A Pre-K Quilt

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Pre-K Quilt tree

This spring I did a variation on the Kindergarten Quilt Project with my daughter’s Pre-K class. This was a simpler version – fewer kids, no coordination of donated materials, and on-the-spot piecing. I brought my sewing machine in to the classroom so we could work on a crazy quilting border together. The kids were great and I enjoyed seeing the choices they made with color and shape. Two boys brought up matching honeycomb prints to be placed side by side “’cause we’re best friends,” a quiet girl was fascinated with text prints, and one eager child didn’t care all that much about the fabric but really wanted to know how fast the sewing machine could go.

Yes, I cranked the machine speed up for her.

The kids worked on fabric drawings when they weren’t at the sewing machine. As I did with the K-Quilt, I asked them to draw what makes them happy.

crazy quilting detail

My own munchkin whipped out a drawing in her signature saturated style and then seated herself at my side, a petite assistant. She reminded friends to keep their hands in their pockets when the sewing machine was going. She answered questions about thread and what the buttons in the machine did and if it could stitch backwards. She kept order. She beamed.

Note to self: Take more time to do stuff in the classroom.

One challenge with working with drawings from small children is that they are often very loose. Abstract. Sometimes scribbly. Individually they are each lovely or funny or adorable but putting them all together can be visually chaotic. To balance out the drawings I did a few things: I broke the drawings up into two groups; I did a fairly heavy stipple pattern when quilting the crazy patchwork to give it a cohesive texture; I added two 1″ red frames to highlight the square quilt shape and provide a small amount of solid color to ground the drawings. (I picked red because it’s the school color.)

Pre-K Quilt

The result was a square throw quilt with 33 drawings and a 5″ wide section of crazy quilting. It’s bright and cheerful, and it is a sweet snapshot of this moment in time, as these little ones change rapidly and get ready to leave preschool. I think last fall the drawings on this quilt would have looked very different, and by this coming fall they will be in another dimension entirely.

The Pre-K Quilt was raffled off during a fundraising event for the school. I was a little sad to see the quilt go, but you know what? I’ll be back to do it again next year.

 

P.S. For those who think I’m nuts for bringing my machine into the classroom or want to try something similar: We set a few ground rules with the kids first. 1) Only I touch the buttons to make the machine start and stop. 2) All hands in pockets or on top of heads when the machine is sewing. 3) Only two or three kids at a time with me and the machine.

On My Bookshelf: All Points Patchwork

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This week I’m really looking forward to the arrival of my print copy of All Points Patchwork, a lovely English paper piecing book by Diane Gilleland of craftypod.com. I’ve spent the past week pouring over the digital advance copy and can’t wait to get my hands on the actual pages!

All Points Patchwork provides clear, user-friendly, and thorough instructions on how to use English paper piecing (EPP) to create stunning patchwork. This isn’t a project book – there are no step-by-step tutorials on how to complete specific projects – but instead is a beautiful and intuitive primer on how to use EPP. As someone who frequently passes over purchasing craft books because I don’t want to make more than one or two of the projects in the book, I was pleased by this open-ended approach. Make no mistake – there are plenty of project ideas and beautiful photos in this book! But Gilleland teaches you how to do the piecing; the exact application is up to you.

And teach piecing she does. I’ve tried a little EPP for applique for tricky spots in small quilts but have never attempted a large project; now I feel much more confident about trying my hand at something sizable. Gilleland breaks down the history of EPP, how it differs from other types of piecing, the various types of templates/shapes and basting techniques, how to work with the templates, how to join patchwork pieces, how to design a pattern, the effects of color and scale, and how to handle trouble spots like mis-matched edges. The book includes a generous number of templates to get you started.

146_cAlexandraGrablewski_TumblerSoftie_AllPointsPatchwork

There are, of course, wonderful photos to illustrate piecing techniques and the possibilities of finished projects. From pillows to a child’s dress to throw quilts, Gilleland uses every opportunity to show off how the crisp lines of EPP patchwork can turn a nice project into a stunning one. Gilleland’s charming handiwork graces dozens of projects large and small. There is a starting point here for just about any sewist interested in trying EPP.

