Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015!

This year was definitely my most awesome quilting year yet. Between leading my local Modern Quilt Guild (CJMQG, represent), teaching a class, booking lectures, and partnering up with Sew Mama Sew twice, I've been happily immersed in this crazy quilting world. I made many more large quilts than small projects this year; I swore off swaps, except for within my guild and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts bee. I'm actually amazed that I was so productive this year.

*I'm having some problems with my mosaic - sorry it's so small!

1. Postcards in Prague, 2. Tomorrow Night, 3. Shirley's Stars, 4. For Baby Kevin, 5. Breeze, 6. Rainbow Wave - quilt top, 7. "Scatter" - orange peel baby quilt, 8. Sisters' Ten Quilt #2, 9. "By the Sea", 10. "Home", 11. "Plumes of Orchid" mini quilt, 12. "Allons-y, Allonso", 13. "Diamond in the Rough", 14. "Blizzard" string quilt, 15. "Point Me", 16. "Midsummer", 17. Pixie Sticks, 18. Open Wide Pouches - Noodlehead, 19. Purple and blue log cabin pillow, 20. Reversible Table Runner - Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, 21. Wine tote, 22. Gentle Improv Waves Pillow - Cascade Blog Tour, 23. Oakshott Table Runner, 24. Sagittarius Pillow, 25. Pillows for mom, 26. Pillow for a photographer, 27. Charity quilt top - CJMQG, 28. Progressive Quilt top! 
29. Love Someone Mini Quilt, 30. Ashley's Adored

Quilt Stats:
13 large quilts finished
6 mini quilts (if you can call some of them mini! :D)
8 pillows
2 reversible table runners 
And more... these pictures don't even show it all!
(thanks for the data tabulation idea, Michelle!)

For the first time (in forever... who knows the reference?), I really took value of myself as a quilter, went forth, and took a lot of risks. I put myself completely out there in the open, and it's funny how effective and exciting it's been!
  • I inquired about teaching at my LQS and taught my first class! {part 1} {part 2}. That was probably the most fun part of the year.
  • I also participated in the Oakshott Challenge for Sew Mama Sew and Oakshott (and wrote a tutorial! I know, it was a productive year).

 We have another exhibit in 2015!
  • I had the opportunity to demonstrate quilting at our town's Day of the Arts, and have already been asked back for March 2015! 
  • I dove into orange peel making without a second thought, and it quickly became more than just a one-time project. We all made orange peels together in the OPQAL!
  • I wrote a quilt tutorial for the Intrepid Thread. 
  • I partnered up with the amazing Becca of Sew Me a Song, and continued my wonderful relationship with Nicole of 1 Choice for Quilting!
  • I hosted the Sewing With Certainty linky party.
  • I experimented with improvisation and minimalistic piecing. While I'm certainly sold on the former, I'm not sure how much I enjoy the latter, and that's quite okay to me.
 More Highlights:
  •  I helped put together these quilts!

Modern Bracelets: Designed and pieced - blocks are from members of the CJMQG. It's going to QuiltCon for the charity exhibit! More on this one soon.

Pretty Petals: Organized, pieced together, quilted, and bound - blocks are from CJMQG members as a thank you to Jessica Levitt for her two years as President of our guild.

 CJMQG Banner - contributed a block and helped piece. This one is also going to QuiltCon!
  • I helped with our guild's charity initiative for The Center for Great Expectations.

  • I traded Supernova blocks with Karin! This one will also get finished in 2015!

  • On a non-quilty note: I read more for fun than I ever have in my life, and came away from this year feeling so much more relaxed and fulfilled (one of my goals from 2013 was to find other forms of relaxation). Among the highlights were The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, all the John Green books, all the Rainbow Rowell books (Fangirl is my favorite), the Outlander series (I'm in the middle of book 5), and the Divergent series. I wish I had kept track of all the amazing books I read this year.

