Sew Together Bag

Sometime this fall, I managed to make a Sew Together bag. The design is so clever and I’ve seen lots of them on Instagram, so when I stumbled upon the SewDemented booth at Quilt Market, I bought a pattern. I thought it might be a good class project, but truth be told, it’s pretty darned labor-intensive.

I used fabrics I’d had in my stash for a long while—Echino prints and Cloud 9 Geocentric canvas—all on heavier substrates, which I thought would make for a nice, sturdy bag. And indeed it did, although I think it made the layers a little thicker and more challenging to sew through.

I didn’t wind up having enough of the exterior Echino fabric and so pieced in some Cloud 9, and I’m pleased with the result and will definitely make the bag again, although doing some batch sewing (making several at once) would be more efficient.

I also highly recommend the Quilt Barn sew-along tutorial from last March. It broke steps down even further than the instructions and was super helpful.

It’s a New Year! Looking Back and Looking Forward

It’s been two full months since I last wrote. There are lots of reasons why, including the suspicion that blogging may be on the way out and time is best spent elsewhere. But much of it has been about a phase of my life, one that involves adult children and elderly relatives, career successes and considering what’s next, all mixed with the usual anxiety, guilt, and pleasures that come day-to-day.

Stockings for a class I taught at Home Ec, and for the public library holiday bazaar

I last wrote about my surgery, and while the result has been great—most people don’t seem to notice the scar or are at least kind enough to say they don’t—it took me out of circulation for most of November. Then I had two sets of houseguests, work at Home Ec, and work deadlines. I had to decline some work and missed some deadlines on other jobs, which is not my style at all and still grates on me. But my houseguests were important people in my life and I wanted to be with them,

Now I’m looking forward, toward the publication of Art Quilts of the Midwest, and thinking about how to do some publicity. It’s looking like marketing the book will be almost as time consuming as writing it. But I can’t wait for the day (next month!) when I get to finally see the finished book.

I’ve done a bit of sewing (the stockings above and a few other small projects), but I’ve been knitting like a fiend. Below are some cowls I finished up in time for holiday giving.

And though this poor blog has been neglected, I do keep up with Instagram. I love seeing what folks are up to, catching a brief glimpse into their lives, giving them a thumbs-up or making a brief comment, and moving along. I’m not so good at Facebook or keeping up with this blog, but if you’re interested in what I’m up to, Instagram is a good place to find out. Follow me at @seamswrite and let me know your IG name and I’ll follow you, too!

Knitting vs. Sewing

Some days I worry that my love of yarn is overtaking my love of fabric. I do believe they can co-exist, but there are only so many hours in the day and if I’m knitting, then I’m not sewing (and vice-versa). But these cooler temps seem to call out for sitting in my chair, feet up and a cup of something warm by my side, knitting away on some rich, beautiful yarn.

Finished (but not blocked) Low Brow Cowl: Pattern on Ravelry, Madeline Tosh DK yarn

I’ve also really enjoyed upping my skill level and trying techniques that are new to me. I have had the grand advantage of working at Home Ec Workshop on Wednesday afternoons, when Lisa Wilcox Case serves as the Knitting Nurse. Lisa is a certified Master Knitter (I wrote about that here) and when it’s not busy in the shop she freely gives of her advice and expertise. Suffice it to say, I am spoiled (but I’ve learned a lot, too).

Sugar Cane Hat: Pattern on Ravelry, Shibui Pebble and Silk Cloud yarn

I’m going to have a bit more time for sewing and knitting in upcoming days as there’s some surgery on my horizon that will necessitate me staying home for two or three weeks. I’ve got work lined up, of course, but I won’t be fulfilling my usual exercise classes, grocery runs, and other out-of-the-house activities, so I imagine more free time will be mine. I’m already lining up sewing and knitting projects—I’m in a real mode of wanting to finish those WIPs. We’ll see how it goes.

Imposter Shawl: Pattern on Ravelry, Madeline Tosh DK yarn

EEEEP! Finally Giving EPP a Try

I am heading down to the wire on my book, but that doesn’t mean I am not doing any handwork. I CAN’T not do handwork. I pass no judgement on those who can either focus or zone out appropriately, but I can’t comfortably watch TV or go for a long car ride or play Scrabble with friends if I don’t have something I’m doing with my hands. (Can you guess that I’ve never been able to stick with meditation? But that’s another story.)