102_cAlexandraGrablewski_HexagonQuilt_AllPointsPatchwork

With summer rapidly approaching, I’m looking forward to starting on some portable hand-stitching work that can travel with me. I think something inspired by this might fit the bill nicely:

2_cAlexandraGrablewski_YellowPillowBlueChair_AllPointsPatchwork

All Points Patchwork is available May 19, 2015.

All images excerpted from: All Points Patchwork (c) Diane Gilleland. Photographs by (c) Alexandra Grablewski. Borrowed with permission of Storey Publishing.

On My Bookshelf: Nightbird

nightbirdAh, this is the sort of middle grade novel that I love: A bit timeless, a bit magical, featuring an early-teen girl finding her place in the world. Oh, and it features apples and a little early New England history. Always selling points for me.

Twig lives in a small western MA community with her mom, where she is the oddball girl in her grade – she doesn’t go to parties or friends’ houses and spends most of her time in the family apple orchard. Her mother, beautiful and guarded, is the region’s best baker and biggest mystery. Twig is painfully lonely, so when a new family moves in next door the lure of friendship is too difficult to resist. She violates family tradition, putting a long-held secret at risk, in an attempt to break out of the isolation that has cloaked her childhood. In the process, she pulls her whole family along with her, dredging up ancient history and rewriting the future.

This is a book to buy and keep, re-reading on late summer nights or when the need for gentle fantasy strikes.

A Few Finishes

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stroller quiltbutterfly pillow fairy skirt Frequency

Frequency 4

blue room 3

April has been a month for finishing things. For my friend’s new baby, an I-spy stroller/nap quilt. For friends, a half-square triangle throw quilt. For my kids, a freshly painted room with new shades.

Whew.

I only snapped one decent picture of the stroller quilt before wrapping it up for my friend. This little quilt was fun to put together and I enjoyed playing around with all the fussy-cut prints. I started with a deep teal blue as my base, then added light blues, alternating them in each row with animals, clouds, and letters. The backing is a soft gray and white checked flannel. It’s just shy of 3′ square, a good size for tummy time or tucking in to a stroller.

The half-square triangle quilt is made up entirely of Petal and Plume fabrics, in a pattern that radiates out from a center square. I am proud of how this came out, but boy, did it drive me nuts while I was piecing it! I turned pieces around the wrong way so many times….Patience and careful squaring up paid off, though. After some consideration I decided to quilt this simply, using a navy thread to stitch in the ditch along the diagonals and then around the squares formed by the navy prints. I used Warm and Natural cotton batting and more Petal and Plume for the backing and binding. The result is a quilt that is soft and light and wonderfully drapey.

In non-sewing news, the kids’ room is finally done! For the better part of three weeks, Mr. K and I stripped wallpaper, washed down walls, spackled, sanded, patched up window trim, painted, and did a lot of vacuuming of dust. Yes, three weeks is a long time for one room. Removing that wallpaper was HORRENDOUS. For the record, very hot water in a spray bottle is still the most effective method of removing wallpaper in ye olde condo.

I was so very glad when the last scrap off paper was off the wall, the last lump of spackle was sanded, and the walls were ready for paint. Paint is easy. Paint goes on quickly and provides an immediate, tangible reward. We chose two shades of blue for the room, Sail to the Sea and Oh, Boy!, both by California Paints. These are fun, lively blues that appealed to both kids and look good with light and dark furniture.

Just for perspective, here’s the same corner pre and post paint:

spackled wall blue room 1

The room is fairly small and there’s a lot in it, so I opted to do roman shades instead of curtain panels. I ordered this dandelion fabric and used this tutorial for turning metal blinds into fabric shades, adding a liner to the back side of the fabric first. I’m happy with the result, cheerful and clean-lined.

The relief from snow is almost tangible in our part of the world. New Englanders sprang out of doors this past week, working on neglected yards, flooding playgrounds, strolling the streets, sitting in cafes. Fairy wings came out of the dress-up box and scooters out of the garage. We joined the masses of sun-seekers, and when I went to the grocery store over the weekend I found this most precious of spring produce: Rhubarb. If you’ve followed this blog for a little while you know about me and rhubarb. When it first shows up in the stores I celebrate with a rhubarb custard pie, made from an old recipe in the family cookbook.

rhubarb custard pie

More Cake!

