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The most perfect season. Beautiful warm days and cool dark nights. Time to play outside and time to be cozy inside. We are still adventuring in the mountains but also find myself being drawn to my knitting and evenings at my sewing machine.

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October’s Pressed Seam fabrics blew me away with their blue beauty. So many gorgeous shades of blue. Meanwhile, our mountains and valley trees are turning a golden yellow orange.

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When I wasn’t playing in the mountains, October found me quilting improv baby quilts. I find myself pulling from my stash of fabrics, now enhanced by my Pressed Seam fabrics. I look forward to showing more photos of the quilts as I finish them.

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So many beautiful colors in my stash and in the natural world around me. How lucky are we to be surrounded by nature and color.

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I’m stuck in concrete jungle land for work this week, and my spirit longs for open skies and quiet vistas. I miss blowing wind and crisp air.

 

 

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So I’ll leave you with the setting sun on the aspen leaves, shimmering with their changing colors. This season disappears so quickly, thank goodness for photographs and memories.

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Get to the mountains before the color is gone!

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As the note shared in the July package of scrumptious fabrics, summer in California is hot and dry.

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To escape the heat, we head to the mountains and lakes to cool off. This past weekend we tried stand up paddle boarding with friends!

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It was such a pleasure to be on the water, hearing the sounds of the paddle dipping in the water and the birds calling.

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Maybe that is what is so magical about color and fabric, we can evoke the beauty of the natural world, reminding us of our favorite moments.

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Moments like this, eating and sharing the largest piece of cherry pie you’ve ever seen, in a lovely garden as the sun sets overlooking a beautiful lake with good friends.

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I think I just might have to use these fabrics to make a cherry pie quilt ūüôā

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Just Keep Stitching

Many moons ago, I stumbled across Rebecca Ringquist and her dropcloth samplers. I was immediately smitten, purchased the book, subscribed to her 12 month sampler club, and decided I was going to learn how to embroider. I did complete a couple of the monthly samplers last year, but then life happened, as it so often does. As I received each monthly sampler in the mail, I neatly tucked it away into a drawer. And they sat there. And sat.

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Until this January, when motivation struck again, and I pulled out the samplers and began stitching.

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Suddenly, I was finishing one every few weeks. Maybe it was the intense winter we had, full of snow and wet and cold. Maybe it was the long dark evenings, when stitching while watching a show was enjoyable. Maybe it is because work has been extra intense, and stitching is a super great way to unwind at the end of even the most stressful day.

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It’s something I look forward to. Even if for just a few minutes, pulling out the gorgeous colors and feeling the threads and making the patterns, just warms my heart and gives me a place that is peaceful and simple.

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The second thing that really kicked me into gear and made embroidery fun was discovering Rebecca Rinquist’s class on CreativeBug, and utilizing youtube videos to learn how to make each stitch. In the picture above, I made the needle holder from this workshop.

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I discovered it is super helpful to actually see in movement exactly how the stitch was made. How the sewist held her fingers, positioned the needle, and made each stitch.

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As soon as one sampler was finished, I started on the next. I tried different types of threads and played with different colors.

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My favorite sampler of all I stitched towards the end. Raised stitches. Each was so unique. The construction of each was very detailed, and I was amazed again and again at the process that ended with such a fantastic looking stitch. I couldn’t get over each one.

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This sampler also had a few flowers on each side, which were a joy to stitch as I love flowers.

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Ready for the big reveal? Without further ado, all twelve samplers!

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What’s next? I think making them all into something would be nice. Maybe a book, like a stitch library. Then I could consult the book when choosing my next stitch (and maybe recall how to make each one).

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Have I stopped stitching? No way! Now I’m on to a colorburst sampler that was included in one of my dropcloth sampler mailings. It is neat to start to apply the stitches I learned in whatever way I like!

