Saturday, November 30, 2013

happy holiday weekend, y'all

whether you had a lovely, long holiday weekend like we did here stateside or just a regular one, i hope yours included a good meal, some sewing, and enjoyment of a sort. personally, my weekend was spent with family, specifically highlighted by my 3 newest nephews, all under 6 months.

dylan, who is choosy about company, recognized a mother of many and let me lug him around a lot while his mother finished her hostess prepping for thanksgiving dinner. 3 different people tried to have a share with him, but it was either mamma or aunty hydee for him. everyone else got a squeal and crying.

on friday, one of my seesters hosted a brunch-til-bedtime family day at her house. we cooked, ate, played games, ate, talked, ate, gamed, ate. i took some time out for an almost-nap snuggling with baby trace. oh, yes, i could do this again. one more time.

i did my share of cooking, eating, and talking but no actual game playing because my hands were kept busy finishing the binding of jed's quilt. i literally finished burying the final knot just before they stepped out the door to go home. whew! it feels good to have that completed and delivered.

seeing as it was nearly 10pm and all good lighting was gone, i didn't get an official "finish" photo, but here is a different shot i took of jed and the quilt last month when i was working on the binding.

all these cute baby boys everywhere have my mr completely bonkers for another boy. at our age, we'll be lucky to get pregnant again period. we'll take what we can get or even just be satisfied with and grateful for the seven wonders we already have. they are at the top of my gratitude list this holiday and always. right there with them are God and my husband, who both had a hand in giving them to me. i am blessed and grateful indeed.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

books and quilts are us

reading time with the first grader on the couch, curled up under lolly lolly
this house has long been over run by books. now the quilts are starting to pile up, too. i think this is a good combination: books and quilts. what could be cozier?

when my quilting began 3 years ago (this month, actually!), i could not see down the line to a day when i would have so many quilts under my sewing belt. it just seemed impossible that i would find the time to make much of anything. now my kids ask, "where are you going to put all these quilts you are making, mom?" never fear, we haven't hit the saturation point yet.

reading and quilts collide at several points through out our day and our home.

sometimes we sit up to read during homeschool reading time with the younger girls and other times we lay down on the couch. d3 wanted to revisit BOB books, our go-to starter readers, a few days ago. since it was going to be easy, review type reading, we snuggled in on the couch. with the weather cooling off, the addition of a quilt was perfect. lolly lolly was her choice, of course.

 while she read, i may have also been studying the quilt in front of me. it's such a fascinating piece of work (not mine, you know - rachel hauser's). my fabric matching and purchasing has already been affected by it. i sure wish I knew what that awesome floral on the goldenrod background is.

most of the quilts i have in progress or in mind will either round out the collection of quilts that live in the family room, available for anyone to use in there, or will go on the play balcony for use during dramatic play. in addition to this, i've begun placing quilts in a few other strategic locations.

i recently turned this small corner of the landing at the top of our stairs into a junior readers corner. the little bookstand is nothing too special to look at, but it does the job of displaying books. perhaps i could paint it a pretty color. i was inspired to make this space by mariah bruehl's book playful learning. i won a spot in one of her ecourses about learning spaces 3 years ago and have been slowly implementing the ideas around the house. part of her philosophy is to make an attractive, inviting display to draw young learners in. (fyi - her website, playful learning, is a great parenting resource.)

this little corner could be a lot more attractive, but it's a good start and far better looking than the messy shelf of piled minutia i had here before. eventually i want to add some clip boards to the wall to hold the kids' art above the shelving and maybe make a comfy poof cushion for the reader to curl up on. for now, as an invitation to sit down and read, i'm using the little rocker d1 got for her first Christmas. at nearly 15 years old, it's starting to become a family heirloom. i draped out on a limb over the rocker for some added comfort and color in the corner. for the record, the invitation is working. even some bigger kids who can still fit their slender hips in that chair are perusing the selections or get suckered in to reading by their younger sisters.

