Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Homeschool Chronicles {Looking Ahead}

Homeschool  ChroniclesIt's been so long since I shared about our homeschool journey.  My goodness - almost two years!  I wonder if some readers even know we do homeschool?  Well, we've been since Aria started kindergarten.  And, no exaggeration, it's been one of the best choices of my life.

Fall of 2014 I teamed up with two mom-friends to form a small co-op, an idea I introduced in my last chronicle.  We met one day per week, each mom teaching from an area of passion to cover history, science and writing, plus a bit of follow up homework the rest of the week.  That year was our best homeschooling year yet.  Our children benefited from a richer educational experience, and we all loved the extra time with friends. 

Eleni came home from NICU at the tale end of that co-op school year.  Over the summer of 2015, it was heartbreaking to realize we'd have to give up co-op because of my frequent travels for Eleni's therapies.  Seeing less of friends and less of each other was hard on our family, but for me it was nothing compared to the burden of grief for her suffering.  Then, a few months into the school year it became clear that caring for Eleni and teaching Liam left me no time to properly challenge Aria academically.  We considered all our options, including public and charter schools.  But it was tricky to find anything that would require less of me, while truly giving her more.

In October, with Aria's enthusiastic support, I enrolled her in Oak Meadow's long distance learning program, through which she'd receive assignments and traditional grading/feedback from an Oak Meadow teacher.  The program was a lifesaver for us.  Aria could work from home without my input, choose grade levels that matched her abilities and receive the attention she deserved.  It still wasn't ideal for me to "check out" so to speak of her education, so the first thing that changed after Eleni passed away was my involvement in her Oak Meadow program.  Still, I would recommend a program like this to anyone who needs a temporary fix in an emergency, whether pulling a child out of a traditional school or suddenly facing a life change that prevents regular homeschooling.

the lay of the land

So, here we are now preparing for fall of 2016!  I am so, so grateful that we are reviving co-op.  And my kids are too!  I am also excited to be able to go "all in" so to speak with designing learning programs that best serve both of my children.  That's one thing I love about homeschool - being able to really meet your kids where they are academically.  Aria is entering 6th grade and Liam 4th.  For those of you who homeschool, here are some of the resources they will be using:

Aria - 6th Grade
Art of Problem Solving PreAlgebra; Sequential Spelling 2; Michael Clay Thompon's Caesar's Language 2, Essay Voyage and Search literature trilogy; Aristotle Leads the Way; Shepherd Life Science; aBeka Grammar + Composition II and various Sonlight history books.

Liam - 4th Grade
Singapore 4A + 4B with Intensive Practice; aBeka Language A; Spelling Power; Michael Clay Thompon's Sentence Island, Building Language, Mud Trilogy and Music of the Hemispheres; Apologia Astronomy, Apologia Botany and various Sonlight history books.

In the co-op I am excited to be teaching my older students the finer points of writing quality essays.  They are growing up so fast!  In choosing curriculum for Aria I am already thinking about how it all connects to high school and to college, so we'll be ready when we get there.  You might have noticed that Aria is consuming two science curricula.  One is for the Potter's School Life Science Honors class, a live online class.  Science is her passion, and we have reached that point when it's time for me to rely on professionals to give her the best experiences.

I'll also be teaching a basic writing class for my younger co-op students that introduces all kinds of writing, kind of warming them up to academic writing.  There are certain benefits to being second-born, including that mom has already taught that class!  This year Liam has become a voracious reader, even a self-proclaimed "book worm," taking home huge stacks of thick books from the library.  This from the boy who kept telling me just a year ago that he "hated" reading.  And that's the true victory here - not to teach my child how to read, but to see him develop a love for it.  It's like witnessing those first steps, those first smiles.  It's magic.

our newest Bookworm

So, this week my kids are away at camp, and I am at home typing up plans for our next school year with excitement.  I'm amazed time and again to be here, in this place, getting to do this, getting to have time to be my version of a good mom to Aria and Liam again.  Oh how life can change, does change, will always change in ways that surprise us.  When our new baby comes, at mid school year, I hope with all my heart that the adjustment is sweet, if not simple.  Joyful if not easy.