Things I'm really looking forward to in 2015:
  • QUILTCON! It's 7 weeks away! What?! I can't wait to meet my quilty friends and take one of Anna Maria Horner's classes, among many other things!
  • Mid-Atlantic Mod in April - hanging out with my MD-PA-NJ quilty people and teaching my sold out Orange Peel class!
  • Lecturing in Cape May in May, and hopefully in other places!
  • Teaching more classes at my LQS!
  • Leading my guild for a second year - elections are in a couple of weeks, and I'm currently running unopposed. If I am not elected, I'll definitely look forward to the 4th year of the CJMQG with similar gusto!
  • Sorry for the abundance of exclamation marks - I'm just way too stoked!
2015 Goals:
  • Finish my Supernova quilt and my Sisterhood quilt
  • Finish my epic medallion quilt, and then start another long-term project (possibly x-pluses?)
  • Learn how to read a pattern and sew at least 3 garments. Guess what? I'm going to start this weekend!
  • Learn to cross-stitch - Liz, please help me!
  • Make another Disney mini quilt for my sister, based on the movie Frozen
  • Make a wedding quilt for my BFF and her fiance for their October wedding (we are all so excited!)
  • Finish my Doe scrap quilt.
  • Participate in our guild's quilt-a-long for the year every month

 And I end all this by thinking... really, how boring would my life, would any of our lives, be without quilting?! :)

Thanks for a great 2014. Happiest of New Years!

Friday, December 26, 2014

"Shirley's Stars" - A Tribute to my Grandmother


My grandmother passed away in October, and I miss her every day. When I was smaller, I would sleep over my grandparents' house; she taught me how to play Solitaire and War. We played many games of Scrabble, too. When I was older, she was one of the family members who took me to my first Broadway show (Peter Pan, when I was 10). Grandma loved anything and everything to do with Broadway musicals, and she attended many of the shows I was in throughout high school and college. I know my experiences and memories of her are just a small part of her life and the effect she had on so many people.

With my grandparents at my wedding, October 2012

 Grandkids and grandparents, Father's Day 2014

Father's Day 2014 - Grandma and I

Grandma also loved needlepoint. I never saw her actually work on one, but they were all over the house. Whenever I showed her a quilt I was working on, she would tell me about her memories of hand-stitching white stars on blue fabric with her sister. She lamented not knowing what had become of the quilt, but she was keen to pass on the story.

The weekend after she passed away, I was at my LQS for a guild event. I felt like I needed to work through my feelings with the best therapy I know - sewing. I knew I wanted to give something to my grandfather for Hanukkah.

The blue and white is meant not only to mimic Grandma's quilt, but also to commemorate my Grandfather's status as a veteran. The many different stars were an experiment with alternate gridwork and my internal negative space regulator (this is surely the most I've ever left on a quilt!). This quilt was also my first all-solid quilt.

I drew the quilted star (like above) on paper first, pinned it to the quilt, and traced over it with my FMQ foot. Then, I added some extra interest/movement by making them "shooting stars." I'm really pleased with how the quilting came out. It carries a simple design (stars) to something a bit more complicated.

Stars in the quilt: two Ribbon Stars from Fresh Lemons Quilts, a fragmented star featured at Night Owl Quilting, two Friendship Stars from Generations, and a Drunken Star from Pippin Sequim.

The whole thing is bound and backed in Joel Dewberry's navy Herringbone. It was a perfect match to the American Made Brand solid (loved the color of AMB but not the extreme lintiness!).

 I was anxious to present the quilt to Grandpa at our Hanukkah celebration last week and tell him the story of the quilt. I'm so glad he likes it. I think Grandma would have loved it, too.

 Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts, A Lovely Year of Finishes (this was my December goal), TGIFF.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Handmade Holidays 2014, Part 2

Giving handmade gifts is infinitely more exciting for me than the store-bought alternative. Granted, you can't hand-make everything - I wasn't about to learn glass-blowing to make my father-in-law beer glasses. If it can be made with fabric, though, it's worth a shot. I should also mention I decided to hand-make many gifts before I was offered a full time position two weeks ago, so as you can imagine, finishing gifts has been a bit harried.

I made these two Open Wide Pouches by Noodlehead - the one in the back is for my almost-going-to-college sister, and the one in front is for my almost-7-year-old niece for her upcoming birthday (she's a December baby like me!). The tutorial was so thorough and easy to follow, though I did have trouble with the zipper part (leaving the side sticking out). I had to undo some stitches and hand sew. I'm pretty sure I just didn't read something right. Otherwise, they look professionally done, if I might say so myself! I had fun adding different machine stitches to the outside, too.

