Thursday, September 11, 2014

Around the World ...

...blog hop. I'm trying to trick you into ignoring that whole "blog hop" business by not putting it in the title. Did it work?

No, but really this is a pretty fun idea for a blog hop. The very sweet René of René Creates invited me to participate. It's always fun when you get to just talk about what you like to create and not actually make anything new for the blog hop :)

I "met" René almost three years ago when I made her a quilt for a Flickr swap. Ever since then, she has sent me Happy New Year cards with pictures of her beautiful quilts on them. Is that not the sweetest thing you've ever heard? Seriously, she's the nicest,  plus she makes some gorgeous quilts. And then we got to meet in person this past April when we were both at the MQG Sewdown here in Nashville. Totally just as sweet in real life!

So I'm gonna dive right into the blog hop questions and maybe toss in some Instagram pictures.



Instagram picture, in your face!


1. What quilting/sewing thing am I working on? 

Well I think I told you guys before that I was searching for a job. I got one! YAHOOO!! I'll be working as a full-time reading intervention specialist in an elementary school, and working on getting my teaching license back to legit status in the meantime. So I've been wanting to sew some grown-up-ish work clothes for myself lately. I've made a few tops, have a Washi dress halfway done, and some fabric pre-washed and ready for a Moneta. Plus a ton of other patterns I really want to try for myself at some point. Phew! I haven't started work yet because there is a bunch of background checks and pee testing involved when you work at a school, so I've basically been sewing like a fiend for a couple weeks while the kids are at school. 

Ruby Top I made for job interviews. I need to blog this one for real soon, I love it!


I also finished 3 quilts that were all about 6-9 month old projects, and have big sewing plans for another (gasp!) FILM PETIT!! I know, it's been far too long and we are really excited for this one. Can't put a firm date on it, but it's coming friends. 


Quilt I just finished up for a sick relative.


2. Why do I write/create what I do? 

My reasons for creating are probably pretty similar to a lot of bloggers/sewsters/quilters out there. But sometimes, there doesn't have to be a good reason for it. All the reasons we come up with kind of just serve as excuses to feed our creative compulsions, right?  Oh, is someone sick/ sad/ lonely/ ran a marathon/ got the hiccups? I MUST make them something! I just like doing it for me and for others who might enjoy my handmade gifts. Maybe some people don't, but keep it to yourself, you're getting a quilt dammit!


Some blocks for a charity quilting bee


I also love creating just about anything for my kids. There are so many little needs in a kid's life that sewing can fulfill with tons of extra love- things like a shirt for purple day, or a nap time blankie for school, or a skull & crossbones bag for your pirate puzzle. They are little things, but I can make them. I love that. I don't think Hendrix and Elsie realize that most moms don't make all that crap for their kids. But when they do, I hope they will remember it making their childhoods full of creativity and love in the form of fabric and thread. 



Elsie and I sewed this school blankie together- she picked everything out!


I think the whole messy-making thing is rubbing off on them. 
We made a lot of animals and robots and dragons out of trash this summer!




3. How does my writing/creating process work?

However I can squeeze it in and make it work! I think I need to focus on streamlining my creative process and really learning more about how I work that way. I've been reading Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit and it's really making me think about all of that stuff. Especially with this transition into full-time working, evenings with the kids and school work, and falling into bed at 10pm like an old lady, sewing time won't come easy. I don't want to work on things that are just obligations or the popular sew-along of the week. I want to enjoy every second and make only things I'm thrilled with. So is that an answer? I guess how my creative process works is that it really needs some work.


 Mini quilt I started in April- this one will hang on my wall for me to enjoy. 


Next on the blog hop, I'm tagging three friends who are SO inspiring in their creativity, and who I've been lucky enough to sew/eat/drink/laugh with in person: 





I miss you girls like the desserts miss the rain.


Thanks for inviting me René! Make sure to check out her work over here- that incredible heart quilt!!













Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why it's always good to have those unfinished quilt tops lying around


I finished this quilt top last fall. I even put together a backing for it, but it's been on my shelf ever since. It started when I made this pillow a couple years ago, then made a replica of that block for myself, but then decided to add 8 more and make it a lap quilt. All that to say, I had no purpose in mind for it or urgency to finish it until last week.

That's when I found out a friend from college- my age, two kids- was diagnosed with breast cancer and would have surgery a few days later. And, she was 12 weeks pregnant with twins. Needless to say, this was awful news and I couldn't wrap my mind around all the what-if's and all the worry and fear. But at the same time, everything I was hearing from her and her family was full of hope to beat this thing. Such an amazing attitude, the least I could do was finish this quilt for her. When you make things all the time, you are even more compelled and obsessed when something like this happens to someone. It's like you can't think about anything else until it's done. Part of me feels like it's weirdly a selfish act- like I need to feel better that I've actually done something in a helpless situation.  Is a selfish gift still a gift? Sure. I'm rambling now, but I'm hoping some of you quilters and makers out there can relate to the feeling.

Anyway, lucky for me, when I messaged her husband to ask her favorite colors, he said purple. This quilt had a sealed fate, and a very clear deadline date.




The pattern is based on the popular granny square block, but they are enlarged to 3.5" squares instead of 2.5", then I put wide sashing between the blocks out of the same Moda Bella Feather solid as the background. Most of my quilts don't have this much white in them, so I really wanted the quilting to stand out on it.

Free-motion quilting is something I've become a lot more comfortable with (even though I know I have SO much room for improvement), but I always have mixed feelings about the finished product. I seem to love the flow of my little practice quilt sandwiches-where I try out all different designs that all run together- much better than most of my quilts that have an all-over design, or even different designs based on the piecing. So I decided to treat this whole quilt like one of those practice pieces. I would just go with the flow and change designs when I got bored. Sometimes I would follow the lines of the piecing and sashing, most times I ignored them. It was definitely the most fun I've had quilting, and I love the way it turned out. It was just like quilt doodling, and the resulting crinkle is amazing. With such a simple and symmetrical piecing design, the quilting really helps to move your eye all over the place and make it interesting.  I'll definitely be "free-stying" like this more in the future.




I took these pictures after washing the quilt so it doesn't look so bad, but I wanted to show you the pucker action I got on the back. You can kinda see it on the right of this picture. Totally not that noticeable and I'm not one to unpick for something like that. But it happens. Adds to the charm.




I even labeled it before mailing. I always say I'm going to label my quilts, but then I never do. I felt like if this quilt stayed around in her family for any amount of years, I wanted them to know when and why it was made for her. It can be a small part of the some-day-story of how mom beat cancer while growing two (TWO!) babies :)






I didn't have a good binding on hand, but I got lucky at the local small town Sew&Vac here and found this Art Gallery Oval Elements in the perfect dark purple. I love framing all that white in a dark color.   I think the quilt finished at about 55" square. 





The package arrived the day of her surgery and her husband let me know that he'd bring it to her in the hospital that afternoon. Surgery went really well by the way, for all three of them!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

A New Backpack for Preschool




A couple weeks ago, my 3 year old Elsie started (full day!) preschool. She is loving it and I'm so thrilled she is. I haven't been very emotional about either of my kids starting preschool, I just think it's so exciting for them, and for me. 

Hendrix starting Kindergarten was a different story though. It's like mourning their little-kidness when they start real school. But for me it wasn't just because he wouldn't be at home as much and I'd miss him. It was because for the rest of their lives after that first day of Kindergarten, they have expectations on them. Responsibilities and potential stressors. Forever! It's a little overwhelming to think about and it caught me off guard as we drove home from dropping him off at school. So long carefree kid life, you have things you have to learn and do now. It's a big transition, but a good one. Anyway, that's not really what this post is about, but I thought I'd tell you because no one told me that that is what I would get emotional about. I always thought it was just a bunch of clingy moms who cried about Kindergarten. I was wrong, no judgment here, crying moms and dads.



