Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

I have a consuming habit. A magnetized pull. An irresistible urge. And it got me again today. It's the thrift store. If I know there's one around, I have to see inside. I have to pet the linens (well, only the pretty ones. The vintage stuff, you know. I still avoid the shower curtains and bath mats, ewwww). Have to rummage through a bin or two, because there is most certainly a treasure to be had. Not one I need, but nonetheless...I dream about what I will find next. And it's never what I expect.

I visited a new-to-me shop today. With 6 kiddos in tow. And a stroller. Bad idea to take the stroller. There must have been a convention going on there or something. So many people! And such tiny aisles! I had just about given it up, but then my daughter spotted something (the kids always spot things and call to me, just at the time I am focused on something else. They are thrifters-in-training.) This time it was no false alarm. Lo and behold, there, just brought out by the worker, not even hung up on the rack yet, was the most beautiful antique Dresden quilt, like a dream you don't want to wake up from. Pinch me please. You don't just walk into a store and ask where the Dresden quilts are or if they happen to have any in stock. No sir. This was no Pottery Barn reproduction. Those are nice, but not like this. This one is completely hand-stitched in my favorite 30's feedsack prints. It is that special. It is huge. And it is mine. Oh, and I still have some money left in my pocket. Should I feel guilty about that? Not a bit.

What is it about the Dresden Plate that gets me? I really can't explain it. I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to it. It is charming, classic, just dreamy. Huge or tiny, whole or in pieces, they always catch my eye. I love them. These days we have cute little rulers to help us make them very easily. I have an idea that the person who made this quilt did not use anything but a pair of scissors and needle and thread. And lots of time and love.

 Of course I wonder where in the world this quilt came from. Who made it? For what occasion? Was it made from scraps of homemade clothes? Whom did it keep warm on cold nights? How many babies were rocked to sleep in its warm folds? And the perennial question lingers, "Why did they relegate it to the thrift bin?" I know all these things will be gone someday. Moth and rust corrupt. But in the meantime, these material things sure do bring us a lot of pleasure. And some really good stories.

Thus ends another chapter in the Thrifting Chronicles. But stay tuned. The story will continue with an undoubted twist of excitement, next time...

Monday, September 29, 2014

What I Haven't Been Doing

I read on a friend's blog today something about having so many things to do that it's no good to feel bad about all of the stuff that doesn't get done. That's life right now! I haven't been doing a lot of stuff--I haven't been sewing much, and I've been blogging even less. I haven't finished those nagging little projects cluttering my sewing table, haven't cut into those yummy scraps that just pile up higher and higher (perfect playthings for Baby!), haven't added a whole lot to the shop. But why worry about all that...I have been doing plenty of other (more needful) things. Changing diapers, packing lunches for two hungry boys and a Dad (that is new for me as this is their first time in day school), overseeing violin practice, chauffeuring kiddos to music lessons, making music for the kids to sleep by, teaching math lessons, helping my five-year-old write his letters, reading books to young ones, and on and on. When I sit down to stitch, there is my little girl begging me to finish that project for her, to start something new, to teach her how to do this thing that I love so much. It's hard to say no to her when she just wants to do what I do, to be just like Mama.  Now really, who would want to trade all that away? It is tiring, and I fall into bed at night sometimes, emotionally spent from a full day. But it is all so worth it. The sewing days will come again, maybe soon. It is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do things just like so-and-so's blog, to achieve someone else's success, to have that thing that is not mine to have right now. I am not that "so-and-so." Being like her would not be happiness. God has given me a unique set of gifts and responsibilities, my own people who need me, and when He sees fit to give it, time to exercise my creativity. I hope this is inspiring to whoever is reading this--people are more important than projects.

I did find a treasure a while ago for my daughter who wants to learn to sew. A 1954 Singer in beautiful working condition, with cabinet, attachments and all. $22. Love. We have had fun trying it out and making a little doll quilt (which I haven't finished). Why do we always end up doing a project with the tiniest pieces. That's a post for another day. Anyway, the vintage Singer is a great beginner machine. Pretty much indestructible and easy to self-service. Maybe I will get those pictures up, after I go change that diaper...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Linking Up...

Because this is a new blog I am linking up to Lily's Quilts with a bunch of other new bloggers. There sure is a whole lot of inspiration to be found there! Sometimes the inspiration tank runs low, but in Blogland it is always easy to refuel.

