Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Blue Phase

Blue Phase, a finished quilt

It all started with the Bluebird collection in February.  Those gorgeous true blues launched my blue phase, as a friend called it.  Today's finish is my third monochromatic blue quilt this year.  First there was Still Point, a dynamic, pointy work; then Ombre Grid, an improv quilt brought on by a batch of American Made Brand solids; and now I do believe I'm concluding my "blue phase" with this embodiment of classic patchwork. 

Blue Phase, a finished quilt

Just 2.5" squares alternating with large, solid expanses.  Simple.  Traditional.  Safe.

 Blue Phase, a finished quilt

To spice it up, I quilted the large solid blocks with varying straight line patterns.  Quilt-as-you-go made it easy to bring together all these textures.

Blue Phase, a finished quilt

Near the end I complained to a friend that the whole thing felt too predictable.  She suggested I throw in something different, so I made one square of black/white patchwork squares in place of the blue patchwork squares. You can see a bit of that black patchwork in the corner of this picture,

Blue Phase, a finished quilt

and where it falls on the bed in this shot.  It's subtle, but there.  Feels perfect!

Blue Phase, a finished quilt

Happily I did succeed in both backing and binding this twin-sized quilt with the provincial blue wide print from Connecting Threads that prompted the whole work.  Phew!

I've listed this one now in my Etsy shop.  Next up hearts, hearts and more hearts!  And, maybe I'll finally start sewing for the nursery?  Maybe?  (Yeah, you should probably believe it when you see it...)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Registration Opens for Patchwork from Scrap!

Good morning!  Today registration opens for the second and final 2016 offering of Patchwork from Scrap, an online class designed to help beginner and intermediate sewists get organized and inspired to sew with their scraps.  Now that the kids are back in school, I hope you'll take some time to enjoy your hobby, while getting a jump start on holiday gifts with these scrappy projects!

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.

 Patchwork from scrap

{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.  We'll take a week "off" from new lessons after Quilt week to give you a bit of breathing room to work on those quilts!

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 September 12th through October 20th.

The class includes a PDF eBook of the course for $55 now through September 4th.  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 November 19th, 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!

Friday, August 26, 2016

recycled Hearts

I only made one quilt for Eleni.  Though I never did finish it.

making Hearts

Just weeks before she was born, I started making these uber girly hearts to be appliqued onto a candy colored baby girl's quilt.  I appliqued them by hand, relishing the process, and even saved a few for the birth itself.  I was planning another home birth then.  Maybe, in my dream birth scenario, some handwork would be a fun way to channel my excitement during the early stages of labor.

Recycled Hearts

Of course, Eleni's birth was nothing like that.  Afterwards, in my shock, I did finish appliqueing the hearts.  I took many to the NICU for something to do by her bedside as she was always, always sleeping and couldn't tolerate being held for too long.  When they were finished I joined the blocks together and then put the quilt top away.  I hated reminders of life before the tragedy, especially reminders of how I thought things would be.  I couldn't finish the quilt, didn't want it for Eleni, and yet couldn't see myself finishing it to sell either.

Recycled Hearts

I feel that this pregnancy is my last chance to grieve for Eleni with my whole heart.  I know that our new baby will shift my focus and put a new light in our family, which is a good thing.  Of course I'll never forget Eleni, but maybe she'll never feel quite this near.  Of course she won't.  That's the thing about death, it puts real distance between you and your loved ones.  Later when life slows down again, so much will have changed.  I'll be less likely then to think of what could have been and more likely to be thankful for what came to be.  At least, I trust so.

Part of my grieving is to deal with Eleni's heart quilt.  It doesn't belong in a drawer testifying to what wasn't and never-will-be.  I want to give it a life, and not one that is for this new baby I'm having, but rather one that is for Eleni still.  Somehow, still for Eleni.

Recycled Hearts

So, I've decided to tear it apart.  I'm separating out the hearts and making quilts to donate to the NICU that kept Eleni.  When she was there the nurses would wrap a quilt around her mattress, instead of a sheet, to make her bed slightly more homey.  I'm sure they could use a few fresh ones.  And probably some of the moms will appreciate a slightly more modern flare. 

