Monday
Mar282011

Project Simplify - Day 1

Hello, hello!  If you missed Friday's introduction check here and you'll be up to speed :)

When I first thought about doing this project, I saw my quilts looking quite different from those in the book.  My stash has a “shabby chic” flavour.  I definitely gravitate towards soft, light fabrics.  The more pink, the better. 

But I do have a few stacks of brights and settled on this collection to make “Square One”, which is similar to the American Jane - "Snippets" used in the book.

I bought this happy fabric when it first came out in 2007.  I’m a big Susan Branch fan (fabric, patterns & scrapbooking stickers/paper/stamps) and was excited when this line came out. 

I bought almost every print and planned to make this & this – one for each of my girls.  Well, I did make the red one - for the quilt shop where I work - but then I don’t know what happened.  Guess I'd satisfied my red pinwheel craving.  (Although thanks to Carrie's post last week, I think I feel a new craving coming on!)

Love these cute little quotes on the selvedges. 

From top to bottom they read:

  • It’s believing in roses that make them bloom.
  • The strongest of all warriors are these two:  Time & Patience.
  • Creativity is really the structuring of magic.
  • No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.
  • Today, if you’re not confused, you’re just not thinking clearly.

And my personal favorite:

  • "Stay” is such a charming word in a friend’s vocabulary.

I just added it to my sidebar.  (Thank you Susan!)

In my defense, I have made a few things with this fabric.  A couple of years ago my girls were taking an art class and needed something for their pastels & charcoals etc.  So I made these little bags which have become their Nintendo DS storage/travel cases.

 

Every year, I make my girls a new backpack for school.  When I first started (in 2005), I was in charge of fabric selection.  But that control didn’t last long.  Soon they wanted to choose and the conversations would go something like this:

Her:   “Mommy, can I have this fabric?”

Me:  “No, I just bought that.”

Her:  “What are you going to make?”

Me:  “I don’t know yet.”

Her:  “How about this?”

Me:  “No, I have plans for that fabric.”

Her:  “This?”

Me:  “No (can’t come up with a good reason and she doesn’t understand the concept of hoarding yet).  How about this?  This is really pretty, don’t you think?

Her:  “No, I don’t like it.” 

Then we’d go to the fabric store and buy something they liked.   I think you're starting to understand why my stash is out of control ...

This year my 9 year old finally wanted this fabric for her backpack and I made a lunch bag with matching placemat too.

    

But that backpack & lunch kit didn’t make much of a dent.  Let’s see what making a quilt will do ... :)

Friday
Mar252011

"Project Simplify"

Hello & welcome to “Project Simplify” – my plan to:

  • reduce my fabric stash (& finally learn how to free-motion quilt already, I’ve only been quilting for 24 years!) as I
  • make every quilt/pillow in Simplify with my daughters so I can
  • donate (quilts & pillows, not daughters) to help raise money for non-profit organizations and hopefully
  • inspire you to reduce your fabric stash (if you want/need to) for a good cause as I
  • share my journey with you
  • Oh, and there just might be a giveaway or two!

How did I get here? 

Well, to say I’ve become borderline obsessed with Camille’s book lately is an embarrassing accuracy.  I hope you won't think I’m banana-nuts-crazy but - in the interest of full disclosure - I’ve been carrying it around with me everywhere.  (For example, when I had to take my little one to the hospital to deal with this, I wouldn’t leave the house without it – you never know how long a wait you'll have in the Emergency Dept. and I needed something pleasant to pass the time.)  I love the photography and the projects look like so much fun (and pretty, and easy). 

I met Camille at Quilt Market in Minneapolis 2010.  She’s so nice and I’ve been reading her blog since.   I’ve gotten to really like her as a mom, a quilter and a very creative person.  For me, her blog has been a source of beautiful pictures, charming tales of motherhood and general quilting loveliness.

Now, I have a problem.  Well, two.  (Ok, several.  Way too many to mention.  But only two that pertain to this conversation.)

