The Ties That Bind

16 Apr


Five years ago, almost to the day, we were standing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Crews were working to complete the set-up, tourists and townies were milling around, many like us were happily taking photos. A few marathoners were looking in awe at the patch of ground that symbolized completion of a hard-fought journey.

We had recently arrived in the city on a visit to test the waters, trying to decide if we could make the cross-country move and call it home. I spent our first day there feeling overwhelmed. Boston was big and busy and people lacked the southern graces that tempered conversations at home. The T felt new and exciting, but also unfamiliar and claustrophobic. The city streets were teeming with people and buildings and smells that disoriented me. What can I say, I’m simple folk.

On this day, we were making an epic walking journey, starting from where the 57 bus dropped us off at Kenmore Station all the way to the North End. And in the middle of our trip, we came to stand at the Marathon’s finish line. At that moment, the fog lifted. The city I appreciated from a distance came into focus, it became real. I knew–like millions of people in the country and around the world–that this finish line was a special place. For over a hundred years, people from all walks of life crossed this line and felt a sense of completion. They had proven to anyone watching that they could succeed at an immense feat of training and willpower. If you met a person who had completed the Boston Marathon, you were in the company of a powerful human being. And nearly an entire city took the day off to cheer them on, for every inch of 26.2 miles.

As we stood there, I could feel the history of Boston. I could feel the vast  pride of its citizens. I could feel the heartbeat of a city populated by people who were born in its borders and in counties far away. I felt how lucky I was to be there.

We did move to that city. We tested cannoli, we tested the water on Revere Beach, we tested ourselves against the frigid, unending winter. Boston is where our marriage took root and it’s where we faced some of our greatest hardships thus far. I was in the midst of the city when my husband called and burst into tears as he told me my father had died. Shaken and still uncomprehending, I couldn’t force myself onto a stifling train, so I just walked across the city. It was my only companion as I passed through crowds of strangers. It was steadfast and ageless when it felt like my life was crumbling. At Copley Square, I sighed heavily as comprehension slowly came over me. And I went into the ground to catch a train home.

I’m writing this because I treasure my time in Boston, though it was brief.  It is a strong, beautiful place. It’s citizens are tough and they are resilient. Boston is hurting, and Bostonians around the world are hurting to be there, to heal the brokenness and embrace the broken. And while I have less of a claim to the city than many, I want to be steadfast for Boston like it was for me.


Mod Baby

15 Apr

Spring has been unusually coquettish this year. Typically, the daffodils bloom in late February, followed by the dogwoods, and then the azeleas. By the end of March, spring flowers are belting out their final notes and in April we pull out our swimsuits and kayaks live outside until October.

But this spring has tiptoed in so daintily that it almost went unnoticed before it darted away again and we were back in our heavy raincoats. It has finally, slowly, washed over the state and brought with it a tide of glorious multicolored blooms.

It has also brought a persistent case of spring fever, which I’ve only been able to treat with a lot of gardening and intermittent quilting. I should note that, in my case, gardening has mostly been about pulling things out of the ground rather than planting things in it. So while our house was previously hidden behind some unruly, mismatched bushes, it is now free and bright and open. You can see the daffodils, lilies, and irises that were hidden under the shrubbery that had accumulated sometime in the house’s 70 year past. However, you can also see the house, which is a bit shabby chic. Emphasis on the shabby. But it’s well-loved.

Since the Summer of Babies is close at hand, my social calendar is brimming over with shower invitations. The first one just happened, I made a little Mod Century quilt for a baby boy. It was so fun to make, and I loved every bit of the fabric.


After I started to add the binding, I second-guessed my selection of red, wondering if turquoise or grey might have been better suited to the collection of fabric. When it was finished, I decided that I really liked it. With every quilt, my goal is to try something new, and for this one, I stitched his name on the back. That way, I had to resist the temptation to keep it. (Kidding!)


The little things

6 Mar

There are no pictures to share today, just words. There hasn’t been a lot of time for photos lately (or maybe there has, but I’m not sly enough to recognize the moments when they come). What there has been is a lot of six day work weeks. I don’t work in a salt mine, or anything of the sort, but a six day work week is mentally taxing and sometimes, in the few quiet moments, your brain defaults to a shadowy place where you wish it wouldn’t go. I’ve been trying to enjoy peaceful moments as they wander in and out of my day and wanted to list them here as a tiny monument to those little good things in life.