Recycled Hearts

The way the nurses use them as substitute sheets, 32 x 44" is a good size.  These are likely to be used for full term babies not in an isolate, so these are not the kind that cover the isolate to make it darker/quieter.  In my series of little quilts, I'm thinking to use anywhere from 1 to 6 hearts per quilt, to yield a good number of them. 

I made my first today.  It's so simple.  Maybe too simple?  But then again, it's the baby who'll lay upon it that needs all the attention.  I imagine the hearts near her head and her feet serving as bookends to her sweetness.

Eleni is already giving many things to her younger sister - clothes, blankets, toys and bottles.  These hearts she'll give to other babies experiencing a harder start to life than they deserve.  Babies that may not ever be "all right."  I think she'd be pleased.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

how to Assemble + Finish Quilt-as-You-Go blocks

There are many clever tutorials on how to assemble and finish quilt-as-you-go blocks.  This is not one of them.  This is the simple, no-fuss approach to quilt-as-you-go that may have less finesse, but is super quick and so very user-friendly.

I like to recommend the quilt-as-you-go approach to new quilt makers, who often want to make a quilt for a queen or king sized bed.  Large bed quilts are so much less challenging to complete on your standard sewing machine if made quilt-as-you-go.  This is the finishing technique that matches that concept.  Let's make it easy, secure and pretty.  Not clever.  It's also the finishing technique I prefer, even as a more experienced maker.

Assemble + Finish Quilt-as-You-Go

Step 1:  Quilt Blocks

You can transform any quilt block into quilt-as-you-go by simply quilting the finished block to a matching square of batting.  Do not attach backing at this time.  Simply quilt to one layer of batting - that's it!

An individual quilt block is easy to navigate underneath your standard sewing machine.  You can experiment with dense quilting patterns that may be otherwise intimidating.  In my demo quilt, I've even used a variety of straight-line patterns on my 13" quilt blocks to add more textures to the finished quilt.

Trim all of your quilt blocks to a consistent size after quilting.

Step 2:  Join Blocks

This is the "duh" part.  Simply join your blocks with right sides together, creating seam allowances that consist of both quilt top and batting.  Remember, no backing is involved yet.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

"What?  There's batting in my seam allowances!?!?!" you protest.  Why, yes, there is.  No worries.  Just press those seam allowances open to evenly distribute the slight bulk.  And it is slight, I promise! I've had a bed quilt finished this way on my master bed for years.  Never during use do I notice the extra bulk at seam allowances.  Once on a bed and hidden between quilt top/back layers, only a very keen observer would discover the bulk at all.  Sure, you will know it's there, but does it matter?  I guess the answer is up to you.  My answer is "Nope!"

I suggest you join blocks with a wider-than-normal seam allowance.  I use 3/8".  This wider allowance is easier to keep straight and accurate when dealing with thicker seams.  Also, sometimes your blocks will shrink slightly and unevenly in the quilting process.  I trim quilted blocks to the original, intended block size (13" in my case) even if that means that a bit of the block edge is only batting with the raw edge of the quilt block say 1/8" from the trimmed edge of the block.  A 3/8" seam allowance ensures that I still have a full 1/4" of quilt top fabric in those seam allowances.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

And, guess what?  A wider seam allowance, plus batting in your seam allowances add up to a more durable quilt!

Step 3:  Baste to Backing

Once you've joined all blocks, you have an already-quilted quilt top with batting attached, but no backing.  Make or purchase a backing as usual.  Tape it to your floor with wrong side up.  Then, lay your quilted quilt top on the backing, right side up.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

Baste the two layers together with basting spray or pins.  I usually use basting spray for my quilts, but with quilt-as-you-go, pins may be better.  The quilted top is heavy and doesn't seem to spray baste as securely as a typical quilt sandwich.   If using pins, only pin along the block seams, as you will only be quilting or tying along the block seams (not within the already-quilted blocks).

Step 4:  Quilt or Tie

The entire goal of this step is to securely attach the quilted top to your backing.  It doesn't take much!  Just quilt along the seams that joined the blocks to each other OR consider tying the quilt for a machine-free finish.