If you have any questions about our homeschool, I am happy to share!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

American Made Brand {Improv Handbook Score #5}

You know what I need?  A good, old fashioned fresh start to get myself moving again.  And it feels like time to return to improv.  Last September I started a series of improv quilts based on the scores from Sherri Lynn Wood's fantastic book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.  I made three quilts:  Score #1,  Zephyr

 Zephyr {improv handbook, score #1}

Score #3, Tipsy

Tipsy {Improv Handbook Score #2}

and Score #4, Doodle Doodle, which was completed this March.

 Doodle Doodle, a finished quilt

Once again I'm appreciating the subtitle's reference to "Living Courageously."  As much as that fit when I was learning to cope with a seriously disabled baby, that sentiment is exactly right for pregnancy after HIE (Eleni's diagnosis).  And I'm sure I'm not alone.  We all need courage to live out fully the opportunities and challenges of our lives.

Improv Score #5 with American Made Brand solids

For this next improv quilt, I'm going to work with a set of solids I selected from the American Made Brand solids collection.  This line of solids is 100% sourced, manufactured and dyed in the United States.  It's nice to see a company choosing to responsibly carry on the tradition of American textiles from farm to fabric.  The hand is lovely, and the colors offered are a tight collection of popular modern shades. 

Improv Score #5 with American Made Brand solids

When I selected a range of beautiful blue fabrics with white and gray neutrals, I had in mind an ombre quilt.  I was thinking an equilateral triangle quilt, well organized to create an ombre effect, with each blue triangle sharply paired with a neutral triangle of similar value.

Improv Score #5 with American Made Brand solids

Although that sounds lovely, plans do change!  I've set my heart on Score #5 from the Improv Handbook and started "figuring it out" last night.  I don't feel that this Rhythmic Grid score requires much of a departure from Wood's example.  More than the other scores, following her directions will yield something pretty similar.  I definitely want to repeat the side "borders" in a contrasting colorway.

Improv Score #5 with American Made Brand solids

Last night I arranged the solids like so.  I'm imagining the quilt in 5 rows: a gray "border" row on left, an ombre blue row next, an ombre aqua row in center, an ombre turquoise row next (with a pop of aberrant royal blue) and a denim "border" row on the far right. 

Improv Score #5 with American Made Brand solids

According to the score, I also need sashing fabrics for the center vs. border sections.  I chose a variety of low volume Cotton & Steel fabrics for sashing in the quilt center and American Made solid white for sashing in the borders.  I'm imagining the borders will be low volume compared to the center.

Improv Score #5 with American Made Brand solids

This morning, I refined my color layout, letting go of ombre just a bit.  I realized the first layout made a right border that wasn't altogether low volume.  To better define the center vs. borders of the quilt, I've moved the lighter solids to the right border:  light denim, light aqua, light turquoise and shuffled denim into the blue row, light sky into the turquoise/royal blue row.

This feels right!  Time to start cutting.

p.s.  You can find American Made Brand solids at Gotham Quilts, Fat Quarter Shop and HoneyBeGood.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Paper Cuts

I've been almost a month now without my Juki sewing machine, and I've grown tired of using my Kenmore to the point of putting off sewing.  Luckily my Juki arrives back tomorrow, eager to be of service!  I'm looking forward to tackling my last two Lotus blocks on a machine that sews precisely and finishing up my last two Christmas stockings with free motion quilting.  (I learned long ago that my Kenmore can't handle free motion.)  How lucky I am to get to own my wonderful Juki machine!  Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

Paper Cuts board cover

So this weekend I was looking for odd projects and decided it was high time to recover that sad ironing board.  Look, it had an actual hole in it!

I've recovered this board time and time again.  It just takes a 1/2 yard of fabric, which is the size cut I usually have in my fabric cabinet.  I tend to choose a favorite fabric to cover it with, even though it'll only last a few years before getting stained, because there's hardly a fabric I'll see more and appreciate more than the one that's on my ironing board!

Paper Cuts board cover

This time I'm covering in a Bluebird fabric from Cotton & Steel called Paper Cuts.  It's such an interesting shade of dusky blue.  All I need is fabric, a staple gun and my hubby.