  • I have a hard time making a quilt for myself  “just because”.  My house is too small for a prolific quilter and I’m running out of beds ... and sofas ... and closet space.
  • I’ve been “collecting” pretty fabric for a long time and have this fear of cutting it & sewing it and using it up until it’s all gone and I don’t have it anymore. Clearly this hoarding thing isn’t working for me.  I need to let my fabric fulfill its destiny by making it into quilts for people to love.

Last month I received a request for a fundraiser donation.  I quickly selected some fabric from my shelf and whipped up one of the quilts in the book.  I was done in a few days.  That felt so good – helping a worthy cause, making something from the book and using up fabric I wasn’t ever likely to use for myself. 

A few days later I found myself feeling very stressed (ok, maybe it was a hormonal PMS thing) as I faced the overwhelming task of organizing my fabric.  This is what it looked like AFTER five hours of re-folding & rearranging.  I didn't think to take a before picture.   I would have been too embarrassed to show you anyway.

Obviously, my fabric addiction is way outta hand.  There's more in those boxes, in the cupboards below and under my rather large sewing/cutting table.  Plus the shelves are deep and even more fabric is hiding in behind many of those piles.  I thought, “I reeeeeally need to get rid of some of this stuff.”  Followed by, “Maybe I should make another quilt for the fundraiser.” And then “I really want to make more quilts from Camille’s book.”  These three ideas – and having recently watched the movie “Julie & Julia” - suddenly converged into an idea:  “Project Simplify”.

So here I go.  I’m so excited.  Over the next few months I’ll be sewing my way through the book - starting with Chapter 1 - and sharing with you things like:  when & why I bought fabric, what (if anything) I’ve previously made from it, the process of making each project, the experience of including my daughters (8 & 9 ½), the finished quilts & pillows and whatever else happens along the way.

Rules: 

#1 - NO BUYING FABRIC.  None.  Not even a little FQ.  I must make due with what I have. 

#2 - Get over fear of free-motion quilting and just do it already!  If that means hours of practice (and I hate practicing) then so be it.  I've had it up to here with my safety-net crosshatch!  I really need to expand my top-stitching repertoire.  Seriously.

#3 - Donate at least four quilts and all four pillow covers to fundraising intitatives to raise money for causes that are important to me and/or you, dear audience.

One more thing, just for fun:  I see this project as a "stash diet".   During the marathon five hour tidy-up I was reminded of just.how.heavy fabric is!

And as many of us know, when you go on a diet, both weight & inches are very important things to track.   It’s motivating to see results.  I think it’ll be fun to see how many pounds/kilos & yards/metres (in fabric) I use up. 

Maybe you’ll be inspired to simplify your stash and share your time & talent - as a quilter - for a good cause too.

Wish me luck and I'll see you next week with the first quilt!

Tuesday
Mar222011

And the Winner of This Quilt is ...

... the highest bidder.  That bidder could be you!

A very good friend of mine – Lani Donaldson – is hosting her 2nd Annual Fundraiser for Literacy (a cause close to my heart as a mom of a dyslexic daughter who struggled to learn how to read.  I’m happy to report that because of her experience with Beacon Literacy she’s a very active member of her Grade 4 Reading Club!).  I wanted to donate something for the Silent Auction portion of the event so here’s what I did.

As a quilter, I a) am always looking for quick patterns to make and b) have lots of fabric that’s been in my stash for far too long waiting to be made into something pretty.

I came across this fun pattern for a throw-sized quilt in my newest and favorite book (see sidebar on right).

I thought it would look great made with these beautiful Japanese prints. 

I enlisted my helper to sort the block fabrics.  She named them (L to R) “Black Leaves, Paris, Dots & Green Fern”.

Paris is my favorite – I have a thing for fabric with words, especially vintage-looking script.  (Did you notice it in my blog banner?)  I also thought it was appropriate, considering the cause. :)

And now for my embarrassing confession:  I can’t do free-motion quilting.  I took a class on it about 20 years ago, but at the time I had a really crappy sewing machine and the results were frustrating, to say the least.  I’ve never really tried since.  (If I can't do something well on the first or second try, I tend to give up.  I know, it's totally immature.)  So all my quilts are top-stitched with either a crosshatch or in-the-ditch.  That may seem kinda boring.  But in my oh-so-humble opinion, you can NEVER go wrong with the classic crosshatch.  It always reminds me of Chanel.