I have a few finishes, sewing and otherwise, to post in the next few days. In the meantime: Cake!

The Boy wanted a Minecraft-themed birthday, so I made a cake that looked (sort of) like a grass block. It was chocolate, with crushed Oreos mixed into chocolate frosting to look like dirt and green spiky piped frosting for grass. Plus a Steve figure, of course.

Minecraft grass block cakeMiss R wanted a Powerpuff Girls birthday. Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup were duly ordered off ebay and I made a simple cake with colored sugar streaks in the PPG signature colors. Secret bonus: colored sprinkles in the frosting between the layers!

PowerPuff Girls cakeSo that’s the latest cake update for a while. We’re entering pie season, after all. Anyone see any rhubarb in the stores yet? I think it’s a little slow to arrive in the northeast…..

Sweat Equity

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You know the phrase “climbing the walls”? That’s me. Well, it’s more like “attacking the walls.” Snow, more snow, and lots of time inside flipped a switch and I couldn’t stand some of our walls anymore. Out went the furniture, in came the stepladders, scrapers, and spray bottles. Bye-bye, green paint. And beige paint. And floral wallpaper.

One of these days I will actually scrape off the last bit of wallpaper in this condo. One day. But for now, getting rid of the I’m-so-over-it green paint and peeling wallpaper and bad spackle jobs in this one small room will do the trick.

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As in our other spaces, this room was wallpapered and then painted. In some places everything cooperates and the paint and paper lift away from clean plaster with a quick scrape, in others we’re removing 1/2″ shards. Scoring the paint/paper and then using very hot water in spray bottles helps. I tried adding vinegar but it didn’t help much and smells lousy. This morning one of the authors I work with suggested adding fabric softener to the spray bottles (thanks, Laurel!)  – I will try it and report back. I’m willing to take any and all suggestions to get through this stage of the project:

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So, until this is done I have mattresses on the porch and piles of kid stuff in the dining room and everyone is sleeping wherever they land. Truth: I kind of love it. Not forever, but for a little while this sort of transformative chaos gives me a thrill. And I have help! Mr. K and my parents have taken turns chipping away at the paint while I’m at work and it turns out that Miss R is not too shabby with a scraper, provided we give her a smaller one for her little hands. Being allowed to liberally use a spray bottle indoors is a big enticement, I think.

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 Paint colors for this room are still under consideration. I’ve taken down the curtain panels and am going to do roman shades instead. I found this tutorial for turning metal blinds into roman shades, which I may try. Our windows are an odd width so repurposing the ugly but custom cut metal blinds is appealing to me.

P.S. I swore that I would not sew, except to make shades for this room, until this project is done. Let’s see if I make it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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heart bean bags

Snow-bound days, warm little projects. Bean bags for stir crazy kids. Pots of soup. Long books. Lego-strewn floors. A spouse who cracks me up.

These are the things I try to be grateful for in the middle of the snowiest February in memory. Because, really – there’s nothing else to be done about it. If it’s going to snow, it’s going to snow, and no amount of snow rage will change that.  Another foot? Awesome! I’ll make the hot chocolate and put the shovel by the back door.

Wishing you a day of appreciation – for yourself, for those important to you, and for the world in general.

 

On My Bookshelf: Paper to Petal

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What to do in a minor blizzard? Sled. Make snow angels. Sew. Read beautiful books about paper flowers and dream of spring. Paper to Petal cover   Paper to Petal by Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell is stunning. I don’t make paper flowers. I don’t plan to make paper flowers. And yet I spent quite a bit of time with this book over the weekend, admiring the artistry of the creations, the gorgeous colors, and the beautiful photography. It inspired quilt plans and some decor tweaking and a possible spring brunch. That, my friends, is a good craft book. paper to petal interior 2 And if you do want to make paper flowers? The instructions are excellent and accompanied by additional helpful photographs and a Skills section that explains basic techniques. The book includes templates for flower petals and leaves.

For much better photographs of the book than mine, plus links to Thuss and Farrell’s other beautiful design work, visit http://www.papertopetal.com/.

This and That

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January has found me knee-deep in a pile of books, fixing things around the house, and working on little projects. After my pre-Christmas sewing marathon it has felt good to catch up on odds and ends.