Paper Cuts board cover

You can see here that the wooden board is padded with recycled toweling cut to shape.  I fold and wrap the new fabric edge around while he staples it down.  See my tutorial for more info.

Paper Cuts board cover

10 minutes later and she's looking mighty fine.  Quick, what do I need to iron?

p.s. Fat Quarter Shop is celebrating their 13th birthday with a storewide sale and 13 generous giveaways.  Enter to win with each purchase over $25 the rest of this month.  Use code LUCKY13 when checking out to apply the discount to your purchase!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Peach Swirl patchwork quilt

Peach Swirl patchwork quilt

A finished quilt!  This one has been stashed in the cabinet fully backed and basted, until earlier this week when I decided to hand tie it.  Do you remember my peach distraction?

peach distraction

Even though it looks like a scrap quilt, this one started with a fabric pull.  I used most all those fabrics, plus scraps to give it extra character.  The pattern is from Kingwell's book Quilt Lovely. It's an easy sew and a nice way to showcase a strong "background" color - in this case Peach!  Solid is Kona Peach and print is Cotton & Steel Sprinkle in Peaches, both in stock at Fat Quarter Shop.

Peach Swirl patchwork quilt

As per usual, I didn't buy a backing, but instead pieced something together.  This time I used some of the fabrics from my original fabric pull.  There's the low volume Wispy Daybreak in Aura, some Waterfront Domino Dot, a taste of Umbrella Print hearts and a whole lotta Denyse Schmidt Medallion.

Peach Swirl patchwork quilt

Since the quilt is also bound in saturated pink, I'd say this one is a wee bit feminine.  Love the way the light shines through the quilt in this picture, making the swirls sparkle even from the back!

Peach Swirl patchwork quilt

I hand tied with heavy weight wool Aurifil thread in marigold.  I think the wool will hold well and even felt when washed.  I also tripple knotted each one to be sure!  I've had some bad experiences with quilts tied with perle coming loose over time.  Maybe because perle cotton thread is slick?  Or maybe I don't tie the best way.

Peach Swirl patchwork quilt

But even with triple knots, tying is such a fast way to finish a quilt.  And a pleasurable one!  Just the excuse to relax as the evening sets in.

Peach Swirl patchwork quilt

This quilt finished 60" x 68" and is listed in my Etsy shop today.  It will be hard to ship this one off, but I'm trusting someone will find it who loves peach as much as I!

Peach Swirl patchwork quilt

Happy weekend, all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

mint + tangerine

Well, folks, I'm having a boy.  No names yet, just nursery inspiration.  An aqua-minty-cantaloupe-tangerine sort of room is definitely something I can get behind.  Here's an inspiration board I very much enjoyed creating:

Nursery Inspiration board

No. 1  Peachy wall art (DiemDesign on Etsy)

No. 2  Wood Duck wall art (Land of Nod)

No. 3  Mint Wall Clock (Society6)

No. 4  Wild Orange table lamp (Target)

No. 5  Hurdal night stand (Ikea)

No. 6  Avandbar fabric (Ikea)

No. 7  Sniglar crib (Ikea)

No. 8  nuLoom Monegu rug (Wayfair)

No. 9  Baxton Studio rocking chair (Wayfair)

no. 10 Birch Wink Orange (Fabricworm) and Tile Canvas Aqua (Bobbie Lou's Fabric Factory) fabrics for changing covers

no. 11 Miriam Bos Roses Cream (Fabricworm), All the States Aqua (Bobbie Lou's Fabric Factory) and Stars Aqua Indigo (Bobbie Lou's Fabric Factory) for crib sheets

no. 12  Hemnes Dresser (Ikea)

no. 13 Flisat wagon (Ikea)

Which is not to say that all of these goodies are coming home to live with me, but it's fun to dream.  The crib and dresser we already have, and a rocking chair is a must as we were borrowing the previous one.  It seems I'll be making some curtains, changing pad covers and sheets.  Plenty of time for that.  First... back to those stockings, I suppose.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Register now for Patchwork from Scrap!

 Patchwork from scrap

Registration opens today for a brand new online class, a five week course designed for new to intermediate sewists.  This class was inspired by my local sewing friends - regular folk who sew the occasional pillow cover, tote or quilt.  It's the Stitched in Color 101 they've often suggested to share my organizational skills, cutting/sewing habits and perspectives that support my creativity.