Plus, they hold so much - an already wrapped notepad and some books for my cutie niece! I knew she'd love that purple Cotton and Steel. :)

 I also made a cute apron (tutorial: Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom) for my 2.5 year old niece - she'll use it to serve "tea" and help Mommy in the kitchen. She loves purple, so this favorite Dear Stella print of mine was a no brainer. I felt a bit of separation anxiety... but I also enjoyed actually using some of this hoarded print!

 A quilted name, of course! I didn't get a picture of her wearing it (she was a bit cranky at the time) but I'm sure I will in the future.

 I staggered through sewing whipped up this wine tote for my aunt and uncle! I enlarged the measurements from this Craftsy tutorial a bit to accommodate the quite large bottle of wine we bought them. I hope they use the tote in the future! They seemed pretty stoked about it (and they appreciated that the inside was another fabric!). The tutorial itself wasn't hard to follow, but the prep work was more than I bargained for, and the many layers was a bit of a machine workout. I'm really happy with how it came out, though! I'd definitely try this again.

 I also made these reversible solid/half-square triangle coasters for a close friend. I chose the fabrics to match her living area! These were pretty self explanatory - I just had to figure out the HST math.

I've determined that, when in doubt, here are some gifts that you can sew up for pretty much anyone:
1. A double-sided tablerunner
2. A pillow or pillow set that coordinates with their home (or for a child, their room)
3. Coasters that coordinate
4. A zippy pouch
5. A quilt!

I still have three gifted quilts (yes, full quilts) to share with you (hopefully before the year is out!), plus a couple of other gifts. I'm tired but satisfied with how all of these have been received!

Merry Christmas!!

...and from my smallest, very sleepy niece as well. :)

Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts and TGIFF.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Reversible Table Runner: Hanukkah and Thanksgiving

 First, thank you so much for all of the comments/love on my last post. I feel so fortunate to have you as readers and friends. I'm slowly wading through emails - as usual, I'll respond to comments. I'm simultaneously trying to finish several presents for Christmas, so all things internet are slow-going at the moment!

Continuing my experiments from last year, I made another reversible table runner - this year, for my Aunt Amy, who requested one side Hanukkah and one side Thanksgiving. That way, she can use it from October to January (let's face it: holiday decor usually stays up past December). I was only too happy to oblige. My mantra for piecing with scraps: simple is best.

My aunt loved it and put it out right away! On the Hanukkah side, of course. :) We celebrate Hanukkah with my extended family for one night, so I'll get to see it every year now!

My mom and I are hoping to team up to make a bunch of these for different seasons (spring/summer, summer/fall, fall/winter, fall/Christmas or Hanukkah, etc.). Is anyone interested in having one made? With a unique layout, custom straight line/free motion quilting, and machine binding, they would be about $60. I'm just trying to get an idea of what combinations people would like. So, even if you aren't interested in buying, would you mind telling me what combinations you think would work? Thanks! :)

Sparkly Cotton and Steel binding has my heart!

 Those straight lines are purposely organic. :)

 I need to get labels made!

Happy Chrismukkah from our house to yours!

Linking up to Fabric Tuesday.

Friday, December 19, 2014

This is 25.

This week was my 25th birthday! Woohoo! Not only am I a quarter of a century old, but I can change my age bracket on surveys (no more feeling like a baby in the 18-24 category) and rent a car. Though, that's about it. :D I've seen other bloggers write about birthdays, and this seems to be an important enough one for me to reflect on. I haven't really talked in depth about my life outside of quilting on the blog, so here's the scoop.

Self-worth is an important topic to talk about. It's a bit unusual to blog about, I think, because it could come off as sounding whiny, or, on the other end of the spectrum, overconfident. However you end up taking this in, I feel like I just need to talk about it. So, thank you in advance for reading. :)

My current long-term project in timeout: the epic Anna Maria Horner medallion quilt (original design)

My husband, family, friends, and this crazy awesome quilting thing have been holding me together these last two and a half years. When I graduated from college in May 2012, I was completely confident (and naive), believing I would soon be living my dream job as a teacher. I was a top ten student in high school, I graduated magna cum laude with History Department Honors in college, I was praised for the excellent job I had done in student teaching, I'd worked my butt off, I went on many, many interviews and some second and third interviews, and then... nothing. I try to convince myself that it isn't all me - the New Jersey teaching job market is so competitive and thin right now, and it's only gotten worse since 2012 (in my opinion).

