Always Learning a Little More

Truth is when I interviewed for my current job at Shannon Fabrics, I’d avoided using the fabrics that they sell. Cuddle is a lovely feeling minky fabric that I only knew about from the complaining others had done in the past. I’d heard sewists and quilters gripe about its slippery nature, the preponderance to stretch and had stayed away except when I absolutely had to tackle it in a sewing class or private lesson.  Double gauze had seemed unwieldy and I had no idea what to do with it anyway.

Then I got a job at Shannon Fabrics and knew it was time to tackle this fear of the unknown. I take pride in my adventurous spirit; it was time to put my suppositions and assumptions to the side and give this stuff a try.

My first was a Little Pilot kit, a Wee One quilt that would be perfect as an oversized pillow, I thought. I got cocky, sewed the strips together –wham, bam, thank you, ma’am–and suddenly I realized I wasn’t even close to infallible. It turned out all cock-eyed and more like a parallelogram than a square. I threw it in the WIP pile with a heavy heart.  (Since then I’ve learned what I did wrong and I’ll share that soon!)

But since I’m not one to really give up, I picked up the next project: a Honey Bun Patty Cakes kit that combines the two fabrics in case the fear of one wasn’t enough. This time I decided to actually read all the instructions, too. This might be a first in the last decade…. I pretty universally refuse to read the primer, but this time I figured why the hell not. And I’m so glad I did.

I marked all the edges just like the pattern said to do and brought each of the four corners together and pinned, then stitched them. I chain-piece as much as possible, so my apologies that it looks more confusing that it is.

I trimmed the seam allowances then flipped the corner in, tucking the Embrace double gauze in and pinning just before I flipped.

I didn’t pin it exactly as directed, I’ll admit it. The pattern suggests you pin before doing the corners, but I didn’t want to deal with all those extra stabby points so I did it after finishing the corners. And then on the third side I realized that I could actually just glue-baste it and it would work perfectly well. 

Once I brought the yellow Rose Cuddle over the bee Embrace fabric, I simply pinned it well and zig-zagged the edges down. Easy as pie. The other parts of the kit include a smaller little “lovey” that’s made similarly and a swaddle.

I made all three and still had some of the Embrace double gauze left over, so I whipped myself up a little scarf. The trick, just as I’d done with the other projects, was the starch. It kept it in check and I was easily able to fold over the seam. I had trimmed it along the gridlines of the gauze, then folded that down to match the next gridline. Then I went back and folded that raw edge and pressed again. That gave it a nice even scant 1/2″ hem which I really liked and it was much easier than fidgeting with a tiny quarter-inch seam.

So there you have it. When i need to to, I will actually read the instructions (then change them) and learn something new. It was easier than expected (way easier, actually) and I was able to not only make some samples to show off when I visit stores, but also make a scarf for myself in the process.  A win-win!

Trying to Catch Up

You know how life is, right? Too often the daily bits get in the way of doing the things I really want to do…like update the blog, add new tutorials, finish that pattern, etc. Every New Year’s Eve I think this will be the year to get stuff done. And then suddenly it’s New Year’s Eve again and I feel like nothing was actually done.

It was the same for me this past year, but then I started looking through my pics and realized that I finished 18 quilt tops (none of which were for me) and made more than 200 projects overall, including lots and lots of store samples and custom work. I taught classes at Fabric Depot and Nic & Fig’s. I released two patterns. Despite not getting more clothes sewn for myself (my real goal for last year), I got plenty finished.

So far this year, I’ve already finished two more quilt tops and onto a third. I’ve started, but not yet finished, a coat and a dress for myself. I have two patterns at the pattern-testing stage and my teaching schedule is nicely filling up. I’m doing okay, I remind myself.

Sometimes I struggle to savor the little accomplishments, instead worrying that I’ll never actually get to the big ones.

There are big things to come this year and I’m looking forward to every one of them: my first retreat teaching gig, new patterns, my daughter will graduate high school and I have a road trip to plan for late summer.

For now, I need to get back to planning out the classes for my upcoming Fancy Forest Quilt Along at Fabric Depot. We’ve just added our third session and the first one hasn’t even started yet…this one is gonna be a doozy. I can hardly wait!

Small stitching 

Life has been a little stressful lately with some pretty serious health problems for my dad, relationships that aren’t smooth sailing and having more month than money. So what do I do about? I start stitching little stuff, like this mini Bartow quilt using Kona mini charms from Quilt Market. Because sometimes I need to concentrate on totally insignificant things, like 1/4″ strips and 1/8″ seam allowances.

