Thursday, April 3, 2014

I'm alive!

Hi everyone!
  So, so sorry to take such a long blogging break.  It was unintentional but couldn't be helped.  As you know if you follow me on instagram, I found out that my back pain and numbness in my leg was more than just a herniated disc.  That particular disc was completely shot and practically nonexistant.  What little of the disc was left had broken and a piece of it was pushing my nerves all the way back on my spinal column.  So, the only real answer for me was spinal fusion surgery.

I had it done on March 13 and am at the 3-week recovery point today.  I am feeling much better and while I still can't do everything I want to do, I am up, moving, driving and walking almost like normal.  I can't bend, lift or twist yet, but it will come with time.  I am improving every day and I go back to my doctor tomorrow to check my progress and see where I go next.

It seems perfect that today is a Totally Random Thursday because I've got so much to show off to you from the month and a half since I last blogged.

**Before the surgery I sewed like a madwoman to get projects done and out of here before I couldn't.  :)  So, I finished up 3 quilts and 2 sets of bee blocks.  Along with completely failing on a star block for Oren's quilt.  I ended up throwing away 2 attempts and just picking a different block altogether!

**First I made a baby quilt for Chris' cousin who is expecting her first.  Her shower was the weekend of my half marathon that I couldn't run so Thursday night I decided to whip her up a quilt for the Saturday morning shower.  And I did it.  I ended up loving the quilt and hating the quilting, but they can't all be winners, so I gifted it and called it done.



All the non-sewers loved that the quilt was "reversible."  I'm just glad they loved it at all.  ;)
**Next up, that secret project I mentioned in February--it was a quilt for the wonderful Michonne and her precious baby girl Greta.  Our Empower Circle of do. Good stitches made a quilt for them and I put it together and quilted it.  Meesh is famous in our group for loving flying geese blocks so I asked the girls to make anything using them in a soft palette of pastels.  I love how it turned out.  I just got some plates and pot lids and drew random circles on the quilt and quilted them using different pastel-colored threads.  Before sweet Greta was born, Meesh called her cupcake, so I found this great cupcake fabric for the backing.  :)

I wish I had gotten a better picture where you could really see the blocks better but I did this in a hurry and then never thought to look at the pics before mailing...



I've been trying out a new zigzag machine-stitched binding on quilts I think will be washed a bunch.  On this one I went around twice--once in pink and once in yellow.

**  I also mentioned that Kim was working on an orphan block project to get quilts finished and donated to a charity and that I had most of a quilt sitting here at the house already.  So I beefed it up with some extra blocks and got it done too.  I hated the blocks individually and once I got it sewn, I kinda want to keep it!  ;)


You can see the quilting better on the backk--I just did a simple cross-hatch design following the blocks.  I started a quarter-inch from the block seams in gray, then 3/8 inch from those lines in yellow and then about half-inch from the yellow lines in blue.

** When mailing Meesh the quilt, I also included our February d.Gs blocks.  It was her turn in a great coincidence and she asked for Wheel blocks in a great and bright color palette.  I hope mine looks okay with the rest.  I liked all the colors I chose till I got the block put together and then saw others from the group.  Oh well...


**  And for March in our d.Gs circle, Kim asked for blocks that she'd designed herself.  She's calling them braided star blocks and once put together they'll make stars...duh!  ;)  These were really easy and fun to put together.  Kim wrote a great tutorial on her blog for these simple but stunning blocks.



**And last, in That Stash Bee, Whitney asked for Darting Bird blocks.  I'd never seen this block before, but they were quick to make and I think she picked a stellar palette. She's giving this quilt to a friend in need, and I can't wait to see it altogether.



** But also since last blogging, my favorite boy in the whole world turned 8.  He wanted to just take a few friends to see The Lego Movie, so we did.  I got these great lego candies from the candy store in the mall to put on some cupcakes.  They were a big hit and so was the movie!  It was a simple and great day to celebrate a great kid!






**The surgery went well and I came home from the hospital two days early.  It hasn't been exactly fun to lay in bed a lot and depend on others in the last 3 weeks, but I'm working on my patience and God is blessing me every day.  I'm up and mobile

**I'm sewing again and have already finished a couple of blocks and have some bee blocks to try and work on this weekend.

