Road Trip Quilt

Sometime early in the new year, I gathered my odds and ends of heavy weight cotton flannel and cut up my much worn plaid Pearl shift dresses and decided to make a simple quilt for my son. I added some strips leftover from various corduroy sewing projects and assembled strips of varying lengths.

I cut and sewed it fast without worrying about being super precise and it came together quickly.

I used this charcoal cotton chambray for the back and binding. I love this fabric for quilts. I also used it for my first Tamarack Jacket. It is great for garments and quilts and I ended up buying it in several colors for future quilting projects.

I decided that I would stitch it together using big stitches in a rust colored yarn. I like the rust stitches against the grey background. It didn’t occur to me until after I finished it, but the stitching on the back and the stripes on the front really do evoke roads and highways. This quilt was made to hit the road.

My son is heading off on a big road trip and I thought this would be a great quilt to bring along for his truck. With a great book and some gas money, it made the perfect care package. (You are never too old for a care package!)

Safe travels!




Quilting, Sewing

Christmas Stars Quilt

It is January! So I am sharing one of my 2018 completed projects, a Christmas quilt for my daughter!

This year I finally made a quilt with a pattern I had been meaning to try since I saw her awesome version here. I have been endlessly inspired by Erin’s beautiful quilts and color palates and I knew that this would be the perfect pattern to use for a Christmas quilt for my middle child who carries Christmas in her heart all year long.

I have nicknamed her my Christmas elf. She and her husband throw themselves wholeheartedly into the Christmas season and I thought it would be nice for them to have a special quilt to use during advent. Erin’s free pattern fit the bill. I love these oversized Ohio stars. I used a mixture of Christmas fabrics from the original Cotton and Steel designers lines (some of which I bought in a panic last spring when I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get them anymore) together with scraps from my stash, which included this red gingham left over from a set of matching duvet covers that were on my children’s bunkbeds back in Brooklyn when my Christmas elf was 3 (she is now almost 29!) I stuck mostly to blues and reds and aqua. I love that you can use so many different colors and still have a cohesive quilt. I have different versions floating through my head now.

I machine-pieced 9 blocks using the larger size of the stars from Erin’s pattern to make a throw quilt that is a bit bigger than 60 inches square. Then I started machine quilting it. Unfortunately, my machine had other ideas. I am generally a hand quilter and most of the machine quilting I have done has been on small pieces like the Tamarack Jacket. It worked a charm for that project but not so much for this quilt. Fortunately, I had seen Crinklelove‘s beautiful work on Instagram. It couldn’t have been easier to bundle off my top and bottom fabrics, choose a quilting design and wait a very short time. When I got the beautifully quilted quilt back, I was so pleased. I chose the orange peel design for the quilting because I like the juxtaposition of curved lines with straight-line piecing as can be seen here and here in my hand-quilted projects. I also liked the repeating star-like pattern in the quilting and the idea of an orange which brought me back to reading about early Christmas traditions that included oranges in the stocking. (Did that happen in the Little House books? I think it might have.) Here are some pictures of the finished quilt. Some of the fabrics are from stores I visited in person including The Cloth Pocket and Stitchlab in Austin, Tx. Using the fabrics in the quilt brought back memories of fun trips to those stores.

The oversized blocks came together so easily and it was just enough thinking-picking three fabrics that worked for each oversized-20 inch block-but not too much. I just made them at random but once I had 7 blocks, I laid them out to see how the values worked and then did a sort of tic tac toe grid alternating darker and lighter backgrounds which you can see here.

It is fun to finally share this project! I used the vivid filter in this picture to give a better idea of what the colors look like. The light was very stark on the day we took pictures. I have been vivifying all the things lately. 🙂

I can’t recommend Erin’s blog, quilt patterns and tutorials more highly. She will be hosting a sewalong on Instagram for her new beautiful squash blossom pattern this spring and believe me, I will be participating. After 4 busy years of sewing, I have accumulated quite a bit of fabric and I am excited to make all the quilts this year. If you are new to quilting, try this pattern! It is a great place to start. I plan to try to make one of these for each of the rest of my children. Between us, my husband and I have five which seems like a lot of work but really you could piece this top in a couple of afternoons, even if you new to sewing. I am also saving all of my linen scraps to make a larger version for our bed.