On a typical quilt (not quilt-as-you-go) the goal of quilting is to reinforce the patchwork, evenly attach batting to the patchwork and attach the three layers.  When you quilted your blocks, you already reinforced the patchwork and evenly attached the batting to prevent shifting or bunching over years of use.  As I said, the only goal of this step is to attach that backing.

Ziggy Zaggy

On my Bottled Rainbows quilt I machine sewed a zigzag stitch over block seams to attach the quilted top to the back.  A zigzag stitch is very forgiving (hard to make it look crooked!) and it will flatten the slight bulk of the pressed open batting seams, practically removing all trace of the batting-in-seams approach.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

For my current project, I've opted to tie to attach the backing.  I'm tying at each corner of each block with rusty orange thread for a fun contrast.  When tying be sure to use a heavy duty, durable thread.  Consider a triple square knot for a secure tie.

Step 5:  Bind to Finish

After attaching the backing to your quilt, either with minimal machine quilting or tying, trim the excess backing around the edges and bind to finish your work!  You can opt for any binding method you prefer.  If you're looking for another easy, user-friendly approach, consider my Zigzag Binding tutorial below.

Helpful Links:

{Tutorial} Quilt-as-You-Go Log Cabins

(Tutorial} Zigzag Quilt Binding

{Quilt Along} Bottled Rainbows, a quilt-as-you-go scrap quilt

I should have my current project finished and ready to share next week.  Until then, let me know if you have any questions about this process!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wide Backing giveaway!

blocks, blocks, blocks

Today I am ready to assemble the quilt-as-you-go blocks that are my current work in progress.  After some no-fuss machine sewing, I'll baste the twin-sized quilt top to a large, one-piece backing from Connecting Threads.  (You know... the one I forgot to use last time!)

beginning Blue

I'll be documenting the finishing process today and tomorrow so I can share it as a tutorial for you.  I think that'll be ready to go live tomorrow!  Meanwhile, I wonder if you have a quilt top (or two or three) in need of a backing?  How about an extra-wide backing that requires not a single bit of sewing or cutting?

Yeah, I thought you'd be interested!

I love using "wide backings" for bed quilts especially.  Not only are bed quilts somewhat unwieldy, their backings tend to be unappreciated.  Why go to work piecing a fun backing if it's destined to be hidden on a bed?  After sewing all the many, many blocks needed for a full, twin, queen or king quilt, I'm all about a quicker finish.  So, wide backings it is!

Check out Connecting Threads' large selection of affordable wide yardage here.  Our winner will receive 2.5 yards of her choice in continuous wide yardage!  This prize ships everywhere that Connecting Threads currently ships:  United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.

To enter, add your comment to this post now through noon (eastern time) on Friday, August 26th.  Tell us in your comment which extra-wide fabric you'd choose.  Be sure to include your email so I can contact you if you win!

Good luck!

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

Congrats to Suzanne, who wrote comment #5. Mr. Random has chosen you! I'll be in touch via email to arrange your prize. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Scrap Sewing

Care for a little scrap sewing?  My summertime students at Patchwork from Scrap are just finishing up the premiere version of my latest class, and registration for the fall version will open next Monday (the 29th).  I'm tweaking a few things based on their feedback, including adding an extra week for students to work on their quilts before presenting the crumb scraps projects.

