Monday, May 15, 2017

Summer Bucket List: 2017

As a 7th and 8th grade teacher, I am just as excited as my students to see the school year wrap up. Though I am going to miss my 8th graders who graduate (I cry like a baby at our last school mass, awards ceremony, and graduation), I am ready for sleeping in past five o'clock and a break from packing lunches. It has been a really great year but the kids and I are ready! Every summer, we try to come up with a few things we want to do. Ice cream places to try, the beach for a week, and a few crafts are all we really have room for with summer swim team filling in the rest of the time. 
This year, I have a few things I want to do.
I want to learn how to make stellar chicken salad. CRAZY good chicken salad.
Usually in the summer, once a week or so I ask Matt to stop at either the Village Deli or Pharaoh's to pick up a pound (or two) of chicken salad. We eat it for dinner and pack it and take it to the pool. To me, it tastes like summer! I am not really sure what their secret is. From what I can tell, its chicken, mayo, and something crunchy like celery or pickles. This is chicken salad not hard can it be?!
I've made chicken salad and it's fair to decent, but it isn't up there with Village Deli or Pharaoh's.
This summer, I am going to get there!
I am going to take my children to our new Cathedral. I worked and worshiped for many years at our diocese's old cathedral and it was bittersweet to me when it was announced that a new cathedral was to be built. This new one should be large enough to house our diocese and has a cafe, beautiful stained glass, and a glorious dome to be seen from far away. It is already special and I cannot to take the kids there for our first mass.
Macarons. Do I need to say more? I plan on not only eating a fair share of these this summer but like the chicken salad, I want to learn how to make them this summer as well. They are made with almond flour, so that makes them perfect for a gluten free desert. They are also beautiful and my girls LOVE them. Every summer I love setting up my grandmother's china and letting the kids have a fancy snack of lemonade and cookies. It is always a fun surprise for them and they think it is pretty special. I have a two-tier stand and this year, I plan on making finger sandwiches (chicken salad?) and macarons. Who wouldn't love that?!
Do you know I've lived in North Carolina for over twenty years and have never been to the zoo here? I am not lying! Supposedly, its a pretty fantastic one. The problem is usually that when the kids and I are off for school in the summer, it is HOT here. I think we just need to bite the bullet and go this year!

Unlike the zoo, I have been to many of the aquariums in the state and the one in Pine Knoll Shores is amazing. I am from this part of the state originally and get the chance to go about once a year, usually in the summer. It is easy to navigate, has wonderful animals including penguins and otters, and is air conditioned! I'll throw this out also has a snack bar and mini-dairy queen...just sayin'.

The North Carolina Art Museum is another favorite place of mine and yet, I've never taken the kids. The grounds are gorgeous and there are many sculptures and installations to look at without ever even going in. The inside of the museum is equally brilliant and I hope my kids are at an age where they can appreciate a little bit of time spent there...we are going to give it a try. There is an adorable cafe to have lunch and make a day of it (its a great place to have a pretty cheap date). 

It goes without saying that I hope to get some quilting done, some fabric buying, time on the sand and in the sun, and reading. In the summer, I average a book a day. I start one while I have my morning coffee, carry on reading while the kids have morning swim practice, read a bit more during lunch, and so on until the book is done, sometimes into the wee hours. 
Here are some books that are on my summer reading list:
Also, anything by Elin Hilderbrand or Liane Moriarty makes my list, though I went through their titles last summer. I occasionally toss in a "real" piece of literature or an autobiography, but usually I just need an entertaining story. 

Read anything really good lately? What is on your summer bucket list?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tea Time: The Carolina Inn

I had the pleasure of attending an afternoon tea with my daughters and two wonderful friends with their daughters. These friends of mine happen to have taught my daughters in school, so my girls know them well. I also teach one of my friend's daughters.
Lost yet?
Have you "done" tea before? 
It is order your flavor and get your own pot to refill your cup (I chose rose cherry). The girls had lemonade and hot chocolate. There were chocolate covered strawberries, apricot scones with devonshire cream,  pimento cheese finger sandwiches (this IS the south, you know), mini bacon quiche, and deserts. I was given my own little gluten free plate of treats. 
It was magical. 
Who wants to go? 
I am ready for a repeat!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ready to Quilt? Now what?

Once you've chosen your pattern, fabrics, cut, pieced, pressed, and backed your quilt front you are ready to quilt. How do you get ready to take on quilting the three layers (quilt back, batting, and quilt front) together? I find it really helpful to get totally organized before I begin this process.

