It’s been quite the month (or two) around here. After a bunch of crazy changes at my workplace, I ended up in a new job. It’s a great job, and I have some increased responsibilities, but it’s also left me exhausted pretty much every night. Add that to some other random things that have been going on, and I haven’t had much time for sewing!

Fortunately, I scheduled this week off before I started the new job, so I’ve had the last several days to catch up on everything–including sleep. Here are my latest bee blocks, which hit the post office this morning:

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Bee Sew Modern, August 2013. This is “That Block” in a riotous color scheme. It’s simple string piecing on a white fabric foundation, and was a breeze to put together.

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Mo-Stash, August 2013. This month’s Queen Bee is making a nature-inspired paper-pieced quilt for her mother-in-law. I was going to make a snarky comment about making things for one’s mother-in-law, but then I remembered that I am working on a quilt for my mother-in-law. The block design is available for free from Craftsy, and I enlarged it from 6″ to 10″. The Craftsy version of the pattern includes a handy re-sizing chart.

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NewBees, August 2013. Megan asked for paper-pieced arrows. The arrowhead is a simple paper-pieced unit, and I used a slash-and-sew technique for the shaft.

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Bee Sew Modern, August 2013. Jacqueline wanted a Mod Mosaic block. This was a lot more free-form and improv-y than I usually like, but I think it turned out well. It is smaller than she wanted, but I didn’t want to slap another unit on as an afterthought. I figured that someone’s block will almost certainly be oversized, and that will make up for my slightly-too-small block.

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Scrap-Bee-Licious, August 2013. Ashley is making a Converging Corners quilt with a white center and a riot of brightly-colored corners. Some of my favorite fabrics make appearances in this block–I love those navy Oval Elements, there’s a strip of hot pink Washi, and I love those purple Patty Young flowers from Heaven and Helsinki even more every time I see them.

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Do Good Stitches Dream Circle, August 2013. Ah, sweet simplicity! This is just a bright, fun square-in-a-square. These things are a breeze to put together, and I love the bright colors.

I even got a jump on my September blocks:

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Bee Sew Modern, September 2013: This Lone Star Hexagon was designed by Alia from Card Table, Inc. It’s actually hexagonal, but the sides got lost on the white background I used for my photos! This is one of those blocks that looks super-difficult, but strip piecing makes it easy. Alia posted a tutorial on her blog so you can make your own–give it a try!

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Scrap-Bee-Licious, September 2013. Gwendellyn asked for Scrappy Trip Around the World blocks with themes! I hadn’t made this block before, and now I understand why people have been so addicted to this pattern. It’s a lot of fun. The top one is all Anna Maria Horner LouLouThi fabrics, and the bottom is all polka dots. (I have been really into the polka dots lately.)

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Do Good Stitches, September 2013. One of the things I (continue to) love about bees is that they force me to make things I wouldn’t otherwise make. This block is a good example. Polaroid blocks are cute, but they’re not necessarily my style–and boy-themed Polaroid blocks? No way! I have very few children’s novelty prints in my stash, and even fewer that are “boy” prints. Fortunately, I had a mini charm pack of Jenn Ski’s Oink a Doodle Moo line for Moda, so I grabbed nine of those and got to sewing. Isn’t that pig adorable? I used the Polaroid Block tutorial from Capitola Quilter to make these, and they were a breeze.

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NewBees, September 2013. These blocks were part of a block-of-the-month series sponsored by the Empire State Quilt Guild of NYC. They’re a simple slash-and sew block. Some of my “sticks” are a little off, and I decided to leave the blocks untrimmed so the Queen Bee could size them as she saw fit (or cut off my little mistakes).

I’m done playing catch-up with my bee blocks for now–only three left and September’s finished! As much as I love my bees, I am trying to cut back to only two or three. I went a little crazy and joined a bunch of stuff, and I don’t have as much time as I would like to sew for myself!

In my next post, I’ll catch you up on my block-of-the-months (heads up: there could be a finished quilt top or two in there!) and I’ll give you a sneak peek at two gift quilts I’m working on.

What have you been sewing?

