Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Said I Wouldn't, But I Did

I should have known myself better.

I bought this fabric for a Christmas dress for the Bug. I'd envisioned a simple apron dress. Something I could whip up quickly (knowing how busy I get with last minute gift ideas in December) but would still be super cute.

Well then before I knew it, it was the middle of December and I was STRESSED with the things that still needed done so I gave up my Christmas dress dream and just bought a cute sweater dress on sale at Crazy 8. I even splurged on fancy tights to help ease my Mommy guilt.
But it couldn't be helped.
I could not resist the siren song of that pile of Christmas fabric. And the night before the Bug's school Christmas Party I made her a dress.

It only took two hours, start to finish. Oh how I love this Little Lizard King pattern!

And the next morning when she woke up and saw a brand new dress her eyes lit up and a smile spread across her face as she said, "For me??".  She spun and she danced and she grinned shyly and nodded proudly as people asked her "Did your Mommy make that?". And oh my heart swelled with pride.

I love you Bug.
Merry Christmas sweet girl.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Special Christmas Gift

When I saw the Martinique line from 3 Sisters I knew I had to make my mom a quilt for Christmas. The colors were spot on for her living room and the ticking stripe reminded me so much of the old feather pillows her mom, my grandma, used to make for us.
I snatched up a layer cake and some yardage this spring when it was on sale at Fat Quarter Shop. I felt good. I was planning ahead! Go me!

Then I found this "recipe" for a simple Snuggly layer cake throw on Moda Bake Shop and I was in business. I knew the large blocks would make piecing go quickly and make it more likely that all my seams lined up and all that jazz. Plus, I love the way big blocks really showcase the pretty fabrics.

And then, real inspiration struck.
Uh oh.
I saw this Heirloom Cut Chenille Baby Blanket at the Aesthetic Nest and there was no turning back. I was headed straight on into crazy town and not looking back.
The piecing of the quilt top was easy. And it turned out prettier than I imagined.
The quilting, however, nearly landed me in a straight jacket. 
People who machine quilt are just amazing to me. I guess perhaps I don't have the right sewing room set up to begin with. My space is tight and feeding even a small throw like this in and out of my machine is a real feat. But I don't think I have the mental "set up" either. I am too ADD as a sewer. That repetitive straight line sewing night after night after night after night brought me to tears more than once.

But it was so pretty.
And so I pushed through it.
And if the quilting nearly drove me crazy, well the cutting. . .
Oh the cutting!
The back of this quilt is three layers of super soft flannel. Each little channel between the quilting lines had to be cut by hand, through all three layers of flannel, being careful not to snip the quilt front in the process.

I had opted early on to NOT buy a special chenille cutter because I am cheap so I did all of this with my Ginghers (one of my favorite sewing things inherited from Grandma).  I went to work for a week with a sore, bruised cutting hand that was covered in blisters.

Finally, the cutting was done. I added a patchwork binding by machine since time was short and hand binding was not an option. I have to say, I really liked the machine binding and I think I might do it that way in the future.

Once it was bound it was ready for a wash.
This is where the magic happens. 
After one wash that flannel backing begins to curl up and fray like chenille.
The more it's washed the softer it will get.
And just like the pain of childbirth, all the trials of machine quilting and manually cutting were forgotten as I held this completed beauty in my hands and thought about how much my dear Momma was going to love it.

Mom, I know this isn't much when you think of all you've done for me in my lifetime. But each stitch is a prayer of blessing and of gratitude. You taught me to sew. So many years ago. All those hours in the fabric stores picking patterns and fabrics, all those hours supervising 4-H projects. Neither of us knew at the time the GIFT that teaching would be--though I imagine you had a clue, Mom's always do. Of course there were infinitely more life lessons over the years, of which are too many and too tender to mention (since I'm already weeping). I can't ever say thank you enough. But I hope, that in some small way as you curl up with your coffee and the paper you will feel wrapped up in love and know how much you are appreciated. Be blessed.

Merry Christmas Momma.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

From Someone Special to Something Special

(I apologize in advance – this may be a doozie)

Have you ever known someone that has been so associated with something that they almost become synonymous?  Not in a one for one replacement but more of a direct remembrance of a person every time you see/hear/smell the thing.