Do you remember this project? It is time to finish it!
I find piecing a quilt front to be a really creative process. I love pulling out all of my fabrics, both new and from my stash, and getting them all pre-cut and ready to piece. This is a messy process the time the quilt front is complete, there are scraps and threads all over my sewing room. After I finish this step, I really love tidying up my sewing area; I fold and store scraps, I clip and toss any seen threads, I vacuum under and wipe my sewing table. Did you know quilting is also a very linty job? Well, it is!

Now that my sewing room is tidy, I turn my attention to getting my sewing machine ready. A thorough cleaning makes quilting so much smoother! And quieter!
I start this by taking off the "table" that comes with my sewing machine. Do you know that I just now started using this? I sewed on this machine for years without it. What was I thinking?!
Once the table is removed, I can gain better access to where the lint is's bad...
This is what was lurking in my bobbin area.
This is what life was like under the needle plate. 
I start by using the brush and sweeping the dust bunnies toward me. Canned air isn't a great idea because it can blow the lint further into the machine (but it sure is tempting). 
I un-thread the machine and also remove the foot and needle to really get a good cleaning. I wipe down the outside of the machine, dust when the thread lives, clean the tension plates, and make sure I've gotten every bit of dust off that I can.
Dog~on! Look at her!
Are you singing Stevie Wonder's  "Isn't she lovely?" right now?
I also clean the lint from the sewing machine feet and oil the machine as per the directions that she came with (I also give it a quick clean and oil about every 3-4 bobbin changes).
I put in a new needle and attach my walking foot.
Do you know that when I first started sewing that I only replaced the needle when it broke (like from sewing over zippers or pins)? 
I did! Now, I like to change them for every quilt or at least every other quilt. They aren't expensive and it is so nice to sew with a sharp needle. 

I also will sometimes put a piece of painter's tape to mark a certain measurement. I placed this one in the 1/4 inch mark.
I pre-wind five or six bobbins for quick reloads. I also keep a dish of pins nearby and a seam ripper handy so nipping random threads from the quilt front as I sew. 

One of the dishes I keep pins in is an old pyrex dish with a lid. My grandmother gave it to me and I LOVE it. The lid hold the bobbins while I sew. I love old refrigerator glass and whenever she sees neat pieces, she gifts them to me. 
When I quilt, I like to make my stitch length much longer than normal sewing length. 
The problem with that is that when I turn off the machine and them come back later, I forget. Then I have a row of stitches to remove. 
A quick post-it note to myself usually reminds me...
After all of this, I am ready to tackle the quilting.
While a lot of wonderful quilters send off their art to have it long-arm quilted, I am enjoying the process of doing it myself. I love to straigh line quilt or mirror some of the design from the piecing in my stitching. 
See the threads you'll come upon?
Seam ripper!
Can I tell you how much I adore these bunnies? This is still some of my favorite fabric ever. 
Do you remember this quilt and the fabric Tiffany put together for me?
Tiffany from Curly Girl Fabric totally knew what my quilt pattern needed and she was right!
She has LOTS of pre-made bundles in her shop right now but she is also more than happy to help you create the perfect bundle for your project. Just message her, give her your idea and fabric requirements, and poof! You'll be ready to start in just a few days! And you know...she already has some Christmas fabric in her store and it is not too early to get a jump start on Christmas presents. 
Tiffany has some great Amy Butler bundles...I have my eye on this one:

So go order some new fabric, clean your machine, and get started on a new project!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Chevron Quilt: Persia from Free spirit

I've wanted to do a chevron quilt for awhile and when I saw the new Persia fabric collection from FreeSpirit, I knew it would perfectly show off these prints! While I normally use pastel fabrics, these rich jewel tones instantly appealed to me. They are warm and rich and will be perfect in the fall.

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I tried some new things while I was creating this quilt. I decided to round off the corners for a new look. WOW! Can I tell you how rounding off quilt corners is not only a fresh look as most quilts edges are square but it is a fantastic way to avoid mitered corners if that is a skill you have yet to master. It's perfect if you want to quickly get the biding done (I found it to be much faster) and move on to your next project while ensuring a beautiful finish. 
I do not have a formal pattern for this but I based this chevron pattern on an arrow quilt I've seen online. Instead of putting a border in between the colors vertically as you would for an arrow head design, I placed my sashing horizontally to give me a true chevron look. These chevron shapes are made from half-square triangles. This is not a new concept in any way, but it is the first time I made a quilt without a formal pattern in my hands. 
Not only did I try a new skill with rounded corners, but I opted to piece my back for the first time!

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I knew I wanted to use the rich, vibrant jade green but I also wanted to try something new! I decided to slice my backing fabric both lengthwise and width wise and added a strip of white fabric to create a cross shape (I was making this over Easter). 

