Tuesday, April 24, 2018

You Get a Quilt! And You Get a Quilt!

Hey there, hi there, ho there!  It's been a minute!  I'll cut right to the chase and will throw out any chatter about the busyness of life - here are some quilts!  I know that's what you're really here for after all!  ;)

In my world of stitches, I've been SUPER busy with commissioned quilts!  In fact, I have a wait list of commissions right now and it could be one of the greatest creative feelings I've ever had!  I know the direction I want to take each work, but I can only focus on one at a time.  Quilting up a stunner this week!  Eek!  Anywho, here are the two most recent completed works.  One went to Washington and the other went to North Carolina!  Jet setters!

(Want me to make a quilt for you this year?  I'd suggest getting on my list now!)

This first one took me a while to get moving on.  I came across a new technique that I wanted to use, but I'd never done it before!  It took some misses, some colorful language, and holding my tongue just the right way, but I think it turned out wonderfully.  I'm quite proud of this one!  It measures about 52" x 52" and makes me so happy to look at!  With all of my commissions, I like to make up a pillow cover out of the quilt scraps to match.  It's my way to saying thanks.  

On to those photos!
Honestly, I don't think I would have ended up with these colors together on my own.  My client requested the colors and inspiration from nature, mountains, ridges, and trees. 
I ended up using a mixture of vintage fabrics, an old bed sheet, and some gorgeous modern fabrics that I only pull out for special occasions. 
I worked hard on squaring up this quilt just right.  It's an area of quilt making that I need to continue to improve on.  My husband is proving to be very helpful in this arena!  Thanks, Brent!
Word on the street is that the five-year-old boy who received this quilt was overjoyed to have his very own special blanket.  I can't tell you how happy that makes me!

My other recent completed commission is this sweet crib quilt!  One of my oldest and dearest best friends asked me to make this as a baby shower gift for one of her friends.  We had some colors to go by, but other than that I was free to play!
 As I tend to do, I just start with one thing and see where it takes me.  A few strips cut and the next thing I knew, I was giving them points using a process from this wonderful book.  Precision sewing is something that I'm always working on and I was really proud of that on this quilt!  Also, my squaring up was also not too shabby! 
 Again, some modern fabrics, some vintage fabrics, and an old bed sheet made up this one!
Lately, all I have been wanting to do is design and create quilts.  There just aren't enough hours in the day!  Although, my semester ended last week so my time will be a bit more free mentally.  I'll have more time to make and more time to share, which is good because I have SO MUCH TO TELL YOU!  (Hint - Sign up for my newsletter! Scroll down to the bottom!)

Until later!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Pieces of Peace

Do you remember that song?  When I was a young girl, my mom would play that song on the piano while my sister and I would run about.  The lyrics and notes became part of our background and part of our subconscious.  I don't think I realized how much that song impacted me until recently.

A month or so ago, Rio's teacher asked me to help her school family, The Dolphins, out with a project.  Each family consists of about 13 kids from all grade levels.  They meet several times a week to learn life skills, to create community, and to celebrate each other.  I love this aspect of her school, and she does too.  So, back to the project.  Every year, each family creates an art project for their annual auction fundraiser.  Her teacher knew that I dabbled in fabric, so she asked if I'd be interested in helping out.

I sat on it for a while, trying to figure out what would be fun for the kids, simple enough for ages 4 - 12 to work on, would be desirable for the auction, and would be meaningful for their family.  Finally, I thought that a fabric mosaic would be perfect.  The next step was to figure out what image we wanted to create.  We toyed with a dolphin (their family mascot), a hand giving the peace sign, rainbows, the list goes on.  We landed on the traditional peace sign and the kids chose blue/turquoise for the actual sign and rose gold/pink for the background. 