That is how it is with our maternal Grandpa and overalls.  When it was up to him, which it usually was, he was in a pair of blue and white striped denim overalls.  One of the best gifts I ever received as a child was a pair of overalls that matched Grandpa’s.  I was over the moon – even at age four I felt the connection. 

Lindsay and I have been blessed far beyond most when it comes to the time we have been given with all four of our grandparents.  I remember when the subject of grandparents would come up in grade school, even then at that young age I was one of the only kids that had all four grandparents alive and active in my life (and even a couple great grandparents.)

But in August of last year, the inevitable happened, the time we would have with our Grandpa in this life came to an end.  It was difficult as you can imagine – after 28 years (more years than that for my sister because she's OLDER– I had to lighten this post somehow) you get really used to someone being there.

The first time I visited our Grandma after Grandpa's passing, I went with my mom.  We were going through the house when I noticed a large bag of all my Grandpa’s overalls sitting on the floor.  I knew immediately that I wanted to keep them – though at the time I had NO plans for them – in the moment I saw the bag and I felt that strong connection to my Grandpa. My Grandma made some comment about if I really wanted the old stained overalls I was more than welcome to them - but I know she knew why I wanted them.
Since then the bag has sat in my sewing room waiting for the right project.  

When our Great Grandma passed away, my sister made wonderful teddy bears, for each great grandchild, out of one of our Great Grandma’s white chenille blankets.  It seemed like the perfect use for the blanket.  But not quiet right for Grandpa’s overalls.

I am not sure where the idea originated, but my sister suggested Christmas stockings!
And almost as vaguely as the idea was hatched, it was determined to come to fruition.  It just seemed right.

I am not sure how your family does Christmas – but for our family, there has always seemed to be an emphasis on STOCKINGS!  I love them – the zaniness of some of the items our mom (ah hem. . . Santa) finds, unwrapping all the tiny gifts (yes our family wraps stocking gifts.), the occasional "oops" of someone finding something in their stocking that was intended for someone else, watching our mom act surprised as she opens everything (though as of last year my sister and I ( Santa?) took over the task of filling her stocking) but anyway I could go on and on of the greatness of stockings. . .

This stocking obsession has gone on as far back as I can remember – and it originated with my maternal grandparents.

The stockings we have used – since the beginning of time (or at least my time) are ones that my Grandma made.  They are great – but they are starting to show their age.

Add to all this the way holiday’s have of bringing those we have lost to mind, and you have the perfect recipe for our Grandpa’s overalls.

I started to work on the stockings, using our current stockings as a size reference (they are a bit larger than the average stocking). And I used the Purl Bee tutorial as a guide for the cuff.

We used the overalls as is – stains…


and pockets.

My sister did most of the hard work – or at least the part I was not looking forward to.  She cut out all the overall pieces.  No small task.

The overall pieces were sewn to a muslin cuff lining piece because we were limited in the amount of over-all fabric.  There was also a muslin lining piece that was sewn to the wool cuff piece because there wasn't enough wool to line the whole stocking.

I found this project enjoyable.  Getting to work with the worn materials, softened by washes and years of wear. There were times I found myself just sitting with the overall stocking piece running my hands across the fabric and thinking of times with my Grandpa.  Sometimes there were tears, but mostly there were smiles. 

We used the red wool because our Mom has memories of Grandpa in a red wool button down shirt. But we didn't have enough yardage of red wool to do the cuffs on all the stockings, so we substituted with some green wool from my Grandma’s stash (formerly blogged about here.)

For those of you good at math and aware of the number of current members of our family – you may notice that there are more stockings than people.  Our mom requested we make “extras just in case.”  My sister and I think we may be getting a little brother.  HA!

In any event, we now have a way to directly recall our very special Grandpa through these very special overall stockings.

Merry (Early) Christmas!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gifts for teachers

The Bug has two teenaged ballet teachers who have done an awesome job with her Princess Ballet class the last couple of months. So what to do to express our thanks?

So supercute. And what teenaged girl couldn't use another bag?
We slipped a little suprise inside too in the form of chocolate and Target giftcards.

These were fun and quick to make. I think I'd like one for myself.

It's always the easy projects that cause trouble though.