 

So Elsie's backpack- it's the pattern from Liesl's Little Things to Sew and it's the second one I've made. The first time I did the penguin version for Hendrix three years ago. (You can also see a whole lot of other great versions on that link from the sew-along we did!) If you still don't have that book, what's the matter with you? Still consistently my most used sewing book ever. 

This is the basic version of the backpack, but I added the lion appliqué from an Ed Emberly panel print I bought a long time ago. My kids love EE drawing books, and Elsie is especially crazy about lions right now, so I was thrilled when I remembered this lion that would fit perfectly on the front. And I got to actually use a decorative stitch around it, which is something I never think of doing. Come to think of it, I actually don't like the look of decorative stitches, but I love it here. 




The main fabric is a print from the RK Blythe collection that I had in my stash from Sewn (Have I mentioned how much I miss Sewn? I will say it again.) I interfaced it with Pellon Decor Bond which is the perfect weight for the backpack. I think the navy and dots make a fantastic background to the lion, so I'm glad I ended the hoarding period with this fabric. 



The lining is a Confetti Dot from The Fabric Studio, which is just opened in Nashville this past spring. This shop is so cozy, and the owner Nancy is super talented and helpful. Definitely put it on your list of fabric shops to visit! 

The little ladybug is also from that Ed Emberly panel. Lady bug pocket? Sure, why not. 

I think what I'm most excited about with this project is how well I blind stitched the lining in around the zipper opening. I should have gotten a picture of it! Last time, I was such a horrible hand-stitcher that I didn't ever finish and it looked like total poo. This time, it looks totally profesh and only took me like 1.5 episodes of Scandal. (I know. Shut up, it's a guilty pleasure.) 




Sometimes you need a lion backpack to water Nana's flowers. You also need it to carry a "Little My Pony" lunch box and a Batman water bottle to school. I mean really, she is just the best. 







Thursday, August 21, 2014

My newest hobby



Cross stitch is one of those things I thought I'd never get into. I remember doing one as a kid, it was this cutesy scene of Amish farmers with their cows I think. Weird thing for a 10 year old to stitch, but I was probably a really weird 10 year old. Anyway, I'd never given it another thought after my great Amish opus, even though I see lots of quilters on IG enjoying it. I didn't think I had the patience or attention span. (I thought the same thing about quilting.)





But then my friend Kara posted a picture of this Forest pattern she was working on, by Jody Rice of Satsuma Street. Love at first sight. I HAD to relearn cross stitch just to make this pattern immediately. (Really, cross stitch is amazing simple- not much to learn) And then a whole bunch of her other patterns. Honestly, if there was no Satsuma Street, I would feel no need to take up this craft. But I'm glad I did.

I promptly made up a zipper pouch for my stitching projects, shown above on the left. It's scraps from a 16 patch quilt top I made around Christmas time last year, and it has room for all my goodies inside.

I didn't get a picture of the finished Forest piece, but I did finish it (in March maybe?) and wrapped it around a canvas and sent it to a good friend.




I was still hooked on stitching Satsuma, so I immediately began this Voyage pattern. This one took even longer to finish, but I loved every stitch. The colors are just so genius! I love how I can stitch while watching evening TV with Nick or while on a picnic with the kids. I also love having an excuse to use these adorable stork scissors from The Fabric Studio here in Nashville.



It's all finished now, but I still haven't decided on what to do with it. I had considered sewing it into a tote, but I usually get tired of bags eventually, and I never want to get tired of looking at this. Plus bags get grungy. Yup, this one needs to hang on the wall, but I don't know if I would rather wrap it on canvas or frame it.




My most recent finish was this phone case. I used some of my favorite colors I already had from other projects and just kinda made up this hexagon design. I found the stitchable case at a craft fair in my Cincinnati neighborhood from a booth set up by the Hoop and Needle. I don't know if you can order it from their online shop, but you can find lots of fun pdf cross stitch patterns with profanity and Big Lebowski quotes and the lyrics to Dayman. (Have to make that one!!) They've also opened up a brick and mortar shop on Main St. in OTR. Definitely go support them if you are local. Can't wait to visit next time I'm in Cincinnati.