I had a large amount of extra firm interfacing that I thought would be perfect for the project, so one evening Brent and I set out to create the image.  Brent is incredibly helpful in projects like this and I love when we collaborate creatively together.  We hit a few speed bumps in the process when it came to our markings, so we ended up cutting out the sign and placing it atop a full, uncut piece of interfacing.  I LOVE the 3-D effect that 'oops' gave us. 
I pulled out a good handful of fabrics close to their selected colors and cut out rectangles for them to use; smaller ones for the peace sign and larger ones for the background.  After getting some opinions from my quilt guild, we went with a glue stick to let the kids adhere the pieces to the interfacing.  It took them about three short sessions to get it all covered. 
Once I got my hands back on it, I slowly quilted each piece separately, making sure the fabric pieces weren't folding as I stitched over them. 
Next, I added bias tape to the edges of the peace sign.  When I started, I foolishly thought that I'd apply it just as I do a quilt, but once I hit the inside parts, I just couldn't get the binding to fold correctly, so I scrapped that method and simply zig-zag stitched the binding down as close to the edge as I could.  Then I went back over the other edges and zig-zagged so all of the bindings matched.  I am still determined to figure out how to do binding in the manner someday, though!  Finally, it was time to attach the peace sign to the background.  Since I left the 'sticky' side of the interfacing on the BACK of each piece, I first just ironed the backing fabric (more on that in a minute) onto the background piece and then I ironed the peace sign onto the front of the background.  Make sense?  Then I slowly stitched around the edge of the peace sign to secure it down completely, showing a faint outline of the peace sign on the back of the hanging.  The last step was to attach the binding to the background, which I DID do like I do a quilt, adding three loops so the piece can be easily hung up. 
Since their family mascot is the dolphin, we wanted to have the backing fabric with a dolphin on it!  Finding that fabric though, was NOT easy.  I looked through hundreds of novelty fabrics and this was the only aquatic fabric that I could find that had dolphins on it!  I love it though because it represents how peacefully they live together with everyone else, just as we should strive to do. 
The timing of this project comes when our country is in the middle of a heated conversation about the safety of our children in their schools and the accessibility of weaponry that we have.  As a parent of a school-aged child and as an educator, I have very strong opinions about this topic.  My answer is in within the project.  More peace.  More togetherness.  More community.  More projects.  Guess what I think there should be less of.  This project reminded me that we need to listen to our kids more.  They will guide us if we will open ourselves up to it. 
So I return to the song, which continues to play in my head, and I recommit to its message:  Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.  And you.  

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Story Of Rio And The Train

This morning, I received another message about Rio and the train.  I get notices like these every couple of weeks.  You see, last fall around the end of September, Rio and I experienced something quite special.  I wrote about it on my personal Facebook profile and it quickly went viral.  
Let me back up. Here's what happened and here is exactly what I wrote that day.

The most amazing and heartwarming thing happened this morning. My family's business moved into their new location about three years ago. It's located right along the train tracks which means we get a front row seat to all of the locomotive action. My daughter lives for it. It didn't take long for the conductors to notice her waving to them and for them to return those waves. As time progressed, it became their ritual. They'd blow their whistles, she'd run to the window, they'd open their windows, and everyone would wave and smile ear to ear. I teared up almost every single time.

Then a few weeks ago, my daughter started school.

Her transition to daily school hit me a little harder than I was expecting, but it hit me the hardest the first day the train came when she wasn't there. They blew their whistles, they opened their windows, but I was the only one standing there just crying and weakly waving. The next day I made a sign. I simply wrote 'She started school.' I heard the whistle, ran to the window, and held up my sign. That was three weeks ago.

This morning almost minutes after I walked into the shop, someone knocked on the door. It was a man in a bright yellow shirt with ear plugs hanging down. I assumed he was a construction worker coming to talk construction, because that's what we do here. I was wrong. He was there to ask about the little girl with the blonde hair that waved to the trains. He was one of the conductors and they'd all been wondering what had happened to her. Today they'd had a short train, so they stopped down the tracks, walked to our building, and knocked on our door. Oh did I cry. They had seen my sign, but couldn't make out what it said. They had assumed she'd started school, but had to make sure. He said that her waves had made their days. For three years they'd shared these moments.

They want to do something for her; they miss her. He asked if they could send her something, to which I said of course! They are going to send her a birthday present in a few weeks.