each week, i change out most of the books on the shelf. this has been a great way to get them to revisit a few books several times during the week instead of just quickly browsing (and leaving huge messes behind) from the big shelves that hold literally thousands of children's books. with a few specially curated items, they engage more often and longer with individual titles. there is even a little shelf on the bottom for a collection of board books for the baby.

on the shelf this week:

stuck by oliver jeffers (hilarious)
the mitten by jan brett (classic/winter)
this is not my hat by jon klassen (again, hilarious!)
lilly's purple plastic purse by kevin henkes (classic/dealing with childhood issues)
each peach pear plum by janet and allan ahlberg (classic/rhyming)
oliver finds his way by phyllis root (childhood issue - getting lost)
the king who rained by fred gwynne (a child's literal look at common sayings)
why mosquitoes buzz in people's ears by verna aardema (classic fable)
the very hungry caterpillar by eric carle (classic)
olivia by ian falconer (classic/hilarious)
madeline by ludwig bemelmans (classic/rhymes)
the little house by viginia lee burton (classic)

maybe some readers would like to see what's on the shelf each week? i might could do that periodically.

another ritual around here that ebbs and flows in frequency is called "quilt time." my older children go to a math tutoring service for their math education in the afternoons. the 3 little girls and i have one hour to read together during this time. i tell them to grab their mama-mades and meet me in the family room for a read-aloud. it's the next best thing to an actual nap, which the older 2 don't do any more.

now that it's colder, they are piling on the quilts: one to lay on and another one or two to snuggle in.

our current read aloud picks: the flint heart by kathryn and john paterson, and the squirrel's birthday and other stories by toon tellegen.

so what's your favorite read under a quilt or spot in your home where reading and quilts collide?

Friday, November 22, 2013

wet weekend ready

 yesterday was just plain weird around here. i was sick, but i wasn't. honest to goodness, as long as i was sewing i didn't feel queasy and didn't notice my headache. the mr though i might have the flu, though, so ordered me not to touch anyone. that totally worked in my quilting progress favor while making kid control difficult. there were lots of air hugs and kisses thrown back and forth, but the little toads just ignored my verbal instructions when they felt like it.

my oldest daughter has been given notice that if her dog isn't properly potty (yard) trained to poo in the right spot by the end of the year, she (the dog) is leaving. the training involves the dog being tied to her poop spot until she goes. but we have the stubbornest dog on the planet, who wouldn't clear her bowels until around dinner time. hence we had a daughter stuck by her dog and a dog barking incessantly all day long, and well into the night. poor neighbors.

the toddler decided that now she is two, she's no longer staying in her crib. she climbed right out several times for hours after bedtime. the evening ended with her being put in a portacrib she can't escape, in the middle of the family room. decisions for adjustment need to be made now.

and it rained all evening and night.

with all this upheaval going on, i couldn't get to sleep. so about 12:45, i gave up and started messing with fabric and the quilting blogosphere for a few hours. i feel completely turned upside down and disoriented.

this morning has dawned gloriously cloudy and wet. the younger half of the family is snail hunting in the impromptu ponds created by the rain.

there are snails and light-catching water droplets everywhere. the liquid gems look especially lovely in the ripening citrus, making the fruit look fresh and juicy. only a few more weeks and it will be ready!

as for the inside of the house, i may not have been touching my children yesterday, but i did lay a hand on my sewing area. just look how clean i got it! that end of the table hasn't been clear since before Halloween. i've got my cutting mat hiding under the table cloth. there is still a bit of flotsam to put away, but it's looking respectable in comparison to the recent norm.

i made sure not to include penny patch in the photo too much becaue i'm sure everyone is as sick of looking at that as i am. yes, sad to say, but like all torrid love affairs, my obsession with this quilt is quickly turning to . . . ick. or maybe impatience. how else do i say it? having conquered the layout of the quilt, i'm heartily sick of sewing it together. about 2/5ths of the top are done. i just want to move on and see something besides the penny patch. although i suspect learning to dogwood quilt it will help revive the joy before we settle into a cozy but less passionate relationship.

