Thursday, July 30, 2009

Still waiting to eat those Dove bars . . .

Last week we pulled out one of our thrifted sheets to make a little summer skirt for my 10-year-old.
Once again, I used the free pattern from Oliver+S, the Lazy Days Skirt. So quick.
This sheet isn't vintage, but I loved the print. And the price!
I've been going through my sheets and cut 4 more FQ bundles. I'm listing them in my shop. I have to announce here that mailing packages may get spotty for a couple of weeks, so if you see something you want to buy, please understand now (and forgive me later) that you might not get a Mr McFeely speedy delivery. If you buy this weekend, I will get them off by Monday. After that, just rest assured your beautiful sheets will be delivered by the next week. Our summer continues to be wild and crazy fun. In a fit of euphoria at the end of the last round of swimming lessons, I signed-up for a second session. This was a major first in the history of the Smart family. The weather and the pool have been awesome. It has also been fun to see the kids progress. And get some good exercise. And get a little cranky because they're tired and because bedtimes have been later, but getting-ups have been just as early. Unfortunately, I'm not getting the exercise I need, just the lack-of-sleep/cranky part.

In other positive developments: last week I took all 4 kids [at the same time!] grocery shopping at Wal-mart and no one was crying when we left, myself included. This is a very positive sign that we might have other food options for dinner besides canned fruit, rice, and ground-up wheat from the food storage by the end of this summer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Living in the moment

Last summer at Little Sebago lake in Maine

Summer has been moving forward fast and furious around here. Sometimes it is downright overwhelming and exhausting as I try to cram things I want to do (like blogging or sewing or reading other people's blogs or just lying on the grass eating Dove bars) on top of what needs to be done for 4 busy kids. Don't get me wrong, summer has been a lot of fun with a lot of happy memories and many more still to make in these last 3 1/2 weeks before school starts. Seriously. Three and a half weeks.

I recently came across this quote again. It's one that haunts me a little:

“The biggest mistake I made [as a parent] is the one that most of us make. . . . I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of [my three children] sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”
--Anna Quindlen (Loud and Clear [2004], 10–11)

And so I am officially putting blogging and etsy-selling on the back burner until after school starts so I can do a little better at 'living in the moment'. And I feel good about that decision. I'll still throw out the random post now and then. And after debating the issue, I think I'll keep my etsy store open (it's such a pathetic little thing at the moment anyway), but only ship orders on a few pre-posted dates. I am planning a big etsy-update-extravaganza at the end of August though. It should be very thrilling.

In the meantime, friends, enjoy your own glorious remaining weeks of summer!


Friday, July 24, 2009

Hour Glass Block tutorial

This project starts with squares. You can use any size square you want, depending on what size you want your hour-glass block to be. I started with 5" squares -a perfect project for Charm Packs - and ended up with a 3 1/2" (finished) block. So the finished hour-glass block will be about an inch and a half smaller than your original square.

This little table topper measures 24" x 24". I wanted it 7 blocks x 7 blocks. The number of pre-cut squares is the exact number of finished blocks you will have. That part is easy. I needed one charm-pack consisting of 40 different squares + 9 more 5" squares. I actually added a 50th square, because I wanted an even number of lights and darks, but if you're going super scrappy, even numbers don't matter. Does that make sense? Are you still with me?

I promise that the block itself is super simple.

Okay, let's start:
Pair-up the 5" squares, right sides together, and draw a diagonal line on the back side of one square. I used half lights and half darks, so I drew on the back of the light block.
When assembling these blocks, I've found things go a lot faster if you do the same step on all the blocks at once. For instance, mark all your backs at once. Sew your seams all at once, etc. If you are doing 100's of the same little block, you may want to break it up into groups of 50 or so, just so you feel like you're seeing progress and not totally bored, but on the whole, mass-repetition of the same step at once saves a lot of time.
Now sew a 1/4" away from both sides of the drawn line.
I used lovely dark brown thread so you could see both seams.
Now using your rotary cutter and a ruler, cut on the drawn line.
Press open both blocks. Consistently press the seam toward the dark fabric.
(This will be important later.)
Now comes the fun part! Using a ruler and your rotary cutter, cut another diagonal line perpendicular to your seam.
You will end up with two pieces like this!
At this point I just throw all of these pieces into a pile to match-up after all the cutting is done.
Match-up different sets of triangles where lights and darks sit opposite of each other.
Or where it just makes you happy.Then place them right sides together and sew with a 1/4" seam.
This is the part where the previous pressing makes a difference. If you've pressed them all towards the darker fabrics, then the seams should butt right next to each other, making all those triangle points meet up.
This part is purely optional!! Now, if you want to get really technical, here is a pressing method where four seams intersect, to make it not so bulky where all that fabric overlaps each other in the middle. Once again, this is purely optional. So if this sounds confusing, don't stress about it.

Before you open up the block, pull the right side and left side of the folded blocks in opposite directions. This will loosen up the seam a little.
Now press the four intersecting seams in a rotating pattern. This will create a little mini four-patch on the back side of the block where all the seams meet. This just makes the block flatter and less bulky to quilt through later. Okay, we are done with that little trick.
Once you have pressed all your blocks from the front to make sure they lie flat, now is the time to square-up. I know some people think this is tedious and unnecessary. I used to be one of those people. But now I am a squaring-up convert. It makes the quilt come together so much easier and look SO much nicer in the long run.

I squared these blocks up to 4" exactly. A ruler with a diagonal line really helps in this case. You can line-up the diagonal line on your diagonal seam. Then put the middle measurement of the size you want to square it to on your center point. So, for example since we are squaring this block to 4" I centered the 2" mark on the center of my block and trimmed the sides. Then I rotated the ruler and trimmed the other two sides. If I was squaring-up a 6" block, I would place the 3" mark at the center of my block, etc.


