Summer Brick Road

4 Jan

Midwinter is the perfect time to make an “Indian Summer” quilt. The Christmas tree glowed cheerfully in the corner of the sewing room (aka dining room) while I stitched a quilt full of mountains, flowers, teepees, and wandering foxes. And mushrooms. So many adorable mushrooms.

I went nuts taking photos of this quilt, first at my house (before washing) and at a local park (post-wash).  IMG_7746

George Foreman is no different from most cats, she was pretty sure I was meaning to give her attention while I took pictures. Zero pictures were meant to be of her, half of them turned out to be. IMG_7747

If I could only one binding fabric for the rest of my life, Little Stripes would be it. The bias-look of the stripe, the fresh and modern pattern, and the fact that it’s grey (my favorite neutral color), makes it a clear winner. I may turn out to be wrong, but I don’t think it’ll go out of style.  IMG_7755

The backing fabric peeking through here is actually from a Target clearance sheet. So much fabric, for so little. And–the best part–no sewing.IMG_7758

The sun was almost at its brightest when I went out to take pictures. Not ideal, but I needed to get this guy in the mail post-haste. I tried to take advantage of the light, so I got these sunny, creamy-colored photos. On an old red caboose.


The pattern is “Yellow Brick Road” by Atkinson Designs.


Apart from Sarah Watson’s Indian Summer fabric, I used a few other Art Gallery fabrics, Lizzy House Pearl Bracelets and Kona solids.



Autumn From My Window

22 Nov

For almost a month, I’ve been taking photos of the view from my office window as the seasons ebb from late summer to autumn. The colors burst into lively flame as the air cools and the sky grows dim. And then, they’re gone.

The pictures were taken from the same spot in the cross-hairs of a window pane with my semi-functioning iPhone 4. Hopefully I’ll have time to do this again when those verdant green shrubs at the bottom of the photos are overcome with pink azalea blooms.


Burning the Old Year
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Tiger Squares Quilt

11 Oct

Earlier this week, I finished up this purple and yellow quilt for a friend. I don’t know why, but I sure did struggle with it.


1. Who is it for?

2. Why did you choose these fabrics?
We were looking for more geometric fabric designs that are more modern and not too floral-y. I gravitate toward pink and flowery when I’m left to my own devices, so it was a challenge.

3. Why did you choose this design?
This is another quilt based off of the Lemon Squares quilt, with a little bit of Elizabeth Hartman’s Small Plates from A Practical Guide to Patchwork.

4. How long did it take?
Months. Dare I count?

5. Was it difficult to make?
It was an easy quilt made difficult by a lot of fretting.

6. What did you learn from this quilt?
This was my largest quilt so far, even though it’s smaller than a twin. At 73″ x 67″ this is about the largest quilt I can fit through my sewing machine (if I want to maintain my sanity), so that’s good to know. That’s why it was basic, straight-line quilting all the way.

7. What music did you listen to while you worked on it?
Lots of Justin Timberlake.

8. What would you improve, if you could?
I like it, but I might’ve changed the layout a bit.

9. What makes you happiest when you think of this?
My friend finally has her LSU quilt to wrap up in, just in time for fall!

The Worstbug

18 Sep


This post has nothing to do with adorable quilts, or fabric, or sewing. If that’s why you’re here, you may be disappointed. If, however, you ended up here by accident, maybe this will be the one post you enjoy. If you like the worst grossest things ever.

Worstbugs. Bugs I’m so insanely afraid of that I can’t even call them by name. (They aren’t spiders, I’m pretty okay with those. Plus, spiders are arachnids anyway,right?)

This morning, I was going about my regular routine and chatting to my cat about breakfast, when I reached up to get a sweet little flowered bowl out of my cabinet. Something flew at me and whizzed through my hair. I thought it was a moth (a very…sturdy…sounding moth), so I shook out my hair and went about my business.

I had my breakfast and was on the threshold of re-entering the kitchen when something buzzed across my vision. Simultaneously, George the Cat raced across the kitchen, somehow both frantic and focused. I followed her line of sight to find the largest, ugliest Worstbug I’d seen in a long time. And it was perched without grace or shame on my coffee cup.

To recap: this monstrosity has been on my beloved coffee cup (the very same one that holds my precious coffee) and in my hair (presumably–I think I could prove it in court, if necessary.)