When cutting out the pieces I sliced my left index finger with my rotary cutter. The next night, as I was sewing, some how I sewed right through my finger tip. Geesh! As if that weren't enough, I then accidentally jabbed with a straight pin the very tender skin that was cut by the rotary cutter.

I should not be trusted with sharp objects.


Monday, December 6, 2010

A Squirrelly Lunch Bag

Masculine gifts are not something I do a lot of. It seems for whatever reason, the things I enjoy sewing are somewhat "girly".  

So when a friend asked for a lunch bag for her dad this Christmas, I was a little baffled. But never one to turn down a sewing challenge, I accepted.
Simple linen. Crisp, clean. . . has the rugged look of a brown paper bag.
Check out that awesome leather button.
LOVE grandma's button jar. It has not failed me yet.
It is, of course, reversible. 
The other side is made from a men's dress shirt.
And again, rugged stone button from the button jar. I may never need to buy buttons again.
I carefully ripped the pocket off of the front of the shirt and sewed it on to the bag. Should be just right for holding a napkin or some silverware.
The best part though is back on the linen side.
I finally jumped on the freezer paper stencil train.
Love it.

I hope he does too.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thanksgiving Blessings

Last week we spent four lovely days with my family. It's rare we get to spend such a long time together so it was a real treat.

Michelle and I attempted to revisit the sewing sweat shop and kick out some Christmas stockings. We managed, at least, to get them cut out. They traveled back to Chicago with her to be finished. So, hopefully you'll be seeing them soon. They are so special. I can't wait for you to see them.

Mom has been telling us for a while that she has more of grandma's fabric stash to go through. I really didn't think it was possible. The two of us have already taken box after box of vintage treasures. Apparently though, we get our fabric hoarding honest--as both of us ended up taking two large bags full of goodies home once again.

Last night I pulled it all out and decided it was too beautiful not to share. So here are the highlights--mind you this is only the fabric I took--Michelle has bags of goodies all her own.
Wool. Gorgeous wool. The photo doesn't do it justice. It's amazing. And there are yards and yards of it.
Lots of cute retro print cottons. That red white and blue print on top of the pile is a synthetic fabric of some sort. It was my mom's prom dress! How fun. Fabric is cool enough but when it has a story? Love it. I can't decide which print here is my favorite. I love them all.
Check out this corduroy. My mom hated it. I love it. Love. Love. Love it.
It may be my favorite piece in the whole bunch.
The folk art look. The corduroy. The colors. Everything is just perfection to me.
It looks like it could be a Kokka print doesn't it?

When I laid it out with these two cotton floral prints I started getting visions of beautiful projects to come. Oh to have unlimited time.
Fall-ish prints and colors. Lots of fun textures in this lot. And that white fabric with the green flowers? Yeah, Michelle and I split that one. We are typically pretty generous when going through grandma's fabric but we both wanted that one bad.
Gingham oh how I love thee.
Be ye itty bitty, medium sized or jumbo I will never turn you away.
Check this out. 
A bolt of pink broadcloth. 
(forgive my terrible fake lighting--there is no natural light to be found these cold dark days of winter, at least not when your prime sewing time is after 5 pm)

Drip dry even. Little or no ironing required. 
Now that's what I'm talking about.
I didn't take a lot of the notions. Just a few things I thought I might use. Some trim, some rope, some thread, some bias tape. And how about those patterns?
But the very best treasure of all?
Hands down.
These fifteen crazy quilt blocks.
Don't they look like stained glass all laid out like that?
Each block was hand pieced and then hand embroidered.
I'm not gonna lie, as I pulled each one out, turned it over in my hands and examined it, I shed a few tears.
To think of the amount of time and love that went into this.
No scrap wasted.
Each one telling a story.

Grandma has asked me before how I find time to sew.
I want to know how she ever had time to do something as intricate and beautiful as this.
Truth is, we all make time to do what we love.
And I have a feeling grandma was much like me once, leaving dishes dirty on the counter so she could steal 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there to do the thing that gave her joy.

I love you grandma. And I'm so thankful for the legacy that you've passed down to us. It's more, of course, than this fabric. But to me, this fabric is a beautiful representation of the love, the creativity, the resourcefulness, and the generosity with which you have lived your life.
And for that, I will be eternally grateful.