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First things first: I’ve missed a couple of weeks of blog hop links. We had a battle with a stomach bug, and I’m sad to say that the stomach bug won, if only for a few days. Here are the latest stops on the New Bloggers Blog Hop. Please visit them and say hello–there are a lot of wonderful blogs on this list, and they’re probably new to you too!

If you’re visiting from the hop, my introduction post is here.

There has been a lot of interesting talk on the blog hop e-mail list about what makes people come back to a blog. It seems like the overwhelming answer is “great photography.”

And that’s where I run into a problem: I’m a writer, not a photographer. I have pretty much zero interest in photography. I have a nice consumer-level digital camera that is mostly used by my husband, because I rarely take pictures of anything. I don’t like editing photos and making tweaks to them until they’re perfect. I may take a few photos until I get one that I like, but I’m not one to spend time retouching, reframing, and adding watermarks. (Who would want to steal my photos anyhow?)

I received some very kind and well-intentioned constructive criticism from another blogger, and it centered pretty much exclusively on the photographs that I include in my posts. The things she said were similar to the things mentioned on the blog hop e-mail list–take your photos in natural light! Use a photo editor to clean things up! Do this-that-and-the-other with your photos to make them beautiful and artsy! Make your photos bigger! (This sounds easy, but making my photos larger messes with my template. In addition to not being a photographer, I am also not a graphic designer, so messing with the template is outside my skill set.)

“Yikes,” I thought. “I have a difficult enough time sitting down to sew and to write about the things that I’m sewing. How am I supposed to find an extra hour to take the perfect picture and then edit it to within an inch of its life so it looks like it could appear in a catalog or magazine?”

The short answer: I won’t. I can’t. And if that drives people away, I’m sorry. My photos will continue to be semi-haphazard unedited snapshots of the things I make, because that’s what I have time to do. I’m not trying to attract sponsors or make a living from my blog or create a “brand” for myself. I just want to share what I make with the time I have to share it. Something’s got to give, and sorry photo buffs, it’s the photos.

This is part of the reason why I haven’t posted in the last week. I’ve been waiting for that hypothetical “perfect day,” where I’ll have lovely natural light to take artsy photos of some quilt blocks that I made. Oh, and time to take the photos while the lovely natural light is available. It hasn’t happened yet. I’ve come home from work late or had to wrangle a surly toddler or it’s been raining pretty much every night for the last week. But here are some snapshots, taken on my vintage dining room table at twilight. Flash was used! And the light from the chandelier! I know, it’s as unnatural as a box of Twinkies, but I’ve got to work with what I have.

First up: this paper-pieced X block, for the Dream circle of Do Good Stitches. Jeannette asked for red, white, and blue. I got to use my favorite navy blue fabric, which made me happy. It’s weird–I’m not a navy blue fan, but I love this fabric. (It’s Dear Stella’s Tiny Diamonds, from their Town & Country line. I have it in a bunch of colors, but this navy blue is my favorite.)

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Next is this rainbow sun for Sara. It’s a paper-pieced block from the Sugar Block Club, which features modern blocks with a traditional feel. I made a slight error in my piecing so the colors are not exactly in rainbow order, but it’s still pretty so I am not going to sweat it.

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Then there’s this gear block, which was a royal pain to make (tons of small pieces! very fidgety!) and I am still not happy with the center. It resembled a really unnatural padded bra cup until I pressed it, and now it resembles a squooshed padded bra cup. I picked out the stitches and re-sewed it twice and it is still icky (to use a technical term). It also seems to be a weird shape–not square, but not circular either. There does come a point where it’s time to just stop fussing with a block that isn’t entirely working, otherwise you’ll completely destroy it. The last thing I wanted to do was start this one over from the beginning because I ripped a hole in it or something, so I had to just let it go.

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These woven ribbons blocks will be part of a baby quilt! Too cute!

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Another iteration of the ever-popular wonky star, this one in yellow and blue. Though the wonky star is not my personal style, I feel like I am getting better at this kind of block.

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My favorite block this month was this sunburst that I made for Sabrina. I can see this in a bunch of different colors. It was so quick and easy to make!

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I have a couple of x and + blocks in progress that I should be finishing tonight, which means that I have met all my bee obligations for June, and they’ll be shipped off on time. My goal for July is to get my bee blocks finished and mailed during the first two weeks of the month, so I can have the rest of the month to do my own things. I have a Christmas quilt that I’m planning to make as a gift, and I really wanted to be done with that by the end of September.

