This One's for the Lawyers

An old co-worker (Elisabeth Ryan) posted this a couple days after the first Muslim ban was challenged in court and it captured all the love and pride I'm feeling for my old profession.

"Ever since I read The Stand in 8th grade, I have periodically thought about how I would be useful in the aftermath of an apocalypse (bear with me, I'm totally serious here). And I have long since concluded that I would not be useful at all. I have few practical skills like electricians and plumbers. As a lawyer, I would be completely irrelevant in a world without a legal system. Crafting, writing, baking, waiting tables... all pretty useless skills after an apocalypse.

BUT yesterday and today I thought about the time immediately before an apocalypse and realized that LAWYERS ARE THE FRONT LINES TO KEEP US FROM GETTING THERE. Perhaps not in an epidemic situation like my beloved The Stand (I leave that to my medical friends), but in the world we're facing right now, it was LAWYERS who literally got on the ground on a Saturday night in airports and WON an injunction against a despotic immigration ban. It is LAWYERS who are offering free advice and representation and demanding the release of illegally detained people. LAWYERS CAN FIGHT THIS FIGHT AND WILL LEAD THIS FIGHT." 

This comic by Sam Machado captured it pretty well too.

I've been trying to capture it also, with a quilt reflecting these bright spots in the darkness. For me, a lot of those spots involve lawyers.

For inspiration, I started with Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent collar. Women on the Supreme Court wear a frilly lace collar with their black robes - RBG takes it to the next level and has a dissent collar that she typically wears when she's authored a dissent to an opinion being issued. The day after Trump was elected she reportedly wore it on the bench, even though there were no opinions being issued that day.

Years ago when she was interviewed by Katie Couric, Katie asked her why she called this her dissent collar:

It kinda ruins the mystique, but this pic is from Banana Republic.

It kinda ruins the mystique, but this pic is from Banana Republic.

RBG answered, "It looks fitting for dissents." There is something gladiator about the black and burnished gold. Dark, tough, stubborn, protective, a touch of f. you. I came up with this:

For the jewels on the collar I tried beads, buttons and appliqued gold fabric, but finally settled on fabric paint for the right effect. The lines are double stitching with gold thread.

Dissent Collar Quilt

I flipped it to turn it into a warrior sun - there's something almost headdress-y about it.

courthouse steps block

I couldn't resist making the sky out of courthouse step blocks, where the light of justice is (one hopes) found at the top.

A lot of the fabrics have a science/literature theme to them. I quilted it with gold thread for the rays. 

The quilting on the gold reminds me of a gambeson (quilted armor) shoulder.

This is not my usual aesthetic or color palette, but these times ain't pretty.  Love, love, love to all those people using their argumentative dispositions and educations for the common good. 



We The People

I grew up in the 1970s, when Fourth of July fireworks were things you lit off in your backyard (the risk of losing your finger or bursting an eardrum adding to the excitement), not something you braved a crowd to passively watch.

I enjoy reliving the 1970s in New Hampshire.

I enjoy reliving the 1970s in New Hampshire.

 I loved celebrating the American experiment in democracy; our government of the people, by the people, for the people; the melting pot that later became a salad bowl as we struggled with cultural assimilation through cooking metaphors. At my elementary school we didn't have 'Back to School Night,' we had 'Multicultural Arts Night' and we sang the Rainbow Blues about how "all five colors should be treated the same: Red, Yellow, White, Brown, and Black!" We knew this America didn't exist yet (that's why it was the Rainbow BLUES, dude). But the flag was a symbol of what we wanted America to be, the ideal we were working towards. It represented the richness of our diversity.

Then I grew up, wandered out of my liberal bubble, and 9/11 happened. The flag came to represent something else, and come the Fourth, I couldn't bring myself to dress my kid in the Old Navy shirt. But I couldn't quite let go of the red, white and blue either. It was my flag too, goddammit.

A few days before the Women's March on Washington, Shepard Fairey released his We The People Are Greater Than Fear image (based on this equally amazing photo by Ridwan Adhami entitled I Am America). 

Shepard Fairey's We The People poster. Click on image for link to download it yourself (it's free!).

Shepard Fairey's We The People poster. Click on image for link to download it yourself (it's free!).

And BOOM the American flag was reclaimed. Almost made me stand up and recite the Pledge. This isn't a member of the masses huddled before the Statue of Liberty asking for America's acceptance; this is an American. The other side has their confederate flag - our stars and stripes convey a different ideal. Of course the only thing that could make this image more American would be to quilt it...

I had just seen this video of Jack Edson working on a portrait quilt, and in one frame you can see him using the grid method - which you'll recognize if you've ever taken a drawing class. Genius.

I also loved the way he incorporated a variety of traditional blocks into his portrait quilt. I'm not totally comfortable with improv and decided to use one consistent, traditional block throughout. The disappearing nine patch was easy to do en masse and had pieces of varying size so that i could play with gradual color changes in the background. 

disappearing nine patch

The eyes and lips were the hardest sections (although the stars were no Fourth of July picnic either) and I just had to have faith that it would be okay once it was all sewn together. 

I treated this like the full time job I don't have and worked 6-8 hours a day (made possible by j, who made me endless pictures "for the next quilt" while I sewed, and to Mr. Responsibly, who stepped in when making pictures just wasn't enough).

