Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Empowerment of Sewing

I just finished a really fun surprise project in time for my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving (a surprise for all except my husband, who came up with the wordage - which by the way is only sometimes true :D). It was our first time hosting a Thanksgiving dinner - quite an undertaking. The week before, instead of doing whatever "deep cleaning" is and making multiple shopping trips, I tried to focus my down time on finishing these two aprons. Because sewing calms me, and I was super excited about this project!

Aprons aren't really *hard* to sew if you know your way around a sewing machine. I've made a couple of kid's aprons in the past, and they turned out alright. These are definitely my best attempts so far, and it's definitely because I have several more years of sewing under my belt. Though not to say you can't make a well-made apron with just a little experience, because you can! I make more quilts than anything, so sewing outside of that realm always takes some extra planning.

In my job, we talk a lot about empowerment. While making these aprons, especially during the autopilot moments, I realized (lightbulb moment) that the empowering nature of sewing is what really has kept me going through tough times the last few years. And it will continue to empower me, even when I reach life chapters where I'm doing less sewing. I'm constantly attracted to the idea of solving puzzles, creating unique things, and making custom items for family and friends.

So, with that, I'd like to reflect on and celebrate the many empowering moments in this project.

I can make something with my own two hands.

I can create an adult apron pattern without any help from the internet (though to be fair, this came more from being lazy than anything, and wanting to save paper and ink. I just cut the fabric, measured roughly, and went for it!).

I can create shapes out of fabric and stitch them down to look like almost anything I want.

I can figure out exactly how to flip an apron like a pillowcase. This ensures that all the edges are enclosed and that I don't have to deal with binding or bias tape of any kind. The excitement over achieving a neat look never gets old!

I can top stitch to make the whole thing look flatter and neater. Because I've learned that from other projects.

I can make something that looks better (and is better than) something I would find in a store.

I can make something unique that no one else in the world has or will ever have.

I can surprise my family and make them laugh.

I can sew. And it's awesome.

So, share with us, if you would - what do you find empowering about sewing? Let's celebrate this skill that we have and teach it to others. Because it really is like nothing else!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Color Story Community Quilt

Let me tell you the story of a small town nestled in the valley next to the Delaware River and Pennsylvania called Lopatcong (part of Phillipsburg, NJ). I moved here in 3rd grade and still live here. My husband grew up here, too. I went through a period of time (college to a couple years ago) where all I wanted to do was move elsewhere. But it's home (for now at least) and there are lots of things I love about it. Country views, less traffic than pretty much anywhere else in NJ (thank you, Warren County), a good school system, amazing local tacos and pizza, and closeness to Pennsylvania (so much to do and see there), family, and old friends.

For several years, I've had the honor of organizing and jump-starting community quilt projects here, thanks to the Lopatcong PTA and Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission. I set up camp for one day at the annual Day of the Arts celebration in March, armed with fabric, a sewing machine, and a plan.

This year, I wanted to create a quilt project that relied on the color preferences of all who walked in (kids preschool age to middle school, plus parents and teachers). Think bright, bold, beautiful rainbows. I hoped that the quilt would contain many signatures and serve as a special piece in time for the town. Now that it's done and being exhibited around town, I'm thrilled to share it online as well!

Community quilts are extremely special, time-consuming projects. They take a lot of planning and effort, but the ultimate final product is worth it all. First, I bought a rainbow of fabric in person at Pennington Quilt Works (my LQS - had to get juuuuuust the right tones!) and cut a million or so squares by hand (which was actually pretty therapeutic - I usually have no need for something like a die-cutter, so I don't have one anymore).

On the day of, we were open for business for about five hours. Anytime someone entered the room, they were instructed to pick 3 solid squares and 1 print, and arrange them in a four patch on a piece of batting. Then, they carried their creation over to one of the sewing machines. My teenage sewing student and I teamed up for the day to sew the blocks (90 total!!). I definitely could NOT have made this quilt without her. Sometimes the room was packed with people waiting to get their squares sewn, and it went twice as fast with her!

As we sewed the seams, we showed each person how our sewing machines work. Kids are always so interested in watching the pedal and needle move. I had several really interesting and exciting conversations with parents about sewing and teaching their kids!

Yes, I surrounded my name with orange peels on purpose. What did you expect? :) That's the fun of being the quilter!

After we finger pressed, participants signed their name with fabric markers and placed them on one of the design walls. After the event, I sewed all the squares together randomly (making sure names were right side up as much as possible). It's fun to see where patterns emerge (like down the left side - pink and blue kept repeating).

This quilt was asking for randomized quilting around the names. I used Aurifil 2605 (gray) so that the quilting would blend with the rainbow of color.

Now, the quilt is currently hanging at the newest branch of the Warren County Public Library (in Stewartsville, right around the corner from Lopatcong). It's supposed to travel to a few other locations afterwards. What a thrill to see the quilt out there! If you're local, make sure to visit it soon before it moves! I'm already planning a tentative 2019 project with the hope of making for local veterans.

This quilt was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Lopatcong PTA and Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission. Thank you!