Currently I'm working on Arcadia on this happy polar ice blue Aida. This isn't even a quarter of the pattern done, but now that I've joined the ranks of moms in the car pick-up lane, I get some stitching in every afternoon. I think I love her patterns because of how she groups the colors in those large chunks. It speaks to my style much more than Kawaii or those cross stitches that are so detailed they look like paintings. It feels really modern, like a quilt in pretty solids.

And: you can't really tell in the picture, but this one has some metallic threads in it. Oooooh, fancy!








Monday, August 18, 2014

Fanfare Blog Tour: City Gym Shorts x2




We are wild about Fanfare flannel! 





I never thought I'd do it. The whole matchy-matchy with my daughter thing. But it was necessary with this foxy Fanfare flannel by the amazing Rae for Cloud 9 fabrics. It would have been a crime not to!




Like everyone else, I've been wanting to make Purl Soho's (FREE!) City Gym Shorts pattern ever since I first laid eyes on it. And I've been desperate for new PJ shorts for me, so a free pattern definitely hit the spot. I also have that whole weird thick-mom-waist-skinnier-hips proportion going on, which has always made me afraid to sew my own shorts or pants. But simple elastic waist shorts weren't intimidating at all, and turned out just as comfy as you would think. 

After mine were done, I had enough foxes and solid purple (sent courtesy of Cloud 9- thank you!) to make Elsie her pair. Everything's cuter on a 3 year old, but most importantly, this pajama party photo-shoot desperately needed the 3 year old. I'm sure my awkwardness modeling shorts alone would have known no bounds. So thanks to Cherie for the fun inspiration from her Lotus Pond pictures





Let's talk about this fabric. It's a really super nice flannel, much softer and higher-quality than the stuff you can buy in the big box stores. And the new colors of the Fanfare re-release are so fun. I love that the prints are still so sweet for baby projects, but the brighter colors make it irresistible for any age and a whole range of projects. 

Even though my shorts will mostly be worn an home, (ahem, we did both wear our shorts out to the county fair last night!) I went ahead and used chambray trim on Elsie's so that they looked a little more like "real" shorts she can wear to preschool. I love the combo! Let's all ignore the fact that her waistband foxes are upside down though. 




My husband was nice enough to take pictures for me, and after a while of watching from the sidelines, Hendrix couldn't resist the mom-sanctioned bed jumping. But it's cool, he happened to be wearing his Rae fabric as well! Rae fan club.





Then I missed the memo about the superhero poses being over. Try and keep up mom, so uncool. 





Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sewn Studio Summer Swap


It's been a while since I participated in an online swap, but this one did not disappoint. My buddy Heidi organized it for Sewn Studio, where I used to work part time before moving from Cincinnati. Oh man, do I miss that place! So even though it was online and anyone could participate, a lot of the swappers were Sewn customers. 




When I got my partner's info, all she specified was that she liked both modern and traditional stuff, and she didn't like girly purples and pinks. But she also said she really likes baking and canning, so I decided to make her a table runner. It's shown here as a wall-hanging, which it could easily be used as, if she's not into table runners.

My mom and I have been working on a quilt together of all the Anna Maria Horner fabrics my mom bought at her studio when we went to the MQG Sewdown together in April. (I neglected to blog about that, but it was amazing- workshops with Carolyn Friedlander, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Angel Walters, and AMH, plus dinner music and studio tour at Anna Maria's home here in Nashville. So wonderful!) Anyway, there were a bunch of tiny scraps from that project that I just started sewing together into improv-y little patchwork panels. Then I decided to add Essex linen in steel (I think?) to make them into modern crosses with slight variations on size and positioning.

It's one of those projects that just grew organically without a clear plan and I absolutely love the end result. Every time I sew that way, I enjoy it so so much. I don't know why I don't do things like that more often. Sometimes it feels easier to just reach for a pattern and follow it without having to think too much, but really, when I take more control of it myself and put more thought into the design, it's that much more pleasing at the end and all though the process.