{Class Description} 

After two weeks of practical, hands-on sewing theory, Patchwork from Scrap flows beautifully into three weeks of scrap sewing, including 9 projects big and small to cleverly utilize your scraps.  Because, as it turns out, Scraps are patchwork.  Or at least, they are at the root of so much of what I love about the patchwork art - making do, being resourceful, creating something out of what would otherwise be discarded; beauty from trash, whole blankets from trimmings.

Rail Fence quilt {project}

Since this class has two main themes (sewing organization/habits and scrap sewing), you may be wondering... why?  Well, it turns out that learning how to care for your fabrics, cut wisely, what scraps to keep vs. toss, how to sort and store your scraps, etc. are the foundation for happy scrappy sewing... and patchwork quilting in general.  Newer sewists often feel stuck wondering how much fabric to buy, how to use what's left over, and how to use unloved or inherited fabrics.  We want fabric economy - the joyful experience of not wasting and finding beautiful uses for what we have.  But we also want our sewing to be lively and fresh.   When you overcome these creative boundaries with scrap sewing, you'll be even more proud of what you've made and even more inspired to sew.  

Creative resourcefulness drives my sewing.  It energizes me and delivers delightful results.  In Patchwork from Scrap, I hope to help you discover healthy habits and fresh perspectives so you can flourish as a patchworker, making practical and beautiful things from bits and pieces.

{Class Content}

::Week One::  Caring for Fabric from the ground up.  Prewashing, Cutting, Organizing with an eye to eliminate waste and sewing inertia.  Including practical assignments to help you move forward.

Launching Score #2 {Improv Handbook}

::Week Two:: Scraps.  What's worth keeping, what's not and how to keep it all accessible and inviting.  You'll developed personal scrap saving, sorting and storage systems to support you.

rainbow scrap crumbs

::Week Three::  Small Projects.  Scrap Theory - Using Unloved Fabrics.  Then three small projects using scraps of various sizes and types.

Pixel project

::Week Four::  Quilts.  Scrap Theory - Harmonizing with Color.  Then three quilt patterns using scraps of various sizes and types.

Framed project

::Week Five::  Crumbs.  Scrap Theory - Raw Edge Applique.  Then three projects based on using tiny "crumb" scraps in efficient ways.


Note:  With each project I discuss fabric choices, including general guidelines to keep in mind or tips for recreating my look.  The course also includes some videos, both technical and conversational.

{Class Details}

Patchwork from Scrap runs July 4th through August 4th.

The class includes a PDF eBook of the course (delivered at class conclusion) for $55 now through June 26th.  After early registration week, the regular price for this online course is $65.

I am also offering Camp, by popular request, for $85.  This smaller, more intimate version is for folks who want lots of interaction, with the give and take encouragement you'd experience in a real in-person class.  Camp is limited to 20 campers.  We'll enjoy (5) live community chats, each an hour in length, plus a private Flickr group to help us keep up with our works-in-progress.  And, campers who complete 1 project from each sewing week of class within 30 days of the last lesson will receive a little something handmade by me as a souvenir.  I hope I get to make one for each of you!

Machine Cover for Patchwork from Scrap 

Patchwork from Scrap is delivered via a password protected blog.  I love this format because with a blog you have access to the class at any time and from anywhere, with an interactive format that allows me to publicly answer questions.  Blog posts go up regularly as the class progresses.  Students are also encouraged to use Flickr and/or Instagram to see what others are making, form friendships and ask questions of your fellow students in the discussion threads!

Your access to the class blog will remain open through August 28th, during which time I will continue answering questions live on the blog.  After that date, the blog will be closed and you will no longer be able to login.  This provides much-need motivation for us to get everything we can out of the class in real time, rather than leaving it open ended for "someday."  Remember though, you'll have an eBook for your continued reference, so you can still enjoy any projects you missed!

Rail Fence quilt {project}

{Please Join In}

When a sewist comes into scrap sewing for herself it's as if her world opens wider.  She sees her fabrics, however limited, in new ways.  She buys new fabrics with a keener eye for second-hand sewing opportunity.  I think this is when she becomes a patchworker.