Patchwork from scrap

Based on their comments, it seems to have been a helpful experience for many:
Thank you for a fun and useful class! My scraps were a hot mess and I always had trouble deciding on what I should keep. I think I still keep more than I will probably use, but I am keeping less overall and that makes me feel good. :) I also have a good place to put them...while I don't have the space to really separate by color, I can at least separate the scrap by type and that is a huge help! I also had the time to make a couple of projects from the class, which I almost never do...I think favorite project was the Sprout Mini.  - Jeanne
I'm thinking of all these great projects as Christmas gifts this year. I'm on a self-imposed tight budget and handmade gifts is way more fun than buying stuff anyway. Besides, I have all the scraps already! - Steph
Sprout mini quilt {project}
Thank you for this terrific class, Rachel! The biggest surprise to me came from seeing my scraps anew when I sorted according to type (and by warm or cool) instead of by color. And to think I almost skipped this step because I thought the color sorting I'd previously done was pretty nice already! Taking the first two weeks to think about, sort, and organize scraps was a great way to start this class, even though I, like many others, I'd guess, was itching to start sewing. Thank you for laying a strong foundation before we headed into the fun projects. The projects themselves are excellent, and I again appreciated your attention to detail in the instructions... I made a pixel pillow and a ticker tape bag, and I have in progress.... I hope to once again join you in some future class!  - Anne
That was great to read through and also to watch the video.  Last week's info did motivate me to fold and organize my fabric... It feels great to be on the road to organization, and I must admit just going into my sewing area now has a different feel! So much better! - Stephanie
Separating by shape has made sorting my scraps DOABLE to my mind for the first time ever. I knocked it out in about an hour last weekend and now tackling these projects feels like something I can do! - MaryAnn
 Framed project

Today I've sent all students their permanent reference of Patchwork from Scrap, in the form of a 100+ page pdf document with linked table of contents.  Links throughout make it easy to navigate and help students access class videos too.  I always turn my classes into pdf digital books that include the complete class - all lessons and projects - for their personal sewing library.  It's my goal as a teacher to combine the motivation of a real-time class with the convenience of permanent access to information and projects, so students can always go back to make anything they didn't have time for during the live class.

Potholder project

If you are planning to join us this fall in the encore of Patchwork from Scrap, please tune in next week to register!  For the first week of registration, the fee is $55.00; afterwards, it is $65.00.  Class will run September 12th through October 20th.  You can take a peak at the detailed class description here.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Favorites from #30DaysofQuiltDesign

Are you stretching your creative muscles with the 30 Days of Quilt Design challenge?  Over the past weeks, I've logged 9 designs and will probably sketch #10 later today.  We have about 2.5 months left - that's so many days! - before the challenge deadline on October 31st, so there's nothing stopping you from joining in now!  Get all the details here.

30 Days Quilt Design challenge

I'm keeping it very low-pressure.  Some of my designs I end up feeling "meh" about, but I share them anyways.  It's more about the process:  sitting down with paper, pencil and eraser and seeing what happens.  Try it!  You might be surprised what comes out!  Others are using digital design programs and color.  The possibilities are wide open!

With over 350 entries in just two weeks, I have not been able to even look at all of the designs being posted.  Still, I want to share with you a few that especially caught my imagination.  All shared with permission:

A photo posted by Village Bound Modern Quilts (@villageboundny) on

A photo posted by Now what Puppilalla (@puppilalla) 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 randomn winner using Tint...


Congrats, Muriel!   We'll be in touch!  Thanks to Gotham Quilts for sharing the fabric and thanks to all of you for bravely sharing your designs.  It's been inspiring and just plain fun.  Hope to keep seeing you there!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

beginning Blue

Know what I did in a royal "pregnancy brain" moment?  I requested a backing for Twirly Top quilt from a sponsor, and while it was processing created a backing from my stash.  By the time I got the shipping confirmation email for the backing, I had already finished quilting!  It all happened within a few days.  Yep, there are no excuses for that...

Sometimes sponsors gift me fabric I request for very specific projects.  When they know I will be using the fabric promptly and linking to their website, it's a mutually beneficial trade. 

Unless I don't use the fabric? 

Yeah, that hasn't happened before.  No matter.  I can do better than apologize.  I'll start a new quilt!  And this time I'll use the backing Connecting Threads sent my way.  Pinky promise.

beginning Blue

My backing is "provincial blue" and could readily coordinate with lots of fabrics, but I've decided to work again with true blues:  bold cobalt, stormy skies, baby blue and cornflower.  I'm steering clear of aqua blues and fabrics with much in the way of other colors.  I've pulled solids and all my squares and chunk scraps that suit.