Give it a try! Happy sewing and happy quilting! Ho ho ho!

Made By Rae Patterns, Quilting, Reading and Books, Sewing

April 2018 Reading and Sewing

The weather in the Northeast has been a bit strange this spring with at least one day of snow most weeks since February. This has been good for my reading life, not so good for my sewing life, since all I want to do is lie on the couch and read. But there are consolations. For one, I read this book which had been on my shelf for years and which was fantastic. What a writer. The kind of book that leaves you afraid to pick up the next one because it will break the spell. I loved the protagonist, the setting, the weirdness of it all. If you haven’t read it, you are in for a treat.I heard about the next book from From the Front Porch. I had never read anything by this author but based on the five star reviews of several people I trust, I picked it up at the library. I loved the first section and expected to love it all. I am not sure if it was the fact that there was so much hype but although I liked the book and was glad I read it, I didn’t ultimately love love love it. I am not sure if it was because it felt to me as if several of the characters made poor decisions or effectively sold out-I think that is a large point of the book-but I didn’t connect with it as many others appear to have. But I would still give it four stars-worth reading, if for no other reason because everyone else is and you will be able to be part of the conversation. On another note, my book group just picked this book for May and based on things I am hearing,  I really don’t want to read it. If you have read and have opinions, please comment!The next book is a non-fiction account of a series of murders of members of the Osage tribe in the early 1900’s in Oklahoma and how that related to the beginning days of the FBI. It was well researched and I am so glad I read it because it is a chapter in history that I knew nothing about. Side note, I was an America History major in college and it still shocks me how little I seem to know about history. Trying to remedy that but it is a project. 🙂The Heart’s Invisible Furies was recommended to me by Catherine who is one of the four people whose taste in books most closely resembles mine and who I rely on for book recommendations. The other three are Anne Bogel, Annie Jones who owns this wonderful bookstore and Lindsey Mead. I highly recommend all four as wonderful resources. This is the story of an Irish woman and her son and the country of Ireland with its geography, culture, religious influences, history. Really Ireland is as much a character as any of the characters. I loved the writing and became very invested in the outcomes of the characters and learned so much. Again, feeling as though there is so much I don’t know-my grandfather’s family is Irish but what I don’t know about Ireland is a lot. This book gave me an entirely new perspective. Highly recommend. I listened to Sourdough at the suggestion of my daughter who is a passionate home chef and loves to try new recipes. When she read this, she was inspired to bake all the bread and I can see why. The book was very entertaining and I appreciated the humorous take on some of the current non-food, food trends. I listened to the next book on audio. Joshilyn Jackson is an actress and she narrates most of her own books. I enjoyed it and will continue to work through her backlist. They make great car listening because they are entertaining enough that you stay engaged in the story, but don’t require a huge amount of focus.I read this sweet little book because I had gotten it on a daily kindle deal which is how I get many of the books I have been meaning to read. I really appreciate that Modern Mrs. Darcy curates this list. It was entertaining and light after some of my other reads. This is the book I am currently reading and I am so engaged in the story of the central character Jojo. I am about 100 pages in and loving it although the themes are hard. I read Salvage the Bones earlier this year and I highly recommend both. She is really an amazing writer. I picked up her memoir at our local independent book store and have added it to the stack of books I am taking on vacation in June.Next up will be this book which was my April Shelf Subscription book. I love books where place and setting and atmosphere are a big part of the story so I am really looking forward to reading it.

And now on to sewing. With spring peeking in every couple of days, I am excited to sew all the things, especially with Me Made May right around the corner. I have several projects in the almost done phase and hope to blog about them soon.

First, I have been sewing several different Boho blouses, a current fashion trend. I sewed a Valley Blouse in navy double gauze that I purchased from Imagine Gnats (they have a great selection and their prices are really reasonable.) This is the neckline which is quite low. The verdict is out on this but after setting it aside and coming back to it, I am liking it more. Does that happen to you too? I hope to finish it this week. Stay tuned.