Conveniently, it’s Wednesday, so I’m linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced! Plenty of eye candy over there, so take a look!

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I brought my twelve completed blocks for the Fat Quarter Shop Designer Mystery Block of the Month to my grandmother’s house last weekend. She looked them over, scrutinizing my seams, checking the alignment of my corners.

“I’m not trying to judge your piecing,” my grandmother said. “But these are very good. See this?” She points to a spot where four corners meet, perfectly. “This is very good work.”

Hearing this from my grandmother is very meaningful for me. I grew up watching my grandmother sew and quilt. Like many women her age, she learned to sew as a child, and made clothing and toys for her family. I remember her sewing an army of stuffed teddy bears for a charity sale. She picked up quilting in the early 1980s, when she saw a raffle quilt made by her local guild, and has been quilting ever since. Recent health problems have diminished her ability to hand-applique (one of her specialties) but she is still piecing and hand-quilting.

“So,” she says to me. “Are you going to hand-quilt that?”

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My grandmother always asks if I’m going to hand-quilt the things I make. For her, hand-quilting is the only way to quilt. And she’s good at it. She takes teeny-tiny, evenly-spaced stitches and makes intricate patterns in the negative space of her quilts. What she does is beautiful, and it takes hours. Days. Weeks. (For someone like me–years.)

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It’s hard for me to tell her that I’ll probably be loading this one on my mom’s longarm and freehanding it over a weekend. But that’s probably what I’ll do with this quilt, and with several others that I have in progress. Because otherwise, they’ll never be finished.

seriously, look at those teeny-tiny, perfectly-spaced stitches.

I sometimes feel like modern quilters are crazy for finishes, but not so crazy for the process. There are link parties for finishes, challenges for finishes, contests that require quilters to complete a quilt within tight time constraints to win prizes and recognition. I won’t deny that there’s something satisfying about crossing the proverbial finish line on a project. Finishes are sexy! Everyone loves a finished quilt! But there isn’t a lot of fuss about taking your time.I’m not a finisher by nature. I always have multiple projects going at once, and I flit between them (and sometimes abandon them) at will. I think that’s why bees work so well for me–they allow me to indulge my whims and do a bunch of different things all at once.

Applique and traditional piecework, plus hand quilting.

I have a lot of respect for the beautiful things that machine quilters are doing these days. We’ve come a long way from ugly-ass stippling, which is probably what my grandmother is thinking of when she thinks of “machine quilting.” I love the look of hand-quilting, and I enjoy handwork. I want to hand-quilt something as an heirloom to be passed down to my daughter someday–right next to the quilts that my grandmother has made for my mother and for me. The issue, for me, is choosing the right project. It has to be the perfect project. It has to be something that I am willing to invest years of work in. Because I’m not a finisher. It will take me years.

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But I look at my grandmother’s quilts, and I realize that when I do–it will be so worth it.

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(All photos in this post are quilts made by my grandmother, Lenora Festa, photographed at her house in June 2013.)

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Plum and June

I’m thrilled to be part of Plum and June‘s annual (I think) Let’s Get Acquainted New Blogger Blog Hop. I discovered quilt blogs around the same time I discovered quilting–about a year and a half ago, when I was on maternity leave after the birth of my daughter. I remember seeing this blog hop during its 2012 incarnation, and I’m excited to be on this year’s roster!

I’m Nanette. I work full-time as a department manager at a public library, and I live in a college town in central Illinois with my husband, my 18-month-old daughter, Lenora, and our four lady cats. I am teetering perilously close to the 40-year-old mark, which I find difficult to believe.

Here’s Lenora, as a baby, with one of the first quilt blocks I ever made.

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(I still haven’t finished that quilt. I’ve cut all the fabric, but haven’t managed to get back to it. It’s been on the to-do list for…a year? More than a year?)

I started my blog a little over a year ago. The first post was on my husband’s birthday, and it had nothing to do with quilting or sewing–it was a recipe for a cake. Then I wrote a little bit about knitting, and shared some of the things I was sewing, and I’ve pretty much settled into blogging about quilting–when I get around to blogging.