I hope you'll join us or maybe invite someone else to join who would benefit from a solid foundation in patchwork sewing.   Thank you for the opportunity to teach from my passions!  I feel incredibly lucky to share this space with you all and to share my gifts too.

Register Here for Patchwork from Scrap!

p.s.  The first five registrants in U.S. or Canada who indicate they are short on scraps, will receive a free scrap pack handpicked from my scraps for making the Sprout Mini quilt.  After you register, add your comment to this post to request those scraps.  When all five are gone, I'll update this post! Scrap packs are all claimed!

Friday, June 17, 2016

summer Stockings

summer Stockings

I'll admit there is something quite odd about sewing stockings in summertime.  In South Carolina we're already sweltering in 100 degree weather, punctuated with ferocious thunderstorms.  Today's brought down branches all around the house.  My finished photos were snapped in a brief lull between storms, when the sun peeked out just a bit.

summer Stockings

I invited Aria and Liam to choose their favorite Pixie Noel fabrics.  Aria always loves a rich, vibrant red, so she chose the red snow contrasting boldly with the green stockings print.  I like to think I subtly mellowed things out by crafting her stocking in zigzag stripes with some calmer green and red prints.  Probably not.  But the finished, quilted stocking is pleasing us both.

 summer Stockings

All my stockings are quilted, which makes this a great chance to use up those random batting bits.  Here I'm drawing lines with my hera marker, which leaves creases on the fabric.  I know I'm a broken record about this tool, but seriously, gotta have it.  It's the quickest way I've found to mark quilting lines, hands down.  And accurate to boot.

summer Stockings

Liam chose the aqua snow.  Basically, he wanted the least Christmas-y fabric, it seemed.  So I paired his with Cotton & Steel Netorious in metallic cloud for sparkly perfection.  The green and candy-striped stocking is Brandon's.   Before I can make the other two stockings to round out our set, I need to find out the sex of this baby.  Crossing fingers that's revealed on Monday!  I'm nervous.

summer Stockings

Today was my last day sewing in what has been my sewing space these last many years.  My sewing space, which is also our entry room, is part of the remodel/addition, which means all of my furniture, books and fabric are about to be vomited into our living room, squeezed into all the cracks, swallowing all the wall space and settling in for a solid few months.   But, BUT, after it's all done I'll have an enclosed sewing space for the first time ever!  All the better for keeping little roving hands (hopefully) from rampaging my design wall.  Yay.

Get stockings construction details in this post.  Find the full range of Pixie Noel fabrics at Fat Quarter Shop, as well as all the Cotton & Steel basics I'm mixing in!

Happy weekend, all!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

liquid gold

When Eleni died this January, our chest freezer was stocked with over 1000 ounces of breast milk.  One thousand ounces.  That's about 3/4 of a large chest freezer.  The only thing that went as I had expected during her babyhood was my milk supply.  Even though I was exclusively pumping, I had enough to feed her 100% breastmilk every day that she was allowed to eat.  And although her food went in via a tube into her stomach, I was proud to be feeding her the very best nutrition.  This one thing, just as it should be.

6-30 with grandma

Maybe that's why there was so much.  I wasn't going to let go of getting this part right.  In case my supply should suddenly plummet, I was prepared.

But after she died that milk, Eleni's milk, was hers no longer.  It belonged to other babies.  I knew that, and I was eager to find it a home.  Within weeks a few moms, connections from milk sharing boards, came by to pick up that liquid gold.  Every one of them didn't bring enough bags, ice chests, ice packs.  There was just so much, so, SO much.

Sprout mini quilt {project}

I'll never forget one mom in particular, whose baby was about 9 months old, so near Eleni's age.  She had driven over an hour to pick up the milk, with her baby in tow.  She had been breastfeeding, but everything stopped when she became unexpectedly pregnant.  (A sharp jolt of jealousy for two healthy babies.)  Now her baby was refusing all substitutes.  The closest thing she could buy that her baby would drink was goat's milk, not quite nutritionally ideal.  Her little girl was small, not chubby.  I was glad to give her my milk.  As they packed up to leave her mother prompted, "Give Rachel a smile!"  And the little cherub grinned so beautifully, so quickly, effortlessly.