**Plus we've got softball...Chris' middle school team is winding down and Emma's team is finally getting started.  I'll soon have a picture of my sweet girl pitching to show y'all.  She's worked so hard and it's fun to see her sling it out there.

Sorry for the picture overload.  I've missed y'all and this wonderful community so much.  So glad to be getting back.  :)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Rising Sun Challenge

Nat and Lucy are so good about giving out interesting topics for Le Challenge each month.  If you've never heard of this, it's a blog that two friends started with the sole purpose being to challenge themselves and friends to think of and make something new each month based on a theme.  There's no competition, it's open to anyone who wants to participate, and one lucky participant is awarded a gift each month based on a random drawing.

Le Challenge

This month, the girls chose "The Rising Sun" which I thought it was an interesting starting point because there were so many places to go with that topic.  I searched rising sun quilt patterns and there were plenty of really neat blocks that would make awesome quilts.  But I didn't leave myself enough time for that.

So I thought about the suggestions they and their guest bloggers had given--Japanese-influenced designs for garment sewing or quilting; Japanese fabric designers from traditional designs to Lecien and kawaii cuteness; Sashiko or even just sunny projects.

My ever growing "to-do before I die" list grew leaps and bounds.

But in the end, I googled Rising Sun images and I knew what I was going to make.

I found this image on zazzle's web site and loved the combination of the rising sun and the clamshells, a traditional quilting design.
But I didn't love the red.  It was WAYYY a little too Japanese for my style and wouldn't fit into my decor. So I changed it.

I have always loved the song You are my Sunshine and often sang it to my children when they were younger.  I thought the lyrics would fit well here, so I used my favorite colors, a great, fun font and here you go:


I created an aqua background and then put a somewhat-transparent layer of gray canvas over it to soften the aqua and bring the gray theme into play.


Then I added the lyrics to the song in yellow and worked on the graphic.  I deleted all of the white background and then changed the entire graphic to be yellow.  After duplicating the image, I changed it to gray and then erased the top layer (the gray) away from the "rising sun" portion of the image.

Do the pics look a little fuzzy to you?  They don't at all in my editing software but do a little in blogger...weird!
Then I printed it in a 5x7 size and popped it in this frame.  I will DEFINITELY be painting the frame, but it's what I had handy.  I'm working on building a gallery wall in my living room of pictures, inspirational quotes, and images that are important to our family or just make me smile.  The photos are all framed in black, but I'm hoping to bring color in through the other items.

I think this will be a perfect addition.  What do you think?

Thanks girls for the challenge!  It was fun.  :) Head over and see what everyone else created this time.  :)



Friday, February 14, 2014

A Random Holiday

Happy Valentines Day!  It's not a big deal at our house, and Chris is coaching a basketball game tonight so that's where we'll all be, but it's never a bad thing to celebrate love is it?

I'm feeling like a random post today.  Got too much swimming around in my brain I guess.  So I'm gonna unload some on y'all.  :)
  • I finished another star.  It's not may favorite.  In fact, it may be my least favorite.  It was so much better on EQ5 than before I spent a half-hour on it.  BUT, they can't all be favorites and I've only got 2 left.

