Greetings, Polka Dot Exchangers!

Do you see your fabric yet??

Do you see your fabric yet??

OK folks, this is the first time I have ever participated in a fabric exchange.  What a hoot!

So far, about half of the fabric has come in…I think.  It was 60 that we sent out, so I’m guessing that it will be 60 that we receive.  Just getting all the fabric is wonderful, but I am so pleasantly surprised and charmed by the lovely notes and greetings sent in each envelope!

I love quilters.  No doubt about it.

And I am moved by some of the people in this exchange…like 85 year old Eula Mae in Kansas who’s been quilting for 65 years.  Bless her heart.  And Carollee in California who’s husband recently passed away and is hoping the polka dots will cheer her up.  (Hi Carollee!  Hope they cheer you up too! Aren’t they interesting to receive?)

As soon as I opened the first two or three, I decided to create a tiny scrapbook of the notes from everyone, which are just as lovely as can be, don’t you think?  If you are receiving them, you know just what I mean–each one unique.

Notes from the ExchangeIt’s also unbelievable to me the reach that was achieved on this exchange:

Texas. Washington State.  Mississippi.  Massachusetts. Californinia. Indiana. Virginia. Michigan.  New Jersey. Colorado.  And that’s just in the first half.

Polka dot ExchangeI can’t wait to start using all your fabric and I am SO grateful to all of you for participating!

If you want to send photos of any of your projects that you work on using the polka dots, feel free to contact me.

And I’ll keep up the posting when the rest come in!

All the Eggs in One Basket

Egg basketI made this little basket (or bag) from the Easter egg files designed by Purely Gates.

She only works with distributors and quilt shops, so you can ask for them at your local quilt shop (or at Sew Generously if you ARE local.)

You use mylar in the hooping as an applique. The sparkle of the eggs is not showing up well in these photos because I took them with my iphone, and did not pay much attention to the light.

egg basket 2The sparkle is obvious when you view them in person and turn them toward the light.  Each egg pattern is different and distinct and the color palette and instructions are very clear.  Just be sure to purchase some mylar too.  I guarantee you’ll have some fun with this.

Here in the midwest we have a stretch of mild days ahead.  My plants are not yet showing any signs of life, but it’s early.

I have faith.

May your Easter holiday bring you the peace of knowing that even the viciousness of this past winter is not the last word, and we cannot possibly understand or anticipate the resurgence of life just by looking at the barren twigs of today. Somehow, some way, spring will come and new growth and new life will triumph.

It always has and it always will.

I Must Be Crazy

hand quilt5And so it begins.  The long task of hand quilting this baby, stitch by stitch.

I started with a lovely 28 wt. Aurifil, which I would highly recommend for machine quilting.  But after a few minutes, I switched to a much heavier weight (8) Valdani cotton.  I agonized over the two threads for a long time, finally consulting my husband who asked what would happen if I mixed them, or if, heaven forbid, I decided to machine quilt about half way through.  What if you get bored, he asked, or frustrated, or your hands seize up from the constant grip of the needle, or carpel tunnel sets in, or arthritis?  Will the quilt police come after you??

I thanked him for all the positive encouragement and cursed the fact that he knows me too well.

Meanwhile I decided on the Valdani.  It will be a wee bit more expensive, but I love the obvious hand sewn look.  At a size 8, this thread simply will not go through a machine, at least not as a top thread, and therefore is only used for hand work.

hand quilt 3I love that it gives the whole quilt top a homespun look.  I really do not want a quilt that looks like I purchased it at Pottery Barn (no offense to Pottery Barn, they have lovely merchandise.)

I just wanted something that could not be purchased anywhere.  So, yes, as crazy as it may seem, I’m going with the large thread and the hand quilting.

hand quilt 4According to my calculations, it takes me a steady 1 hour to complete a block, and in the quilt there’s approximately 108 blocks, plus the border.  I would have no problem machine quilting the border, but for kicks, let’s add it in.  If I worked an hour every single day, I could complete the quilting in 4 months.  Skipping days here and there, 6 months.

