Behind the Scenes at Diary of a Quilter + RBD Quilt Block #5

I frequently worry that I give off a false impression of what my life is like. The past few months have been extra exciting and crazy around here, so I wanted to give a little glimpse at the behind-the-scenes of life at Diary of a Quilter.

Free Quilt Block Sampler - Riley Blake 2021 - Block #5

But first: it’s week #5 of the 2021 Riley Blake Quilt Block Challenge! This week’s block is a traditional Ocean Waves block designed by Rachel of Citrus and Mint Designs. 

You can download the free Block #5 pattern here.

If you’re new to the 2021 Riley Blake Quilt Block challenge, it’s never too late to join the fun. You can read more about the RBD Quilt Block challenge, the fabrics I’m using for my blocks, and tips for piecing intricate quilt blocks here.

You can see the first four blocks I’ve made here.

This quilt is a mystery quilt with three new blocks released each month until June. You can get the fabric requirements for the full quilt + download all of the block patterns here.

Now back to a bit of life behind the scenes…

I worry frequently that I give a false impression that all I do is make quilts and enjoy beautiful hikes (because those are sometimes the only things I post). Social media, blogs, magazines, etc. almost always the feature the carefully curated highlight reel, not the full story. As I shared a slice of reality on my personal Facebook page, I realized it would be a good thing to share here too. 

First of all – nothing is as glamorous as it looks in the photos. lol Here’s a shot midway through the hours-long photo shoot and editing process for the pictures in this post about the release of my Notting Hill fabric collection last week. If you were to look at that post alone, fabric and quilt design looks pretty glamorous and charming. It’s all smoke and mirrors, friends. lol. 

Of course I am INCREDIBLY LUCKY and GRATEFUL to that I get to do what I do. But I definitely don’t want to give the misconception that it’s effortless. A fabric collection release is always a year in the making. Sometime I need to do a more detailed post about the process, because it’s pretty fascinating and going through it definitely made me more appreciative of what it takes to get a fabric collection out into the world!

January and February were also full of all kinds of non-quilting-related shenanigans around these parts including: finally finishing paint and carpet renovations that were planned back in 2019 but delayed because of “all things 2020” (more of that backstory here). Part of those renovations included IKEA furniture assembly (always fun times!!). Our house has empty space, but very little storage (like no linen closet?!), so I’ve been dreaming of adding these IKEA Pax wardrobes (like the one in this post) for years. These puppies will hold A LOT of quilts. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And other stuff in a much more organized fashion than we’ve previously had.

I’m SO excited to have these house projects that have been hanging over our heads for so long finally crossed off the list!

In addition to the fun of moving and assembly furniture, we also added dental work, sick husband and kids, and multiple doctor visits into the mix: including finally getting our youngest son into a Neurology clinic at the University of Utah for extensive testing where heโ€™s been on the waiting list since May. (Hooray for that!) 

Thank you to all who have asked and expressed support and concern for our son. I don’t share a lot of details out of regard for his privacy. We’re still on a journey figuring out how to help him feel like a normal teenager again. Sometimes I feel encouraged because it feels like we’re making progress. Other times feel discouraging when I see his health take another crash. He’s still mostly doing life and school from home – which means I’m much more heavily involved in both. We both miss our old lives, but we’re learning a lot about the ability to handle what is. I’m grateful and so lucky that I have flexible work that I can do from home, but it’s definitely required adjustments to my previous work flow and productivity.


The aforementioned dental excitement was all mine and included bone grafts on both sides of my jaw. More fun times! This resulted in me having a square face for a few days. Which made my kids crack up every time I talked to them. (Can you blame them?) By day 2 I realized who my face reminded me of (see photo).

Since that charming look I’ve recovered fully, feel fine, and my cheeks are back to their boring, normal size. All is good with my face again. No worries there.

It was not my original intention to have all of that fun all at once, but you know how home renovations go – they always take longer than you’d hoped! I’d originally hoped to have all of that done before endodontic procedures and healing. Instead it was all at the same time. ๐ŸคชBut Iโ€™m glad we managed to pull it all off. And I was very excited to turn the calendar page at the beginning of March and see a much more blank page. ๐Ÿคž๐Ÿป


Here are a couple of life hacks I discovered during the process. First: Hire someone to help put together your Ikea furniture. I found Mandy who is a local special ed teacher who works on weekends to help put herself through grad school. She is my new BFF.

Second: after my dental procedure my son noticed me holding an ice pack to my cheeks and suggested I could use a face mask to do the job. Clever child! So there you go: another handy use for those fun face masks. ๐Ÿ˜‰ #lifehack #yourewelcome

I sometimes hesitate to share the โ€˜realโ€™ behind the scenes parts of life because a) I know you’re here first and foremost for the quilts and inspiration and b) I donโ€™t want to sound like Iโ€™m complaining. It feels like such a fine line between sharing real life and sounding whiney. Iโ€™m incredibly grateful we had the means and capacity to tackle each one of these things last month.