beginning Blue

Maybe because the palette is so classic, I landed on this traditional design.  My big 13" solid squares are cut in various shades of solid blue.  The checkerboard patchwork squares are cut 3". This quickly devovured all my true blue scraps and has started eating into my yardage... because I'm going big!  The backing is 104" wide and there's plenty for a twin or full sized quilt.  With the backing already ready, it just seems a bed quilt is in order.

beginning Blue

Not too far along I found myself yawning.  Traditional can be charming, but not terribly exciting.  To spice things up I've decided to make this one quilt-as-you-go.  I'm quilting the solid squares in different straight line textures, simple quilting through the block and one layer of batting (no backing yet).  Working on these small little canvases makes quilting a breeze!

beginning Blue

When I've finished piecing and quilting all the many, many blocks I need for this large quilt, I'll do a tutorial on how to finish a quilt-as-you-go number.  I frequently receive questions about that, so this is a perfect opportunity to clear the air.

Alright, there's more blue awaiting me.  Back soon!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Peach Perfect

My heart holds a tumble of emotions when it comes to our baby to be. I'm so pleased, so, so pleased for this second chance at growing our family.  And the girly part is a welcome twist of fate.  But also detachment (is there a real baby inside?), doubt (will we truly get to have her?), responsibility (to keep her safe), fear (about the flavor of our first few weeks) and jealousy (for Eleni's memory).  Everything that is sweet, is bittersweet.

How do you nurture a joyful anticipation under these circumstances?  To choose a name is to refuse detachment.  To create a nursery is to imagine a world in which baby comes home to discover her space.  A space where she enjoys the sensation of being rocked, smiles at the sight of a bunny lamp and makes use of the rug's padding when learning how to sit and crawl.  There is no reason I should deny these acts of faith.  I am trying.

Today I share my inspiration board for this little girl's nursery.  I adored Eleni's nursery, but want to make this one entirely different.  Because everything should be different.  This time we have non-neutral medium-peach walls, rich dusty teal velvet curtains and a southwestern-inspired rug.   I'll try to bring in whites and pastels through the accent items to keep things overall soft and peaceful.  But I'm not very good at peaceful!  I'm so easily captured by all the colors, patterns and pretties.

Peach Perfect nursery

No. 1  Sanela curtains  (Ikea)

No. 2  Bloom wall art (Land of Nod)

No. 3  Olunda butterfly picture (Ikea)

No. 4  Mint Wall Clock (Society6)

No. 5  Abracadabra bunny lamp (Land of Nod)

No. 6  Elkton end table (Target)

No. 7  Miniments in raw, All Paths in clear and Bed of Daisies all from Bobbie Lou's Fabric Factory for crib sheets

No. 8  Baxton Studio rocking chair (Wayfair)

No. 9  Sniglar crib (Ikea)

no. 10 Skinny laMinx Flower Bed, Cali Mod Ziggy and Tapestry Destination Aerial all from Fabricworm for changing covers

no. 11 Tiger Stripes canvas (Lark Cottons) and Les Fleurs Rosa Peach (The Loopy Ewe) for floor poufs

no. 12  Hemnes Dresser (Ikea)

no. 13 Mohave area rug (Target)

The crib and dresser are from our last nursery, and I've already stashed away the rug, curtains and rocking chair.  Although it will be months before there's an actual room available to put anything in, I think I should start making things now for the sake of my heart (and time constraints!).  First up are crib sheets.  My fabrics just arrived from Bobbie Lou's!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Twirly Top finished!

Happy Saturday!  This afternoon I had some help to photograph my latest finish...

Twirly Top finished quilt

Twirly Top!

Twirly Top finished quilt

I quilted with all over diagonal lines, which have created a comfy, crinkly texture.  I usually photograph my quilts before washing and drying, but this one was sitting around waiting for its shoot, so I went ahead and washed it.  And though I very much love the look of flat, just-basted patchwork, crinkly has its charm too.  So inviting.

Twirly Top finished quilt

My backing is made up of a large expanse of Coloring Garden by Anna Maria Horner, complimented by a stack of leftover Cotton & Steel fabrics from the quilt top and the Kona Cadet I used as a border.

Twirly Top finished quilt

Such a nice surprise to find how well this Coloring Garden print coordinates with the From Porto bundle I created for Intrepid Thread!

