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!

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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.

 

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

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!

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:

What I’ve Been Working On, Aside from Packing

Hello dear ones.

I fell victim to a little pre-moving anxiety last week, as showcased by last week’s post.  This week I’m in a far better frame of mind, now that we have visas, plane tickets and hotel reservations for all phases of the big trip.  THANK YOU so much for your “fast visas” prayers–it normally takes at least two weeks to get visas, ours came in less than a week.  Prayer works, period.  Thank you so much.

So yes, this is really going to happen!  I’ve waited for some email to arrive all this time saying, “Sorry, we changed our minds,” and it never materialized.  I’ve now re-focused that worry onto more productive areas, and we’re moving along at a snail’s pace in regards to packing, cleaning, and tying up loose ends.  (FYI–kind of a pain in the neck to get six months’ worth of prescriptions filled at once!)  As evidenced by this darling photo, our luggage arrived yesterday, and the kids found the event rather impressive.  I had a mini heart attack when I opened my door and found it partially blocked by the boxes, but I recovered quickly.  God bless our UPS delivery man…we’ve put him to work these past few weeks!

One of the nice things about all this prep is that I’m having to do a lot of waiting in random offices and other places, which grants me extra time to work on Junebug’s “Star Spangled Diamonds” quilt.  I’ve completed ten full diamond units, which means I’m about 1/7 done with the piecing.

It looks like I started working on this on May 20, so I’ve averaging five a month.  At that rate I should finish piecing this up in August 2015.  Hmm.  Oh well, the time will pass anyway, and I’d like to have a gorgeous quilt mostly pieced next August, rather than nothing.  Then there will be assembly, quilting, binding…I don’t see this particular quilt reaching its finish until January 2016 or thereabouts.  But it will be BEAUTIFUL and totally worth the time.

My knitting mojo has been returning, thank goodness, and I’ve put a little work into a few projects, and started THE project, my “unicorn” project that has kicked my butt three times over the past five years.  I’m going to take it easy, only allow myself a certain number of rows per week, and if it sticks this time, I should finish it up in March.  It’s a teeny little strip of knitting at the moment, so I’ll wait for something more impressive to show you a picture of in the coming weeks.  (I get a little jealous of the full-time crafters sometimes…a full workday to work on creative pursuits?  It’s almost enough to make me think about sending the kids to school…oh, how fun that would be!)

And then there’s the packing, of course.  Always.  🙂

By this time two weeks from now, we should be on the other side of the world.  That is weird to say.

Linking Up:

Wrapping My Head Around WIPs on a Wednesday

I’m moving to Australia in a month, and my main concern is around crafts at the moment.  I guess I just need something else to fixate upon, now that passport applications, check-ups, dentist appointments, and optometrist appointments are complete.  I’m trying to get all my projects to whatever place they need to be before we leave, and I’m just about to the point where the constant reviewing of my plans in my head is starting to cause headaches, so I’m going to write it all down and let that list live somewhere else.

Current Projects:

  1. Junebug’s Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt
  2. Baby Girl Quilt #1:  Meadow
  3. Monkeyboy’s Rocket Age Quilt
  4. Friendship Braid Quilt
  5. Storybook Hexagon Label
  6. Baby Girl Quilt #2:  Pink
  7. Baby Boy Quilt:  Cowboy
  8. Aspen Frost Runner
Priorities:
  1. Storybook Hexagon Label–I always space the quilt label.  Do this immediately before I decide it’s not important anymore.  (I’m a historian at heart, and think there is significant historical importance in regards to labeling quilts.)  The main hold-up on this is buying a fabric pen for writing the information on the label.
  2. Baby Quilts–all three need to be completed and delivered before we leave for Australia.
  3. Rocket Age full blocks need to be assembled before leaving, so I can applique the hexie blossoms to them while we’re away.
  4. IF the above are done, I can finish the Braid Quilt before we leave.  It’s so close to being done, but it’s a random side project that I started working on because I was waiting for supplies for the other quilts.
  5. The Star Spangled Quilt will be pieced completely by hand, and it’s portable–work on this while at softball games, park day, etc.  It’s going to take a loooong time to complete, don’t worry about progress at this moment.
  6. Aspen Frost–this can wait until we come home from Australia.
Schedule:
June 18-21
  1. Piece Meadow top
  2. Bind Penguin’s blankie
  3. Purchase:  Fabric Pen, Meadow backing, Meadow batting, thread, binding fabrics for all three baby quilts, supplementary gift items to include with quilts
  4. Pre-wash fabrics
June 23-28