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When quilting this, I opted to mirror the chevron shape with my stitching. I used the edge of my walking foot and followed the fabrics as well as make straight lines on the sashing. 

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These colors are bright, vibrant, and remind me of fall, my favorite season. I can imagine curling up with this yummy quilt on the first cool day. 
This fabric is available now; here are some of the fabrics up close for better viewing:
I have just enough left to make a zippered pouch out of some of the scraps from this project, which is great as I am planning on gifting this quilt away (Mother's Day is right around the corner....shhhh).
Thank you Free Spirit for letting me play with these gorgeous fabrics! I loved them and as always, Free Spirit fabrics are soft, colorfast (I've already washed this quilt and the dark fabrics did not bleed onto the white), not see through, and hold up to washings.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Jelly Roll Check Pillow Case

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I LOVE projects that utilize precut fabric. Jelly Rolls and Layer Cakes are my two favorite precut sized fabrics and this quilting pattern uses jelly rolls! The pattern is from Fat Quarter Shop and its called, "Jelly Roll Check". I used it to make a few throw pillow covers to freshen up my living room but I am planning on making a full sized quilt soon. It is really easy and comes together super fact, I made this pillow cover in about 45 minutes!
The fabric is called Ava Rose by Riley Blake and I LOVE IT! The geometric design and the floral are my favorites. The aqua and peach colors are perfect for my living room. I wouldn't min getting some yardage of this line... photo 2844966A-4C54-43A1-9029-838771EA930B.jpgI also used a new tool in this project, which I also ordered from FQS. It is a ruler from Creative Grids. WOW! There are these cute polka dots on the ruler and they are a little rough (like a fine sand paper) and those hold the ruler to the fabric so that it doesn't slide as you trim with your rotary cutter. I am already obsessing over which ruler I will get next and just how many are too many...  photo 1e2775cc-c702-43c1-a431-d2a964a4e316.jpg 

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These squares can be used in so many fun projects! In the future, I think it would be cute to use two fabrics that are tones of each other (light blue and white, etc) which will give this quilt an almost gingham feel to the check pattern.
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 I sewed a little ric~rac in between the pillow front and back for a fun edge. Cording would also be cute. The back of the pillow was a simple solid with an envelope opening (no zipper, easy to change out). 
 VOILA! Quick and easy jelly roll check!  photo 860002AA-B8EE-4231-A962-23164824DA3D.jpg

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Paige's Passion: Dad's Bowtie Quilt

I got really treated to something pretty special...Riley Blake sent me fabric of a new line before it is released later this month. Instantly I knew that it was the perfect fabric to use to make a quilt that I've been dying to create...Dad's Bowtie Quilt from the Polka Dot Chair. In fact, as soon as I opened the box, I went straight to Melissa's website and ordered the pattern!

Paige's Passion is so beautiful and reminds me a Springtime in North Carolina. Everywhere you look there are azaleas blooming, bulbs sprouting up, and pollen. The colors are both vibrant and soft and the fabric itself it everything you've come to love about Riley Blake...high quality and soft to the touch.

I followed the pattern step-by-step and it wasn't nearly as daunting as I thought it might be!
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I used four prints from the line for my contrasting fabrics, Riley Blake solid white for my background, and Riley Blake Sunshine (a butter yellow) for the backing.
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Laying out the bows and not having them repeat too often became an obsession. I must have moved and laid out the quilt thirty times. I finally looked at Melissa's quilt front and you know what? Her quilt had some repeats and diagonals touching like prints. It's OK! It's still beautiful! 
If it is good enough for Melissa, it is surely good enough for me!
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The pattern has two options when it comes to the large border; using pinwheels in the corners or making the border a solid strip. I really worked hard on my pinwheels and loved the patterns in them, so I  opted to use them.
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I haven't loved a line of fabric this much in a really, really long time. This aqua with the pink flowers is amazing! 
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Because I am still very new to quilting, I opted to straight-line quilt it. I thought about getting out a marking pen and ruler to make my lines perfect and even, but opted instead to make it very organic. I used the edge of my walking foot as a guide. At times the lines are a little wonky and off but I think it gives the quilt a little personality. With so many straight lines in the design, I think the lines being a bit wavier break up the harsh edges. 
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I will say this...straight-line quilting takes a lot of time. 
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I prefer hand binding and cuddled up to a few episodes of Mr. Selfridge and before I knew it, the quilt was ready for the wash.

As soon as I took the quilt out of the dryer I ran to look Lila Tueller up on social media. I HAD to tell her how much I loved her work. I wanted her to see how excited I was for the launch. She is so sweet and showed me some of her projects, too! Fabric brings the nicest people into my life!