt and maybe does make more lint (not sure for my machine, though others who've done comparison tests say so).  But the thing is I sew a lot.  Price matters.

and for piecing

I've been sewing with Connecting Threads thread for a month now.  I've used it for piecing, quilting and garment sewing.  Aria's been wearing her Geranium dress weekly, and it's holding up nicely.

for quilting

Whisper is the first quilt I free motion quilted with Connecting Threads thread.  It went wonderfully.  So, unless something comes up otherwise, I see more 5000 yard cones in my future.  I like the fact that I can load it in white and leave it up there, like forever.  Simplicity is golden.

What about you?  What thread do you prefer and why?

Note:  With thread, 50 wt thread is much finer than 12 wt thread.  8 wt thread would be even thicker.  80 wt thread would be super-fine. 
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