I’ve long been interested in English paper piecing (EPP). Its portability appeals to me, as does its flexibility and the variety of things people do with the finished hexies. But what’s never appealed to me is the cutting out part. And the sheer number of methods overwhelmed me. People seem so opinionated about this way or that being the best (and only) way. So when I spied Tula Pink’s cute little EPP kits, with their pre-cut fabric squares, I decided it was time to give it a try. (I chose the Acacia fabric in blues and greens.)

Here’s a bit of what I accomplished last night (after watching and reading 4200 online tutorials, because there are at least that many ways to do EPP). I’ve settled on the basting with thread (vs. glue) method, using a paperclip to hold the fabric to the Paper Pieces templates, and on not stitching through the paper. I may add a punched hole to the cardboards to make them easier to pop out with the tip of a scissor. I also think I’ll iron them before I remove the cardboard.

The kits are lovely, though I would love to have a few more squares with the fox’s face. I’ll combine the pieces with some solids and do something or other with the hexies…for now, I’m thoroughly enjoying the fabrics and the satisfaction of watching those finished pieces pile up. Though a kit is obviously unnecessary, it was just what I needed to get me started. And I’m thrilled to have another way to use the packets of 2.5″ fabric squares I’ve accumulated.

Pincushion Presents

A few years ago Kathy C. made me a bottle cap pincushion as a Lake Tahoe quilt retreat gift. I thought it was adorable, but it took me awhile to realize

how useful it is. I wound up keeping it in my binding box (a former stationary box in which I keep needles, thread, Thread Heaven, clips, and now, this pin cushion, all in preparation for binding quilts at a moment’s notice). It’s so useful that I decided to make them for my bookgroup and a few other friends for Christmas. 

Here’s how many I’ve made so far (minus one, which I gave to a quilting friend in Berkeley). I started working on them this summer at the lake and really enjoyed combining the wool felt colors (small pieces purchased from Wooly Lady) with learning new stitches. I used Valdani thread for the embroidery. 
I wish I could get the tops to be a little smoother and less “cupcake-like,” but they function as they were designed to do, so I guess I shouldn’t worry too much. My bookgroup seemed to like them—I also included a pack of my favorite pins with each one. 
Our bookgroup holiday party is always so much fun and a true tradition at this point—our group has been together for more than 20 years. We exchange gifts—some handmade and some not, depending on how busy we’ve been—and cookies. This year Anne also made us a lovely soup and salad supper. 
Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Setting a record

Yes, I’ve set one all right…but it’s for length of time between blog posts. Not such a good thing! So herein is a quick rundown of what’s been up since mid-October.

Finished some backs and took quilts to Linda Duncan for long arming!

I was thrilled to finally get three quilts off my stair railing and to the quilters. One is back, another is ready for pick up. Here’s the first (used the six Farmer’s Wife blocks I made on the back).

Interviewing authors for my upcoming book!

Yup, I’m working on a book about art quilts and have had the great pleasure of talking with some of the  artists whose work was selected for inclusion. Can’t say too much about that just yet, but it’s an exciting project that you’ll hear more about in coming months.

Quilt Market!

Had my usual wonderfully-inspiring-and-thoroughly-overwhelming-time. All the usual suspects, plus Cotton and Steel’s debut, a stroll through Market with my Stitch editor Amber Eden, quick meet-ups with Lisa, Jennifer, and my other wonderful Meredith editors, dinner with my friends Mel and Mary Lou, a hug from Carolyn Friedlander, a quick chat with Lissa from Moda, and travel with Codi and Greta.

Brigitte Heitland for Moda
Anna Maria Horner’s booth (Free Spirit)
Carolyn Friedlander’s booth (Robert Kaufman)
Lakehouse’s Holly Holderman and PamKitty Morning, with @szyhomemaker, @frecklemama, and Greta Songe
Laurie Simpson of Moda’s Minick and Simpson demoing big stitching
Smilin’ Vanessa Christenson and her booth for Moda

Austin!

