I’m Not Quite Dead Yet

11204480_10153294678271670_662218685506031893_nYes, it’s been rather quiet for, you know, two months, but I’ve been here, stitching and stitching amongst the chaos that has been my life.  My kids have been a bit of a handful for the past two months, which has left zero time for blogging.  There was a broken foot, then an infected toe that went unreported until it was very bad, a 2 a.m. mad rush to the emergency room for croup…and then all the fun of “end of the school year” happened, and now it’s all about summer art camp, a suspected case of appendicitis for one of my kids this morning (turned out to be a stomach virus from…yeah), and softball all the time.  But that’s life with kids, right?  It all just kind of caves in on you sometimes, and you just keep your head above the water the best you can.

But the crafting still happened behind the scenes, and I was able to post bits and pieces of it on Instagram, which has garnered a little bit of notice in recent days, much to my delight.

I’ve been working away on my Farm Girl Vintage quilt blocks:

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Country Crossroads quilt block from Farm Girl Vintage, sewn by That Crafty Cara

And I’ve gotten a start on my Sleighbell Sampler Quilt from the Winter Wonderland book:

Winter Wonderland Basket quilt block, sewn by That Crafty Cara

I’m also in the homestretch on the Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt, which hit its first year mark on Memorial Day.  Softball season affords me a lot of “sitting around” time to work on it, and it’s growing steadily through each game.

English Paper Piecing by That Crafty Cara

My softball girls!

My softball girls!

Here’s hoping that the children have gotten all this daredevil craziness out of their systems so that I can resume with some regular posting, like, NOW.  Happy summer!

What Do You Think of When You Hear “Patriotic, American, Fourth of July?”

I’ve been spending more time with the Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt, and I’m running out of white prints for the stars.  More fabric cutting was obviously in order, and I am getting rather tired of the white prints I have been using this past year, so I called Miss Junebug down to the craft room to pick out some new, interesting fabrics for her quilt.

You think I’d learn to stop asking for her input…

The "Patriotic Snowman" star unit for the Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt

 

…although, truth be told, I am rather pleased that she stuck to the color theme this time.

Her reasoning for picking the snowman fabric, delivered with one hand on her hip and the other hand waving in the air as she explained:  “It’s my quilt, and I like snowmen.  Besides, you’re Canadian, so that means I like snow a lot more because I’m your daughter.”

[Insert image of me making my “I’m trying to look serious while dying inside from laughter” parenting face]

This quilt is ridiculously unique.  Just another reason to keep on with the handmades.

Junebug Brooke hugging her Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt-in-progress

She likes it.

 

Scrappy Snowman Pillows

That Crafty Cara's Scrappy Snowman Pillows

My first finish of 2015!

Quarter Square Triangles

Quilting on Scrappy Snowman PillowsThese were made with the insane amount of snowman fabric that I found in my stash during the great stash re-organization a couple of months ago, and I thought I’d be clever and use it up in a project.  Ridiculously, I have continued to find more and more of this fabric as I continue to unpack.  I’m drowning here, people.

The pattern is Sherri McConnell’s “Sugar Pine Pillows” from her Fresh Family Traditions book.  I followed the pattern exactly, even down to the quilting.

I didn’t have any pieces of the snowman fabric large enough for the backing, so I ordered some cute Dear Stella Tinsel Town fabric for the backing and binding, which was wonderful because the cute little snowman fabric has been catching my eye for months.

Pillow backing on Scrappy Snowman Pillows
I’m not sure if I’ll keep these or if I’ll give them away.  My kids think they’re pretty awesome, and they’re rather festive…so, we’ll see.

Linking up with:
Scraps Monday @ A Quilting Life
Sew Cute Tuesday @ Blossom Hearts
Let’s Bee Social @ Sew Fresh Quilts
Needle & Thread Thursday @ My Quilt Infatuation
Finish It Up Friday @ crazymomquilts
Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday @ TGIFF
Link a Finish Friday @ Richard and Tanya Quilts
Scrap Happy Saturday @ SoScrappy

Uniquely Yours Quilt Block Swap 2015

I thought I would be brave this year and join an online quilt block swap, but every single one that I went to sign up for had already closed its registration.  So, I posed the idea to my friends on Facebook–anyone wanna do a quilt block swap with me this year?