Witnessing their unconventional friendship over the past several years has been nothing short of magical. To know it impacted them just as much as it impacted us, fills me with love and hope. The visit today and their ongoing kindness to my daughter has reaffirmed my faith in goodness and humanity. These are moments we'll always remember.
Give yourself a moment.  It still chokes me up.

So, after I wrote the post and shared the two photos also shared here, I started getting messages and comments from friends asking me to make the post public.  I'm really fairly private online, and I see the absurdity in saying that as I write on my public blog, but when it comes to my kid, I share very, very little.  I finally decided to make it public for a few reasons.  I felt like it was a story that people needed to hear - we all needed uplifting!  I also felt like it didn't share much personal information and the photos didn't show her face.  Soon after making it public, a friend tagged a page called Love What Matters.  I'd never heard of it, but apparently most of the internet has.  They sent me a message and asked if they could share the story.  I talked to Brent and we gave them the OK to share.  

Then I went on my way to teach a Grammar class for two hours.  When I came out, my phone was on fire.  I had comments and messages overflowing and the Love What Matters post was quickly becoming mighty popular.  It was overwhelming and amazing.  For the first time EVER, I didn't see any negative comments on a viral post; it was all beautifully positive.

That night, I found myself very worried because I hadn't asked the conductors if I could share the story or not!  The gentleman who had come to the door had exchanged information with me.  I quickly sent him an email letting him know what had happened in the virtual world after he had left .  He was in just as much shock as I and was fine with the story being shared.  I sighed a breath of relief.  

The following days were crazy.  I was contacted by countless news outlets, some VERY big and reputable.  I only communicated with Good Morning America (I KNOW!), but in the end I didn't feel right about sharing her story with the world any further in that manner.  Even though I did not give permission to other publications to share the story, they went ahead and did so.  The headlines often made me laugh heartily.  "Conductors Saw Sign In Window, You'll Never Believe What Happened Next" and the like.  It was shared on allllllll sorts of sites all over the world.  I think I printed it up for Rio in 5 or 6 different languages?  It was expansive.  This story seemed to touch everyone.  

Even though I thought I had my social media on a pretty tight lock down, some stories had photos of our family and Rio's face.  I did contact those outlets asking that those photos be removed.  After a while though, I couldn't contact them all, so I let it be.  I can't imagine what it is like for those who have a negative or damning story go viral!  The internet is a strange, strange place.

After a week, I made my original post private but the Love What Matters post is still active with 17K engagements.  The comments are gold.  

Two weeks later was Rio's fifth birthday.  Our train friends, dubbed the Choo Choo Crew, dropped off a few train related presents for her.  While invited to the party, they were unable to make it.  We enjoyed a small backyard party with a few family and friends and lots of train-themed activities for the afternoon.  She doesn't know or understand the virtual side of the story, and at this point in her life, she doesn't need to.

Since then, I've become friends with the Crew online and I receive and return their waves until Rio has breaks from school.  On those days, the waves and smiles are twice as big.  I do feel that this is a story that should be shared so I'm currently (slowly) working on turning it into a children's book.  It just feels right.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The End Of The Forest

It doesn't happen very often that I have a vision for a completed quilt before I even begin it.  That's what happened with my favorite quilt that I've made so far.  

Remember at the end of last year when I made 500 pins for Philbrook?  That little side gig?  Seems like it was a dream, a million years ago when I look back on it.  I learned SO much from that experience and will always cherish the opportunity I had.  It was a little strange when I finished up the last pin, but I had other projects in mind to keep my hands busy!  The one I was most excited about starting was this quilt.  

When I finished up the Philbrook project, I found myself with TONS of scraps from the pins.  I knew exactly what I needed to do with them.  I needed to make one last tree.  This one.
I started out by sorting through my scrap pile, ironing each piece, and laying each of them out.  That alone took a good while.  Next, I started piecing.  Basically, I made about 10 large improv pieced blocks from the scraps, taking my time getting those seams consistent and pressing my heart out.  You would think all of that piecing took the longest, but it was actually the next step that was the most time consuming.  Figuring out how those 10 pieced blocks would fit together to form a large triangle was quite the head scratcher, but after much patience and tenacity, it all came together.  