I used the American Quilter's Society free pieced letters for the bottom. I paper pieced all but the O and G, and only messed up a couple of letters before I realized I needed to print out a mirror image for the paper-piecing to come out right. 

I'm inordinately proud of the many inset seams in the O/G.

I'm inordinately proud of the many inset seams in the O/G.

First line of text done, but those are the big 2" font...

First line of text done, but those are the big 2" font...

And there was that typo that set me back...

I quilted it with a wavy flag pattern that seemed appropriate. Her finished size is about 42x 58.


Right now it's hanging at Gather Here, a local stitchlounge/store that sets an excellent example of using creative energy as a means of political engagement. Their windows are currently filled with small pieces that were embroidered, cross stitched, and crocheted by customers and community members bearing the message  "You Belong Here." 

sorry, I just can't stop uploading pictures!

sorry, I just can't stop uploading pictures!


A Rose By Any Other Name...

Everyone is calling it the "Modern Drunkard's Path" and writing new tutorials like it's significantly different from the original. It's still just a quarter circle set in a square. Kinda like Melania's speech - different from Michelle's, but only by a couple inches:  

In the case of the Drunkard's Path, however, I have to say I prefer the new version. it allows for joining half circles in a way that continues the curve,  and I love continuous curves in quilts - I made some paper versions and played and played and played.

I'd originally gotten the idea of working with quarter circles from this set of kids blocks I came across:

Naef "Ornabo" blocks

Naef "Ornabo" blocks

 In fact I tried about 50 ripoffs of this specific block configuration before deciding those Naef designers already achieved perfection and I was just going to have to pull a Melania. 

They came together so quickly and that stairway wall was so big that I decided to make three.  I liked how the shades of red and beige on the Naef blocks differed depending on how the wood took the stain, and mixed shot cottons with Konas to get that same textured effect. Yes, I was actually going for that bright:







I love how these guys came out, but I didn't want to quilt them and mess up the simple lines, so I used canvas stretcher bars for fabric frames. Each one is 35" x 35" and while I played with facing and a backing fabric, I really didn't like what that did aesthetically, so I gave up on stabilizing and just stapled away.

And finally, all together now:

FullSizeRender 4.jpg

I loved this project. Very satisfied to see them hung!


I blame Jet Blue for my poor TV watching habits. I didn't even know what the Real Housewives were until that flight to LA six years ago. Twenty seasons later I have finally weaned myself off the "Angry Ladies" ( of NY, New Jersey, Beverly Hills, and Atlanta). KUWTK? If there had just been anything else to watch on that flight from Seattle I wouldn't even have a favorite Kardashian. 

But sometimes Jet Blue hooks me up. Like last summer when I came across an in-flight Project Runway marathon. It was Tim Gunn's least favorite season, but I fell back in love with a show I'd forgotten existed. And then came Project Runway Junior and a 14 year old winner who has only been sewing for TWO YEARS. I am not challenging myself enough!

For my birthday the plan was clear, a day in NY with a stop at Mood, where this dog kept following me around:

The choices at Mood can be intimidating, so I went with a pattern in hand.

I know a bomber jacket might seem a weird choice to the younger generation. But for us forty-somethings there is a weird nostalgia around the distressed leather bomber. Just ask John Greene. He actually wrote it into The Fault In Our Stars. I'm sure when it came to the movie the costume designer was like "that bomber doesn't really make sense, it's 2012 and it makes him look kind of dorky..."

But I get it. Any guy who wore (or coveted) a bomber jacket in the late 1980s still thinks it's hot. Even Mr. Responsibly still rocks his around the house.

Just kidding. But the fact that he still has it buried in the back of a closet says something, right? Check out what we found in the pocket. It's like a little time capsule.

Bill and Ted, March 10, 1989, Riviera Cine Miami!

Bill and Ted, March 10, 1989, Riviera Cine Miami!

Is a bomber comeback possible? Maybe in a different fabric? 


That's right, I paired maroon herringbone with purple ribbing. Why? Because Mood sells purple wool ribbing. And because Mr. Responsibly said I could. Actually, he said "that combination is the kind of thing you wouldn't ever find in a store," but I know what he meant. Nice pockets, right?

It's the perfect spring/fall jacket since I went off pattern and LINED it.

Personally I think I wear it better than Ansel whats-his-face. 

Thank you, Mood!

Bubbles II

Out of all the things I've made, these are still two of my favorite:

The cutest toddler in the world would be impossible to replicate but I had an idea for a new bubble quilt recently. The fun thing about doing a new version of an old quilt is seeing how much you've learned. I remember this quilt being hard. It is actually the easiest quilt ever - you just pick a bunch of fabrics from your stash, trace some circles, and applique them on: 

My revolutionary new idea was to add a bubble blower to all the bubbles. This was for j's nursery school auction and I wanted the blower to be gender neutral so that every parent could picture it on their kid's bed. 

It was quilted freehand at Laurena's Longarm. I freaked out after my first meander across the quilt, but Laurena assured me the awkward parts would look less awkward when it was done.

I had fun with the bubbles and tried to do different quilting in each of them. You can see the detail better on the flannel back:

I finished it off while on a weekend away with some sewing buddies. The house we rented in Maine was perfect for dramatic pics!