Twirly Top finished quilt

Finished with dusty gray bindings and my super secure and oh-so-easy zigzag finish, always, always. 

So ends another very pleasant quilt journey.   Thanks again to Jodi for the half hexagon inspiration!  If you'd like to sew your own half hexagon twirly tops by machine, see my tutorial

Of course, I'm already working on the next quilt and plotting the quilt after that!  Plus, I think I'm about ready to start sewing for this baby.  Just 14 weeks left.  High time I get started, eh?  There's much to be sewing...

p.s.  Twirly Top is listed now in my Etsy Shop.  I hope someone will enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Remembering Pillow

for Remembering Eleni

I started this project just weeks after Eleni died, after unpacking her dresser and sorting through her clothes.  Soon I had a pile of pieces too stained to keep, but too precious to throw away.  They are ones that remind me of particular times.  They are each a memory.

Remembering Pillow

The baby knits don't fray, so they're perfect for applique, even reverse applique.  I cut two identical sets of rectangles from her clothes, to become memory pillows for myself and for my mother.  Brandon was by my side during the most traumatic moments, but my mother shared many of the happy ones.  She ventured with me on therapy trips, in hospitalizations and spent many days at my home, caring for baby.  These memories are her memories too.  Survivors must share stories.

Remembering Pillow

At first I thought the words would say "peace" and "love" on my pillow and "joy" and "hope" on my mother's.  I was trying to untangle emotions swirling after her death.  But, as time passed, I wanted the words to tie more directly to Eleni.  I tried to think of words that described her, but I truly barely knew her.  It is a very bad thing not to know your child.  It is better, slightly better, if someone else knows her.  It is the worse thing if no one could know her because she could not be herself.

Remembering Pillow

So, there are not many words to describe Eleni, but I chose "sweet baby" and my mother chose "baby love."  Words that fit on a pillow.  Our best words, but just words.

I thought when I shared this finished pillow I would talk about how I haven't much needed a pillow for remembering.  Not yet.  Being pregnant is an evolving reminder.  There is more to say here.  But then I realized that though each fabric tells a small story (and they are rather small, perhaps dull), I may not be able to recount these tales 4, 5, 6 years from now.  So, perhaps I ought to record them.

Remembering Pillow

From top left...

*Gray Floral and the matching Plum Floral ("e") - a set of onesies I bought early autumn (7 months).  Shopping for Eleni had many rules:  zippers and crotch snap closures would interfere with access to her belly for frequent feedings.  Cute hoods or other fanciful designs aren't comfortable to lay upon.  Mostly, she sleeps.  When I came home from shopping, I bitterly chopped off the onesie snaps to transform the bodysuits into shirts.  The waffle weave caused the fabrics to shrink, to bounce up higher and shorter than optimal.  New and practically ruined. 

*Pink Apples - a top my mother gave to Eleni that looked so cute with her green diapers.  Something I reached for often during an exciting time (5 months) when she appeared to be making volitional movements and learning to roll over.

*Rose Asterisks + the solid Rose below ("e") - a lovely kimono sleep set by Tea, which my mom scored at a second hand shop.   Perfect for my lounge baby, comfortable and warm in winter (10 months).  Eleni wore this set so often, including when we journeyed to Charleston for our last lengthy hospitalization.  Mom and I took her in early January, desperate to find professionals who could speak authoritatively about her complex medical condition.  And they did.  They told me how serious was her struggle, offered a few last-ditch interventions and, with us, hoped for best.

*Blue diamonds + solid Yellow (bottom left corner) - a very stylish ensemble gifted to me by a dear old friend.  The last gift Eleni received before she was born.  The last time I floated in eager expectation of a healthy, happy little girl.  A relic of innocence.

*Tiny Blue/Purple Floral - A pretty little onesie-turned-shirt which had a sweet ribbon bow at the neck.  Perfect with her blue or purple diapers (6 months).  I remember her wearing this when Rachel, her speech therapist, would come to our home.  Baby please swallow, baby please move your tongue, move your jaw, can you look at me, baby?  The time she touched diluted lemon juice to Eleni's tongue, and she actually puckered her mouth!