  1. Piece Meadow backing
  2. Create quilt labels for Storybook, Meadow, Pink, Cowboy.
  3. Applique label to Storybook, Pink & Cowboy; machine stitch label to Meadow
  4. Finish quilting Pink
June 30-July 5
  1. Quilt Meadow
  2. Create binding for all three baby quilts
  3. Purchase gift wrapping supplies for baby quilts
July 7-12
  1. Bind baby quilts
  2. Wrap quilts & ship
  3. Cut foundation papers for Rocket Age quilt (40)
  4. Start piecing Rocket Age blocks
July 14-19
  1. Finish piecing Rocket Age blocks, pack for trip.
  2. Finish piecing Braid strips.  Pack for storage.  Will have to finish when we return.
OK.  It just feels better to write it down and look at everything in a realistic time frame.  Everything was going fine until the baby quilts popped up onto the radar.  (All an issue due to my own misinterpretations of information.)  And now that I’ve posted my intentions, I can also check back in with progress updates, which are fun for me.  Happy Summer of Sewing!

The Perfect Project to Kick Off Memorial Day Weekend!

Presenting the beginnings of Junebug’s quilt.  I had different plans for the quilt pattern when I committed to the project, but she got it into her head that I was going to do a “hexagon quilt” for her as well, so here I am, once again cutting out little shapes to hand stitch.

She thumbed through my various quilt pattern books and fell in love with the Travel Quilt in Quilting On The Go*, which is a big bunch of 60 degree diamonds arranged into stars and…blob box things.  (Oh yes, I’m terribly technical in my crafting descriptions!)  The top will be entirely hand pieced, which is rather intimidating; but I keep running into the problem of not having a portable project, so maybe this will be rather fantastic for me.  The Rocket Age quilt blocks are just a touch too big to tote around anymore.

Junebug loves all things American flag, so when we saw the “Star Spangled” fabric line** we were unhesitatingly sold.  I love that it is patriotic, but not in a military officer sort of way.  She’s wanted a red, white, and blue quilt all along, but I couldn’t really find a suitable array of fabrics until this line popped onto the radar.  It’s so perfect for a little person–more “summer holiday fun” whimsy than “united we stand” seriousness.  (Both of which are good, but the latter is just a touch heavy for a kindergartner’s bedroom.)  I’ve also thrown in some random fabrics from the stash, and am on the hunt for some more low volume with blue and/or aqua.

After cutting out the diamonds, I laid them out a bit to see if the idea in my head translated well into reality.  I was worried that using prints on the white stars would be a little too much, but I think we’re going to be OK in that regard, especially if I heavily quilt the colored blob-boxes and outline quilt the white stars.

Junebug is so, so pleased.  I guess it’s a rather perfect summer project.  (I call the time from Memorial Day through Labor Day “Patriotic Season” because of all the flag-flying holidays that happen during that time.)

Now for lots of basting and piecing.  Onward into summer!

*Quilting On The Go is a great book if you’re interested in learning more about English Paper Piecing.  You can also check out the author’s blog, Life Under Quilts, for more EPP inspiration.

**”Star Spangled” is designed by Doodlebug Design and distributed by Riley Blake Designs.  (I think I’ve developed a little crafting crush on Riley Blake, and their new sister line, Penny Rose Fabrics.)

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