Monday, December 31, 2018

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019!

2018 was the best year for my family since 2012, and I'm grateful for it. My husband and I were just recently reflecting on this fact. It was a big year namely because I got a new job that I love. This brought big changes to my quilting pursuits: I stopped writing The Wonky Press email newsletter after 3 years and as of this month have paused all lectures and workshops indefinitely (more about this here). I think it's safe to say I am no longer trying to be a part of the quilting industry.

The relief these changes have brought is indescribable. I've been pulled in many directions for a long time, and it's time to just focus on one thing for a while. In the past, with deadlines for teaching, patterns, lectures, and blog hops I felt compelled to quilt in nearly all my free time and more if I could swing it. And truth be told - I loved it. While I'm very grateful for those opportunities and all the people I have met and worked with, now that I'm taking a break, I'm enjoying quilting more as a hobby (and have more time for other hobbies). This makes me really happy - happier than I thought I could be.

This year I finished 16 quilts (5 haven't been shared online yet). Several of these just had finishing touches added on this year. A few baby quilts, one community quilt, a few explorations of minimalism (see the Quilting Modern Quilts Blog Series), 3 other gift quilts, and one for myself (Kintsugi, which embodies a lot of what I mentioned at the beginning of this post and my feelings about craft). You can read full blog posts for all those pictured above right here.

 Here are some of my favorite "small" makes of 2018. :) Most were towards the end of the year.

This year I also tried some new crafts. I got really interested in painting murals, and completed my first, on a piano (!), no less (check the latest issue of UPPERCASE magazine - you might see a familiar face!!). This project would have been difficult to complete at other times in my life, but it was the right place and the right time. Thank you to SOPAC for that amazing opportunity to contribute to the community of South Orange, NJ.

 Read the full post about the piano project here. The design is based on one of my quilts!

My main focus right now: I'm currently working in conjunction with the Windows of Understanding public art project through Rutgers University and the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA on 2 quilts for exhibition. I am excited. :)

3rd block for Raspberry Applique BOM, in progress through 2019

I decided NOT to set goals for 2019 - more like plans. I'd love to attempt another Kintsugi quilt. Maybe I'll start garment sewing again, maybe not (apparently I really have to be in the mood for that; I just love quilts!). Maybe I'll knit more; I'd like to finish my Hufflepuff scarf before I see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in March! Maybe I'll be able to complete a wall mural. There are definitely more felt crafts and hand sewing in my future. I'll likely be finishing some WIPs and working on my Hawaiian applique (which deserves its own post - see photo above!). I'd love to have another chance at a community quilt this year.

I'll be posting about the 5 other quilts I still need to share publicly, plus the upcoming exhibitions. But who knows, really? I'm leaving it open otherwise.

Do you have creative goals for the new year? Happy New Year and Happy Making 2019!

Linking up:

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Handmade Holidays 2018

Handmade holidays (and birthdays) have become a large part of my making for the year. As long as I can swing the time, I'd much rather make something for someone (if I know they'll appreciate it) than wander aimlessly around a store or click "buy" online. This is just my preference, and one way of gifting isn't better than the other, of course! This post contains the bulk of all the things I've made the last 3 months.

Winter tablerunner - long put away out of disinterest and finally finished this year (for me! Yay!)

It's a wonderful feeling to be told by people (namely my mom, sister, and two oldest nieces) that they'd prefer I make them something. Handmade holidays has its downsides, too. It means time management and proper fabric buying/preparation. It's probably more pricey when you factor in the time it takes to make something. For the winter holidays, it means starting in September or October. Over the last few years, I've relied on my quilt guild's early November retreat to get as much done as possible in a weekend, and it's great!

Pillow for my mom - the sashiko ginkgo leaves (pattern from Easy Piecing) on the right were done early in the year. Always knew I'd make it into a pillow for her; I've made several sashiko pillows at this point and one other just for her! :)

Next up: pouches! First, a Hamilton the musical-inspired pouch for my sister's boyfriend, who now LOVES Broadway (and Hamilton). I quilted the lyrics to his favorite song "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)" on the back the pouch, and included NYC fabric on the inside (he loves NYC, too!).

I also made 5 emoji-inspired pouches for my older nieces, depending on personality (for example, one of the oldest got the stars because she loves performing). In the holiday crazy I forgot to snap a picture of these finished, but I was super pleased with them! Each niece also got cute holiday socks inside their pouches. These were made up as I went using HeatnBond Lite for the faces and fusible fleece to give them structure.

What do you make for really little kids? I've tried several tactics and now I know you can't go wrong with hats. I used a pattern from Fleece Fun and just altered it to use knit scraps and felt. I was a bit nervous as I'd never made a hat before, but my tiny niece and nephew put them right on and didn't take them off for hours! Example A:

I made these little embroidery wall hangings for my husband and his best friend, who love Pokemon and especially the infamous Surprised Pikachu meme.

And finally, onto the felt flowers - my newest craft obsession. I've been posting a lot about felt and felt flowers on Instagram, and this will definitely continue! I love it - I think I was a florist in a past life. Working with felt is so different from fabric but I'm enjoying the challenge of trying new flowers and making surprise wreaths for friends. Here's an example of the several winter-themed wreaths I made recently. The best part is being able to use one embroidery hoop for two wreaths!

I also made my mother-in-law her own terrarium. She'll never have to worry about watering these succulents (tutorial from Benzie Design, where I get my felt!).

Usually I have no idea what I'll make year to year, but next year's niece and nephew presents are already cemented in my mind. That's a big relief though, because I don't have to worry about it. I can just start making - once I've taken a proper break from this year's holiday, that is. :)

Friday, December 28, 2018

Moana: A Disney Mini Quilt

This is the fifth year I've made my sister a custom Disney-themed mini quilt upon her request. It's an exciting challenge for me every year, and I wouldn't make them for anyone else but her!

 "See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me..." from the song "How Far I'll Go" from Moana

She's been hinting about how much she loves Moana for over a year now (okay, we both talk about it fairly often), so I knew she would enjoy a Moana quilt. I knew immediately what scene I'd recreate: Moana standing on the edge of a boat, dreaming of the day she'd leave her island (which obviously she does - most of the movie takes place on the sea!).

I really wanted the colorful, lush island to be part of the landscape, so that was the best choice. Plus, how can you go wrong with a scene from the movie's best song, "How Far I'll Go?" To be honest, whenever I sing the song, I mess up this lyric pretty badly. :) It's a gorgeous song, though.

The quilt didn't come without its challenges. First, I made the background, which consisted of the sky, improvised waves, and beach. After that, it was all applique and free motion quilted details. It was very important to me that I choose the right skin tone for Moana; the fabric I originally chose didn't contrast enough with the background. So, I stitched on some lighter "sand" on top first. Much better and not noticeable unless I tell you (which I just have).

 Moana with her friend, the ocean wave. My husband had the idea to quilt sea foam. It's the perfect touch!

Quilting those little palm trees was a challenge; they're about the size of one segment of my finger. Small, intricate quilting has always been difficult for me. But I persevered and took breaks (some of those beach pebbles are really small, too). Worth it.

The sidekicks, of course - Pua the pig and Heihei the chicken. They were the last touches on the quilt before it was done (I added them after I had finished quilting everything else). I even added Pua's little tail and the oar he was holding during the song.

The backing print by Denyse Schmidt. Reminiscent of all the flowers from the movie.

And a happy recipient! :)


Past Disney mini quilts all together!: Frozen, The Little Mermaid, Tangled, and Beauty and the Beast - blog posts linked. Each one depicts each character's dreams and the lyrics that tie in. Looking forward to whatever gets made next November!

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!


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