And from here? I am inspired to try a layered floral embroidery piece, combining different fabrics and patterns. I am interested in joining a wild boho stitch along. I’d like to try to draw my own designs to stitch, like¬†this scene of wildflowers by Kelly Fletcher.

The days are getting longer and it is nice to be outside more, but I am still finding time to sit a bit in the evening and stitch. I’m guessing I’ll be sharing some more stitchery with you here in the future!

Are you inspired to try embroidery?

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A Basket of Colorful Eggs

Over the Easter weekend, we were lucky to have my folks visiting. My mom and I love getting crafty, and soon we were scheming about dyeing eggs. We wanted to dye colorful eggs for a hunt when we had friends over. I had been wanting to try the Ukranian egg dyeing technique called Pysanky. Mom was wanting to try natural dyeing. So naturally, we decided to try them all!

I live in a small town where we are lucky to have one small market and a gas station that sells some food items. Hoping to not have to drive into “the city” 15 miles away where the chain grocery stores are, we walked into town with our finger’s crossed. And we were in luck! We were able to purchase eggs, cabbage, vinegar and onion skins from the grocery, and we found food dye coloring at the gas station!

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There commenced a crazy and fun afternoon of multi-tasking and creativity. We referenced websites and blogs for various tutorials, had multiple pots boiling on the stove, and lots of jars and plants all over the place. Please excuse the photos as I only just managed to snap a few with my phone as we went from step to step, and some are a tad blurry.

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The cashier at the grocery store inspired us with a video tutorial to try using leaves and flowers to make a design on the naturally dyed eggs. Collecting various leaves and flowers from the yard outside, we wrapped them arranged on the egg with cheesecloth (most tutorials called for pantyhose).

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Then you put the egg in the dye bath! We tried onion skins (dark red/brown), tumeric (yellow) and red cabbage (blue).

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The onion skins and tumeric were done after boiling for 20 minutes. The red cabbage had to sit overnight before it held its color. It felt like Christmas morning to unwrap each and see the beautiful design revealed!

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Then, we were on to the Pysanky method. This website is fantastic for their instructions. We didn’t have the traditional tools, and instead used wax and tjanting from my batik supplies. First, you lightly draw with pencil guiding lines on the egg, and then wax and dye much like the batik process.IMG_5344

Here’s my egg after two colors and layers have been added. It is quite a challenge to control the wax and make a smooth straight line.

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And here is my egg with all layers complete and the wax still on the egg. There are five colors, counting the white as the first layer.

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Then, to get the wax off, you hold it up to a candle, and ever so slowly, bit by bit, melt and wipe, melt and wipe, until all the wax is removed. Its actually quite pleasant and goes by quickly.

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And here’s the finished product! My mom’s is on the left with swirling squares, and mine is on the right, like peacock feathers.

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The icing on the cake after all this fun of coloring eggs, was having my friend’s two-year-old over for an Easter egg hunt. We told her the Easter bunny had also visited my house and we needed help finding all the eggs. And she helped, first by finding all the eggs, and then hiding them for us to hide!

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Reflecting on 2015

One of my favorite quilt books is The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. I stumbled across it this year as I was drawn to learning how to sew and piece curves. I was pleasantly surprised after reading it that this quilt book is much more than a traditional book of quilt patterns. It is a philosophy on life, sharing tools and skills to cultivate a creative life. It is a book that speaks to your mind and soul, encouraging you to be present in your work and life.

A few of this year's dyeing projects

A few of this year’s dyeing projects

In her introductory chapter, the author encourages the quilter to evaluate each completed project with a list of questions, instead of judging a work as good or bad. This allows the quilter to evaluate the process and the quilt to determine what’s next. This concept rocked my world. Up to this point, I’ve shared pictures and reflected on the different quilts and projects I’ve completed here on this blog, but haven’t quite considered my work with such directness.

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Self-portrait

And so as I thought about writing my annual blog post reflecting on this year’s projects, these questions and process seemed like an appropriate way to frame the conversation.

 

What surprised me?