Realistically… one year.  So, boys and girls, this is not a project for the instant gratification crowd.  This is an endurance sport. If you haven’t noticed, I’m trying to psych myself up for the task.

I can do this.

Even though I have lots of other projects I want to work on in between bouts of hand quilting, and you know, life.

I won’t bore you with the ongoing work, at least not too much.  I’ll just give you occasional updates.

So call me crazy. Or call me overextended.  Just don’t call me late for dinner.

hand quilt 1

 

 

How Many Quilts in a Lifetime?

One of the things I hear constantly in a quilt shop is “I wish I had more time.”

Usually someone is walking around a store, inspired by the work of others, inspired by the patterns, inspired by the fabric, just plain inspired.  But what is it about quilting that brings out the lament, “I wish I had more time” ?

When I worked in a fast-paced, deadline-oriented job, I never heard those words. Never.

Something about the act of creating makes us wish we had more time.  Or maybe it makes us wish we didn’t have to ever make any decisions.

But the truth is, we all make decisions about how to spend our time. Walking around a quilt shop, looking at all the work and beauty that goes into each and every project, we come face to face with the hard reality that none of us will ever be able to do it all. We simply cannot make all the quilts, travel to all the places, have all the adventures, meet all the people, have it all, be it all, do it all.

None of us.  No matter how productive, no matter how many sewing machines, no matter how much time we devote, no matter how skilled, no matter how trained or talented, no matter how much balance or non-balance, no matter how hard we plan, or how well we implement the plan, no matter how. hard. we. try.

We cannot do it all.

And every now and then, we look at one another and while we’re in a safe place, we say the words out loud.

I wish I had more time.

On a good day, someone smiles, gives us a hug and replies, “Me too.”

Larger than queen size. finally assembled and ready to be hand-quilted.

Larger than queen size. Finally assembled and ready to be hand-quilted.

 

 

 

 

Color My World … with Polka Dots

I’m ready for the World Wide Polka Dot exchange.

The fabric has been cut.  The envelopes are stuffed.

Now all I have to do is bring it all over to the quilt shop that’s sponsoring the event –  Prairie Stitches Quilt Shoppe in Oswego.

Honestly, there’s still time if you want to join!  It took me a total of about an hour and a half to 1. cut the fabric, 2. stuff the envelopes, and 3. add my return address labels.

I realize, of course, that this whole little event will mean I absolutely must create something with the fabric I receive from others.  But that will be a fun little challenge I can take on over the summer.  I’m leaning toward a sweet polka dot garden idea. With ricrac.  Because what in the world is cuter than polka dots with ricrac?

polka dots 1readytogo

 

Covering the World in Polka Dots

polka dotsThe thing about quilters is that they never seem to run out of interesting ways to connect to one another and to further their hobby/obsession.

This year, I am participating in a fun program from Prairie Stitches Quilt Shoppe in Oswego IL.  It’s a Worldwide Polka Dot Quilt Fabric Exchange.  You still have plenty of time to get involved, you just have to send or bring your quilt fabric to them before March 31.  The details of the rules are here in their latest newsletter.

The basic premise is this:  Cut 60 – 10 in. x 10 in. squares of polka dot fabric.  Could be anything with polka dots.  You know you have some in your stash or you can purchase it at any quilt store.  The only thing they ask is that the fabric be quilt shop quality (no chain store stuff….we all know their fabric is of lesser quality).

Put each 10 in. square into a business size envelope with your return address in the upper left corner.  Mailing address left blank.  Bring all 60 envelopes (or ship them) to Prairie Stitches in Oswego.  You have to call and sign up with them as they have a fee which they will use for postage and handling, and they’ll need to register your address.

Then just sit back and wait for 60 pieces of polka dot fabric from around the world to be delivered to your mailbox!  That’s pretty simple!  The fabric will start arriving in April.

