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Open Wide Bag

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IMG_20190210_155841_720This weekend I turned my attention the last Dresden for which I had tiny little pieces already cut out. These are all shades of blue, primarily from the Wee Wander leftovers. I was very careful this time to make sure I actually made little Dresden blades. This was going to be another little zipper bag, this one for Tabby. I chose chambray for the backing of the circle and for the lining of the bag I my eye was caught by this gorgeous peacocky fabric that came in a mystery bundle I received for Christmas. I’m pleased to report that the Dresden came out well and I did a nice center featuring one of the fireflies. I used a nice blue embroidery thread to stitch to the chambray. IMG_20190209_132811_773For the center I just used invisible stitching. For this bag I wanted to see what it would be like to add some batting and do a little quilting around the Dresden plate. I just machine stitched in a light blue thread the same shape of the overall piece. 20190210_155309.jpg
Now I had my two lining pieces, two exterior pieces, and a zipper. Time to assemble, and this time do it so that there are no exposed seams. Because assembling bags is NEVER intuitive to me, I followed this great tutorial. This was for an “open wide” bag which was kind of a neat way of doing the zipper. I liked this method and was really pleased with how it came out.  I boxed the corners to two inches. I did not use any interfacing, so it is a soft bag.20190210_155252The only mishap is that when I switched to my zipper foot I seem to have misplaced my regular presser foot and now I can’t find it….

I love the finished product-I think it’s really pretty and a great little bag. The applique makes it quite special I think! And I liked that little covered end of the zipper, too.IMG_20190210_155841_719




Even more Dresdens!

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January has been a happy month of looking through my scraps, sewing, stitching, rearranging, and playing with fabric. First I made a square pincushion with a mini Dresden for me, then I made a better mini Dresden and turned it into a round pincushion and gave it to my mom. That one had kitties in the middle. Next up, another mini also with rainbow blades. This one was destined to have gnome in the middle. I think that the Dresden plate itself came out great, and I love the polka dot fabric on the sides.20190120_145942.jpgHowever, there were some construction issues and I admit this is a bit of a lumpy circle. 20190120_145956See how when I got to the end it wasn’t even?20190120_140522.jpg

But I do like the brown embroidery thread I chose for stitching.20190120_102330

Then, while doing that and cutting out snippets of fabric I decided to make a big Dresden plate that I could just applique onto a pillow. And I used a whole bunch of fabric that I’ve had for years and just occasionally lovingly looked at. I’m thrilled with the way they came together.20190121_135534It’s not laying flat, though, and I think it needs a slight seam adjustment. I found the perfect thing to be a fussy cut center and I have a pillow form all ready. Only problem is–I need to find some backing fabric!

After doing two rainbow bladed mini Dresden that were gifted to other people I was eager to make one for me. What a lovely Saturday I had rooting through my fabrics and cutting out tiny pieces for three future dresdens. I certainly could have stuck with the same rainbow of fabrics I used previously, but I dug deep and boy am I glad I did. First, it’s a trip down memory lane when I see my old fabrics (“I made a sundress for Tabby as a baby out of this!” “Oh, this was little pants!” etc.) Second, I came across the chambray I was hoping to use as a backing and, unexpectedly, some dark denim (“Oh! this was a little skirt for you when you were about two!”) But best of all was this–I found a bag of fabrics that was my Grandma’s. Most of it cut into circles and some of it folded up (I think she was making lots of folded star potholders). I immediately recognized a few of the fabrics and it has been years since I’d seen them.  I was so pleased to take several of them and put them into the rainbow for myself. 20190126_181708