  • I am going to go with the 20 stars on the front.  Chris liked it better, Oren liked it better and a few of y'all did too.  And, it saves me from having so much border to wrestle with getting straight.  Win.
  • I am participating in Le Challenge this month.  I took a few months off because of schedule restraints and a bad memory, but was happy to remember in time to play this month.  Lucy and Nat challenged us with "Rising Sun."  I'll post about it tomorrow.  This is a fun, non-competitive challenge for anyone who wants to participate.  You can use any medium, it doesn't have to be sewn.  I actually did a digital print this time.  :)
  • Dana posted about pretzel bites the other day and I just read it today.  So I made them today.  Chocolate is over-rated, right?  said me never.  BUT we've had sweets all week so I decided pretzel bites would be a nice snack.  And they are GOOD!!  Definitely try them.  They're easy, just a little time-intensive.  I wish I had a warm cheese sauce to eat with them.  hmm....
via Old Red Barn co. 
Dana's picture is so much better than my phone version and I really want y'all to go make these
  • Emma learned yesterday that her class was going to do a valentine exchange after all.  She goes to an enrichment class in the morning and so wasn't sure what, if anything, her class was going to do.  So I ran to the grocery store last night to pick up some Rolos.  We made these fun valentines that were free from How Does She?  I ended up having to use small goodie bags (like reallysmall) so I shrunk the graphic down in my photo-editing software to 3 x 2 inches.  They were cute!
It obviously didn't have the watermark, but you have to give them your email address to get the file and I didn't want to give their stuff away for free...
  • I made this soup the other night.  It's a clean recipe, meaning all the ingredients are not processed I think...or something like that.  Anyway, it was really good.  Like Emma doesn't like tomatoes and she ate 3 bowls and really wanted a 4th.  Like it was cold in her thermos by the time she got to lunch the next day and she ate it anyway.  It's a keeper around here.  It has coconut milk in it instead of cream and I was worried it would taste coconutty, but not at all.  I did add some spice since my family likes that.  Really good.
  • I never got my Valentines decorations out this year with me being hurt.  I'm feeling mostly good now, but just moving a lot slower and I get tired more easily.  It's very frustrating to this independent, impatient girl.  But I did find some very cute decorations I wish I'd made and put out.  Check out this pillow and this embroidery pattern.
  • Chris' basketball team is playing in the semi-regionals tonight at home.  If they win, we'll head to Lakeland, FL next week for the Final 4.  He started helping with the team partway through the season this year when the head coach (a good friend) had some family issues and so that's how he ended up coaching two sports at the same time.  He's also a middle school softball coach.  Yes, he sleeps good every night when he finally gets home.  
  • I grew up a coach's daughter and Chris has coached something since we met, so it's a life I'm used to and enjoy, but always thank your kids' coaches (little league and up) because they really sacrifice a lot of their personal time and sometimes spend more time with your kid than their own.
  • We're about to head up there now to eat with the team and then root them on.  I've got company coming in to town tomorrow and Em's got a birthday party tomorrow afternoon to attend.  I'm hoping to sew some this weekend but we'll see.
What are you up to on this holiday?  What are you doing this weekend?  We're supposed to start warming up I think, so maybe I'll go for a walk and see how that goes as well.  :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

WIP Wednesday--The Starry Edition

Hi everyone!!  I hope you are staying warm and dry today.  It is rainy and windy here, but after seeing how much of the US is under snow right now and the UK with rain, I'll take my day of rain, stay inside and call it a win.

I showed a pic yesterday on instagram of how frustrating it is to follow wrong directions.  I'm tired this week.  And I'm a little geometry/math challenged.  And I got 3/4 of the way through this block by following the rotary cutting instructions of my EQ5 (which led to more Y-seams by the way) before I threw the block away in disgust.
I don't know if you can see well, but the cutting directions were off and I was in no frame of mind to figure that math out on my own.  So, I printed the ever-faithful paper piecing templates and quit for the day.
Today I started over with the pp templates and made this beauty:
Strip Star
Sorry for the difference in the filters making these fabrics look so different but I LOVED how the darker filter made the stars in the blue sections really look like they were sparkling.

Wouldn't a quilt made out of just this block be neat?  You could even have colors radiating out across the quilt if you wanted to.  That would be cool.  But I digress...

Anyway, this is block 17/20.  The end is in sight.

After I threw the block away yesterday, I wondered if maybe I should just stick with 16 blocks and do bigger borders.  I'm making this quilt for Oren's bed, so I'm shooting for a quilt top that's roughly 80" x 88" but I'd like it a little bigger to make up for quilting and wash/dry shrinkage.  I designed 2 versions to show Oren last night.

Here's the 16-star quilt.  I added an outer row of sashing in white and blue and then bigger borders.  This quilt top finishes at 86 x 94.


Then here's the 20-star version like I'd originally planned.  It's got smaller borders and no outer sashing.  It finishes at 80" x 90".

Which one do you like?  I can't decide.  Oren of course wants all 20 stars he was originally promised!  I've got all but the last 3 on the bottom row made and while they don't exactly look like this, it's close enough for me to see what I've got and where I'm going.

So help me out...do you side with Oren and think it needs all 20?  Do you think I should convince him 16 is good.  I plan to make all 20 either way and just put 4 on the back to offset the Star Wars fabric I relented to buy a small amount of for the back if I go with 16.

