Another new project: Sarah Jane Family Tree

Well, I’ve done it again. Started another new project.  It seemed in December and January I did a really good job of finishing projects.  Hence a lot of posts with finished quilts, etc.  Lately it’s all been about starting something new. Sorry for so many posts of random piles of fabric or blocks.  Hopefully the pretty colors and fabric will distract you.

We’re going to have some good car time this weekend – which is also some of my favorite time to just sit and sew, guilt free.  So I needed to come up with a project to work on.  As I’ve been sorting and cleaning out my sewing stuff, I found this Sarah Jane Family Tree panel and decided this was it.  I fell in love with the panel again as I realized the children in the panel so perfectly represent my own kiddos. I’ve got an oldest brunette daughter, next a fair-haired sister, then two boys – one dark and the youngest a blondie. Seems this drawing was made just for us.

I put together one for Sarah Jane’s booth at Market last spring and she kindly gave me one to make for myself and it just got added to the never-ending ‘someday list’.  Well today is that day. I’m going to work on stitching the names while we drive.  I’m planning to make more of a pieced border for mine. So I went through my fabrics and picked out prints and colors that reminded me of my kids. Including some scraps and pieces of novelty prints that I’ve been hoarding saving for just the right project. Well, this is it. I’m excited to see it come together.

In my snatches of spare time I’ve been cutting 2 1/2″ squares to make a pieced border for the panel. While I was at it I just kept cutting more so I can use them for granny squares or for mini hexagons.  One can never be over-prepared when it comes to 2 1/2″ squares, it seems.

A quilt for Grammie

This weekend my husband’s grandmother turns 87! When I looked up how old she would turn this year I was shocked by the number. For as long as I’ve known her (14 years) she has been such a goer and doer. How on earth did she get to be 87?  We visited ‘Grammie’ this past summer in New Hampshire and Maine.  It was the first time we’d seen her in a few years and it was bittersweet to see her in decline for the first time since I’ve known her. So we (and by ‘we’, I guess I mean, ‘I’) decided to make her a quilt. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

Adding to the feeling of urgency, we had planned to visit my husband’s other grandmother while on the same trip this summer and she suddenly passed away 2 weeks before we came. Sadly, she had been suffering from dementia for years and probably didn’t remember us, but we would have liked our kids to see her one more time so that they could remember her. I also feel bad that I never made something similar for Nana Jean. That experience was a good reminder not to wait when Grandmas are concerned. Because you never know. So I feel relieved that this quilt is on it’s way. 

I made the label using AmandaJean’s tutorial. It was SO ridiculously easy. I am finally committed to doing this for every quilt. In the past I have been terrible – I never do it. Honestly.  I am finally getting my act together.

Grammie decided when she became a great-grandma that she wanted to be called Nonna.  Both her parents and her husband’s parents were Italian immigrants to the United States in the early 20th Century. So even though she grew up in Maine, her family was very proudly Italian.  (See? You can tell by the tomato harvest.) I’m glad she has passed that heritage on to her great-grandchildren and glad that they will always remember their Nonna.

This quilt has a good backstory.  See how the 9-patch blocks are rectangular? Well, that wasn’t on purpose.  These blocks were part of a kit we sold at American Quilting. One afternoon I was working alone and a lady who’d purchased the kit called to ask for help and I (really helpfully) gave her the wrong measurements. As a result, her blocks ended up as rectangle instead of square nine-patches.  So I remade all 80 blocks for her. And in return I’ve had these rectangular blocks hiding in my fabric mess collection for the past 7 years or so.  
I came across the blocks again this summer, right before our trip and halfway thought of trying to pound a quilt together in a couple of days while trying to get ready for the trip itself. Then I came to my senses and decided to take my time and put it together for her birthday.  Good decision.  I pulled all the fabrics from the stash and was happy to use some patiently-waiting fabrics that have been sitting around for a long time, and finally give them a good home.
Two quilts finished in the past two weeks – one modern and one that’s more traditional. It’s been good to have quilts to bind recently so that I have a good excuse to just sit still and watch Downton Abbey. :)

Keeping it REALLY Real

I often have people ask me, “How do you get so much done?” including my mom and my new friend Vicki (waving to you Vicki!) a couple Saturdays ago when I was working at American Quilting.  So today I will try to answer that question somewhat – and while I can’t promise world peace or total enlightenment, hopefully I can end some blogging-guilt-complexes in the process

First of all here is what my sewing space looked like a few days ago.  Pretty scary. (I still can’t believe I’m publicly humiliating myself like this.) The towel on the stained, burned and ripped ironing board cover is for the iron that started leaking.  I have at least four different projects in process in this picture, not to mention the disorderly piles of fabric for a few more.  And then there’s a piece of ric rac hanging from the blinds (?). Fortunately you can’t really see how badly the carpet needed to be vacuumed.

(To my own credit, yesterday I did take about half an hour to get things looking a lot better.  I should probably take another picture to redeem myself a little.)

Blogs and magazines and beautiful sewing and pattern books create this impression that everything looks wonderful, the cutting mat is always cleared and ready for a new project, there are no pins on the floor and all fabric is neatly folded.  I’m sure for a lot of people, crafting is like that. I’m just not one of those people.

So I don’t want to add to the misrepresentation that things around here are always perfect and I wile away my hours churning out quilts. Often I am moving junk out of the way before I take a picture for my blog and most of the time I have worked on something for weeks before it ever surfaces on the blog.

during the Hoops photo shoot

For me, my hobby is sandwiched in between the needs of four kids, a husband with plenty of demands on his time, house, church responsibilities, car pools etc. I’m not complaining about any of those things – I’m grateful for all of them. But it often means I sew at snatched, random moments and it’s not very orderly.

