Monday, November 28, 2011

'Tis Better to Give...

Finally!  At long last it’s time to put away the autumnal colors – yes, I’m officially a little sick of orange now – and time to pull out the red and green!  It’s time to unabashedly listen to Christmas music while decorating the house and eagerly searching the sky for snowflakes.  It’s time to fill the house with the good smells of baking and the magic of secrets.
And it’s time for my annual debate:  to make gifts for my mom and my sister Vicki, or to buy them.
The pros of making gifts:
  1. Making gifts is the perfect excuse to spend the month of December sewing – guilt free.
  2. Making gifts is economical:  I save the gas money that I would otherwise spend driving from store to store looking for the perfect gift and I don’t have to pay for shipping (unless of course I drive around looking for the perfect fabric or find the perfect fabric on-line).
  3. Making gifts reminds me of how productive I can actually be when I’m not procrastinating.
  4. Making gifts often helps me come up with new and inspired ideas because I’m creating for someone with different tastes and because I’m so strapped for time that I don’t have time to over-think the process.  Me over-think?!?
  5. While creating, I get to anticipate how my mom and sister will respond to their gifts.  Because they are both crafty (and especially nice), their reactions never disappoint.
  6. Making gifts enhances my Christmas spirit.  I would so much rather spend a Saturday in my sewing room creating “wholesome” gifts rather than fighting for a parking spot and elbowing my way through the throngs at Wal Mart, frantically trying to buy the latest electronics at the lowest advertised price, only to discover that they sold out just before I got there.  Yes, I went Black Friday shopping this year and I may be a little bitter.
The cons of making gifts:
  1. Spending the month of December sewing keeps me from doing housework, shopping, wrapping, Christmas cards, etc. – although is this really a con?
  2. Making gifts tends to take a bit of time.
  3. It can be a little difficult to give away one of my creations.  By the time they are finished, part of me wants to keep them and run out at the last minute on Christmas Eve for gifts (except by then, the only gifts available are flashlights, 5-Hour Energy, and windshield scrapers).
  4. It occurs to me that my mom and sister might actually be tired of homemade presents and are too kind to tell me that they’d love a nice sweater or a pair of earrings or even some oven mitts. 
  5. I’m always sewing binding on Christmas Eve.
If I’m not mistaken, the pros seem to outnumber the cons.  But because I know my mom and sister are among the readers of this blog, I probably shouldn’t disclose my decision.  Oh, and Mom and Vicki, if you’d like a new pair of oven mitts for Christmas this year, now would be the time to tell me.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Give Thanks

The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun and like many of you I'm expecting a houseful for dinner.  That means only 3 days to clean my house, redecorate a room or two, and prepare myself emotionally for the big day.  Clearly today is a good day for a short post.  But for once I planned ahead and for the month of November, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I've been making note of some small moments/things in my life for which I'm grateful.  Here are some of the highlights...

  • Listening to my two sons singing "Moves Like Jagger" in the kitchen every morning while they get ready for school.
  • The unbelievably cute turkey that my daughter crocheted for me (without a pattern!).

    Mr. Gobbles
  • Encountering my neighbor who had esophageal cancer and having him remark to me, "Looks like I may be one of the lucky ones."
  • Walking downstairs after tucking my youngest into bed and hearing him say "goodnight Jaws" to his fish.
  • Drinking my cup of tea every morning with my oldest son snuggled up against me on the couch.
  • Having my teenage daughter inform me that she suffers from "chronic happiness."
  • That my 3-year-old nephew finally ended his week long hunger strike -- and that my sister survived it!
  • Dunkin Donuts pumpkin muffins.
  • Walking through the woods with my daughter and listening to her plans for the future, including:  designing portable water purifiers, going on a cruise, and becoming a "Mythbuster."
  • Discovering that my 11-year-old son had created a suggestion box thinking he could actually change the way my husband and I parent him.

  • Stepping out from a nice, hot shower to find that my youngest son had written "Brian was here" on the fogged up window.
  • Having my rock-solid husband reassure me that he is "sound as a pound."
  • Living close enough to Keepsake Quilting that my mom and I were able to drive there today (yes, we may have listened to Christmas music) and load up on fabric, even though I should have been dusting, painting, baking, mopping, etc.  Priorities!!

So there it is, a glimpse into my small but very rich life.  It's amazing how quickly my list grew once I started paying attention -- I do believe there's a lesson in there!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Best Quilts for Fat Quarters - Chance to Win!!!

Strap yourself in.  This may be a longer post than usual because today I get to tell you about Quilters Newsletter’s special issue, Best Fat Quarter Quilts.  On newsstands now, (or follow this link to purchase) the issue is chock full of beautiful projects created with everybody’s favorite pre-cut, fat quarters.  Even better, two of my quilts are featured in the magazine!

