31 August, 2011


My husband and I had another hot date basting a quilt the other day. This one is a wedding present for his best friend. So we're basting away, watching Machete (really?) and a Stephen Hawking documentary on alien life, when he says this:

You know, this quilt would have been even cooler if you've matched up all these grey circles on the background fabric.


29 August, 2011

Jane Austen

Full disclosure: I've never read Jane Austen before.

When I told my sister-in-law this she commented that she felt like she didn't know me anymore.

I've always been totally honest in this space, so I thought I better make the confession to all of you. And yesterday I went out and bought all the books (on sale!). It will take me a long time to get through them at my current pace of about 5 pages before my eyelids close at night. Besides, I can't take away from my quilty time...

25 August, 2011

A Fund for Jennie

A few weeks back an on-line colleague lost her husband, suddenly. Jennie Perillo and her young girls are now struggling to define a new life without husband and dad. Like me, Jennie is a food writer. Like me, she has two young girls. Like me, she shared a passionate life with her husband.

Right now a new not-for profit, Bloggers Without Borders, is raising funds for Jennie and her family. Food writing, let's be honest, isn't a lucrative job. But it is infinitely rewarding, on a daily basis. The goal of the fundraiser is to hopefully provide some security for Jennie and the girls as they move forward into a new normal.

Bloggers the world over are holding fundraising auctions and drives for donations to A Fund for Jennie. You can donate directly by clicking through.
This is my contribution.

A custom, one-of-a-kind modern quilt. It can be anywhere in size from a crib quilt to a generous lap size (roughly 60'' by 80'' or 70'' by 70''). I will work with you on a colour scheme or inspiration. The majority of it will be completed by machine, but I always hand finish my quilts.

You can submit your bid in the comments, then we'll make arrangements to make the donation through Bloggers Without Borders for the successful bidder. I've already got a quilt on the go for Jennie and her girls, but I want to share the love a bit more.

Bidding opens at $500 (US or Canadian, it's pretty close these days). Auction is open until noon MST September 2, 2011.

Thank-you, the auction is over.

23 August, 2011

Girls' Room - Before

Last week I had the most awesome pleasure of a week to myself at home. No kids, and mostly, no husband. I think it might have been the best week of my life. Well, at least of the last few years. We sent the kids to Camp Baba/JoJo/Grandma - our family out of town. Hubby was working, and I stayed home.

I quilted, I read, I worked a little, I cleaned up my house. It was all done at a leisurely pace and with very little stress. I ate nachos for dinner and went for long bike rides because I didn't have to report back to anyone. I mentioned that it was glorious, didn't I?

One of the things I did do that certainly felt like work, but was utterly necessary, was clean out and redo the girls' room. It was chaotic and crowded in there. And with only a two bedroom house and a husband who works at home it was high time I got it organized so the girls and I could actually function in there if Hubby is home working.

Our house is only two bedrooms and a few years ago we switched and gave the girls the bigger room. This means all their toys and activities can be in their room, instead of taking over the house. And that way my crap can take over the house instead! But the room was messy and full of stuff no one was using anymore. So, in between my little breaks of personal creativity and relaxation, I tackled the room.

This week I'll share the before pictures. Next week, after I finish hanging pictures, I'll share the after pictures.
Christmas decorations still on the wall, an old mattress for guests/trampoline, and crap everywhere!

Two dressers, yet clothes piled everywhere. This bookshelf creating a hallway and blocking off the room.

The bookshelf - the closest bit of order in the before pictures.

A dresser storing fabric, some of my clothes, the Monster's clothes, and dress-up stuff. The diaper genie still there when diapers disappeared from our lives 3 months ago.

The dresser I grabbed from my Mom's basement (minus the legs) to refinish for the girls. It might have been my brother's when he was a kid. It sat next to the deep freeze, filled with fabric scraps from home ec and family sewing projects in the 80s, as well as some baby clothes of my Mom's and some Ukrainian embroidery.

I'm pretty sure I drew on this as a kid. No one remembers, but it is most likely that I, the biggest brat in the family, did it.

Next week, the afters. Just wait! I can tell you that the girls love it and so do I.

18 August, 2011

Little Feet, Pins and Needles (Wrap-Up)

Thank-you for coming along with me on the Little Feet, Pins, and Needles series. It sounds like this series struck a chord with many. Whether it was the reminder to slow down with our kidlets around or new ways with old toys or inspiration for time to spend with the grandkids. I'm glad I was able to inspire and maybe even educate.