The first September after graduation was the hardest. Several teachers in my graduating class did find teaching jobs and talked/posted pictures of their new classrooms, their back-to-school shopping, their excitement... and there I was with a very part time job and substitute teaching, sitting at my sewing machine at night. I was happy for them but it still hurt in an awkward way. It's really hard to train and pour tons of money into something that you feel is your life's calling, only not to get that chance. It beats you up inside. You wonder: "Am I not good enough for this?" "What was I thinking?" "What could I have done differently?"  and worst of all, "What do I do next?" I know these thoughts are pervasive amongst my generation as we travel the murky waters of our first years of employment.

I didn't stop trying. I worked a few maternity leave/summer school/after school teaching positions. I've gained a lot of experience teaching and helping many kids PreK-12 that I never would have met if I was a full time teacher. I'm so grateful for all those wonderfully unique, funny, brilliant students. The downside is the whole we-need-to-make-money part. I've been yearning to go back to school to earn more certifications and/or a master's degree, but that requires money that I especially don't have because I'm paying off the loans from my BA. Up until last week, I was working several part time education jobs (paraprofessional/aide, private tutor, tutor at a center, babysitting, substitute teaching), but now, I've acquired a full time paraprofessional position. This job allows me to work with kids all over the middle school (my favorite level), and that makes me so happy. So, for now, at least until school hiring season (around March), I can stop worrying about some things and wear less hats. My self-worth is on the mend. I'll be okay. I realize that everything will work out at some point and that I need to be a bit more patient. "Good thing come to those who wait," right?

Now: sewing. In Fall 2012, quilting was already in my life, but not in a way that I needed it. Over the last couple of years, it has morphed into much, much more than a hobby; it's more like a necessity and a lifeline. I realize that it's unusual for a twenty-something to sew as much as I do. I am on a mission to get as many people sewing as I can, no matter what age!

Back to the lifeline part: Sometimes, I wonder what I'd be doing without sewing (probably sitting around reading, but I make time for that anyway. Really, what would I be doing???). I get extremely antsy when I haven't sewn much in a week (ask Mike!) and/or when I have too many responsibilities and not enough free sewing time. That's why, next year, I'm going to try to focus on what I want to sew. I did a much better job of this overall in 2014, but there's always room for improvement. Now, I'll quote my brilliant friend, Renee:

"Dear Self, I promise never again to sign up for a fabric challenge I am not completely inspired by. I promise not to agree to use an advanced sewing pattern that I've never heard of before, know nothing about the pattern writer, or can find any additional resources for online. I promise not to try and make a style of quilt I'm not drawn to. I promise to try to be content, if not happy with the machine, fabric, thread, etc that I have now. And I'm sorry about all the headaches I've caused you recently by not doing all these things. XOXOX -Me." 

Because sewing is too much fun and too much of a blessing to be stressed about it. Say it with me and repeat!

Quilting and blogging as therapy has stretched me in other ways I couldn't have imagined a few years ago. As many of you know, I just completed my first year as President of the Central Jersey MQG, and I'm running for a second term in January. I've been acting as webmaster for going on 3 years, and I was VP before that. I've also become a teacher of quilting and a public speaker. I seriously can't wait to see what 2015 holds! Quilting has healed me and reinvigorated me to follow my dreams (corny as that sounds), whatever they end up becoming.

Here's my last thought: when people reach out to me through email, when people comment on this blog or on Instagram, when we start having funny conversations or drooling over fabric together or planning new quilts that many never even come to fruition... that puts the cherry on top of this quilting life.  Sometimes, it's like you've stuck your hand in my self-worth jar and succeeded in scraping some out. So, I'm thankful for all of you, and especially my guild members, for making all of this worth it!

So, this is 25. It will be a good one. I can feel it!


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