In the interest of using fabric economically, I (almost) always piece my backs.  It gives a quilt that one-of-a-kind touch.  In this case, I had a large piece of brown that obviously had been used for bias binding so it was missing a big corner.   Ta da!

Even though these colors aren’t typically me, I love this quintessentially Japanese palette - all earthy, natural, easy to live with colors.  My goal was to make a quilt with broad appeal to really get those bids up!

So if you want to own this original, handmade quilt please get tickets for this fabulous event and bid on it.  If this quilt isn't your thing (how could it NOT be?!), I'm sure you'll find another treasure at the auction. 

Take someone special out for a wonderful evening (May 6th, 2011).  You’ll be glad you did!

PS:  If you aren't able to attend but are interested in bidding, please leave me a comment.  I can bid on your behalf and then ship it to you!

Monday
Mar212011

Glass Half Full

What a five-year-old thinks about being stuck in traffic:

"Well, Mummy, at least we're not last!"

 Words to live by.

Thursday
Mar172011

Luck of the Irish

Polka Dot fabric - Simplicity by Moda

Message pad & paper clip - Laura Ashley

Fabric yo-yo - from a scrap in my stash

Lemon-Lime Twist cupcake from Crave

Monday
Mar142011

She Has Other Plans For Me

Ok, I had daughters for a reason:  so I could fill my home with pretty things like this ...

and these ...

and this ...

NOT THIS!

But if she really wants this book with a creepy cover and tales of terror, who am I to deny her? 

Happy Birthday, my sweet little shark-loving, thrill-seeking ballerina.

Sunday
Mar132011

Japan in Our Hearts

This week I was planning to share my love of Japanese Quilt/Craft books & magazines.  Instead, my family and I extend our thoughts & hearts to Japan and those affected by this tragedy.

Thursday
Mar102011

Instantly Well Loved

I know many quilters and most have a strong opinion about whether to pre-wash fabrics before making a quilt.  I'm a "don't bother" kind of girl for two reasons:

1 - It's an extra step that requires too much time & energy (wash, dry, iron, refold …)

2 - I love quilts with that "oldy-worldy" look, even if they're brand new.  And the best (only?) way to get that look is to wash the quilt in warm and dry on high after making it with non-preshrunk fabric. 

Before ...

After.

Before...

After.

Monday
Mar072011

Note to Self #3

A fresh application of this ...

immediately followed by a few (ok, several) of these ...

equals ... embarrassing!

"Uh, Ma'am? You should go check a mirror."

Friday
Mar042011

Eye of the Beholder

Sometimes I catch myself thinking things like, “I have pretty garbage.”

Is that weird? 

Wednesday
Mar022011

How to Make a Seven Year Old Happy

Wait for a Saturday afternoon when the music store is closed for the weekend and then break a string on her violin while trying to tune it.  She's happy because she gets a two-day break from practicing.  She's extra happy because her mom's the one who broke it.

How do you make her mom happy?  Remind her that she was very smart to get extra rental insurance.

Monday
Feb282011

Winter Pinks

How does this Canadian chase away the frigid winter blues?

First she replaces the boring brass buttons of her favorite pink wool cardigan with these pretty vintage rhinestone ones.  Never mind that the button holes are too small ... happiness isn’t always about being practical.

Next she asks her mom to please knit her warm pink mittens.

Then she suggests to her husband that this soft pink scarf would make a nice Valentine’s Day gift.

And finally, she puts lovely blushing ranunculus blossoms on her mantle.

(Artificial, schmartificial ... these won't die!)  How do you cure the winter blues?

Sunday
Feb272011

Note to Self #2

You know you’re in Palm Springs, California when you turn on the tv and the first thing you hear is:

“ATTENTION CATHETER USERS!”