Happily, seven other women thought it sounded like fun, and so here we are in our first month of our swap.  Our members range from not knowing how to thread their sewing machines to blue ribbon winners at the local Fair.  It’s pretty awesome–we’re all sharing what we know, and we’re asking questions when we don’t know what we’re doing.

Seeing that we have such a range of experience, our swap is starting with the easiest types of skills and blocks and then taking it up a notch each month.  By the end of the year we should be masters of half-square triangles, quarter-square triangles and corner piecing; but first we’re starting out with straight square patchwork.

This month’s “Queen Bee” chose the “Streak of Lightning” block from QuiltersCache.com, but with a twist:  she wanted each colored block to be different, and to tell something about the creator of the block.  I made my block, plus one extra for a friend who doesn’t have time this month because she’s moving, and settled back to bask in my awesome “I’m all done”-ness.

But then I went to square up my block to 12.5″ and found, to my horror, that my block didn’t even measure in at 12 inches!  Sigh.  I ripped out all the seams and tried again, taking extra care this time to get my seam allowances to be truly scant.  My second attempt measured in at a near perfect 12.5″.  Whew!

I won’t post a picture of the swap blocks just yet, so as to keep their appearance a bit of a surprise for the recipient, but I have decided that I’m going to make a Swap Sampler Quilt with some Michael Miller “Spring Couture” precuts that have been waiting patiently in the stash for such a thing. and I will show those blocks to you:

Springtime Streak of Lightning quilt blocks by That Crafty Cara

I was feeling rather springtime-ish when I started making these up, so I went with some fresh greens.  Upon further consideration, I probably should have gone with some pinks and purples, seeing that this was February’s block, which would suggest Valentine’s Day.  Oh well, I’ll try to remember that for next year.

SONY DSC

I ran into some seam allowance problems with these as well, and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with them.  Turns out that my 2.5″ strips are actually 2. 625″ strips–a full 1/8″ larger than they’re supposed to be!  Ugh.  Oh well, now I know, and I’m just going to keep them as is as a “sweet” memory of all the seam allowance problems I had with this particular block.  They’re still pretty.

I’ll post the Queen Bee’s block once I know that she’s received them.  Happy Swapping!

 

 

Star Spangled Diamond Quilt, Back in the USA

English paper pieced sixty degree diamonds in progress

The Star Spangled Diamond Quilt continues to grow, albeit at a much slower rate than it did in Australia.  It’s funny how shaving two hours off of your kids’ school bus commute and having them be in sports again will do that, huh?  I’ve “lost” about four hours each weekday now that we’re back, which is twenty hours a week that I no longer have for crafting.  I’m glad they’re able to do sports again, so I try not to stew on the topic.  Ha ha.  My main job right now is raising my children, so it’s all OK.  Just think of all the EPP I can do at tournaments in the future, right?  😉

Alright, so I have thirty-six star units attached to each other, and I sewed up a strip of seven more star units to attach to one side in order to make things symmetrical.  (No idea why I did seven…I guess I was stressed about the impending move back to the States and it hampered my ability to count?)  So, that strip still needs to be attached.  Forty-three units right there.  My quick counting in my head of how many I’ll need to complete the top, now that I had to add that extra column, is eighty-eight units.  Oh, hey, look at that!  Almost exactly half right there in that photo.

Star Spangled fabric line by Riley Blake Designs, english paper piecing

I did uncover six more completed units, so to date I have made forty-nine of these things, with thirty-nine left to go.  Ha ha, I originally thought I would finish this in six months.  What an innocent.  And let’s not even think about the filler units that I’ll need to pop on the ends of those shorter columns and all the way up the sides, K?  Oh, this quilt.

Sixty degree diamond, English paper piecing

I’m quite pleased with this little unit; Junebug picked out a little fat eighth of the main fabric in Australia and so I think there will only be one that looks like this, and I love it dearly.  So cute!