So I proceeded to do what any normal Worstbug-fearing person would do and ran away yelling made-up profanities, shutting my cat in the kitchen with it for good measure. So she could hunt it. And then I could put that Bug’s tiny head on a tiny pike and stake it in front of my house to scare all of the other ones away.

After laying curled up on the sofa for a couple of minutes with a pillow over my head, I decided I was still too exposed. I peeked out from my feeble fortress, certain that it could smell my fear, and made a run for my bedroom.

Now we were separated by three rooms and two doors. Better odds. I cowered under the covers for a few minutes, trying to figure out if there was a way I could get dressed and leave for work without having access to my clothes, keys,  or coffee, all of which were in or on the other side of the kitchen.

I finally acknowledged that it was impossible and that it was past time for me to get ready for work. I steeled myself and scoured the room for weapons, but found none. All I could do was armor myself in a nice, thick quilt  and put on a knitted cap to keep him from getting in my hair… again. I still didn’t feel secure though, so I put on Garrett’s fedora (over the knitted cap) and took a deep breath as I exited the room.

Apparently, I had been holding a bag of cat litter when It had startled me, because there was one sitting in the middle of the living room where I’d dropped it in fear as I ran away.

I continued walking toward the kitchen and pulled the quilt around me as I gently and slowly opened the kitchen door. I peeked in to see George the Cat staring intently in my direction. She looked a bit possessed, and I was afraid that the Bug might be a demon who had taken over her body, but I was eventually able to attribute that thought to all of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer I’ve been watching lately. I pushed the door open slightly more and then made a dash through the kitchen.


I got ready for work and came back to glance out at the kitchen. I felt safe enough to stick my head out a bit further and saw George the Cat sitting with her back against our dryer, which was odd. Again, I followed her gaze to see the awful thing close-up and it was huge and shiny and huge.

When It slipped into the laundry basket, I gave up and handed over my house and all of my belongings as a peace offering. All I asked in return was that it stay out of my hair forever.


This is the most appropriate photo I have to go with this post. Unless you want a picture of a gross bug.

Typewriter Cover

4 Sep

Spontaneous sewing. It happens. Suddenly, you have an idea for a thing and you have to put everything on pause until that project is done. This time, it was a bag, a laptop bag. I’ve never made a bag before, really, so I’m not sure why I was so certain I could pull it off.


I’m going to stick with the questionnaire format. Here goes!

1. Who is it for?
Me! It’s been awhile since I sewed myself something.

2. Why did you choose these fabrics?
I’ve been hoping to use this collection (Type by Julia Rothman) for a while. I love the old-school office supplies and the reminder of a simpler time. It makes me think of a typing pool (and how grateful I am for word processing). The complementary fabric was a challenge. I chose Bella by Lotta Jansdotter and Cotton Shuffle by Riley Blake, plus some gray polka dots from Hobby Lobby.

3. Why did you choose this design?
I’m not sure about others’ experiences, but I found designing to be much harder than sewing it.  Do I want a pocket? Do I want adjustable straps? Does it need a closure or clasp? I also fretted over how to incorporate all of the Type fabrics, but woke up one morning to the idea of making the little keystone nod to art deco at the top. I also wondered about which of the many-colored typewriters to use on the fussy-cut square so I deferred to 12 year-old me and picked her favorite colors, teal and orange. Done.

4. How long did it take?
A few hours total, over a couple of days.

5. Was it difficult to make?
It was different than anything else I’ve made, but relatively easy. I started with this tutorial from Sewplicity and it was very helpful.

6. What did you learn from this quilt bag?
I used the zig zag stitch for the first time (can you believe it?) to sort-of serge the raw edges on the inside. It made it look much more finished.

7. What music did you listen to while you worked on it?
I have a Pandora station that has become a Frankenstein-esque mixture of genres. It ranged from Michael Buble to Sam Cooke to Shaggy (and his timeless classic “It Wasn’t Me.”)

8. What would you improve, if you could?
I really like how it turned out, but I used some scraps where a full piece of fabric would’ve looked nicer. I also had grand plans for sewing the straps in between the layers and I sewed on the binding before remembering that plan. Oops.

9. What makes you happiest when you think of this?
It has a typewriter on it!

Now, Domo wants to show you the back and the polka dot lining:


Let me know if you have any questions!