My first thought about what I accomplished and completed this year was, not much! I didn’t feel like I spent much time sewing or dyeing fabric. I started a new job, bought a house, had lots of fun weekend adventures, and didn’t really feel like I spent much time sewing. When I took a moment to look through my past blog posts though, the truth was quite the opposite. I completed a lot of quilts!

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Equilateral Triangle Quilt

What surprised me was how many projects I completed that were many years in the making. You might call this The Year of Big Finishes: the Ocean Waves Quilt, the Equilateral Triangle Quilt, and the Mono Basin Quilt. All were listed in my intentions for 2015, and I feel proud that I finished them.

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Ocean Waves

 

What did I discover or learn?

This year I participated in¬†the monthly swatch club with Alabama Chanin. Each month I¬†would receive fabric in the mail with suggestions on pattern and how to stitch. I discovered that having a portable project to stitch by hand is immensely gratifying. Much like a knitter has a small bag with their knitting project, I had a small bag with that month’s stitching project. I pretty much took it everywhere with me in my purse, where ever my day would take me.

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Swatch of the Month

If I had fifteen minutes after work while waiting for my carpool, I could pull out the swatch and stitch. If I had a quiet lunch I could pull out my swatch and stitch. If I was waiting at the airport I could pull out my swatch and stitch. Earlier this year I learned of the fringe hours while listening to this podcast. I related to the idea that time for ourselves can be found throughout the day in short snippets, much like I was making time for myself with a little hand stitching here and there.

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Swatch of the Month

 

What was satisfying about the process or outcome?

The most satisfying process of the year was our Out of the Box quilt group being invited to have an art quilt show at the Mammoth Lakes Library. Being invited to participate in the show inspired me to sew a series of lupine quilts, and the deadline for the show gave me the motivation to get the quilts done!

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Lupine Series

Another satisying outcome was selling my first pieces of artwork! It is gratifying to know my work is appreciated in such a way. In addition, I realized that my art is a form of volunteering. Through my art I supported two important community organizations: the Mono Basin Historical Society and the Mono County Library.

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Art Quilt Show at Mammoth Lakes Library

 

What was dissatisfying?

At the beginning of 2015 I shared an intention to sketch a quilt doodle each day. I enjoyed this daily practice and it was going well for the first few months of the year. Then I skipped a few days, and then the skipped days started being more frequent, until I stopped all together around April. I have a strong suspicion this pattern pretty closely followed the increasing daylight length.

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Daily Journal

I am dissatisfied that I wasn’t able to complete this intention, but I also felt okay with letting it go. The best piece to come out of those few months was I made one of my sketches into a quilt! I have learned that it is possible to come up with my own original design.

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Baby Quilt for Pascal

 

If dissatisfied, what can I do differently next time to be more satisfied?

I think my goal could have been stronger if it wasn’t so narrowly defined. I’ve learned that the process of noting quilt ideas in a journal is helpful, and when ready to make a quilt I can go back to those ideas for inspiration. Instead of a daily must, I will try to¬†sketch or write down ideas as I have them.

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Daily Journal

 

Where do I want to go from here?

With 2015 being a year of finishing quilts, I find myself singularly poised with an empty feeling looking ahead to next year. I have no quilts on my shelf calling out to be completed. This is an incredibly liberating feeling, and fills me with a sense of possibility. What do I want to dream of pursing next year? Learning. I want to take this moment to try new things, push my skills, and expand my abilities.

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Stencil workshop and Shibori workshop

I also want to keep in mind what I enjoyed in past projects: how much I enjoy hand sewing and having a project to stitch on while on the go, sewing with our Out of the Box quilt group, and making art to support community organizations.

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Have you asked yourself questions like these after a project? Do you find the process helpful?

 

 

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Reflecting on 2014

I love reading the end-of-year¬†reflection posts around the blog world. It seems to be quite a tradition for quilt bloggers. I know I’ve been reflecting since I started my blog in 2010. You can read the posts here, here, here, and¬†here.

