Thursday, August 18, 2016

Spain, kidneys, and good ole' Tula

We are back from our trip to Spain, and I am in love. It really was beautiful and just touched on the "go chase adventure" nerve. So much to say, but how do you summarize a country, it's people, a culture in one blog post? Instead, I will just share a few of my observations and impressions that I am left with. Also, I totally realize that my observations are very general and there is more to tell about a person than a simple glance as they walk down a street....

The people of Rota are beautiful. I couldn't help but notice how their hair seemed shinier and fuller, their skin seemed brighter and smoother, and overall, when compared to Americans (this American, in particular) they were in far better shape. They seemed more carefree and not so rushed. I thought a lot about this, and my very layperson observation is that a culture that embraces naps, relies on their feet for transportation, and eats differently (big lunch, small dinner), maybe has a wonderful effect on the body and mind.

Other things I noticed- walking down a crowded street, a couple pushing their baby in a pram, they literally stopped to coo and make faces at their baby. I saw this a lot. They seemed generally invested in the moment with their babies. I couldn't help but think, man, I would probably never stop in a crowded street because it would annoy the people behind me, nor do I know if I am ever that present to see and stop what I am doing on my way somewhere to just making funny faces at one of my babies. I kept noticing this, the attentiveness to the babies, and it tugged on my heart. I know it may sound silly, and maybe I happened to witness the only 4 families in Spain who weren't so in a rush that they stopped to coo at their little ones, but it spoke to me, and I made a little promise to myself to stop and just watch my children more and stop rushing so much.We lose so much in the rush. I want to be the mom that comes to a dead stop just to squeeze my little ones for no reason other than they are adorable.

So many of the places we went, people went up to Evie and Declan and touched their cheeks, or the top of their heads, and spoke to them. It's kind of troubling to me how off-putting such a sweet gesture was at first. It just made me think that being on-guard as a parent can also mean that sometimes we lose a little bit of our humanity.

Not all of my thoughts were deep. Other noteworthy things: sangria in Spain is delicious and powerful, the breeze coming off the coast was amazing, driving down tight streets super fast scared the crap outta me, and any time I heard a siren from a police car (which was only like twice) I thought Jason Bourne must be up to something nearby.

.....dang my husband is HOT!

...and I don't know why Tyler is making that face. But it's definitely a good one. 

If we are friends on IG, then you know that on my birthday I woke with horrible pain and went to the hospital to learn I had kidney stones. That was no bueno. For real, I have never felt pain that intense. My body was shaking, I was sweating profusely, my blood pressure was crazy, and I felt like I was going to pass out and vomit all at the same time. I said a little prayer thanking God for the creators of Dilaudid and Morphine.

Okay, on to a more sew-happy note. I saw this little challenge/sew-along all over instagram and I decided to join in. The idea is to make 100 blocks in 100 days #100blocks100days using Tula Pink's City Sampler 100 Modern Quilt Blocks book. I am so excited about this. I am telling you, this quilting community is so inspirational, so positive, so encouraging, that it feels good to be a part of this greater group project.  Here are my first 2 blocks:

 In the book, Tula talks about how she has only numbered the blocks instead of naming them, so they can take on our unique ideas and what we want them to be, and as such, aren't limiting.  How in the leaving them unnamed, we allow them to tell our own story, and as such we name our own block, sort of. I have decided that this is a quilt I will keep for myself, so I am naming each block after a person or thing that is part of my story. So each block will be like a little chapter of my life or a piece of my heart. In deciding this, it has made the overall quilt so much more exciting and fun for me!

I have named the first block after my Mom, because she is amazing and the start of my story. The navy blue floral fabric reminded me of a dress she might have worn.

The second block was named after my first daughter, Kaitlin. The colors combine in a way that mimic her beautiful eyes.

My plan is to make each block from scraps I have and pieces laying around, with no focus at all on overall color, only in combining color for what feels right and based on who/what I am naming each block after. I typically (always) like to have a sense of cohesiveness about my quilts, but this time I am letting the cohesiveness lie in the block size and sashing, and letting each individual block not be tied to any rules. This is a big leap for me, but sometimes it is good to shake up the way we work.