Unfortunately it doesn't have quite the 3D feel of the original bubble quilt. I realized too late that I couldn't make the bubbles big enoughand still make them in proportion to the blower. Just trying to remember I'm not learning unless I'm making mistakes!

QuiltCon 2016

I love Pasadena - mostly because of the sister association - she's lived in/around there for 20 years. But also for the Rose Parade, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Vroman's Bookstore and the Children's Museum where you can watch all these Southern California kids get excited about a patch of ice that their parents keep telling them is 'snow.' So I will take any excuse to go, and QuiltCon 2016 was such a good one!

This is embarrassingly late - the event was almost a month ago now, but I'm still thinking about things I saw there - apparently the judges and I have different taste, because few of my favorites won (although if you get your quilt hung at QuiltCon I'd count that as a win).

Loved this:

The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts by Cassandra Beaver

The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts by Cassandra Beaver

Especially the way she quilted with colored threads to get that movement:

The Whole... by Cassandra Beaver - detail

This is what it looks like when someone says "love" out loud:

Big Love by Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill

Big Love by Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill

I'm always into bright colors and  the overlapping effect these quilters achieved:

Color Study (Triangles)- Erika Mulvenna

Color Study (Triangles)- Erika Mulvenna

Fraction - Louise Orth

Fraction - Louise Orth

Sunburst - Yvonne Fuchs

Sunburst - Yvonne Fuchs

And this crazy 3-D quilt:

Lunar Orbit - Victoria Mansfield

Lunar Orbit - Victoria Mansfield

Then there was the one that stopped me in my tracks (and took QuiltCon to the front page of the LA Times that day).  

The One for Eric - Chawne Kimber - won for best improv

The One for Eric - Chawne Kimber - won for best improv

Finally, I need to mention the quilt that won Best In Show. 

My Brother's Jeans byMelissa Averinos

My Brother's Jeans byMelissa Averinos

I walked by this a few times without looking that closely. It was cool, but it didn't 'grab' me the way many of the others did. I finally read the description on the last day and it completely changed the way I looked at the quilt. 

I get why it won. There was something really bare and honest about this tribute - the delicate flowers and the aged, off-white fabric scrapped together looked so soft and vulnerable contrasted with the torn denim that had this golden glow coming through the holes. It felt like she'd captured a whole person, all sides of him, not just his despair.  

So that was it. I did get to go a to a few lectures on everything from color theory to designing with your computer. They all ended with more or less the same message:

So why am I typing? I need to get quilting!

Hawaiian Valentine

This all started with my desire to make a quilt I could hang. Like, as art. In my house. I pictured a nice burst of color in winter - something warm and seasonally appropriate that I would enjoy unwrapping and putting up in December and not worry about taking down until spring. Something to get me through that time of year when most of us are wishing we were somewhere warm. Got that? Stirring cozy winter feelings while simultaneously reminding you of the tropics. This is how my Hawaiian quilt was born. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the style - picture a snowflake, like you'd cut up in school appliqued on a background. What I love about these quilts is that they don't follow a strict pattern, it's a technique that allows the quilter to do their own thing. So in Hawaiian quilts you see turtles and pineapples and beautiful flowers cut into their intricate designs. Google it if you're interested. Or watch that god-awful Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore Groundhog Day movie, I think one shows up in there. The quilting is traditionally done to mimic the edges of the applique, like water surrounding an island. 



I wanted mine to look like a snowflake - a nod to this region where I still seem to find myself every damn winter. But what could I put in it that would be meaningful? What's my pineapple? My turtle? Um... well, I have these two kitties (that never smooch in real life).

And for my family, two hearts that made one.

That's needle-turn applique folks - if you want to see the process you'll have to YouTube it, because you'll never catch me doing it again. The quilting is atrocious - it took me two years to work up the nerve to do it and then I had no patience. But I'm going to appreciate that as an accurate reflection of me as a quilter - always happier in the piecing. The petals in the middle are for my love of fleurs. Here's the applique in its entirety:

In its rightful home:

I'm a Zumba Instructor... I Mean... Quilter

Confession: I'm not always loud and proud about the quilting thing. The other day this lady asked me where she knew me from and Mr. Responsibly responded, "Are you in her quilting guild?" I think I might have actually cringed. If I'm around other quilters, yes, of course, these are my people. But with non-quilters? It's that look. The "Oh, here I thought you were under 65," look. Quilting isn't the the most crotchety craft (that spot is firmly reserved for you cross stitchers). But it's still up there in the old lady Olympics. 

But so what? Whenever I catch myself wishing I had a more badass hobby (like snowboarding or bike building or teaching Zumba) I watch this video from 3 Feathers Quilts. There's nothing like twenty-something tattooed dudes sewing their Native American star quilts in satin and crushed velvet for people like Snoop to get me over it. 

This time around I was loving how the bright satin in those quilts make them look so alive. And j's preschool needed some more dress up clothes - so.... wings, maybe?

Look at me playing with aperture...


I pieced most of a star, and backed it with purple satin (no batting) - you can tell from the pinning how nervous I was that it would slide all over and bunch up, but it went smoothly (heh heh).

I bound it, added some neck velcro:

Also added velcro to make sleeves, but if I do this again, I'll make it an exact half star and add elastic wrist bands instead, it'll look better. 