The back is just the leftover patchwork bits along with bigger pieces of True Colors. The quilting is wavy organic lines with my walking foot, and the binding is a Julianna Horner print from Joann. I love how well the mother/ daughter fabrics go together! This one was a little difficult to send away, but at the same time it always feels good to send your best out for a swap partner.




I also whipped up a quick Heather Ross zipper pouch and stuffed it with scraps to send along. (Cutting measurements: 12"x5.5" and 12"x4.5 contrast for the outers, 12"x9" for the lining and interfacing, and a 3" wide boxed corner.)  This is my go-to pouch size for gifts.





The day after I finished up my swap items, I got my amazing package in the mail from Amanda. I could not believe all the work she put into my gift, and she picked the perfect fabrics for me from the Indelible collection. Plus I was so happy to receive from Amanda, a friend I know from Sewn. The bag is the Senna Tote by LBG Studio, and it's a GREAT tote. So roomy with convenient outside pockets- this one will get a lot of use Amanda, so thank you!











Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Teacher Quilts x2

Hi!

This morning as I was sitting down to write this post, I got a very sweet comment on my last post (from over 2 months ago) asking if I was taking a summer break and saying my posts were missed. Well gosh. That made me feel great! So at least one person will be happy to read this. That one person, and my mom.

I guess you could say I have been taking a summer break, though I didn't really try to, it's just the way things go during a time of lots of transitions. And I mean LOTS. We have moved to the Nashville area from Cincinnati, my husband just started a new job, Hendrix just started Kindergarten, Elsie is in full-time preschool, and I'm signed up for some courses and going thru the many ups and downs of searching for full-time-work-after-stay-at-home-motherhood myself. Phew. Of course I've managed to sew a few things during all this time, (how do normal people cope with changes if not with furious stitching?) and now I have quiet mornings alone in the house and I've got that cyclical "I'm gonna blog again, gosh darn it!" feeling going on. Life is made of seasons, so are blogs and ideas and relationships and ambitions and run-on sentences, turn, turn, turn.



Obviously, when you are a slow and seasonal blogger, not all the makes get posted about. (Most of them are on IG though, @alittlegressica.) But I always feel like I owe it to the quilts. The quilts must be honored! Well yeah, they take a long damn time to make.





Back in May, I set out to make a throw quilt for both of Hendrix's preschool teachers from last year as end of the year gifts, just like I did the year before that. I made the same designs, just 10" squares in 6 rows of 6, and I used the opportunity to use up some larger scraps and tie them together with some other fat quarters in my stash.




So with a simple design like that, I always assume it will be quick and don't leave enough time. But then I think I have enough time, so I irrationally think, hey! Let's use this quilt to practice a different free-motion design in every single square! Yeah, that really adds to the work time. I was kicking myself and whining about my shoulders like a big wuss, but it was fun, and definitely good practice. It was great to learn which designs I really enjoyed doing, and which ones were just good to know, but not my go-to's. At first I thought the patchwork of quilting squares you can see on the back was too weird, but after washing, the crinkle brings it all together in a coziness of rad quilting.





This teacher got the more teachery looking quilt- with the primary colors and typographical prints. Those are from some Moda panel I got on sale ages ago, and it ended up being perfect for this purpose.




I wised up on this one and did a quick and simple quilting design. This design really is easy for free-motion quilting, but I loooooove the way it looks and feels on any quilt. Definitely a go-to. 




Now that Hendrix is in school school for like the next 13 years, I'm not sure if his teachers will keep getting quilts. But Elsie's preschool teachers might... I just love giving special people quilts more than anything, so I'm sure I won't be able to resist.

These quilts end up about 57" square. The first is bound in a Lotta Jansdotter Mormor print, and the second in a Carolyn Friedlander Botanics print. Man, those are some sexy bindings, now I need to go bind something...