On page 79, you’ll find my quilt Autumn Leaves.  Autumn Leaves is made with only 5 fat quarters and a few extra scraps from Deb Strain’s “Saltbox Harvest” collection.  I originally ordered the fabric for my mom for her birthday and naturally had to order some extra for myself.  When the fabrics arrived, I thought the colors were stunning, but I wasn’t quite sure how to use them.  I knew I wanted to keep them together in a project and it clearly needed to be fall-related, but sadly the fabrics sat on the shelf for almost 6 months while I hemmed and hawed (yes, that’s right, “hemmed and hawed”) about them.  But when the call came from QN to submit a design for a fat quarter quilt, I knew exactly what to use.
Autumn Leaves

The "sunflower" center.
Autumn Leaves is my ode to fall, but I may have gotten carried away with the whole leaf theme.  The tree of life blocks are made of “leaves” in red and orange, the corners of the quilt feature maple leaf blocks, and the borders are adorned with simple appliqué leaves.  Even the pattern on the fabrics is, you guessed it, leaves.  This quilt wasn’t exactly difficult to name.  My favorite part of the quilt is actually the star block in the center because I think it looks like a sunflower.  Autumn Leaves looks lovely as a wall hanging in the magazine, but I actually have it displayed on my kitchen table – perfect for November.

My table runner Pansies is found on page 92 of the magazine.  I’m always looking for ideas for seasonal quilts and last spring I was inspired to design the block for this quilt by the pansies I planted in one of my flower beds.  I love pansies because of their brilliant color and I thought the petals of the flowers would be easy to translate into geometric shapes. 


The original Pansies.
While shopping for the fabrics for Pansies, it occurred to me that I should try making the quilt with batiks.  For years I’ve been resisting using batiks because I was concerned that my fabric budget wouldn’t extend to both traditional and batik fabrics (so much fabric, so little cash).  I decided to make the quilt with traditional quilting fabrics and simply mention to the folks at QN that I thought it would also be beautiful in batiks.  To my surprise they responded “We’d love to see it in batiks!”  So I actually made this quilt twice – should have listened to the little voice in my head.  But having made this quilt twice, I can attest to the fact that it’s fun and pretty simple.  The other great thing about Pansies is that it can be made with as many pansy-colored fat quarters as you like (designer’s tip:  buy more!).  By the way, I LOVED the gorgeous colors of the batiks and yes, my batik stash is growing.

So there you have it, the stories behind Autumn Leaves and Pansies.  And for those of you who have been patient enough to read to the bottom of this post, here is the good news:  you have an opportunity to win a fabulous prize package courtesy of Quilters Newsletter and its partners.  Included in the package:

·         A copy of Best Fat Quarter Quilts
·         Wonder Clips from Clover
·         A selection of appliqué and quilting needles from Clover
·         Simplicity Studio Simpli-EZ 30-degree triangle
·         Simplicity Studio Simpli-EZ Jelly Roll Ruler™
·         Sidewinder Portable Bobbin Winder from Wrights

Wow! What a fantastic prize package! To enter to win, go to the Quilters Newsletter blog and in the “Comments” answer the question related to this blog post. Enter by midnight Mountain time, Sunday, November 20. The winner will be notified by Quilters Newsletter. Good luck!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

I've been suspecting it for a while, but today it became all too clear.  I am a hoarder.  No, not the kind you see on reality TV, but a fabric hoarder.

I think it all started back when I used to scrapbook.  I hadn't yet begun to quilt and for a couple of years scrapbooking was my craft of choice.  My favorite part of scrapbooking (other than the photos of my kids, of course) was the beautiful papers.  I loved the colors, the textures and the patterns, and I bought as much as my small budget would allow.  They looked so pretty stacked up and ready to go that I didn't want to use them and if I did, I saved all of the scraps.  When I discovered the joys of quilting, my interest in scrapbooking waned, and now I'm left with a ton of paper and a big plastic bin full of scraps.  I should probably give it away or at least let my kids use it up, but I don't.  Someday I plan to make a dent in that 9 year backlog!

I'm even worse with my fabric.  I love some of my fabrics so much that I can't bear to part with even the smallest pieces.  And when I'm cutting, if I end up with a scrap bigger than 1" square, I throw it into a basket to save.  After all, I make a lot of scrap quilts and I paper piece and you never know when you might be able to fit a small scrap of fabric into a quilt.  Unfortunately the volume of my scrap stash now threatens to surpass my fabric stash and it is so disorganized that I don't know what I have, I can't find what I need, and if I do find a scrap I can use, it's crushed almost beyond repair.

A sampling of my scrap baskets.

The small triangles in question.

I love my scraps, but this morning, while tidying my sewing room, I made a discovery and it occurred to me that my little habit might be getting out of hand.  Last spring I made a quilt using a fat quarter bundle of fabrics in blue, red, and cream.  The quilt had a lot of star blocks and after trimming the seams I was left with hundreds of triangles which I promptly threw into yet another basket.  Over time I inadvertently covered the basket with fabric, wool, and pattern ideas and there it sat for months, until I excavated it today -- I really must tidy more. 

Very small triangles.

The problem is that these triangles are small, really small, so small even I can't believe I saved them.  The smart, time-saving, healthy thing to do would be to throw away the triangles and maybe even some scraps from the bottom of my first scrap basket (circa 2003).  After all, I've got mountains of laundry and bathrooms that need cleaning, not to mention two Halloween quilts that I need to wrap up (still working on that whole finishing thing) -- honestly I don't have time to mess around with these tiny scraps.  To the garbage can!  Hurrah!  Freedom!

But, oh, they are so pretty!  And now I'm getting an idea for a miniature Flying Geese quilt.  What to do, what to do?  If I commit to using them on my blog, I have to follow through (rationalization)... I can always do the bathrooms tomorrow (procrastination)... besides, if I use the scraps, I'm not a hoarder, right? (rationalization)...

Okay, I'm keeping the scraps.