Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Happy Mail Day

The weather has cooled off here, leaving it feeling more and more like fall. I'm sure there are several Indian Summer days ahead, but fall is definitely knocking on the door.

I am finally making progress on the Boxcar Tote. I had to wait for the 10-yard bolt of Decor Bond interfacing to be delivered. It came the other day, surprisingly fast. Way to go, Amazon. I laughed when I saw that it was an order fulfilled by Wal-Mart. Impressive, Bentonville!

I am liking the fabric combination. One way to test the contrast of fabrics is to look at a black and white photo of it. This one doesn't have a ton of contrast, but I am pleased with it. One thing about this pattern is that the layers are so thick! Nearly every piece is interfaced, and I chose a couple heavy fabrics in the first place. Yet again, Bernina does an amazing job muscling through all the thickness!

Happy mail came today! I had to order more Essex Linen for my churn dash quilt, so I added a "digital print" Kona sampler to my cart. I was expecting a cardboard poster. What a surprise when I opened the package and found it is a fabric panel! I love it! Isn't it pretty? I just want to hang it on my wall and imagine all the color combinations I could play with.

Another piece of happy mail arrived too. Sewn With Grace, whom I follow on Instagram, was doing a destash, giving away some of her fabric if she happened to have a specific piece named by any of her followers within a 30-minute window. I asked for Pearl Bracelets, and look! See, my bad Instagram addiction does pay off sometimes! Even better than the yard of fabric is the new friend I made. I plan on sending her some happy mail back. Thanks so much, Renee!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Baby Steps

I thought I’d post a few things I have been doing or plan to begin doing as we start the new school year. These are not earth-shattering ideas, but they are baby steps to a more orderly and pleasant routine. I am not good at making drastic changes. But these are little ideas, and by putting them here I guess I am making myself accountable.

I must preface that we have 10 people living in this house. There are always dirty dishes. Period. However, I have been really trying to get all of them put in the dishwasher ASAP so that my sink is empty. Every time I handwash, I scrub the sink. I love it so much more. That leads me to…

Mrs. Meyers, oh how I love you. Washing dishes and scrubbing the floor will never be the same. You transform housekeeping into a heavenly experience!

Not too long ago I learned about Grove Collaborative, an online subscription service for household items. They have great prices, automatic shipments (if you want them), and no membership fees or requirements. If I want to skip a delivery or have something shipped before the delivery date, that is no problem. Their customer service is fantastic, and they have options for free shipping if you order a certain amount. They also give a generous referral bonus if your friends join. Some other products I especially love are their walnut scrubber sponges (I use them all the time!), their kitchen towels (I give the as hostess gifts), and their glass spray bottles (pretty and functional).

Other simple things I have tried in the past and plan to re-implement: posting the weekly menu for the kids to see. When each kid asks me separately what’s for supper, that gets to be a lot. The same applies to my weekly personal commitments. They are now posted on the wall so no one needs to ask me who is coming or what the schedule is.

I like the idea of “pegging,” which is simply attaching a task to something you already normally do, like taking a shower or washing your hands. Wash your hands, clean the counter. Take a shower, immediately do daily Bible reading. I did some of this last year, and I loved it. I am actually well on my way to reading the whole Bible this year simply because I have pegged it to another routine.

Big things happen when you do them one little bit at a time. With that in mind, I am really looking forward to a great year!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cold Water

Most people seem to have gone back to school already, but where I live we don't start until after Labor Day. We are still living the summer life around here...late sunsets, staying outside until dark, open-ended bedtimes...hanging on to the last bits of summer freedom that I love so much.

Last night I confess I really got a case of the back-to-school jitters. I was listening to a homeschool podcast, which I really enjoy, but it just really got to me last night. I don't have my perfect binder all printed up and organized, I don't have any charts made up, I don't even have pencils sharpened. I don't get all excited about school supplies like maybe I should because I know the newness is so short-lived. The erasers get chewed off the new pencils right away, the crayons break, and papers get scattered. And that's OK. I would rather step in the shallow end of Newness and get my feet wet first, 'cause that water's cold! I have had to repeatedly remind myself today that we are not cookie-cutter homeschoolers. Each family has its own personality and set of circumstances. I don't have to meet so-and-so's expectations, only God's. And He is with me, beside me, behind me, and before me. He already knows how we are going to get all this done this year. I like to remind myself that God is bigger than all I have to do. We will pass through the water on dry ground. And by the way, I do get excited about a stack of books! I do have those prepared and waiting on the shelf.