I know that my writing here has been intermittent at best. That’s what a full-time job and an active baby-turned-toddler will do for you. I’m trying to be better about it and to update more frequently, which is why I’m part of this blog hop. Part of me wonders if I’d update more often if people were actually reading. I admire those bloggers who throw themselves wholeheartedly into taking beautiful photos of their projects, teaching others new techniques, and sharing pieces of themselves. They really foster a sense of community, and I think that’s part of what drew me into modern quilting when I first started out. (That, and the pretty fabric.) I’d love to be one of those bloggers someday.

The other day, my husband was tinkering with a mini-computer, and I was sewing together a quilt block. I told him how amazed I was that, eighteen months ago, I couldn’t thread my sewing machine or load the bobbin without freaking out and/or calling my mom for help. Now it’s just habit. It’s routine. It’s so deeply ingrained that I just do it without really thinking about it.

I need to find a way–somehow–to make writing about creating part of my habit. It needs to be something that I just do, the same way that I just load that bobbin or thread that needle or sew that quarter-inch seam. It needs to be part of the process.

Now, for the pretties. These are some bee blocks that I recently finished–they’ll be headed to their new homes this weekend, hopefully to be part of a quilt that actually gets finished (as opposed to my giant mountain of unfinished projects of various stripes). Anyone have any tips on getting over my start-itis? I love starting new projects, but I never seem to finish anything, ever.

First up, the Dresden plate from my last post. The hexie center was inspired by the Dresden plate tutorial at V & Co. I thought it was more fun than a plain center. I used my trusty Hex ‘n More ruler to cut the hexagon. One of these days, I need to devote an entire post to how much I love my Hex ‘n More ruler. It’s really an ingenious little invention.

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(I just noticed the loose white threads on the black background. Whoops! I’ll be sure to pick those off before I mail my block.)

 

Next, these two Quatrefoil blocks. These were a blast to make. The recipient wanted one in aqua and yellow, and one in aqua and red.

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Finally, a Spring Showers block. The recipient wanted a gray center with spring-y greens and blues on the outside. I think this one turned out really well, too! It does need to be trimmed down a little. I tend to oversize my HSTs so I can trim them down, and it looks like a couple of them may have been a little bit off. The corners and edges line up nicely, though, and that’s what really matters with this kind of block.

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If you’ve enjoyed this post, leave a comment, or follow using your favorite feed reader! I also encourage you to take a look at the other blogs that are part of this week’s stop on the New Bloggers Blog Hop. They are…

Check out my fellow new bloggers–you’ll find lots of inspiration there!

Every week while the blog hop continues, I plan to post a list of that week’s new bloggers, along with a tutorial. Coming up with a tutorial topic was difficult for me. I’m still pretty new to quilting, so I don’t feel that I have any fresh ideas for, say, how to make perfect half-square triangles or how to quickly and painlessly bind a quilt. What I do have to offer is my ability to locate information, so this tutorial series will cover places quilters–especially new quilters–can go to learn more about various quilting-related subjects. I’ll cover a variety of resources, from traditional and modern quilt guilds to video tutorials to online classes and workshops, as well as books, magazines, online communities, and whatever else comes to mind over the next eight weeks. I hope that my contribution will be helpful to my fellow newbies, and I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have.

Thanks for stopping by!

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I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. But I have abundant excuses. Like this little sweetheart:

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And this little project, which was a lot of work–but also very fun!

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Now that the book manuscript is in and my daughter is getting old enough to entertain herself for a few minutes at a time, I should have more time to share the crafty things I’m doing! I also want to make a point of investing more time in the things I really enjoy doing. I sometimes feel like I waste a lot of time doing things like watching TV or playing silly games on my iPad and not enough time reading, sewing, or playing with my little girl.

I may have gone a bit overboard on the online bees. I feel like I spend all my time making blocks for other people, and no time making blocks for myself! Once some of my current commitments are over, I’m going to pare down the bees that I participate in. I did the same thing when I got into knitting–I joined a bunch of clubs and knitalongs, and found that I couldn’t keep up. I’m doing an OK job keeping up with my bees, but I’m starting to fall behind on my various blocks-of-the-month. I’m starting to catch up, though! Hopefully, I’ll be all caught up with my blocks-of-the-month by the end of summer.

