Fair thee well, 2012

1. American Jane quilt scrappy, 2. Aneela Hoey quilt pink red aqua, 3. flag quilt, 4. Seaside Stars, 5. quilting close up FWQA quilt, 6. Retro Christmas, 7. Gratitude quilt fence, 8. Pyrex Daisy casserole lid, 9. halloween patchwork-001, 10. Crib quilts for Twins, 11. Art Gallery Fabrics Summerlove skirt, 12. Union Jack Quilt, 13. EZ Dresden Ruler Crib Quilt, 14. Reunion-Sweetwater-moda-quilt-brickyard, 15. scrappy modern quilt, 16. Freebird Half Square Triangles

It’s that time of year again. Time where quilt-bloggers everywhere ring out the old year, not with Ryan Seacrest and a glass ball in Times Square, but with a picture mosaic of a past year’s creative efforts. I have to admit, I kind of enjoy doing it and looking back on the year’s creations. Each project brings back memories of people and places and shows watched (and in the case this year, Olympic highlights) connected with it.

2012 was a crazy year for our family. I don’t usually go into a lot of behind the scenes action on this blog – mainly because I know you all have drama and chaos and busy-ness of your own and I don’t want to bore you with the minutia of ours.  But then I worry that I create an image of me placidly sewing away in a tidy, sunny sewing room while children cheerfully breeze in and out keeping themselves blissfully entertained.

Let me state once and for all, our lives are very normal and average with people getting sick, cranky, hungry, and tired. My sewing space is generally always a mess and my sewing time comes in random snatches of time squeezed in between the regular rhythm of a house with four active kids. It’s how I choose to spend my free time.

On top of that this year my husband started a new job working for himself – which was a huge leap of faith and also required multiple weeks of doctor, dentist, eye-doctor, etc. visits before we lost the health care benefits associated with his old job. On top of that we had 4 extended family members live with us for 6 months, and my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It all felt a bit crazy at times. And I’ll be honest, my sewing is what kept me sane and grounded through a lot of it.

But a lot of good and happy memories came through those busy times, not to mention gratitude for family members we enjoy and who we’re so happy to have living closer to us, as well as good friends, our own relatively good health, and jobs. So thank you 2012. You stretched me, but I think I’m better for it. I’m curious – and a little trepidatious –  to see what 2013 has in store, but I’ve learned that even with the curve-balls life throws, there is always something good to be gained.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Finished Handmade Gifts

I was sewing up until the last possible minute (almost literally) to finish my handmade Christmas gifts this year. Anyone else out there doing that too? But I’m so happy with how they turned out. I really enjoyed making each one and I think the recipients were happy, which is an added bonus. Or at least they faked it really well.

This pillow was made for my Grandma using Art Gallery Fabrics Indie collection and some Art Gallery Pure Elements (solids). Ever since I first saw Indie, I knew I wanted to make something for my Grandma from that collection – the vibrant colors instantly reminded me of her home and eclectic style. I think that it’s pretty awesome. (If I do say so.)

The star is paper-pieced. I made one of these for a quilting bee a month ago, which I was cursing at first, but once I got going, I got more comfortable with the process. And I totally loved the outcome. So I decided to do it again. I’m still not a perfect paper-piecer, but I love how it looks.

You can find the star pattern here.  I added 1″ x 2.5″ strips around the outside. (They are Sukie’s scraps left over from this quilt back. Aren’t they awesome?) The pillow finishes at 16″. Indie fabrics can be found here, and here.

Another pillow for a gift for my brother. As soon as I saw Rashida’s tutorial for this mini quilt, I knew I wanted to make one for my brother. He has been airplane obsessed for as long as I can remember and got his own pilot’s licence a few years ago. I liked making something for him. I went pretty neutral for the background and used Essex linen blend for the plane to give it some texture.

The back is a linen weave decorator weight print that I got at a Hable Construction sample sale a few years ago.
And yes, you can see pins on both of these pillows, waiting to stitch the openings together.  I ended up doing the stitching on our hairy, snowy drive in the car to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve. But I knew I had to take the pictures before we left. So there are the pins in all their glory.

And finally, a quick notebook cover for a friend. I used a Melody Miller typewriter (which are pretty scarce these days) appliqued on Cosmo Cricket’s Happy Thoughts print on canvas from the Odds and Ends collection for Moda. (You can find the Happy Thoughts print here and here.) I love all the phrases on that Happy Thoughts print. (And speaking of showtunes, I went to see Les Miz on Wed night and I’ve been singing about Jean Valjean ever since.)

The cover was so slick – I think I need to make a few more. Including one to keep for myself. And maybe one of those star pillows too.