Alright, the rundown:

February count:

  • 50 units made
  • 36 units attached
What I hope to have done by the time I talk about this again in March:
  • 54 units made
  • Attach as many units as possible to main body of quilt

 

Linking up with:
Monday Morning Star Count @ Life Under Quilts
Sew Cute Tuesday @ Blossom Hearts
WIP Wednesday @ Freshly Pieced
Let’s Bee Social @ Sew Fresh Quilts
WIPs on Wednesdays @ Esther’s Blog
Needle & Thread Thursday @ My Quilt Infatuation

Scrapping Happy

My family and I just moved back stateside after a five month stay in Queensland, Australia.  All the boxes we packed up were stored in my craft room, which means I haven’t been able to get to my sewing machine until today, almost a month after getting back into our home.  With the task of unpacking, I’ve taken the opportunity to re-organize my craft room and make it a little more user-friendly, which included finally finding a permanent eye-pleasing way to store my fabric:

Oh, I like rainbow order.  The two big bins on the bottom of each cart hold a specific color each, with the pieces being larger than fat quarter-sized.  I’ve organized the bins into pink, red, orange/yellow, green, aqua/turquoise, blue, purple, multi-colored, gray/black, and brown/white.  The middle bins hold fat quarters in any combination of the two lower colors (i.e. orange, yellow and green in the second cart), and the upper bins hold scraps–the top holds anything 2.5 inches or thinner, and the second from the top holds anything larger than 2.5 inches and smaller than a fat quarter.  The carts used to hold construction paper for my kids, but I’m taking a sabbatical from homeschooling this year and decided to re-purpose the bins for my own personal use.

One bin won’t close easily:  the “larger than 2.5 inches” aqua/turquoise & blue bin.  This tells me that I need to start working from that bin, and it turns out that a large portion of that bin is a bunch of snowman prints from a epic failure of a project many years ago.

What a great place to start!  I decided to whip something up out of the snowman fabric to give away, partly because I know someone who decorates heavily with snowmen during the winter months, and also because just seeing the fabric reminds of my epic failure, which isn’t a whole lot of happy-making for me.  Take the failure and make it into something that blesses the life of another!

Since Sherri McConnell over at A Quilting Life inspired me to start working with my scraps with her “Scraps Monday” series, I decided to take a quick look through her book, Fresh Family Traditions, and came across her “Sugar Pine” pillow pattern, which I think will work smashingly for this fabric.

I’ve got the first bit of sewing done, and I’ll work on turning these HSTs into some QSTs in the upcoming week.

I did go ahead and turn one of the HSTs into a QST, just because I wanted to see how it would look.  They’re at the top of this next picture:

I think it’s going to turn out rather well.  I’m planning on making two pillows, because I’m a “pillow set” kind of gal, and I’m rather certain that the recipient is as well.  Or maybe I’ll end up liking them and being able to overlook the “epic failure” memories, and just keep them for myself.  We’ll see…

Linking up with:
Scraps Monday @ A Quilting Life
Sew Cute Tuesday @ Blossom Hearts
WIP Wednesday @ Freshly Pieced
Let’s Bee Social @ Sew Fresh Quilts
WIPs on Wednesdays @ Esther’s Blog
Needle & Thread Thursday @ My Quilt Infatuation
Scrap Happy Saturday @ SoScrappy

Half of a Field of Stars

Last month, I set the goal to finish piecing up the rest of the stars that made up the second quarter of this quilt, AND attach them to the first completed quarter.  I knew it was a lofty goal, but the idea of being “halfway done” with such a time-consuming project meant a lot to me.  I needed to be able to say it was halfway done…I’ve been working on this since May, which means I’ve been staring at it for five months, which is a very long time to work on something and not be at least halfway done.

Michael’s been gone for two of the weeks in October, with one little week back home in between.  Free time has not been easy to find this month, especially with the extra tasks that accompanied getting the girls’ uniforms, shoes, and other necessary items they needed to begin attending school.  And then you’d think I’d have buckets of free time once they were off learning elsewhere; but, no, I turned my attentions to cleaning the house…because it really needed some love and attention!