Sewing Pincushions

I made pincushions this weekend. A bunch of them, in fact, with Vanessa Christenson and Malka Dubrawsky fabrics from Moda and just one with Carolyn Friedlander fabrics from Robert Kaufman Fabrics. They’re backed with (and have a covered button in) Kaufman’s Essex Linen.  Four of them already have homes, but I’ll list the rest on the shop in the next day or two. So freakin’ cute!

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Hello September!

Tryon Creek State Park
End of summer hike at Tryon Creek State Park near Lake Oswego, Oregon

Can you believe it’s September already?! This summer has just flown by but I’m super happy to report that the sun is still shining here in Portland. We had one cloudy day last week, but it’s back to blue skies, sunshine and supposedly  into the 90s  again this weekend!

I may be one of the few Portlanders who actually love the forecast of continued heat. Blame a year in California with sunshine every.single.day.

September means things start changing and the daughter goes back to school. We’ll get back to a routine of work/school days with homework and weekends for fun. I’ll be teaching again and I’m thrilled. Plus I have a few consulting gigs starting this month and the pincushions and pillows are coming right along.

 

Then there are all these projects on this month’s to-do list:

  • Kell’s quilt
  • Laura’s quilt
  • Natalie’s quilt
  • Luke‘s quilt
  • Negroni shirt for class prep
  • Rae skirt for class prep
  • Sail repair for Eric
  • Plaid cape for myself
  • Wool coat for my son

I’ve got Kell’s quilt started and Luke’s is cut out. So are both the garments for class. At least there is a bit of a jumpstart, but this could very well take all of September if I’m not careful with my time.  So I’m up early again today, did some yoga and now it’s down to the studio to get cracking on that list. Welcome to September.

Settling in and sewing

It’s been two weeks since we moved in and the house is still a crazy wreck, a mix of our things and what the owner left behind nearly a year ago. It’s a weird situation and one I wasn’t quite prepared for, tbh. The carpets won’t be cleaned until the first of August, every room has to cleared out and cleaned, and the garage needs to be re-arranged to fit all of her belongings that are still here.

There might be boxes are strewn throughout the house, half-open and rifled through, but the sewing area is nearly finished. There was no way anyone, let alone the carpet cleaner, was going to convince me to wait any longer to set it up. My soul needs it too much.

When days are rough and I feel the nervous energy zipping through me, I can sit down at my trusty old machine, run a through seams through it and suddenly feel much better.  Yesterday was one of those when I just told life to suck it ’cause I need to sew.

So I whipped up this little prototype of a pincushion (more will be coming to the Etsy shop as soon as I can start really really sewing again). Made with a denim bottom and pieced vintage feedsack prints on top, I think I like the way it turned out.

What do you think? Cute? Silly? Sellable? Or back to the drawing board? feedsack pincushion

 

White on white on white

Recently I had the opportunity to work on yet another quilt for Luke using the Winding Ways traditional quilt pattern. The 72″ x 96″ quilt is made with 10 different variants of white fabric, including sheers, twill, quilting cotton, silk/cotton blend, and more. It made it a challenge to sew, mixing fabric weights, but using spray starch on the lighter-weight fabrics made it much easier to combine them without too much swearing.

So it started with a big stack of cut pieces: 20140421-174128.jpg

And then I sewed and sewed:20140421-174205.jpg

Clipped and sewed: 20140421-174217.jpg

Pressed and stacked: 20140421-174229.jpg

And sewed more: 20140421-174253.jpg

Until it arrived at this: 20140421-174302.jpg

Which looks even better with a little sunshine behind it: 20140421-174314.jpg

 

You might even be able to see it at Luke’s show this Friday at the BluDot in Los Angeles. After that, I think the only place to see it will be in his room–this one he’s keeping. (And I’m a little jealous! I might just have to make another for myself, but with another color, perhaps?)

Cooling Down

I have lived most of my life in the Pacific Northwest where autumn rolls in dramatically with heavy rains and a sudden drop in temperatures. I’ve wrapped my annual body clock around that change, but here we are in October in SoCal and still wearing tank tops and getting sunburnt on the weekends. My body can’t seem to figure out that it actually is fall. But where’s the cold? the rain?

For example, this was last Sunday, October 6. High of 90°F at Disneyland. Seriously? This is fall?

Disneyland_Oct6

Of course, if you ask my fellow Californians, the ones who lived most of their lives here, they’ll tell you it is definitely fall. The temperatures are cooling down (into the 70s? oh brr!), the morning marine layer is more common, the leaves are beginning to drop. So I guess this is how fall rolls in down here, gently and with sunshine. I like it.

Quilt Market is just around the corner, though, along with both of my children’s birthdays, and into the holiday madness of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I needed something to convince me of these changing seasons, so I decided to make myself a scarf. Robert Kaufman Fabrics has these lovely new Mammoth Flannels which are soft and warm and, if you ask me, they are the perfect colors to get me in the mood for fall.

scarf_fabric

I was able to get my hands on a small swatch of Carolyn Friedlander‘s new Botanics collection, a fabric  that just was calling out to be tagged up with the flannel. The color is Curry and it makes me want Indian food every time I look at it.  But I digress, back to making scarves…. I simply cut a couple of width of fabric strips (about 8″ wide), sewed them together, flipped it and topstitched. Bam! A scarf!

scarf
scarf_on

Now I don’t really have an excuse to complain about the A/C being on high everywhere I go.  I don’t have to be cold in the grocery store anymore because I have a lovely new cotton flannel scarf.

It’s like having autumn wrapped snugly around my neck.

Threadbias pincushion swap

I’m a big fan of Threadbias, even though I don’t seem to get over there as often as I’d like. It’s a great site for sewists and quilters to share their projects and be inspired by the amazing work of others. One of the best things about it, honestly, are the people there. Everyone is so supportive of each other. It’s the perfect place to go when you need to have someone say ooh and aah over what you just made.

Recently I signed up for my first swap through them, a pincushion swap with Gena from Ontario, Canada. I made her this one using scraps of fabric from Art Gallery’s Alhambra II collection, with a little slice o’ selvage. I’m in love with the colors and their fabrics have a nice hand–soft, but not limp.

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I made a double layer for the bottom and stuffed it with lentils to give it a little weight. I like added oomph that the lentils give it. I’ve also used rice to weight pincushions and that works just as well.

And Gina sent me this… a little mouse pincushion (complete with braided tail and whiskers!) and some little bits and baubles. She included a pack of pins, a bodkin (something I always thought of buying, but never have) and some chocolates that I ate faster than I could snap a photo. Oops.

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It’s super cute and sitting on my desk at work, reminding me to enjoy the creative process and the thrill of handmade. Thanks so much, Gina!

xo!

Giving a Little Gift of Love {guest post}

I want to thank Teresa for the opportunity to sew for the orphans of Tam Ky, Vietnam. I’m Mary Striegel and when I’m not working as a chemist for the National Park Service, I’m teaching 4th, 5th and 6th grade girls to sew.  The girls are part of the Girls in Action mission group of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Alexandria, Louisiana.  The Girls in Action, or GA’s as they are called, are learning to open their hearts and make a difference in the lives of others through God’s love.

GA’s stitching up diapers with the help of Jessica Guidry.

I’ve been teaching girls to sew for almost 10 years. When I read about Teresa’s Sewing for Orphans project, I thought that this might be the perfect project for our girls.  The five young ladies are bright and enthusiastic about learning and this was a way for me to teach them about Vietnam and the needs of the children there.  They jumped at the chance to make diapers for the babies.

Emily Mackey concentrates on the sew width.
This is Mary Katherine Hickman first time sewing and she loves it!

The GA’s weren’t alone in their desire to help.  This summer I had the chance to teach some women of church to sew.  When they learned about the project they wanted to do their share.  The Sewing for Orphan’s project was infectious…I placed a call for seamstresses and soon had a group of nine members ranging in age from 7 to 70 ready to sew.

Linda McKee was handy with boys shorts (and the seam ripper!).

We met on Saturday morning and shared laughter and joy while making pillowcase and popover dresses.  Some of the sewists had never used a serger, but they whipped out more diapers. Others fashioned boys shorts out of men’s tee shirts.  By the end of our sewing session, we had completed 16 dresses, 9 pairs of shorts and 22 diapers!!!

Jason Gray finishes a pillowcase dress.

More importantly we gave a bit of love from our hearts to the children of the Tam Ky Orphanages.  Thank you, Teresa for the chance to show we care.

And really, I cannot thank you and your crew enough, Mary. It has been so amazing to me to have so many people join me in my efforts to do something special for the orphans in Tam Ky. Thank you, again!