From Idea to Quilt

I’ve been wanting to get back into the teaching game since I returned to Portland, but first I had to find a place to live and a job. Now that both those needs are satisfied, I can start teaching again, at last!

I’ve long-loved curve piecing and while the Winding Ways block is clearly my favorite, I knew I wanted to start with a simpler design to teach. Something that was slightly out of reach for some people, but didn’t seem impossible.punchdrunkquilt_draft

Hence, the quarter-circle (aka Drunkard’s Path) block.

I am just learning Illustrator and not very good at it yet, but I did manage to make this little mock-up for the quilt I wanted to make.  I’d already picked out the fabrics (a bunch of polka dots from Michael Miller Fabrics).

Then I made it up with the EZ Quilting Drunkard’s Path templates (but Jen of Betty Crocker Ass offers them in a few other sizes if you want to give them a try).  It turned out pretty well, I thought.
20150321-074227-27747729.jpg

Until Charlene quilted it up and then I loved it. 🙂

punchdrunkquilt

It’s been kinda fun seeing it hanging up in the store the last couple weeks and I’m trying to get over the couple of misalignments that I left in there. You know… trying to accept my faults, even in quilting.  Who knew it could be so hard?!

 

 

So much writing to do, so little time

Most of you probably know that I spent some time with my kids in Vietnam a few years ago, but if you don’t, you can see the brief recap in this little video (I made for a continuing education course):

I knew I wanted to write about it even before we left the country because what we were doing was different from most families, let alone single-parent families. I blogged it all and took copious notes then started writing the book in 2008.

I went for it with gusto, writing at night, forming a critique group. I really was going to write a book, I thought. Then life got a bit derailed and I  questioned my ability to write, my parenting choices, the audacity (not to mention hubris) to pen a memoir. I gave up completely.

But when I returned to Portland last summer, the writing group I’d started back when I first began writing the book was still plugging along and still encouraging me to get back in the saddle and finish this damn book. Several months later, I gave in and started editing the 60k+ words I’d managed to get onto paper.

I’d originally written it all in present tense and was absolutely sure that’s what I wanted. Then one reader after another mentioned that the tense bothered them, took them out of the story. Instead of making all the changes that would be required to put it in past tense, I simply quit working on it.

Now I’m back at it, spending weeknights at a local pub, making the edits my critique group encourages. Wondering how seven years have passed since I first began.

IMG_2116

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend I got the chance to really sink into it at a family friend’s cabin at the beach.  As of this morning, I have 28,662 words written, edited and ready for the To-Print file.  This makes me ridiculously happy. Happy enough to head down to the water, even amid the wind and rain, to catch a little break.

It’s so nice to be excited about the book once more and I’m ever grateful to Michele, Steve, Natalie, Jaymee and Prado for supporting this project since the beginning. XO.

IMG_2205

03/03 is a difficult day

It was 25 years ago today.

weddingI married my high school crush way back in 1990. We had known each other for five years, not-so-secretly crushing on each other until a fateful day in our friend Chris’ bedroom when we decided we might as well actually date each other.  Just shy of a year later, we got married. We were only 19, but sure that we had  married for time and all eternity. Absolutely sure.
[To keep this sewing related: my mother sewed my wedding dress using three different patterns because I was, uh, finicky.]

Ten years later, we divorced. He went his way. The kids and I went ours.

sf_prado_loveThen ten more years, 22 years to the day after my wedding, I realized I was truly, madly, deeply in love with my boyfriend. We’d dated off and on, then took a weekend trip to San Francisco and I knew… this was the guy I actually wanted to spend forever with.

Less than a year later, he broke up with me, unable to compromise on parenting differences and clashing personalities.

Now,  two years later,  I’m (still? once more?) single and he’s in love with someone else.

It’s a weird day for me, this third of March. I remember feeling so much love for both these men. The memory of the recent love so close it’s tangible. My heart bursts with gratitude for feeling so much love and passion for another person, for feeling loved in return. And simultaneously it is crushed by loss.