If you are participating in this little stitch-along challenge, I'd love to know!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Quilt The Book?

As we are sitting in the airport hoping to catch a flight to Spain, I figured now was a great time to write a post I've been mulling over in my head.

One of my very very favorite bloggers, Jolene of Blue Elephant Stitches , started a little challenge a while back that she called Quilt the Book, I believe. The challenge is pretty self explanatory-- she just quilted her way through the book.

This has intrigued me for many reasons. First, while I have a major obsession with quilting books, I've yet to find a quilt book that had me wanting to make even half of the quilts featured. It would be both exciting and a little off putting to make a quilt that I wasn't initially drawn to. Also, a lot of my quilting lull is a result of TOO MUCH inspiration/ideas/color palettes, that leave me not knowing where to begin. Having something more structured, like a plan to make what's in front of me, would really solve that issue for me.

So. I have decided to go ahead with this challenge after I select a book. I have created a few rules to both keep me focused and give me a little freedom. The rules:

- I have to make 2/3 of the quilts featured in a book. Other projects won't be included. So if there are 15 quilts featured, I need to make 10. This gives me a little freedom in not having to choose something  that really doesn't speak to me.

- I don't have to stick to exact sizes for patterns-- I can size up and size down, but I need to roughly adhere to same dimensions

- my goal is to complete this challenge before Spring of 2017

- I can work on the projects in between, but cannot start another book quilt until the previous book quilt is finished.

So, now the contenders....

I really love Quilt Love. I like this book because it  modern and traditional and I feel like the quilts really allow you to put your own spin on things. Also, I feel like the quilts can come together fairly quickly and really allow for a lot of individual expression.

The other book I'm considering is Sunday Morning Quilts. Another favorite of mine. Love the patterns but also love the use of scraps and the quilts in the book are so fun!

So there you have it. A little self imposed challenge I'm debating. And here's a few pictures of things I've been working on lately.

I used a cotton poly batting and it made have a little extra puff.

backed in double gauze.

I used three different colors of thread for the quilting.

A quilt top I am working on. based on the Tunnels quilt from the book Modern Heritage Quilts.

The makings of a bag for myself.

My go to Spain bag, except we didn't actually get to Spain. 

Okay, so is anyone with me on the "quilt the book" challenge?

Monday, August 1, 2016

a recent finish and a quilty wish list of sorts

First, here are some pictures of a recent finish. I started this quilt about a month ago.

This was it in progress...I have this thing about making baby quilts because they come together faster than larger quilts and are easier for me to quilt, but I have been trying to make bigger ones, so I added extra rows to this one. 

I had a plan to back this in Sarah Jane's Sommer Double Gauze in the aqua checker pattern, but when I opened up the fabric I noticed that the company cut it completely wonky and messed up. So I had to come up with a  plan B.... you can see a bit of the backing here. I ended up piecing 3 different polka dot fabrics together and adding a border of the black quotation marks on white. I like the look and how it feels, just bummed because I wanted to use that light double gauze. Oh well.

This is definitely the most color-saturated quilt I have made yet. I planned on adding more white, but my cousin pointed out that sometimes having a lot of white space with kids is stressful because she doesn't want them messing up the quilt. You would think that would have crossed my mind with 5 kiddos....

I used an 80/20 cotton poly batting on this one to up the puff factor, but it didn't get quite the puff I was hoping for. Might need to go with a higher loft next time. 


And here she is, in all her glory. That green fabric in the middle left, and that golden yellow a little off center.....these are probably might favorites in the green and yellow category. I need to replace them because I am getting low on them in my stash.

And now for my little list.  I have a gajillion ideas in my head and I tend to forget things easily, so I want to have this so I can remember my "things I want to make" list.