A quick visit with my wonderful daughter Maggie and her beau, EJ. We took walks, bought boots, saw adorable babies, and ate great food.

Maggie and EJ’s backyard grotto
Coolio chair at Austin’s Nannie Inez
Coolio daughter

Surgery!

Had a small skin cancer removed from my nose. 18 stitches. Kind of a shock at first, but a month later it doesn’t look half-bad. And they got all the skin cancer in one fell swoop, so hooray! (Reserving photos of this one)

California!

Went with my husband, who had a meeting. Saw old friends in Sonoma and Berkeley, a hike across SF that ended in dim sum, and Thanksgiving with my folks in southern Cal. A highlight was my first  face-to-face meeting with fellow Etsy contributor Karen Brown, with whom I’ve corresponded for a few years. Wish we lived closer…there’s a kinship there, for sure.

Karen in her alpaca jacket
Bay view from the Presidio
My awesome dad, his awesome pumpkin pie, and Paul
Santa Barbara pelican

And now home, where I made a few bibs for a baby shower.

One other thing I did was work on a story for a new (to me, but you’ll know it) publication that will be out in January. Looking forward to sharing that exciting news soon!

Happy Holidays…hope things are going well for you and yours.

Days for Girls: Near and Far

For the fall issue of Stitch magazine, I wrote a story about Days for Girls, an organization that’s working to break the cycle of poverty for women and girls by distributing reusable feminine hygiene pads and shields sewn by thousands of volunteers. I learned about the story from an Instagram photo that my neighbor Molly posted after she spent a retreat weekend sewing for the org. Once I had the chance to talk with Celeste, the founder of Days for Girls, I was hooked. So many of us take for granted access to feminine hygiene products, and Celeste learned that without those products girls miss up to a week of school a month (and often drop out because they’re so far behind) and women miss work and can’t make money to feed their families.

You can learn more about Days for Girls by visiting their web site, but I wanted to mention two upcoming events. The first is local: we’re having a Days for Girls sew-in at Home Ec Workshop on Sunday, Oct. 6 from noon til 5.


If you’re not local and would like to join in, you can participate in the first-ever Days for Girls Global Sew-a-Thon, to be held on October 11, the International Day of the Girl. During the Sew-a-Thon, Days for Girls chapters throughout the world will be sewing for 24 hours straight. Chapters and individuals will sit down at their sewing machines for one massive, global effort to sew and assemble kits and win back days for girls and women everywhere.

Learn more at http://www.daysforgirls.org/#!global-sew-a-thon/chqi, visit their event page at http://www.crowdrise.com/DaysforGirls. Also, check out the Days for Girls Facebook page. (And if you’re interested in spreading the word on your blog, let me know and I’d be happy to share photos and copy.)


Back to Reality

Pearl the Squirrel inspecting the perfectly still lake
Just returned from vacation (sniff, sniff)—nearly two weeks at our family cabin. Though it was much cooler than usual and we weren’t able to swim or even be out on the lake much, it proved perfect for sewing.
I hauled along my trusty Featherweight and finished up my Fabric Fusion quilt that I started after a workshop with Bill Kerr of ModernQuilt Studio. It was a lot of little pieces. But I really wanted to give Bill’s (and Week’s) concept of mixing Jo Morton and Anna Maria Horner fabrics a try. The “fabric smackdown” we did in the workshop was where this started and this Brandon Mabley fabric was my initial inspiration.
These oranges and greens and reds and pinks aren’t “my” colors, either, and that provided an additional challenge. But I’m quite pleased with the end result. I used something like 38 or 39 fabrics in the quilt—including a tiny scrap of this madras plaid in the center, which I found in my mother’s sewing room, a leftover from a summer top she made me when I was in elementary school! I purchased about ten new fabrics, but the rest were from my stash and some of them were truly just scraps: the Amy Butler fabric was from my first Birdie Sling and the orange batik (top right) was from my very first quilt.
I love the crispness the white sashing provides. A highly satisfying project!
We did manage to kayak across the lake on two occasions for blueberries. That, also, was highly satisfying. Two pies and two batches of blueberry pancakes made mornings and evenings quite pleasant. 
The swimming dock, too chilly for a swim until the last day
Driftwood in a quiet bay
A wobbly panorama from my kayak on our last, finally warm and sunny, day

Who me? Sew clothing?