  1. I’m savoring the taste of my coffee right now. I think little fairies came in my house and swapped out my coffee last night, because I have never made coffee that tastes this good. Or perhaps I just really appreciate it this morning. 
  2. I have six windows in my office, and sunlight is streaming through all of them.
  3. I  rediscovered my favorite childhood candy and it is just as good as I remember it.
  4. I found a pretty new planner on clearance and it is amazing! There’s room of three times as many lists as my old one!
  5. There was time at work this weekend–between manic bursts of activity–to attempt embroidery. I started the day with the basic materials and no idea what I was doing and ended the day with a near-complete project that I’m not embarrassed of!

Two big things I’m grateful for are my husband’s new job (he started Monday) and my sister-in-law’s big interview. She’s out of town to interview for three days and, whatever the outcome, I am so proud of her. There are so many changes on the horizon right now that it seems a bit frightening. I don’t respond well to uncertainty–which is one of my greatest flaws, I think–but I’m optimistic for the future.

And so are some of my musings. I hope all of you are well!

Homemade Valentines

19 Feb

Garrett the Husband decided to make me some homemade valentines this year. I have a fondness for those cheesy, almost nonsensical vintage ones, with the puns that don’t really mean anything. And if there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s hilarious nonsense. I’m pretty sure he could make a living at it if someone would let him, so I’m sharing these in case any of you have a job opening for a Hilarious Nonsense Contributor or Director of Non Sequiturs. Or, you know, if you just need a chuckle. valentinesI’ve been on a quilt hiatus due to some six day work weeks and a bit of oral surgery, but I do have a few new squares to share. More to come later!

Best & Brightest: Emerald City

4 Feb

There is probably a good reason why magazine editors think green is a curse on a magazine cover. (It’s true!)  Yet, I love green. Especially as spring peeks coquettishly around the corner. Granted, spring comes sooner for some than others–we’ll be picking daffodils before too long in these parts–but I think we’re all looking forward to the best parts of the season right now.

And, looking on the horizon, it seems like the design world is opening up to green after all. Pantone’s color of the year is Emerald.* At first, I wasn’t as excited at this announcement as I was last year’s, but lately I’ve seen a lot of great uses of Emerald and its cousins (kelly, mint, and seafoam) and I’ve come to appreciate for how fresh and surprising it can be.

In that spirit, I present: The Emerald City in Spring.Emerald City

  1. Love in Mint Green Water Bouquet by Amy Butler (Photo: trendysisters)
  2. Echino Spring Leaves by EtsukoFuruya (Photo: Tomodachikitty)
  3. Katie Jump Rope in Green Ribbon by Denyse Schmidt (Photo: Bolts and Yards Fabric)
  4. Hyperreal Garden Radiant Bouquet in Emerald by Art Gallery Fabrics (Photo: Taylor Jayne Fabric)
  5. Hello Pilgrim Leaf Scatter in Aqua by Lizzie House (Photo: Sew Fresh Fabrics)
  6. Simply Color Mod Blossoms in Grey by V and Co. (Photo: BeeYourself Fabrics)

*If you haven’t heard of Pantone, they’re the company who makes sure that every variation of every shade of every color is standardized. So, for example, when a fabric designer prints samples of their new fabric line, Pantone can make sure that the shade of pink the designer is looking at is the same as the one the printer sees. More or less.

Before and after: Behind the Scenes

23 Jan

Photoshop. It’s a tricky beast.

One of the reasons I love to blog is because it forces me to learn more about photography and Photoshop. But boy these guys are time-consuming. When I was prepping my quilting kit post, I tried three separate times to get a decent photo of my supplies. The first two times, I thought I had good photos until I looked them on my computer to find that the lighting was too weird, the items weren’t lined up quite right, or they were out of focus (my perpetual problem). I’m the type who likes to get photos right in-camera (as opposed to doing a lot of editing later), but they will never be so good that they won’t need a good clean-up.

Since every photo shoot has different subjects (people, landscapes, objects) and lighting situations (indoor, outdoor, shade, full sunlight, night), each set of photos you take will require different edits. Two great resources for me are the Clickin’ Moms blog and the Scott Kelby Photoshop books (I have this one).

Even with these resources and three photo sessions, I still struggled to get a decent final photo. I’m pleased with the final results (even though they aren’t perfect at all), and thought I’d share my process if it would help anyone out there.

The process is specific to a photo that:

  1. is indoors
  2. has good natural light that isn’t too harsh (not shining directly on the subject)
  3. is of objects, not people


This was done in Photoshop CS6 for Windows, so if you have an earlier version, things could be a little different for you.