I have been working on my churn dash blocks. As with any project, I have run into a little roadblock. I did not have enough "Dove Gray" Essex Linen to cut out all the pieces. I have searched and searched, and only one website had that color. I am wondering if Essex Grey is the same shade. It has been a little frustrating. I feel like I need to buy more yardage in order to make the shipping cost worth it. Then I feel like I am buying something I don't need. Ahhhhh! The problems we have!

This Pam Kitty print reminds me so much of alphabet soup. I really like the grey linen with the pink.

Last night my husband said he thought it was great that I had such a nice stash of fabric. He was genuinely proud of my collection. Well then. He loves me an awful lot.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

That Thing You Keep Looking At

There has been a mess in my kitchen I have passed so many times this afternoon without wiping it up. I have started to but then just walked away. I don't know why except that it's peanut butter, and I really don't like the smell of peanut butter on my hands, or anyone else's hands for that matter.  But why did I not stop the first time and grab a tissue and wipe it up? I can't answer that question. It only took a second to put the smelly mess in the trash.

I have felt the same way about my fabric stash lately. I walk by it every day, but I rarely take time to dig into it. If I have a project, I will grab pieces from the scrap box because they are more convenient to get into. Isn't it true that sometimes your stash can actually stifle your creativity? That thing you keep passing by, neglecting to pay attention to, sucks energy right out of you.

I recently decided it would be prudent to go on a fabric-buying freeze (maybe except for the scrap basket at my LQS and for necessary solids and supplies). I also bought Natalia Bonner's book Modern One-Block Quilts with the intention of sewing through it. I like that she gives 3 different sizes for each project, and I like that some of them can be made scrappy. Seems like a great stash-busting project.

I hauled out a big bin of my favorite prints this afternoon and reacquainted myself with them. I chose a few to put together a mini-churn dash block quilt found in this book. I think it will piece together quickly.

I like to mix up collections--here is Tanya Whelan, Pam Kitty, Tasha Noel, Bonnie and Camille, and Essex Linen Dove Gray

I am still waiting on the Decor Bond yardage so I can move along on the Boxcar Tote. I had ordered it, then the store informed me they were out of stock. So I just went on Amazon and ordered 10 yards of the stuff. It ended up way cheaper per yard, especially since shipping was free. I did get the pieces I had fused to the fabric last night. I really don't enjoy that step--glad it is mostly done! Almost ready to sew the pieces together.

I picked up some books on free-motion quilting from the library yesterday. I have dabbled in it before, but it takes consistent practice to get good at it. I would love to get better at it. I have it on my radar to practice a little every day.

Got the little peanut butter mess cleaned up. The hardest part is just deciding to do it. I am going to go cut some fabric!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

My Sewing Machine Story

I started sewing on my Grandma's old Singer when I was a teenager and young adult. I don't remember very much about it except I was terribly afraid of making mistakes. And that machine didn't work so well. I really didn't use it that much for those reasons. 

When I was first married, I decided to start sewing in earnest. Out came that old Singer again. I managed to make myself a semblance of a maternity dress (which has since been relegated to the scrap stash) and a flannel blanket for my first baby which was two squares of cloth badly bound with bias tape. I still have that blanket, and it still has the ugly black marks that old machine left on it. How frustrating to learn on a machine that didn't work right, and how was I to know any different?

I remember briefly discussing this with my husband. I wasn't dying for a new machine or anything, but he thought it might be nice to get me something a little better. He asked what brand was good, and I had really no idea what to say.

I don't know that he will ever be able to surprise me like he did then. One day he came home from work with a present for me. Mind you, things were pretty tight financially at that time. We were just starting out and had just had our first baby. But it was tax return season, and he had an idea up his sleeve. He blew me away by coming home with a brand new Bernina he had picked out all by himself. I wasn't even that surprised when he gave me my engagement ring! That moment still is vivid in my mind. I just couldn't believe it.