Okay, as far as quilt patterns go:
  • More quilts using solids, reminiscent of the Quilts of Gee's Bend
  • A fancy fox quilt  I have the pattern for this and have made a few foxes into pouches and baskets for friends, but I want a full foxy quilt
  • A triangle quilt with lots of empty space just LIKE THIS I have made 2 triangle quilts and they both aren't good- you can see one here if you scroll down a little. I don't know why triangles and I don't get along but I am determined to fix that. 
  • A color wheel quilt It involves curves, though, and curves make me get sweaty and cussy
  • A monochromatic log cabin quilt, something like this  ...not in gray scale, though...I was thinking varying shades of yellow
  • A quilt involving lots of different shaped blocks, more modern, using a lot of solids....isn't this quilt just AMAZING and THIS ONE!!!

As far as color or overall design:

  • A quilt using a color for the background instead of maybe a gray, or a camel-colored tan, or even a pea green or a maybe a citrusy orange. (I can feel some of you cringing- but I have seen it done and though it's not for everybody, I have always found a colored background so bold and beautiful and it brings a whole new level of richness to a quilt!)
  • I want to do a couple more monochromatic quilts. I started doing one, and then because I cannot keep to my original idea EVER, I added in strips of sand colored linen, because the aquas got me all beach feeling.
  • I want to try color combinations that would never be my first turquoise and orange, or black, white, and lime green, or maybe even -GASP- incorporate some brown into one of my quilts. Do you have any color combos that interest you but that would ordinarily stay away from??
Okay, that's it for today. I will wrap this up with may picture I got of our gorgeous North Carolina sunset sky recently.

Just look how He paints the skies for us! Our Heavenly Father is a brilliant artist. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

some finishing and thoughts on pricing

I shared before how I was in a creativity funk and I attributed it to several different things. I think I partly wore myself out from a frenzy of making in the spring, and I was also trying to sort through my feelings on putting quilts in my shop and processing my feelings when certain quilts just sit there for a while. I think the factor that weighed heavy on me was my huge pile of "in process" quilts.

I knew I had a few quilt tops done and ready for quilting and backing but I had no idea I had SO many. When I went to sort through them all I counted 14 finished tops. FOURTEEN. That is not even including the piles of blocks that I have that are all meant to be a quilt top. So to say I have a problem finishing what I start would be an understatement, to put it mildly.

But putting it out there that I had so many unfinished quilts really motivated me to tackle that huge pile of quilt tops and turn them into finished quilts. And in one Saturday, I was able to get 3 finished! Yay me!

This one was intended to be a crib quilt or baby girl quilt for my shop. I was making a pattern from Camille Roskelley's book Simply Retro.  But I was WAY overzealous when trimming my HSTs for the churn dash blocks and cut several too small. Which means that when I pieced the blocks together, several of the pointed ends of the blocks got chopped off and didn't align well with their neighbor blocks. That is why I tossed it to the side about a year ago-- I was bummed I messed up my last pieces of this Heather Bailey fabric. Heather Bailey is probably at the very top of my list of fabric designers. So then I decided I would keep it for our house and decided to just add a border of this bright aqua around it to make it bigger. I quilted it and then bound it in a sweet little pink polka dot fabric. Then I had a few people comment that they wanted it and I realized my list of essential oils that I want to buy is LONG so I decided to list it in my shop, at a lower price than I would have charged had I made the blocks perfectly (more about pricing in a minute). It is listed for sale in my shop here

This is my Doe quilt. I don't normally like to make a quilt exclusively with one line of fabric (although that's difficult to argue when both this and the quilt above are solely from one line of fabric) but this one I felt really stood well alone. This quilt top was backed and quilted-- all it needed was a binding when I tossed it aside. I didn't like how there was a couple puckers in the quilting -- then I had a breathe and reevaluate moment and realized the little puckers I was talking about did nothing to diminish the overall look or feel of the quilt. That said- I did seam rip one of the bigger puckers and left a couple smaller ones. After I washed and dried it, I couldn't even find the spots that initially drove me crazy - that's a deeper lesson, I'm sure. This one is also listed in my shop. p.s.  you might be able to tell that I am STILL in love with incorporating essex linen whenever I can in a quilt. In this case, it's the binding. 