How funny that the first place she headed was the bird feeder, I mean squirrel feeder.

Here she is delivering it to school, loud and proud.

I Can Make That

Yeah, but the question is, should I make it?

Last year around this time I had just finished j's Ultimate Christmas Gift. The Tepee. You know, the kind you can get at Ikea for $15 or Land of Nod for $125? Whichever route you go, at least you know you paid good money so it won't collapse on you. But this was my thought process: I'd seen j occupy herself for hours (ok, long stretches) in other people's tents. If it was going to be such a beloved toy, such a warm memory from her childhood - something that she'd leave up for years and then want to keep for her own kids... Well then I should make it right?  And really, how hard could it be? Math. It always comes down to math.

I know, it's just triangles, but then you go 3D with hexagons and height and leaning triangles... but I'd already committed (imported fabric from Japan, OK?). I promised to publicly thank my Math Friend (everyone should have one) Otis Jennings if I ever did a blog post about this project so THANK YOU Otis. Now you keep your promise to never tell anyone I didn't know only right triangles have hypotenuses. Anyway, the important part: Christmas morning was magical. 


She hopped right in with a book - just as I'd fantasized.

And stayed there for exactly three minutes. I can count on one hand the number of times she's been in there over the last year. Mostly, Camila has taken it over.


Or it's a great place to throw toys that are hard to categorize during cleanup. Effective use of time and money? Nah. On the other hand, I do like the way it looks in my house.

As Christmas 2015 rolled around I noticed how much she liked to play with other kids' dollhouses. And I started pinteresting around. Did you know there are grown people who style midcentury modern dollhouses with $300 Eames chairs? Then came the little voice in the back of my head whispering, "She only plays with that stuff because she doesn't actually own it."

Here's how I'm deciding this from now on: Make Time = or < 4 x Cumulative Play Time for it to be worth it to me. If she was going to get a total of 15 minutes play time, I was going to limit myself. Time: 1 hour, supplies must already be in the house.

Play house floor: foam board, 18"x18". Sequined for the dance party. Gold for the room we'd cover in that paper from India. Outside path, painted by me, "the Art Studio", painted by j.

Walls: foam board again with slits cut in them.

Doors (ok, an afterthought. She wouldn't play with it until I gave it doors):


Attached the walls with pushpins coming through the floor. There was much talk of second stories and stairs and removable walls...

But it's January 15th and she's already done playing with it.  Camila's already claimed it for her own, and I'm designing bird wings. Kids.

Meadow Lake Promise

It's snowing right now. Just think about that for a second, all you people posting photos of your magnolia trees in bloom.  My daughter thinks tulips and daffodils come up through the snow by way of the fake flower section at Michael's. Trowel? Please, gardening is all about the wire cutters over here.

Like many New Englanders, my mind is never far from the season I have been robbed of, so it's flowers, flowers, flowers up in the sewing room. The first finish of Spring 2015 is my Lizzie House Meadow Quilt. The original version looks like this:

By LH, at Gather Here where I took the class. Check here if you want to take it too!
I wanted to try it with solids, and I actually cut a bunch out before throwing them in the corner last September. So it was very rewarding to finish piecing my top at Quilt Camp last week - nothing motivates me like a gym full of quilters who stand and clap whenever I finish something.  I managed to keep the momentum going at home and quilted Japanese water all over it - this seems to be my go-to free motion pattern, the only one I can do without messing it up. So now it's a Meadow Lake Quilt.

This is an auction item for the Mass Promise Fellowship, a local organization that places AmeriCorps Fellows with non-profit organizations and state/local government agencies to focus on meeting the needs of our youth. I like how concrete they are in defining the "needs of our youth": every kid needs a caring adult, a safe place, a healthy start, a marketable skill, and an opportunity to give back. Seems more manageable when you break it down like that, right? If you can get behind that, feel free to donate here, or come to Pass the Wagon with me!

With Snowy Wind Effect

When I worked with the juvenile defenders our Mass Promise Fellows were a really important link to the community, helping our clients find jobs and volunteer opportunities and reaching out to local organizations so they could use our services too. This year's party is especially meaningful to me since one of our old Fellows is the program manager at MPF now and another is being honored with the Red Wagon Award. Yay Katie! Yay Eli! I like an organization that recognizes and rewards the people who embody their message. All proceeds from the auction go to youth worker training and a living wage stipend for the 40 Fellows.

But back to my pretty, pretty quilt. It's perfectly designed for the seasonal transition - just right for snuggling up under as you watch another episode of Broad City, waiting for those two days of New England Spring that should arrive any month now AND the right size and color for a picnic blanket (nothing hides those ketchup stains like Nightfall Blue) should the weather ever choose to cooperate.

I'm happy with how it came out, and even happier with where it's going! 

Christmas Craftacular

Even if you love Christmas, there are some years that just make you feel like this:

I couldn't even get the stupid melted-snowman cookie right. This is what it's supposed to look like, in case you're shaking your head wondering why this cookie is even a thing.

Go HERE, to learn from a pro.

Last year I dealt with December Depression by ignoring Christmas altogether and watching Die Hard.  This year I'm taking a different approach. I'm hitting my X-mas Pinterest Board like it's a piñata on Nochebuena.

First up was the holiday village.  I've wanted to make one for years.  My family had some of these old glitter houses growing up, and I used to love setting them up on the windowsill with little bottle brush trees, a light stuck in every one.

Put your exacto knife away, this lady sells them here.
Mr. Responsibility and I were trying to curb our nightly TV marathon, so we turned to the most logical alternative: building a village together.  Unfortunately, we (re)discovered that I can be a bit of a micromanager.  He did get a couple of roofs and some windows cut before I kind of took over. We've gone back to the Mindy Project at night, but I managed to finish these guys - all of the plans came from this fantastic site:

Papers came from Paper Source, but all the rest can be done from the cereal boxes and Elmer's you already have. I think the Dutch liquor bottle houses are a nice touch.

Then there are the hand-knitted mini-sweaters.  These seemed so cool and unusual when I started making them five years ago.  Now they sell cuter ones at Michael's for 99 cents.  So I finished up the white one this year and decided to call it a day.  Each one took at least two hours for some reason, so they aren't even a satisfying speed:




Next up were winter napkins - I'm a big believer in decor you can use for a whole season (in New England the cold one lasts for eight months) so I tried to make these more winter, with just a hint of Christmasality:

They're reversible, so I can go straight red on Christmas day.

Back on that Pinterest board, I scrolled past this wreath for the 54th time and decided 2014 was the year.  This is hardly a craft, since it was someone else's idea and all I did was buy a wreath, this gnome (you can get just about any hair/skin color combo), and glue gun the whole thing together with some polyfil for snow, but I love it, love it, love it, and will be happy to hang it on my door for years to come.

She's like an Olive Kitteridge gnome, made in Maine and everything.

My final projects are J's stocking and  my winter quilt, but I'll save that for the next post - I mean, we're only half-way through December, right?

Vivian, Redux

Remember Vivian

Well, Boom.

And Boom.

Maybe not the most flattering pose for ladies in their forties. Let's try it standing up.

Hood Up Vivian

Hoods up Katie and Julie

Both of us are very happy with the outcome, but we still appreciate a little affirmation, so feel free to compliment us next time you see us wearing our sweaters (which will be the next time you see us since neither of us plans to remove the sweater, ever).

I guess these aren't *technically* done, since neither of us has been able to find the right color zipper in the right length, but I did reach my goal of finishing the knitting in September.  I don't think these pictures really do either sweater justice, but had to get this up and move on!

 Final assessment: Hate the pattern, not the sweater.

If you give a Ninja a purse...

I'm having a hard time figuring out how to introduce violence into my child's life.  I don't mean it like that. It's just that I:
1. Don't want j to play at murdering people with toy guns;
2. Don't want her to play at beating and murdering people in violent video games; and
3. I don't want her to think of violence in TV shows/movies as entertainment.

My parents' approach was very straightforward: murder is awful, so it's not funny to make light of that by pretending to kill other people.  As far as I can tell, my sister is having no problem raising her own kids with this same philosophy.  You should hear her go off on the recent glorification of the pirate ('Why are people dressing their kids up as murdering, thieving rapists for Halloween? Pirates are cool now? Tell that to the fishermen of Somalia!')

My issue is, I believe all that too, I really do. But...
1. I love games where you actually shoot someone with something: laser tag and paintball;
2. My husband has completed, I mean, gotten 100% on multiple versions of Grand Theft Auto; and
3. There is something about ninjas that seems really cool to me, even if they were basically spies that assassinated people for money. Samurais, probably better people with their sense of honor and strict code of conduct, but somehow not as cool to me (or anyone else - I've never seen a samurai on Halloween). I like the guys with the masks and the swords and the pretty stars that they throw so gracefully (I know, into peoples' foreheads).

How am I supposed to handle this as a parent?  Luckily, I don't have to figure it out yet (although I'm very open to suggestions... and justifications).  I hesitated, but did not resist buying this fabric a while ago.  I mean, I was just going to stick it in my stash.  Why does that have to be a big ethical dilemma?

As we were packing for Seattle I realized I'd only made a hostess gift (those napkins) for my friend, but had nothing for her 7 year-old daughter.  Somehow I don't remember 7 being an age when I was really into pretty napkins. Can you see where I'm going?

We haven't spent a lot of time together in the last few years, so all I knew about her I'd learned from her mom on Facebook.  And that amounted to: she just went to Disneyland and she likes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I went for this reversible purse, which was a quick 50 minute project, including picking fabric and ironing!

I figured, when she's feeling a little Disney, she can use it this way:

And for her ninja days,

Girl after my own heart, once I gave the purse to her I never saw the polka dots again.  What does she carry in it? A book called Unlikely Friendships about different animal species who have sweet friendships with each other, of course.

For a minute I felt weird about bringing the ninja thing into someone else's house - it's like giving a girl her first Barbie and wondering if you aren't giving her a first shove towards anorexia... but then I saw her wooden ninja sword (that she's not allowed to touch people with, otherwise it will get thrown away).  I've got no answers, I'm not sure her mom does either.  But I have a feeling ninjas are going to make their way into my house soon enough, and I've got at least half a yard of that fabric.

An Ape, a Rainbow and a Hostess Gift

Every summer should end with an epic trip home - especially if you grew up in Seattle.  It's the only time you might actually see some sun (no need to get defensive, Seattleites), and even if you don't, you've at least gotten three months of it somewhere else.

After a year of non-stop Goodnight Gorilla I was excited to finally take j to a zoo - but I've been holding out for Woodland Park (think 'habitats' in place of cages). The Gorillas were fine, but it was an Ape that swooped down from a tree to show j some love.

Love Connection at the Woodland Park Zoo
 And here's a quick summary of the rest:
Short cloud break before we were covered in fog again (Orcas Island)

If you ever want to find a silver lining, you got to have a cloudy day
(we listened to Kacey Musgraves non-stop)

Best place to stay with a kid: Pebble Cove Farm, Orcas
Bouchart Gardens - on my list of places to see for over 20 years!

Victoria stole my heart with fleurs everywhere.

In Canada, the toddler playground has pygmy goats and limitless brushes

The Seattle leg of the trip was pretty short, but the best part was staying with an old friend.  You know you've got a connection when you can cover 1. What you believe about god, and why it's important to figure that out; 2. What country makes the best legos; 3. What love language you speak; and 4. How and when to potty train, all in one conversation.  What gift do you bring for her, when in addition to the spare bedroom and good company she throws you a party and makes her seven-year-old play with your toddler for hours on end?

Well.  I'm really into these Kokkas - I can't get away from this fabric line.  So I put together a hot pad/trivet and some napkins:

This is my favorite way to do napkins now: sewn pillowcase style (leaving a three-inch hole), turned inside out and topstitched. So much faster than a traditional mitered corner,

 and cuter,

and reversible, so you can mix it up!

All-in-all it was a great trip, but even restaurants and ferries can get old.  We knew when it was time to come home.

And while we couldn't reschedule our flight for that day, we did get back here eventually.  Now it's all 60 degrees and bags of apples at the grocery store.  For those of you keeping track, I have about two weeks to finish my 40 sweater, so stay tuned!

Time To Bag It Up

It all started with a goodbye present for j's teacher.  This was my first Noodlehead Open Wide Pouch, and it was addictive.  It's a one-afternoon project and requires very little fabric.

Then the cousins came to visit and I wanted a short, sewing project to do with them.  I mean, we also needed time to bake an eight-layer chocolate cake and learn to do Dutch braids, which are different from French braids.  Not sure why I thought something with a zipper was a good first sewing project, but they were good sports about letting my micromanaging hands take over during that part. Amari decided she wanted hers to be pencil size, so we cut the original project down by a third for hers.
A very productive day.
At this point it was becoming second nature, so when my Artist's Way Group folded at the end of the summer, it was an obvious gift. I'm really into the Japanese fabrics at Gather Here these days.  If it says Kokka on the selvage, I would like three yards, please. Sew satisfying to whip these out:

But just like with friendship bracelets in 8th grade and my salsa egg recipe in college, I think this recipe/pattern has run its course.   Time to move on to the next new thing!

Recycled to Modern

I remember going to the Denyse Schmidt show at the NE Quilt Museum awhile back and an older lady whispered to me "There's no such thing as modern quilting, just new quilters that don't know we've already done it all."  At the time I thought maybe the chip on her shoulder was causing her to oversimplify, but after checking out the recent Quilts and Color exhibit at the MFA a few times, I have to admit she's got a point.  I mean, yes, there are new interpretations of old patterns and techniques, new ways things get put together, new color combinations and perspectives, but all of it has some foundation (piecing, ha ha) in what's already been done.  

What I realized at Quilts and Color is, that's what I LIKE about quilting - none of it's new, but it's all new to me, and I can make it without the calico.  My favorite moment of this exhibit was when I came around a corner and saw this quilt from the 1840s. 

You can't tell from the picture, but that's a red calico!

How had the modern Orange You Glad You Married Me quilt I made for my husband last year gotten onto a wall at the MFA?  I mean, I'm flattered, but I remembered sleeping under it just last night!


After this discovery I started comparing all the quilts to things I had made. The wedding rings picnic blanket I did for a friend?

This 1940 unknown African-American quilter from Missouri version seems, well, more modern:

My economy square?

That pattern's been around since at least 1840, albeit without the cats:

I don't mean to come across as a complete narcissist - after I got done comparing all the quilts to my own, I just stood back in awe of the color combos (that was the point of the exhibit)

That border, with all those skinny stripes echoing the inside!

I love this border - I will recycle this idea soon!

I actually don't love this quilt, but I'm in awe of it

My favorite color combination of all time

And the mind-blowing handwork.  Can you imagine piecing this star so precisely by hand? I can hardly imagine doing it with a machine.  That's a life's work there.  Just amazing.

And the applique quilts without the use of fusible web, spray baste or a machine set on zig-zag? I dedicated two months to my first needle-turn project - the corners are unbearable, the patience and precision are just... well it was just awful.  It's nice to feel like the pain of that project is finally serving a purpose.  Now I can look at a quilt like this and realize how close to inhuman the workmanship is.  It's a new experience for me - to get emotional over a piece of art, not because of what it looks like, but because I understand the love and determination and patience that must've gone into creating it.  It makes me a little sad that the quilter doesn't know her work is hanging in the MFA right now.

I mistook this Mennonite for a Hawaiian.
Who knew they had so much in common?
It was an education in color theory for sure, but this exhibit was also inspiring in so many other ways.  Feeling grateful to be learning all that I am.