Monday, October 8, 2018


Change is in the air with fall in the USA and the quilting world (did you see Amy Butler is leaving the quilt industry, for example?). But change is good. If you read The Wonky Press, my bimonthly email newsletter for the past 3 years and 73 issues, you might have seen that the last issue just went out on 10/2.

Writing and editing the newsletter was a huge, important, thrilling part of my life, but with a drastic change in my free time (new job and about 10 hours commuting each week), I feel unable to keep up the quality of such a publication right now.

The good part about this is that I'll be taking better care of myself with less time on the computer writing and seeking out links (often, links to cool quilty stuff just pop up, but I'm finding myself much less on Facebook and Instagram in general, so there's a need to hunt around).

The other good part for you (if you're reading this) is that I still plan to blog and post on Instagram. Blogging will probably be 1 or 2 times a week, maximum, and I'm not holding myself to a schedule. But I promise to keep documenting my quilty journey here and interacting/participating in the online quilting community. If you'd like to read more about why I closed the newsletter, click here to read the last issue (yes, even though my newsletter account is deleted, you can still access issues! Here's a link to many of the recent ones).

I'm genuinely thrilled to have gotten to know so many of you through the newsletter. I realize this announcement might come as a surprise to many of you. I think I've responded to all emails and comments about this so far - thank you so much for all your understanding and support!

Additionally, I'm taking a break from lecturing and teaching quilting in 2019 and until further notice. I need some time to recalibrate from so much traveling and planning. This year was meant to be a bit less busy than 2017, and it turned out to be more so! Thank you SO much to all the guilds who have emailed me and would like to book me. I will certainly let you know in the future if/when I am booking engagements again. I have updated my Classes and Lectures page to reflect this change.
 Pumpkin Pie quilt, made for my mom last year, which is bringing up a lot of memories right now (click the link to read the quilt story).

Other new things! On Instagram (I'm @quiltyhabit), I'm starting to document gratitudes. It might be daily, but just like above, I'm not putting any pressure on myself. If you're a newsletter reader who really enjoyed hearing about what TV shows I'm watching/what books I'm reading/what music I'm listening to, I'll include them on IG here and there. Here's the first post. And yes, I want to hear what you're grateful for, too. :)

Stay tuned for some real blog posts! I'll be participating in two huge projects this fall (one in Massachusetts and one here in NJ), plus I'll have information on an exciting quilt exhibit my friends and I got juried into. Plus - 4 quilts to share, and 2 are for the Quilting Modern Quilts blog series!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

All Squared In: Quilting Modern Quilts Blog Series

This is the 4th of 6 quilts that I'm sharing as part of a series this summer/fall, which explores ways to quilt modern, more minimalistic quilts (than what I usually make). To read a detailed introduction to the blog series, click here. Quilts featured so far: Electrify, Intersection, and Building Blocks.

Happy fall! While the last two quilts of the series are a bit more autumnal/wintery, I still have to share this summery project here. This unconventionally-colored baby quilt was an exciting one for me in my exploration of sewing solely with solids (say THAT four times fast).

 I started making it based on the simple idea of two squares changing size and four very bright, bold colors. Northcott had the exact shades I was looking for in their Colorworks Premium Solids. My favorite is that lovely royal blue, which I also used for the binding and backing (see pictures further down this post).

 Original quilt mockup

My affinity for solid fabrics and their infinite combinations has proven to be a catalyst for pre-thinking (a lot) about the actual quilting. I decided to quilt the blues in curves (swirls, braids, pebbles, and the like) and the oranges/yellows in angles (tessellated triangles, zigzags, and lines). I think it gives some order to the quilt, whether the observer realizes it or not! Plus, it was just pleasing to quilt in this way. 

 I used Aurifil Threads, in slightly lighter shades, to quilt up these soft fabrics. I want all of my hard quilting work to show up, not hide in the fabrics! :) Though, the great thing about quilting with solids is that no matter what thread shade, you'll always get LOTS of texture.

 So, just remember - quilting modern quilts doesn't have to be confusing or difficult. Find a way to organize it for yourself and go from there!
At lectures, I've presented this quilt as a basic example of a minimalist log cabin quilt (at least, how a log cabin can be put together). It's a pattern that requires just a beginner level of quilting expertise; I'm certainly not the first to make a quilt with just squares and borders. The best part about this: you can really bring it to life with quilting if you so choose ("quilt it to life" not "quilt it to death!"). As a baby quilt, it definitely has a lot of potential and fluff. Believe it or not, the quilting doesn't make it too stiff.
And since the backing is all in solid, just LOOK at how the quilting shows up! I love!!
 And with that, I hope this quilt ends up with a baby who perhaps has a bit of a modern take on life (we're not talking pastel blues and pinks here, people. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but hey, there are lots of options! :) Like bright purple. Just saying).

Thank you so much to Northcott Fabrics for sponsoring the fabric, The Warm Company for Warm and Natural batting, and Aurifil Thread for the 50 weight threads. All opinions about materials are my own, honest ones.


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