I didn’t need another pincushion and wanted to applique this onto something different–I decided on a little zipper bag. Once upon a time I made lots of these, but it’s been years and took a little time to remember my process (and I could do it better next time because this time I didn’t do a lining that eliminates having raw edges on the inside.)20190127_165829 I used that found dark denim for the outside, some new from Christmas fabric for the inside (I love this crisp green and white) and a pink fabric little pocket. 20190127_165736I stitched it down onto the denim before I added the circle, which made it much more stable for stitching. For the center I had an a-ha moment of being able to use some new fabric I got for Christmas and able to fussy cut a perfect kitty in a mirror (frame?) I used light blue embroidery thread for appliqueing both the center and the edges.20190127_150331I also made some new circle templates.  One more detail–a little tag of rainbow ribbon that I love and never get to use. Voila! 20190127_165724A cute new little bag to put my lipsticks and stuff in inside my bigger purse. It makes me so happy every time I see it!
Next up was meant to be a bag for Tabby with a specially made Dresden plate comprised of all fabrics from the fabrics I used for her quilt.  However….
Mostly I’ve been sewing on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. I love January weekends and there is nothing more pleasant than drinking tea and sewing in my bathrobe while the rest of house sleeps. Since the previous weekend I had already cut out all the pieces for the next three Dresdens I was ready to stitch up Tabby’s Wee Wander one. I stitched the little pieces all together and was happily pressing it with the iron when I realized….where are all the little points?? Apparently I was daydreaming and left out the crucial step of turning each little piece into a blade!! I wasn’t going to unpick it all so I decided that I’d take bias binding and bind the edge of this circle (as if it was just a small potholder.) Conveniently I had a piece of leftover pink bias binding I’d made for the other round pincushion. I set about sewing that around the outer edge. And oh my! When done the whole thing looked like a dome. Nothing flat about it.20190203_075620.jpg20190203_081140But I figured if it was stuffed just right it would work. I slowly stitched the circle on top and it is not neat and even. I was so concerned about seeing if it would even fit that stitch length and evenness was not a priority. Well, it did fit! I cut a chambray circle for the back and it actually worked out quite well.  20190203_084443Finished product:20190203_084458

I think it’s super cute and would be a lovely throw pillow for someone who was very small (i.e. a doll) Or, you know, another pincushion.20190203_084438

And I’m not done! I’ve got two more planned…..


R.I.P. Quicksilver

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Well, our dear little Quicksilver died today. Although I had expected it this winter just because she’s elderly, it was still a surprise. In her old age she could be a sassy crabby old lady and was quite feisty. She did not appear poorly or slow at all, but when I got home today I saw that she was in a corner under the coop. I thought she’d chosen to go to sleep there, but when I went to pick her up discovered that in fact, it was her final resting spot. (So I guess in a manner of speaking she had chosen to go to sleep there.)
We received her as a day old chick from Murray McMurry Hatchery in May 2012–she was 6 1/2 years old! She was a bantam Silver Sebright. Her beautiful black laced white feathers and dainty quick actions gave her the name Quicksilver.  Over the years she did mother chicks a few times:14543669362_5110730465_zMost notably was the time she had one baby in January, which was very odd. Here she was with that baby:8521495671_a64204a5f1_z

Here’s a pic of her as a 2 week old chick. Interestingly she’s next to Buffy, who is the only other chicken still alive now from that flock. 7196826536_cf607bc768_z

Chickens come and go and they don’t all get an obituary, but she was a special one. I’m sorry to see her pass on but I can’t feel too sad-she had an incredibly long and happy life.

Mini Dresden Pinnie, take 2!

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I loved making that mini Dresden so much last weekend that this Saturday morning I was happily back at it, cutting out tiny pieces from scraps and chain stitching them up.

I made some changes this time, though. First, I re-traced the template to be a half inch longer. I figured that way my circle could be a little smaller, which I wanted. I was more careful with my seam allowances this time because I wanted to make sure it was a more even overall circle.20190112_180042 In fact, the whole thing ended up being smaller (smaller diameter) than the first one I made since the wedges were sewn a bit more evenly and tightly together.20190112_142241.jpg
Arranging fabrics in a rainbow is irresistible to me. In fact, here’s the first Dresden plate I made-it’s a big rainbow! So here was a tiny rainbow.  The other change I made was that I decided to make it a circular pincushion. I chose this cool neutral fabric for a background and cut out two circles traced from that favorite of templates–a saucer. For the side I used the same nice pink fabric I had used on my square, but I cut a 1 1/2″ strip on the bias so that I could easily fit it around the curves.
I was pretty pleased with the initial result, but then it came time to put the center on. I chose a lovely scrap that is a black background with rainbow kitties. The template was a little too big for my square scrap, but since I needed a smaller center that was fine -I figured I’d just use a smaller template. I grabbed something round (a metal top of a vintage egg cup) and traced it right on to the fabric. As usual I then stitched around the inside not on that line, but a little over 1/4″ in. Here’s where the problem came in-usually I would then cinch the threads around the template and press it and then pick the template out and press again. But I didn’t have a template and kept thinking I could use my fingers and well, I did finish and sew it on but it was not my best circle. I woke up Sunday morning wondering why I hadn’t just cut out a new template? So I went downstairs, cut a template, wrapped it in foil, picked out the stitches and removed it, cut a new piece and did the proper way, which yielded a much nicer circle. I also bothered to change the thread in my bobbin so that I couldn’t see the hint of mismatched color sticking up out of the black fabric. Ahh….much better. (picture on the right is the first go round, one on the left is the better circle)

I was so relieved that I forgot to do the quilting before attaching the sides! No worries, it was easy enough to hold it out of the way. 20190113_124105As before I just did a machine stitch around the outside of the applique. And to adhere the applique to the background fabric I hand stitched using one strand of embroidery floss. Tada!
I absolutely love that tiny puppy on that tiny petal.
20190113_151618.jpgI’m quite pleased. I gave it to my mom when she came for dinner and she was very happy to receive it.
I’m looking forward to making another one which will also have the rainbow petals and I have an adorable center all picked out…

Another great sewing side note–I had run out of stuffing and had to go to Michael’s. While there I looked at the organizers as I’ve been determined to find a better way (a way, frankly) to organize my embroidery floss. This clear acrylic 3 drawer box was just the thing! I sorted it all out, tossed a remaining wad of tangled random threads, and neatly put them away. So satisfying.20190113_205309



A Look Back at 2018

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This year I did a fun journal/photo project that goes along with my annual look back at the year. I used an app called 1 Second Everyday and took a one second video almost every day of 2018. Then, each month, it compiled those seconds into a 30 second video. Then, on New Year’s Day, I put it all together for a 365 second video showing 2018. It was so much fun! Disclaimer: some days I forgot to take a video and used photos or videos from other days. Also, there’s an awful lot of clips of Willow frolicking in the meadow. It also appears that I have only one child since Tabby appears in it a lot but Clark only 3 times from a distance. There’s lots of stirring and frosting and you can see the progression of the 2018 quilt from start to finish. It’s a very fun way to see the seasons and holidays. Not lots of changes from us humans, but since we got chicks in the spring you can see them fully grow into adults.
So, 2018…

The year started off dismally with Clark getting a concussion on a ski trip. Fortunately, things did get better…
In the Coop: in the spring we got one dozen baby chicks, supposed to be all female, but one was a rooster. This was a particularly lovely group of chicks to raise as they were all adorably very attached to us and being handfed. And although there’s always an abundance of roosters (in fact, early in the year one rooster killed one of the other roosters), we do love Carl, who is a rather magnificent specimen. Sadly, he is slightly less magnificent than if I had written this promptly over Christmas break-sometime within the past week he lost an eye! We don’t know what happened.  The ladies began laying eggs in the fall and we are once again flush with eggs at all times and happily share them with our friends. There are 19 total in the coop: 11 young hens, Carl, Buffy and Quicksilver-the 6 1/2 year old hens, 2 other hens, and 3 other roosters. One project we’ve been working on (with limited success) is fully enclosing the coop so that they do not fly out, which they do all the time. We could clip their wings, but I think I’d rather there was just a lid on.  Gordon remains lively and happy out there with the chickens. *sad note, as I wrote this one of the hens died. Unclear what happened, last night she seemed unwell and this morning she made it out of the house, but then stood there with feathers drooping to the ground, hunched, with eyes closed. I moved her to inside the clean dry garage where she quietly slipped from unconsciousness to death. Goodbye, Pepper 😦

Fun & Games: In the fall Tabby began taking trumpet lessons at school and she is doing great! The first concert is in just a couple of weeks. And to everyone’s surprise, including my own, I joined the handbell choir at church. I have found I really enjoy our weekly rehearsals and making beautiful music. And speaking of new musical hobbies, I also taught myself to play the ukulele this year! Not great, just a few chords and one song, but I”ll keep at it.

We continued our wonderful monthly(ish) GameNights and ventured into Season 2 of Pandemic.  We all loved the new game The Mind-deceptively simple and entertaining!  2018 was a year in which many, many stingrays were petted. We loved the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, had a wonderful time at the Adventure Aquarium on Tabby’s birthday (feeding stingrays!), and fed them again at ye olde Turtle Back Zoo on a girls’ weekend.  We also petted kangaroos which was pretty awesome. But not at an aquarium.  2018 was the year we realized we’ve lived in this house for 15 years which makes you realize which things you never did that you planned to when you bought the house. Well, those things still aren’t done, but we did a massive summer long garage cleanout and also went full framed concert poster decor in some rooms of the house.

Concerts: It made me laugh to read last year’s recap and see my pronouncement about fewer concerts this year. And while that is true, I did still go to a fair number. We finished 2017 with a Darlingside concert and then, not long after, we saw them again in January 2018 (this time at a more rocking venue.) There were two bands that we got to see twice in one calendar year: Courtney Barnett and First Aid Kit. All four shows were fantastic. We also saw Julien Baker, Sloan (my first time at the tiny Boot & Saddle), David Wax Musuem (whole family went, they are so fun), Jill Sobule, Death Cab for Cutie, Tenacious D (so much fun, audience so different from our usual shows), Guster (after a couple years break we got to see our favorite live band again this fall in a little tour they did in advance of their 2018 tour. We were so thrilled when Ryan came into the audience and sang right next to us), Brian Wilson (legendary Brian Wilson, it was both great and also really sad because he was quite decrepit), and the Foo Fighters (a rocking good time.) And of course, our big concert event was Pearl Jam in Chicago. Whenever we went to a show I got my one second clip from there, so it’s fun to see those in the video.
Coming up this year we’ll be seeing Guster on our anniversary (!) and this summer our big adventure will be going to the Newport Folk Festival.

In the Garden: Frankly we’re still floundering here. We put in some tomato plants and the stupid chickens still got in through the fencing and then we didn’t even eat them all. I think we really need to sit down and figure out something for this year. As usual, at least the flowers looked good! Mostly coneflowers and peonies, but I was thrilled to finally add cleome. Our tall birch tree had to come down (it didn’t recover from an ice storm). I definitely slacked a bit on our butterfly garden maintenance this year and could probably do some sprucing up this year with new mulch and adding some plants. We did add fish to the pond and got a new filter for it, so hopefully that will do better, too.

Tabby performed again with her 4H theater group at the 4H Fair over the summer. She was thrilled to be cast as a wicked stepsister in their production of Cinderella. She was super busy over the summer since she also went to camp a lot.

Clark and Paul did lots of things with his very active scout troop. In the early spring they both went to Boston on a really cool trip that included sleeping over on the USS Constitution. All of us went on a Father’s Day canoe trip that was kind of terrible at the time, but we’ve enjoyed referring to all year. It turned out to be hours longer than anticipated and we got horrible sunburns and were exhausted. They’ve also done trips to Harpers Ferry (which included 15 miles of AT hiking) and winter camping. They also went to a Nascar race, which confirmed their lack of interest in car races and was apparently very very loud.
I was very excited to attend the US Open which was very very quiet during play and also godawful hot. It was a very cool experience and I really enjoyed it, plus I went with friends and we just had a really good time. I took tennis lessons again this summer and while I didn’t like it as much as last year (due to instructor), I’m still glad I did it.

This summer we again put up our little pool and it was glorious. I can’t believe how much we enjoy it. No problems at all with cleanliness or filter this year and it was just heaven to float around in it. And take lots of boomerang and slowmotion videos of jumping in.

Our travel this year was our big trip this summer to Chicago. It included a long road trip, two Pearl Jam concerts, and tons of sightseeing. We had such a good time! 2018-08-16 19.03.40


I had a great year in sewing! One of the things that was great about 2018 was not taking classes and just being me going about work and home and hobbies. I mentioned the quilt that I worked on from time to time, but what I really focused on this year was sewing clothes for myself. I found it difficult during the busy school year to find time and inclination to sit down and sew, so that became something I really wanted to do a lot over the summer. I even made a list. (of course I made a list.) And I got a lot of it done!

Interestingly, the two things I wanted most to make and bought expensive fabric for I ended up STILL not having made. I’ll make them this spring. And I’d like to try my hand at a dress for myself this spring/summer. This year is going to be the Year of the Dresden, including another quilt and other projects. I’m also looking forward to more embroidery.

I feel a little sad that I barely used my good camera this year-it was all just hundreds of clicks with my phone, which ends up filling up my phone and they’re not organized and I miss the days when I carefully organized everything on Flickr (there will be no easily found best things I baked, best things I sewed, etc. groups.) Here are a few favorite photos, which may or may not have already shown up in the few posts I already did this year:

And of course there were lots of books and happy hours spent reading this year. Here’s a link to my Top Ten Books of 2018

All in all, a pretty good year upon reflection. Signing off with one of my favorite photos of me taken by Tabby this year:

Mini Dresden Pinnie

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You know what happens when you finish a quilt, right? You immediately start planning a new one. I was very taken with the Dresden plate I put on the back of the quilt with no name. I had made one once before for the Scrappy Prism Quilt. I just love how they come together.  2019 is going to be the year of the Dresden plate for me. I think I’m going to do a scrappy quilt of bright prints. But before that, due to some poking around on Instagram, I got all inspired to also make Dresden plate Christmas wreaths (pillow or wall hanging), Dresden plate Christmas tree skirt, and a mini Dresden plate pincushion, as seen on @quiltyobsession ‘s page. Not only that she had a nice free downloadable pattern and tutorial. (Thank you @quiltyobsession !)
It was definitely not easy going back to work on Jan 2, but fortunately it was just three days until Saturday and I had dreams in my head of sewing up at least one Dresden something. Today was the perfect rainy Saturday to wake up early and fuss around with my fabrics.  I had planned to make my center be a gnome and then do cheerful reds or blues around it, but while I was revisiting my stashes of scraps I was, of course, drawn to all my pinks and greens. The template for the blade for this project was SO TINY. My goodness these were little. I pulled 9 pinks and 9 greens and cut them all out and stitched them up. I have to say that in general, proportionally speaking, I prefer a smaller center and a longer blade (or petal, if you will.) But I love how this came out. My plate lay flat, but I may have made my seams too narrow as I had to use a larger circle for the middle (which is fine, it allowed two adorable head to head cats, fussy cut from fabric I got for Christmas.)
I had also seen @quiltyobsession using her machine for a nice blanket stitch on hers and decided to experiment with my machine. Super cute! I had no idea my machine could do that!But……after a little while I decided I’d rather do this stitch by hand because I didn’t have great control and I thought that I might actually do a neater job than the machine (even though the machine obviously is better at making everything the same exact length) and I pulled it out. Since I did it by hand I chose to use 1 strand of bright pink embroidery floss. I love the finished look. When I put the center on I used my machine for a straight stitch. These are both changes for me as I typically hand applique with an invisible stitch. I like this finished look!
There was some quilting and then sides making and stitching it all together and stuffing. I probably could have stuffed better, but oh well. I still think it’s ADORABLE. You can’t quite tell from the picture but the pink on the side is a strip going around the side and then the bottom is the same as the top fabric. By the way, this was intended to be a gift, but how could I part with it? I love the colors and it’s so cute and cheerful.
Here’s the perplexing thing about this project: it’s simultaneously miniscule and huge. These Dresden petals are so tiny-look at them being pressed:

And it’s also huge-this looks like a small pillow, not a pincushion. Look how big it is in my hand!
A wonderful rainy Saturday project. I could see myself making many more. Or making three plates this size and appliqueing them to a rectangular pillow. See? Dresden is so versatile!

Merry Christmas!

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What a lovely Christmas and Christmas season we’ve had! As usual things were kept pretty traditional. We had our cookie party, decorated our house in most nooks and crannies, delighted over our tree, added new ornaments from travels (from Chicago: a wooden Bean and a beautiful glass Chicago style hot dog), went overboard finding fun gifts and writing goofy revealing tags for them, baked a lot, ate sticky buns on Christmas morning, gleefully threw wrappings into a heap on the floor and let the dog lie down in it, and tried to remain in a holiday bubble for the days afterward.

As far as handmade Christmases went, this year I limited myself to making homemade hot chocolate mix (which is really delicious) and marshmallows for a few teachers and making amazing bookmarks. For the bookmarks I used a Christmas gift I got a few years ago-iron on vinyl. It’s for fabric and ideal for waterproofing pieces of bags and such. In this case I fussy cut strips of fabric and ironed the vinyl on to both sides. 20181127_194748I trimmed it, punched a hole, and put a grommet in it. Then I made my own tassels from embroidery floss.20181130_184521 I have to say I was pretty pleased with these. My mom went all out with this amazing pillow.20181225_131659.jpgIt’s so perfect for many reasons, including that we love Scrabble and the obvious-it’s sewn and completely personalized. Even the tiles have the accurate value embroidered on! And the board is totally accurate!
Tabby also went all out giving up many recesses to go to open art and create beautiful ceramics for all of us-ornaments for grandma, a mug for Paul20181225_082954.jpg, a kangaroo figurine for Clark (because a highlight of the summer was petting kangaroos), and a snowman and Christmas tree pin for me. 20181211_154654.jpgEverything looks great and was presented so professionally with tags her art teacher made.
I received gifts that are inspiring me to create and sew-gorgeous felt from Benzie designs, some assorted fabrics, and an embroidery book (200 Embroidered Flowers.) I already stitched up this little cherry blossom.  With the 2018 quilt behind me I’ve got ideas brewing for a project for next year….
Speaking of stitching, Paul has learned to satin stitch and is almost done embroidering his own neckerchief for scouts.  You might recall I did Clark’s a couple of years ago. I’m very impressed with what a nice job Paul has done on his.
Fun over the break included a mostly annual lunch with my bestie from childhood and her family, an epic Christmas Eve Eve game day (complete with new board games-Suspicion, Champions of the Wild, Attack Cats, and a Kahoot), another game night with other friends, and Paul, Clark, and I had a great afternoon throwing hatchets at a place called Stumpy’s. Oh, and of course a concert. We went to see Jill Sobule very locally (home and in pj’s at 10:30!) and she was amazing and it was a tiny venue and she sounded great and it was just an awfully fun thing to do a few days before Christmas.
All in all, this vacation is grand and I would like it to just keep going……