With that little Bernina came a sewing class. I packed up my baby boy and sat through that class drinking up every piece of information presented. During breaks I would browse the offerings of the shop, drooling over all the accessories, the fabric, the books...

As the salesperson gave me that first tour of my new machine, I remember just being taken away with how smoothly and quietly it stitched. That built in automatic buttonhole! Those fancy stitches!  Automatic reverse! And this was just an entry level machine. I was utterly and hopelessly in love.

Fast forward 13 years (has it been that long?). That trusty Bernina is still humming along cheerfully. I love it to death. I am not sure I could ever trade it in because of its sentimental value to me. I had no idea back then what a Bernina really was. It didn't take me long to figure out I was given the Cadillac of sewing machines.

That's my little sewing machine (love) story! Somebody really loves me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Old and New

I pulled fabrics last night for a new project. Item #1 on my Bust the Stash list is the Boxcar Tote from Green Bee Patterns. I ran out of Pellon Decor Bond, so I have to wait for that to be shipped in order to finish this, but it should be a quick sew. It does eat up the yardage as it is a large bag. Great for using up your stash!

From top to bottom: denim herringbone found at Value Village, a Cosmo Cricket print I have had forever, part of a muu muu circle dress thing I found at a yard sale, Denyse Schmidt print, vintage floral I found at Value Village

I am loving the mix of old and new. I was a bit daunted by selecting fabric for this project since it has big pieces. And because of the person I hope to send this to (more on that later, I hope). But I am going with my gut here.

Here is that muu muu thing I was talking about. It is just huge. My son thinks he is sailing in a boat. I loved the dots when I spotted this thing at that sale years ago.

I have all the pieces cut, except for that interfacing. Can't wait to get going on it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

My Secret Quilting Life

I am not very public about my quilting life outside of Instagram and this blog. The fact is, I am a very busy mom, wife, piano teacher and student, and church musician. That is what I live for, and those are my first loves, my identity. I don't want that to change.

However, I am passionate about sewing and make time to do it almost every day. It calms me after busy days, inspires my creativity, and gives me something industrious to do that actually stays done and is pretty to look at. I try not to be inordinate about it, but it is just so much fun. I can't imagine life without it.

Several years ago I started seeing these Farmer's Wife blocks popping up on Pinterest and some of my favorite blogs. Kristyne and Camille, to name a couple, just made me drool with the blocks they made. I tried a couple for myself, but I didn't feel like I was good enough to demolish a whole stack of fabric to make the whole quilt.

Fast forward a couple years, and out came Farmer's Wife 1930's. I had been collecting my favorite fabrics for a while, too afraid to cut into them, undecided about how to use them. Then I heard about Angie's and Kerry's quilt-alongs through this book. What a great way to bust my stash, learn new techniques, and make those blocks I had been admiring.

It has been almost a year since I started this lovely little journey, and yesterday...

I was able to photograph all 99 blocks, finished!

I am tickled about this. I did what I didn't think I could do. I put fear and inability behind me and just decided to just go for it. And I have to say, foundation paper piecing saves the day with all the tiny pieces in these blocks.

I have to thank my favorite podcasters for all their inspiration. Stephanie at Modern Sewciety, I have become a complete sewing podcast junkie thanks to you! You are a true inspiration. And there are others:

Now onward and upward. I am going to put these blocks away for awhile and think about how to put them together. I have some other projects I would like to do in the meantime.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Here are a few more makes I never posted on this blog. They are from a couple swaps I did last spring. I love the Noodle head Divided Basket pattern and used it for both swaps.

For this basket I used one of the Farmer's Wife 1930's blocks, Margaret, for the front pocket, since that was my partner's name.

I made another one for a Nana Company swap, this time paper piecing scrappy hexies for the pocket. Some little embroidery even sneaked its way in. I also included a Cateye Zipper Pouch. That pattern is one of my favorites!

Lecien Flower Sugar for the interior. A little lace trim on the top. And covered webbing for the handles. I hope this basket is happy in its new home, because I sure had fun making it.