All that said, here’s how I do what I do:

  • My kids are at great ages right now – I don’t have infants or teenagers, so that frees me up a little especially during some school days. My youngest is pretty easy going and he likes just hanging out with me so I can even get some done while he’s around.  And he doesn’t try to sit on my sewing machine peddle as often as he used to.
  • I’m a total homebody – I don’t even like going shopping – it’s a necessary evil to me. I could keep myself entertained for hours at home and never get bored.
  • I can handle mess.  I have friends whose homes I love to go to because they are always beautiful and spotless. Always. (Nothing wrong with that!) But they often admit to me that they wish they could accomplish what I do with my sewing hobby and acknowledge that it’s hard for them to start a project and let the house slide a little, or to live with the mess that creativity sometimes brings.  So, I don’t know whether it’s a blessing or a curse, but I can handle my house in it’s imperfect state while I do other things. Not forever, mind you, and total chaos can really kill any creativity. But I can look at the perler beads or scraps of cut snowflakes on the floor in the middle of the afternoon and not let them bug me, knowing I’ll do a full clean-up that night. (However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t get embarrassed when someone comes to my house and I have to kick random shoes and toys out of the way so they can walk into a room.)
  • I have a place where I can leave out my creative mess, shut the door, walk away and return the next day to pick-up where I left off.  I know that not everyone has that option.  My space is in a room that is half storage room in my basement.  It’s not totally convenient and in the summer my machine and one current project usually migrate to the kitchen so I can be where the action is, but having that place where I can leave a little of my mess undisturbed is helpful. I feel lucky because I know that’s not always feasible for everyone.

  • I like having something to show for my time.  The dishes will always need to be redone, and beds will always need to be remade, and clothes constantly need to be washed.  So I like to invest even just a small portion of my time each day on something that will stay finished. It’s healthy for my psyche.  I know that my kids are my most important creation and that the time invested in them is never a waste.  But it’s nice to have some short term accomplishments as well. That, and fabric is always obedient. Well, most of the time.
  • Sewing is my happy juice. Just doing a little bit each day makes me feel good about life. I feel lucky to have found something that I really enjoy doing.
  • I rarely quilt my own quilts.  I’m really lucky right now to have a great situation where I have coworkers who will do it for me at a really great price. And they will do a much nicer job than I could do. And, the quilting part of making quilts seriously dilutes the happy juice for me. I dread that part.
  • I don’t really watch TV.  Occasionally I’ll watch a movie (BBC Classics anyone?) on a little DVD player next to my sewing machine while I work.  If I do watch something with my husband or family, I’m pretty much always working on a project – usually binding a quilt. I can’t just sit still.  Occasionally, for my husband’s sake, I’ll sit and just hold his hand while we watch a movie.  It’s a necessary sacrifice for me to make sometimes. :)
  • And in the spirit of really keeping it real, I’ll add this thought too: the days that I give a little bit of time to God by reading my scriptures and saying a prayer in the morning, I ALWAYS get more done. When I don’t do those little things, I feel like I’m running around in circles and accomplish nothing.  Take that for what it’s worth to you, but I know it’s true for me.

There are plenty of distractions out there that slow me down. Like getting into a good book – which is not necessarily a bad thing – (I need to get more books on tape). But don’t get me started on the computer.  I’ve had to set boundaries for myself and I often feel guilty for being slow answering emails or not responding to all comments, because I am so grateful for every one. I try to answer any specific questions that are asked, but I’ve found that it takes so much time to individually thank each commenter that it seriously cuts into the time available for anything else. So please, know how grateful I am for the wonderful feedback you give me. It means so much to me – I only wish I had more time to devote to responding.

So now that you know WAY more than you ever really wanted to, let me add one more thing.  These are the things that work for ME. There are people in blog land that I admire so much, but I’m coming to accept the fact that I will never be them, I can only be me and I have to function in a manner that works best for my personality, family, and hereditary quirks. Same goes for everyone else.  So my only encouragement is to find a system that works for YOU and own it. :) And NO feeling guilty about not doing it the way someone else does it.

The End.

A Christmas Quilt

This quilt was made as a Christmas gift this year, but I can share it because I already presented it to it’s recipients.  For years now I’ve wanted to make a quilt for my husband’s parents, but I’ve had a hard time deciding on just the right quilt to make. In November I suddenly knew exactly what I should do. (I love when that happens.)

I had a little collection of nine-patch blocks made from Civil War-era reproduction fabrics. I pulled them together into a quilt that made me totally happy for many reasons.

First, I love the brown in there – gives the quilt some depth and makes it not just “Christmas-y.”

Second, my in-laws live in Frederick, Maryland – right in the middle of Civil War battlefields and memorials, so a Civil War-inspired quilt seems fitting.

Third, whenever I think of Civil War and Christmas put together, I think of Little Women. I LOVE that book and the 1994 movie too. (Makes me cry every time.) Well, the first time I met my husband’s family (when we were dating) my then-future-husband’s younger brother  kept pointing to my hair (which was long at the time) and talking about “Little Homen”. His mom immediately cracked-up and explained that he loved Little Women and we had a great bonding moment over that movie. I took it as a sign right away that I would really like this family. :)  And I was right.  We had a great time with them here over Thanksgiving and I was able to give them the quilt then. And I will happily add that it was joyously received.Yay!

I also love that this quilt came entirely from the stash.  I think the binding fabric may be my favorite of all.

And now, here we are almost half-way through December. I can’t believe how fast this month is flying by. I keep trying to stop and savor the season. It’s kind of not fair that as a kid, December seems interminable and Christmas takes forever to come, but as an adult the month passes too quickly.  WAY too quickly.