I made it back to my porch before breaking down in racking sobs.  Something so kindly offered hurt so deep.  I think that Eleni's smile was, in the end, all I was hoping for.

Sprout mini quilt {project}

I took a break from giving away the milk then, until this last weekend when another mom came to pick up the rest.  Her son has a genetic condition that prevents his body from properly processing fats other than those from human breastmilk.  She took the milk for her son and for another little girl with the same condition.  These children struggle to grow physically and to maintain health given their digestive challenges.  We chatted comfortably about frequent hospitalizations and family transitions when a medically complex child becomes a part.  In our conversation it came up that Eleni had not been able to swallow.  The mom asked shocked, "Since birth?"  "...Yes."  And I realized, clumsily, that she was surprised.

After she left, I glumly reflected that my child's disabilities were something even this special needs mom took for granted.  Eleni was so severely disabled.  And then later on I remembered that I often took for granted that she could grow.  My baby actually grew a little faster than her siblings had.  She seemed to comfortably digest her food.  Her body was round and beautiful.  These critical gifts that others struggled with, I took for granted.

Sprout mini quilt {project}

Each of us has something, many things more likely, that others lack.  Each of us has some treasure we take for granted and more than enough of it for ourselves.  It may be tangible:  home, fabric scraps, food, family, money.  Or it may be something we forget we own because we cannot capture it on Instagram or touch it with our hands.  Excellent health.  Extra time.  Effortless hope.

Sprout mini quilt 

I don't wish loss on anyone, though loss does show us what we have.  Instead I wish for us to be people that open our hands to share with those who are hurting.  Not all things that are lacking can be given.  Some emptiness is too profound to fill.  But, when my treasure is within my power to give, may I be a person who gives - thankful when it is that easy.

 Sprout mini quilt {project}

p.s.  The project in this post is another pattern included in Patchwork from Scraps, my online class running July 4 - August 4.  Registration opens on Monday morning, about 9 am eastern time!

p.s.s.  Making for this class has reminded me how fortunate I am to have a bountiful library of fabric scraps.  In the spirit of sharing, I will ship complimentary handpicked scrap packs sufficient for making a Sprout mini quilt to the first 5 class registrants (U.S. or Canadian) who indicate they are short on scraps.  xoxo

Monday, June 13, 2016

Pixie Noel for me + you

Do you find yourself, year after year, wishing you had time to make Christmas stockings, a tree skirt, a wreath, and All The Things when the holidays are near?   I think my ability to deflect these sort of longings declines as holiday cheer mounts!  We expect this baby to arrive sometime during the week of Thanksgiving.  When I realized that the new baby and the holidays will descend at once, that set things in quick perspective.

Clearly, if anything is going to get done, it needs to happen before. Christmas shopping, holiday sewing, the works.

happy, happy quilted Stockings!
stockings for a friend, circa 2014

So here I am in June thinking stockings!  Luckily the fabric industry obliges with holiday collections releasing each summer.  (It's as if they know something about the holiday rush...)  A new collection from Riley Blake landed on my radar about a month ago, and I have not been able to get it out of my mind.  Have you seen Pixie Noel by Tasha Noel?  It's pure cuteness.  Pure elves, bunnies, carols and candy stripes cuteness.  I. cannot. resist.

Pixie Noel for Stockings

Here are my seven picks: elves times two, one helping of light pink bunnies, striped stockings and some cheery basics.  There are lots more fun choices, but I don't need an army for stockings, right?  Right.

supporting fabrics

This morning I found some supporting fabrics from my stash.  I'm thinking of this set of patchwork stockings I made for a friend in 2014.  Each one must be unique, not all will be patchwork and mixing in non-holiday fabrics suits my style.

Pixie Noel for Stockings

I'm starting off with XOXO from Cotton & Steel paired with that candy cane Pixie Noel stripe.

::Giveaway::  Would you like to get a jump start on the holidays too?  Fat Quarter Shop is offering a complete fat quarter set of Pixie Noel to one lucky reader.  International entries are welcome!  For your chance to win, just add your comment to this post now through noon EST on Wednesday.

Good luck!

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

The random winner is comment #178.  I'll be in touch via email!

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