After feeling a bit discouraged with the somewhat voluminous shape of the Valley blouse, I decided to try the Josephine Blouse by Made by Rae, a pattern which I bought several years ago and have never made. I was inspired by this version that Rae made. I decided to try it in a different Loominous fabric and I am loving where this is heading. Hope to finish it this week but it is looking promising. The profile is slimmer and more shaped which I prefer and the neckline is not as low.

After having some success with the Josephine, I happened to see a version of the Roscoe blouse on instagram where the sewist had used a contrasting fabric for bias binding the neck and for the sleeve cuffs and I thought aha! I had already bought some linen to use for summer dresses but once this idea got into my head, I just had to try it. This is going to be a checked linen Josephine blouse with bias binding made of Liberty fabric. I am really happy where this is going.Also inspired by Rae and in the same vein as this Beatrix dress, I am making several versions of the Gemma Tank with peplum ruffles or with a skirt. Here are those same fabrics. I love how floaty the linen feels. I didn’t quite have enough for both the blouse and the dress so I added a panel to the front of the skirt. It still needs hemming but I think it will be great for summer.Here are some shorter versions in process in quilting cotton and rayon. You can find Rae’s tutorial for this version of the pattern here.

I continue to hand quilt this antique top I bought probably 20 years ago. It is my go-to when I need something quiet and meditative to do. I am always inspired by the creativity of those women who came before us who pieced little scraps into these works of art and love. Other plans for the spring are the Tamarack Jacket. I have this olive twill for the jacket and just a yard of this quilting cotton so plan to see if I can use the quilting cotton for the lining of the front and back and line the sleeves with a solid pink double gauze. And finally, I joined the rest of the sewing and knitting community in buying this book and plan to make at least two versions of the Uniform Tank. This is watercolor linen from Purl Soho for a long-sleeved version and a floral cotton sateen by Nani Iro (also from Imagine Gnats) for a sleeveless version. And then I will need to learn to knit!I have been doing some more writing and set up this little desk on our third floor. This was taken yesterday in the early morning sunshine. I am typing here now and it cold and windy. And there you have it, our spring in a nutshell. I can’t wait for May and warmer weather!I am linking up today with the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog quick lit post which you can find here.


About Me, Quilting, Sewing

Birds in Flight

Almost 22 years ago, my brother got married. I had been a quilter for five years and loved hand quilting best of all and I decided to make a quilt as a wedding gift for him and his wife Amy. My brother is an ornithologist and has loved birds since he was a child so I decided to find a block that evoked birds. It is so many years ago now that I am not sure of the original source of the block I chose. I had thought it came from “The It’s Okay If You Sit On My Quilt Book” by Mary Ellen Hopkins but now looking through it, I am not finding it so I must have found it in another of my many quilting books. I decided to make a queen sized quilt. I am nothing if not ambitious. I had just moved to a new old house and had three children who were adjusting to a new home and neighborhood  and one of the children was an infant. I am pretty sure I started this either right before the wedding or right after (the wedding was in September of 1995 and we had moved to our new old house in June of that year.) In my mind at the time,  it would be fine because you have a year to give a wedding gift and still be within acceptable rules of etiquette (not sure if that is actually true.) And so I started piecing blocks using mostly blues and browns and reds.

Meanwhile, two children were starting a new school, one infant refused to sleep under any circumstances and systematically, things broke and needed replacing and repairing in our new old house. Since I had stopped working to be home with my kids, we were pretty tight for money so I was stripping wall paper and painting and shoveling while the baby napped. It snowed a lot. That winter the first 18 inch snowstorm was before Thanksgiving and there were many more significant storms that cancelled school so I had to find ways to entertain three kids. I baked a lot. I was getting nowhere fast on this quilt. So I arranged for my amazing quilting teacher and professional quilter to machine piece the top, figuring that the hand quilting which is what I was best at and enjoyed most would be doable.