Part 1 - This post was about space planning and coordination. It includes safety tips as well as notes on adjusting our attitudes going in to creative time and space with little ones around.

Part 2 - This post was designed to inspire play with your kiddos. Games and treats to bring out creative tendencies and perhaps, just perhaps, direct them towards fabric a little bit.

Part 3 - This post was about ways to get your little ones sewing with you. Not necessarily making quilts right away, but getting them involved in your own projects. It is a bridge to them sewing their own projects.

This entire series was about tackling your quilt, or any sewing, projects when you've got toddlers, preschoolers, and even infants around. It is about still creating when you're in the thick of those days before most kids will curl up with a book, bike around the neighbourhood, or disappear with their own projects.

I want to share with you one last tip. Read with your kids. There is a plethora of childrens' books out there about quilting, but there are many more that feature quilts. My friend Barb has her own Once Upon a Quilt Children's Book list as a quilter and former bookstore employee.

Sure, you've got quilts littered around your house, covering every soft surface. Or maybe you make them and give them away all the time. But the best use is always a snuggle and what better thing to do that snuggle and read together.

Image above snapped from The Ticky-Tacky Doll by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Harvey Stevenson

16 August, 2011

Little Feet, Pins and Needles (Part 3)

This week on the Little Feet, Pins, and Needles series we're going to talk about getting your kids actually sewing with you. This can be on either their own projects, sewing side by side, or getting them directly involved in what you are working on.

Kid as Paper Bag
The famous paper bag technique for Improv piecing (how Denyse Schmidt teaches) is quite a good method. Without looking, you grab your next piece and sew it. Once you've got things together, then you make it work. Kids work just as well as a paper bag. They will pick and choose for you, taking your thought process and judgements out of the Improv work.

Now, if you've got a kiddo who is obsessed with pink or stripes then expect to get mostly that at first, but it does even out. You can also control what they choose from, limiting the propensity for bubble gum blocks.

Use Their Eyes
It might be because the fabric is stored in their room, but my girls love to pick fabric for a new project. I pull out the bins by colour and we all make a great mess. It isn't that I'll always go with their picks - they would pick every fabric given the choice - it is that they are involved in the process. And, I'll be the first to admit, their take on combinations can be quite refreshing.

You can also ask their opinion on layouts or get them to help you place blocks as your play with layouts.

Yes, this will get messy and you will be required to refold and organize every time you do it. This isn't for the highly anal.

Put Them on Your Lap
With really little ones (toddlers and preschoolers) you can put them on your lap and get them used to the motion of sewing. Feeding the fabric through, keeping it straight (seam guides are great when you do this), and watching their fingers. Soon enough you will have them working on a machine and it will feel natural.

Red Light, Green Light
I'll admit, other than messing up my fabric, this is my girls' favourite way to sew with me. They sit under the table and push the foot pedal for me. I tell them Green Light to GO and Red Light to STOP. Yes, it makes the progress go slow, but I love that they are so excited about it. You do need to think ahead and anticipate that they won't exactly stop when you are needing them to. Don't try this when you are working on Y-seams, but it is great when you are strip piecing.

Needle Pulling Thread
It is one thing to give them their own scraps to start sewing - and that's a great thing - but it is also great to get them helping you with hand sewing your own projects. The girls, especially my younger one, will curl up with me while I handstitch a binding. I place the needle and they pull. It also works with my handquilting and applique. On some projects I should definitely be putting their names on the label because they help so much!

There are two very important things to keep in mind when you decide to pull the kids into your sewing projects.

Number 1, being patient is key. If you expect to burn through your sewing at your normal rate you will be painfully frustrated and disappointed. And the younger ones won't always get what you are trying to get them to do. But be patient and enjoy the process (you've heard that from me before!)

Number 2, keep in mind that they probably won't want to help forever. Take what you can get, when you can get it.

As parents we always hope our kids want to do the things we love to do. It makes our life easier and saves us from driving to hockey practice when you don't know how to skate or spending your sewing time on dance costumes. Taking small steps to bring your children in to the quilting fold can help, but it isn't a guarantee. It is, however, a great way to encourage their creativity, foster your own, and spend some useful time together.

11 August, 2011

Little Feet, Pins and Needles (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of the Little Feet, Pins and Needles series. Last time we talked about setting up your space and bringing a relaxed attitude to quilting when you've got young kids around. This week I want to talk about some ways to encourage creativity and an interest in quilting with your little ones.

This is about more than encouraging the with needle and thread or getting them literally involved in your quilting. (That's next week in the series!) Getting your kids thinking about colour, about the motions of quilting, and the aspects of design is a great way to foster an interest in your hobby/work without ramming it down their throat.

