Sanity Sewing and Serving Sewing

I sure am grateful for sewing during times of stress.  Life feels both more normal (as in ‘new normal’) and more surreal at the same time. I’m not sure how to even describe what I feel like anymore. Partly because it changes from day to day. 

Baby Lock Crescendo Sewing machine - perfect for piecing quilt blocks

Some days I’m fine, enjoying the less frantic pace of life, having all of my kids at home -including girls home from college – wearing the same two pairs of of my favorite joggers every other day, and not picking up carpools, etc. And I know I’m lucky that I have the luxury of working at home already. Other days I feel like a crazy lady: totally overwhelmed, dying for some time alone, craving my old life, worried about my kids and the uncertainty they’re dealing with, etc.

My guess is I’m not the only one. ❤ Hugs to all of you as you navigate this time as well.

Handmade Fabric Face Masks

Last week sewing time was sparse. I was trying to deal with computer issues (lame) which took up way too much time. What sewing time I did have I mostly spent making reusable cloth masks for extended family.

If you’re looking to make fabric face masks I’ve got thoughts, tips, and the tutorial I followed here.

Service sewing - Handmade Medical Grade face masks part of Project Protect

The week before I helped with a pilot program in our state (Utah) – a partnership between a the largest healthcare system in the state and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In that pilot 300 women made 30,000 disposable, medical-grade masks in 3 days all with supplies provided by the organization.

I’m sewing more of them again this week as they’ve opened up the official program with a goal of 5 million masks – 1 million a week over the next 5 weeks – all made by sewists in their homes. (The masks will be returned to and sterilized by the hospital network before use.) It’s pretty amazing what many hands together can do.

If you’re local here on the Wasatch Front and want to participate, log in to Just Serve to sign up. Even if you’re not in Utah, you can check out JustServe.org, put in your Zip Code, and find projects in your own community.

I’m lucky I have the time to help. My kids are big and (mostly) self sufficient with their school work. (I’ve also been able to use this opportunity guilt them into cleaning up the kitchen so I could ‘serve the community’.) 😉

There are so many real heroes providing critical services like food and medical care. By comparison I’m just sitting at my sewing machine, watching Netflix, but I’m glad to be able to use something from my limited wheelhouse that contributes to the cause.

Steam Punk quilt blocks and templates - designed by Jen Kingwell

At the same time, I needed some creative, just-for-fun, sanity sewing. I’m enjoying the Riley Blake block challenge. They’re simple classic blocks and I’ve had fun playing with a new one each week.

I’ve also been in the mood for something a little more challenging. Here’s a view of one of the other projects on my cutting table over the past few weeks.Jen Kingwell designed Steam Punk quilt block made by Amy Smart Diary of a Quilter

I pulled out my Steam Punk blocks that I started while back. They’ve been patiently waiting for when I had some time for slow-sewing – and here it is! (I can’t believe it’s been 3 years though! Yikes! Seriously, where does time go?!)

These have been so much fun to play with again. The Steam Punk quilt pattern is by Jen Kingwell.  I am also using Jen’s templates to cut my pieces. You can find them both in Jen’s shop, or pattern and acrylic templates are also available from Etsy.

I have made one adjustment – I noticed I wasn’t doing a good enough job in my piecing to have adequate space for the seam allowance on the outside of the block, so I’ve been adding an extra 1/4″ to the outside edges of the two background templates when I cut out those pieces. This gives me a little extra wiggle room after piecing to square up the blocks to the same size.

I have always been a huge Jen fan. Her fabric choices are SO funky and fun and all together they just sing. She’s got a gift. This quick video clip shows Jen talking about how she picks her fabrics for a ‘controlled scrappy’ effect. And bonus, you can enjoy her Australian accent. 

Steam Punk quilt blocks - made by Amy Smart - Pattern by Jen Kingwell

Here’s a big picture view of what I’ve got so far. I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!

I started this quilt when I had the chance to take a class from Jen. I was so in love with her very scrappy version, that I used it as the inspiration for mine. My goal is to really push the boundaries of my typical color and fabric combinations.  Even pull out ‘ugly’ combinations or loud prints. It’s way outside my typical colorway and I’m still so smitten.