Talk about target marketing!  If you’re not familiar with Palm Springs, it’s basically a desert haven for wealthy, retired people who like to golf.  Emphasis on the word retired.

By the way, coming up with a photo for this post was tricky.  Having no rubber tubing on hand, my only ideas were this handle or a small puddle of yellow-colored water on the white bathroom floor tiles ...

... you're welcome.

Thursday
Feb242011

"Thank You, Laura Ashley"

I’m a home body.  And I don’t get out much socially.  But this past weekend I went to dinner with some friends – a special group that boasts an English Masters student, advertising account manager, kindergarten teacher, neonatal respiratory therapist, flight attendant and … me.

About every six months or so, one of us will shoot out a reminder email that we’re due for a get together.  Then we spend a week coordinating schedules to find a date that’s a month or two away.  We rarely manage to get all six of us, but we lucked out this time.

Our history goes back some 20 years when we were young sales associates at a Laura Ashley store.  Our mutual love for the Laura Ashley brand is what we had in common.  Our time spent working together led us to becoming friends.  And despite our shop closing 10 years ago (and most of us leaving our jobs before then) we Laura Girls have maintained a great friendship.

Over the years we’ve shared in the success of graduations, praised new jobs, celebrated two weddings (three were child brides, and we’re still rooting for you Chica!), had several house-warmings, rejoiced at nine baby showers and mourned at four funerals.

When we get together we do all the usual things:  reminisce about the store, the other people we worked with, the customers, the products (don’t kid yourself, if we ever decided to get rid of all our Laura Ashley treasures – and that would NEVER happen – it’d be one sweet garage sale!).  We lament how the Laura Ashley of the 90’s is gone forever.

We share photos & stories, catch up, laugh/cry about how the aging process is affecting us, sympathize over difficult situations and just enjoy being in each other’s company. 

We all – husbands included – find it remarkable and pretty special that a part-time job at a little store so long ago could have forged such a long-lasting bond among six girls.

I think of myself as a Laura Girl because of how much I loved the style.  But I call myself a Laura Girl because I’m a proud member of this select little circle of friends.

If it’s true that you can judge people by the company they keep, then I’m deeply honored & humbled.  Thank you ladies for keeping me in your lives.  I love you all.

Tuesday
Feb222011

Becoming an Expert on All Things Yucky

In other words, being a parent.

Why is it that many childhood illnesses sound so ... gross?  The names alone fill every parent with shame - especially when they have to call the school to say something like, "She won't be in today because she has HAND, FOOT & MOUTH DISEASE."  (And the reply on the other end of the phone is a profesionally sympathetic and yet still slightly eeked out, "Oh, ok.")  Despite the embarrassment, you want to alert the teacher in case other children fall ill.

But I'll tell you exactly how to make your child feel better:  let her have ice cream for breakfast, followed by an all-you-can-eat buffet of rainbow colored popsicles (in between bouts of Tylenol, medicinal mouthwash & frequent hand-washing) while watching High School Musical 3 over & over & over ...

And now I have a date with my washing machine and some bleach ...  'cause apparently this thing is highly contagious.

Sunday
Feb202011

Anecdote First, Then Apology

Scene:  Waiting room of a walk-in medical clinic.  It’s been five minutes since the main characters - a mother and her 6 year old daughter - arrived.  Several other really sick people are also waiting and they got in earlier. 

The mother didn’t come prepared for a long wait.  She’s reluctantly reading an old, germy issue of People magazine, trying to enjoy red carpet fashions and decide who looked better in the same dress while attempting to avoid contact with the invisible human debris that is lurking on the pages just waiting to infect her. 

The daughter is becoming restless with boredom.  The mother searches her coat pockets for a cell phone which miraculously a) she has with her and b) isn’t dead.  The mother offers the phone to the daughter who is excited to have something fun to play with instead of the Fisher Price house that’s seen better days.  After a few minutes of playing a game on the cell phone…

Daughter:  Mummy.    Mummy.    MUmmy.

Mother:  Yes?

Daughter:  Can I play with the calculator?

Mother:  What calculator?