And that is how you make a quick Hour-Glass block with no pre-cut triangles. Pretty nifty, huh? From there you can assemble them or do with them any thing you want! I'd love to see if you do something. Be sure and let me know! Also, PLEASE tell me if something needs clarification in this tutorial. I'm so happy to do it.And now, we are off to celebrate Pioneer Day today - our state holiday here in Utah. It commemorates the first Mormon pioneer settlers arriving in a barren wasteland. People celebrate with parades, 10K's, rodeos, BBQ's, and fireworks. Our family is going with friends to some nearby mountain lakes to relax for the day and get out of the heat. Yee-haw! We should celebrate by having to walk barefoot over the sagebrush in ankle-length skirts, just to make us more grateful. Or spend the night in snake-infested dug-outs with no air conditioning. Or making quilts. [I should suggest this to my husband.] Pioneers did that too. I think that's why it's in my genes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Magic

It has been HOT around here. Monday we had the chance to spend the afternoon up Provo Canyon (about 15 minutes away from our house). What a perfect way to get out of the heat.
We went with my sister and brother-in-law to visit his grandparents at their cabin on a fork of the Provo River - just down the river actually from Sundance resort. This place wasn't as glamorous as Sundance, but it had idyllic charm oozing out of every crevice. And the back deck is literally on the river!
The cabin was built in the 1960's right next to the cabin built in the 1920's where my brother-in-law's grandmother spent all her summers growing up. And now in their nineties, these grandparents still spend every summer at Wildwood. (Is that the perfect name?)
It was absolute heaven - a hammock and a cool canyon breeze off the water.
The river was moving fast, but there was a little dammed-off area where the kids could play. That water was cold! All snow run-off. Most years they borrow a few geese from a farmer friend to come spend the summer and add to the charm of the place but this year, thanks to the heavy snow and wet May/June, the water has been too high and swift for the geese.
To make it even more enchanting to my kids, there was a table with scraps of wood and hammers and nails and they just went to town building sculptures.
But the cherry on top was a tree house/screen porch over looking the water which you could access by a ladder OR from a bridge from the loft room of the cabin.
I loved the glass on the screen shelves.
This sign came from the little store that used to be part of the little cabin enclave.
The interior was awesome. Combination rustic Americana, German antique woodcarving, and 1980's kitsch.
Here is a sample of the quilts on the beds in the loft.I love this old one with the orange off-set squares! I think something like this would be awesome with vintage sheets!And how about that pillow case made out of an old flour sack?Perfection.

And speaking of Summer Magic, does anyone remember the old Hailey Mills Disney movie of that title? Not her very best, but still holds a certain place in my childhood nostalgia. In the summer we used to walk to our neighborhood convenience store and rent old Disney live-people movies, of which Hailey Mills frequented. Also classics like Follow Me Boys, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Happiest Millionaire. Might be time to track down some of those again.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

More red, white and blue

I fully intended to complete and display this little table-topper and during my first-week-of-July 'red, white & blue' extravaganza. But reality hit and it didn't happen. However, after having this project on my list for 2 years now, I figured I'd just go with the momentum, whether it was past the holiday or not.
This was mostly made from a Moda Charm Pack that came out 2 years ago - I think it was called Nantucket. (Anyone out there want to verify?) I needed about 9 extra 5" squares and just pulled them from the stash, along with the back and binding.
My favorite quilts are old, scrappy, everything-thrown-in, so I like that this one imitates that category, but works for a summer-patriotic theme too.What I really want to make is something like THIS. (Found here.) With lots of random-everything thrown in. Aack. I would love it.

And guess what? I'll show you how to make one quick too, if you want. Check back on Friday for a tutorial on hour-glass blocks without having to pre-cut a single triangle. Are you excited or what?!??

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vintage Sheet Swap

Last week I received my FQ's from Jennifer's vintage sheet swap! They came at the perfect time - I checked the mail at the end of a bit of a cranky day, and these totally made me smile.

I've been admiring vintage sheet quilts all over blogland (most recently Allison's) and I'm determined to make one of our very own. And now I have these beauties to add to the mix.
This is my favorite. Thank you kind person who sacrificed some of this.
These are my two runner's-up. That one on the left totally feeds my orange fetish!
I was also excited to get a few more yellows to add to the mix. I am very short on yellows. Also some great bigger prints. EEeee! I'm excited!

After cutting up my own stash, I have a couple of little bundles I'm going to put in my etsy shop, if you're so inclined to make your own vintage sheet quilt.
I'm on the hunt for a few more greens, so if anyone is up for a mini-swap, let me know!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Finally, a finished quilt.

Drum roll please . . . this quilt is finally finished! It feels like ages ago that I started this one. And I've completed a few others since. I had hoped to have this one finished for the Shop Hop, but the fabric we ordered for the binding didn't show up in time.
I am really pleased with how it turned out. It was fun to make something so scrappy. (I think I say that every time.) I am currently finishing the pattern for the store. I will probably list it in my etsy shop too, if anyone is interested. This design doesn't require a degree in quantum physics, but sometimes it's just nice to let someone else do the math, you know?

The backing wasn't what I would choose if it was for me, but it's what we had two bolts of at the store and it will sell if people see it on a sample. (We have sold some REALLY ugly fabric that way. It's amazing how many people think if the 'professionals' choose it, it must be the only right choice.)
I had really hoped to get a darker turquoise for the binding, but we just couldn't find the right thing. So we ordered an Amy Butler solid, knowing it would coordinate with the rest of the quilt. This color is called Mist. Fancy. It creates a more subtle look, but still gives some contrast. I really love that color on it's own. It reminds me of my grandma- kind of old and vintage-y looking. Would go perfectly with some vintage sheets I've been hording.