my goal for this weekend is to get twirly back under the fmq foot and finished off.
the penny patch fully pieced, too.
i also want to dive into this box, my late-night puzzle when i couldn't sleep.

see, i had a simple pattern sketched out so i could quickly put together a quilt for my second son. it was made from a jellyroll and a few large cuts of yardage. he's not really that into quilts and would like anything i threw at him, so fast and simple (just to get it done and in his hands) was my plan.

however, when i looked at it last night and broke open the jellyroll, i realized i have changed as a quilter in the months since i designed this and bought the fabric. just this month i decided i don't prefer working with a single fabric line as much as i like mixing it up. and simple was good, but i wanted to take it up a notch creatively with this quilt. i didn't want the quilt coming out looking like one large pieced line of fabric that i threw together just so i could make my son a quilt. this is going to be his mamma made and i want it to be a bit more special now. i'm not going to let the Christmas deadline cheat him or me.

i toyed with a few ideas and fell asleep thinking maybe i could make a boxy, male-ish version of lolly lolly. that would be cool. this morning i pulled a few more fabrics to mix in with the jellyroll for some added depth. but i'm kind of nixing the lolly lolly boy idea. i think it's back to my original design with some modifications and a trip to the store for some solids to use as a field for the strips. only time will tell! it's back to the experimentation/infatuation stage.

with this wet, cozy weekend before me, i think i'll get some of this knocked out!


my making Christmas update:

d1 - "plus a diamond" needs handbinding

s1 - wonky stacked coins not started

d2 - "taite" needs handbinding

s2 - "bandwidth" not started

d3 - "twirly" is in process of quilting

d4 - flowered pillow sham not started

d5 - "paris daydreams" flimsy

penny patch qallaid out and piecing top 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

penny patch evolution

 the obsession with penny patch continues. really, such a simple quilt, but i've turned it into an epic quilt journey. all my blocks are laid out now. i've been much happier with it since the changes i made to my original fabric pull.

terri ann said to me in a comment, "it's funny how obsessed we can become with creating perfect balance on even a scrappy style quilt huh?" too true. this one keeps dragging me over and sucking me in. having it on the design wall where i see it all the time is a completely different experience. it's actually rather silly how much enjoyment i get out of messing with these blocks, rearranging the squares.

however, this weekend there was still something bothering me. a few somethings.

1. i have never been happy with my choice of the pink as the "pop color". it just didn't pop. but it was the only other color besides the oranges and blues from the pull, so i was using it.

2. i wanted some more color fabrics that were less color dense, included more low-volume in them, as a way to add more low-volume to the over all look.

3. i didn't have enough different blue prints, especially once i decided to remove the green prints as my filler blues.

4. that really bright tangerine was sorta buggin' me, too.

see, i like all these fabrics. but the original pull only incorporated 2 different lines and one of the prints, that sprig, was in the quilt in 6 different colors. i was craving more variety. but i did not want to spend any more money on more fabric. a lady with a bookcase full of fabric, and several boxes to boot, should surely be able to make-do from her stash.

 so i inserted a butterfly print from sandi henderson's meadowsweet collection. every quilt needs a bit of meadowsweet, right? it stayed on the board all week and i thought i liked it. but then i stopped liking the linear nature of the butterflies. they were fluttering in my face too much. it just didn't flow with the feel of the quilt.

by the way, because of the size of my design wall, the quilt is laid out on its side, hence the odd orientation of the blocks in the photos. just in case you noticed and were wondering.

well, i visited my stash again and again. orange is sort of a new color for me and apparently i don't have much low volume, either. darn it!

by saturday, i just couldn't stand it any more. i was going to have to either be unsatisfied with the quilt i had already invested so much time into or GO SHOP. shopping definitely won out.
i brought home a 1/4 yard of everything in the store that i thought might even come close to working. i looked for a different pop color that i could somehow still tie into what i already had and prints in my current color that included a lot of neutral/low volume as well. to really complicate matters, this quilt has a very specific 60's/70's feel to it that i'm trying to maintain.