What’s even more fun is they have a couple of Moda designers working on some great pattern ideas for your polka dots when they come in.  Prairie Stitches says they have participants now from around the world…Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and across the US.

So tell your friends everywhere to join in.  The more the merrier!

Find out the details from https://prairiestitchesquiltshop.com/

Chicago in the Dead of Winter

Let’s start this blog post off with a little movie clip, a classic:

I was trying to find “Now is the winter of our discontent…” Of course, it had to be Richard Dreyfuss. But I coudn’t find that clip on youtube. So this will have to do.  Now I want to watch the whole movie again.

Anyway, this is both Chicago in the dead of winter and the winter of our discontent.

But it’s great for getting some sewing done.  I have been trying to do a little more garment sewing, but it’s not something I’ve done much in the past.  It’s just exciting to spend a couple of hours whipping up something to wear when I’m tired of everything in my closet.  Also, I have been collecting fabric for garments over the past year or so.  They are calling out to me to be utilized.

Here’s a very simple sweatshirt jacket that took a couple of hours.  The pattern says 45 minutes, but sorry, it takes me that long to read the pattern and cut the fabric.  Then, of course, I modified it a little as I went along, adding some extra topstitching so the seams looked a little more finished.  But all in all, I’m pleased with the result.

Sweatshirt jacket February 2014

Sweatshirt jacket February 2014

The pattern is from a book called “The Feisty Stitcher” by Susan Wasinger.    The book has a number of unusual patterns that all look like they would be fun to try.  However, this one looked like just my style so I had to try it.

The Feisty Stitcher by Susan Wasinger

The Feisty Stitcher by Susan Wasinger

sweatshirt jacket

As I said, it looked easy enough to do, and quite casual.  I did not add the hood, just a simple placket.  I thought about adding some embroidery, but that’s for another day.

I have some more sweatshirt fabric in a darker color and I just might whip up another jacket some time soon.  It’s easy enough that anyone could try it!  No garment experience necessary!  As for now, I’m off to work on finishing a quilt.

The winter of our discontent may just turn out to be one of the most productive we’ve ever had!

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day – Then and Now

I don’t much care for Valentine’s Day.

In a lifetime, we probably only have one or two Valentine’s Days that stay with us, that capture our memory, that hold the actual magic we see in the sentiments on a card.

My first came when I was 12 years old and in 7th grade.  An 8th grade boy found out I thought he was cute (remember those days…good grief my son is heading straight into that territory in the next couple of years!) and he gave me this Valentine.  Yes, it’s been 40 years and I still have it.

It was a real card, bought at a store, just for me.

It was a real card, bought at a store, just for me.

My favorite part is the note on inside.

My favorite part is the note on inside.

ur 2nice 2b 4 gotten.  It was a tweet in the days before twitter.  A text message that can’t be erased.

Even in this era of Facebook, I don’t know where he is, if he’s still alive or if he’s a millionaire or homeless.  And I am quite sure I am 4 gotten.

Fast forward about 25 years.  My husband bought an engagement ring intending to give it to me on Valentine’s Day.  But when he got the ring, he couldn’t wait another day and asked me to marry him on Jan. 31.  That Valentine’s Day was the sweetest I can remember.  Engaged, in love, happy.

This Valentine’s Day, I took to the sewing machine.

myvalentineI created a little card for my husband using scraps and pieces of lace I had in the back drawers of my sewing room.

flowersThe flowers were cut from some old flea market hankies that were stuffed in a drawer for 15 years…no heirlooms to me, just hidden away so I pulled some out and found the perfect Valentine flowers.

loveyouhoneyI used the machine to add embellishments, sentiment and personalization.  I also played with a little transfer artist paper to add musical notes that my husband would understand.

2014And of course I added the date.  Because, you know, 40 years from now, this time in my life will be 2 nice 2b 4 gotten.

When I showed it to my son, he said, “I don’t think Dad is going to appreciate that.”