Here are a series of activities, games, or toys you can bring out to get your kids playing. You can always have these set up beside you as you sew. You could also get down on the floor and play with them. That's a great way to play yourself and find some inspiration along the way. Its always a welcome break for everybody.

1. Lego
As a kid, my favourite way to play with lego was to build houses. House after house, one day blue beds, another day red. Space lego was really out there for me. Now that my girls are getting into Lego I am struggling with do more than that. If they aren't asking me to make something specific I find myself defaulting to shapes and lines. My youngest took over my thought process and now she makes Lego quilts, working fastidiously to cover the entire green slate with colour.

2. Paper Quilts
We have a bit of a scissor issue in this house. To direct that habit I put coloured paper and recycling in her path. That leaves us with bits of paper everywhere. Everywhere. Now we take those bits and I hand them a glue stick. Voila! Paper quilts.

3. Sewing Cards
A kind reader of my blog sent my girls sewing cards. (Thank-you Nanci!) When they asked me to teach them how to sew this is the first thing I pulled out. We patiently work on front-to-back and back-to-front concepts with these cards. I let them explore the where to sew next question rather than guide them. This way they learn the rhythm. Or they don't, but then they love the end result more.

4. Embroidery Hoop
This was actually the first thing we did together. Thread, some linen, and a hoop. Go to town! They weren't getting the concept entirely, but they loved the feel of needle pulling thread. I believe the important part is them enjoying that feel and loving what they created. As they get older we can work on stitches. This will be an age/development aspect that you can adapt to your own kids.

(Put together by Abby, Amanda Jean's little one, while I was visiting.)

5. Their Own Design Wall
If you've got a big design wall, or even a small one, letting the kids go wild with their own designs is great. I'll admit, it can be stressful when they want to "help" you lay out a quilt. By giving them a space with some fabric or blocks of their own they can explore on their own. And who knows? It may end up inspiring you! When I was visiting Amanda Jean her little girl was always making creations in a corner of the design wall. It was great to see her determination at times, an her abandon at conventions we might hold close.

6. Mess Up the Scraps
Because I sew in a very shared space there is fabric everywhere. If I kept it all precious and off-limits then I would spend more time being stressed. So the girls have free reign of my scraps. Actually, they have free reign with my fabric stash too, so long as I'm with them for that. My youngest, in particular, loves to organize, stack, fold, and play. She makes sculptures, presents, and generally, a mess. And she loves it. It will keep her occupied for quite a while for a 3 year old. Her pride in her creations is immeasurable.

My goal isn't to create future quilters - although, that would be nice. Rather, my goal is to foster a playful energy towards colour and creating. My medium happens to be quilts and so I can encourage development through my medium.

09 August, 2011

Little Feet, Pins and Needles (Relaunch Part 1)

Relaunching the Little Feet, Pins, and Needles Series today. I'll admit, I completely forgot about it in the chaos of this past spring. Today, a repeat of the first post. Thursday, post #2. Then 2 more next week.

Welcome to Week 1 of the series on quilting with little ones around. Every Monday in March I will be highlighting tips and tricks to making the most of your quilting time when you've got little ones underfoot. Whether you are a new mom trying to find time for your hobby or a new quilter trying to figure out just how to make it work, there will be loads of info here to get you sewing in mad fits. Along the way please share your own tips and tricks.

Today we're tackling space planning and coordination.

Whether you are lucky enough to have a room where you can start, leave a mess, and close the door or you are stuck in the corner of your bedroom, you can make it work well for you. Here are 5 ways to make your time sew successful.

1. Acceptance
No matter what space you are in, shared or not, kids will want to be where you are. It seems fantastic to be able to shut the door and shut out the rest of the house. I certainly dream of it. Even if you have that the kids will be coming in, guaranteed.

My sister-in-law has a great space in their fantastic basement. It's right off the family room and her oldest son's bedroom. But the last time I was there I saw the sewing machine sitting on the family room table, about 10 feet from that valued door. Moms and kids want to be together.

Accept the interest and interruptions. That seam can wait until the next game of Candyland is over. Yes, it can get frustrating, I know that. See it from your kid's point of view - they always want your attention and frequently need your help. You are a mom first and a quilter second (or third or fourth), so let the kids be there and everyone will be happier.

2. Safety
Regardless of where your sewing space is located, if there are kids in the house you need to keep it safe. I don't just mean keeping them safe from wrecking your quilts or tools. They need to be kept safe too.