The one good thing about online bees, though, is that I try things I might never otherwise touch. The feather blocks from my last post are a good example, and so is this: a Dresden plate.

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I admit, it’s not finished yet. I still need to sew it down to the background fabric, then I need to sew a center. (I’m thinking a black hexagon, inspired by Vanessa from V. and Co. and her gorgeous Dresden plates–and her tutorials, which were very helpful.)

I love, love, love the palette for this block–just black and white–and I loved that I could use some of the texty prints that I’ve picked up over the last few months. I’ve gone just as crazy for the texty prints as everyone else has. I wish I could keep it for myself, but it’s headed to its recipient once it’s finished.

Now that I’ve figured out that Dresden plates aren’t that bad…maybe I’ll make one for myself!

Also, I’ve taught myself how to do counted cross-stitch so I could join up with the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery‘s Summer Sampler. Here’s a peek at what I’ve done so far (please excuse my camera cord, which snuck into the photo):

IMG_1464So fun, and so addictive! This is going to look super-cute in Lenora’s room when it’s done.

 

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It was supposed to be four feathers, actually.

I’m in a whole slew of online quilting bees right now, and for one of the bees we were asked to make blocks for Anna Maria Horner’s Feather Bed Quilt. So I downloaded the pattern and was immediately freaked out by all the templates. Five of them, including two that are pretty obnoxiously tiny.

I put it off, and I put it off, and February ended and I still had no blocks because I didn’t want to deal with templates like, ever. (You are supposed to say “like, ever” in your best Taylor Swift voice, a la “We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together.” Eye roll is optional.)

You see, I hate templates. I hate them with a violent passion. I don’t like tracing things (I make mistakes, or the template shifts and I make a mess). I don’t like cutting out tiny shapes (my scissor skills sucked even when I was in grade school). So templates = yuck.

I managed to piece together some strips for the feather parts about ten days ago, and I pressed the requisite “low volume” background fabric. It sat and sat and sat on the back of a dining room chair, glowering at me. In my defense, my husband was out of town on a business trip for the week, leaving me at home alone with a toddler (when did that happen? she used to be a baby!) and after spending the evening entertaining, chasing, and cajoling her to eat something that isn’t yogurt, crackers, or maple-scented Waffle Wheels, I was pooped. So nothing productive whatsoever took place in the 45 minutes after I finished getting La to bed, getting myself cleaned up, and doing whatever random household crap needed doing (dishes! laundry! garbage! etc.!). I mostly just sat on the couch watching TV.

Yesterday, I decided that enough was enough. I had to get these blocks done. So I grouchily cut out the pieces, starting by making a huge cutting mistake that used approximately half of my strips. Whoops. You know how you’re always told to read directions before you start cutting? You should.

I cursed and swore and ranted as I cut every little inky-dinky piece from those obnoxious templates. I used language that would make the people who were offended by the “Give a F*ck” (asterisk not mine) quilt clutch their pearls, turn violet with offense, and waggle all ten fingers in my direction, all at the same time. I think I made up some new offensive slang, all on my own, just by combining multiple scatological/body part words into strings of offensiveness.

(Admittedly, after a while I was just doing it to amuse my husband, who started snickering every time I opened my mouth.)

It didn’t take long to finish, and I am embarrassed to say that I love how they turned out and I am seriously thinking of making some of these blocks for myself.

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And that, readers, is the beauty of online bees. They force you to do things that you would not otherwise do, and sometimes you even learn to LIKE IT.

ETA: Linking up to the Let’s Get Acquainted link-up at Owen’s Olivia.

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February is going to be a busy month! I’m heading to QuiltCon at the end of the month, and it’s going to be our first family vacation since Lenora was born. I’m a little panicky about the trip–traveling with a 1-year-old seems like is has the potential to be more than a little stressful–but I am also very, very excited to meet some of the people whose sewing I’ve admired online, and to take classes from Debbie Grifka and Anna Maria Horner.

I have a lot of things on my to-do list for this month, even if it’s a busy one. Most of them are on the small side, though.

