Best of 2016, and Planning for 2017

I love reading everyone’s “wrapping up the year” and “plans for the next year” posts so much!  The online creative community is so interesting in that a lot of us are pretty transparent about what we do, which I really appreciate because online creativity *can* become an overly-staged, whirlwind-finishing sort of thing very easily…but then there’s those souls who refuse to get caught up in it all and just stay real, and I love reading their blogs.

Best of 2016

Trying to nail down my “best” projects of 2016 is really hard because almost every single one was a gift I made to be given away, and I don’t want anyone to think that I hated making the gift I gave them because it didn’t show up in this list…NO.  If I didn’t want to make a gift for you, I didn’t make you a gift, end of story.  I actually had four more gifts scheduled to make this year, but I quit one about 2/3 of the way through because I hated it so much, and with another one I just wasn’t feeling it, and will probably finish it up in 2017, and with the other two I just didn’t have time once all the crazy post-op stuff went down.

Oooh!  Categories!  Let’s see, five categories to round out the year:

Prettiest:  The baby quilt that my daughter and I made for her teacher who had a baby girl in May.  I loved working with Vintage Picnic, and the design of the quilt was just perfect.  For some weird reason, this quilt was blogged on our family blog, so if you want to see more pictures of it, you’ll have to head over there.

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Most Fun to Make:  The Dr. Seuss baby quilt.  It was a last-minute decision, so I picked a pattern that was on the wonky side and wouldn’t need perfect seams and the like, and I just had fun slapping it all together.  The fabrics were super fun and bright, and I really enjoyed the process of just making and not getting bogged down in the minutiae of perfection. I’ll have to remember to throw a wonky/improv project into the mix every now and then when I’m starting to feel a little stale.

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Biggest Skill Stretcher:  The Beehive Swarm swap blocks.  There was a lot of foundation paper piecing, which I tend to shy away from because I don’t like it, but there’s nothing like it for perfect piecing.  I still don’t like it, but I’m better at it now, and can grudgingly admit its superiority for certain qualities.  I also tackled curved seams for the first time with August’s block, and they are not as difficult as I psyched myself out to believe!

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Most Popular:  Within the walls of our home, it’s the Layers of Charm Flower Sugar Quilt.  It sits proudly on the back of a couch in our living room and it gets used pretty much every day.  The kids fight over it, and I’m always finding it snuck into one of their beds.

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Outside of our home, the Art Gallery Fabrics Blithe pillows have been the most popular, garnering 25% of the blog’s web traffic this year, and also being the only project about which I’ve received comments from my friends and neighbors when I’m out in the real world.  Pink and mint are hot, people.

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Project of the Year:  Not really a project, but 2016 was “The Year of All the Baby Quilts.”  There were a lot of baby quilts this year.  All good things, but man, I’m going to take a break for a while.  If you’re expecting, do not expect a quilt from me in 2017.  I’m just done for a little while.

Planning for 2017

First and foremost, my health.  If all I accomplish in 2017 is to raise my health to an enjoyable level, that will be enough for me.  It’s been three years of pain, almost two years since my back surgery, and I am simply to the point where nothing else really matters to me other than feeling good again.  Luckily, we found another source of some of the pain I was experiencing, hence the surgery in November, so I think I’ll be able to move along the path to better health a little easier, and hopefully a little faster.

When I woke up from my most recent surgery, I had no back pain, which we were hoping would be one of the side effects of that particular surgery.  Upon being cleared to do normal things again after six weeks of lying around with very little to no back pain, I ambled on down to the ol’ Craft Dungeon, and did a little sewing.  I felt some familiar discomfort in my back, decided that was enough sewing for the day, and stopped.  Unfortunately, the discomfort increased steadily throughout the evening until I was forced to give up, take some serious pain meds, and just go lay in bed.  I think using my sewing machine is needlessly adding to my back pain!  It’s happened a few more times, so I’m pretty sure I’m correct, which makes me incredibly hesitant to sew at all anymore.

It’s my hope that after a few months of consistent strength training (read: if I can manage not to injure myself for that long), that my back will be strong enough to handle sitting at the sewing machine.  Until then, I’m making a goal to just not worry about the crafty side of life, and to give it a go when I think I’ve gained some strength.  If I’m not strong enough at that point, then I’ll wait a few weeks and try again, rinse and repeat.

Of course, there are some projects that I would love to start, finish, adore…but I’m going to be patient, and when the time is right, I’ll resume my place in the Craft Dungeon.  A few months isn’t going to hurt anything.

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Bread & Butter Quilt

SONY DSCMy roommate from freshman year of college just had her first baby, the third of my close friends from freshman year to procreate this year.  We’ve stayed in touch over the years; she’ll randomly send me a little email here and there and they just brighten my day so much.  She’s always been one of the nicest people I know.

So, of course, when she emailed me early on in the year to let me know that she was expecting, I wanted to go all out for her and her wee one.  I had plenty of notice, so I really sat down and thought about what to make.  I recalled a quilt pattern I’d seen in a book I borrowed from the library while we were living in Australia, and luckily, I remembered the name of the book, Two From One Jelly Roll Quilts, by Pam and Nicky Lintott, and even more luckily, the book was available on Amazon.com (so many Australian books cannot be obtained stateside, but this one was British!), so I ordered it, took a glance at the pattern, chuckled at its cleverness, and committed.

Her nursery has been decorated with an alphabet and storybook theme, and she said she was fond of polka dots, and then she found out she was having a girl, and the Bread & Butter fabric collection popped into my mind’s eye, and I knew we had a winner.

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I’ve been in a lot of pain for the past couple of months so progress on this quilt was very slow.  It was decided that I would have another surgery to help with the problem, and when I finally got a surgery date scheduled, I just had a feeling that I really needed to get this to the binding stage before I went under the knife.  I had to enlist the help of my bestie, Denise, to cheer me on and encourage me, and we hosted a couple weeks’ worth of “Epic Sewing Thursdays” where we’d text pictures back and forth to each other every hour or so to show our progress on our respective projects.  You sure can get a lot done when you’re working “alongside” friends!

My check-in for surgery was at 12:45pm on Election Tuesday, and I was finishing up the machine-stitching portion of the binding at 10:30am.  Why fret about surgery and politics when you can focus on making pretty things for babies?

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The hand binding took two days, and the quilt label took lots of minutes over lots of days because my surgery ended up being a little more invasive than originally planned, and I was put on bed rest for five weeks instead of “three days of resting” afterwards.  Bah.  (Which is also why you’re getting quilt photos in front of the Christmas Tree…I wasn’t allowed to leave the house, ha ha.)

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But in the end, the result was the same:  A beautiful baby quilt for a beautiful baby girl, who has a beautiful mother with one of the kindest hearts you’ve ever met.

Congratulations, Stephanie and Jon, on the start of your family.  Welcome to your life, Baby Sydney…look to your mother’s example and you’ll do well.

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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.