I have to add that when I sew, I love, love, love to listen to Podcasts. They inspire me and keep me going. One of my very favorites is Modern Sewciety. I have listened to all the back-episodes as I have sewed through Farmer's Wife 1930's this summer. I admit I am a junkie. Thanks, Stephanie, for a great Podcast. Please keep them coming!

Friday, August 19, 2016

A few recent makes:

I participated in a mini-quilt swap a while back. Rather a disappointment because it hasn't turned into a true "swap" to this point, but I hope the recipient is enjoying this. Skulls are not my thing, but my partner said she likes them. So I found this pattern on Craftsy, and it turned out pretty cute. The grid quilting was fun and easy with the guide on my walking foot. I didn't need to draw any guidelines. I love scrappy binding and decided to use it on this mini. It's always a little bittersweet to send that swap package off after you've worked so hard on it.

This I didn't know what I was in for. About 60 tiny pieces, an inset square, and y-seams galore. I foundation paper-pieced it, though, which saved the day. Otherwise, no way. I am so close to the end of this 99-block challenge. It really is a dream come true. I have drooled over other peoples' Farmer's Wife blocks for years thinking it was probably too hard for me. But I put away my fears and tackled this. Nothing is impossible if you really want to achieve it!

Primrose was not quite as difficult. I changed up the colors a little with random scrappy triangles. I love the way it turned out. Again, FPP'd this one. Too many tiny pieces to do otherwise.

I am debating how to put all my Farmer's Wife blocks together. I am a little daunted by the thought of quilting a huge bed quilt. I have never done that before. There's no rush, so I will continue to mull it over. I know one person who is slowly hand-quilting hers, and it is a slow, years-long project. She will get it out and work on it a little, then put it away again. I kind of like that idea, but maybe I would just get sick of it. I would really love to get better at handquilting.

I also did not deliberately lay out all my FW blocks as I went. I chose a stack of fabrics I liked, and I have just made different combinations as I have gone along. Some are more primary colors, like Primrose, and some are more low-volume. I hope they look OK when I lay them all out.

One thing I have observed from this quilt-along is how fear can paralyze you. It's sad when people let fear of color, or of a hard technique, or of others' opinions, stifle their creativity. This is not supposed to be a scary hobby. Pick something and go for it. It's only fabric. No fear allowed!

Thursday, August 18, 2016


A few glimpses of summer around here:

On clear evenings the hot air balloons often float right over our house. Sometimes you can even talk to the people in the basket. I am dreaming that one day they will land on our street. Or that one day I will go up in one myself. 

About eight years ago I made a sourdough starter from scratch. It was an experiment that I didn't realize would be such a success. But then the starter languished in the back of my refrigerator for a couple years, a dried hockey puck-like object I just couldn't bring myself to throw out. I finally decided a couple weeks ago to try to revive it. Sure enough, it came back. My family is so excited every time I bake with it. Bread, pancakes, muffins, pizza crust...

Have you heard of Buy Nothing groups? I joined our community's group a year or so ago. We have been purging the house this summer, and Buy Nothing has been an amazing venue to help us accomplish this. One lady came to pick up her items from my porch, heard my son practicing violin, and was so touched that she showed up the next day with this cherry pastry, warm from the oven! I have since had her over for coffee and made a friend out of the whole deal. Life is about so much more than stuff!

The big kids were away with my husband, a rare opportunity for me to spend time with the littlest two kids. So we went for a walk and found some treasures. One of these is not like the others; I just found it on the floor and tossed it into the picture. The veins on that leaf just seemed amazing to me. And the colors...

I have been sewing up a storm. I have 4 or 5 more blocks to go on Farmer's Wife 1930's. That will make 99! I don't know how I will put them together yet. A big quilt is intimidating to me. I am not very good at quilting yet. 

I recently read this article that just hit me squarely between the eyeballs. Instagram is my favorite social media outlet, but I have to admit it does tempt me to spend money. This sale, that sale, this destash, that new line you really adds up. When I look at what I do have, I am almost paralyzed by it sometimes. So my new goal is to use what I have. I am going to try some bigger quilt projects to really showcase what I have (and I really only do buy what I love, and I very rarely buy full price). I am going to try more garment sewing as well. So there. Bust that stash!