The first thing I needed to do, was get rid of the glare from the flash on the ruler. This is a bit persnickety, because it requires you to merge parts of two photos (with and without flash) so it isn’t included here. I’m happy to add the process if anyone needs it, though!

Next, I had to  straighten the photo. To straighten:

  1. Right click on the eyedropper tool in your sidebar.
  2. A box of options should pop up. Click on the ruler tool.
  3. Draw a line across an area that should be straight, but isn’t.
  4. At the very top of the page, click “Image.”
  5. Go down to Image Rotation.
  6. Click Arbitrary.
  7. When the box pops up, click okay.  (A number will be pre-filled in the box, based on the line you drew earlier.)
  8. Your photo should be straight now, but if it still looks a little off, feel free to undo and try again!

Since parts of the image were a still a bit out of focus, I sharpened the image. To sharpen:

  1. Click “Filter” at the very top of the page.
  2. In the drop-down, click “Sharpen” and then “Unsharp Mask.”
  3. In the box that pops up, you have three settings you can adjust. Mine are set to: Amount: 60%, Radius: 3.5 pixels, Threshold: 3 levels. Make sure the Preview box is checked so you can see how this affects the photo.  I chose these settings because I’m sharpening objects that have a good amount of fine detail. [These settings would be really harsh on a photo of a person.]
  4. After you’ve adjusted the settings to your liking, click okay and the settings will be applied!

My original photo was a tad on the dark side, so I increased the brightness. To do this:

  1. Click “Layer” at the top of the page.
  2. In the drop-down menu, click “New Adjustment Layer” and select “Brightness/Contrast.”
  3. In the box that pops up, click “okay. “
  4. In the box that pops up, increase the brightness to suit your taste. Here, mine is set at 7.

The final step I took was to bring out the colors in the photo by

  1. Click “Layer” at the top of the page.
  2. In the drop-down menu, click “New Adjustment Layer” and select “Saturation.”
  3. In the box that pops up, just click “okay.”
  4. In the next box, increase the saturation to your taste. Mine is set at 13. You can go up to 25 or 30 in most photos without overdoing it.

Branching Out

20 Jan

I started piecing the tree quilt for my friend today. I’ve alternated between staring at and ignoring a table full of little squares and rectangles for a few weeks now, and today struck me as a day to do something about it. I haven’t finished cutting yet, but I needed a clearer sense of what the squares were going to look like before I committed to all of those little pieces. And now I know!

I’m really looking forward to see how this comes together, because it won’t look anything like I originally planned. None of my quilts have so far–and I like it that way.


My Quilting Kit

16 Jan

I have a confession.

I’m not always the best at using the right tools for a given task. I’d often rather use what I have on hand than go out and spend money on something I’d only use for one project. Examples:

  • I use a tea strainer in lieu of a flour sifter.
  • The time I trimmed the bushes with a hand saw. Or trimmed weeds with scissors. 
  • For a long time, I boiled water in a frying pan because I couldn’t justify spending the money on a stockpot.
  • After I lost my travel mug, I just carried my coffee to work in a jar.

The list is endless. Really.

So, when I offer up a list of the most necessary quilting tools, you can be assured that I’m not listing a single item that you won’t be using constantly. Stated another way, these are the items that will help you maintain your sanity if you’re getting into quilting even a little bit.

Keep in mind, I’m writing as a beginner, for beginners. However, I’ve done a ton of research so–in an effort to save you some time–I’ve provided many links to folks who can build upon the basics I’ve outlined here.


Batting: If you’re making a quilt, you’ll need batting. Currently, I use Hobbs Heirloom Premium 80/20 blend. I read lots of reviews before buying, and this one from The Tulip Patch was one of the most helpful. In short, I picked Hobbs because it has the traditional look and feel (like a vintage quilt), but at a lower price than similar brands. When I want to level-up my quilting, I’ll probably choose another batting, like the 100% cotton Warm & Natural.

Sewing machine: (Not pictured.) I have a basic Brother sewing machine that I found on Craigslist for $30. The previous owner only used it for hemming, so all of the doo-dads (technical term) were still with the machine.

Feet: As in, sewing machine feet. From left to right you’ll see the walking foot, free motion quilting foot, and quarter inch (1/4″) foot.