To help make this quilt extra scrappy and crazy, I’ve been pulling prints from the fabrics that have come from the Amitie Textiles Stash Club (Jen Kingwell’s shop so you know they’re Jen Kingwell approved). They’re so funky and fun and outside the range of fabrics I would normally buy. And having just a small piece (Fat 1/16th) is just enough to use to add some zip to a variety of piecing projects without having to invest in a lot of fabric. (I’m using them in my Round We Go blocks too.)

Steam Punk quilt block close up - made by Amy Smart

I’m trying to work on a block or two a week. I keep them out and when have a minute or two to sew I can usually piece a block, or at least get one started. It’s been good therapy.

And I’m determined to not let them get stuck back into a drawer for another 3 years…

Thank goodness for sewing to get me through this uncertain, upside down, surreal time. Feels good to both sew to help and sew to heal. A little bit of both is keeping me balanced right about now.

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  • Reply
    Susan Salo
    April 24, 2020 at 7:46 am

    I’ve got Jen’s pattern and this is on my someday list. Thanks for the tip about the 1/4″ add. Knowing my style, this will be handy for me.

  • Reply
    Lynette Caulkins
    April 24, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Very fun set of steampunk blocks!! Jen’s pattern has been on my bucket list for years, too. Another thankyou for the extra 1/4″ tip – I’m sure I’ll be needing that, as well.

  • Reply
    The Joyful Quilter
    April 24, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Great progress on your quilt! I bet it felt good to participate in that mask drive. Nice work!

    • Reply
      April 25, 2020 at 12:18 am

      Amy, I always check out the links to older posts at the end of each message & “In search of my sewing mojo” caught my eye, mainly since that’s where I am at the moment, with EVERYTHING. Totally lost my mojo, but doing a little bit of sewing work each day helps. I just have the binding to finish on a table runner & I’m really excited to get it done, but dreading it at the same time, because it will be over. Weird. Anyway, I just wanted to acknowledge that you seem to have had your fair share of upheaval over the last couple of years, with house improvements and illness. Yet you keep serving, sharing a piece of yourself with the community and doing your best. Even when it doesn’t feel like your best, you are not giving up. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Judy Dobbins
    April 24, 2020 at 11:39 am

    I love the Steampunk Blocks you’ve made so far. Great fabric choices. Good tip on the extra fabric to make squaring up easier.

  • Reply
    April 24, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    I love it! What a great way to branch out from your comfort zone. Be well.

  • Reply
    April 24, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    You are amazing to be able to juggle so many responsibilities! I love your Steam Punk blocks. I hope it is not rude to ask how your youngest son is doing. Did the doctors make a firm diagnosis yet? Is a treatment plan working? I keep wondering how that is going. It is just so hard to see one’s child suffer–and this is such a crazy, wild time at best! You are doing so well keeping your spirits so very positive!

  • Reply
    April 25, 2020 at 12:13 am

    The steampunk quilt is fabulous, I love the electric use of colour. x

  • Reply
    plautumnPatti Levine
    April 25, 2020 at 6:42 am

    Quick question: how long is the t-shirt pieces used in place of the elastic to go around the ear in the masks? I have been making ties from them and if they work as just going around the ear…jackpot! I just need to know how long they should be…Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    Jan Parker
    April 25, 2020 at 10:23 am

    Steampunk is one of my patterns that I swear I will make before I die~ LOL I love what you have so far and it is totally in the spirit of Jen and I’m sure that she would approve~

  • Reply
    Rosemary Francis
    April 25, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    Amy, I look forward each week to your email. Love all of your tips & different patterns you provide. You provide such easy instructions with all of your patterns. I am currently doing the economy quilt challenge in both sizes.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Amy, this steampunk pattern is so cute. Oh gosh, your blocks are adorrrrrrable. Oh my, they kind of remind me of all of your fabrics….
    I think we are all in the “same boat” of course socially distanced haha. There are moments I love the peace and quiet, the sometimes aimless days, but then there are people suffering here, and that is the reality.
    I enjoyed reading your newsletter

  • Reply
    Muriel Carroll
    May 2, 2020 at 7:18 am

    Its 6 am in Nevada today when I opened this post THANK YOU! I needed a fresh view .. My sewing mojo has completely been lost with all that is happening here and around the world. Your Steam Punk Blocks made me smile and I realized I have the pattern (it has been a couple of years (wow time passes) and the kit!

    • Reply
      May 2, 2020 at 8:32 pm

      That makes me so happy to hear! It’s amazing how a fresh, challenging project can bring back some sewjo. I hope it helps!

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