I knew I wanted to use leaf-themed fabrics to frame the heart of the tree.  I used a 90s fabric I picked up at an estate sale and used the gorgeous outer leaf fabric that a dear friend gifted me.  I added a few smaller trees in the background to create the illusion of a forest and I outlined each tree in a small half-inch strip of brown.  I continued on adding the sky fabric, which I adore the effect of.  That was also a gifted fabric that was absolutely perfect for this quilt.  
Once I was done piecing all of that though, it felt like something was missing.  I wasn't fully pleased with the transition between the leaf fabrics.  They didn't seem defined enough so I started toying with my options.  For me, it came down to two choices.  Take apart everything I had done down to the first green layer of the tree, or applique something to the top.  That's when it hit me!  I had used tiny bias tape (a friend referred to it as microbinding, which I liked!) to bind each of those 500 little trees and still had some left over.  It was the missing piece.  This quilt needed some of that microbinding in there somewhere and appliqued over the trees was where it was supposed to be!  I quilted the entire thing first and then hand-sewed on the bias tape.  I ADORE it.  
In regards to quilting, I did two different things.  In the sky, I used my walking foot to quilt wavy lines, to give it an airy effect.  I used three different thread colors there - mostly black, dark blue, and dark purple.  On the trees, I used a dark green and quilted it in a spiraled triangle, much like I did many of the Philbrook trees.  I think this may be one of my best quilting jobs to date.
I backed it in another (!) gifted fabric.  It's hard to tell in the photo, but the backing is dark blue with black trees, owls, and moons all over it.  A perfect match.  
I bound it in a lemony-yellow tape with the help of Vinny, our newest family member.  The yellow calls back to the glow of the moon, to me.  
I am incredibly proud of this quilt.  Its overall concept, the story behind it, its execution, and the final product.  I was so excited to hang it last weekend and I'm excited to try and enter it in a few shows this year.  It's a little intimidating to continue on with other quilts because I don't feel like anything will live up to this one!  Although I have to remind myself that if I could make this one, I can make others that are just as powerful in different ways.  
Onto the next one!  Until later, my friends!

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Quilt Show Featuring...Me??

Last weekend, I had the extreme honor of being one of two featured quilters at the Southwoods Quilt and Fiber Festival!  I was floored to be asked and incredibly humbled to be able to share my quilts among so many talented makers.  It was the best way to start off the new year!  I debuted two new quilts, one of which is my favorite quilt I've ever made!  I'll share it in a separate post soon.  I had eights quilts total, some new and some old.  
Southwoods is actually a plant nursery that opens its doors to us fiber nuts the first weekend of January to fill the space with our works.  The lighting is perfection and the space is ideal for hanging a show!  Oh, and there were two alpacas; one a mom and the other her one month old baby.  ItwasthecutestthingIveeverseen!
This year, they made the addition of vintage quilts, which ended up being some of my favorite works. Make sure and read the description of the quilt below. 
And some sweet little peacocks.  Loved this one too.
Owl & Drum was set up with Stitch Craft and had a community quilt project going on!  Rio has recently starting sewing on her own (!!!!!!!!!!), so she was absolutely thrilled to sit at the machine and sew for a while!  She does the foot pedal and everything!  Pretty impressed and proud of her.
A little while after Rio had left, my Mimi showed up!  Mimi is my sewing mentor and all-around favorite person, so sharing the latter half of the show with her made my weekend.  :)
And one of my final highlights was welcoming this stunning work of art coat into my world!  Made by my friend (and quilter that I admire GREATLY), Jane Swanson, I am thrilled to get to wear this on the coldest of days!  It'll be making its debut with me tonight so I can survive our arctic air.  
So, that's a wrap!  The past few months have really been unbelievable for me in terms of hitting some creative goals.  The next step is figuring out how to continue that momentum, or if momentum should be the focus.  For now, my head is buried deep in a few other quilts.  Stitch by stitch by stitch.

(I spent a little time the past few days updating and adding to my website if you'd like to take a gander!  While you're there, sign up for my newsletter!  I've already sent out one diddy with another in the works!)
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