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I’ve even seen some people complain about the flood of end-of-year mosaic blog posts, where quilters take their pictures of objects made and put them together in a mosaic, but I enjoy¬†it. I look forward to¬†making mine and seeing others. It is a¬†powerful feeling to take a moment to look and back and say, wow, look at all that¬†I made and accomplished in the past year. I made baby quilts for friends, quilts as gifts for weddings, I made myself special things to have around the house. Look at what I made!

mountain quiltIt’s also a moment to stop and see what I’ve accomplished. This year was dominated by working with our Out of the Box group, on our mountain quilt project. Many of you probably followed along. I grew new skills and stretched my abilities and formed lasting relationships with the ladies in the group. I am excited to go to Road to California and see it hanging in the show later this month!

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I also like to look back and see the new skills I learned. This year I dove into learning how to dye yarn with acid dyes. It was a fun way to extend my love of being crafty with friends, having several weekend dye parties. And it lends a new meaning to saying, I knit this and dyed the wool too!

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Then, there is taking time to see if goals from the previous year were met. I had set the hope to have my Ocean Waves done in time for our county fair in September … Oops! Didn’t make it! But I did make ENORMOUS progress. Last year saw me putting the final stitches in the small triangles and black squares. This means the entire center piece is quilted! Now all I have to complete is the black border around the edges. I already have plans for that … and am confident it will get done quickly (right?!).

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Whew. Thank you 2014 for being a color-filled crafty year. What will 2015 bring? What do I hope to accomplish and learn? What do you hope to do in 2015?

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Quilted Tablet Cover

I received a new to me book on Amish quilting, and one of the patterns drew me in immediately. Roman stripes, half triangles, on point. I immediately started pulling from my scraps and randomly piecing. I had the funnest time, and would love to make bigger blocks into a bigger quilt! Using scraps was actually really inefficient, the method described in the book of using long lengths of fabric makes a lot more sense. Hmm, think I need to dye more fabric …

IMG_2676I also recently purchased a new tablet, and instead of purchasing a cover I wanted to make one myself! In my usual fashion, I turned to pinterest to look for patterns. I found several good ones, and what I made was a bit of a conglomeration of a few different techniques and styles.

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To make the case hard, I took a plastic file folder, traced the shape of my tablet, and cut a front and back. I made the edges round like the tablet, in the edges toward the inside straight. I also cut a small narrow spine, but ended up deciding not to use it.

IMG_2675I then took the plastic cover pieces, and used them as a guide to cut a lining of muslin. I added a quarter inch seam allowance around the edge.

IMG_2677I used the muslin as a pattern to cut out the quilted piece for the outside fabric of the cover. I lightly pinned the two layers so they wouldn’t shift, and quilted with perle cotton straight diagonal lines, following the direction of the pieced roman stripes. It was fun to alternate quilting thread colors, and make dense textured fabric.

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I also cut out an inside lining fabric, choosing a hand dyed bright green. Before sewing the front and the back together, using the tablet to adjust, I sewed on four elastic corners to hold the tablet to the case. I cut small strips and estimated their position, then lightly stay stitched by hand all four down, checking their position and tightness as I went. When I was happy, I ran over each with the machine to secure. The edges were raw, but since they are covered by the tablet and weren’t seen, I didn’t bother with trying to make look more professional.

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Then I sewed the front to the back, turned inside out, and stuffed with the two hard plastic covers. To keep them from shifting, I sewed two seams down the middle. I decided not to use another plastic piece for the spine, as the folding fabric seemed enough and extra not needed.

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I then hand stitched the opening closed, and my tablet was finished! The minimalist design and lightweight materials make it really easy to hold. The cover isn’t one hundred percent durable, but I feel it does¬†an adequate job of protecting the device. And, as it sits on my coffee table, I get to admire the hand dyed quilted fabrics! Double wonderful!

 

 

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