Nevertheless, I made time each evening to work on the quilt after the kids went to bed, and behold:

HALFWAY DONE.

But not really, because I’ve realized it needs another column of stars to be symmetrically pleasing.  Ugh.  Oh well, it’s not difficult to fix.  Just more time.

I hesitate to make any goals for November simply because I’m a little burnt out on this.  I’m also a little burnt out on the Peacock Stole, which hit its own halfway mark a few days ago as well.  Long-term projects…oi.  I really want to make something Christmas-ey, but I have no sewing machine or any real idea of what I’d make anyway.  (Oddly enough, I DO have Christmas fabric.)

I think I’ll focus my efforts on my Soothing Socks for the next while, and once I get to feel the high of having a finished project again, I’ll sit down and set a goal for this in the time remaining in November.  Off the top of my head, I’d like to finish at least half of the next quadrant, so…six stars.  That’s what I’ll shoot for, six stars in November.  Then I can attach it and actually see how long the quilt is going to be!  Yes, that will do nicely.  Enough work to keep the interest alive, but also take a bit of a much-desired breather.

Junebug is very happy that it’s HALFWAY DONE, and could not wait to model her favorite stuffed animal on the quilt.  Cute girl.  Cute quilt.

My Youngest Daughter

Junebug, this is how I want to remember you in your grammar school years–missing those two front teeth, face covered in chocolate, and over-the-top excited over this quilt that I am making for you.

You were talking to me two days ago about something and you mentioned this simple fact:  “I’m your youngest daughter.”  I wanted to cry because you ARE my youngest daughter and you’re in the first grade and losing your teeth and doing things on your own…this quilt makes me think about you and how fast you’re growing up while I’m stitching it together.  You’ve always been little, and the past few months have been a big ol’ exercise in realizing that you’re not so little anymore.

I started a quilt for you during your early months of life.  It’s still unfinished.  Due partly to the disappointment I’ve always felt over that unfinished blanket, I agreed to make you any sort of quilt you desired when I decided to undertake this lofty “handmade quilt for every bed” goal earlier this year.

Of course, you picked out a beast of a design, and it took a bit of self-restraint to not talk you out of the idea.  In my mind, since you never had a baby blanket from me, I’ve “owed” it to you (and myself) to make you something truly beautiful.  This quilt will be beautiful, and it lies near the edge of the spectrum of my quilt-making abilities.  I might sigh over the time-investment of this project sometimes, but at the bottom of it all, I’m really excited about this project and so glad you asked it of me.  I’d never have chosen to make something like this for myself, simply because my creative abilities are needed for such a wide variety of projects.  Thank you, thank you for this experience.

My goals for September were to sew up ten new star units, and to piece the first quadrant of the quilt.  I did piece the first quadrant:

Penguin and you are not on the best terms today, so she wasn’t too happy
about being roped into quilt-showing with you.  You’re too excited to care.

And I completed NINE star units, with the tenth ending the month as officially being “in-progress:”

There are eighteen star units in each quadrant of the quilt, so I think I’ll set a rather large goal for October:  Finish the needed star units for the second quadrant of the quilt, and also piece that second quadrant.  It’d be nice if I could attach the second quadrant to the first quadrant, but I’m not going to make that an official goal…just something to shoot for if I have the time.

This thing could be HALFWAY pieced by the end of next month!  Wouldn’t that be awesome?!?!  If I keep to the insane schedule, all the star units could be pieced and attached by the end of February.  Then there’s some little “filler” units to straighten out the sides, and then it’s attaching a straight border, then quilting and binding the thing.  (And no, I don’t know what I’m going to do quilting-wise, yet.)

Hurray for nearly attaining last month’s goals!  I burned out a little on this in the last two weeks–I only started that tenth star unit on Friday, after nearly a week’s break.  Whatever, it’s for fun.

Here’s to more crazy pictures of my Junebug next month, holding HALF of  her quilt instead of one quarter!