Forgive me while I cry a little today, then smile a little. Forgive me when I get lost in my memories and wishes and broken dreams. I’ll have another 364 to push those thoughts away, but today I let all the feelings in.

 

Introducing: the Circling Geese Squished Square Pincushion Pattern

With a name like that I might just call it the CGSSPP from now on.

Circling Geese Pincushion Pattern

It’s actually the first of a series of patterns that will be coming out with paper-pieced (also called foundation-pieced) tops and the funky construction of two squares sewn together to create a 3-D form.

Last fall I made the first of these, taking the idea from a pillow I’d seen that had flying geese in a circle. I’m the kind of crafter who thinks: I can do that. And this time I really did!

IMG_1681

It was a good lesson in working with Adobe Illustrator (something I’ve been struggling to do for years now), tweaking the size of the triangles, then the actual squares until I got something I was really happy with.

I’m super stoked to finally get to offer the pattern and hope to do a little teaching with it to show just how simple paper-piecing can be. Seriously, it’s perfect for stuff like this that needs precision. And once you’ve got it figured out, it takes the stress out of getting perfect seam allowances. I don’t know about you, but that’s a stressor I can definitely do without.

IMG_1105

I took a ton of pictures and my co-worker helped put together a classy looking little pattern. Natalie of Beyond the Reef Patterns is selling the pattern at QuiltCon for me and hopefully I will get the paper pattern into more shops soon. But for now it’s available as a download from Craftsy.

Thanks so much for everyone who’s bought one so far and I can’t wait to see your variation!

 

I -heart- this city

Coming back to Portland last July was one of the easier decisions I have had to make. I had everything worked out so well. Or at least I thought I did.

It wasn’t the easiest return after all with the house, job, boyfriend, home-life, etc. all disappearing beneath me as I landed back in Portland.

Six months later, life is settling into place and I’m loving my job at Fabric Depot. I work with some of the nicest, most understanding people I’ve had the pleasure of spending eight hours a day with. My daughter and I are getting settled (ever so slowly) in our new apartment. My son is busy traveling the globe and I’m getting ready to kick off all sorts of fun plans for 2015-16.

I have to thank Portland for my happiness these days. We’re stuck in the middle of winter and yet there are days like today when I get the opportunity to join my  good friend in the sky and see this city I love so much from a whole other perspective.

Portland

I’m sort of awed when I see it like this, a city with so many memories, hopes, and friends. I’m so very, very happy to be home.

Coming up for air

Oh my. It’s been a whirlwind and a half these last few months and I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water. So much has happened over the last few months (and so much is still coming down the pike) that it’s kind of crazy when I think about it.

IMG_0457
Me and the wonderful Ebony Love @ Market

I got hired at the sewists’ Mecca–Fabric Depot–and three days later went to Market in Houston where I was able to meet up with my ex-sister-in-law and her family after three years apart. I saw some of my favorite people in the industry. I also fell off the sidewalk and twisted my ankle so badly that three months later, it’s still swollen. Best of times, worst of times.

I found out we can’t stay in the house we’d plan to reside in for the next two years as they’ve decided to sell it. I totally understand the reasoning, but will fully admit that it caused quite the breakdown when I first was told. I had no real income source and was looking at having my car repossessed on top of losing the one place we had to call home. There was a hell of a lot of crying there for a bit. But we’ve finally found a place and are moving (again) this next weekend to a tiny little apartment in SE Portland.

I designed and made a quilt with my friend Kell’s wooden block pattern and you can find it in the next issue of Generation Q magazine. I also made a quilt for my best friend, sewed my first Mariner’s Compass block and got around to making up the Noodlehead 241 Tote pattern that I bought way too long ago.

IMG_1189
Patterns coming soon

I’m working on patterns to sell, starting with pincushions and moving to clothes. Plus I bit the bullet and finally submitted a book proposal. We’ll see what becomes of it, but at this point I’m just proud of getting the idea out of my head (and secretly hoping so hard it works out!).