I thought I’d share two small things that I am currently enamored with: a rolling cart made from an old wooden soda box, and a doll quilt that uses up some of my Wee Wander scraps.

041 040 Fabric lined rolling cart

The cart is…. awesome. I know, it’s just an old box. But it’s very sturdy and just the right size for my sewing essentials. I lined it with bright green fabric (from The Boy’s first quilt) and added four small casters on the bottom. Now it holds my sewing essentials and rolls from desk to cabinet as needed. No more going back and forth for scissors, then buttons, and then a different thread, and oh, a thimble and an embroidery hoop and my quilting gloves.

070 067 Wee Wander doll quilt

The doll quilt is sweet and so very pretty. I have a stash of precious Wee Wander scraps (from the Christmas quilts for the girls) that I just couldn’t let go to waste. All the triangle scraps became a half-square triangle quilt, about 19″ x 21″. I backed it with hot pink and quilted on either side of all the seam lines, creating a nice diagonal pattern along the back. It’s in my Etsy shop.

Now, back to that pile of books!pile of books

Eight Quilts for Christmas

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I had an ambitious list of Christmas projects this year: Eight quilts, one each for my kids and niece and nephews, one per couple for my sister, brother, and parents. It seemed like a good idea in July, and still seemed reasonable in September, but by December 15th I was thinking that I really should have scaled things back a bit. It’s a good thing I really like making quilts! I finished with a whole whopping 24 hours to spare.

A friend asked me a few days ago if it was hard to let these quilts go. Actually, no. I made each one with someone particular in mind and it felt good to finally put them in the arms of their intended recipients. I enjoyed making them, and I enjoyed watching everyone, particularly the kids, take ownership of the quilts as they immediately draped beds and turned into forts.

After all the quilts were gifted, I managed to do a quick photo shoot using whichever relatives were walking by as quilt holders. Without further ado:

 

Twilight Dreams quilts

R Quilt

These bright, pretty quilts were for my daughter and my niece. I used prints from the Wee Wander line, having fallen in love with the fireflies, footprints, horses, and little dreamers sitting in trees. I was inspired by this quilt but wanted to keep some of the larger panels intact, so I mixed up the sizes of the squares a bit.

R quilt detail

Both quilts are backed and bound in Wee Wander, which is very fine and soft. It makes for a light, drapey quilt perfect for snuggling and toy room picnics.

C quilt 2

 

Minecraft quilts.

minecraft dog quilt 2

This year has been all about Minecraft for the two older boys, so I got all pixelated and made a dog and a Steve face. I used various cottons on the quilt tops and flannel prints for the backs and bindings, so these quilts are extra cozy.

steve quilt head 2

 

Midnight Train quilt.

Midnight train quilt 2

My younger nephew loves trains, so for him I had this dream of a big, slightly abstract, mysterious train. Nothing babyish, no choo-choos. For this boy, a midnight train in black and deep blues with a moon on the rise and a drifting plume of smoke, a lone engineer silhouetted in the cab.

 

HI quilt.

Hi quilt

For my sister and brother-in-law, I went back to a flagged favorite in a magazine (Quilty) and modified the size. I think there’s something about the alternating blocks in this pattern that’s soothing. I picked Koi prints because they feel organic and balance out the geometric lines of the “H” blocks. The quilting is a combination of stipple and straight line, and the back and binding are Koi.

Hi quilt detail Hi quilt back

 

Migration quilt.

Migration quilt

For my brother and sister-in-law, I opted for lots of flying geese in varying blue prints on white. I thought the balance of the blues, the florals and checks, and the tailored (but slightly cheeky – note there’s one row of geese heading off in its own direction) triangles suited them. Most of the blue prints are from Happy Go Lucky.

Migration detail

 

Grandparent quilt

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This is the quilt that started everything off back in July. It was the one I dreamed up first and finished last, of course, the one that I started right away and then became nervous about. It features drawings from each of the five grandchildren, framed in big strips of Flea Market Fancy. I used straight line and stipple quilting on this, and backed it in more Flea Market Fancy.

Grandparent quilt detail

So there you go: eight quilts for Christmas. It’s a good finish to 2014. What’s next? I have no idea, but there’s a pile of books waiting for me….

Happy New Year to you and yours! May 2015 be full of blessings.

 

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