Daughter:  The one on your phone.

Mother:  There’s a calculator on my phone?

Daughter:  Yes, right here.  See?

Mother:  (A little surprised, she smiles and gently shaking her head as she admires her daughter’s intelligence.)  Hmm. Whatta ya know.  Sure.

A few minutes of calculating go by.

Daughter:  Mummy.    Mummy.    MUmmy.

Mother:  Mhmmm?

Daughter:  Can I use the camera?

Mother:  What camera?

Daughter:  The one on your phone.

Mother:  There’s a camera on my phone?

Daughter:  Yes, right here.  See?

Mother:  (A little more surprised and slightly concerned at how much more her daughter knows about her phone than she does, she furrows her eyebrows.)  Uh.  Ok.

Several photos later …

Daughter:  Mummy.  Mummy.  MUmmy.

Mother:  What is it, Honey?

Daughter:  Can I video you?

Mother:  You can record video with my phone?

Daughter:  Yes, like this.  See?

Mother:  (Suddenly looks terrified as she realizes she doesn’t even have a ticket for the technology transport that’s leaving the station with her daughter at the helm.)

                              *          *          *          *          *

This story is intended to illustrate my occasional technical ineptitude.  And to help explain that if you tried to subscribe to my blog last week (probably most if not all of you are my closest & dearest friends because I emailed you and begged you to), it wasn’t set up properly.  Sorry ‘bout that.  But it’s working now (see column on right), if you want to try again. 

Between you and me, it’s a miracle I even have this blog.  And I did it all by myself.  Well, except for the several dozen emails to/from the Technical Support Dept, but they just sent me links to videos on how to fix my setup issues … and kindly reassured me a few times that I didn’t need to cry.

Thursday
Feb172011

Note to Self #1

Every now and then, I'll be sharing little pearls of wisdom - sometimes funny things, often things resulting from my forgetfullness, bad judgement, laziness, absentmindedness, etc.  My goal is to help you avoid the same mistakes.  And/or to make you smile.

Here's the first installment.  Read, learn and enjoy.

Don’t:

  • ask your daughter to pick out her favorite fabric from your sewing room stash ("Oh no reason, Sweetheart.  Just curious.")
  • wait until she’s at school to start making her a birthday gift
  • smugly hide the evidence before she comes home, but then
  • forget to dispose of the scraps in the garbage can

Because when said short person notices the remnants you WILL be asked:  "Mommy, what are you making with my fabric?"

Parenthood requires you to be good at a lot of things - like thinking on your feet, remaining calm under pressure ... and lying.

Wednesday
Feb162011

Paisley & Me

I used to dislike paisley.  Almost to the point of hating it.

As in had a negative emotional response whenever I saw it. 

I have absolutely no idea why.  I don’t recall a bad experience with it.  (I did, however, endure the “what were you thinking” fashion sense as a child in the 70s ...) 

Anyhow, one day I learned the symbolism of the paisley motif:  it depicts a sprouting seed and symbolizes new life.  If you can give me the back story or history of something, I'm usually far more interested in it.   This new piece of information made me look at paisley in a different way with a softer, more compassionate attitude.

Since then I’ve developed a sort of friendship with paisley, mostly as it relates to quilting fabric in my stash (don't think I'd ever have drapes made with it or a sofa covered in it).

For example, when it comes to choosing fabrics for a project, I think about more than just color. 

I also pay attention to these print elements – all of which contribute to the project's end result:

  • scale (small, medium, large)
  • subject matter (flora, fauna, geometric, ...)
  • direction (parallel, diagonal, random, ...)
  • movement (busy, quiet, ...)
  • personality (traditional, delicate, sweet, ...)
  • mood (happy, serene, vibrant, ...)
  • texture (printed, woven, glazed, ...)

For me, paisley can be very … bossy.

But sometimes it adds just the right amount of something to perk up a quilt. 

Regardless of my continuing hit & miss results with paisley, I don’t ignore it anymore. 

Sometimes I invite it to play with the other prints in my stash. 

And on a really good day, it makes its way into one of my quilts.

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