I sent Judy the blocks I had been able to finish, all of the accumulated fabric that I thought would work and instructions to fill in where necessary, apply her own creative vision and do her best. She sent me back the top beautifully pieced, basted and with the bias binding sewn and ready to go and so I started quilting. I like to juxtapose straight line piecing such as triangles and squares with curved quilting. I love the look and feel of traditional cotton batting (as did Judy) so the top was pieced with Blue Ribbon cotton batting which recommends quilting no further than one inch apart. I decided to quilt the center of the quilt with a traditional fan pattern using a template I owned and to then quilt the borders with another pattern to be determined later. I had quilted a large lap sized quilt with a similar traditional design using a clam shell pattern for the main center portion of the quilt. I found doing that quilt that it worked best to quilt from back to front because it was so much easier to mark and see the chalk lines so I decided to do that in this case as well. First I quilted a rectangle of stitches along the main lines that enclosed the central design by eye from the front to back. Then I determined how I would orient the quilt and chose a corner to start in and then quilted the first fan and then quilted it in rows in an L shape. The fan template has a center corner fan that is larger than the fans that spread off in two directions so after completing the first L I then would start the next L shaped row working my way diagonally across the center rectangle of the quilt.The corner that you see in the picture above is actually the last corner to be quilted. The corner that I started on is at the top right hand corner of the picture.

The quilting was very slow going. I continued to work on the quilt when I had time but as a stay at home mom to three kids, I had trouble making very quick progress and missed my one year wedding gift deadline. I think I sent something else as a gift in the meantime. I certainly hope so. A couple years after moving to Connecticut and starting the quilt, I joined a new quilting group. This was a great joy to me as I had missed my Brooklyn quilting community. I worked on the quilt every time we met and sometimes in between and in my mind, I think I decided that if this was a great wedding gift, it would also be a great 5 year anniversary gift so I relaxed a bit and kept quilting. I took it with me on vacations to Maine. I even took it on a vacation to London and Paris. I took it to Arizona and Massachusetts. Four years in, I probably had completed about a quarter of the center area and thought I would power through and get it done in year five. And then in the early part of 2000, I had a heart attack. This threw me and my family for a loop. I kept quilting but I wasn’t powering through much that year. Later that year my quilting group disbanded when a member moved away. I kept on working on the quilt but I was being pulled in many directions as many of us are and my progress was slow. I might have thought I would focus on the ten year anniversary, I am not even sure now but in 2005, my children’s father and I separated and life became really quite difficult for the next ten years. Many things happened and I did many things from 2005 to 2015 but sewing was not one of them. We moved several times and I moved the quilt along with us. In my heart of hearts, I feared that I would never finish the quilt and I felt bad because of all the effort that Judy had put into creating something beautiful but during those ten years I was in school and working two jobs, 7 days a week and trying my best to parent my kids with the limited time I had and that is the way it was.