strike two

strike three
i replaced the butterfly print with a sweet orange floral from happy go lucky by bonnie and camille for moda. it was much better . . . and then it wasn't.

honestly, the more i started pulling out prints and trying to add in the new ones, the more i felt like i was just creating fabric vomit. was i making a huge mistake? had i wasted enough time and effort already? (the fabric is not wasted - it'll get used somewhere, sometime.) self-doubt was trampling me. but as i continued to plow through, switching and culling, it started to feel right.

a closer look at the notebook low-volume print. see the light blue lines that make this look like aged notebook paper? love it.

i could have just sewn everything together the way it was and decided not to care. sometimes you have to cut your losses and make do. i really believe that. but i also believe in not settling. deciding when to do which is hard. however, this quilt has been a learning experiment for me all along, so i made the choice to keep learning. i kept thinking about a recent post where rachel hauser said "don't settle." it seemed right.

and it's paying off. i'm so much happier with the results now even though i suspect that it really doesn't look all that different to anyone else.

some new low-volumes added and a few more blues, including darker ones

i was completely surprised by what ended up working for me. the dark horse, long shot choices were the ones i liked best. goodness, i even pulled that happy go lucky floral that replaced the butterfly that replaced the tangerine sprig, and put the tangerine sprig back in in a few select places.

finally, a home run - several of the new add-ins are seen here
but it's okay. it's all okay. i'm feeling my way through what i like and what works for me. it's stretching and growing going on over here. it's not even so much about the final quilt any more as it is about what i'm experiencing. that's important to me this time around. it won't always be my priority with a quilt, but this time it is.

***surprise, surprise - since i wrote and scheduled this post, laura has said this even better than i have over at little and lots. not only is she a great quilter, she's a writer, too; always speaking to the heart and getting inside the head of quilting. how does she do it? "So, to me, these quilts have ended up being about me as a creator. About pushing aside those evil voices that nag at you when you’re working–voices that sometimes make you put down your work in discouragement." ditto what she said.

all in place now - sewing together of blocks has commenced
i haven't recreated vintage tangerine in exactness here. not by a long shot. i have a more aged tone going on and my colors are stronger, there is less lightness to it. but i do have something i like a whole lot. the fact that this looks very fall-ish is an added bonus since I was just thinking some of the quilts in my family room look so very summer they should probably be put away for a few months.

the last question is what to do with all the cut rejects, because surely i have nearly enough for another quilt by now. i'm probably going to throw them together into a second (third?) penny patch called "leftover pennies" and give it away to someone special i have in mind. i like that idea. i think God can take the messes we make in our lives and make something beautiful or useful out of them. why can't i do that with quilt leftovers, hmm? it won't even make a bit of difference to me how that 2nd one turns out because i already know it's going to be a big, beautiful scrappy pile of culled fabrics. and that's good, too.

the stack for penny patch 1.2

linking in:
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced My Quilt Infatuation

Monday, November 18, 2013

welcome home lolly lolly

i debated about whether to post this or not, but obviously decided "yes." so here goes . . .

 a certain special fabric package arrived at our house last week. a package i was super excited about. only this package didn't contain cut fabric, it was an already completed quilt. in case anyone wondered where lolly lolly went after it left rachel's header banner at stitched in color last week, now you know.

 i have been in love with this quilt ever since i first saw it on rachel's blog. this was rather odd for me because of the color choice. i don't do magenta or anything purple-y. not at all. but apparently i do. the color combo of the cerise and melon (what rachel calls that magenta & orange-y pink) is totally surprising. and enchanting. i keep looking at it thinking, "I can't believe this works . . . but it does! wow!"