“Why not?”  I said, not sounding at all crushed.

He just laughed and shook his 11-year-old-almost-a-teenager head.

Men.

Like I said. I don’t much care for Valentine’s Day.

 

 

 

 

It’s Hemmer Time!

My apologies for the header….I couldn’t resist.

But if you have never used hemmer feet, you are in for a treat.

Bernina has quite a few different hemmer feet and you can read about all the details of each one in their “Feetures” series of books.  These detailed books are the best resource in the industry, explaining every foot and accessory that Bernina makes, why it is engineered the way it is, the advantages of the foot, the how-to’s of different techniques using each foot, and cross references to other feet that might be used for the same technique.

I purchased a few of them and you can see the differences below.

Bernina Hemmer Foot #62

Bernina Hemmer Foot #62

The #62 foot is meant for very small, fine hems on lightweight fabric.  If you look closely, you can see that the hole for the needle is only large enough for a straight stitch.  That’s because the hem this foot creates is only 2 mm wide…only a straight stitch will fit.

 

 

Bernina Hemmer foot 63

Bernina Hemmer foot #63

 

The #63 hemmer is designed to hem around curves.  It takes a little practice to get this hem perfect, but well worth the work.  The cutout on the bottom of the foot is specially designed to make it easier to feed the fabric around a curve. I will be making some flounces in the near future. Definitely needed this foot.

 

Bernina Hemmer foot #66

Bernina Hemmer foot #66

Another wonderful foot.  The Bernina #66 hemmer is designed to use with denim or upholstery fabric, any fabric that’s on the heavy side.  The hem on this foot is approximately 6 mm.

The finish is very clean.  I can see using this on ruffles for valances.

 

 

If you are interested in finding out more about hemmer feet, look it up in Bernina’s Feetures books, or visit bernina.com.

Now that I own a few, I can’t imagine why I waited so long!

Who Sews?

When I first started working again after our son began school full time, my neighbor and I were chatting about work. I told her that I worked for a woman-owned small business very close to home…a sewing store.

She looked at me quizzically and said…”Who sews?”

Behind her words were the unspoken questions of “Who has the time for that?  Why would anyone take up such an old-fashioned, albeit charming, skill?  Isn’t that what a grandma does?”

And I realized, that in the world of non-sewers, there seems to be a real lack of understanding of the whole sewing world/phenomenon.

Who sews?

Having spent a number of years in a sewing store now, I can give at least anecdotal answers to that question.  But it may surprise you.

–Young moms.  All you have to do is glance at etsy or pinterest to see this group.  They will try anything with a sewing machine! And they are also the source for a lot of new fabric designs, patterns, and books.

–Newlyweds.  Starting fresh, they get excited about creating together.

–Middle-aged women with highly stressful full time jobs.  They sew for their sanity.  Truly.

–Artists, artisans and crafts people, in general.  Once they learn to sew, the ideas keep pouring in.  One can never know it all.  They find self-expression in the techniques and fellowship in classes.

–Men.  They are usually drawn to the creative — tackling the technical challenges with gusto.

–People who are grieving or caregiving.  Sewing is such a healing task, especially a quilt made of a loved one’s fabrics or shirts. Not long ago, a woman told me she spent the last year of her husband’s life working on hand quilting a wool blanket, and it kept her from losing her own mind, as her husband faded farther and farther away.

–Volunteers.  If you ever want to know who makes pillowcases for cancer victims, quilts of Valor for the families of veterans, lap quilts for friends in chemo, quilts for women’s shelters, hospital gowns for kids in Haiti, and on and on and on, let me fill you in.  Sewists and quilters.  I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made something for someone else

–Retirees and empty nesters.  Finally, finally, they decide to do something for themselves. Which is ironic, because the first thing they do is make something for their kids or grandkids.

–Anyone with a love of fabric.

Who sews?

Maybe the question should be:

Who doesn’t sew?