Penguin’s a Paper Piecer!

Penguin adores paper-pieced hexagons, so much that she’s taken on the goal of making her own needle case out of the shapes.  She came across a little packet of pre-cut hexagons and hexagon templates at the local quilt shop a few weeks back, and set off determined:
I think she’s doing some pretty good work, especially when you consider her age.  When she assembled this full hexie “flower,” she was over-the-moon proud of herself.  (Her “pleased” smile is so adorable!)  She could barely contain her excitement as I carefully tied off her thread, and then she asked if I’d take her picture and post it on the blog so family could see her work.
So there you go, family and friends, Penguin is officially an EPP-er!

Star Spangled Headache of Personal Liberation

The only quilty project I brought with me to Australia is Junebug’s eventual bed quilt, affectionately named the “Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt” because it (originally) was made only from Riley Blake’s “Star Spangled” fabric collection, and it’s made out of sixty degree diamonds, pieced together EPP style.  (I expect no admiration for my naming skills on this one.)
It was to be my (ironic) Australian masterpiece, making use of my time down under to hand piece seventy-two blocks out of brilliantly American-patriotic fabric—as my time here is time without access to a sewing machine.
(Funny aside:  When I asked our “relocation specialist” if it would be possible to bring my sewing machine with me to Australia, she actually laughed out loud and asked me why I would want to do that.  “I quilt,” I replied.  “Oh,” she said, “Well, why don’t you treat this trip as a vacation rather than keeping up on house work?”
I made some sort of agreeable murmur in response, so shocked I was that she would even assume quilting was some sort of obligatory chore I had to do.  I’d forgotten, what with my past decade surrounded by the Maker Movement and amazing fellow crafters, that not everyone looks upon creative pursuits as enjoyable ventures.  And while it’s true that, based upon the state of our luggage’s contents when we arrived in Aus, my sewing machine was better left at home, I am missing it sorely every day.  House work.  Sigh.)
So I have this immense, entirely pieced-by-hand project; which is totally OK because I have no sewing machine.  The timing is perfect! 
The timing, yes; the execution…well, not so much.
While smugly pleased with how my life had ironed out so neatly to allow for all this hand piecing, and looking forward to my six months of blissful stitching, I had an entire house to pack up into suitcases and put everything else in storage.  I packed up my craft room first, seeing how I knew exactly what I needed in our new home, creativity-wise.  Easy peasy, pack it up.  First.  Then pack everything else on top of it, around it, and in front of it.  The craft room’s contents are contained in boxes in the farthest corner of the basement, with bookshelves, clothing, and furniture stacked neatly around them all.
Which was fine until I realized, after arriving in Australia, that I was fast running out of my main fabric—the mostly white prints that make up the stars in each block—and upon taking a moment to do a quick count, I realized that I was indeed short on those fabrics by more than half.  In fact, I only had about one third of the needed amount.  One third, because I only cut the same amount of white as the colors, momentarily forgetting that there are six white diamonds in each block, and only two of each color.  I have all I need (and then a little extra) of the red, aqua, and blue fabrics, but the main fabrics are short by two thirds and, even if I could remember exactly which box those fabrics were packed away in and could describe it to our house sitters, it’s in the farthest corner of my basement, hedged in by almost everything we OWN.
[Insert an entire week of silent fury at myself for being such a smug little idiot.]
So, as I came to the eventual acceptance of my situation, I decided I had a few options:
1.       Have the house sitters find my original fabric.  (Highly unlikely.)
2.       Buy more Star Spangled fabric and pay the ridiculous shipping to have it shipped to me in Australia.  (Bank account difficulties make this near impossible right now.)
3.       Put the project aside until we returned home.  (Then what the heck else am I going to do with my fidgety self while we’re here?!?!  And, remember, the timing was perfect for this project!)
4.       Buy some low volume white fabric here in Australia and just grin and bear the fact that the fabric would no longer be mostly from the “Star Spangled” fabric collection.  (Oh, heart…everything will be OK…I think.)