My plans for a big finish: complete my Rainbow Road table runner for Curves Class. It’s laid out and ready to go, so I just need to complete the piecing, cut the improv curves, sew the curved rows, baste, quilt, and bind. Most of it won’t take too long–I think the hardest part is behind me.

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There’s my Rainbow Road pieces, along with some pieces I’ve cut for the Simply Modern bee.

As far as other Curves Class projects, I really want to make the Scallop Quilt, and I’m planning to make one of the pillow projects for my boss as a retirement gift. I have been loving Curves Class so far, and I hear that Rachel has something new up her sleeve, class-wise. I can’t wait to find out what it is!

Other non-LYoF goals (since I can only officially choose one goal):

  • Finish all of the blocks for the Simply Modern Bee. This bee is a little different than the typical bee–we’re making the Garden Fence block for all of the participants (rather than the participants each choosing a different block). Because of this, it’s easy to get ahead! I’ve selected and cut all of the fabric for the rest of the bee, so all I really need to do is chain-piece all of the blocks and get them ready to mail. This shouldn’t take too long.
  • Finish my two test bags for Sara from Sew Sweetness. Since these are test bags, I may not be able to post pictures of them by the end of the month (it depends on her pattern release schedule), but the due dates are this month. The first test bag is close to finished–I’ll probably wrap it up tonight–and I need to pick up some supplies for Bag #2. I’m still a bag-making beginner, and even in their raw, unedited format, Sara’s patterns are super-easy to follow, so if you’re looking for some fun bag patterns, I encourage you to check out her shop.
  • Keep up with the three BOMs that I’m participating in: Fat Quarter Shop’s Designer Mystery Block of the Month, the Aurifil Designer’s Block of the Month, and Gen X Quilters’ Sisters’ Ten. There are a few other BOMs that I’d like to pick up, but those will be time-permitting. (I love BOMs–breaking quilts up into bite-size pieces is perfect for me!)
  • Keep up with my bee blocks. This month I have blocks due for the 4 x 5 bee, plus a few other bees that I’m participating in. I’ve already decided that I am slightly overcommitted with bees–I can keep up with the ones that I’m in, but I know I’m going to have to let a few of these go once the current round is finished. Bright side, though–I will have lots of blocks to make into quilts!
  • Piece two Swoon blocks. I started Swoon almost a year ago, when I was on maternity leave. I was so inexperienced back then–I could barely thread my sewing machine without freaking out, and flying geese were the bane of my existence! I’ve come a long way in the last year, and it’s time to pick this up again and make some moves towards finishing. Besides, the sooner I finish Swoon, the sooner I can move on to Fireworks–one of Camille Roskelley’s newest patterns.
  • Make the Friendship Bag for the Flickr Friendship Bag Swap, and figure out what goodies I’d like to send to my swap partner. I know I’m going to pop a charm pack of Ruby into the mix, but I’m trying to figure out what else to add. Some tiny scissors, maybe? A few hand-sewing needles? Some random scraps?
  • Finally, I’d like to cut the fabric for the sashing on my Amish with a Twist Quilt. I’ve put this off because it involves cutting giant strips parallel to the selvedge–yuck! I need to just throw down and get it done, though. This quilt is SO CLOSE, and I kept telling myself that I wanted to be ready for the applique part so I could finish soon after my applique class at Quiltcon.

For a short list, this sure is…long. We’ll see what I can accomplish, though! Linking up, as usual, to the Lovely Year of Finishes.

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There’s a new linky party in town, hosted by Mommy’s Nap Time. What I like about this one is that it allows me to write (and doesn’t require me to post a ton of pictures, which is good because I’m a lousy photographer). This week’s question is:

When did you start sewing? Tell us a bit about your sewing history. When did you realize you were really hooked?

I grew up around crafts and handwork, and I have a lot of sewing memories that involve other people–mostly my mother and grandmother. My mom always made all of our Halloween costumes for us, and she always made whatever we wanted, even if it was something bizarre or difficult to make. One year, my brother was a sandwich and I was the five of hearts from a card deck. I wish I had a photo handy–those were some great costumes! I also have a vivid memory from when I was very young of a bunch of teddy bears that my grandmother made for charity. There’s a photo in one of my family albums of all of these bears in different sizes sitting on the wicker bench on her sun porch. There were probably forty of them, all in soft brown flannel with hand-drawn or hand-embroidered faces.