The fabric from my kettle cloth shift

I took home ec in school and learned the basics of sewing. I remember well the blue floral kettle cloth I used to stitch a shift in 8th grade. My mom still had a scrap left and I snapped it up. It’s amazing how a piece of fabric can bring back memories (even if junior high memories aren’t always the best, I did enjoy making and wearing this dress).

My mom was a fabulous sewer, and a very patient one, at that. She took couture classes at our local community college in the evenings and sewed complete, wool suits for herself. I, on the other hand, was impatient and didn’t understand why things needed to be “just so.” When it turned out that I’m not the same size and shape as most patterns, I took it very personally (as in, there was something wrong with me). The idea of meticulously manipulating a pattern so it would fit was too nitpicky for my personality, and so I quit sewing garments. Though I sewed simple outfits for my girls when they were little and easy to fit, it wasn’t until I discovered quilting that my passion for sewing was rekindled.

Sorbetto “muslin” from 2002 Alexander Henry fabric

Still, the desire to make clothing was lurking. Probably getting to know Jenny Gordy and see the hundreds of Wiksten tanks and Tovas on Flickr and at Quilt Market had a little something to do with it. So when Home Ec offered a class on making the Colette Sorbetto top, I jumped. I used a fabric that had 2003 on the selvedge and stitched a tank. It was fast and fun, but didn’t quite fit—there was gaping at the armholes. My online searches (because there’s an amazing amount of information out there about this top—I’m guessing it’s been made thousands of times) revealed that to fix it I needed to do a full bust adjustment (FBA). It sounded terrifying.

After weeks of noodling around online, I realized that Creativebug offered a FBA class with Liesl Gibson, of Oliver & S. The instruction was clear and accurate and I loved being able to stop and start it as I worked through the process. I managed not only to complete the FBA, but I hacked the sleeve I found here, adding an extra inch to make it fit better. I added a couple mother of pearl buttons from a secondhand shop and voila! Just like the old days, I hung my shirt up so it was the first thing I saw in the morning. I remember the thrill of doing that as a kid. I still felt it.

Sorbetto from Amy Butler voile

Then I used that pattern to make a second top out of some Amy Butler Cameo voile. I’ve now got fabric for a third top…and I’m excited to know that I can use those skills to sew other things, as well.  So excited to have overcome my junior high impatience …finally! Just goes to show, it’s never too late.

It Never Rains but It Pours

That old saying certainly applies to Iowa City weather just now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the roses as beautiful as they are this year and it suddenly dawned on me that it’s because the climate is mimicking Portland’s (aka The City of Roses) to a tee—cool temps, cloudy skies, and plenty of moisture. This rose was climbing up a trellis at a friend’s home.

But the phrase also applies to my current forays into sewing. I’m still working to finish a many-pieced quilt, but couldn’t resist taking a pair of Home Ec classes. On Saturday I attended the first session of a quilt class taught by Erick Wolfmeyer, about whom I’ve had the opportunity to write a couple of times (here’s one of them). He taught a pattern by a designer whom I was unfamiliar with, but whose work I’m loving—Pam Rocco.

Erick’s got a terrific color sense and having him help sort through our fabrics was fantastic. I somehow had far more fabric than anyone else…now how could that be possible?

Here’s a shot of each of our first blocks—one person’s working in neutrals, one in all prints, one in batiks. Guess what? I’m working in brights. At one point I said I felt like I was making a quilt for a clown. We’ll see how it shakes out. Session two is next Saturday.

On Thursday I took a class in which we made the Colette Sorbetto top. It’s a free, downloadable pattern, but it’s been so long since I made any clothing (especially any that fit, save the bias skirt I made at Home Ec), that I wanted help with that aspect of things. I’ll post more on that next time, but suffice it to say, I’m loving it. Forget cooking, gardening, exercising, and working…Can I please just sew all the time?