And then this one. I honestly had just forgotten about this one. Which is funny because it's pretty big and occupied a rather large space in my castoff pile. I made this with a fat quarter bundle of Tanya Whelan's Lulu fabric, but I mixed in a couple low volumes because I have a thing about having ample white space (in my quilts and in my life), I made it quilt as you go style, so all it needed was a pieced backing and a binding. I finished it and went to take pictures to add it to my shop when I saw it! I splotchy mark that splattered across 3 different clocks of fabric. I literally had to keep my tears from falling. I totally wanted to blame my kids, too, but I remembered exactly what it was. I had started this quilt top when we were packing up to move to our house in the winter of 2015. I remember loading stuff into a box and tripping, spilling my coffee everywhere and in the box that held my works in progress. I thought I had cleaned it all up. Apparently NOT. Ugh. I have worked to get the spot out and it is certainly faded but still there. My lovely friends on Instagram are telling me to list it with the spot and maybe discount it some. I feel really bad about selling a quilt with a spot on it though. A little puckering  or not perfectly pointed points is one thing, but a spot.....I am still trying to figure out what I will do with this. about something that I have been asked about and I guess just feel the need to share out loud. Pricing. How do you price a quilt. I have read ALL kinds of articles and thoughts on this topic and it definitely seems to be a relatively heated issue with quilters. You can read about pricing quilts here , if you are interested, and HERE is another great article. 

To give you an idea-- the fat quarter bundle I used to make the Lulu Roses quilt top above was $56. The backing consisted of 3 yards of fabric and almost another full yard for the binding, and 4added low volume fat quarters-- at $9/yard, that is an additional $40ish with me rounding down. The batting was about $11, and I got it with a coupon. So we are at $107 just on materials. Then there is my time, which took me about 12 -14 hours to make. So if I am just recouping my materials and paying myself a minimal hourly wage, we are at around $200, and that is only paying myself the bare minimum and making no profit. Based on a lot of the pricing methods I have read about, I would need to charge about $400 for the quilt top above using their methods. 

So here are my thoughts on the topic. I love to quilt. I really, really love it. But there really isn't a need for my children to each have 7 quilts, so I decided that I would create a little shop to sell my items, if anything, to help recoup the cost of fabric and continue to fuel this passion of mine, and maybe just maybe, make a tiny but of money. I would LOVE to make 
$400 on a quilt....but I remember a key phrase I read about when getting my MBA and that was "what the market can bear". I don't think the average etsy buyer would be willing to pay $400 for a quilt. And though it is a one-of-a-kind, original, handmade item, I am still competing against Target and TJ Maxx because for people who are purchasing from a utility perspective, they can get a quilt the same size for around $50. ugh. So I am somewhere in the middle of this pricing equation. I want to recoup my costs and pay myself, but I also want to make something that people can afford and would be inclined to buy.

So that quilt top above-- I would have listed maybe a little under $200, had I not seen the spot. Some quilters would scoff at that and say I might be belittling the art of quilting by charging that, and some customers might think it is crazy to spend $200 on a quilt when they could buy a (poorer quality, mass produced - haha) quilt at a super-store for $40.  I am just doing what I think is right for me.

So there you have it.  My perspective on pricing. And if you still think that handmade quilts on etsy are expensive, click on over here and check this out.

Friday, July 22, 2016

in a rut and LOTS of works in progress

I am coming on to write today in hopes that in typing it all out, maybe I can figure out what's going on.

Quilting, for me, brings about the same feelings that walking on the beach does. Obviously, when I make a quilt there is more brain power and decision involved, but when I actually sit down to sew and piece things together, my body feels like it lets out one deep sigh, and I feel settled.

But I also have a tendency to overdo things. My mom used to point this out to me, in hopes that I would see a frenzy building and try to find a place of calm. But I am stubborn. So I go go go go and basically deplete my inspiration well and creativity until I am flat empty. And then I sit here and wonder what happened. Every. Single. Time.