Sadly, I was of the era where it wasn’t a priority to teach “domestic arts” such as sewing or cooking, so while I got a lot of exposure to sewing and handwork as a child, I didn’t get much experience. I occasionally got kits as gifts, but I wasn’t really allowed near the sewing machine. During the winter break of my junior year of college, I spent an overnight with my grandmother, who taught me how to sew using her machine–a workhorse Viking, probably from the late 1960s or early 1970s. I made a long vest out of a black fabric with a grey print (I was pretty goth-y back then). I still have scraps of the fabric in my stash, and the vest is probably in a bin somewhere. I wore that vest like crazy, and I had a great time sewing it, but sewing wasn’t a hip hobby for young women of the early 1990s, and a sewing machine wouldn’t have fit in my tiny dorm room.

When the Stitch ‘n Bitch trend started to gain ground in the early 2000s, I bought Debbie Stoller’s book and spent a few weeks teaching myself how to knit. It was the summer between grad school and gainful employment, so I had ample time on my hands. Once I figured knitting out, I was hooked, and I’ve been a knitter ever since. But I had always felt drawn to quilting and sewing. I attribute some of that to my grandmother, an expert quilter and seamstress (and my daughter’s namesake!) who can do the most amazing things with a needle and thread. Five or six years ago, my mother upgraded her sewing machine and gave me her old one. It sat in the guest room for a few years–I’d say that it was gathering dust, but it was in a protective case. There were a few times when I’d go to Hancock Fabrics or JoAnn and see a pattern and buy some fabric and think, “I am going to get out the machine and sew something!” but I never made good on it.

Then, around Thanksgiving of 2010, my husband and I went to Waynesville, Ohio to look at the antique shops. While we were there, we wandered into the Fabric Shack, which is an insanely awesome fabric store. Amid all of the beautiful fabrics (it really is a wonderland of fabric with something for everyone), I saw the Moda precuts, and zoned in on a jelly roll in bright pinks and purples and lime greens. It must have called my name. I bought it, and the next time I visited my mom, I said “you must teach me how to do something with this.”

She did, and I started doing some sewing when I would visit her, but it still didn’t stick.

In June of 2011, I got a freelance job for Library Journal to write an article about “trendy crafts” resources for libraries. I had plenty of knitting and crochet books and web sites, but I needed some quilting and sewing stuff. While searching the web for quilting, I discovered the modern quilting “scene” and Fat Quarterly. I remembered that jelly roll, and conveniently, the most recent issue of Fat Quarterly featured projects that use precuts.

Looking back at it…I knew so little. I could barely thread my machine, and changing the bobbin gave me fits. I knew NOTHING about sewing properly, or maintaining a steady quarter-inch seam. I knew NOTHING about cutting fabric, or how to press. That first quilt top is somewhere in my basement. It’s a hot mess. Someday I will take a picture of it so we can all make fun of it. The crooked seams! The weird bias-es of the poorly-cut fabric! The bizarre piecing errors!

But it was liberating, in a way. I knew so little that I wasn’t afraid to mess things up. I wasn’t intimidated by how little I knew–I just jumped in and did. And I’ve tried to keep that attitude, even though I know a lot more now. With that project, I was hooked. After a couple months’ break due to being gigantically pregnant (and then having a newborn around the house), I joined the Swoon Quiltalong about a year ago, and I became full-on obsessed with quilting and sewing. Now I have a formidable fabric stash, and I continue to try new things and to experiment and to learn.

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Here I am with my daughter, Lenora. (And her Pink Kitty, and her Bear, which is squished under my neck.)

