Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dovetail: A Celtic Christmas Quilt

This is one of the quickest, easiest quilts that is also beautiful! Once I saw the sample image, I decided to make one for Christmas, too! I think any fabric scheme would work and be wonderful, but I love the Christmas colors and prints on display! In the white space, I decided to trace a Celtic knot and stitch it using my walking foot to add a little interest. This is a quilt you can do from start to finish in a weekend, y'all! Perfect for a first quilt, there is also a video to guide you through it. Please do give it a try. It's a free pattern!

Monaluna Fabric, Sawtooth Blocks, and Basil

It's summer! We spent some family time at the beach right after school got out and then had a swim meet after that, so it really feels like summer started today...my first full day at home. 
I finished hand binding this massive table runner that I began in the Spring. The fabric came from Monaluna and it is THE SOFTEST fabric I have ever felt. In fact, I cannot wait to try making a shift dress from this. It is so soft that is almost drapes like a rayon but it is thicker and therefore, not see-through. I really could't love it more! The prints in this line, Bloom, are classic but the colors are rest and summer-like. The Lemons are my favorite. 
I want to tell you about Monaluna. Monaluna is a small, independent organic fabric company based in Walnut Creek, CA. The company is owned and operated by Jennifer Moore and her husband David Miguelucci, with assistance and inspiration from their young daughter Anabelle. Monaluna was started in 2010 by Jennifer, a designer and textile artist, out of a desire to bring more sustainable alternatives to the fabric marketplace. "I have always loved sewing and creating with fabric", Jennifer says, "but as I learned about the environmental impacts of fabric production I became committed to making more environmentally-friendly options available to sewists and quilters." The company started small, but has been growing steadily, and is now producing 4-6 new collections per year. As for the fabric, all of the Monaluna collections are printed on premium 100% organic cotton with a high thread-count, which gives them an exceptionally soft and high-quality hand. Monaluna fabrics are characterized by a graphic and modern style, and are often whimsical and humorous. After years in the children's product market, Jennifer creates designs that are very appropriate for kids, but which can cross over to adult projects as well. 
Monaluna was generous enough to send me some sample fabric to create this project and review the lovely quality of their work. I urge you to try it out...wow! 
Because my table is so large, a small table runner never looks quite right. I followed the sawtooth pattern from Lori Holt's book and there were two options in sizes. I opted to make the 12" blocks which really show the beautiful fabric off nicely. I had never made a saw tooth or flying geese before so I popped on over to my go-to-how-to, Diary of a Quilter to get more in depth directions and as you can see, Amy came through for me (again). 
I really love the juxtaposition of fresh colors and prints with classic quilting shapes. It really gives a modern feel to a more old-fashioned look. I prefer quilting for gifts and knew when this fabric arrived that I might be selfish and keep this for the home. I was validated in my selfishness when Sam said, "You never let us keep anything you make". I am not sure that a table runner is what he had in mind, but I went with it!

This sweet vase was my grandmother's. She always had flowers in it and kept it in her powder room. I always, always loved it. Last week we had a girl's night together and she said that if there was anything of her's that I wanted to let her know. I wanted this vase and her olive green Tupperware bowls (memories of cereal and homemade popcorn from using those!). As soon as I set out the new table runner, I knew the vase would be perfect for this! The colors are perfect and it is a great way to display the overabundance of basil I came home to!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Jelly Roll Railway

YOU GUYS! I have a free pattern for you that looks so complicated but comes together in a snap! Thanks to the use of a jelly roll, most of the cutting has been done for you. This was so much fun to piece. I LOVE this sweet fabric had to have it once I saw the birds! Though I made this as a gift, those little birds are going to make giving this one away a bit tough. 
I haven't yet settled on the background fabric yet. I am considering piecing it. Or using linen. Or more birds. Or the fabric from this line with text. I really love fabric with writing. Or birds...
Doesn't this look hard? SO easy!
Have you made this one yet? Grab the pattern!
Never quilted? Want to try? This pattern also has a free instructional video! I promise, you CAN do this!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Memorial day

As soon as school got out on Friday, our crew packed up the minivan and headed to Holden Beach to spend Memorial Day weekend with our friends. They were generous enough to host us at the beach.
It was such a blessing to get out of town and enjoy the salty air and water as well as their company.
Almost immediately after arriving, the kids peeled off clothing and got into bathing suits. The dock was calling them! They used the fishing poles and cast nets almost all weekend to catch bait shrimp, fish, and even a baby squid.
We came back to Raleigh a little bit sunburned, a little bit tired, and totally rejuvenated.  
I am so thankful that we have Memorial Day as a chance to pause and reflect on the freedoms we have in America because of the great sacrifice made by so many. 
We are blessed in so many ways, but good friends and freedom have to be some of His biggest. 

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 calculus...how 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 there...it 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 luxury...you 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 though...by 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 hiding...be ready...it'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!