other things that attracted me to this quilt: the story of the emotional roller coaster rachel went through in making it, the original pattern from one of my favorite books ("gumdrops" in sunday morning quilts), the way rachel adapted that pattern, all those adorable fabric scraps, the dense line quilting, the fact that rachel made it. um, basically everything. every time i visited her blog, it made me smile to see it on her header banner. and with penny patch under way around here and my obsession with figuring out vintage tangerine, i was seeing that lolly lolly a lot.

then last week i stopped in at stitched in color to link up with the penny patch quilt along link party. low and behold, there on her sidebar was lolly lolly for actual sale in her etsy shop. that blew my mind! i thought, "i didn't know she was selling this. how did i miss that? and i can NOT believe it's still up for grabs!" now, i'm a quilter. and i'd already planned on making a quilt like this eventually, probably in colors that i considered more me. but i went a little crazy. the idea of having the exact quilt, made by rachel herself, in my own hands was irresistible. so there went a chunk of my fabric budget which had been rebuilding as i tried to fabric diet.

apparently Rachel had just listed it the night before and was pleased to have it snatched up so quickly. happiness on both sides of the deal. she asked what my plans for it were. that had me a bit stumped because of it's size. it's actually only a large baby quilt - 39" x 42". larger, it would have been perfect as a gift to d4 for Christmas instead of the pillow sham i was planning. (cheating, yes. but, hey, someones mother made it.) i was definitely not giving it away, so where to put it?

 i ordered this quilt on tuesday and it was in my hands before the week was out. fast! rachel also wrapped it nicely in some pink tissue and tied it with selvage from some shelbourne falls corduroy. (that stuff is incredibly soft, by the way!) there was even a business card with her autograph on the back. okay, autograph is a bit strong but i'm kind of a rachel geek lately. it's probably coming across kinda creepy. there is no serious stalking going on. promise.

 i was rather busy after i opened the package, so i tucked the card in my back pocket to avoid loosing it. later in the day when i was working on my penny patch, it felt a little like a good luck charm back there. that card is going in my scrapbook because i'm the type to keep bits like that.

none of the kids were home so i tried an experiment with the quilt. i'd decided to place it on the toy balcony upstairs for them to use when they played. instead of making a huge deal out of the quilt, i simply hung it in place and waited to see their reactions.

all the girls noticed it in turn and made very appreciative, excited, and complimentary comments about it. d3, the 7 yr old, was the most smitten. she just sat in front of it, stroking it, admiring it, and talking to me about it.

"mom, where did this easter egg quilt come from?"
what easter quilt? what are you talking about?

"this purple one with all the easter eggs on it. did you make it?"
oh! those are actually kind of supposed to be gumdrops, not easter eggs. it's called the "gumdrop" pattern from a book i like.  no, i didn't make it. rachel hauser made it. i bought it from her.

"rachel cowsert? our neighbor?"
no, rachel hauser.

"oh! who's that? do you know her?"
no, but i read her blog all the time. i really like that quilt so i bought it when i saw she was selling it. i was just going to make one, but i bought it instead."

"well, i really love all the gumdrops on it. it's so pretty. i like all the different fabrics she used."

"mom, can this quilt be mine? i want to keep it on my bed and snuggle it a lot."
the quilt is a little too small for you. you already have a small quilt on your bed. i just want it there on the balcony for everyone to play with.

"well, okay. but can you make me a larger version of this exact quilt? because i love it. you better expect me to be playing with it a whole bunch."

 she's totally in love.

and so am i.
this quilt has done something to me. it's got me wanting to do new and surprising things with my quilting, things i've never dared or even desired to do. it's pushing the limits of my creative thinking. i expect my quilting to be different soon.