In preparation for QuiltCon (I can’t wait!), here are five things you may not know about me:

  1. I write the crafts and fiber crafts review column for Library Journal, a magazine that helps librarians select the best books for their library’s collection. I’ve had this job since 2008, and I have a pretty amazing personal collection of quilting, knitting, and sewing books as a result. I also write fiction reviews for a couple of different publications, and I read upwards of 100 books per year.
  2. I am a crazy cat lady who has four cats. They are all female and they are all rescue cats, including two strays that my husband and I picked up off the street.
  3. I have (at least) twelve pairs of eyeglasses. I have not counted them lately. My prescription hasn’t changed in about ten years, so they are all wearable.
  4. I have been writing online since 1997, but thankfully, most of the really old stuff is gone.
  5. I asked my husband for one, and this is what he came up with (while giving me a look that said “duh, of course this”): I was a three-time Jeopardy champion. The shows aired in early 2002, and the money I made helped me pay for grad school. I wish I had waited to audition, because I know ten times more useless stuff than I did eleven years ago. That is what being a reference librarian will do for you.

I’m linking up to the QuiltCon Link Party, and looking forward to getting to know more of my fellow attendees, both virtually and in-person!

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January was mostly a bee block catch-up month, with a few block-of-the-months thrown in. I also started Curves Camp this month, and I’ve been working on a few projects from class.

First, the bee blocks. I already wrote about my 3×6 blocks, which turned out beautifully, and the recipients really seemed to love them! I admit that I am always nervous about picking the right colors for people, especially when they ask for very specific shades of a color. I just try to do the best I can based on their mosaic–that’s all I can do. I’m in a whole bunch of other bees, too, so here’s the rundown on those:

  • Mo-Stash Bee, Friends Hive: Melissa wanted Patchwork Wheel blocks in nautical colors–blues and greens, especially. I had a scrap of this rope print in my stash, so I added that as well–it seemed very nautical to me!

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  • We Bee Learning, Group 2: Shilo wanted a Rocky Road to Kansas block in blues and greens with a grey background. I love this block–it’s a really easy, fun paper-pieced pattern!

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  • NewBees, January 2013: Dawn wanted a disappearing nine patch block. For this bee, the Queen Bee sends the fabric to you. I love the colors that Dawn sent! This block was super-quick and easy, and the results are great.

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  • Moody Blues, November 2012: Yes, November. I got behind on this one, mainly because I was really intimidated by the paper piecing. Sabrina wanted a Circle of Flying Geese, and after a few seriously botched attempts, I came up with these. They didn’t turn out perfectly–there’s a couple of minor gaps, and one of the seams tore when I removed the foundation paper–but they’re fixable. And I learned a lot about foundation piecing from making these blocks!

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  • Moody Blues, January 2013. Linda had an interesting idea: everyone in the group made one block of their choice, plus one block that she assigned to us. She sent us the fabric for the first block, and we made the second block from stash. Coincidentally, I was assigned the same Rocky Road to Kansas block that I made for We Bee Learning, so that one was a breeze. I made it from stash fabrics. The fabric she sent was bright pinks/oranges/yellows, and I have an abundance of those colors in my stash. She sent 5″ charms, so I searched my various quilting books for patterns that use 5″ charms. I found a nice one in Joan Ford’s Scrap Therapy book, so that’s what I made. The pattern made two blocks, so she got three blocks from me!

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  • do.Good Stitches, Dream Circle, January 2013: This is a wonky star block, but it’s designed so the stars are low-volume prints and solids, and the background is assorted brights. It doesn’t look like much as a single block, but it’s going to look amazing as a finished quilt.

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Now, for the BOMs.

  • Aurifil’s 2013 block-of-the-month has a rock music theme, and this month’s block is called Jumpin’ Jack Flash. This block had a whole bunch of moving parts–half-square triangles, flying geese–so it was a bit fiddly. I love the result, though! I used my Jeni Baker Blogger’s Choice bundle from Fat Quarter Shop for this one.

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  • Sisters’ Ten BOM: This one is called Grandmother’s Frame. I used my Kaye Prince Blogger’s Choice bundle for these. (I also added a couple of grey and white prints for added variety.)

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  • Finally…three blocks from the Fat Quarter Shop’s Designer Mystery Block of the Month. I love this BOM–the fabric is gorgeous (and you always have plenty of leftovers), the patterns are a great combination of challenging and fun, and the results have been great. I fell behind on these during the holidays, but I managed to get caught up this month. So here’s January 2013, December 2012, and October 2012. In a few more months, I’ll have a finished quilt top, just like that!

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I’m linking up to the Lovely Year of Finishes, just under the wire! I met all my goals this month, and I look forward to meeting more goals in February.

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