I often think of my mom and grandma who didn't have the luxury of internet to inspire their Sewing Days. I remember trips with Mom to the fabric store, paging through all the pattern catalogs, those little pencils and pads of paper in hand so we could jot down our selections. I remember the smell of that store as if it were yesterday. It was a sad day when that store closed, and for a while there really wasn't a place to buy fabric, not decent stuff anyway. My how things have changed with the rise of the internet...

I do most of my fabric shopping online. Need a notion? I can have it here tomorrow morning if I have to. Don't have to go anywhere. Need a pattern? Got it instantly. Got my blog list to keep current on what's new. Got my Pinterest boards for plenty of ideas. What a world we live in.

And I have all these sewing buddies, which is one of my favorite parts of the internet community. There are swaps and Flickr groups, comment threads and sewing forums. Always a way to connect with other people who love this art.

Can't wait to meet more of you!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Scrappy Happy

This is what I made last night:

Business cards for my Etsy shop, made from upcycled grocery bags and scraps of linen and quilting cottons. I confess. I am a scrap hoarder. It really is ridiculous, but no piece is too small to throw away. Or too ugly (well, OK, maybe sometimes...)

 I cut my paper bags and fabric into business-card-sized pieces as I want these to fit in a card holder if needed. I then used my VersaCraft stamp pad, which works equally well on paper and fabric, and spent a while fiddling with the tiny letters getting them right-side-up. I like the raw look, but backwards letters are a little unacceptable. Ahem.

 After cutting the paper to size with decorative scissors (please not your fabric ones!), a little smaller so the border of fabric would show,  I attached the paper to the linen with a glue stick. I chose a pretty fabric for the back and put the layers together. Super simple. Then with an old sewing machine needle I sewed around the paper to attach all layers. Lastly, I trimmed the fabric with my pinking shears. This project is so forgiving because it is not supposed to look perfect. That's about my speed.

I am thinking of putting a magnet between the layers next batch I make. Handy to put up in a place where they'll be seen.

These were so relaxing to make. Not a lot of pressure to get it right the first time. There are always more scraps and paper bags after all!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Boots on the ground

I've been burning the midnight oil making new stuff. Man, it's hard to get the mojo going after the kids are in bed. But once I get going, then I can't stop, until I make a mistake and am too tired to rip it out.

This little thing is my favorite. I found this cute vintage owl embroidery floating around on Pinterest. I love how he just came to life somewhere between the screen and the paper and the fabric. What did we do without Pinterest?

 Zipper pouches are addicting. And you can't have enough of them, can you?

Speaking of Pinterest, my daughter, who is only 9, is already interested in looking at boards. Oh my. Like mother, like daughter... Children do have a way of mirroring us, in good ways and bad, don't they? It is a very good thing. When they start imitating my undesirable words or actions, it is a rebuke like no other. "I wonder where she got that from?" as I point three fingers back at myself...

Here is an example of how she loves to copy me. She cut up a bunch of her little scrap fabrics into little squares to make a mini-charm pack. See, she even named it April Showers (one of my favorite current collections), and set it on this textured background and photographed it herself. What a hoot.
 On a non-sewing note, look what we got to do this week! I surprised two of my boys and took them up in a little Cessna for an hour. It was a gorgeous day.

 The surprise went over very well, though he looks a little smug about it.

 I am convinced we live in the most gorgeous state there is. Within the hour we were in the air, we flew over flat plains, water, and mountains (or came close to them anyway).

 Here is the one that got us all--the area of the Oso Mudslide. Kind of made us all speechless. You can see the road now. You can see that the river has found a new path, as if it really wasn't even bothered. You could also see signs of mass devasation, trees bowled over like toothpicks. From the air it looked oh-so-small. So insignificant, really. But we know it wasn't.

I love how you can see the gradient depths of the water, so clear and fresh looking.

It was good to put our boots back on the ground with a renewed sense of God's power and care for us.

And with that, we're off to a new week...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

XO I Love You

I whipped up this little pencil pouch yesterday after seeing some inspiring "notebook paper" pouches on Pinterest. My daughter can't wait to get her hands on it. She loves pouches and places to keep her little things.
 Some days you just need a reminder that you are loved.
 Don't you just love fresh new pencils at the beginning of school? The smell of new books? And old ones too. Technology will never replace that old familiarity. Long live the yellow pencil.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mini Quilts and Machine Binding

After a sewing marathon yesterday, I finally finished those three wall hangings to be sent to Ukraine. It is impossible to get a decent picture after dark, and unfortunately the quilts are now forever out of my hands and over the ocean somewhere. So I did the best I could do.
 I do not normally do modern colors like that, but I really loved them after I was done. Maybe more in my future? I don't know. That plaid one just really hit a soft spot with me.
My favorite part of the project was the scrappy binding. I had not tried that before, but I loved it. It used up almost all the scraps leftover from the quilting, and it took just a little more time. I think it was worth it.
I have had a dread of machine binding for a while. Give me enough time, and binding by hand is just fine. But time was not on my side yesterday. I think I figured out the secret to acceptable machine binding.