Low Volume Baby

25 Jun

The last few stitches coming into place, the last few threads to be cut, the first trip through the sudsy, cool, gently whirring washing machine. I love those moments that take a quilt from being a bunch of cloth joined together to being its own entity. Something that will live a life that–if it’s going to a new home–you may never know about. It may be trampled, bundled, and spilled upon–if it’s lucky. But as its creator, I’ve hoped for a good way to catalog and chronicle its development. So I’ve come up with a little questionnaire for myself that I can fill out when I finish a quilt so those quiet moments of its construction aren’t lost.Low-Volume-quilt

1. Who is it for?

My college roommate/friend since elementary school who just had an adorable baby girl.

2. Why did you choose these fabrics?

I’ve been hoping to make a low volume quilt for awhile and this was the perfect chance to use a mixture of fabrics I’ve admired to make a piece that was just the right amount of girly. It has some Pearl Bracelets, Prince Charming, Architextures, and Salt Water, not to mention several others. I’m usually nervous about mixing colors and prints, but I loved working with this variety of fabrics.

3. Why did you choose this design?
Even though it’s simple, I’d never tried a patchwork design and I hoped that the simplicity of patchwork would complement the variety of the fabrics. I really enjoyed the process of chain-piecing and making the ninepatch. Something about this, even as simple as it is, says “hey, I’m a quilt!”

4. How long did it take?
A couple of weeks. It could have been finished in a day or two if I had been really focused (clearly I wasn’t!).

5. Was it difficult to make?

It was easy, but being different than anything I’d done before, it still took some concentration. It was a great stress-buster!

6. What did you learn from this quilt?

One thing I learned was that I like muted colors more than I think I do. I usually go for bold colors, but they’re harder to design with (for me), since they demand so much attention. I also took full advantage of chain-piecing, and I’ve been all about that technique ever since!

7. What music did you listen to while you worked on it?

The Great Gatsby soundtrack. (And some other things that have faded with memory.)

8. What would you improve, if you could?

I’m really pleased with this one as it is. I’m always quick to critique my quilts (or anything I do), but I’m happy to leave this one alone. Well, except for the photos I took. It was gloomy outside, so these aren’t the best.

9. What makes you happiest when you think of this quilt?

The thought of baby Lily all wrapped up in it!


Lunch Break

22 May

I firmly believe in stopping work and eating lunch. I need that time, sandwiched in the middle of the day (pun intended), for restoration.

I don’t take it for granted. I’ve had a year of lunches plucked from between classes, spent in the convenience store next door. I’ve had hundreds of lunches, stranded an hour’s commute from home, imagining what it would be like to sit on my porch like a cat, watching the birds flit by. I’ve spent lunches at my desk, letting my mind wander, wishing for a moment of company.

But lately, I’ve had some lovely, lazy summertime lunches, full of sunlight, fresh sandwiches, and iced tea. Something I try to do whenever I go home for lunch is improve something. Whether I work on a quilt or unload the dishwasher or simply sit at the window and clear the clutter in my mind, I need to carry a small accomplishment in my pocket as I face the remainder of the day.

Today, my small accomplishment was to take a photo. I’m always trying to figure out what my photographic style might be. I may never know, but I definitely won’t if I don’t go out take some photos.

My subject was humble. Plain, even. But I wanted to capture a simple moment and see if it could tell a little story. As I was preparing a batch of honey mint iced tea, using my grandma’s old cherry jar, I found something to cherish. Because even though I have prettier tea vessels, none of those make me think of Grandma. Plus, in the background, you can just see the lovely turquoise colander my in-laws gave me and the cheerful “eat food” sign from a trip to East Hampton, MA on my pantry door.


There is very little difference between this before and the after. I tried to capture the light just as it was in the kitchen, so I only turned up the brightness and saturation a bit when I took it to Photoshop. I see so many photographers who do great, compelling work with low saturation. But I also love to see colors pop, while keeping a natural tone. Which do you prefer?

As a follow-up to this post, I’d like to add that I also fixed my vacuum cleaner during my lunch break, using pliers and a coat hanger. That, however, doesn’t quite make for an interesting blog entry.

Sailboats of the Sky

14 May

Sometime last year, I looked over at my husband and said “Hot air balloons are the new owls. You heard it here first!” I think Past Maegan was pretty proud of herself for that proclamation (Past Maegan gets a little full of herself), but it does seem to be coming true. I see them on gift wrap, greeting cards, swimsuits, calendars, and so many other doodads and whatnots.

Even though both are still flying around today, owls and hot air balloons have a sort of yesteryear charm to them. In the case of the latter, there’s just something so lovely about flying around in a basket under a giant balloon. Also, maybe a bit terrifying.