Summer Love

Every once in awhile a fabric comes along that is just Love At First Sight.  That happened to me with this dark teal Liberty fabric a couple of years ago, with the unfortunate name 'Mitsi':

The thing about Liberty fabrics is they're obscenely expensive and they are usually a very, very thin cotton.  So unless you know exactly what you want to do with it, it doesn't feel like a wise investment.  Even if it's the purdiest thing you ever did see.  Even if all your friends want to date it too.  Even if it drives a really nice convertible and has a dog.

Being a rational person, I didn't buy Mitsi right away. But every few months I would cyber-stalk it, just to make sure SOMEONE  was still selling it. And a couple of months ago it seemed like it was starting to disappear - not a good sign when only Etsy sellers have stock left. I bought two yards without a plan. I would have always regretted it if I hadn't made my move.

This is the summer shirt I decided on.  I needed to do a tester because I didn't want to make a mistake with Mitsi, come off as overly enthusiastic.  so I did a first version for my sister with another voile favorite, Amy Butler's Josephine's Bouquet.

The back had this pretty tie to make it size-adjustable:

It came out nice enough, but was pretty roomy and the v-neck wasn't working with the sleeves so well.

So when I cut into Mitsi I went x-tra small (I know, if you've ever seen me in real life you can guess where this is going) and did a more tailored sleeveless version with the v-neck.

I didn't try it on until after I sewed in the arm and neck lining, because I thought Mitsi and I had an understanding.  I thought we were in this together.  I had no idea how uncomfortably tight it would be across the shoulders, or how the alignment of the v in the neck with the gathers at the waist would just be so, so wrong.

All to say, this is going to need to be un-sewn (and I used the tiniest stitches which will be hell to rip out), and maybe re-sewn without the pretty French seams, or repurposed altogether.  That's the end of my trying-to-sew-clothes phase for awhile. The girl totally burned me. The fantasy of matching sister shirts was nice while it lasted. I hear Sister Responsibly and Amy Butler are still going strong out in sunny California.

Luckily I've spent the last couple of weeks working on a much more successful project.  My first entirely paper-pieced quilt, full of some lovely new fabrics.  Maybe not Love-At-First Sight fabrics, but some Japanese cottons that were at least nice to hang out with.  I'll show it for real once it's shown some loyalty quilted.

My First (Dresden Plate)

Our Modern Quilt Guild did a sewing room swap where you picked someone's name and anonymously made them a gift for their sewing room.  I'm usually more into the giving part of this kind of thing (hello, Secret Santa) since it involves my two favorite things: getting creative and surprising people.  But in a swap with these talented ladies I must admit I was selfishly much more excited about what I was going to get.  I was not disappointed!

One of the suggestions I'd given my giver was a knitting needle organizer.  I've bought material specifically for this project twice, but never got around to designing or making anything.  This has been my system since I bought my first pair of needles seven years ago:

I was lucky enough to have my name picked by the amazing and talented Hema, and knew before opening it that this was going to be so much better than anything I'd make for myself.

The back has this lovely umbrella material and my NAME, which as you all know, if you've seen my next generation quilts, is one of my favorite things to include on a handmade gift.  So I loved that, especially since it was in my favorite color.

The inside had more fabric from the same April Showers line - originally from Seattle, anything with a rain/umbrella motif will always remind me of home.  Since knitting is really a cold and rainy day activity, it felt particularly appropriate.

It took me about two seconds to fill this up and discover I had as many as three sets of the same size needle - now I know exactly what I have and will never buy another duplicate. And how nice that there's space for the long needles and right below, the double-pointeds? You'd think she was a knitter.  Everything I wanted to, fit, including the crochet hooks and stitch holders.  Thanks so much Hema!

My recipient had no requests in terms of object or color, so I got to do whatever I wanted.  I had never heard of thread catchers until I saw them at Quilt Camp, and immediately wanted one (so everyone else must too, right?).

They're like little trash cans you can hang off your sewing table for when you clip threads/corners so your floor doesn't look like mine.  I decided to use this pattern, and was pretty happy with how it came out.  My only complaint is that you're supposed to use glue in several different sections when sewing wasn't that hard and made it so much nicer.  I ended up only using glue to attach the rubber shelving mat on the bottom, and even that I'd sew on next time.

This was a May project so I was feeling summer and went with yellow and this corn/sunflower fabric that I bought too much of at Marden's ($2.99 a yard!).  I don't even like yellow that much, but I like it here - and since it turns out my recipient lives in Florida most of the time...

The top is a pin-cushion topped with a mini-dresden plate, which I'd never tried before.  It was totally quick and easy and made me want to make a whole quilt of them.

The pin cushion is velcro-d to the stability tile, so you can detach it if you need it elsewhere:

I was very happy with what I gave and got, can't go wrong in a swap!

Meh Mondays

I don't get to much of the Sunday Times anymore, but I usually make an honest effort with the magazine, and always make it at least to the Meh List. It seems like it'd be easy to come up with entries for this, just like it seems like coming up with a good entry for the New Yorker caption contest would be easy - but it's not.  This week has been all about Meh projects over here.  Maybe I'll make that like a craft blogger thing - we've already got Work-In-Progress Wednesday and Finish-It-Up Friday, maybe it's time for Meh Monday, where you post the projects you finished, but that either aren't that impressive or that you aren't that happy about.  Only I'm sharing on Friday, because I've got to move on to bigger and better things!