Christmas 2012

Absence from the blog means lots going on behind the scenes. A few images from the past few days. We’ve been soaking up time with family – especially the ones visiting from out of state.
Watching snow fall, making things pretty for Christmas. (But not fun for road travel.)
Lots of Christmas sewing. Which means I can finally share pictures of projects now that they have been given. Stay tuned for more where that came from.
Trips to Grandma’s house. 
Nativities. (Who knew there was a Jedi on the first Christmas?)
Cozy Christmas lights.
Getting ready for Santa.

Christmas morning Lego assembly and watching A Christmas Story right before a good nap.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Smart household. Be back soon.

Goodwill Toward Men

A jar of “warm fuzzies”

A little bit of a longer, more sentimental post today, but I think we’re all feeling a little more sentimental for various reasons these days. I don’t often wax philosophical, because frankly, it’s a lot harder to write something deep. It’s way easier to say, “Look at this pretty fabric…” and distract you that way. But I’ve had these thoughts for a while and felt like it was time to put them down on cyber “paper.” So bear with me on this one. And if it’s not your thing, I totally understand and I’ll be back next time with another crafty-quilty project.

I have to admit that about a month ago I was having a hard time getting excited for Christmas. Not an Ebeneezer-Scrooge-bah-humbug kind of disdain, but in more of a Charlie-Brown-sick-of-the-commercialism kind of way. I was walking through Target a few days before Thanksgiving and I just felt yuck. Too much hype about black friday deals or just buying stuff. It made me dread the Christmas season instead of being excited for it. Especially when I thought about my kids. They have enough stuff and I knew that stuff wasn’t going to make any of us any happier in the long run.

Cookies not from Martha Stewart Living
So I vowed that we would not have Christmas be about “what comes from a store” but make Christmas be about “a little bit more”. We needed to make Christmas about other people – specifically, loving our neighbor.
I’d had an experience a couple of months ago that taught me a profound lesson. I was going through a patch where I felt misjudged and misunderstood by some individuals and it totally made me grumpy, if not angry. One Monday morning I had just dropped my kids off at school and was thinking of the huge ‘to-do’ list I needed to tackle that day when I noticed my single, elderly neighbor across the street trying to rake her leaves. I looked at her and thought, “she needs help” but rationalized about how much I had to get done that day. 
And then my conscience worked on me some more and I set my list aside and went out to help bag leaves. By the time I got there – much later than I should have – another friend was already there helping. We got the leaves raked and bagged relatively quickly. It was a gorgeous fall morning and I thoroughly enjoyed that time visiting with my neighbors. My older neighbor was so happy and grateful we had offered to help. But I guarantee you, I was the one who benefited the most that morning. By far. When I came back home, it no longer mattered what other people thought and my frustration and burden were gone. I felt happy and back to myself again.
So I knew that helping my kids have experiences doing something for other people would make Christmas much more special for them than a new Lego set or an Itunes gift card. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for presents at Christmas time, I just don’t want it to only be about presents.)
As part of the motivation we started a Warm Fuzzy Jar (see top). This is by no means a new idea – I’ve heard it lots of places, but I share it in case it’s new to someone. I bought some fuzzy pompom balls from the craft supplies aisle and when someone does something good – even if it’s totally simple like saying Hi to an extra person at school or not calling their brother annoying – they get to put a ‘warm fuzzy’ into the jar. There are much cuter variations on this theme, like Calli’s felt heart ornaments, but if all you have time for is the fluorescent puffballs for 1.97 at Walmart, that’s good enough.
We also call this “giving presents to baby Jesus.” Because he is the Birthday boy after all. And since Jesus doesn’t really need a new bike, what he really wants is for people to love and help each other, those are the best presents we can give. Acts of love and kindness.
And then the events in Newton happened last week. Talk about putting life and what’s important in perspective. I’ll be honest, I can hardly even skim the news reports about that horrible event because it makes me so incredibly emotional. Even sitting here typing is making me tear up. It hits extra close to home because I have a 6-year-old in the first grade. I can’t even fathom the grief those parents and that community must be experiencing.  Just going to my own children’s school this week for their Christmas program, I kept getting weepy seeing those precious, innocent children and thinking about not only those whose lives were cut far too short, but those who will bear emotional scars for the rest of their lives.
“You are the beast teacher ever.”
And it’s especially sad to have happened right before Christmas. But ironically, it also puts Christmas in perspective. If Christmas is about sales and shopping and stuff then it sure feels pretty hollow right about now. But if Christmas, or Hanukkah, or any meaningful holiday, is about family, and kindness, and loving our neighbor, and “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” then it is definitely richer and more significant than ever. 
Thank you again my friends for visiting this blog. Whether you celebrate Christmas or other special traditions, I send you love and well wishes for a happy holiday season with those you love most.
And with that, I will share with you a video that has been my own version of Linus this Christmas season:

If you are looking for ways to support the Sandy Hook and Newton communities check out Sarah Jane as well as the the Quilter’s Corner in Connecticut and their pillowcase drive. If you are looking for a quick pillowcase tutorial visit Sew Deerly Loved. It’s so slick!