*Blue Denim ("s") - Jeggings.  My baby wore jeggings.  It was a mark of the time.  They fit her when she was just months old.  They fit her when she was 10 months old.  They stretched.  She grew.  They always seemed comfortable.  All admired her style.

*Green Polka Dot ("w") - The day I came to visit her, for the very last time, at the hospital.  After the night we called 911 because she wasn't breathing.  After the night I told my father-in-law, "Do you realize she could stop breathing at any time?"  After the night the bipap machine gave us new hope for future stability.  The hospital couldn't do a thing for us and they knew it.  I took her home, discharge straight from the PICU.  I slipped her green polka dot shirt over her slender arms, careful not to squeeze the IV bruise on her tiny hand.  It was the first time, the last time she wore that shirt.  I took her home.

*Navy/White Stripe ("t") - Slightly sparkly pants I bought before she was born, as a fancy little set.  An indulgence in smug expectation of happy holidays to come.  Those pre-birth purchases so irked and angered me after her trauma.  But, by the time the holidays arrived (9 months) I had finally adopted a version of acceptance.  Yes, she is a pretty baby.  And, yes, I enjoy dressing her.

*Gray Pleated Stripe + Cream Floral Pleated/Lace (bottom line) - a onesie set that retained its bodysuit persona, saved for ABM therapy lessons in Chicago that fall (6-7 months).  As Eleni bends and moves in the therapist's talented hands, I'll let nothing get in the way.  No shirts shall ride up.  No socks obscure her baby toes.  She has been fed.  She has slept.  I deliver her optimally prepared for a miracle.  And I'm watching on the edge of my seat.

*Magenta Hearts ("b") - A silly little onesie she wore to ABM in Florida.  We didn't know, she or I, that those were our very best days (5 months).  With seeming strength and eagerness, she flipped and flung her body about "rolling".  She practiced being a "good lizzard", lifting her head when lying on her belly.  The boat rocking game.  These moments of clear volition, when I was helping her do what she wanted, were the beginnings of our connection.

Remembering Pillow

*Solid Aqua Picot ("a") + Solid Coral Picot ("Y") - pretty colored shirts for my pretty baby (9 months).  I know how to shop, how to chop off the snaps and make due.  And, finally, first food stains!  From her fish oil supplement.

*Lavender Polka Dot ("b") - She's just come home from the NICU.  She's our baby, home, for the first time.  I dress her in onesies (snapped close) and baby leg warmers during the day.  She looks like a sweet ballerina baby in soft lavender dots.  She sleeps like all babies should at her age, no wires or monitors yet.  The future is possibility.

*Teal Stripe - Pants in a three piece sweater set I bought second hand before she was born, meant to be worn her first autumn.  I hardly ever put that on her as it mostly never fit right.  Like all baby clothes purchased so far in advance and like all plans inscribed in our hearts, some never work out. 

*Pale Pink Doggies - Another pre-birth purchase, but this one fit right into our lives.  I remember hemming and hawing over the sleeper at the store - a dog print?  Am I sure?  This wee sleeper fit her soon after she came home from NICU (1 month) and never gave me bad vibes, unlike so much of the rest.  Perhaps the dogs, all so different, reflect my new reality.  Our story is not like the others.  Our task will be to find a way to allow it as our own.

*Pink/Blue NICU Stripe - Do other moms save a NICU hat?  I suspect most do.  The other NICU moms tell me of their trying time in the past tense, singular: their trial, the time their child was threatened, how she came out all right.  From the first I don't trust these stories.  I have a canny sense, despite all hopeful research and the treasuring of stories to the contrary, that our trial is only beginning.  That our threat remains.  I witness the ramifications multiply, and know deep in my heart that there is no guarantee all will right.


I'll see my mom later this week and be happy to give her the "baby love" pillow.  We need these memory markers to salve our soul as we anticipate the new baby.  We need these things to prove to ourselves that Eleni is forever in our hearts, though not in our arms.  Not to remember, not yet, but to declare our memories still.

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