from the bottom of our hearts, thank you, rachel.
i know i paid for this quilt, but i feel like i won the lottery.
lolly lolly is home and we are over the moon about her.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

penny patch sudoku

my favorite penny patch block so far
 friday afternoon,  my baby seester, katee, texted us other 4 and asked if anyone wanted a last-minute girls night out since her husband was insisting she get herself out of the house for the evening. i told her i was sewing and she was welcome to bring over any craft projects she had going, knowing full well she always has something up her sleeve. she was happy to come join me, but she didn't have anything going for once. my offer was for her to help me quilt. i thought it was a perfect opportunity to get some artistic input with the layout on my penny patch and also to maybe pique her interest in quilting. she accepted my offer. when she arrived, i showed her the penny patch layout and explained how it was to go together, then stepped back and let her work.

 i was going to complete the quilting on "twirly", but ran out of thread! so i worked on penny patch squares instead. despite the fact that katee got to witness several of my home ec moments of sewing blocks backwards or cutting too short, it was a peaceful, relaxing evening of sewing and chatting with my seester in a way we don't get to do often.

katee, like most of my siblings, is an artist with many interests, and did a beautiful job on the layout. unfortunately, there was something off with it that was niggling away at my aesthetic sensibilities. it wasn't her, it was me, for sure. so on saturday, i tried moving a few blocks around - something she fully expected me to do and completely endorsed. that didn't work. i felt like i was playing fabric sudoku all weekend.

in the end, i printed off a few photos of rachel's original "vintage tangerine" quilt and studied it, actually broke it down into charts and lists. i am completely entranced by the original and wanted to know what the difference between the quilt along recipe and "vintage tangerine" was. how i wish i could see inside her head as she made all these choices the first time around. that would be a real lesson in quilting!

rachel, quite understandably, simplified the original pattern a bit since the quilt along is designed for beginners. ever one to change a pattern even slightly, i did just that, even with her excellent recipe. i noticed that in the original, there are actually 3 kinds of blocks, not just 2: 6.5" simple square, 4 patch of 3.5" squares, and the penny patch square. also, the placement of the blocks alters by row: simple blocks and 4 squares alternating, then simple blocks and penny patches alternating.

i quickly realized i needed more fabrics. i pulled over a dozen auditions and even cut a few. in the end, i only added 3. i also culled at least 2 from the original pile. i added two more modern meadow fabrics that incorporated both the orange and blue in the pattern. i also added an orange floral katie jump rope print that was hiding away in my stash.

the cutting recipe was a bit different, too. i broke that down and assigned some of my fabrics for hers, then laid out blocks using her exact pattern (almost). maybe it was a bit much for me to invest so heavily in understanding the original design, but it taught me a whole lot along the way. it was quite a fascinating exercise, actually. i learned a lot about design, color, and placement, that changed some ideas i have held for a while now. i originally chose this pull because it reminded me of the "vintage tangerine" colors (and the pull had been waiting on a shelf for over two years), but now i see how very different they are despite having similar colors.

after studying her quilt, i realize that working with fabrics from the same line, which i enjoy doing, doesn't allow for a certain quality of contrast or "pop" that mixing does. i don't know how to describe this exactly other than when the values of the colors are all the same, that contrast is missing. this is neither a good or bad design choice, but one i am aware of now. i would not have chosen the fabrics i did for this quilt after studying "vintage tangerine". i'm not saying they are wrong or i don't like them, but they don't produce the effect i was going for. that's okay. i'm moving ahead with what i have and look forward to trying this again with my second pull (that joel dewberry floral and those blues).

 so here are rows 1 - 7, out of 10, for penny patch as it stands. (sorry for the chairs in the phtoto, but someone was sleeping and i couldn't move them because of the noise factor!) for now, i'm following that first quilt's layout exactly, as stated. once i have it all in place, i'll decide if i want changes. i still have lots of penny patches to sew, but not quite so many now that i'm doing half penny patches and half 4 sq blocks. i'm really looking forward to finishing this quilt.

d4 has shown interest in it and i just might give this to her instead of a pillow sham for Christmas. that's not a final decision, but i'm considering it. that would kill two birds with one stone.

linking in to Rachel's penny patch quilt along link up at stitched in color and wip Wednesday at freshly pieced.