But in 2014, I moved to another new old house that had a small room that I converted into a sewing room and started sewing again in the little bits of time I could find after work and on days off. I took out the quilt and bought more quilting thread since I had lost or misplaced many things during the many moves. I couldn’t find my fan template so I searched online and had to buy two before I found the right size but I found a match and started back on my rows of fans. In 2016, I made a commitment to stop working Sundays and spent many Sunday afternoons quilting and listening to audio books. At the beginning of this year, I had about 75% of the center portion of the quilt done and I decided to aim to finish it this year. The picture below was taken this May with the center fans completed when I was working on the borders.I also made a plan to visit my brother and his family in South Carolina where they have lived for 18 years and where I had never been due to time and money constraints. I finished the center portion of the quilt just about a month ago and then quilted all of the borders during the month of May. I had planned to take some days off from work and basically spent almost all of my free time quilting. My fingers were very sore but after so much time, I was very focused on finishing the quilt in time to bring it to South Carolina myself rather than mailing it. The photo below was taken on May 18th which shows you how much more I had to do at that point.I finished the center fans around the second week in May and quilted another row of fans around the outer border of the quilt, I outlined the triangles in the pieced border (quilting from the right side just visually, not marking the lines) and quilted another inner border between the triangles and the center fans with another template seen below. When I was done, there was a bit of a gap between the triangles and the outer fans border so I added a line of stitching between. The triangles are outlined in navy rather than the gold thread that I used for the rest of the quilt because I spent several hours demonstrating hand quilting at a quilt show at our church probably about ten years ago and left my gold thread at home and used what I had in my bag. I ended up liking the look so did all of the triangles in the blue.Starting the corner of the outer fan border below. My stitches above are not as neat and tiny as they were 22 years ago (see below) but I had a goal in mind and speed and finishing was my priority at this point. I think 22 years of life teaches you that sometimes done is better than perfect. My current motto is “Good enough is good enough” which has worked well for me these last ten years.At one point I realized that I was quilting the final stitches very close to the first stitches I ever sewed. I thought about my 34 year old self who had started this quilt and all that had gone on in those intervening 22 years and all the ups and downs that this quilt had accompanied. It was really something to consider. So many things have happened to me and my family and many I never anticipated. Sort of like a marriage. It is one thing to make the leap into marriage but another to get up each day and show up and be present and stick through the good and the bad and the completely unexpected. So in the end, I think this quilt may be almost 22 years late but possibly it is right on time. My brother and his wife have created a beautiful family over these 22 years and I am sure a lot of work went into it.

I found that when I got to the corners of the inner border that there was no good way to start and stop the border at the corners. I also noticed that at one point, I might have thought a row of blue stitches was a good idea or maybe I just sewed them during the quilting demonstration expecting to take them out after. I just left them. I hadn’t even seen them until I looked up close.My brother has two sons and that is when I realized that this was really a family gift rather than a couple gift and I quilted each of their four initials into a corner of the border. Here is an S for one of the boys. (reversed since you are seeing it from the back.)Binding and finishing below.

It was quite something to sew the last stitch.

A close friend who is a long time quilter brought over champagne to celebrate the completion of the quilt and then it was off to South Carolina in my carry on bag.

I was not about to risk checking it after all these years.

Bias Binding, Gemma Tank, Made By Rae Patterns, Maine, Pearl Shift, Quilting, Reading and Books, Ruby Dress Pattern, Sewing, unplugged, Washi Dress Pattern

Nursebeansews a lot: 2016 year-end wrap up

I sewed a lot of garments in 2016, close to 40-I have lost track of the actual total. Most of them were for me, some were for others. When I looked back over the year, I found that although I sewed many garments, I actually made several versions each of seven favorite patterns: the Pearl Shift pattern from Green Bee Patterns and six patterns from Made by Rae: the Washi Dress, the Beatrix Blouse, and the Ruby Blouse which I had made before and the Luna Pants pattern , the Isla knit dress pattern and the Gemma Tank which were new to me in 2016. The newer patterns are from a line that Rae calls Presto patterns. They are less expensive and simpler to sew, which is probably why I was able to sew so many! Here are a couple of pictures of some of my makes with links to the patterns and my blog posts about things I learned while making them. I tend to make things in multiples because it is not much more work to cut out two versions than to cut out one.

The Washi Dress by Made By Rae, which I made for myself three times: two versions had sleeves and two versions were in double gauze. I also made a version with polka dots for my sister and a paisley version for my mother. The double gauze, while a bit tricky to work with, makes a wonderful winter version of the Washi. I have my eye out for another double gauze to make another long sleeved version of the Washi. I wear my charm version all the time.img_4434I have two more  Washi dresses cut out that I plan to finish soon. One is the Washi XP with a bow. I cut them out last summer before Gemma Madness took over my sewing life. Finishing my WIPs will be a priority for me this winter.img_2414I am excited to see how the XP version turns out. I think it will be perfect with a sweater and tights and boots for winter. I cut this out way back in the spring when I made a baby quilt for a friend and used this for the binding.