And, as I mentioned, I’m incredibly grateful that sewing is my job! I know that it looks like I’m a productive quilter – and I am compared to many. But always keep in mind, this is more than just a hobby for me – it’s my work and my job too so I carve out that time for work. It’s not realistically feasible for everyone. At the same time, there’s still SO much I’d like to do and can’t get to. I frequently feel bad when I can’t respond to every email or meet the majority of the requests that I get for help. I truly wish there was more of me to go around.

So at the risk of sounding whiney or ungrateful, I donโ€™t want to avoid sharing real life and give the false impression that life is peaceful quilting bliss and my sewing room is always organized and inspiring.

I feel like every one I know is dealing with a heavy load of real life – as everyone is still trying to get through all of the disruptions of 2020, or dealing with their own personal challenges. I just want you to know that you’re not alone. I want to give everyone permission to be okay with things as they are – and accepting of what “is”. That’s the journey I’m still trying to navigate myself. 

And I want give everyone permission to share the real parts – including unfiltered pictures of yourself with a square face. ๐Ÿ˜œ

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  • Reply
    March 9, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    Bless you xx

  • Reply
    Carole Whitrdge
    March 9, 2021 at 4:50 pm

    Amy, I’m sitting in the hospital with my own teenager, who has a truly unbearable health situation and I could not be more grateful for your post today. This stay is now into the sixth week and finally I gave myself permission to spend a little time in my sewing space every day. I honestly think it has helped keep me sort of sane.

    Anyway – thanks for sharing. I laughed out loud at the picture of your sewing table. It made me feel better – we all surely must make some mess to be so creative – and then make it pretty again when we are finished.

    I like that you emphasize that it is WORK to create. Even if my sewing is not my livelihood right now, there’s always a time during every project when I have to take a deep breath and just…. get on with it. For me, I think putting the blocks together always feels like a ‘put the kettle on’ moment. And maybe hunt around in the fridge for a piece of sustaining chocolate.

    Thanks for all your wonderful posts, beautiful, honest, interesting and creative.


    • Reply
      March 9, 2021 at 9:44 pm

      Oh Carole, my heart goes out to you. I have new sympathy like never before for the what the weight of worrying for a child feels like. Six weeks in the hospital does sound unbearable. I’m SO sorry. Good for you for allowing yourself a way to stay sane and keep up your capacity to support your child. Wishing you, your child and your family all of the best. Bless you. xoxo

  • Reply
    Little Quiltsong
    March 9, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    Love your Ikea linen closets – perfect for your quilts etc. You are always so cute when showing the behind scenes. My sewing room is in total disarray too. Whenever I think I’m a little ‘ahead’ in cleaning things up – it gets worse than before :)! So thankful your son has gotten in for his appt. wishing all the best for him. Sending big hugs! Your new fabric line is so, so pretty and love the detail prints in there.Take care of yourself, Amy!

  • Reply
    March 9, 2021 at 7:41 pm

    Amy, bless you for keeping it real. You’ve shared enough in 2019 and 2020 to prove that it isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. If anyone thinks anyone else in this life has it perfect, they better think again. The silver lining of the pandemic is that you have been there for your son when he needed you the most! At preschool we say family comes first. I cannot make every quilt I admire or purchase every fabric line I fall in love with, but I can still seek inspiration from what you share. Hang in there!

  • Reply
    Diane Muldoon
    March 9, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    Sharing real life is not whining, it is sharing. It is role modeling for everyone, that it is OK to share all parts of our lives and not pretend we are fine when we are not. It is being real. and honest. Lovely traits I see that you have. xoxox

  • Reply
    March 9, 2021 at 8:55 pm

    Thank you! Itโ€™s so easy to picture others in an idyllic life on social media. Myself as a Longarm quilter there is a lot of thread and batting and dust and the house gets a little neglected so that customer quilts get completed…

  • Reply
    Jan Parker
    March 9, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    I know what health issues can do to your life. I recently got osteomyelitis in my right foot and had to have my leg amputated below the knee. I’ve been at home (after 3 weeks of intensive PT and OT at the hospital) for just over six weeks waiting for everything to heal. I’ve been on a walker and in a wheelchair navigating the house and the world with my caretaker.

    I will be picking up my prosthetic leg next week but there is gait therapy for a full month. I took my first four steps on Monday and, my word, did that ever hurt! There are ways to “toughen” up your leg to get it ready for a prosthetic and I’m doing that now. So this sure put my plans for the winter on hold for awhile!

    I got a kick out of the picture of your face. That must have given you a fright every time you looked in the mirror! it just makes you look so different. I’m glad that your dental surgery is behind you. Good luck with your son’s issues. There’s always something to worry about.

    • Reply
      March 10, 2021 at 10:22 am

      Oh, Jan! That is a big change in life – a lot of adjustments I can’t even imagine. Thank you for your kind words. Sending you lots of love and encouragement as you continue this journey. xo

  • Reply
    March 10, 2021 at 4:52 am

    Thanks for being vulnerable and keeping it real!! I always love what you share.

  • Reply
    WS Rupp
    March 10, 2021 at 5:38 am

    I would love to hear of your process of creating your fabric lines. From your ideas to on the bolt! When I was growing up my mother managed a fabric store. A couple times a year they would go to NYC to see the new fabrics coming out. ( That was years ago when all fabrics were manufactured in the USA!) So I’ve been sewing for a long time and always thought that would be neat to see or hear about!

  • Reply
    MaryBeth Baker
    March 10, 2021 at 5:41 am

    Bless you and your family! Thank you for being real! These are tough times and you have a full plate. Always enjoy reading what you are willing to share. Prayers for your son. You are amazing!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2021 at 5:49 am

    Being real is real. Not fake like our news seems to be. Not fake like the world seems to be turning into. Prayers and thoughts for your son and for your familyโ€™s sanity while going through this diversity. Keeping your thread between the needle keeps you sewing.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2021 at 6:34 am

    The rough days help us to appreciate the good! I guess????? That’s what I’m telling myself. My heart goes out to you Amy, our children bring great joy and so much love into our lives, that when one is ill or struggling, all our love can’t make it right, so we too bear the illness or struggle. I’m sending some of my love and caring to maybe help, just a little.
    I enjoy your blog life, because you are “so real”! Love and hugs โค๏ธ๐Ÿค—

  • Reply
    Missy Reynolds
    March 10, 2021 at 7:53 am

    I just love your honesty and willingness to share your real life include the messes! Praying you will get a clear treatment plan for your son that will soon return life to a bit more normal for everyone!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2021 at 9:33 am

    Enjoyed this post so much. Lots of hugs to you. We have the same desk… I mean, with all the STUFF on it! Real is so much better. xoxo

  • Reply
    Sandra B
    March 10, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you for your post, sharing what you and your family have been dealing with over the past few months… I laughed when I saw your sewing table! I can definitely relate!!
    Sending lots of positive thoughts and prayers your way, hoping that you can get more answers for your sonโ€™s road to feeling better and finding ways toward better days ahead, for him and your family…
    Take care!

  • Reply
    Nilene Thompson-Finn
    March 10, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I think we all love to view behind the scenes of a blog, magazine or business. It keeps it “real” and actually, I think, it engages us even more because we get to see behind the curtain. Stay Safe.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2021 at 1:09 pm

    Real world pics and narrative are so relatable…please don’t stop!! (and you don’t need to reply, haha)

  • Reply
    Brenda King
    March 12, 2021 at 2:52 am

    Prayers and best thoughts and wishes for your precious son, you, and all your family. Sometimes it is therapeutic to share your burdens. We’re all here to listen, care and pray. Take good care of yourself too! Love your blog and learning so much from you. Thanks for sharing! Brenda King

    • Reply
      March 13, 2021 at 3:59 pm

      Thank you, Brenda! xo

  • Reply
    Rosemary B
    March 13, 2021 at 3:49 pm

    That is a lot, Amy.
    I know all of it is just overloading all of you with worry, anxiety, logistics, and everything involved with too many things
    I am experiencing the same since 2013 taking care of my parents and now taking care of daddy since 2016. My brains are full. I feel like I am forgetting something.
    I love your messy house and very happy that you have storage now.
    Your puffy jaw is not that bad haha I think I might look like that all the time now
    Brilliant idea about the ice in the mask. My 97 year old daddy is getting a tooth pulled in two weeks, and I will certainly share this advice… and maybe I can pretend it was my idea and he will think I am super brilliant ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚
    I hope March is a good month for some settlement and normality for all of you๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒน

    • Reply
      March 13, 2021 at 3:59 pm

      Oh, bless you, Rosemary! You have a full plate for sure. Please feel free to take credit for the ice in the face mask idea! ๐Ÿ˜‰ xo

  • Reply
    Barbara Barnett
    March 13, 2021 at 7:11 pm

    Amy I feel for you and your Son May God Bless You and make your son well again.

    • Reply
      March 13, 2021 at 10:00 pm

      Thank you, Barbara. xo

  • Reply
    Vickie Dudley
    March 14, 2021 at 7:01 am

    I think this is my favorite post since I’ve been following you! We need more “real” from those we admire in my opinion.

  • Reply
    Mary Graham
    March 16, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    Prayers for you, Jan Parker!!!

  • Reply
    Tina Stout
    April 4, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    You’re inspirational no matter what is going on!! Real life happens. We have to just accept the hiccups along the way. I love the grumpy guy face. Humor is always helpful. And thanks for taking the time to keep us up to date.
    We currently are in the middl of a whole house move, our daughter just had a new baby and my husband and I just got our
    first COVID shots yesterday!! So much going on at once after so little going on in 2020.

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