I'm linking up with Lee.  Head over to see what everyone else is up to...
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Monday, February 10, 2014

Star Progress

It's been awhile since I worked on Oren's Star (Wars) quilt.  When each of my children turned 5, I decided to make them a quilt representing their party theme and assumed loves at the time.  Emma had an Under-the Sea party that inspired me to make her a zig-zag (back before chevron was the word for it...) quilt out of Mendocino fabrics.  Oren was and is a Star Wars geek and so his quilt is a star sampler.

Well, he turns 8 next month so it's high time this quilt was done.  And I'm getting there.

I mentioned last week that I put my "design wall" back up and so the stars went back up too.  I had 14 done and want to make 20, so I'm pretty close to making these blocks into a quilt top.

Last week I showed a sneak peek on Instagram of my Star of the East block coming together.


I ended up having no trouble at all with the Y-seams but did struggle with the center point and plan to go back and fix it this week, but it's finished.

Up next was a Rocky Road to Kansas based on Faith's tutorial from the Summer Sampler series.  I loved this block when I made it for that quilt and I love it still.  It used up some of my scraps from this quilt and it's so graphic and clean looking.

Here are those two blocks:

And here is the quilt up to this point.  This is not the final arrangement of the blocks, just a way for me to see them all and see what fabrics I've used.  They're all going to need a good pressing and to be trimmed up before anything gets stitched together.  :)


I've got 4 blocks left and have them designed in my EQ5.  Up next is the Strip Star and I've got the fabrics pulled.  It looks simple enough and I would love to finish it today but that's a maybe...

My goal is to have all of the blocks for this quilt done by this weekend and have the entire top pieced with sashing and borders by the end of the month.  Sounds doable, right?  Just keep sewing, that's what I need to tell myself.  :)

What are you up to this week?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Finish

Actually I finished this quilt a couple of weeks ago, but since no blogging or photographing was done since I hurt my back, I'm just getting to showing this off.

Last year, I asked the Empower Circle of do. Good stitches to make me blocks featuring rectangles and squares.  We're a busy group made up of some of the sweetest women you'd ever want to meet and I figured this would be simple and creative for the girls.

I gave them this color palette and asked them to sew up whatever they wanted using straight lines--no wonkiness.

ColorSparkle
via design-seeds.com

They all rolled in and I knew that once I'd gone out on a limb colorwise, I needed to go out on a limb with the construction of this quilt as well.  So I decided there needed to be a lot of negative space in this quilt.  I can handle asymmetry but have had trouble with negative space in the past.  It feels like I just didn't finish and I need to do more.  But I thought these blocks were strong and could support the negative space.


After questioning myself for some time, I ordered some purple, laid them out and went for it.  Once pieced I wasn't sure how to quilt it other than I knew I wanted it done and sent off to comfort someone instead of sit at my house any longer.

So I free-motion-quilted loops all over.  It's been some time since I FMQ'ed anything and I had always thought my machine really didn't like FMQ.  I'm still not convinced it does, but I realized that a lot of the issues were with me and how I was moving the quilt.  I still had a lot of thread breakage (and if anybody has suggestions on why my top tension gets so tight my thread breaks I'm all ears) but the "eyelashes" got better and I figured that Rome wasn't built in a day and neither would I be good at FMQ that fast.

This quilt is far from perfect.  In some places on the back, the eyelashes are bad.  In some places my loops are less loopy and more shaky.  In some places I backed myself into corners and had to cross lines or quilt close together.


But the quilt police will not come after me and take this quilt or me to jail.  Life will continue and while the quilt is not perfect--neither is the quilter.  I decided it was a lesson in life.  I'm sending this quilt to an organization that teaches girls and young women to be strong, to never give up on life.  I'm giving this quilt to a young lady who needs to know that through obstacles and imperfections, life keeps going.  That when things look tough and you want to quit, there is another imperfect young woman out there who sends her love--a whole group of us that keep trying and keep going each day.

Isn't that what do. Good stitches is about?  Aren't we trying to help others as we grow as quilters and as people?  I'm not excusing my mistakes and saying I don't want to get better.  I'm getting better as I share, as I grow, as I work through life's imperfections.  I'm saying it's okay to be less than the best, but it's not okay to give up.

I hope the recipient of this quilt feels every bit of that.  I hope she knows that the hardest part of every battle is going forward when it seems too hard.  I hope she knows there are those of us out there that care and that we're all going through battles, big and small.  Let's fight those battles together.  :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Random

Hi all!  Have you ever been so bogged down by what's going on that even though you have things to share, even though you want to share, you just can't quite get to it?

My back is doing better, but I managed to catch the flu or some version of something last week that put me down.  I think I've slept more in the last 2 weeks than in the 2 months before that.  My Mom came up and stayed a few days over the weekend to help out because I never got farther than the living room before needing to go back to bed.

But I am slowly but surely on the mend.  I've met with a neurosurgeon who is conservatively offering steroid injections or surgery as my options for healing my back but he wants more recent photos of my back so I'll be having an MRI done tomorrow.  I've deferred my half-marathon until next year and am realizing how much I've really come to love exercising since I am not capable of it right now.  I told a friend today that my teenaged-self is laughing at that statement as I've never loved exercise.  Apparently I actually do.  Who knew?

I've started and finished a secret-sewing project for a friend that will remain secret for another month or so.  It was so unlike me--I gathered all of the pieces, sat down and began to sew. I sewed through all of my emotions and by the end of the day the project was complete.  I may be at my body's mercy right now, but I can still sew and make beautiful things.
These are threads from it.  So springy.  :)
I photographed the do. Good stitches quilt that I finished weeks ago.  I plan to show it off tomorrow before mailing it to Alternatives for Girls.  

I hung my "design wall" back up.  It's a cheap tablecloth that I'd taped to the wall in my sewing room.  But the tape had come loose and it fell a few months back.  I didn't worry about it over the holidays as all of my sewing had deadlines at that point.  But I, by myself, managed to hang it back this morning with some pushpins.  It feels much more secure now and I've got Oren's Stars hung back up on it to inspire me to finish that quilt.

Up next for that one is a "Star of the East" block.

One thing about the Electric Quilt program (at least my version) is you can always print out both foundation pieces and templates but there are no real directions for sewing.  This block appears to have Y-seams but I'm reminding myself that those aren't really all that bad and convincing myself to just get it done.

It's my month to be Queen Bee in That Stash Bee and I've asked the girls to make me Roman Cross blocks.  I actually saw Lee's Crosspatch block bag in her new book Vintage Quilt Revival and fell in love with it.  It's VERY rare for me to buy a quilting book but I love Lee's style as well as her co-author's Katie and Faith so it seemed the perfect buy to round out my order on Amazon a few weeks back.

I asked for summery colors based on this palette 
and have made up one sample block.


I can't wait to have them all come in and pet them.  :)  I think this will make a great throw for summer months when the air conditioning is a little much or to use as a blanket at the beach/softball fields/etc where we'll be spending our time this summer.

I've just about finished the hem on my February Lady Sweater I started at the end of 2012.  I've still got sleeves to finish, but could possibly, maybe finish this sweater by the end of this February...We'll see.

I desperately need to sort my scraps AGAIN.  I thought I had been doing well with them but found a basket I'd thrown a bunch in and when I say basket I actually mean HUGE basket.  That's going to take most of an afternoon to sort what is big enough to put back into my stash and then trim down my scraps.  

I like to trim down to orderly sizes--2 1/2" strips, 5" squares and strips, 10" squares.  Then all of my 2 1/2" strips go into my bag for that scrap quilt I'm slowly working on.

And finally, my friend Kim is organizing an orphan block project where a few of us will get together to show what orphan blocks we've got lying around and swap them around to make charity quilts with.  I knew I had a few from a bee I did awhile back and found 11 blocks that I'd never put together.  11!!  I think I'm just going to make up one more and send an entire quilt to her instead of saddling someone with an almost quilt.  They were blocks I didn't end up liking that much for the most part so I guess I was never inspired to finish it up...  Well, someone will benefit from that I guess...

And that's my dose of randomness for today.  I'll be back tomorrow with pics of the purple quilt all finished up and ready to comfort someone.

What are you up to on this wintery Thursday afternoon?