That is where I have been this last month. In an inspiration/creation dry spell. I don't like it. I have nine thousand ideas floating around in my head, but when I go to sit down to make something, I just can't.

Another part of the equation is the whole etsy shop thing. A lot of quilts that I have just loved have been sitting in my little shop for quite some time. On the flip side, quilts I made that I felt so so about sold rather quickly. I am still new to this "selling what I create" thing and there is definitely a lot of learning and soul-checking going on. I think somewhere in my frenzy of MAKE ALL THE QUILTS I started making things that i thought people might like, as opposed to making quilts that I just want to make because it sounds fun. As soon as I did that, I think I started chipping away at the joy that quilting brings me. So I am back to this place, of reevaluating, of deep thought, of forcing myself to throw thoughts out of my head, and just make. I have to say, though... it's tough when you attach a bit of your heart, your imagination, to something. It feels a little deeper. Anyhow, that is something I need to work through and figure out my happy middle place.

I realize it's very likely that y'all (and by y'all I am not even sure that there is a single person who will ever read this) have checked out by now......

Mostly just sharing this in the hopes that maybe another maker might read this and share their experiences with this sort of inspirational drought. Because I would LOOOOOVVVEEE to get my quilty mojo back.

.....on the flip side of this, I am thinking maybe I just need to go to my unfinished projects bin (because I literally have over two dozen started quilts--- some are whole quilt tops that need to be backed, quilted, and bound....) Maybe finishing one of those would help me reset! Here is a look of what I have got on my list to finish. Y'all.....this is evidence that I have a problem finishing.

The one above was made from an issue of Love Patchwork & Quilting and was meant to be the first quilt I made just for myself. I really love it. But as soon as I assigned it the label of "just for me" it went to the bottom of the pile of things to complete. I need to fix that. Pretty sure I am going to still keep this one for myself because the way the center looks like it is glowing makes me really really happy. And blues are my jam.

My husband bought me a bundle of these Tanya Whelan fabrics for Valentine's Day 2 or 3 years ago!!! I love them. They make me super happy. And this one was a "quilt as you go" so all I need to do is press, back, and bind. 

I made the above quilt top back in the summer of 2014 as we were waiting for my husband to return from his deployment to the desert. I totally remember all of the anxiousness and giddiness as I was piecing this together--- I was trying to give myself something to focus on so I wouldn't just explode with excitement. But I realized my squares didn't match up....because that was back before I did patchwork squares THIS WAY So I set the top aside because I was bummed about the lack if alignment and I forgot about it. But the colors are beautiful and it is good sized, so I just need to finish it!!

This was one of the very first quilt tops I ever made. Just strips of some of my very favorite fabric. I keep debating cutting it into squares or rectangles and framing it in white and then piecing it together block style.....but this is a must finish because I love the colors.

This was supposed to be Declan's car seat quilt but I stopped because I can't even remember why.

This one I just made this past winter and I really do love it and love the colors. I have a binding all sewn together for it, too, so I need to find the right backing for it and get it finished.

I made this with Elea Lutz's fabric and it makes me super happy. Only, I made it as we were in the process of moving and somehow when we got to the new house and I laid the blocks back out, I messed up my original design of colors and it drove me nuts that the oranges and minty teals were adjacent from each other. Probably a lame reason to give up on it. 

Triangles. I LOVE the way they look but can never get them right. Like ever. But I have decided that I am going to finish this one because I love the springy colors. It will either be a couch quilt or maybe a quilt for the camper.

This quilt I made with Doe fabric and I loved the masculine look to it. It is backed and minimally quilted. I quit because there was a pucker in the white and I was so bummed. Which is dumb because all I need to do is seam rip and fix it, or leave it as is.....This one is so close to being finished! there you have it. I have 3 other quilts tops done, but they are meant to be gifts so I am going to keep those hidden. 

Do you have a stack of ALMOST finished things that you are neglecting? Or any tips for helping rejuvenate the love of making? I'd love to hear them!!!

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