2015 is right around the corner and I’m looking forward to being settled with a good job, living in a neighborhood I love (hello, Hawthorne!) and knuckling down to do more pattern-making, teaching and writing. This past year was a doozy, so I’m extra hopeful that this next one is going to be much, much better.

It will be, right?

Why and How-to: French Seams

I’ll be honest with you… french seams are my favorite seam finish ever. There are several ways to deal with inside seams, including just leaving them be, but for me, a French seam is a nice, tidy and classic finish for the inside of nearly any garment with exposed seams.

The one tricky thing about doing French seam is that you start with your pieces in what seems to be the wrong position–wrong sides together. With the right sides exposed, align the edges and stitch a heavy 1/4″ seam.

IMG_8767

Press with a steam iron to set the seam and then trim the entire seam allowance down to 1/8″.

Trimming it keeps any threads from poking out of your seam and binds the edges to keep them from fraying.

IMG_8768

 

 

 

Press the seam open, then press again, this time with right sides together as you’d normally expect to do.

Pin to keep the seam perfectly aligned align the edge.

IMG_8769

On this example, it’s butting up to the zipper area and you’ll notice that I left that open.

Stitch at 1/4″, backstitching at the start and end of the seam. Press well, then open seam and press from the right side, pushing the seam allowance toward to the back of the garment.

IMG_8771

For bulky fabrics like this denim, you can use a brayer to break down the fibers slightly and give it a flatter finish.

 

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.

Making lemonade

If you’ve been reading this blog for long at all, you know that while I loved working for Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Los Angeles, the actual living down there sort of sucked. I’ve had a few people ask me if the decision to move back had anything to do with the company and, in fact, the opposite was true. If anything could have kept me there, it was them. Absolutely marvelous company with the nicest managers one could imagine working for. But the air was killing me and the cost of living required me to work another part-time editor job and take on extra sewing work with a variety of designers and magazines.

There’s only so much one can take of being sick and feeling miserable  and overworked all the time, so when the chance came and our lease was up, I decided it was time to bail on Los Angeles. I’d given it my best shot, but it just wasn’t working. I knew I could take the editor work and sewing north with me to Portland and that would be enough for me to squeak by while I found other commissioned work, submitted quilt designs to magazines and worked on some dreams I’ve had percolating for a while. I would be sharing rent and utility costs with my son/housemate to keep costs down and get to spend some weekends camping with my best friend.  I had it all planned out.

Then reality happened.IMG_9015

The publisher at the magazine I’d been working for went incommunicado and I’ve had nothing but a few commissioned pieces for income. My son found a studio apartment and moved out two weeks after we moved in. My bestie fell in love with someone else while I was gone. Best laid plans went belly up within a matter of weeks.

I’d wanted it to be a fresh start and hit the ground running once we were settled back in Portland, but it seems like the dust is still settling two months later. I’m still putting feelers out for part-time work with local shops, designers and students. I’m still cleaning and organizing and trying to make the house feel more like a home.

It’s slow going, this process of change and fluctuation. The unexpected chaos that happens when other people change their minds. But I’m plodding along, one day at time. A new social media consultant job here. A custom-made quilt there. Another quilt design and some editing work. It’s piecemeal, but at least it is something.

School starts for my daughter on Tuesday, the start of her junior year of high school.  We’re both a bit nervous, but I want to believe we are on a better path here. New and exciting, anxiety-provoking and scary.  Change isn’t easy and we both know it, but we’re hoping for the best and doing what we can to make some lemonade out of all this.

 

Oh, how exciting!

RST Right Sides Together is featuring me today on their blog and I’m stoked. Such an honor to be asked and I’m awed by how super nice they were. If you followed their link to here, thank you.  Leave a comment below and I’ll pick a random winner to receive one of my new set of pincushions (coming to the shop this week!).