Hot Air Balloons

1. Up, Up, and Away by Kayajoy, via Spoonflower

2. Couple Hot Air Balloon Card, via theadoration

3. Hot Air Balloon Garland by Claire, via youndheartslove

4. Hot Air Balloon Fabric, via marsearch

5. Retro Hot Air Balloons by Suzy Ultman for Robert Kaufman, via studioFAB (also an adorable ModCloth dress)

6. Personalized Rubber Stamp by Kirsten, via hunnyscoots

Leaves, Trees, and One Happy Bird

2 May

I think it’s pretty fun that I finished my “tree” quilt on Earth Day. I’ve been working on it since December, when my friend and I made a deal to swap a painting for a quilt. Her specialty is painting trees, so we had a great theme to work from.

I struggled to find just the right fabric, to find just the right pattern, to find just the right backing, and so on. And then I struggled with my sewing machine, big time. The fabric bunched, the bobbin ran out at the worst possible times, and the thread tension went wacky. I couldn’t get the tension right, no matter what tricks I tried, and wound up taking the machine apart (for the first time) to try and fix it. I vacuumed it out, I fiddled with the bobbin case, I changed the needle, and nothing worked. In fact, I made things worse, so I put the machine together and took it apart several times over. (Have you ever cried on your sewing machine? Just asking, for a friend.)

I scoured the Quilterweb(tm) for just the right pattern and settled on Lemon Squares from Faith’s Fresh Lemons blog. Since I was using mostly Lotta Jansdotter’s Bella fabric, it didn’t really lend itself to the fabric color arrangement laid out in the pattern. I realized that after I started cutting, and kind of panicked, because I do love following a pattern. In the end, I just made the squares that I liked and added some sashing. I’m totally surprised at how it turned out, but I’m really pleased.


If you look closely, you can tell I’m still trying to the hang of quilting, but I’m pushing myself a little further each time. While it isn’t a large quilt, it’s the largest I’ve made so far. I learned how to piece more complicated blocks, to select fabrics for each block, to make a scrappy binding, and I even made and improv square! (You can see it at the bottom right in the photo above.)


For the back, I used part of a twin-sized duvet cover I found at Target on clearance. I really like how it looks with the rest of the fabric and especially with the scrappy binding. The texture was a little smoother and less cottony than usual quilting fabric, so it was a little more trouble to work with than the usual, but the end result was good. All in all, I’m excited! I just need to come up with a name.

Next on the list: a low volume baby quilt and a high-contrast purple and yellow quilt!


Bathroom Window: Mini Before and After

1 May

When we moved into this house, it immediately felt homier than any other we’d shared. But it was also in need of the most work. As I think about it, that’s probably why I liked it immediately–it needed me and I needed it. I needed its high ceilings, its rooms full of uneven wood floors, its wall to wall windows in every room (26 in all!). It needed someone to scrape the gum off the floor, to paint over the scribbles on the walls, and tend to the overgrown brush in the yard.

One room in particular needed attention. No matter how much we loved the house when we moved in, Garrett and I were a little scared of that room–the hall bathroom. Everything was a different shade of white, from the three types of tiles, to the original bathtub, to the cheaply updated sink. Not to mention the trim and the walls and the wobbly toilet. It had something of an “abandoned sanitarium” vibe.

We ignored it for as long as we could, and even in the middle of the night, we’d happily take the extra steps to go to the second bathroom at the back of the house rather than risk the inevitable goblin attack in the hall bathroom three steps away. Eventually though, we took action. After weeks of fussing about what color would go with seven shades of white, I finally just grabbed a bucket of our leftover paint and took after it. (If you’re wondering, Valspar’s Filtered Shade isn’t so bad.) After adding that bit of color, the light bulb lit up and all sorts of colorful accessories were suddenly perfect for that space.

Until this week, though, the dilapidated mini-blinds were still hanging.  I was finally convinced of what to do about it when I saw this photo on Design*Sponge. The first photo connected the dots between that window and the chevron fabric I’d had in my cabinet for two years. After 45 minutes of measuring, sewing, and dusting, I had this:

Bathroom Window Shade

And it only took two years to get that from this:


(This is a cropped photo from my phone. Boo to me for not taking more before pictures of the house!)

There’s certainly more work to be done, but I’m happy to have this little project  completed. No goblins would dare live in such a cheery room!


Dr Rachel Reed

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