Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Jewel Star Quilt

Being a person who sews with older fabrics and reuses items, I seem to inherit a lot of fabric stashes. Sometimes they are from the person who no longer wants the fabric or other times, they are from a family member who has inherited the stash themselves.  Last year, I was given a fantastic stash of fabrics and doodads from a friend.  I've used SO much of that stash already in almost every quilt I've made since then.  Most of the fabrics came from her aunt, but there were a few boxes with items that were passed along to the aunt once upon a time.  One such box contained one of my favorite projects to date.  The Jewel Star Quilt.
A particulary beat up shoe box contained a stack of these hand-sewn stars.  I asked the internet if they knew what the name of this star was, and internet sleuths came back with the jewel star.  There was also a smaller stack of small, white diamonds cut up.  I played with layouts, googled the crap out of sewing y-seams, and tried to find any tips out there about sewing up these specific stars.  I decided that since the stars had been originally hand-sewn, the rest of the quilt needed to be hand-sewn.  No big deal, right?  Except I'd never hand-sewn seams before and I'd certainly never hand-quilted anything.  I'm always up for that challenge though.  
I landed on a layout of grouping trios of stars, simply because three was the common number that all of the fabrics had.  I often wonder what the original maker of this quilt had planned.  How big?  What layout?  To whom would it have been given?  Why did you stop working on it?  How long did you work on it?  Were the fabrics significant to you somehow?
It took me about six months to connect all of the pieces together.  My seams were wonky and my points weren't pointy, but I didn't care.  I definitely improved the more seams I stitched.  Learn as you go, ya know.  Once the top felt done, I went back and forth about cutting off the edges of some stars and having straight edges or keeping the stars in tact and having points everywhere or adding random stars to the edges.  I liked the idea of the trio-grouped, pointy-ness, but was pretty scared of concave angle binding!  I had a while to learn about that though.
I chose a really soft, sweet butterfly vintage bed sheet for the backing and I love it so much.  I basted it a month before I actually started quilting on it.  I just kept the whole thing in a quilting hoop in the back of my car, so I'd have some emergency sewing on hand should the situation arise.  I quilted most of it over three months during my downtime at work.  It was SO much fun.  The movements of stitching would show up in my dreams and I couldn't wait until the next time I could work on it.  That quilting time also meant that I was caught up on everything else, so it was a bit of a reward for that as well.  
Then one day, I was done quilting it.  
I was SO nervous trimming it, worried I'd cut off a vital knot of hand stitching, or cut too far into a seam.  Running my hand across the top of it suddenly became one of my favorite things to do.  I was really amazed that I'd gotten the quilt to that point with just my hands (and the hands of the original maker, of course).
Finally came the binding.  Oh man, talk about nervous.  I knew those crazy angles could be done because I had seen table runners and such with similar angles.  I wasn't even sure what to google, but searching for 'binding concave angles' wielded a few tutorials, thankfully.  Well, I had been worrying for nothing.  Yes, it took a loooooong time to sewing on the first round, but once I got in the groove, it was no big deal.  This was the ONLY part that a machine was used on this quilt.  Then, I hand stitched the backside of the binding on the quilt.  DONE.  
But wait, it needed to be washed.  I had no idea if any of this fabric had ever been washed before.  My best guess is that the stars were made in the 60s?  Maybe earlier?  Some of the fabrics had definitely seen better days, and I was definitely worried about modern day washing for them.  I was also SUPER worried about all of that hand stitching.  You'd think I'd have more faith in the stitching by hands!  
Out of the wash it came, and it looked fine.  Into the dryer.  Nail biting.  Dryer singing.  Quilt done.  Done, done.  It was perfect.  I was elated.  

It spent a few days on the back of the couch, but has since moved onto my side of the bed.  I'm just proud of it, in awe of it, and in love with its history and story, known and unknown.  One year and several decades worth of work, to bring me a little more warmth at night.  Thank you little jewel stars.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Selfies, Sharks, School, and Summer

Here I am, finding myself with a few extra minutes in my day, so I thought I'd share a few updates with ya.  How's that sound?
Accidental selfie taken while trying to capture a lizard.
What does Bob Ross say?  Happy accidents?
Let's start with school. In my world, semesters are only twelve weeks long, so my classes start late and end early.  I taught a heavier load this past spring, and it was wonderful!  We ended a little over a month ago, but Rio had a month of school left to go.  This allowed me a month of catching up on life, sewing, and breathing.  I took in more yoga classes, hand stitched my heart out, and did some preparations for this crazy month of June I've found myself in.  
The last day of school!  She was officially the tallest kid in her class!
I started teaching a night class last night for the summer, and I feel like it's going to be a good one!  It's a TOEFL Prep class, meaning it is a class all about how to pass a very difficult test.  It's grammar heavy and I love it.  The students may not though.  ;)  

I've heard about the craziness of summer camps and I'm feeling it this year.  Not only will I be teaching three art camps at Philbrook starting next week (!!), but Rio will be hopping all over town this summer at her own camps!  It's exciting for all of us.  
ZB inspecting some of my supplies for Art Camp!  Claw-ity control?  
A while back, the kid's school hosted Book Character Day.  It seemed that most of the students and their parents were busy preparing costumes from children's fiction books, but Miss. Rio wanted to be a Great White Shark from one of her 'nature books.'  Who am I to say no to a costume like that?!  Crunched for time, I did some googling of other shark costumes that people had created and took mental notes of what I liked from all of them.  Most involved hacking into a hoodie jacket, but I really don't know where to find grey hoodies in a pinch!  So, this is what I came up with.  I was pretty proud of it!  And amazingly, it only took two hours to come together!  
One exciting afternoon, we had a bit of a scare at our house.  Our alarm indicated that someone had broken in through breaking some glass.  Long story short, we rushed home to find out that Vinny, our puppy (did I tell you all we got a puppy last December?  He's certifiably crazy.) had squeezed out of his kennel and run amok, having the time of his life.  We were thankful no one had actually broken in and that, while it looks otherwise, there was no damage.  Check out the shredded book we found in the middle of the floor.
At least he's a good running buddy, even if he's not into the selfies.  Speaking of, I'm a year and a half into consistently running!  I'm still slow, but I'm faster than I used to be!  And suddenly one day, I was able to run twice the distance I'd been working on before!  Feels so good.
Last weekend was the Green Country Quilt Show.  I had submitted my End of the Forest Quilt and, while I didn't place, I did get a sponsor's choice ribbon!  I was in competition with the pros, so I was very happy with my results.  It was my first go at a judged show!  I DID win something else though - a 30 yard role of batting!  OMG!  Pretty jazzed about that business!
In other summer news, we've all already gotten our first tint of the sun.  Some of our good friends have a lovely pool that they love to fill with friends.  It's heavenly and refreshing.  As a child, I spent my entire summer in our backyard pool and I miss it immensely.  Thankful for our group of friends and their generosity.
And finally, to end this incoherent post, we'll land on the sewing table.  I've finished up three quilts that I've yet to share with you (soon, my dears!) and am currently deep into making a custom dress for my number one client - Rio.  Think rainbows and lace and cat pockets.  It's something else.
Until later!

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!
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