You see, somewhere along the journey of immersing myself into this quilting world that exists nowadays, I’ve picked up on the sentiment that staying within a particular fabric collection will draw more attention to your work.  I see all these beautiful quilts being made from single fabric collections, which guarantees perfect color coordination and theme incorporation in fabric choices.  I like that.  I also like that this kind of perfect color harmony appears to afford more pins, comments, likes, and awards.  And I’m of the opinion that this particular quilt could be a serious contender at the next county fair, what with the hand piecing and theme.  (Patriotic counts for a lot at fairs!)
With a resigned heart in regards to my quilt’s descent into obscurity, I made my way (on the left-hand side of the road) to the local quilt shop here in Bundaberg.  When the kids asked what we were doing, I sighed and said that I’d left Junebug’s quilt’s fabric at home in the States, and that we were going to try to find some replacement fabric here in Australia.  “We get to buy fabric for my quilt in Australia?!?!” Junebug squealed, “That’s SO COOL!  I’m going to have Australia fabric in my quilt!”  And she skipped into the store, eager to begin the hunt.
We found two mostly white polka dot prints straight away, although I didn’t really want to get the red and pink polka dot fabric because pink broke with the whole “red, white and blue” thing we had going on in the quilt.  “But Mom,” Junebug frowned, “the pink dots are pretty, and there aren’t a lot of them.”  Sigh.  Alright.
We came across some plaids and ginghams, but those received an instant thumbs-down from Junebug.  “What is wrong with plaid?” I asked, while simultaneously trying to smother Monkeyboy’s hands within my own in an attempt to save all the thread, buttons and embroidery floss from disastrous endings.  “I don’t know,” she said, “it’s just too square-y.”
“But it matches the whole ‘Fourth of July’ theme of your quilt,” I said, “it’s actually rather perfect.  See?  Picnic blanket fabric.”
She wrinkled her nose.  Fine, no plaid today.  Perhaps I could talk her into it at a later time.
And then we went head-to-head over the next fabric choice.  While it technically had a white background, it was a floral print teeming with not only pink, but also yellow and green.  “This fabric does not match your quilt,” I said, breathing hard as I struggled to keep Monkeyboy on my hip, “put it back on the shelf and let’s look for something that matches better.  There’s no yellow or green or pink in your quilt.  It doesn’t go.  Put it back.”  Junebug, who had spotted the bolt on her own and brought it to me with triumph shining in her eyes, cast her eyes down upon the fabric in her hands, running her palm over the print, tracing the flowers with her beautiful little fingers before murmuring to herself, “But it’s so pretty.”
And that was the moment that woke me up.  My adorable little girl, my first grader missing one of her front teeth, had found something she thought was beautiful and I was shutting her down based upon the imagined opinions of complete strangers.  The fabric WAS pretty; on any other day I’d buy a yard of the stuff based simply upon its eye candy merits.  It would look lovely in anything, but it would completely destroy the cohesive look I was going for with this quilt.
This quilt…was her quilt.  Her quilt.  Her quilt that we had dreamed about and planned out together, with her input being the highest priority every step of the way.  (Why else would I ever, EVER agree to hand piecing an entire twin-sized quilt?!?!)
Pins and ribbons be damned.
I whisked that bolt of fabric out of her arms just as she was turning to take it back to the shelf.  “You’re right,” I said, “it is pretty.  How about we get twice as much of this one as the others?”
The gap-toothed smile she gave me was all I needed to know that I’d made the right choice.
 It really is pretty.
Rundown for the month of August:  I whipped out twelve more blocks, smashing my record of five blocks in both June and July.  I now have twenty-two blocks done, only fifty more to go.  (That’s 30% done, people!  Woot woot!)
Goals for SeptemberI’d like to piece at least ten more blocks, and hopefully get one whole quadrant of the quilt pieced together (eighteen blocks).  I had to divide up all my “original” white stars into four piles so that the fabrics will be distributed evenly throughout the quilt; so, although I have more than eighteen blocks at the present, I can’t piece them together.  Once I get enough “new” white stars put together to add up to eighteen in one section, I can start assembling.
Linking up with: