Crystal Quilters Block of the Month: Sew Many Stars! Finishing Instructions

We made it to the end of the sew along! We’ve made it to the end of 2020! When I volunteered to take on this task at the beginning of the year, I didn’t imagine in my wildest dreams how this would end up going this year. But I’m glad we at least had this little block of the month to keep us connected. Thanks for going on this journey with me, and thanks for the little texts and Facebook messages with pictures of your blocks! I love seeing them!

So here it is, the finishing instructions for this quilt:

I hope your quilts come together with ease and I look forward to seeing them in actual real life AT SOME POINT when all this craziness has passed us. Pat yourself on the back for finishing this up! Good job!

As always, if you’re posting your block to Instagram, please make sure to tag it with the #crystalquiltersbom (If you’re a member of the guild) and #sewmanystarsquilt hashtags so we can find your blocks!

Happy sewing! (And thank you!)

Crystal Quilters Block of the Month: Sew Many Stars! Block 9: Martha Washington Star

THE LAST BLOCK! WE MADE IT!

When I volunteered to do this Block of the Month, I don’t even think I’d heard of COVID-19, and we got a late start on it because of quarantine and not knowing what the heck was going on. But here we are, nearing the end of a very long year, and I’m so glad to have been able to offer this little spark of light to you throughout it. Hopefully your quilts are looking good, and I hope that the time when we can finally gather in-person to see each others’ blocks arrives sooner than later.

I left this block until to the end because I didn’t know how I was going to be able to “draw” it in the PDF. I gave up and just threw in some actual photos on the second page of the pattern. If the directions are a little unclear, this block has a lot of pattern explanations all over the internet…I did my best.

You can download the instructions for the Martha Washington Star block here:

Good job, everyone! Keep sewing and look for the bright side in these murky times!

Sleighbell Sampler Quilt

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Four and a half years ago, I began working on it.  I was just getting started in quilt-making, and absolutely fell in love with both this quilt and Farm Girl Vintage, so I threw caution to the wind and decided to join both of their quilt alongs.  I did great on sewing up the blocks, but when it came time to put the sashing and borders on them, I FROZE.  It took me years to finally break through that block, but I eventually did it and now I get to bask in the delight of a freshly-completed Christmas quilt draped across my favorite couch.  I love this quilt so much.

Pattern: Sleighbell Sampler, by Sherri Falls, from her “Winter Wonderland” pattern book.

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Fabric: “Holly’s Tree Farm,” by Sweetwater, “Jingle,” by Kate Spain, and a few scraps from the stash. The backing is flannel from Bonnie & Camille’s “Vintage Holiday” collection, and I cannot remember exactly what collection the binding came from, but there’s plenty of bias candy cane-striped fabrics out there to choose from these days, so you’ll be ok to find some if you need some.
(Also, can we start a petition to #bringbackhollystreefarm in the future, please?  Love that collection.)

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Quilting: I tried out a new quilter this time ’round, Ashley of Hen House Quilting, because she’s more local than my usual go-to.  I’ll definitely be using her again; she’s really sweet and very professional, and I only have good things to say about the experience of working with her.  She helped me pick out a beautiful snowflake quilting pattern that just goes beautifully with the quilt, and I love it so much!  Thank you, Ashley!

Modifications: None.

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Yay!  I have a goal of a Christmas quilt or blanket for every bed, couch, and armchair in our house, and this guy puts us at a total of five…only six more to go!  Ha ha.  (Hey, we all need goals to work towards, don’t be afraid of how big they are!)

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Classic & Vintage: Double Nine-Patch Quilt

Good morning, friends!  Today I get to FINALLY share Fat Quarter Shop’s newest pattern with you!  It’s from their “Classic & Vintage” series of patterns, and it’s called the Double Nine-Patch Quilt!

You probably aren’t aware that one of my most favoritest, favoritest things about quilts is NESTED SEAMS.  Seams that have to match perfectly, and so you press the seam allowances opposite each other so they’ll nest into each other and lock themselves into place…oh my goodness, sign me up for THAT.  You can imagine my exclamation of joy when I first laid eyes on the mock-up of Fat Quarter Shop’s newest pattern in their Classic & Vintage line-up, the Double Nine Patch:

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Just. look. at all of those nested seams.

Putting this quilt together is pretty simple–I’d even suggest that it’s accessible by a “gettin’ tired of making charm pack patchwork quilts” kind of beginner.  I actually kept track of how long each of my sewing sessions were with making this quilt, and I went from starching my pre-washed fabric to finishing attaching the borders in a little under twenty hours (spread over five days).  And the finished quilt is sooo beautiful:

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I just love classic patterns, and this is such a clean, pretty look.

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I chose to go with a fat quarter bundle of Riley Blake’s “Comfort & Joy” fabric collection, because, hello,  CHRISTMAS, and I decided that I was going to keep this quilt for myself and I have been in love with this collection since it was first released last year, so “Merry Christmas” to yours truly, mwa ha ha.  I love, love, love the red, green, and white together.  Oh, be still my Christmas heart.

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I had the quilting done by Utah Valley Quilting, in their “Holly AB” pattern.  I love how it turned out!

Fat Quarter Shop has a kit available with Sweetwater’s “Project Red” collection included (oh, it doesn’t get more classic than red and white, does it?), and also a backing kit to match.  (Seriously love the print they chose for the backing!)

As always, there’s a cute little video explaining the new pattern, and you can watch it here:

Oh my goodness, I love this quilt.  Thank you, Fat Quarter Shop, for the opportunity to help you spread the fun news of this new pattern!

Linking Up:
Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? @ Confessions of a Fabric Addict

 

The Nutcracker Mosaic Quilt Story

My mother and I adore decorating for the holidays, and we send each other new Christmas decorations most years, specially timed so that they arrive in the mail right about the day after Thanksgiving.  (Because it’s silly to give a Christmas decoration to someone to open ON Christmas–it just gets packed up the next day and you don’t get to use it for almost an entire year!)  My decoration theme is gingerbread men and woodsy greenery, and her decorating theme FOR YEARS has been snowmen.

But a few years ago she decided she was done with snowmen, and that she wanted to instead decorate with nutcrackers.

190e6f6925a9ba7931102d1122490416Last spring (think 2016) the fabulous “Nutcracker Christmas” fabric collection by Riley Blake came out, and the first time I saw it I thought, “Oh my goodness, that would be perfect for my mom!”  But money was tight, and it was softball season and I had no time to make anything anyway, so I told myself I’d revisit the idea at a later date.  Softball season came and went, and I kept catching glances of the collection and thinking every time that it really would be just perfect, but everything was working against me to buy the fabric.  But the pressure to make something with it kept hounding me.

Finally, one evening in July after having seen a whole bunch of mentions of the collection throughout the day, I had enough.  I was saying my evening prayers and I was so weighed down by thoughts of this fabric collection and really frustrated, so I decided to just be straight with God about my dilemma.  I told Him that I felt like He wanted me to make a nutcracker quilt for my mom for whatever reason, but that I just could not make the financial aspect of getting the fabric to work out, and if He really wanted me to make the quilt, then He needed to figure out how to get the fabric to me for free.  I was instantly washed over with a feeling of relief, and, thinking that the matter was settled and I was freed from the obligation, I crawled into bed, sighing with gratitude that I wouldn’t have to worry about the nutcracker quilt anymore.

The next day was quilt guild, and I set out for my meeting with a peaceful heart, settled into my seat on the front row, and chatted with my friends while waiting for the meeting to begin.  A member of my guild, Shannon, asked if she could make an announcement.  She walked up to the front of the room carrying a large basket and said that she had lots of scraps leftover from some quilts she’d made and that we could have anything we wanted that was in the basket.

Guess what was sitting on the very top of the pile?  Yep, a bundle of Nutcracker Christmas fabric.  I looked up at the ceiling and shook my head in humbled amazement.

il_340x270.1029714215_rds0Upon getting home, I measured the fabric in the bundle and I had roughly a fat eighth of every print in the collection, plus about a yard of all three colors of the border print.  That’s A LOT of fabric to get for free!

I decided to use the fabric with the “Mosaic” pattern found in Fat Quarter Style, and that I wanted to fussy cut the border fabric for the Christmas trees, gifts, and individual nutcrackers, using  the rest of the fabric to fill in the mosaic blocks.

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I chose to use Kona “Snow” for the borders and sashing, and ordered some more of my favorite print for the back.

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Utah Valley Quilting did the quilting; it’s “Christmas Pano 2009 SD,” using a light mint/seafoam-colored thread.  I went into the shop thinking white thread, but Kerri, the shop owner, talked me into a little bit of color and I’m so glad I listened to her!  The quilting really pops on this quilt!

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Last, but not least, the binding is made up of leftovers of the diamond section of the border print fabrics.

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I apologize for the photos–in my haste to make sure that the quilt got to my mom on the day after Thanksgiving, I rushed it to the post office and forgot to do a photo shoot!  “Draped over chair in living room so I could show the binding to my best friend in a Google Hangouts photo” is all I have of it in its completed state.  At least there’s that, right?

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I love how this quilt turned out, down to its cute little quilt label!  My mom phoned me half an hour after opening the box, apologizing that it took so long to contact me because she’d “been staring at it for twenty minutes” before remembering to give me a call.  She’s extremely pleased with her gift, and even more so after I told her the backstory of how this quilt came into existence.  Perhaps she just needed a reminder that God loves her?  It was fun to let Him work through me.  This has been a Christmas gift for both my mother and myself.

Bed Rest, Weeks 1-3

Sooooo…

…had some surgery in November, which wasn’t supposed to take that long to recover from, but then, at the one-week follow-up appointment, my doctor broke the news that I needed to stay in bed for another five weeks.  So I went from expecting one week of lying around to SIX WEEKS.  DURING THE HOLIDAYS.

The six-week follow-up appointment happens during the week before Christmas, so I’m pretty much stuck in bed, drooling over all the gorgeous Instagram posts of beautiful Christmas quilts and lamenting that I can’t finish all the stuff that I promised myself that I was going to finally finish up this year.  2016 has not been a banner year for me, people.

BUT…I do not want to be one of those people who mopes about and whines about their difficulties, so that has meant trying to stay “busy” despite the bed rest.

Week #1:

I spent the days leading up to my surgery frantically finishing up a quilt to the point where I’d only have the hand stitching of the binding left to do.  During my first week post-op, I finished hand stitching the binding.  Then I designed some alterations for a dress I own that’s too short on me, and, inspired by the idea of sewing clothing, I read Couture Sewing Techniques, which then had me researching Christian Dior-everything for a few days.

Week #2:

After receiving the very unexpected news of another five weeks of bed rest, I panicked and decided to start a Christmas EPP quilt, but after finishing two of the blocks I realized that I didn’t actually want to make it and abandoned it.  I’ll keep the blocks for something else in the future.

Then I decided that the quilt label for the quilt I’d just finished binding could use a little extra pizazz, so I opted to embroider parts of it, which took the rest of the week and little of the next.  (There is a lot of napping happening during my day.)

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I also read The Art of Manipulating Fabric, and Draping: The Complete Course.  I’m seeing some garment construction in my future, and I’m excited.  I have three daughters who are about to embark upon their teenage years, and I’ve always thought that one of the funnest parts of having girls would be making their party and dance dresses, and it’s always good to practice a skill before you actually *need* it, so maybe next year will see me venture into that arena a bit.

Week #3:

Thanksgiving, which had to be delegated to my kids and they did a pretty great job of it.  A friend from my quilt guild saw my SOS Instagram post and brought me over a ton of books to read, so I spent most of my third week reading:

  1. A Curse Dark as Gold (very good retelling of “Rumpelstiltskin!”)
  2. Dragonfly (enjoyed very much!)
  3. Once Upon a Marigold (not sure I’ll finish it), and
  4. The Blue Sword (enjoying)

So here we are, amidst Week #4, and I was really hoping that my doctor’s “six weeks” prescription was just overly cautious, but I tried to sew up the swap block for November this week and it about killed me with pain and exhaustion to just do a fabric pull, so I had to send out an email apologizing for the block’s tardiness because it will not be getting finished anytime soon.  And, as a precaution, I wrote to December’s swap recipient as well and gave her a heads-up that her block could end up being late as well.  Sigh.

BUT…I woke up from this surgery with NO BACK PAIN for the first time in three years, so the future is looking mighty bright!  I can rest three more weeks if it means no back pain.

And, for Week #4, I’m feeling the knitting a-calling to me…especially:

  • Color-Tipped Italian Cashmere Beanie by Churchmouse Yarns (because it’s beautiful in that wonderfully elegant way that “simple” is beautiful)
  • Honeymoon Cowl by FitzBirch Crafts (learning double knit could be fun)
  • Botanical Yoke Pullover by Purl Soho (oh, that cabled yoke…will have to wait, but it’s sure fun to stare at it when I can)
  • St. Brendan by Kelbourne Woolens (I’m making this some day, but not now because it takes some planning), or
  • Socks! (Because I can do that…)

My son does need a new winter hat…I think my second daughter might need one, too…OH! And I was supposed to mend my youngest daughter’s Hello Kitty hat…bed rest or not, a mama’s work is never done.  I cannot wait to get back to making pancakes, and vacuuming, and cooking dinners that don’t come from a box.  Resting is a nice change, but it’s sucky to be forced to rest from taking care of the people you love.

Evolution of a Crafter: Gifts

We made it through Halloween.

And like a collective sigh, the online creative world shifted from maple leaf quilt blocks and fabric pumpkins to an overwhelming insistence that “YES, YOU HAVE TIME TO MAKE ALL YOUR CHRISTMAS GIFTS.”  Overnight.  I went to bed on October 31st proud of myself for getting my kids’ costumes done right, and woke up the next morning to an online frenzy of DIY gifts.

Many years ago I stumbled across the advice to get your handmade Christmas gifts done before Thanksgiving so you didn’t spend December in a state of anxiety over whether or not you’d finish your gifts.  For the most part, I adhere to this wisdom because it’s the only way that Christmas baking is happening–I dearly love Christmas baking, and I don’t have time for it if I’m struggling to also finish knitting and quilting projects.

So I tried something different this year.  On January 1, 2016 I drew up a list of the people I generally give gifts to at Christmas and concocted an rotation of various categories that I like to make, assigned them to a ten year schedule, and then plugged my gift list people into the categories based upon what age they were turning this year.

Example:  If your age on your birthday in 2016 had you turning something ending with a 5 (ie. 5, 15, 25, 35, etc.), then you were assigned a hat because I assigned hats to 5.

Other categories included: Pillow (1), Socks (2), EPP (3), Apron (4), Scarf (6), Mittens (7), Choice (8), Bag (9), and Quilt (0).

After spending my New Year’s Day happily ensconced in pattern searching and stash diving, I woke up on January 2nd with  optimism and excitement.  I decided to start with the big items first and work my way down to the smaller things, and first on my list was a quilt to make for a special girl who celebrated her tenth birthday in 2016.  (Understandably, I can’t show you a picture of it until after Christmas…)

And it was glorious for a few weeks–oh, the pace was exhilarating, and I patted myself on the back for my excellent plan.

But then, in March, I had to start a project that just wasn’t interesting to me, mostly because of the colors.  I lagged behind my schedule as I grit my teeth each morning and forced myself into my studio to continue plodding along towards the completion of that project.  The next gift on the list was once again in a color palette that failed to excite.  My life started to look like one long, endless road of projects I didn’t really want to make.

And on top of all that, so many people had babies this year.  To date, I’ve completed six baby quilts, with another 1-3 possibly in the works.

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People, I am gifted out.  I have spent this entire year making gifts for people. THE ENTIRE YEAR.

I don’t regret it at all, but I’m also just. done.

I think I’m evolving.

Have you noticed that so many people, when learning a new skill, give away their projects?  It’s like they make that first project to figure out how to work the new skill, and then start cranking out projects and just give them all away?  I’ve touched on this idea before in a previous post, but it seems that we go through a phase of “Look at what I can do!” with any newfound skill, gifting any living being with the works of our hands.  I think it’s part excitement and pride in a job well done, and the other part love.  All good things.

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Some of the swap blocks I’ve made this year. I’ve actually been able to do a lot growing with The Beehive Swap!  New techniques and skills galore!

But there comes a point when you look around and know that you’ve spent most of your time creating beautiful works of art, and realize that your personal life is quite devoid of any of that particular beauty because you’ve given it all away.  There is beauty in service and giving, definitely; but…that moment when you realize that your dwelling is practically ascetic causes a big pause and an even larger moment of reflection.

Giving gifts is good.  Improving one’s skills while working on said gifts is also good.  There has been a lot of good this year.  (Please no one who received a gift from me this year think that I’m upset or regret making something for you.  That is totally NOT the case AT ALL.  I’m quite proud of all the nice things I made for you all this year.)

But…

…it’s falling short.  There are new techniques to try, new skills to learn, and they don’t fit into gifting categories, so I’ve been slow to start working on them, despite my heart being pulled in that direction.

So, I think it’s time for a Gifting Decommission.

Less time spinning my wheels creating more of the same, and a new focus on learning new techniques and stretching my abilities.  I can’t do that with the pressure of gift lists on my shoulders; with the thoughts of “Now who would like this?  Maybe I should change that color to match their decor a little better.  Hmm, I know that so-and-so really loved that appliqued one, so maybe I’ll put this pattern aside and do something with more applique because then I can give it to her for Christmas…” in the back of my mind.  A shift to making art for the sake of art.  “What is best for this project?” instead of “What is best for this person?”

My creativity needs to be mine, and I also need the time to tackle new techniques that will allow me to progress.

I’ve a few gift projects that are near completion that I’ll see through to the end, but after they’re done, that’s it for a while.

It’s time to build a cocoon and do a little bit of growing.

This is what I will tell myself in two weeks when I snap and think that, yes, I SHOULD MAKE ALL THE GIFTS.

I am not an elf in Santa’s workshop.  It is not my job to make gifts, nor does my livelihood depend upon my ability to supply others with gifts.

Now to get going on that cocoon…

Appreciating the Teachers

The girls’ last day of school happens today, so I put together some gifts for their teachers and a couple of other staff members at their school.  I trolled Pinterest for inexpensive gift ideas that were easy to assemble because I don’t have access to my gift wrap vault, which is a little sad-making.

Undaunted, I pressed forward and decided upon dressing up regular ol’ paper bags with some paper Christmas doilies, which was ridiculously easy.  The girls were so excited to take “their” gifts to school–there was a little bit of bickering about who would carry the box containing all the bags as they headed out to catch the bus.

I kept it simple, gift-wise.  I baked up some soft ginger cookies and then piped a simple snowflake on top of each one and added some foodie pearls at the various snowflake junctions:

I don’t even know if ginger cookies are something Australians even like, but it was from the heart.  (FYI, Peanut Butter and Jelly isn’t a thing here.  My neighbor asked me what PB&J actually was…”Just peanut butter and jam?  On bread?  Do you toast it first?”)  I’ve questioned a lot of my food assumptions in the past months, especially after having the missionaries over for Thanksgiving.  I’m constantly amazed by how different two first-world, English-speaking countries that stem from the same mother country can be.

I put two cookies in each bag, along with a gift card to a popular chain of stores around these parts.  Simple, looks and smells good, done.

Michael and I were talking about the irony that this is the first time our kids have given teacher appreciation gifts, and how it really was too bad I never received any teacher appreciation gifts while homeschooling.  And then, at the same time, we both laughed aloud and said, “Yarn stash!”

Now that I think of it, a lot of my yarn was purchased at the end of trying school days…

Merry Christmas, Educators!

Bonus link:  Doilies to dress up plain ol’ chocolate bars!  Squee!

Cookies & Cocoa

One of my Wise Mama bits of advice:  When you send your (young) children out to play in the snow, set a timer for 30 minutes when the youngest goes out the door.  When the timer goes off, start the kettle.  It usually works out that I’ve just finished mixing up everyone’s cocoa when some of them start heading back in, pink-cheeked and in need of some refreshment.  So much easier than having them clamoring around my knees and telling me how cold they are while we’re waiting for the water to boil.

Aspen Frost Piecing Completed

There’s all these link-ups on Fridays for “Finished” items, but I have no finished items to share.  Boo.

However, I did finish a step in the construction of my Aspen Frost…table cover/runner/mini quilt…thing.  (What am I going to call this?)  Hee hee, chevrons make me smile.

I’m thinking that I’m going to do a minimally-pieced backing instead of just one fabric.  I love the aqua blue in the Aspen Frost fabric collection, and so I’m going to try to get some yardage.  Then, after using the chevron side during the Christmas season, I can flip it over and enjoy the very appropriate winter hue during January.  It will be quilted with red, green, white, and blue thread…but I think it will work.

Or I could go with a plain color back and just let the quilting shine on the other side.  So many options.  I’ve never done a pieced back before, and I totally love the look of the ones I’m seeing in Elizabeth Hartman’s The Practical Guide to Patchwork, and would like to give it a try.

Decision, decisions…what do you think?

Oh, hey, look at that, a “Finishing” link-up that doesn’t require a fully-finished object.  Awesome!  I’m linking up with the Link-A-Finish Friday @ Richard and Tanya Quilts.