My first project was a new seat for the stroller I got J for Christmas.  The cheap-o fabric gave way on December 26th and the poor thing has been pushing it around for a few months now, unable to figure out why everything keeps falling out the right side.

The frame at least seemed sturdy enough, so I'd been meaning to do a new cover.  I really wanted to incorporate pompoms.  We like pompoms around here, we just aren't sure what to do with them.  J puts them in the salad spinner, the cats smack them all over the house and I just like to squeeze the ones that come on a ribbon like this:

Then I found this fabric last week.  J and Smashy Cat have been very sweet together lately; she likes to show him books about cats and he likes to smash his head into hers.  This totally reminded me of them (despite the whole vegetarian thing in this house):

It was about an hour project, very simple to just copy the old one.  

Not at all what these pompoms were intended for.  It looked much better before I put them on, but someone is really into them and I'm worried about what would happen if they were suddenly gone. It got a very satisfying reaction from the recipient who saw it through a window and started jumping up and down yelling "I see that! It's COOT!" So, kind of ridiculous but there you have it. 

I also did some spring cleaning this week, since spring has suddenly decided to show up.  I had to throw away about six of my favorite t-shirts because they've developed these little holes.

This is the genius of ladies clothing manufacturers - get us addicted to these super-thin, soft t-shirts that will only last a season, charge us twice as much because they're "tissue paper thin" and then sell us replacements next year.

For some reason the holes in my shirts are always concentrated in the stomach area.  I have no idea why that would be.  But these Ciao Bella salted caramel ice cream bars are pretty incredible (skip the other flavors, this is the only good one).

I remember seeing a tutorial about turning your oldies into toddler t-shirts, which seemed like a nice way to give them a second life.  You just lay out your shirt:

Lay a T that fits your kid on top and trace down each side and across the bottom:

Sew the sides, take up the bottom too (or don't, it could be a dress if you don't have those stupid holes), and there you have it:

Hey, and if the neck is too wide and goes all flash dance, just add a binder clip - they don't even notice.

The whole thing took under ten minutes.  Wasn't sure what to do about the neck, but a friend suggested elastic, and that took another three minutes to string a 1/4" strand through the pre-existing neck. Here's the finished product:

A Sun Tea Dress

Does anyone else remember Red Rose Tea? I think it was like the Lipton Brisk of the 1950s (and '60s and '70s).  The kind of thing you won't find at Whole Foods but they still believe in it at Market Basket. We had it in our kitchen growing up, but I think we only used it for sun tea.

I don't remember ever getting a porcelain miniature...
I remember trying to serve it to my Grandpa Lee once, thinking it was so sophisticated with the little red rose on the tag. That's when he told me that I should never drink bagged tea because it was made up of all the dirt they swept up from the factory floor after the good leaves had been sold as loose leaf.  Other lessons from Grandpa Lee:
1. You shouldn't order fried rice because it's just a way for the chef to dispose of leftovers;
2. It's OK if you bruise easily, it's because you have aristocratic blood; and
3. Education is the one thing they can never take away from you.

But those are discussions for another day. I have fond memories of both the box and the dusty, factory-floor-flavor of this particular tea and the sweet, sweet tags - I knew someone would do something creative with these if I just searched Etsy!

When I found three yards of this material at Fabric Basement, it was a throwback to the Red Rose days.  I pictured a cute tea-length skirt or something simple and retro that wouldn't throw me too far off my carefully-calendared creative track.

I abandoned the skirt idea when I came across this much-too-complicated dress pattern that seemed perfect for the roses: Simplicity 1687.

I KNOW- $18.95, are they crazy? All I can say, is it would've been a good opportunity to use a Joann's coupon, if I'd had a current one.  Simplicity is very proud of the fact that they have never adjusted their sizes, so you are really supposed to go by measurement.  This can be really disheartening.  According to Simplicity, I needed to go up FIVE sizes. Fantastic.  Way to make me feel like this dress will be flattering.

I made the lining first, just to test it out, and it was HUGE.  Like ten inches too wide. When I cut into my pretty rose fabric I chopped it down three sizes, blindly hoping maybe that would fit? It's already way out of character for me to make a lining first, so there would be no more testing.  A reminder of why I shouldn't make clothes and should stick to quilts.  Just as I was finishing, I realized I'd included an extra panel in the original lining I did - which was (in part) why it was so huge.  The dress barely fit - at the last minute I had to make some awfully narrow seams and even my hidden zipper got into the act, affording me another 1/4 inch since I didn't "hide" it.

Aside from sizing, I was also really annoyed that the pictures showed a contrast fabric both above and below the pocket zipper while the written pattern only included fabric below, which is just dumb and would look totally weird.  Here's how they suggested it would look:

I had to make that part up myself.  Who publishes a pattern with that kind of mistake?  Sorry, but if you're going to sell something like this at a premium price, you might want to test it. My improvisation was good enough:

Aside from the pulling at the neck (I think my shot cotton was too thin? Or something with thread tension or not enough curve clipping? Although I clipped the heck out of it. It's so hard to learn from your mistakes when you aren't sure what they are), I think it came out pretty nice.

Now I just need a warm day.