I also sewed several new versions of the Beatrix blouse and modified a shift dress pattern by adding Beatrix sleeves.img_4435I lengthened the Beatrix to a tunic length using the Pearl Shift pattern as my guide and made this Cookie Book version with a curved hem and this Alison Glass version with an exposed zipper and a straight hem. I wear them all the time with leggings and jeans.

I made the Pearl Shift four times: two in heavy cotton flannel and one each in a cotton-linen blend and in a black and white checked fabric. img_4436I have two more cut out and ready to sew, one for my daughter and another plaid flannel version for me. The original plaid Pearl that I made a year ago in the fall is probably my most worn garment ever.

I surprised myself this year by making pants! I highly recommend the Luna Pants pattern from Made By Rae. I made this clay colored version and this Fringe version, both with fabric by April Rhodes. I lived in them all summer.img_4437 I was surprised at how flattering they ended up being and they are incredibly comfortable.

I made three versions of the Ruby Pattern this summer, a plum colored double gauze blouse for me, a double gauze blouse with a yoke made of quilting cotton for a friend and a dress which I love in April Rhodes fabric. I just love her designs for garments.img_4439I have several other versions of the Ruby blouse cut out and ready to sew. Sew all the WIPs is going to be my resolution for 2017!

I learned a bit about how to sew knits on a regular sewing machine and made one each of the dress and top versions of the Isla Pattern. img_4440I have several more cut out and ready for an afternoon when I can sew them up. I highly recommend this pattern for those of you who are new to sewing knits.

The pattern I sewed the most though turned out to be the Gemma Tank. Rae launched this pattern over the summer and once she did, all my other WIPs went by the wayside. I literally have things I cut out to sew back in July that never got sewn because I was too busy sewing so many versions of the Gemma. I lined it, I lengthened it, I sewed it for my kids, I sewed many versions for myself. I sewed it out of thrifted men’s shirts and I learned a lot about bias binding. It was a lot of fun, a bit crazy but a great way to experiment with different fabrics. I am wearing them all the time. It has become a great layering piece for me. These are actually not even all of the Gemmas I made. Craziness!img_4438Other non-garment items I sewed this year were this quilt for a much awaited new baby boy-so much fun! and an afghan for my mother in law made from thrift shop sweaters. I also was privileged to be a pattern tester for the first time for this great skirt pattern which will be launched in the new year. I have fabric picked out and ready to go.  It is going to be a great new basic to add to my rotation.

Highlights of my sewing year included Me Made May-which is always fun and which brings so much inspiration from other sewers and a couple of mini-breaks (long weekends,) one in Maine and one at home and a micro-mini break (afternoon) that I spent exploring my old neighborhood. I also read a lot this year and tried very hard to stick to my 2016 New Year’s resolution to commit one day a week to being unplugged. That worked for about half the year and then life got busy and  I ended up having to spend time each Sunday in the office. But I tried to spend at least some of each Sunday unplugged from media, reading, taking walks,, going to church regularly and doing yoga. These are things I hope to find more time for in the New Year.

With best wishes to all for a happy and healthy New Year and time and energy to finish the sewing projects (I know that I can’t cut out one more thing until I sew through the pile I have accumulated of cut out projects, ) and thanks to all for following along with my sewing adventures!


Quilting, Sewing

Friendly Beasts Quilt

img_2457A dear friend is expecting a baby boy and I wanted to make her a quilt.img_2416 I love Cotton and Steel’s Bluebird line and was especially taken with the lion heart and octopus fabrics. img_2445Although I thought about different pieced block designs, I didn’t like the idea of cutting up the fabric. In the end, I just used these two beautiful fabrics and hand quilted free form wavy lines that I enjoyed swooping across the fabric with my chalk liner. img_2453It went so fast and was such a  fun project. More close-ups of curvy quilting lines below.  img_2449Whole cloth quilting goes so fast! No seam allowances to quilt through!img_2450The biniding was hand stitched. A bit wonky on the corners since I am out of practice.img_2448I don’t remember the last time I bound a quilt. Many years. I was a bit out of practice but it came back. The wonkyness means it was handmade. Love in every stitch.img_2447And I used a nursebeansews label for the first time!img_2459