Keep your iron, scissors, rotary cutter, and pins in a high or child proof location. You may also want to examine where you store your machine, ironing board, and any bins. Minimize any risk of those objects falling on you or the kids. Finally, watch your power cords and outlets.

I sew in my dining room. No matter where I put the machine there is a cable running from the table to the wall. My kids are high energy and think nothing of racing around the house after each other or the dogs. If the machine is out they have strict rules to stay out of the dining room because they've been caught on the cord before. To be perfectly honest, I have too. Remember to keep it safe for you.

3. Creative Space
Making a space to create often requires another brand of creativity. Whether it is storage, a space to spread out, a way to keep projects in order, or simply somewhere quiet to foster your creative energy, you need to think creatively.

We've got a small house, have I mentioned that before? In addition to sewing on the dining room table I store my fabric in my daughters' bedroom (at one point under the bed, and now in an underused closet), frequently use my kitchen counter as a cutting table, store current projects in plastic bins tucked in the dining room or in our small bedroom, and use the bed or a floor for a design wall.

In the dining room itself I've got my ironing board, cutting mats, and some projects tucked between the sideboard, toys, and our paper shredder (have I mentioned this is also the home office space?) On top of the filing cabinet I keep my thread in a vase, a pin cushion the girls are allowed to touch, and various bits of fabric and supplies. Some of my scraps fill some glorious canisters on top of the hutch that store both my cookbooks and art supplies for the girls.

When I really want to sketch or be creative I usually end up colouring right alongside my girls. If I really need the quiet though, my favourite time to do this is in the car. Not while I'm driving! When Hubby is driving and the girls are asleep I love to pull out my sketchbook and draw.

The only thing I find I really miss is a dedicated design wall. I'm working on that. Check out these creative options from Katie and Elizabeth.

4. The Right Timing
As you can tell by the name of this blog, I do my quilting when my girls are asleep. My ideal time would actually be first thing in the morning. Hell, it would be all day if I could! That just isn't realistic for me with a 2 and 4 year old that are both performers and love an audience for every single thing they do. After they go to bed I could and do sew, but that doesn't make my Hubby happy as he is either working or relaxing about 10 feet away in the living room. Needless to say, it makes me very happy that my girls still nap. Very happy.

You need to consider the time you get to sew when setting up your space. Your other family members' schedules should be considered. Sewing can be noisy and messy. Homework schedules, work, homeschooling, meals, music practice, and even chill out time should be factored in to your schedule and space planning.

5. Less than Perfection
The quilt police don't really exist, and unless your mother-in-law lives with you, the cleaning police don't exist wither. You know that quilting is messy. You know that your kids are going to get in your face, er... space. Who cares if the entire family has threads on the bottom of their feet? Better that than pins.

Accept that there won't be a perfect solution to your space plans, but with careful planning, creativity, and consideration you can make a happy space that works for you and the family.

Next week in the Little Feet, Pins and Needles series we'll talk about the game playing you can do with your kids to inspire their creativity and hopefully an interest in quilting.

05 August, 2011

Little Girls, A Dog, and Quilts

Remember, quilts are made to be used. Blankies too.

02 August, 2011


This weekend was the first Arkison camping adventure. Hubby and I used to go, before kids, but we'd never been brave enough to take the kids out. You know the real issue for me? Sleeping in a tent with them. We do not sleep together, ever, at home, so I was stressed at the thought of being in such small confines with them. Other than a moment the first night when The Monster feared the tent because she didn't know how it was made (?!) it went great.

We hiked, we played by the river, we went to the bathroom in the woods like a bear, we covered ourselves in dirt, we ate bacon in bulk, and we had fire. Hubby's obsession was trying to start a fire with a magnifying glass, the girls fawned over their cousins and specialized in getting as dirty as possible, and I stole moments to sew.

Yes, even on a camping trip I sewed.

Last week I decided I need a hand project for when I'm out and about or when I just don't feel like taking the machine out. I saw an image in a book of the girls', experimented with shapes, then pulled out my scraps (augmented by Amanda Jean and and Heather).

I have to give a lot of credit to Barb, who came for a visit last week. Her handwork is phenomenal! It was so inspiring, as was my afternoon with her. After that I knew I needed to slow down to address the roots and get out hand sewing needles. Templates too!

To be honest, I'm not sure where I'll take this project. It may be hand sewing, but it's still me. That means that I've started without a plan of any sort. I don't know if I'll run out of steam - probably - but I sure am enjoying the steps along the way. Especially if it means more camping.