First, you might want to leave a little bit extra around the edge when you are trimming away the extra batting. You will get a firmer edge that way.

Sew the binding onto the wrong side of the quilt (counter-intuitive, I know), matching raw edges. I use a double fold binding, by the way.

Press open the seam you just made to make things nice and flat. Be careful if you are not using cotton batting. You may have a mess if the iron touches it.

Then flip the binding over to the front, just over the line of stitching you just made. I had to actually turn my binding under once because at 3", it was too wide. I should have cut it narrower. Anyway, the key is to diligently use your guide lines on your machine's throat plate, going slowly enough that you absolutely control the width of binding feeding through. A blind-stitch foot or edge stitch foot is really handy here and will enable you to concentrate on keeping the right edge of binding aligned with your machine's guide line.

So you are now ready to sew the next line of stitching on the right side of your quilt. You want your needle to be going into the binding just over the left edge. Adjust your needle appropriately.  If you keep your eye on those guide lines (my binding here was at the 3/8" line), you will end up with all the binding attached and straight lines on the front and the back. Pretty! And there is no guesswork involved as in previous attempts when I would get to the end, turn it over, and discover that there were ugly holes where I missed stitches. No more!

So follow your guide lines!

I did not mention corners--that's another topic. And there should be lots of pictures. I don't have those right now, but maybe soon...

And if anyone out there has suggestions on decent lighting for late night photo shoots, please share!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


This is my project for the next couple days. I am stitching these to go on a plane to loved ones in Ukraine. I wish I were going too, but that is not the best thing at this time. So many things going on in their country... What I love so much about stitching is that there is love poured into every little thread. I feel like I am giving a piece of myself away throughout the whole process. There are memories of times we have spent together, prayers spoken for their needs, hopes and desires to be together again, thankfulness for the path God leads me down, though at times I can't see around the next bend in the road. There is this tangible piece of fabric and thread, but behind it is this Grand Plan. I am filled with gratitude at the thought of it.

Also part of the whole creative process is the interruption. How could you resist those chubby baby hands! I always have to adjust my lenses so I see beyond this interrupted moment, so I remember what is really important. That she will grow up. That I must enjoy every baby moment and not live with regret. If it is not done with love, it's not worth doing.

I am hoping these will turn into three mini-quilts. I found the Joel Dewberry fat quarters today at my LQS. I had overlooked them several times before because they aren't really in my color range, but today they just spoke to me. You know, right? I remember being a kid, and some picture books my teachers read to our class had that same magenta/orange color scheme. Somehow I always loved those colors. They remind me of my childhood when I dreamed about someday being the teacher in front of the class.

Speaking of my LQS, it is just a few miles from my house, and it's right on my way home when I am running errands. How convenient! I usually take a kid or two, and we rummage through the scrap basket and $1 fat quarter bin. It's like candy, except much healthier for us! Even my sons are beginning to collect fabric.  Oh dear, what am I doing...

I will post pictures of the finished mini-quilts when they are en route to Ukraine (and a piece of my heart is gone along with them).

Friday, July 18, 2014

Blue Dog the Great

Isn't he stoic? Blue Dog is a legend in our family. There may be other Blue Dogs in this world, but none so special as he. He was made for my husband when he was a boy, made with love by his mother. Blue Dog had been loved and cuddled for many years. Then he was found and  chewed by a notorious family dog. He has since been lovingly restuffed and repaired, and he now sits on a shelf out of the reach of other small hands. When I was dating my now-husband-of-12-years, Blue Dog came to live with me as a special reminder of the one I loved and would soon marry.

He reminds me of the special care and love of a mother (my mother-in-law now). She and I share the same initials, L.H. Those initials go back another generation to her mother-in-law. We were or are all three addicted to fabric and needles and thread. I like to think that I came by my obsession honestly, and I hope that maybe one of my sons marries an "L" someday so she can carry on the tradition.

So there it is. Blue Dog and L.H. A mother's loving hands. And a legacy she has passed along to me.