  • The walking foot is used last (so, of course I list it first), when you’re sewing the quilt sandwich together. This foot moves thick layers of fabric through the sewing machine from the top and bottom (instead of only the bottom) to make sure the layers stay lined up as you’re sewing. Note: This foot is not 100% necessary, but it will potentially save you a lot of trouble. If you don’t have this, test quilt a small quilt sandwich to see how your machine cooperates.)
  • The free motion quilting foot has yet to be used in my house, because I’m still quilting in straight lines with my walking foot, so obviously it isn’t a must-have. When I want to start free motion quilting, this will become a necessity.
  • The 1/4″ foot has seen  a lot of use. Basically, it’s used when you’re piecing (sewing the quilt top together) to help you get those important 1/4″ seams. The tinier the pieces and the more elaborate the design, the more important it is to those seams just right. In-depth information can be found at SewMamaSew.

Rotary cutter, rotary mat, and clear acrylic ruler: In my mind, these items are a team.  I didn’t have them for my first quilt, but I also didn’t do any substantial cutting. After I finished my first quilt, I purchased these as a set on Amazon and haven’t looked back.

  • The rotary cutter, for me, is much faster and more accurate in cutting fabric than using scissors. 
  • The rotary mat is a must-have if you have a rotary cutter. Mine is 18″ x 24″ and I’ve found that to be a good size for my workspace.
  • The acrylic ruler makes sure your lines are straight, and it was more useful than I could have imagined. Mine is 6″ x 24″, a pretty versatile size. You can cut small pieces or cut long lengths of fabric (like for this strip quilt at Cluck Cluck Sew). There are many sizes to choose from as you grow as a quilter.

Note: If you’re using pre-cut fabric (i.e. charm packs, layer cakes, jelly rolls) and have no plans of cutting it, you can hold off on the rotary cutter and mat. I “tested” my interest in quilting with my first quilt by using pre-cuts and forgoing almost all cutting. This way, the financial investment in a potential hobby was minimal.

Scissors: I’m not picky when it comes to scissors, which is probably a problem. From left to right, I have some thread-cutting scissors, a nice (but short) pair of titanium scissors, and a long pair from the dollar store. You definitely need a good pair of scissors, but this isn’t where I’d spend much of my budget. I’d rather have a rotary cutter any day.


Pins: These, I’ve learned, are important. The first quilt you make will probably be simple enough that you won’t need to do too much pinning, so maybe you can get away without these right off the bat. But, they are inexpensive (especially on sale!) and will save you time, so I’d say go for it. The two types of pins you see here are straight pins and basting pins.

  • Straight pins are used for various tasks, like lining up seams when you’re piecing a quilt top or when you’re folding and sewing the binding (the fabric “edges” of the quilt). The only preferences I have for these is that they not be too long and that they have colored tips on the non-pokey end. I drop them a lot. 
  • Basting pins are used when you are basting the quilt sandwich together. (You can also use basting spray, like here at Film in the Fridge). They are essentially curved safety pins, which are made to hold the layers of fabric and batting together (while you are quilting) without warping the fabric.

Miscellaneous: There are three other items I keep nearby while sewing.

  • A seam ripper, to fix those crooked lines and the messed-up machine tension mistakes. 
  • A screwdriver, to change out the feet on the machine. When I finally get everything together to start a new phase of the quilt, I don’t want this to be what stops me.
  • An iron, because there is a lot of ironing (well, technically it’s pressing) involved in quilting. My iron is the absolute most basic one offered.

I’m sure I’ve left some loose threads (pun intended), so feel free to leave a comment if you’d like more clarification on anything!

1960s Home Office

14 Jan

Look what came in the mail this weekend! As Garrett said, “Maegan, if y0u were a fabric, this might be it.”

Now, the hard part. What do I do with it?



Purchased from Amanda at Westwood Acres.

Best and Brightest: Hand Drawn Design

9 Jan

So many of my favorite fabric designs are those that have a hand-drawn look to them. Many designers, such as Heather Ross, start their fabric designs with pencil on paper. It results in a lovely, organic design that has a surprisingly fresh finish. Here are a handful of my favorites:

HandDrawn Fabric

1. Out to Sea in Pirate Girls by SarahJane (Photo: BelloBerry Fabrics)

2. The Ghastlies Gallery by Alexander Henry (Photo: The StockRoom)

3. Constellations by Lizzy House (Photo: True Up)

4. Far, Far Away Unicorn by Heather Ross (Photo: Clay Deal)

5. Night Shade Apothecary by Tula Pink (Photo: VooDoo Rabbit)

6. City Love by Alexander Henry (Photo: Spice Berry Cottage)


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